TCFF Roundup – Part 2: Reviews and Top Five Favorite Films Screened at the Film Fest

Well, I’ve said last week that October would be the best movie-watching month of the year and it certainly is! The most awesome thing about covering a film festival is that you get to watch films that you otherwise might not even know about. I wish I had more time to see more films but I think more than a dozen films in a week whilst juggling my full-time job might be too overwhelming for me. Plus the movies would start to become a blur and blend in together, ahah.

Before I get to my top five, here are my mini reviews of the Saturday showings:


How well do you really know your friends? And can a friendship change your life? This feature film debut from writer/director Ted Koland will makes you think about those things after you see Lumpy. The title refers to a nickname of an obnoxious, party-animal best man who unexpectedly dies on the wedding night, forcing the bride and groom to cancel their honeymoon and fly to the snowy Minnesota to arrange his funeral.

The first part of the film starts out with the newlyweds (Justin Long & Jess Wexler) coping with this tragic and very unusual circumstances. Their relatively comfortable lives are contrasted with that of a 15-year-old girl living in a small, northern MN town who lives with her junkie mother. The film alternates between the present and the past, using flashbacks of the unexpected connection between Lumpy (Tyler Labine) and Ramsey (Addison Timlin). Ramsey lives a tough and forlorn life, not only does her mother neglects her, her mom’s boyfriend also makes her steal drugs to make meth. All this makes her unlikely friendship with Lumpy all the more moving.

I must say that I’m most impressed with Addison Timlin in this film, she is definitely a promising young actor and based on the LUMPY panel on Saturday, her career is just taking off with multiple TV and movie offers. I also love Frances O’Connor who plays Ramsey’s mother (I love her in Mansfield Park), it’s quite an unusual role that I don’t normally associate her with. Though Long is the most popular actor here, I don’t see him as the star of the film, though this film shows that he’s capable of tackling a dramatic role.

I’m glad that Koland chose to shoot the film in his native state here in MN, it’s fun to see the locations that I recognize throughout the film. I love the uplifting message about the power of kindness and the transformative power of friendship.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels

Dead Dad

If Lumpy illuminates the power of friendship, then Dead Dad would make you evaluate the strength of family. This is the quintessential indie that focuses on a very human story in which the performances are the ‘special effects’ of the movie.

As the title should tell you, the film opens with a young man discovering his alcoholic dad lifeless body in his home. His death brings three estranged siblings to the funeral. Russell is the oldest who’s been taking care of their dad, Alex is the adopted Chinese son and Jane is the youngest. Right away you realize that the three siblings haven’t seen each other for a while and they haven’t been in good terms either.

The main plot of the film involves finding an appropriate place for the siblings to spread their dad’s ashes, inevitably bringing the three together in the process, even if the journey isn’t always smooth or pleasant. It’s important to note that the three main actors playing the Sawtelle siblings are relatively inexperienced, yet they have a believable chemistry. The relationship between the three of them sometimes remind me of my own family, as I’m also the youngest of three and my two brothers and I don’t always get along. It’s interesting to see how their dad weren’t always there for his children, but he ends up bringing them together in his death.

Kudos to director Ken J. Adachi for creating a real portrayal of family, it doesn’t feel forced or emotionally manipulative but the story definitely pull your heartstrings. The production values are pretty good as well for a tiny-budgeted film, filled with innovative shots and close-ups. I’d be curious to see what Adachi would do with a bigger budget, he’s certainly a talent to watch.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Take Care

This one is another compelling look at the friendship in our lives, this time it involves two estranged friends from college. Erin (Ryan Driscoll) is unemployed and is living with her long-time boyfriend. All of a sudden, Kaylie (Elise Ivy), her former college BFF shows up at her door, wanting to rekindle their friendship. Soon we finds out that Kaylie’s marriage is over and she travels from Grand Rapids Iowa all the way to L.A. Reluctantly Erin lets her stay in the house she shares with Ian (Armand DesHarnais).

At first I was a bit apprehensive that this is going to be one of those home-wrecker story, I was dreading the inevitable seduction that happens between Kaylie and Ian. Fortunately there’s none of that here, in fact, the complications that arise between Erin and Kaylie reveals that nothing is what it seems, and my preconceptions of the two women gradually shifts as the film progresses.

Glad to see not one but two strong female roles here, thanks to Scott Tanner Jones, another talented writer/director who was present at the TCFF screening. Both Driscoll and Ivy did a wonderful job conveying the emotional complexities of their characters. The scene towards the end where they open up their deepest secret to one another is quite heart-wrenching and I did not see that revelation coming. The message of forgiveness and acceptance amongst friends is already very inspiring, but the filmmaker also has an encouraging message of a woman standing up to herself and striving for her independence. At the same time, I appreciate the fact that the men in the story aren’t depicted as monsters either, it’s great to see when a filmmaker doesn’t resort to portraying one-dimensional caricatures.

The pacing is a bit slow for me however, I think the editing could’ve been a lot tighter. It’s a small quibble however, as overall I think it’s a well worthy effort from Jones in his first feature film.

3 out of 5 reels

The Story of Luke 

The premise is that Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci) has a is believed to be a form of autism, for the majority of his life he has lived with his grandparents, but his grandmother recently past. This leaves Luke and his grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) in the care of his aunt and uncle – who are reluctant to take care of them. The family is wealthy, but unhappy; it is rapidly unveiled that they are on the cusp of divorce. This new family dynamic is a rude awakening for Luke, but his grandfather provides him with a form of life direction for this new period in his life.

He goes on a mission to “become a man,” and the first step towards this is to get a job. His rationale is that once he gets a job, he will get a girl, become independent, and he will cease to be “special”. Luke wishes to accomplish this as fast as possible; Seth Green, who plays Luke’s first boss, embarks on this journey with him. Although they are afflicted with the same problem (yelling when overwhelmed, panicky, trouble with reading peoples emotions, etc.) they have completely different personalities.

The Story of Luke rapidly becomes a lesson on the trials and tribulations of life. Just like I Am Sam, many harsh realities are darkly comedic, dulling, in its own way, the how painful these types of disorders are (this movie is much more uplifting and uses a more stable camera). Lou Taylor Pucci appears to have been inspired by the Jack Sparrow/Raoul Duke/Johnny Depp character. Using intense eyes and matter-of-fact way of speaking, but it felt appropriate here.

This was a great choice for the second-to-last film of TCFF, I would definitely put it up there with The Sessions, in terms of quality, although the attendance wasn’t as spectacular. There is no rush to see this in theaters, but it couldn’t hurt.

– review by Emery Thoresen

3 out of 5 reels

Well, out of the 13 films I saw at TCFF, here are my top five favorites:

5. The Sessions
4. A Late Quartet
3. Quartet
2. Silver Linings Playbook
1. The Sapphires

Honorable Mentions: Things I Don’t Understand and Lumpy.

It’s funny that most of the films I love have musical themes in it, it’s not really a ‘requirement’ for a great film mind you, but hey, great music in an excellent film is definitely icing on the cake!

I don’t think you’d go wrong with any of these, so I recommend that you check these out when it’s released in your city. As for the two smaller films in the honorable mentions, I will add the info here when I learn about their release dates, whether on VOD or in theaters.

Well, that concludes my reviews of TCFF films this year. It’s been a blast covering for the film fest, thanks everyone for reading and commenting!

Let me know your thoughts on any of these films above.

30 thoughts on “TCFF Roundup – Part 2: Reviews and Top Five Favorite Films Screened at the Film Fest

  1. Ted S.

    Again good job on covering the events Ruth, I don’t think I can do what you did, especially with a full time job.

    Lumpy sounds interesting but I can’t stand Justin Long and Tyler Labine, they’re so annoying to me. Long ruined Die Hard 4 for me, well the whole film wasn’t that good to begin with but having Long as the annoying sidekick didn’t help. As for Labine, everything he’s in, I try to avoid seeing. I was glad his role in Rise of the Apes was small.

    1. Hi Ted, well that’s why I could only see 13 films out of 60 that was playing. If I didn’t have a job I could probably see more.

      Ahah, I hear ya ted. I did not like Die Hard 4, I really think they should put that franchise to rest to be honest. As for Labine, I thought he was great in Lumpy. Oh I forgot he was in Rise of the Planet of the Apes!

      1. Ted S.

        I agree that the Die Hard franchise should be put to rest but I’ll go see the fifth one when it opens this winter. The studio doesn’t even have much faith in it by opening it in the winter instead of its usual summer spot.

        I’ll take your word for it, I just can’t stand Labine. He’s always played that annoying fat guy friend character and he’s supposed to be funny, but he bugged me so much.

  2. I think you should be very proud of yourself Ruth. I have really enjoyed reading your coverage of the fest!! I am sorry I wasn’t here yesterday… I was recovering from dental surgery!!

    I bet you are still buzzing from it all, I know I was last year doing all cinecity fest

    1. Oh my, dental surgery!! You poor thing matey. My hubby just got one done last month too, something to do with an implant for his crown. Well I hope you have a speedy recovery!

      Thank you for reading my TCFF posts, I really appreciate that very much!

  3. Hi, Ruth and company:


    Independent films that are sticking to their no-budget, character driven roots!

    ‘Dead Dad’ sounds a heck of a lot like a small 2001 film with Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren titled, ‘Last Orders’. Though scaled down age-wise.

    ‘Lumpy’ sounds intriguing for the play-off between the leads and secondary cast.

    ‘Take Care’ makes me happy that all of my bygone friends and acquaintances are happily married and have to wish to seek me out.

    Though it does sound interesting in wanting to see how the two female leads play off of and work with each other,

    1. Hi Jack, indeed they are, which are nice to get a break from a bazillion blockbuster movies laden with SFX. Oh now I want to see ‘Dead Dad,’ esp. with Dame Mirren!

      Take Care is really quite interesting precisely because of how the leads play off each other. I really though I had the two girls figured out but then it managed to surprise me, which is always nice when that happens.

    1. Thanks Josh! I really want to see Sapphires again, the Weinsteins are distributing it, so I was kinda hoping O’Dowd might get a nomination.

  4. PrairieGirl

    Hey Flixy, you have outdone yourself… superb job of covering the Fest this year.

    This will probably sound petty, but I think one of the things I liked best about Lumpy was that the snow was REAL! Hollywood can create all the amazing special effects/CGI/motion capture/animation, etc., but when it comes to snow they can NEVER match real thing ;-D

    1. Ted S.

      I agree about the real snow Becky, I hate it when they filmed the movie in the spring or summer but use fake snow. We from the cold state knows the difference between real and fake snow. Also, if it’s so cold outside, how come we can’t see people’s breath?

      1. Ahah yeah, the fake snow and the breath not showing is a telltale sign whether a movie is set on location or not. Sometimes though, they film the Winter scenes in Summer so it’s really impossible to fake the breath thing, though I wish they’d have some kind of device that can alter the temperature of a certain enclosed location to make it more authentic.

        1. Ted S.

          Yeah it’s hard to create the human’s breath in the cold but I assume with the technology we have now, it would be easy to create it with CGI. In action films today, they use CGI blood when someone gets shot instead of squips. That’s one thing that bugged me about The Dark Knight Rises, with a $250mil budget couldn’t they at least create fake cold breath?

            1. Ted S.

              That’s another thing that bugged me about TDKR, the bloodless violence, I mean I understand they want to keep it PG13 but come on, when people get shot we should see some blood. Now Nolan might have been forced to removed the blood from characters post production to get PG13, so I can’t really blame him.

  5. Really wish I would have been able to catch LUMPY. Knew nothing about that one, but heard a lot of great things. I enjoyed DEAD DAD a lot too, but didn’t care for TAKE CARE nearly as much. That one sort of went off the rails during the middle act, but it did pick itself up towards the ending “showdown” of confrontation and decision-making.

    1. Lumpy is worth checking out even just for the MN locations, but the story is pretty engaging. I hear ya about Take Care, I think the pacing could be better also, but overall I like the theme of friendship and the revelation managed to surprise me which adds to my appreciation for it.

  6. I like that the first two films you mention – I really want to see this “Lumpy” – both heavily involve funerals. I was thinking about this the other day at the Chicago Film Festival when I saw a movie that made a joke revolving around a banana which was so crazy because earlier in the fest I’d seen ANOTHER movie that made a joke revolving around a banana. It’s like when you see so many films back to back to back, etc., similarities are bound to crop up.

    Great festival coverage, Ruth! Enjoyed it.

    1. Ahah, what are the two movies revolving a banana?? That’s too funny! I just saw you’ve been reviewing some CIFF movies too, very cool Nick!

  7. Great job covering the festival, Ruth. I admire the work that has to go into attending these… I know watching multiple movies over a few days isn’t as easy as it sounds. 😀

    If I find out about it soon enough next year, I might try to cover the Eugene Film Fest. This year I only found out about it on the last day. Some film blogger I am! 😀 Of course, it might have helped had they decided to advertise it in any way, shape or form….

    1. Thank you Morgan! Hey I actually didn’t know until recently that there’s a Minneapolis/St Paul film festival also and it’s been going on for years, ahah.

  8. Pingback: Weekly Weblinks: Bond and Baggins | Morgan on Media

  9. The film is not perfect, nor is it even on par with the best the teen comedy genre has to offer. Some of the problems include a kid dying of cancer who shows very little (if any) signs of sickness, a poorly developed romantic subplot, and a scene in a gay biker bar which should have been completely exorcised from the completed film. Oh, and Dan Fogler is painfully annoying. If only they had cast Jonah Hill or Tyler Labine instead. But the target audience of Star Wars fanboys and comic book geeks will surely eat it up. In it’s best moments it is a love letter to fandom and friendship.

  10. Oh, they’ve seen it. It’s part of the reason why they decided to endorse it and why we were able to get all the music for it. It was such a big deal to get the rights to the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” for instance, which is so integral to the story. That song was written into the story. It was important to get people like Bob Dylan behind the film to make it all happen.

    1. Yeah I do like that one a lot. It has no stars in it but the story and music just touched me more than the others. Lumpy is a good one too Pete, hope that’ll be available on Netflix or iTunes soon!

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