Spotlight on The Dust Storm movie & interview with co-director Ryan Lacen + actress Kristen Gutoskie

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Last Thursday, I got to hang out with the filmmakers of The Dust Storm, Ryan Lacen and Anthony Baldino and chat about their film. The intimate romance drama is set in Nashville, starring ABC’s Once Upon A Time‘s Colin O’Donoghue and The CW’s Containment‘s Kristen Gutoskie. Both Anthony & Ryan are so friendly and fun to be around, two of the nicest people one would’ve had the privilege to hang out with! We went to Cooper’s Irish Pub across the street from Showplace ICON Theater, which is the kind of pub I’m sure the lead actor Colin, an Irishman, would surely love!

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Me w/ Ryan (with the baseball hat) & Anthony


TCFF Screening Time(s): 
10/24/2015  (9:15 PM)

Check out the trailer:


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Romantic films are tricky because it’s SO easy to get into corny and mushy territory when it’s not handled well (*cough* Nicholas Sparks *cough*). But the smaller, more intimate romance dramas like the Before Sunrise trilogy, John Carney’s Once, can be truly moving and heartfelt.

The Dust Storm follows that similar formula, focusing more on the characters and how the sudden presence in each other’s life irrefutably change them. I also love the premise of lost love, the idea that there’s a history between the characters and how tough it can be for someone to let go.

I’m not going to go into the story as it’s best that you discover Brennan and Nora when you see it for yourself. I do want to comment on the performances and the wonderful chemistry of the two actors. I’ve only seen Colin in a few episodes of Once Upon A Time where he plays this swashbuckling, sexy pirate, so it’s interesting to see him display his vulnerable side. Brennan wears his heart on his sleeve so much he may seem rather weak or even clingy, but you can’t help but sympathize with him. It’s apparent that he was hurt deeply in the past and the more I spend time with the two characters, it’s easy to see why. Nora is this beautiful, carefree and confident woman who’s effortlessly dominant in a relationship. I have to admit I don’t always like either characters, but yet I still find myself drawn into their whirlwind time together.

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One thing I noticed is there’s a TON of drinking in this movie, I guess as I don’t like alcohol it’s hard to relate to that but in a way it explains to the state of mind of the characters. Some drink for fun, and some drink to escape and I think in the case for Brennan & Nora, it’s the latter. The film certainly works largely thanks to the wonderful casting of Colin and Kristen, and Jim O’Heir also provide a great supporting turn as Brennan’s colleague. He’s definitely the comic relief here.

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I think Colin’s fans would love seeing him here, given that he’s pretty much on every scene and he also gets to sing & play guitar. He’s clean cut in most of the film, but don’t worry, there are scenes of him w/ some scruff as well 😉 Both he and Kristen have such a lovely voice and the musical aspect is used well in the film. Nashville itself is pretty much a character in itself too, taking advantage of the city’s vibrant music scene in the way Dublin was in Once. The title is definitely perfect to describe how something or someone in this case can come into your life unexpectedly and you can’t control the effect it has in your life. Brennan is definitely engulfed, if you will, in the emotion he has for Nora. The story is definitely relatable as who hasn’t dealt with a broken heart in their life.

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Interview with Kristen Gutoskie

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TCFF 2015 Day 2: Can You Dig This doc + indie drama Sunny in the Dark

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Day 2 has come and gone! It’s not quite a crazy whirlwind day as the opening day for me, but it was still jam packed!

The highlights of Day 2 is definitely seeing yet another great documentary!

Below are the two reviews from Day 2. Thanks again Sarah J. for helping out with TCFF coverage again this year!

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Can You Dig This Documentary

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I love that TCFF always picked films that not only entertain but broaden your horizon. THIS is one of those documentaries and I wish more people had seen it. The film followed four “gangster gardeners” who create an oasis in one he most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods in America, South L.A.

The opening scene shows the director, Delila Vallot, an actress/dancer/director who was born and raised in Hollywood driving back home to see her ill father. The neighborhood is full of gangs, drug dealers, liquor stores, abandoned buildings and vacant lots. It’s a disheartening view, which makes the beautiful garden at the end of the block all the more jaw-dropping. It’s so unexpected to see such lush greens and colorful flowers sprouting up from such an unlikely location.

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This project is spearheaded by a charismatic fellow named Ron Finley, a self-described renegade gardener (as it says on his t-shirt!) who wanted to grow his own food as his neighborhood is filled with so much junk food that contributed to the high obesity level of the community.

This is Vallot’s first documentary feature but she certainly has a keen eye for visuals as she also serves as the director of photography. I also love the beautiful illustrations that introduce each of the four community featured in the film.

Finley’s garden attracted the attention of LA Times’ journalist Steve Lopez who helped spread the word about his plight to counter the counterproductive regulations that ban people from building a garden in their own home. It’s mind-boggling to hear that Finley getting a citation for something that benefit his community, whilst there are so much wasted land that could’ve been cultivated properly by the city.

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What I LOVE about this documentary are the *renegade* characters, who like Finley chose shovels instead of guns as their weapon of choice. Finley inspired people to rebel against what people expect of them, and be a *rebel* for something that brings positive change. Former gangbanger Spicey who initially was interested in cultivating marijuana ended up joining the Compton Community Garden. He ended up striking a friendship with Kenya who also wants to leave her dark past and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

There’s Hosea who served 30 years for manslaughter who, along with his friend Henry, find passion in gardening that he’s smiling ear-to-ear every time he talks about it. There’s something so inherently uplifting and encouraging about bringing life straight from the ground up and see it grow as they continue to nurture it.

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Last but not least, there’s the vivacious Quimonie, one of five girls of the president of the housing project. She clearly has the gift of leadership from her father, a gentle but overweight man, who in turn inspire him to start eating healthy. Her entrepreneurial spirit alone is infectious, I LOVE that scene where she made $21 selling vegetables from her garden in her community. She certainly inspires me to eat more vegetables!

So THANK YOU Vallot for making this and for Finley for your inspiring vision. Nice to see another female filmmaker bringing their film to this year’s film fest. This documentary isn’t so much about the environment, science or economics, it’s a story about the human spirit and how even regular folks can make a big difference against all odds. Musician John Legend is an executive producer on this film, so naturally the music is awesome here. I can’t recommend this enough folks! Run, don’t walk, to check this out when it’s playing near you.

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Sunny in the Dark

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Ever feel like someone is watching you? As a woman, I always have to be alert to my surroundings and I’ll admit that may not make me the ideal person to review this movie. “Sunny in the Dark,” directed by Courtney Ware and written by Mike Maden, stars Jay Huguley as Jonah, an intimacy adverse therapist, and Hannah Ward as Sunny, a woman who lives in the crawl space above his apartment.

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I understand the premise of this movie – in time, she gets to know him and ultimately saves his life when a guy breaks into his apartment. Has he found someone who has seen him for who he really is? Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the thought of how creepy it would be to have someone, however innocent they may seem, trespassing in your house. (Also, I thought of the scene in “Untamed Heart” where Christian Slater admits he follows Marisa Tomei home to protect her. What would the reaction be if you made a movie where a guy was living in the attic of a woman’s apartment?)

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There is one scene when her pet rat dies and gets stuck while she is flushing it down the toilet so she takes his kitchen knife and cuts him up into little pieces. Pardon me if I can live without the visual of that taking place while I’m not home. Apparently it works for some people as the movie won for Best First Feature at the Arizona International Film Festival. Films like this remind me what a review is – one person’s opinion.

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So that’s my Day 2 recap folks! What’s coming up for Day 3?


What do you think about either one of these films?