Highlight Reel: Skyway Film Festival

SRQ’s picks for the films not to miss at this weekend’s inaugural Skyway Film Festival in Bradenton.

No Stranger than Love (pictured)

Teacher Lucy (Alison Brie) is having an affair with the school’s married football coach (Colin Hanks). That is, until an inter-dimensional hole opens up in her living room and swallows him. What could be stranger than that? Love, apparently. While he spends the rest of the movie in an abyss, alive and audible, Lucy gets sucked into a love triangle with the soulful but sketchy Rydell (Justin Chatwin). With its magical realism and secondary science fiction elements, No Stranger than Love could pull off an endearing charm that has worked well for modern romances like No Safety Guaranteed and About Time.

The Blair Witch Project

One of the most successful independent films ever, The Blair Witch Project established the ‘found footage’ technique as a horror staple, inspiring an entire genre of movies, including Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. In a special retrospective screening, followed by a Q&A with Director Dan Myrick, viewers can relive the terror of three film students who went missing after exploring the local legend of a Maryland forest. Originally released in 1999, the film utilizes a slow build up of suspense and the fear of the unknown to create an iconic picture.

There is a New World Somewherethere is a new world somewhere still

In typical twentysomething-age fashion, Sylvia, a struggling artist forced to move back home to Texas, needs a coming of age adventure to determine who she is. Right on cue, she meets a stranger who dares her to join him on a spontaneous road trip. Starring Agnes Bruckner, who recently appeared in Once Upon a Time as Maleficent’s daughter, and Maurice Compte as Esteban, the movie progresses around the trip through the Deep South. As a fellow twentysomething, here’s hoping There is a New World Somewhere, with its characters’ insecurities explored against a backdrop of changing locales, can reach across the fourth wall and offer answers, or at least comfort, about the vast future we’re all staring down.

31/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets

Focusing on a specific act of violence indicative of the much larger race problem in America, this documentary details the gas station shooting that led to the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis in 2012. In a time fraught with too many similar tragedies, news coverage of names like Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the struggles of institutionalized racism, it is a poignant reminder that these issues are close to home and all too common. Following the criminal case and the profound loss experienced by Davis’ parents, 3 ½ Minutes promises an emotional viewing.

Night Owls

NIGHT_OWLS_PRODUCTION_STILL-copy_1000Doing away with the romantic meet-cute, Kevin (Adam Pally) and Madeline (Rosa Salazar) find themselves in the middle of a bound-to-be-regrettable one-night stand. But when Kevin wakes up the next day to find himself in his boss’s house and Madeline, the jilted mistress, unconscious after a bottle of pills, the night takes another turn for the worse. He’s then tasked with keeping her awake until morning, embarking on a night that brings the peculiar couple together. While the film takes a detour into dark slapstick comedy, it still seems to hit the romantic comedy standards in inventive ways, helped by Pally (The Mindy Project) and Salazar’s (Insurgent) offbeat chemistry.

Not to be outshone in their home state, several Floridian films will be shown at Skyway, including the world premieres of Catching Junior Tate and the in-progress Turtle Tale. But SRQ’s local pick is Paradise, Fl, directed by Nick Morgulis and written and produced by Tony Stopperan.

Paradise, Fl

Paradise Movie--  Photo by Rod Millington
Paradise Movie– Photo by Rod Millington

Tommy (Jon-Michael Miller) is a struggling and lonely oyster fisherman. But after his best friend Sean’s (Kristopher Higgins) wife attempts suicide, Tommy moves in to help with the kids. In an ironically dark tale for its name, Paradise, Fl is about family, both by blood and by choice. Dealing with grief and demons in this small Florida town, the raw portrayals of this unconventional household make this movie a standout.

Short Stuff

The inaugural film festival isn’t just showing full-length films. The schedule features two sets of short programming, titled “Portrait of Life” and “The End is Near,” in addition to a collection of Florida shorts, documentaries and college and high school student shorts. Including projects from France, Argentina, Spain, England and all across the country as well as home, topics range from attempting to blow fire while skydiving to drones and a shy skeleton named Oliver. Warning Labels, a short film directed by Jennifer Morrison, will be shown before No Stranger than Love on closing night. Starring Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) and Rose McIver (iZombie), the film is about two Center for Disease Control workers and their relationship as it plays out in a diner.