Shorts Round Up for the Week (11/16/18)

Most of the time we get such a backlog of short films and feature length indie films that we work hard to take them all on and review them before the year is up. In what we hope will become a new feature, “Shorts Round Up of the Week” is a column where we’ll be reviewing a round up of short films of varying quality.

If you’d like to submit your short film for review consideration, submissions are always opened to filmmakers and producers.

Coin Operated (2017)
Written & Directed by Nicholas Arioli, “Coin Operated” is an independently made and very good, often sweet short animated movie that evokes ideas about life, and the mixed feelings about wanting to achieve our goals. Mostly a silent movie, “Coin Operated” centers on a young boy who dreams of going to space and one day stumbles upon a coin operated rocket ship ride. With a nickel he makes his dream come true, but only in a small dose. Seeking to fulfill his biggest dreams, he saves up his money with the help of a lemonade stand, and in a seventy year span, seeks out the rocket ship once again.

The rocket ship is of course a metaphor for our goals, and the lemonade stand is how we work and suffer for what we want, for a personal goal that we possibly can never really fulfill. When we see the main character in the end, he’s reached the end and it’s ambiguous on whether he ever really achieved what he set out to do. All we know is that we’re all this child, seeking our rocket ship in to space, it’s heartbreaking a lot of us never get to see the stars and reach for the universe.

Dark Roast (2017)
Written and directed by Topher Hannson, “Dark Roast” acts more like a proof of concept short film than an actual short film. Apparently Hannson has a feature film in mind for “Dark Roast” but had to shrink the entire premise in to a short. I hope Hannson gets to transform this premise in to a feature very soon, because it could be a great Halloween dark comedy if approached well. Set on Halloween night, two workers for the coffee house the Grind Haus end up bearing witness to a series of horrific accidents involving customers and deadly weapons. As the body count rises and they scramble to figure out how to explain these weird circumstances, someone keeps calling them harassing them and threatening to murder them. “Dark Roast” is a fun dark comedy with a ton of great gore and grue, as well as a demented sense of humor that could grant it an audience. Topher Hannson and Kati McCarron are hilarious together and their approach to these seemingly ridiculous events is a lot of fun. I look forward to more from Hannson.

The Greta Fragments (2018)
I could have watched “The Greta Fragments” if it were a three hour movie, so I was sad when it was just nine minutes. Nic Barker hits it out of the park with a fascinating and candid character study about a young girl named Greta who is seeking her identity, and doing so by doing things in her life that she’d never done before. Honor Wolff is fantastic as the titular Greta, who recounts a lot about her sudden awakening through three people she likes and trusts. With her best friend she discusses her exhaustion with her old relationship and pursuit of a new one, with her maternal older friend she speaks around what her intent is with the new direction in her life.

What begins as a conversation of sheer disapproval gradually transforms in to a discussion about how Greta might have done the wise thing. There’s also the third relationship with her friend who she hopes to turn in to her new boyfriend. Their relationship is told through non-verbal communication, and a lot of what Greta says with glances and smirks. Wolff is enormous in this short film and as Greta, she’s a flawed but fascinating protagonist who was lucky enough to realize she needed to change course in her life, before she was too old to accomplish such a desire. Barker’s direction is gritty and engrossing as he sucks us in to this short but top notch adult drama without fail.Here Lies Joe (2016)
Mark Battle’s drama/dark comedy is a gem of a short film that deserves the feature film treatment. Not only is it a wonderful slice of life, but it’s an excellent tale about two people that find one another in dark circumstances. Dean Temple is fantastic as Joe, a man who begins attending a support group for folks that either want to commit suicide or attempted suicide. When he meets a very abrasive and rude woman in the group named Z, he slowly begins to realize he has a lot in common with her.

Andi Morrow is a bonafide scene stealer and as Z, she’s great as someone who changes over the course of “Here Lies Joe.” When we first see her she’s this awfully rude and irritating persona. Once we learn more about her, its tough not to root for her and Joe. Battle’s direction is top notch as he presents a world that feels very big and dark for the pair of characters. I was almost immediately sucked in to this premise as Morrow and Temple garner a great chemistry that makes “Here Lies Joe” a great look at the beauty of life, and how we’re all fighting personal battles inside.

What Jack Built (2015)
Matthew Mahler’s short horror film is disappointing and that’s a shame because it has a good idea. It’s build up, and build up, and build up and then absolutely zero pay off for the audience. It’s too bad, too, because I was very interested in the character Jack’s journey and what he was trying to accomplish. “What Jack Built” is a silent short starring prolific actor Timothy J. Cox as the titular Jack. Jack is spending most of his time in a basement or bunker preparing a humongous trap that is made of wood and steel and we spent about eleven minutes in total watching him produce plans and building the ultimate trap.

When we finally see the unveiling of the big device, it’s an interesting turn of events, but then Mahler pretty much gives us nothing about what this thing is that Jack is trying to catch. What is it? And what is Jack’s motivation for trapping it? Is he a hunter? Did said monster or animal murder someone he loved? Is he just some kind of paranoid monster hunter? What was on the tape Jack installed? With at least five more minutes and some kind of back story for Jack, “What Jack Built” just might have been salvaged. Timothy J. Cox is very good in the non-speaking role, but in the end it’s just anti-climactic, tonally uneven, and makes promises it really can’t fulfill.