The 23rd Los Angeles Film Festival kicks off Wednesday night with the world premiere of The Book of Henry, Colin Trevorrow‘s dramatic thriller starring Naomi Watts as a single mother whose son suspects they have a nefarious next-door neighbor. Then for another week and change Film Independent (the folks behind the Independent Spirit Awards) will roll out a wide and diverse array of indies competing for eyeballs (and prizes) at theaters in Culver City, Hollywood, Santa Monica, and downtown Los Angeles. Here are seven films debuting at the fest we’re willing to brave traffic to check out.
Like Into the Wild reimagined as a horror film, Sam Patton’s feature directorial debut follows a mother, her son, and her best friend on a ash-scattering journey through the wilderness, where they are stalked by a lone hiker. Fun fact: Patton’s past résumé includes “office intern” on The Purge, so he has paid his dues.
Don’t Come Back From the Moon
James Franco‘s frequent collaborator Bruce Thierry Cheung adapts this coming-of-age story based on Dean Bakopoulos’s book. Newcomer Jeffrey Wahlberg (Mark’s nephew) plays a rural California teen struggling with the abandonment of his father (Franco). Surprisingly, it’s the only film at LAFF for the über-prolific Franco.
The Female Brain
Whitney Cummings (TV’s Whitney) directs this headier-than-usual romantic comedy examining the nuances of the modern relationship with an ensemble that also includes Sofia Vergara, Cecily Strong, Toby Kebbell, James Marsden, Beanie Feldstein, and NBA star Blake Griffin.
Izzy Gets the F**k Across Town
We couldn’t possibly do a better job of capsuling this comedy starring Mackenzie Davis (The Martian), so we’ll let the official synopsis take it from here: “Riot grrrl rocker Izzy wakes up hungover AF to find out that her ex-boyfriend is celebrating his engagement to her ex-best friend at a bougie party across town. Not having a car in Los Angeles is not going to stop her from stopping them.”
Directed by Aaron and Amanda Kopp (who shot The Hunting Ground) and produced by Westworld star Thandie Newton, this gorgeously animated quasi-documentary follows the lives of five orphaned children in Swaziland while also spinning off into a fable that tracks the eponymous girl as she sets off to save her young twin brothers.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) plays a tatted-up criminal newly released from prison — only to be forced right back into the game by the leaders of his SoCal gang. Jon Bernthal, Lake Bell, Benjamin Bratt, and Emory Cohen co-star in the thriller written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch).
The Year of Spectacular Men
It’s a family affair for Lea Thompson. The Back to the Future alum makes her directorial debut and also costars with daughters Madelyn (who wrote the script) and Zoey Deutch in this romantic drama about a recent college grad navigating the L.A. dating scene. Dad Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink) produces.
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