Check Please!

Steve and Adam have a really strange talk over coffee.

Blind dates are scary things, with equal potential for disaster, magic, and everything in-between. This is why I’ve never been on one; I’m sure I couldn’t handle the pressure. Sometimes they also lead to awkward conversations, as in Check Please!, where Adam (Shane Ryan) and Steve (Chad Meisenheimer) have met for coffee the morning after their blind date.

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Beyond Repair

Jorah is truly horrified at the state of the toilet seat.

Driving late at night has its advantages — almost no traffic, for example — but it also has its drawbacks, when, like Jorah (Kinsley Funari) in Beyond Repair, you find yourself in dire need of a rest room, you’re still far from home, and everything’s closed. At last salvation appears in the form of a brightly-lit gas station and Jorah gratefully pulls in and parks. Granted, the mechanic on duty (Jesse Dillon Sorrells) isn’t very friendly and the bathroom itself isn’t the cleanest — not exactly a shock — but any port in a storm.

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The Playground

Gabrysia asks Szymek to meet her at the ruins. Poor girl.

In many countries, however different they might seem otherwise, teenagers all face much the same life or death crises — what to wear, who to ask to the dance, and whether or not their parents will ever stop being hopelessly uncool. At first glance, the group of Polish teenagers in The Playground aren’t any different as they gather for the last day of school, bringing flowers for their teachers, which is a tradition there. At my school, giving flowers to a teacher for any reason would have exposed you to eternal ridicule.

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My First Miracle

Movie poster. Note Charlie and his cello spreading a little Christmas cheer.

It’s December, and all one 17-year old girl really wants for Christmas is the chance to make it to eighteen. Angelica (Katya Martín) has Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a rare cancer that causes bone marrow to produce bad blood cells. It’s treatable with the right bone marrow donor, but as with any such donation it’s hard to find a match. Her dad Mark (Matthew Rauch) and her mom Heidi (Valerie Cruz) are working hard to pay the bills — chemo is crazy expensive — but otherwise all they can do is wait.

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The Watchers

John finally gets a call, but not the one he's been hoping for.

We’ve all had that feeling now and then, that indefinable certainty that someone’s looking at us. Sometimes we’re right about it, sometimes wrong, but in either case the feeling doesn’t last and we go about our day. In The Watchers, though, John (Jeff Moffitt) is having more of a problem with that feeling than usual. Everywhere he turns, he insists there’s someone watching him and it’s bothering him so much he’s making emergency calls to his psychiatrist Dr. Orwell (Timothy J. Cox).

Stress can do strange things sometimes, Dr. Orwell says soothingly, and even aside from the feeling of being stared at John has plenty of that. He’s estranged from his wife Marcie (Nikki Flanagan) and leaves pleading messages on her voicemail that remain unanswered. The pressure is affecting him at work, too, as you might imagine. His boss Philip (Darrin Biss) is very understanding, but that only seems to enrage John, which makes the stress worse.

Then a cryptic note appears inside his apartment, left by a hooded figure John can’t get a good look at. A woman (Kathleen Boddington) he doesn’t know says she’s been waiting for him. When John witnesses a tragedy and tries to report it to a police officer (Robert Nesi) the officer seems to know an awful lot about John, as do many other people he encounters on the street. It seems there’s something to John’s paranoia after all — but it isn’t until his apparently random meeting with an older man (Peter Francis Span) that he begins to grasp the full scope of what’s happening to him.

You can’t help but feel for John — all he really wants is for his wife to return his calls and figure out what’s going on. But as far as the latter goes, it’s a clear case of needing to be careful what you wish for, as the truth will change his world forever. As alone as he feels he does have people willing to help — his boss, the reassuring Dr. Orwell — but he’s determined to go it alone, perhaps out of some misguided need to feel in control. The very last thing he has is control, however, as he loses more and more of himself to these watchers.

I’ll give it four out of five. All the clues are there but the ending still gives a satisfying twist, with some eerie and unsettling moments along the way as we follow John’s bizarre journey of discovery — or perhaps his long fall down the rabbit hole. It’s a realistic look at a regular guy swept up into extreme circumstances and finding out he was never really who he thought he was.

For Her

Jonathan and Elizabeth. They look super happy, but you never know.

Tolstoy once wrote that all happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (That’s in Anna Karenina if you’re curious or want to try to impress someone.) And it’s true that we do tend to assume that our neighbors, as long as they aren’t overtly creepy or awful in some way, are at least somewhat similar to us as far as likes, dislikes, and what we do for fun. In the short film For Her, though, that’s not necessarily a very safe bet.

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Night of the Sitter

Cade showing Liam his map. What could possibly go wrong?

Raging teenage hormones sometimes have a lot to answer for, from acne to voices breaking at awkward moments to extremely poor decision making processes. In Night of the Sitter, the latter takes center stage as we witness Liam (Taylor Rhoades, who looks a little like Andrew Garfield except with even poofier hair) confidently thinking that he has a great plan to get luckier than he’s ever dreamed he could.

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Stefania and D-love meeting at the airport

A vacation in paradise will soothe a lot of troubles, but of course it can’t work on everything. For one married couple, for instance, it hasn’t changed anything. Wife Stefania (Elena Beuca) has pulled in on herself and can’t understand why her husband Dan (Dave Rogers) seems able to talk freely and happily to everyone but her. Compounding the problems, Dan has been out of work for some time, leaving Stefania to support them in a job she hates, working for one of the most evil bosses ever, Annie (Christine Fazzino).

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The Ball

Pearlie communes with her mirror.

It’s a clear, cold evening, and one young woman called Pearlie (Avril Dominguez) is looking forward to the most magical night of her life. Tonight is the annual winter ball, you see, a long-standing tradition in the town, and she has high hopes of being the belle of the titular ball. As she finishes getting ready she talks eagerly to her mirror, wishing for her beau to arrive soon and whisk her away.

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