Let's face it: The business of independent film can be quite the crapshoot. Something like "Meet Bill," for example, looks like an easily marketable piece of commodified quirk designed to catch on with a wide swath of filmgoers -- except for the always nagging fact that it isn't any good. The story of a man (Aaron Eckhart) grappling with middle-age ennui at work and at home feels done to death, as does the distracting addition of a spunky rich-kid high schooler. The film is written by Melissa Wallack, who co-directs with Bernie Goldman, and it is indicative of the perpetual wrong-footedness of "Meet Bill" that Jessica Alba is cast as a lingerie salesgirl (makes sense, so far), but the inevitable dressing-room scene awkwardly puts a boy in a garter belt. Whether by original design or some desperate late-stage editing-room ploy, the film doesn't reach a narrative conclusion so much as simply collapse in on itself. Resolving nothing, the ending is a cause for internal conflict in viewers, as it's deeply unsatisfying with regard to storytelling but provides a huge relief that the painful "Meet Bill" is at least over.
"Meet Bill." Rated R for language, some drug use and sex related material. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Laemmle's One Colorado, 42 Miller Alley, Pasadena, (626) 744-1224. A few more animated picks
Curated by Mike Judge (of "Beavis and Butt-head," "Office Space" and, let's not forget, "Idiocracy"), "The Animation Show 4" is, as it sounds, the latest in an ongoing omnibus highlighting recent short films made in a variety of animation styles. It's worth noting that a number of the most vivid standouts -- including "This Way Up" by the team Smith & Foulkes, "Western Spaghetti" by PES and "Psychotown" by Dave Carter -- were commissioned specially for this collection. Other highlights include world premieres such as "The Life and Times of Tim" by Steve Dildarian, about a husband who tries to explain to his wife why there is a hooker in their living room, and "Operator" by Matthew Walker, in which a man asks directory assistance to connect him to "capital-g God," and he is put through. As with any such collection, there are a few duds, but at least they are short and then are gone quickly. Overall, the quality of the picks here is quite pleasantly high.
"The Animation Show 4." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At Landmark's Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 281-8223. Tale of survival, nature's splendor
Though modestly plotted and deliberately paced, "Times and Winds" is a hypnotic look at life in a remote village on Turkey's northwest coast. The film's strength lies in the simplicity with which writer-director Reha Erdem captures key moments, along with his confidence that actions can speak louder than words. The filmmaker is also unafraid to let his camera linger, which, rather than trying the audience's patience, adds a lyrical touch.
Seen mainly through the eyes of three friends on the cusp of adolescence, "Times and Winds" succeeds as both a gentle coming-of-age tale and as a harsher drama about surviving poverty and parental austerity. The children here are memorable, in almost Truffautian ways, but the adult characters could use a bit more depth to better explain their often-callous approach toward the youngsters.
While the rugged land on which the townsfolk struggle to raise goats, sheep and a few meager crops is unforgiving, it's also strikingly beautiful, a fact that cinematographer Florent Herry uses to full advantage. Avro Part's somber, stirring music, as well as an evocative use of the region's ubiquitous winds, round out the film's audio-visual splendor.
"Times and Winds." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 51. In Turkish with English subtitles. At Laemmle's Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869. Feathers fly in gory spoof
"Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead," the latest from director and co-writer Lloyd Kaufman ("The Toxic Avenger"), is a heaping helping of political incorrectness gleefully spiced to offend just about every sentient being. And it comes with sides of musical numbers and a tender love scene between a man and a fresh, young, whole chicken. There's an Indian burial ground, the ghosts of fowls tortured by the KFCs of the world and a goofy young guy whose one true love has, with her new girlfriend, become a radical protester against corporate demons. Actual demons follow. But all this is really just an excuse to uncap fountains of gore, unhook some brassieres and uncork a few off-color songs.
Leads Jason Yachanin and Kate Graham actually display some musical-theater chops and play the style to the hilt. The script is a series of crimes against nature and decency, strung together by some pretty funny one-liners: When the Colonel Sanders-ish boss leads reporters into the kitchen and finds it covered with human blood, he quickly says, "Hope you like our My Lai Massacre wallpaper." The moral, if one is discernible in this giddy carnage, may be: You are what you eat, or what eats you.
-- Michael Ordoña
"Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead." Unrated with pervasive violence, gore, nudity and sexual situations. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun