Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stars in Shorts

Shorts HD has released an anthology of seven short films with the highly imaginative title “Stars in Shorts” (maybe it is imaginative – has Julia Stiles been a star anytime in the last 15 years?). It’s all downhill after the first short, a mildly amusing trifle called “The Procession” with Lily Tomlin and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as a mother and son reluctantly at...tending the funeral of a friend of Ferguson’s sister that neither of them knew. (Perhaps nobody else could give quite the same line reading when Ferguson asks, “Oh, that’s terrible. I’m sorry…who is Susan?”) When a red light leaves half the procession too far ahead for them to find and half blindly following them, all they want to do is exit stage left.

From there, it’s on to “Steve,” a truly unfortunate short with Keira Knightley as a put-out wife whose insane upstairs neighbor (Colin Firth) keeps coming down and inviting himself in. This is just the sort of tic-and-flourish performance you hate to see from an actor as talented as Firth. Next is the vanity piece “Not Your Time,” with Jason Alexander as a would-be writer of movie musicals who decides to kill himself unless any of his Hollywood friends talk him out of it. (In other words, bye.) “Not Your Time” exists as an excuse for yet more hamming by Alexander and dozens of cameos by his industry pals.

“Sexting” is a strident short with Stiles as the “other woman” who invites her paramour’s wife to lunch. As you might expect from Neil LaBute, it’s nasty, pointless, and plays like a writing student’s first draft. “Prodigal” is an incomprehensible sci-fi short with Kenneth Branagh as a specialist in paranormal capabilities who won’t let his latest phenom’s dad take her back without a fight. LaBute returns with “After-School Special,” about a teacher who, at a McDonald’s Playland, rebuffs the advances of the single dad of one of her students. It ends with a Big Reveal that’s as preposterous as it is meaningless. Finally, “Friend Request Pending,” an easy-to-swallow gelcap of a short with Judi Dench as a tech-savvy single woman of a certain age using Facebook and other social media to try to find second love.

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