Tallgrass Film Festival offers variety, quality in this year’s movie selections

More than 200 films from around the world were screened at the Tallgrass Film Festival last weekend in Wichita. Here are short reviews of three films that were heavily promoted throughout the festival.

‘Band of Robbers’ 4/5 stars

This year, the Tallgrass Film Festival’s opening night selection “Band of Robbers” took Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and transplanted them to a modern-day setting.

The end result is an occasionally dark screwball comedy that actually works, for the most part.

Co-directed and co-written by brothers Adam and Aaron Nee (with the former starring as Sawyer), “Band of Robbers” reimagines Finn as a well-intentioned petty criminal, and Sawyer as a greedy, incompetent small town cop who wants nothing more than to be adored by those around him.

As the two of them try to find vast treasure, there are actually several genuine laugh-out-loud moments in “Band of Robbers.” The death of the villain (played excellently by Stephen Lang) is uproariously funny.

My only major hang up with it was a subplot involving Finn and Sawyer roping an innocent, undocumented Mexican day laborer into their schemes. There’s a redemptive arc at its conclusion, but the idea itself made me a bit uncomfortable.

Still, “Band of Robbers” is mostly successful at what it does.

‘It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong’ 4/5 stars

For those who are more interested in romance than goofs, director Emily Ting has a treat for you in “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong.”

Ruby and Josh (played by real-life couple Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg) are two strangers who meet in Hong Kong one night and proceed to almost strike up a romance before the flames are quickly put out.

A year later, the two coincidentally meet again and confront their feelings for one another while walking and talking throughout Hong Kong at night.

When I say “walking and talking,” I mean it. That’s mostly what “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” is, and the simplicity works to create a tightly paced and focused story of two would-be lovers.

Chung and Greenberg’s real relationship makes them a perfect fit, as Ruby and Josh have a natural romantic chemistry, but the two leads use their acting talents to insert the kind of awkwardness that would exist among two total strangers.

It isn’t the most original film in the world (Ting specifically mentioned that she wanted to make a film like “Before Sunrise” but set in Hong Kong), but “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” has two likable, talented leads who make it worth seeing.

‘Double Digits’ 5/5 stars

The absolute best show I saw at Tallgrass was “Double Digits,” a documentary about a Wichita man whose ambitions greatly exceed his resources and everything he’s gone through to get where he is now.

Richard “R.G.” Miller makes what he calls “Internet art films” out of a tiny apartment in the impoverished McAdams neighborhood in Wichita. Armed with a camcorder, a tripod and an army of action figures, Miller has unleashed his vision to the tune of 45 films so far.

The title of “Double Digits” comes from the fact that Miller considers his films successful if they get more than nine views on YouTube.

What I particularly loved about “Double Digits” was its eagerness to delve into the lesser-known history of Wichita as it relates to Miller. After friends of his died in a rash of gang violence in the 1980s, Miller developed a drinking problem that ultimately landed him in prison.

Filmmaking is ultimately what helped him stay sober and get his life together after he was released. He burns his movies to DVDs and hands them out to the neighborhood children for free, and he’s even had one screened at the Warren Theatre in Old Town.

It’s a beautiful story about who is secretly one of the coolest people in Wichita. Any Wichita resident owes it to themselves to see “Double Digits.”