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"Stars in Shorts": Judi Dench Shines, Neil LaBute Stinks 

Wednesday, Sep 26 2012
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Unlike most anthology films, Stars in Shorts is composed of preexisting short films that weren't originally intended to be viewed together. As a result, there's no consistent theme to the seven segments other than "starring famous people," hence the wink-wink title. Five of the seven directors have never made a feature film, with one of the regrettable exceptions being Neil LaBute, whose tired men-are-dogs-and-bitches-be-crazy worldview makes the dramas "Sexting" and "After-School Special" (which he wrote but did not direct) just as unpleasant as any of his full-length dramas. But at least they're short, at less than 10 minutes each; the sci-fi "Prodigal" and musical comedy "Not Your Time" both clock in at 25 minutes each, and neither earn their running time in spite of their higher budgets and/or cameos by Hollywood insiders. (Your enjoyment of "Not Your Time" might be proportional to your familiarity with Joe Roth and Stuart Cornfeld.) Sequencing is crucial to any anthology, and Stars in Shorts wisely opens with two of the strongest films, the comedy "The Procession" and the neo-kitchen-sink drama "Steve," and it ends with the touching "Friend Request Pending," in which Judi Dench out-acts all the stars of the previous six. And best of all, she's not speaking LaBute's words. Now, we eagerly await the sequel, Stars in Spanx. (S.C.)

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Sherilyn Connelly

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