Monday, June 17, 2024

Bang Bang (2024) Tribeca 2024


Tim Blake Nelson plays a cranky ex-boxer who has to consider changing his ways when his grandson steps back into his life.

The reason to see this film is Nelson who gives a scene chewing performance. Big and loud and brash it is a hypnotic performance that is like a punch in the face. It is by far the best thing in this film which suffers from following the paths we have many times before.

At the same time that Nelson is the best thing in the film, he is also the reason the film doesn't work. He is so big and loud and above everything else he feels as though he is in another film. All the flaws of the film are revealed in his light. Worse he wobbles things so badly he breaks the film and nothing is believable. You don't care about anything other than him and the film collapses.

What a major disappointment.

Power of The Dream (2024) Tribeca 2024


This is a look at how the WNBA has stepped forward to speak out on social issues including women's rights, LGBT issues and Black Lives Matter.

This is a very good examination of how the women of the WNBA stepped up to speak their minds about the issues that affect their lives. Since the league is all women most of which are women of color and many of whom are queer they are simply speaking about the issues that directly impact their lives.

Told by the women who helped lead the discussions this is a film you fall into. It's a film that makes the heavy discussions more like talking to friends rather than being lectured. As such it's a film that wins your heart and makes you love the ladies more.

Recommended.

(Note: the run time at Tribeca was listed as 133 minutes. The actual run time was about 95 minutes)

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (2023) opens Friday


Sasha is a young vampire who gets squeamish at the thought of killing anyone. When her family cuts her off and tells her to fend for herself she struggles to find a way to cope. Then she meets Paul who agrees to let her feast on him, but she has to help him do a couple of things first. Complications are of course heading their way.

I absolutely love this film. It is a glorious film full of great characters. You absolutely love everyone on screen.

In some ways we’ve seen variations of this story, but in other ways this is entirely new. There are some twists and turns here that are wonderful.  Actually what is even more wonderful is the characters and performances which create an entirely believable world where vampires for exist.

I can’t say enough good things about this film easily one of my most favorite films of 2023, HUMANISTIC VAMPIRE made me smile from ear to ear. I just sat there falling in love with the film in ways that I haven’t experienced in a long time. Finding a film like this is why I love the movies. The point I fell hopelessly in love with the film with the film was the scene with a Brenda Lee song. Watching the Paul and Sacha (I won’t suggest they are actors but simply the characters) was so magnificent I was getting misty. There was no real reason for it other than this marvelous moment between the two people on screen. I was lost for ever.

How good is this film? When I was done I was sending emails to all the writers covering Venice and Toronto to tell them to cover the film. I was sending emails to film directors to tell them to cover the film.

Yes it really is that good.

You need to see this film. This is the sort film that takes a story we might have seen before, adds some seasoning and makes it something new. It’s a film that is so full of humanity and truth it makes us reconnect with life.

Highly recommended

brief thoughts on MEMES AND NIGHTMARES (2024) Tribeca 2024


A filmmaker takes up with the best tweeter on the NBA Twitter ro track down where a certain meme disappeared to.

Goofy comedy  is amusing at times but is going to play best who live and breath twitter interaction and in particular NBA twitter interaction. Since I don't live on twitter and not well versed in anything NBA I was lost as the references flew by like deadlines.

The real problem with the film is that it's much too long. While I understand the film needed to be a feature for sales, the truth is that the film doesn't have enough here to support 90 minutes.  Yes there are laughs but this would have been better as a short.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

SOLDIERS OF SONG (2024) Tribeca 2024


I enjoyed being at the World Premiere of SOLDIERS OF SONG. Being in the room with people fighting for their country, listening to them sing and play music after the film was a deeply moving experience. It was something that made the war in Ukraine very real- and I got chills when the audience erupted in cheer for Ukraine. It was one of the most special evenings I've ever had at the movies.

Unfortunately the film itself is mess and desperately needs to be recut. 

The film is a nominally a look at the men and women who are keeping morale up by playing music for the people of Ukraine on the front line and at home. We get to see lots of people playing music and we hear how some have fallen in battle.

The problem is the editing of the film is a mess. Cut like a thirty second music video/recruiting commercial the film is the wrong sort of propaganda. Forgive me for phrasing it like that, but it's true.  It's big and flashy and it wants to hook us and drag us along.  The problem is that the film never really gives us any sense of anyone on screen. The living are too busy either performing or trying to tell us something. The dead are eulogized as a fallen warrior but we get no real sense of the terrible loss. Everything is a montage of music and image but no details or anything that would give us a sense of the person we are seeing.

I've seen a couple of documentaries on people performing for the soldiers of Ukraine and we got a sense of the performers and the soldiers we meet, we never get that here.

Forgive me. While I am 100% for Ukraine (my family has roots there) the fighters and musicians on the front lines deserve better.

THE CRANES CALL (2024) Tribeca 2024


A look at Anya Neistat and Solomiia Stasiv as they investigate war crimes committed by Russian soldiers in real time in Ukraine. The pair wade into the war zone to build a case against the invaders, many of whom they had been tracking from other conflicts.

This is a good if weirdly bloodless look at how war crimes cases are put together. The pair, working for the Clooney Foundation, go about their work with zeal, interviewing victims, going to locations and most amazingly finding damning documents left behind by the Russians. 

The problem with the film is that it is rather matter of fact. We are mostly kept at a distance from anything disturbing. Having seen dozens of films on the conflict over the last two years this film is so lacking in a sense of war as to be an outlier. There is nothing wrong with it, except that it removes the sense of urgency that should be there.

Still the film is informative and a must see  if you want to know how war crimes are being investigated.

CROSSING (2024) Tribeca 2024


A woman leaves Georgia (the country) and goes to Turkey with the intention of finding her trans niece. With a young man who knew her niece in tow, she explores Istanbul.

CROSSING is a delightful bittersweet tale about the things we do for love and the times we find there. Its a film that doesn't move like a movie but more like real life.  Its a film where you can't see where it's going because things don't seem plotted but lived.

This was one of the films that I really wanted to see going into the festival. I have no idea why, but there was something about the write up that intrigued me. The film itself is did not disappoint. Its a look into places about which I know nothing. It introduced us to a group of people who won our hearts and we wanted to travel with.

If there is anything amiss in the film it's a late in the game turn, a flight of fantasy, that seems like a cheat in an otherwise very real film. It was out of place, not remotely fatal, just momentarily disappointing. (I can't tell you what it is for reasons you'll know when you see this film)

That minor moment aside CROSSING is a great film and highly recommended.

KILL (2023) Tribeca 2024


Largely plotless film has a special forces commando and his buddy traveling on a train so he can be with the woman he loves. Things go sideways when bandits attempt to rob the passengers en route and an endless battle up and down the train cars results.

Brutal, ugly and lacking completely in any suspense outside of whether our hero will be alive at the end, this film is pretty much a 90 minute fight scene.  It's full of blood and gore and gruesome kills.  There are no characters only fodder to be carved up. The result is a tale where I was never invested.

Yes the violence is nonstop andt there are some kills that make you react, but outside of that there isn't anything to keep our interest.

It doesn't help that the film takes the action film trope that the hero can't get hurt that bad to a ridiculous level as he's stabbed, slashed, knocked unconscious and beaten almost to death over and over again- more than any other action hero that I ever remember seeing - it never really affects him. Indeed some wounds, such as the slash to his hand as a knife blade  he was holding is pulled away are never referenced after they happen.

Yea it's kind of fun while it's on but mostly you're going to want something meatier and smarter when it's done.

A disappointment.

Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution (2024) Tribeca 2024

 


Soon to be on Netflix this documentary is a look at a night of LGBT+ comedy at the Hollywood  Bowl that spanned generations. It is also a history of gay performers in comedy.

This is a deeply moving film that has generations of performers talking about finding themselves, their humor and the people who helped  them find themselves. Its a film that makes it clear how important having a role model is as people talk about how important Lily Tomlin and Eddie Izzard were to the younger generation. Having someone to look up to gave them strength knowing they weren't alone.

As good as that is, the film is a magnificent history of queerness in entertainment. I thought I had a sense of comedy history but this film revealed much I never knew.

Best of all this film will move you. Yes you will roar with laughter, but also it will make you cry at the sadness of those trapped in the closet and joy at finding your people.

One of the great films of Tribeca

Quad Gods (2024) Tribeca 2024

 


A look at some of then men who compete in computer games despite being quadriplegic and traveling around in motorized wheel chairs.

If you can take this film for what it is, a look at the three men trying to mae a life for themselves, and not get hung up on the video games, which keeps getting lost, this is a very good film.

You are going to fall in love with Richard, Blake and Prentice, three guys who are doing the thing they love and trying to live independent lives. It's a wonderful statement that just because you're injured you don't have to stop living.

What I loved was that we come to see how giving injured people games to play they can improve their condition. The repetitive motions and the games help rewire their brains and bodies.  Watching the men play you see them getting better.

The one problem with the film is it is put together to make you think the game tournament is going to play a larger role in the film than it is. It's there but it is never the focus.

Definitely worth a look. 



SOME RAIN MUST FALL (2024) Tribeca 2024

The same blank look on everyone's face makes it impossible to read any emotion

A woman accidentally injures the grandmother of her daughters less wealthy classmate. This sends her off in unexpected directions.

Pretentious art house film won a special jury award at Tribeca. I'm not sure how or why since this film was a dull endurance test of the worst sort.  It's a deliberately constructed and filmed story that leaves too much unsaid and too much off screen.  

It might have  been something but the film insists on keeping us on the outside of everything. Almost every shot is at a distance. We never really see anyone's face and when we do the faces are blank and emotionless. Too much isn't shown or doesn't make any  sense. For example the accident, involving a basketball tossed off screen, doesn't seem to have been possible with  the ball being gently thrown thrown, or at no least nowhere near hard enough to put anyone into a coma, and it was.thrown toward players on the court and not where spectators were. 

I struggled to finish the film.

Not worth your time

A thought I can't shake about I NEED YOUR LOVE (2024) Tribeca 2024


While I told the PR people I am not reviewing I NEED YOUR LOVE, for reasons I explained to them, three weeks on I find that there is something about it I can't shake - namely that had Camille Trust played it straight or at a lower volume, as she does in several scenes (particularly the one where she tries to record the jingle), this would have been an amazing series. In those lower key scenes she showed how good she is and why she should be a star.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Tribeca 2024 short takes: KNEECAPS, DEVIL'S BATH, LINDA PERRY LET IT DIE HERE, GROUP THERAPY, SHELF LIFE and BEACON

I saw a number of films that other people will be covering in full reviews. Because I scribble notes I've turned some of them into this piece.


KNEECAPS is trying to do too much. A fictionalized version about the stars, its a music film, a crime film, a polemic about the Irish National Language and a few other things. Its all over the place in a good way and a bad way It kind of just missed for me- then again it's rare that any film tries this hard to be its own thing- so is worth a look.


DEVIL"S BATH is a head scratcher. How the hell did this win awards? A great looking, but wholly form over content folk horror film about a cursed place, where little is explained, and even less makes sense. I spent most of the run time writing questions in my note book. It begins with an infant being tossed off a waterfall and then staggers on from there. It's a waste.


LINDA PERRY LET IT DIE HERE is a portrait of the performer and producer. It's a glorious look at hpw one woman has refused to follow the rules and in doing so broke barriers and opened up musical forms. A must.


GROUP THERAPY is a filmed group therapy session involving a bunch of comedians and Neil Patrick Harris as they talk about mental health and comedy.  It is both funny and emotionally raw. Another must see.


BOYS GO TO JUPITER did not work for me. A low fi computer animated film that looks like something out of the 1990's, the films deliberate look and mannered  script never clicked with me. (It took an animator I met at the fest multiple times before he liked it)


SHELF LIFE is a look at cheese via some very strange people who love it. I thought wine lovers were strange. Beginning with a man who speaks of cheese in frightening tones (including comparing it favorably to necrophilia in a way that will make you wonder how he knows) the film speeds off into other weird places. I was never a big cheese person, this film kind of turned me off to the subject.


BEACON didn't work for me. The story of a young woman who washes ashore on a remote island had me asking too many questions instead of being carried along by the story. While I like the low key, low budget take on things, I'm not sure the denouncement was worth the trip

State of Silence (2024) Tribeca 2024


This is a look at the open season on journalists in Mexico as the cartels, business men and the government hunt and kill anyone who opposes them.

Disappointing and uniforming this film should be a warning to viewers about the dangers of an unchecked  government and corruption and crime instead it is a collection of the names of reporters with no clear indication of what they were covering when they were killed or threatened. Watching the film I found myself hopelessly lost as there was no explanation a to who anyone was or what we are really seeing.

I suspect that if you know about current events in Mexico this film may make some sense, but comeing from the outside I was totally lost.


Ariela Rubin on BAD SHABBOS (2024) Tribeca 2024

 


David is engaged to Meg, who is in the process of converting to Judaism. Her parents are joining them to meet David’s family for the first time. David’s parents are hosting a Shabbat dinner. Also present are David’s sister, Abby, her boyfriend, Benjamin, and their younger brother, Adam, who still lives with their parents. The doorman, played by Method Man, who loves the family, also shows up later on.

The film takes place over the course of one evening. The biggest concern of the night is how Meg's family will react to the Shabbat dinner and meeting David's family. However, things take an unexpected turn when an accidental death occurs, throwing the evening into chaos.

This was definitely one of the wackiest movies I've seen, filled with nonstop laughs. Method Man's character was especially hilarious. I found this film enjoyable. I recommend checking it out for a fun and (very) ridiculous watch.

Liz Whittemore on BLACK TABLE (2024) Tribeca 2024


This piece originally ran at Liz's regular home REEL NEWS DAILY

Yale’s Class of 97′ boasted the largest admission of black students in the university’s history. Filmmakers John Antonio James and Bill Mack bring Tribeca 2024 BLACK TABLE, a documentary that delves into the complexities of learning, thriving, and simply existing within a predominantly white Ivy environment and beyond.

The documentary interviews an array of graduates from the 90s. Each comes from a different background, but in almost every admission story, parental involvement plays a vital role in communicating with guidance counselors.

As the spouse of a Yale School of Management ’13 grad and president of The SOM Partners Club during our time in New Haven, hearing The Whiffenpoofs sing is a nostalgic sensory memory. To no one’s surprise, we are both white. The reality for the featured alum evokes vastly different experiences, particularly their introduction to the environment. One thing they all had in common is that each individual had their validity and accomplishments relentlessly challenged.

Commons is the university’s overwhelmingly beautiful dining hall. Everyone who sees it likens it to something straight out of Harry Potter. Our alums describe making room for other black students, thus creating a safe space for their community, sometimes pushing tables together to grow the joy and share their daily knowledge and experiences. It is described as black excellence training for their time on Yale’s campus.

BLACK_TABLE-Clean-02 Tribeca 2024There is no escaping the discussion of Affirmation Action, and filmmakers fully understand it. We delve into the racist talking points that thrive today in diminishing accomplishments and a sense of belonging. An explosive incident at Naples forced Yale and its student body to confront the reality of being black on campus. Rodney King changed the name of the game from a student action standpoint. Then O.J. Simpson’s trial reignited cultural tension.

A fascinating conversation surrounds reasons not to sit at the black table. Alums discuss that perhaps the table hindered their growth, their fear of branching out, and the ensuing judgment from their black peers. It is a complicated conversation that continues with their children.

The photos from the alums are storytelling gold. When friends get together in 2022, they break down their college experiences, childhoods, and ancestral wisdom. One statement from the film succinctly tackles the overall message: “Even if it were affirmative action that got you here, affirmative action is not keeping you here.” BLACK TABLE is a history lesson and a celebrated tour through years of black excellence.

Liz Whittemore on VULCANIZADORA (2024) Tribeca 2024


This originally posted at Liz's regular home REEL NEWS DAILY

Two friends spend time contemplating life on a camping trip in the woods. Their plans severely backfire. 

There are iconic filmmaker/actor duos out there. Scorsese and DiCaprio. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos. If you don’t know about the absolute IDGAF weirdness of Joel Potrykus and Joshua Burge, welcome to genre heaven. Tribeca 2024 audiences have the privilege of absorbing their latest collaboration in VULCANIZADORA. 

Potrykus is Derrick, the overly enthusiast best friend of Burge’s hyper-aggressive Marty. Watching them play is like witnessing a couple of middle schoolers fuck around without supervision. The trust between these two that the shenanigans that Joel creates will translate is mindboggling. Their chemistry makes you ponder the fine line between written dialogue and close friends screwing with each other. (Read our reviews of BUZZARD and RELAXER.)

Derrick never shuts up, while Marty seemingly begrudges the spirit of the trip altogether. The script morphs from buddy comedy to thriller. Not until 48 minutes into the film do the true intentions of the plot reveal themselves. Their secret pact is desperately dark, taking Marty on a downward spiral. 

Potrykus’ screenplays are unpredictable, and Vulcanizadora is no exception. He utilizes eclectic music and long takes to reel you into his world. He and Burge deliver magnificent performances. The moral grey area in the film is spectacular, leading to equal parts smirk and cringe. The sneaky impact of a discussion about heaven and hell comes full circle with a stunning visual akin to purgatory. It is undeniably brilliant. Tribeca audiences are damn lucky to experience it first.

Liz Whittemore on The Shallow Tale of a Writer Who Decided to Write about a Serial Killer (2024) Tribeca 2024


This piece originally ran at Liz's regular home REEL NEWS DAILY

A hapless writer gets pulled into a scheme involving his wife, his impending divorce, and a serial killer yearning to be the subject of his next book. Tolga Karaçelik‘s first English-language film, The Shallow Tale of a Writer Who Decided to Write about a Serial Killer, makes its debut for Tribeca 2024 audiences.

After Suzie asks Keane for a divorce, Kollmick poses as a marriage counselor to throw her off the scent of their agreement. Suzie becomes suspicious with the discovery of each book Kollmick suggests Keane study. Convinced she is the target of Keane’s strange new behavior, the three become entangled in a complicated plot for individual satisfaction.

Britt Lower plays Suzie, Keane’s fed-up wife. Suzie has a type A personality and a pristine appearance. Her fashionably buttoned-up look, whether donning silk pajamas or a salmon-colored suit, is perfection. Her morose delivery is flawless.

John Magaro nails the role of Keane. He swings from overly nonchalant to manic as the film progresses. A celebration of childish floundering, this performance is hysterical.

The SHALLOW TALE 2Steve Buscemi is a legend. In pretending to be Keane and Suzie’s marriage counselor, he brings his murder advice into the sessions, equally confusing and intriguing his faux clients. Buscemi’s calm and confident nature is captivating.

The cast’s chemistry is spectacular. Buscemi and Magaro have a fun banter, but the most surprising firecracker moments happen between him and Lower. The way they both lean into Suzie’s macabre aura is a hoot. Karaçelik’s dialogue is witty. The cinematography from Natalie Kingston is beautiful, utilizing noir lighting.

THE SHALLOW TALE is weird, but the good kind of weird. It’s simultaneously so strange and dark you find yourself smirking and scratching your head, needing to know where it goes next. The film boasts a knee-slapping climax akin to a high-stakes ping-pong match. THE SHALLOW TALE is a dark oddball comedy that celebrates leaning into our authentic selves and the essence of communication, no matter the fallout.

Following Harry (2024) Tribeca 2024


While watching FOLLOWING HARRY I felt that we as a species have been lessened by the passing of Harry Belafonte. He was a man who in his almost 100 years changed the course of humanity for the better. He was man who put pretty much to shame. As one person says when he was 19 he was getting out of the army after fighting in the Second World War and then decided he had things to do to make the world a better place. While known for years as a singer and actor, he used his bully pulpit to speak about the need for change and the betterment of society.  When he retired from performing he threw himself in fighting the good fight and helping the younger generations to learn how to fight their battles.

BEYOND HARRY is a mix of Belafonte speaking about his activist role and the remembrances of those who he was helping to continue his fight. It is a warts and all discussion of the battle where things are not all rose colored skittles and beer, but instead tough and brutal. It’s the story of a never ending fight against hatred, evil and darkness. It is a piercing light through the darkness of our times highlighting the fact that there are good people still out there.

I was moved…and made to feel kind of small at how little I’ve done. I expected that because no one was Belafonte.

This is a glorious film you need to see.

FAMILY GUIDE TO HUNTING(2024) Tribeca 2024


A Korean young woman takes her boyfriend and her parents hunting and a tragedy occurs.

Despite the title this film isn't for families. It's gory and other adult subjects.

This isn't a very good film. It is essentially a "comedy" film that really doesn't have a punchline...or much of a focus outside of an attempt at being transgressive. Seriously, it only exists to make us laugh at things we don't laugh at things we don't normally see in regular movie houses.

Honestly I was willing to go with it until the sex act where the couple were going at while her parents were walking towards them, or with in direct sight of them. I can't imagine that happening on any level outside of a certain sub-genre of porn. No, it isn't graphic but its dumb, as is what happens next.

This was one of the least films I've seen at this years Tribeca.