Sunday, April 22, 2018

Night Eats The World (2018) Tribeca 2018

Every single person I spoke with who has seen NIGHT EATS THE WORLD compared it favorably to Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend. While NIGHT is a riff on what we see in the Matheson novel it is not a straight out steal. Other than a man trapped in a world of monsters, things go differently which makes it worth a look.

The film has a young man visiting his ex on the night of a party in order to collect somethings from her that she took by accident when she move out. Finding them in a office he ends up falling asleep  when he sits down for a minute.  When he wakes up he finds the apartment empty and the world over run by zombies. He then has to find a way to survive.

Largely silent film  shows us what might have to be done should something like this ever happen. We also watch as our hero tries to fight off loneliness (he misses the zombies when they disappear at one point) and just find enough food. Its a kind of grand adventure with flesh eating ghouls and completely entertaining.

Because I have to nit pick I have to say the film isn't perfect, there are little problems such we never see any bodies other than those who do themselves in, which makes no sense if zombies break in and tear people apart. However despite the small logic problems the film never falls apart as a result. It simply moves along fast enough that you probably won't'notice since you'll be too caught up in the tale,

Reommended.

For tickets and more information on the remaining screenngs go here.

Bethany Hamilton Unstoppable (2018) Tribeca 2018

Portrait of surfing champion Bethany Hamilton who lost her left arm to a tiger shark when she was a teenager. The film recounts her life and shows her as she prepares to compete again after giving birth to her son Tobias.

Largely typical surfing biography is lifted up by stunning and visuals and an aggressive audio track. It is the amazing images and overwhelming sound that make this a must see on a big screen with the best sound available. The sound is so impressive that the film was the focus of a Dolby Labs Masterclass in film sound. Trust me you want to see this as big and loud as possible.

Beyond the visceral this is a pretty straight forward of Hamilton who seems to be a sweet girl whose circumstance put her on the radar of most people beyond what a surfer of her caliber normally would be. Its all well and good but she is a sweet girl who has had a charmed existence with the result there isn't much drama. Left on its own the tale of her life doesn't really warrant a 100 minute film.

If you can score one of the Tribeca tickets or if you can see this on a big screen then it is recommended. If not the choice is up to you though I think it will play best for surf film fans.

For tickets and more information go here.

Ariela travels to STOCKHOLM (2018) Tribeca 2018

The movie STOCKHOLM  is based on the "absurd but true story" of the 1973 bank hostage situation that was behind the coining of the term "Stockholm Syndrome" came to be. It is a the situation where the person or people being held hostage begin to side with their kidnapper.

When you think bank robbery hostage movie, you don't think comedy, but that is what primarily this movie is. Ethan Hawke is great as the clumsy, inexperienced and sensitive captor. Noomi Rapace plays the pretty and smart worker at the bank he takes hostage.

I really enjoyed this one. Better to not say much, but I definitely liked this one more than I thought I would and highly recommend it.

Ariela takes on Slut in a Good Way (2018) Tribeca 2018

Slut In A Good Way is a Canadian film, filmed in black and white, which tells the story of three teenage girls who are best friends. The girls decide to get a job at a toy store to try to meet some straight boys. I thought this film was fun and cute,and I enjoyed it.

Both the girls and the boys in the film all have their own interesting personalities. The film does a good job of talking about double standards between boys and girls and also does a good job of dealing with sex, friendships and girls trying to figure things out.

I don't often see modern day movies that are filmed in black and white, and I liked it a lot. I'm curious why the director decided on that. I recommend it. It was a fun and entertaining movie.

The Dark (2018) Tribeca 2018


THE DARK will break your heart, but not in a good way. What starts out as grand and glorious homage to the wild and crazy horror films of the 70’s and 80’s where nothing is certain and anything is possible goes sadly off the rails after about 40 minutes as the pacing slows and the seems to become an allegory about surviving sexual abuse.

I’m not going to give you details, but he film has to do with the relationship between the monstrous Mina who lives in the wooded Devil’s Den and the blind Alex who was brought there by a very bad man. As Mina ponders why she doesn’t have the urge to kill Alex the pair begins to bond.

For the first part this is a balls to the wall creepy horror film that mixes horror and humor to stunning effect. We laugh at things that end up catching in our throats. The plotting of the film is such that there is no way to really know where the hell this is going. It is in its way one of the most original horror films in years. We have an undead beast tearing throats and traveling with a young man who has been horribly blinded.

The audience of critics I saw this with was talking back to the screen in fear.

And then things begin to change…

… the internal logic falls away and what was most definitely a kind of supernatural horror film shifts. Alex and Mina begin to bond and the film largely stops being about a manhunt and monsters but about two people who have been horribly sexually abused. Alex begins to connect to Mina and Mina begins to literally become human and alive again, with the visible scars of her “death” slowly disappearing along with her desire to kill and inability to eat people food. The film I revealed to NOT be a horror film but an allegory about recovering from horrific sexual abuse.

While I and the audience members who didn’t walk out on the film had no problem with the film turning into an allegory, the trouble is the switch is so radical it’s as if the filmmakers took two scripts and grafted them together. Plot threads fall away. The internal logic of a supernatural film crashes into the brick wall of reality. Questions don’t appear but explode like rabbits with a suite of copy machines.

To be fair I suspect that the switch is not supposed to be a complete dropping of the horror film- but if you don’t stop thinking of the film as a horror film it becomes unbearably bad. Any plot threads and all internal logic just cease. To think of the last hour as a straight up horror film means you want nothing to work because nothing in the last hour nothing does. It’s such a radical shift that it forces you to rethink what you saw in the first part and it destroys the film completely.

On the other hand if you view the film as purely from the point of view of Mina’s internal dead psyche, that she is not really a monster but a young woman who had been raped and abused by her mother’s lover helping a young man who was kidnapped by a sexual monster who did unspeakable things to him then the film works better. We understand why she connects to Alex. We understand why here physical appearance changes. Of course that still doesn’t explain people referring to her monstrous appearance or some horrific actions- but it makes the film at least tolerable.

Frankly THE DARK disappoints. I think it’s the result of the filmmakers desire to make a serious film about abuse that collided with a need to make a film people would want to see. Somewhere along the way good intentions derailed a good movie. I want to applaud the attempt but despite a good cast and great filmmaking the film never achieves the heights it was reaching for.

A noble miss.

For more information and tickets go here.

Home + Away (2018) Tribeca 2018

Matt Ogens' HOME + AWAY follows three students in their last years at El Paso's Bowie High School which is 150 yards from the US border with Mexico. Over the course of the film we follow  soccer player Erik Espinoza Villa, baseball player Francisco Matta, and wrestler Shyanne Murigia - as they try to finish up their courses, compete for District championships and deal with lives that are split across the border.

Quiet and unassuming HOME + AWAY seems to be the sort of film you've seen any number of times. The lower income kid struggles to make good and achieve their dreams. It is the sort of film that the Tribeca Film Festival is full of every year.  However what sets HOME + AWAY from most others is that the film just shows us life . We are there on the playing fields, in the living rooms and in the classrooms as the kids try to do their best and figure our what direction we want to go.  Nothing is over sold we just watch it happen, even if everyone is very aware the camera is there.

I know that sound like it isn't anything special. And for most of the film I was thinking that this was just another poor kid over comes adversity film that would come and go quickly. Then something happened- As the film moved into its final moments I found myself tearing up and crying. Ogen's low key approach had worked it's magic and I found that I really cared about hat happened. I really wanted to know where they are now. It truly mattered to me.

Damn you Matt Ogens, I didn't want to care and I didn't want to cry.

If you are willing to be patient and willing to wait for Ogens to work his magic HOME + AWAY is recommended

For tickets and more info on the remaining screenings of HOME + AWAY go here

Saturday, April 21, 2018

KAISER: THE GREATEST FOOTBALLER NEVER TO PLAY FOOTBALL (2018) Tribeca 2018

If you asked me what film got some of the biggest laughs of the early part of the Tribeca pre-festival critics screenings I would not have guessed KAISER. While it seems like a joke, and it is a crazy story, I didn't expect it to be laugh out loud funny at times.

This is the story of Carlos "Kaiser" Henrique Raposo, who in the days before the internet managed to talk his way on to numerous professional football (aka soccer) teams in Brazil, despite never actually playing a game...and he did this for 26 years.

There is no way I can explain this simply. Its too crazy a story, and besides the story changes depending upon who is telling it. Basically you are just going to have to go see this film because you aren't going to believe it---probably not even after you see it. I say that because I'm not sure I believe it- yet apparently it's true.

Think of it as a real version of the legendary Sidd Finch April Fool's story that Sports Illustrated ran in 1985.

I laughed my way through the film which absolutely delighted me, even its late in the game revelations.

Highly recommended.

For more information and tickets to the remaining screenings go here.

Homeless: The Soundtrack (2018) Tribeca 2018

Utterly charming film follows singer "Cami" Jenni Alpert as she reconnects with her biological father. Unable to care for her because of addiction problems Don gave up his little girl. Now she has found him and tries to help him put his life back together after a life on the street.

Lovely film about lovely people with rightly warm your heart. Filled with lots of great music by the father and daughter, as well as great conversation the film wonderfully shows how people can reconnect after decades apart and how one small kindness can change the world.

I have very little to say beyond go see this film. It is just wonderful. This is one of the best shorts at Tribeca.

I kind of wish I had been able to attend the world premiere since I would love to talk to the pair and see how Don was liking New York- which is some place he constantly says he wanted to visit.

For more information or tickets to HOMELESS: THE SOUNDTRACK which screens as part of the HOME SWEET HOME block of shorts go here

Time for Ilhan (2018) Tribeca 2018

This portrait of Ilhan Omar who made history as the first Somali-American Muslim woman to hold elective office is a joyous celebration of the American system

Showing what it took to get elected this film brought a couple of tears to my eyes. This is a feel good film about how you can fight the system and how you can bring change if you really want it.

Following Ilhan from when she decides to run through the primary, where she effectively won the seat (the Republicans didn't put anyone up against her), through the troubles that arose via fake news and on to her taking her seat, this is good time with a great lady. That the film is as compelling as it is is due to entirely to Ilhan,who has a natural charm and charisma that makes her a natural. You an see why the political organizers wanted he to run.

What got me misty was the small human moments such as the absolute love and pride in the faces of her husband and dad when she won or the small but thundering moment when Ilhan's husband pulls her aside to simply say I love you.

Hands down one of the best films at Tribeca TIME FOR ILHAN is a must see.

For Tickets and more information go here

A few pictures from IN A RELATIONSHIP Red Carpet at Tribeca 2018


Earthrise (2018) Tribeca 2018

Quite possibly the best film I've seen in 2018 is EARTHRISE a film about the Apollo 8 mission around the moon that produced the iconic image of the distant earth rising over the surface of the moon.

A reminiscence of the three astronauts Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell about what it was like to travel to the moon, EARTHRISE is the first film I've ever come across that truly made clear what it was like to not only be in space but to go away from earth and look back at the planet from an impossibly far distance. I was moved to tears by the men's simple words about what they saw and experienced.

I am in awe of the achievement of this film. Simply the three men talking while we see film they shot while on their mission, There is, on the face of it nothing special, the film we've seen before and the stories we've heard but something about this film makes it all click. Seeing the world so far away on a big screen while the men told of what they saw I was reduced to raw emotion. For the first time I understood how and why they were changed by their flight.

Whats most amazing is the photographs were secondary. The first priority was getting their and back and while they were there the moon was what they had to shoot not the earth---however when they all saw the earth rise they all knew that was why they had come.

I have no words other than see this film- preferably as bi ah humanly possible when it plays in the HOME SWEET HOME collection of shorts at this year's Tribeca on April 24,25 and 28.

For tickets and more information go here.

David Alan Basche on the Red Carpet for Egg at Tribeca 2018



Wendy's Shabbat (2018) Tribeca 2018

The first film I saw for Tribeca 2018 is an absolute charmer. Almost certainly guaranteed to put a smile on your face, Wendy’s Shabbat is an absolute delight.

The film is about a group of Jewish seniors in Palm Desert, California who get together on Friday nights for a Shabbat meal at the local Wendy’s. (It’s the meal that starts the Sabbath). The group started accidentally when a couple casually mentioned to a friend that they were going to Wendy’s for Shabbat and asked if they wanted to go along. Since the group is traditional more than religious, they keep the traditions in order to keep the community, the group grew over time to the point where they now call to make reservations.

A joyous celebration of life and friendship and belonging, Wendy’s Shabbat delights. These are real people living life and hanging out with friends. These are senior citizens of the type that I am very familiar with, grand folks who are living life to the fullest and hanging out with friends. While nominally a religious gathering it really is about having a place and sense of community.

I smiled from ear to ear for the whole time.

I can’t recommend this film enough. Its one of the best films of any length at this years Tribeca

A must see at Tribeca or where ever you can manage to see it.

Tribeca Day 4- Friends and filmmakers

It was supposed to be a quick in and out day at the festival where I saw no one  but I ran into all sorts of friends, JB, Ariela, Hubert Matt, Mike Gingold, Liz Whittemore, Melissa Hanson, Oron (who made be laugh to the point I almost fell over) and a few others. Its talking to everyone that makes festival going so much damn fun.

I was introduced to one of my most favorite directors, Jon Kasbe and had to work hard not go completely fanboy on him. Hopefully soon I will get to talk to him about his wonderful WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS and all his other amazing films.

I was also introduced to Gabrielle Brady the director of ISLAND OF HUNGRY GHOSTS and Po Lin who is the subject of it. They both were a complete joy to speak to. Also after talking to Ms Brady I'm going to have a hard time writing a review that will match the words that flowed from my me in expressing my feeling for her film.

Thank you Susan Norget for the introductions to both directors.

After the movie today I snapped a couple of pictures on the Red Carpet for EGG. They'll be coming (As will the ones I took from the IN A RELATIONSHIP Red carpet yesterday)

Today's films were

SATAN AND ADAM- perhaps my favorite film of the festival. A super doc about the blues and a decades long friendship that changed two men.

7 STAGES TO ACHIEVE ETERNAL BLISS BY PASSING THROUGH THE GATEWAY CHOSEN BY THE HOLY STORSH - I hated this film. Not really funny comedy that tries way too hard. It would have been great if they had only played it straight

BETHANY HAMILTON UNSTOPPABLE- Great looking and sounding surfing bio needs to be seen big and loud. The sound and image make the film greater than it would be otherwise.

Reviews will be coming of all of the films.

Now to rest and write up everything from the last two days.

Tribeca ’18: Blue Night

You should not judge Vivienne Carala too harshly for ignoring her body’s warning signs. When you are a jazz vocalist, you have to strike while the iron is hot and you can never stop hustling. However, missing out on her daughter’s childhood is another matter entirely, but that is the price she paid for kind of-sort of making it. A tumor diagnosis will rudely prompt her to reconsider all the choices she made throughout the fateful day before she is admitted for an invasive battery of tests and treatment in Fabien Constant’s Blue Night, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Carala has been gigging at a high level for over two decades. She is preparing for the twenty-fifth anniversary of her first Birdland gig (presumably, she has one of those weekend spots), which is an accomplishment, but instead of fulfilling her ambition of playing the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall, she might have to settle for Zankel Hall (which is also really nice).

Those were all yesterday’s concerns. This morning’s diagnosis has put everything in doubt. Yet, she still goes through the motions at a rehearsal and in press interviews. She has many people in her life she should tell, but she has trouble communicating with them (rather ironically, considering she is a vocalist in the Susannah McCorkle mold, who specializes in dramatically interpreting lyrics, rather than dazzling audiences with her chops).

Frankly, Blue Night is a lot better than you might expect, because it really looks like New York and gets a lot of the jazz details right. There is a scene shot on location in Birdland and another looks a lot like the Cornelia Street Café bar. The way Carala interacts with her musicians also feels very real (except for the fact that she is sleeping with her drummer, which happens less frequently than you might suppose). It is therefore frustrating that Constant did not have more confidence in jazz to use it for the underlying soundtrack. Instead, we hear a great deal of discordant strings.

Regardless, you have to give Sarah Jessica Parker a great deal of credit. First of all, she is willing to look her (and Carala’s age), often under harsh light and unflattering circumstances. Make no mistake, there is nothing vain about this film. She also handles Carala’s vocals with surprising taste and sensitivity. In fact, she really nicely turns a Rufus Wainwright original and a cover of Ritchie Cordell’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” that plays over the closing credits.

When it comes to the drama, Parker develops some remarkably, ambiguously poignant chemistry with Common, playing her manager Ben. She also has some honest and effective scenes with Gus Birney and Simon Baker, as her daughter and ex-husband. However, the melodrama with her high-maintenance mother Jeanne (portrayed by the scenery-gorging Jacqueline Bisset) always feel forced and phony.

Sometimes Constant hits us over the head, as in Carala’s scenes with her mother and a chance encounter with a former friend and colleague, who essentially made the opposite choice, opting to raise her family instead of pursuing her career. Yet, somehow, he uses a lighter touch for the business with a Lyft driver who keeps crossing paths with Carala. By not forcing the issue, their final meeting packs a quiet wallop. It is just too bad there isn’t more music in the film Carala would actually like to hear. Recommended with all its imperfections, Blue Night screens again this Monday (4/23) and the following Sunday (4/29), as part of this year’s Tribeca.

This Is Climate Change (2018) Tribeca 2018

THIS IS CLIMATE CHANGE is a four part VR documentary showing the effects of climate change across the globe. It is an amazing experience. Three of the sections are playing at Tribeca, To of them are now available for download via via the WITHIN app, available on iPhone, Android and all major VR headsets. The other two episodes will be available on the app later in May.

FEAST ( Downloadable now) reveals a section of the Amazon jungle as it goes from pristine beauty to being a cattle farm. We watch the land disappear, the cattle come and go off to be slaughtered. We also see the wet forest becomes a dusty grassland.

FAMINE (Downloadable Now) places us in a refugee camp in Somalia as a drought blights the land and puts everyone's lives in danger. We watch as a small child is taken to a hospital and eventually dies from the diseases running rampant in the camps.

MELTING ICE (Downloadable in May- Not screening at Tribeca ) takes us to Greenland which now looks more like Brownland thanks to the receding glaciers leaving behind water and mud.

FIRE (Downloadable in May) has us tagging along with the men fighting wildfires in California, a state that is in perpetual fire season.

Awe inspiring imagery will leave you speechless. When I finished the four films I staggered into the hall way and stammered at Erica, the young woman who set it all up for me.

"Did you like it?" she asked

"I'm going to be emailing and texting everyone I know when I get out of here about it so yes" I replied before saying something that really didn't explain what I had just seen and felt.

To say that the films will make you think is an understatement. I spent the rest of the day pondering what I had just seen- and trying to get my breath from the work out I got watching it since things really are happening all around you so you have to keep spinning in your chair to catch it all. I don't think I did.

I do know that I was so into it that I tried to move the IV tubes for the sick young girl in Somalia to make it easier for her, until I realized that the things in my hands were the cables for my head set.

Visually the film overwhelms, be it the fly overs in Brazil, the crashing ice in Greenland or the fires in California this images will leave you breathless and speechless. When it was don I wanted to go again simply to experience some of them a second time.

While the .films are near perfect- they do have one flaw which is that there are sequences with text over the images. If you are not oriented in the right position you will miss the information the text imparts. It was something that happened several times as noise to my left  or right had me turning away from where text would appear. It is not fatal, but if you feel like you missed something it is possible you simply were looking in the wrong direction.

I loved this film a great deal. Seeing it was one of the highlights of this year's Tribeca film festival. If you can make the time and go see it. It will not only change the way you see the world, it's frequently just a damn cool experience.

(Sorry if that isn't perfect but it's somewhere past words)

For tickets and more information go here.


Smuggling Hendrix (2018) Tribeca 2018

SMUGGLING HENDRIX is a noble mess. Desperately trying to be a comedic drama, it tries t do way more than that with the result it never satisfies.

Yiannis' life has gone off his rails. His girlfriend has left him. His rent is months overdue and some scary guys want the money they loaned him. A bad decision to briefly unleash him results in his dog Jimi running away...and into the occupied portion of Cyprus. While he finds Jimi, getting him back to his side of the island proves to be a major problem.

Beautifully acted film has great characters, great photography and music but  very messy screenplay. Its a very messy plotted film  saddled with a deep need to make a point.

The problem with the plotting is two fold. First, even if allow that Yiannis has never crossed the border into occupied Cyprus, you have to believe that he knows absolutely nothing about crossing the border- which I would accept except he lives right at the border. His actions at other times make us aware he should know about many things he knows nothing about.

The other problem is the film allows the politics to get in the way of everything. Everything that happens makes reference to the politics of the situation. I mean everything-Yiannis constantly calls Hasan's house his house- despite being out of it for over four decades. We have the trio of Yiannis, Hasan and the Smuggler always moving together as if a visual representation of things. It grows tired real fast since everything happens has a "POINT!!!!!!!!!!!"

I tuned out. While I wanted to know if Jimi came back, I really didn't are about the rest.

No that is not true- I wanted to see a version of the story without the shit storm of the politics.

I am not a fan.

For more information on SMUGGLING HENDRIX at Tribeca go here.

Tribeca Day 3- COMING SOON: Reviews,Reports and Martin Freeman

Long day in the salt mine had me up from 5:30 AM and getting home at 12:30 AM, so I'm too beat to do anything approaching reviews or reports.

I saw three films today:

THE ISLAND OF HUNGRY GHOSTS is a docu-essay-narrative. It's it's own thing that will thrill you if it clicks with you. There is much to say about it.

UNITED SKATES is wonderful documentary about  the death of roller rinks and how that has effected the African American communities across the country. Its really good

Jon Kasbe's WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS is a visually stunning look at the people who are on other sides of ivory poaching. I have a lot to say so expect a long review of a film that I consider truly great. (I also hope to be posting the Q&A)

I went to the Dolby Studios Masterclass on Sound and Music in film and was blown away. What was random unplanned drop in was absolutely fantastic. A report is coming.

Lastly I spoke with Martin Freeman about CARGO and GHOST STORIES. It was a wonderful talk only marred by a connection so low I couldn't record it. I have a written report done in long hand- o to just retype it.

General Magic (2018) Tribeca 2018

Even if you effectively create the future it won't matter if the present can't handle it. Such was the case with General a company financed by Apple with the idea that people would want what we know as smartphones effectively 15 years before the technology could handle it. The story of the failure that changed the world is the subject of General Magic which is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival.

A nostalgic look back by the people who lived it the film goes from creator Mark Porat legendary red book which layed out exactly what should be done, and predates the modern cellphone by decades on through the set by Apple, the halcyon early days of development when the best and brightest worked on the project through Apple's turning on their bastard child for one of their own, the collapse and the world changing aftermath. Its kind of everything you'd want to know about the project and maybe a little less.

The audience I saw the film with was split by the film. Half the audience loved the great things come out of great failure story. They saw a lovely tale of hope for the future. The rest of us saw a very messy film that kind of works and kind of doesn't.

My problems with the film began from the start as tiny, even on the huge screening room screen, white letters on a lightly colored background told us to turn off our cellphones and then something witty -or at least I thought it might be- but I couldn't read it since the letter bled into the background. Its a problem that repeated itself over and over again through the film as letter to small to notice and too white to read appeared over light colors.

From there the film sped through events at pace mixing historical footage with modern interviews. Its interesting to a point except that the story is told in fits and starts with no real focus. Everyone is telling their version of what happened but details are left out. Additionally odd bits are left in such as the creation of Ebay which is an amusing tale but really doesn't belong here. I have the feeling that this was made by people who knew their subject but really didn't know how to organize it- or even give a sense of the passage of time. Whole sections of the story as the relationships with Apple need more details- certainly more than- Apple set up the company then stole the designs.

The film also suffers from a giant "gee whiz" factor that is damn annoying. Over and over again we are told the the project bombed badly but great things came of it. That would be all well and good but it effectively wipes out any reason to watch the film since we know from frame one how it's going to go. There is no real sense of loss, only the feeling of "we bombed but gosh darn it we picked ourselves up and went on". I would have liked to have had some sense of what it really felt like when it died.

Visually the film made me ill. Outside of the interviews the camera is in constant motion- the camera in the original footage is constantly moving from person to person while in the modern footage there is way too many shots of the ocean of landscapes from above over which the camera turns and pivots and makes one motion sick. After tens of thousands of films over the years this was the first to make me queezy by simply moving.

What a mess.

To be honest there is a great film in this story- but this isn't it.

The 716th (2018) Tribeca 2018

There will be a feature version of the 716th, there has to be partly because the short is so good that some studio is going to snap it up, but mostly because the cliffhanger of an ending is such that anyone who sees it is going to demand to know what happens next.

The plot of the film has ships doctor stealing an unarmed shuttle craft to rescue two soldiers left behind on a backwater planet before the last ship leaves. Complications arise of course.

Wickedly funny and beautifully acted, The 716th is an absolute blast. I would have no trouble saying that it is one of the very best of the 50 or so films I saw pre-Tribeca. This is a rip roaring smart ass action adventure that riffs on smart ass space action adventures but smartly doesn’t steal any thunder it simply muscles its way up to the bar and buys a round a round of drinks. The result is a film that makes the audience go from wary glances to best bud bear hugs in the course of 14 minutes.

Credit writer director and star Andrew Bowen who has written himself a megastar making role (assuming the feature gets made) while putting himself into the mix to write and direct a Hollywood blockbuster.

This is the sort of film I really love, one that is not only wonderful on it’s own terms but also one that puts a great filmmaker on my radar. I want to see more films from Bowen.

The 716th is highly recommended. It can be found in the Tribeca shorts block INTO THE VOID. For more information and more importantly for tickets go here

Friday, April 20, 2018

Jellyfish (2018) Tribeca 2018

15 year old Sarah is the adult in the house. Her mother is so depressed she can't get of bed. She has to shepherd her younger brother and sister to school and life. She is the sole breadwinner for the family. On top of that she is bullied and her performing arts class is requiring a stand up comedy.

A dark drama is a tough look at life. Sarah is truly put upon but we completely understand each and every choice she makes to try and keep the wolves at bay. Our hearts bleed for her because there doesn't appear to be any hope. It is almost painfully watchable.

Making the film bearable is the performance of  Liv Hill as Sarah. It is a stunning star making turn where we can see all of the pain in life bubbling behind her eyes even if we can't see it in her expression. It is a performance that should not only get Hill noticed but a boat load of awards.

Assuming you can score tickets to the remaining screenings, JELLYFISH is recommended.

For tickets and more information go here.

In a Relationship (2018) Tribeca 2018

This is the story of two couples - Owen and Hallie who may or may not be on the road to break up, and Matt and Willa who are falling in love and having an unexpected romance.

Light as a feather romantic drama  is so light that in the time between I saw the film and sitting down to write about it it completely evaporated. It's not that I wasn't entertained, but more there isn't anything really special here. As someone who sees more than the legally allowable number of inde films each year this plays very similar to any number of other ones. We've been here before, though maybe not dressed up in the garb of the current millennial clothing.

Part of the reason I'm not particularly high on the film is that of the two couples the lead couple of Owen and Hallie are the least interesting. While they are positioned as the "main" story the more interesting couple is Matt and Willa who get less screen time. Matt is a nerdy kind of guy who is sweet and enthusiastic while Willa, Hallie's cousin, is supposed to be a man-eater and above it all. They are a pairing that isn't supposed to work but somehow surprisingly they do.  For me the best stuff was in their story because it wasn't the typical romance story because they aren't the typical romantic leads. Had the film focused on Matt ans Willa this film would have been something to rite home about.

Great looking and wonderfully acted  by everyone IN A RELATIONSHIP is worth a look but it isn't anything you need rush out to see.

For more information and tickets to the Tribeca screenings go here.

Driver Ed (2018) Tribeca 2018

Limited web series screening at Tribeca concerns a  man who needs to get his driver's license fast in order to impress his on line girlfriend who thinks he's a professional race car drive. Then things happen...

Amusing story is kind of hurt by being broken into three minute bits. The starting and stopping of the pieces hurts the flow of the story which would be much funnier running straight through as either a short or feature

While I was only given the first three parts to screen I found it amusing enough that I really want to see where this goes. Considering that more often than not I'm done after a first episode of a series (which is why I tend not to review web series) saying I want to see the rest is an absolute rave.

For more information on the series go here.(Both screenings are completely sold out)

Andrew Bowen talks The 716th

I am a huge fan of Andrew Bowen’s THE 716TH. A glorious science fiction short it is a calling card for Bowen’s talent as a filmmaker and actor (someone needs to give him a blockbuster to direct). The film follows Bowen’s pacifist doctor who steals a space shuttle and flies down to hostile planet to pick up survivors of a mission that has gone wrong. Things go from bad to worse and it all ends on a cliffhanger that will having to screaming at the screen demanding for more. I love the film a great deal and had more fun watching it then most of the recent Hollywood tent pole films.

When I finished the film I sent an email off to the person handling PR for the film to ask about doing an interview. Never mind that I only had one question to ask (will there be more) I had to get the answer to that question. Sadly I was informed that the press day was when I was going to be engaged so I asked if there was a way to send Mr Bowen some questions, and was told send them. What follows is Mr Bowen’s answers to my questions.

Yes I got the answer to my one question and then some. Hopefully the interview will make you curious enough to chase down THE 716TH when it plays in the INTO THE VOID block at Tribeca or where ever it lands after the festival.

For tickets and more information on THE  716TH go here.

A review of THE 716TH will run when the embargo lifts later tonight.

STEVE:I'm going to ask the most important question at the start- it’s the question that made me want to interview you- Will there be a feature version of THE 716th or perhaps a TV series? 

ANDREW: Well, let’s just say... all signs are pointing to yes.

 STEVE: Your last film was a drama and this film is an action epicWhat prompted your radical shift in genres?

ANDREWMy taste has evolved a lot over time. The sci-fi action genre has always been a huge love of mine but mounting one is just challenging (and usually very expensive). In 2016, I think I really got clarity that those "epic comedic adventures" were the kind of movies I wanted to make... So when the idea for The 716th came along, I knew I had to find a way to make it.

STEVE: I am in awe of your handling of the huge scale and epic nature of THE 716th. How did you learn to direct something so epic? Where did you learn to edit so amazingly?

ANDREW: Thank you so much. It was a lot of hard work. To get this project off the ground, I just had to do the work. Being on so many film and TV sets over the years as an actor, you pick up a lot. My brain is kind of like a sponge. I love learning and always loved the whole filmmaking process.  I think by the time I decided to make The 716th, I had asked so many questions, I had a solid foundation to work from. The editing was a total surprise, I didn't intend on editing the film. My friend Eric Won was set to do it.  I knew Final Cut enough to navigate it and just felt our time together would be better served if I made a first pass. When I showed Eric my cut, he loved it, so we just polished from there. 

STEVE: What kind of budget did you have and how long did production take?

ANDREW:I’ll leave that one to the Q&A... đŸ˜‰. I’m pretty sure your readers would think it was a typo anyway. The whole project took about a year and a half to complete. My entire VFX department, led by supervisor Jon Alvord, consisted of basically three people so... circling back to your first question: let’s just say I look forward to working with an actual budget someday.  

STEVE: How did you cast the film? Did the cast already know each other or is the repartee a result of great acting?

ANDREW: John Asher was the only actor I knew. He's a very good friend and a phenomenal actor. I felt that in casting him, you'd get a natural shorthand that would really sell that Doc and Ash had a history with each other.  The rest of the actors I really just cast from my gut. I think the whole auditioning process is a bit unnatural so I met with the actors I thought were right (I wasn't looking at anyone who didn't have serious chops) and had them tell me how "they'd" approach the character. It's amazing how much you can get from that. You put actors in an environment where they feel trusted and they'll kill it for you.  The repartee just kind of happened organically. I was very lucky.

STEVE: Did you have any influences for the film?

ANDREW: Not specifically. I'm kind of a bastard child of the 80's and 90's.  The films of James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and John Hughes were kind of my film school growing up. J.J. Abrams is definitely an inspiration and I think Denis Villeneuve and Edgar Wright are firing on all cylinders right now! I just wanted to see where my instincts took me on this film. See if I could pull off something fun and cool. 

STEVE: If the film gets picked up and heads to the big screen/series, would you give it UP if you couldn't be the one making the next iteration?

ANDREW:Wow... What a question. With the amount of work and obstacles I had to overcome to get here... I think it would be really hard to walk away. 

STEVE: What are your favorite films?

ANDREW: What an epic question!!! Oh man, too many. So hard to answer that one... I mean Back to the Future, Aliens, Braveheart, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Shawshank Redemption would all be at the top of the list. Guardians of the Galaxy was awesome (all the MCU films for that matter, Kevin Feige is doing phenomenal things)... Sicario, American Beauty, Raising Arizona, Die Hard, Say Anything, The Lost Boys, Weird Science, The Princess Bride, Stand By Me... See I told you this would be hard. I'm just gonna stop now. (Point Break for the guilty pleasure win!!!)

Kazuo Miyagawa at Japan Society: The Devil’s Temple

If it were so easy to “sever the bondage of earthly desires,” than everyone would be doing it, right? Thanks to the Buddha’s teachings, a high priest from Kyoto managed to do exactly that—at least for a while. However, a disgraced noble turned outlaw was easy pickings for a demonic temptress. If she can also corrupt the priest, it would represent the metaphysical victory of evil over good. Although essentially a four-character chamber play, the stakes are unusually high throughout Kenji Misumi’s The Devil’s Temple, which screens during the Japan Society’s retrospective, Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

After the loss of his fortune and the dissolution of his clan, Mumyo no Taro became rather wayward. His long-suffering wife Kaede has tracked him down to the ruined temple, where he has been living in sin with his shameless mistress, Aizen. Kaede expected he would obediently return to her out of shame, but instead, the illicit lovers brazenly carry on in the main chamber, while she camps out in an anteroom.

Kaede hopes salvation arrives when a traveling high priest stops to rest at the temple. He hopes to talk Mumyo back onto the straight and narrow. However, he also gently calls out Kaede for the perverse pride she takes in her martyrdom. Unfortunately, Aizen is more dangerous than he initially assumes, but he will start to get the picture when he realizes she is his destructive former lover. Of course, she is determined to drag him back down into the carnal depths, whereas he hopes to lead Kaede and Mumyo toward righteousness through his example of resistance.

Even though there are no genre elements per se in Temple, the suggestively demonic nature of Aizen is profoundly unsettling. Frankly, Hawthorne could have easily related to both its vibe and marquee conflict, yet the character and flavor of the film are distinctly Buddhist. It is also a dramatic example of how evocative sets and general mise-en-scene can help foster a mood of foreboding. Plus, Miyagawa’s lensing is surprisingly dynamic for a more-or-less one-set four-hander. When the action strays the temple, he gives it a disorienting, nightmarish look.

Showing tremendous range, Michiyo Aratama is scorchingly seductive and flamboyantly evil as Aizen, the femme fatale to beat all femme fatales. This is light years away from her heart-rending performances in The Human Condition and Kwaidan, but it might leave an even deeper impression. The legendary Hideko Takamine (looking rather ghostly herself here) is also extraordinarily nuanced and rather ambiguous as the wronged Kaede. Shintaro Katsu (Ichi-san) is a bit of a blowhard stock character as Mumyo, but Kei Sato makes the humble priest quite a distinctively cerebral hero.

This is a terrific work of Buddhist cinema that treats big-picture spiritual concepts with scrupulous seriousness. There are not a lot of films structured around temptations of the flesh, so that makes Temple quite memorable, especially since it is Aratama providing the temptation. Very highly recommended, The Devil’s Temple screens this Saturday (4/21) at Japan Society, as part of Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer.

Nico 1988 (2018) Tribeca 2018

Boasting a towering performance by Trine Dyrholm in the title role, NICO 1988 is a look at the last three years in the life of the performer known as Nico. Her real name was Christa PĂ€ffgen and she hated talking about her days in the Velvet Underground. We watch as she tours stoned out of her mind and then cleans herself up and gets her life together.

Dyrholm is amazing. That the film is magnificent as it is due entirely to her hypnotic performance. Destined to be legendary, and with luck Oscar nominated, Dyrholm is force of nature. She isn’t acting but inhabiting the role. While I’ve seen clips of Nico in real life I've lost the ability to even think of the real Nico, Dyrholm is now my Nico. I can’t say anything more than that. This is a performance for the ages.

More fantasia than straight on biography, much is left out and the film only really concentrates three moments in time, a long section of her 1986 European tour that she did stoned out of her mind, a 1987 tour where she and her son were trying to get clear and brief period before her death when Nico was happy. We are traveling with her in three moments of time little else.

And for some that is going to be a big problem. As much as I, and people of my age loved the film, some of the younger writers I spoke with didn’t care for it. While they admired the filmmaking and the performance the fact that they knew nothing about Nico worked against their enjoying the film. They didn’t know why they should care. I can understand that, since I am not a well versed in Nico and the Velvet Underground and while I didn’t know the details I could appreciate her iconic status, something the younger writers couldn't.

On the other hand if you know Nico or know of her or are a rock film fan this film is going to work for you to some degree. While you may not love it like me, you will probably like.

Then again the film has Dyrholm central performance which makes it recommended for everyone.

One of my favorite films at Tribeca

For more information and tickets go here.

You Shall Not Sleep (2018) Tribeca 2018

An actress is hired by a respected, but crazy, theater director to star in a play which is performed after being awake for 108 hours. The idea is that it will open doors to other realms and give a truer performance. Actually it opens the door to restless spirits, which is  bad idea since the performance is taking place in an old insane asylum.

 A truly bent look at reality, YOU SHALL NOT SLEEP split the audience I saw it with. Half loved its broken reality where nothing makes sense because you're too tired to piece it together. The other half, myself included, loved sequences and moments in the film, but disliked the fact that it makes no f-ing sense what so ever. Seriously nothing does. I suspect that I might have bought into it had the film not used the notion of staying awake being for a play. It makes no sense on the face of it, and even less sense in the world of the film.  The idea, like many others in the film, just hangs there.

However, despite the lack of sense and internal reasoning the film carries us along from start to finish. We are compelled to watch because it is bat shit crazy, but we are never scared. The lack of terror is because of the lack of logic, with the result other than a couple of jump scares the film never is really frightening.

Despite the lack of scares or reason, I still think the film is worth a look for horror fans, simply because  the film has some truly great moments.

For tickets and more information go here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tribeca Day 2 - Quick Notes

I am blind tired- its just about midnight and I have to be up at 530 AM to make a 9AM movie and I have things to do.

Today was incredibly long and it went sideways with the result I am exhausted. Of course I got to see a bunch of my friends which made it all wonderful.

This morning I interviewed directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke as well as producer Kristina Ceyton about CARGO. Its a spoiler filled interview that I will get up in one way or another soon. It was a a delight talking to them (and they gave me questions for my Martin Freeman interview tomorrow). I apologize for going fan boy on them but I really do love their film. THANK YOU from taking the time to talk with me. It really did mean a great deal.

I saw DAUGHTER OF MINE and STUDIO 54 today but because of embargos I can't say anything just now.

Okay time for bed...

Cargo (2018) Tribeca 2018

What makes CARGO work is that while it is set during a “zombie” outbreak, it is not about the monsters but about the people. We care about everyone on screen and their plight. The “zombies” are secondary, and wonderfully distant. The result is one of the best films of 2018.

The plot of the film is simple. With some sort of contagion turning people into monsters a family, mom, dad and baby are trying to find a safe place down a river. However when the mother is infected after a bite, the dad, played by Martin Freeman, decides that the best thing to do is go across land to a hospital. Things go bad fast and soon mom is dead, Freeman is infected and he has at best 48 hours to get his baby to safety before he turns into monster.

Bringing new life to the zombie genre and to the action trope of needing to get to safety before something happens. CARGO just delights. While not really scary, the film is unbelievably tense. We have seen what is going to happen to Freeman and we feel for his plight. We are fully invested in his story from the get go. We know what is going to happen, and we genuinely don’t want it to happen.

Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke have done something almost unheard of in a zombie film and that is to keep the beasties out of the action. Yes they are there but more often shambling in the distance. They are ghosts we don’t know. They are abstractions. What we fear is not the monsters but the disease they carry. It is the illness that chills us to the bone. When we see the illness up close it frightens us.

I should say that while we don’t really get to know the zombies, the film does pose some intriguing twists to what we think of them, with notions that they have to rest in the dark so bury their heads or bang into walls. There is a great deal of thought here that makes the film all that more chilling since it’s not just the typical tropes. We don’t know the rules.

That the film works as well as it does it due the writing of the characters and the cast. While the plot can be slightly bumpy the characters lift the film up. We are willing to accept whatever is before us because we accept the characters as real. Everyone from Freeman on down is spot on perfect. This is one of those films that ensemble awards was made to recognize. We are watching people and characters and it pays off in a climactic moment that had the press corps sniffling and wiping away tears. It’s the moment where CARGO goes from very good to great and places it into the pantheon of truly special horror films. (It was the moment everyone couldn’t stop talking about- and I was getting texts and emails about for days after the screening)

I love this film and when it ended I literally grabbed the film’s publicist to insist she get me interviews with the directors and star.

An absolute must see- especially at Tribeca which will be one of your very few chances to see the film on a big screen before it disappears onto Netflix (May 18th). Trust me the images in the film MUST be seen on a big screen.

One of the best of Tribeca and the best of 2018.

For tickets and more information go here.

Everything is Stories (2018) Tribeca 2018

EVERYTHING IS STORIES is running as part of the Tribeca N.O.W Showcase is a stunner. This is a good enough storry that it could easily fill a feature length and the short itself is a glorious introduction to the documentary series.

The film tells the story of  Peter Stefan, owner of Graham Putnam & Mahoney funeral parlor in Worcester, Mass. The funeral home has a reputation for helping the poor as best the can. They also will take on cases that are tough to handle, such as the funeral of the Boston Marathon Bomber.

This is a moving portrait of a man and a company doing the right thing. It is a film where we see what it takes to be human. It also reveals to us what it takes to not only run a funeral home but what it was like behind the scenes for part of a a major news story most of us never considered.

Very very highly recommended I can not wait to see the rest of the films in this series.

An absolute must see when it screens again on April 21. For tickets and more information on the remaining screening go here.

Call Her Ganda (2018) Tribeca 2018

Heart breaking and heady CALL HER GANDA is a truly sad film. While focusing on the murder of Jennifer Laudes literally at the hands of US serviceman Joseph Pemberton, the film lays bare the piss poor treatment given the Philippines by United States as well as reminding us how dangerous it is to be trans-gendered.

There is so much in Call Her Ganda I don’t know where to begin. The film is such an emotional rollercoaster that even some 12 hours after seeing the film I am still processing it and still trying to find the words.

Director PJ Raval beautifully balances all of the factors at play in the case. I love that no matter where the discussion goes we never lose sight of the fact that there was human being at the center of it all. Raval keeps this a personal story with the result that our emotions are moved. Too often when we are discussing gender and international politics we forget the people sparking the discussion. Raval makes certain that Jennifer Laudes is front and center.

While I knew things were tense between the Philippines and the US I never realized how bad things were and how badly the US abused what is supposed to be a sovereign nation. I never realized that the US military basically carte blanche to beat rape and kill without any real fear of prosecution. I truly didn’t know that until Pemberton had been convicted of Laudes’s murder no service man had ever been successfully prosecuted. Money be damned I’m shocked that the people living near US military bases didn’t kill anyone who left the base. America should be ashamed.

CALL HER GANDA kicked me to the curb. My heart broke, not just for Jennifer but her mother who has had to fight for justice. No parent should have to bury their child. And if a parent should bury their child there should be an accounting.

I don’t know what to say but go and see it and be moved.

For tickets and more information go here.

In Brief: The Gospel According to Andre (2017) Tribeca 2018

Wonderful bio of fashion editor André Leon Talley as told by the man and the people who love and admire him.

I don't have a great deal to say other than buy a ticket and take a ride. Kate Novack's film is just a great deal of fun. I laughed and smiled all the way through the film and came out on the far end a fan. That may not sound like much but I went into the film having zero desire to see it and only did so because the trip into the city for pre-fest screenings was only worth it if I stayed for two films.

My only quibble with the film is I which Novack could have found a way to make Andre's life before college not sound like so many other tales of people growing up poor in the South. Andre is much to special for a regular telling of any tale.

Highly recommended the film is screening on April 25th at Tribeca with a Q&A with both the director and subject.

For ticket information go here.

The film will be released by Magnolia on May 25

Spider Tattoo (1966) Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer

Yes, Otsuya is a geisha, but if you expect her to be passive and meek, you would assume incorrectly. One can tell just by looking at her that Otsuya is serious trouble, yet it is equally clear why men keep falling for her in Yasuzo Masumura’s Tattoo which is playing at the Japan Society’s retrospective Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer. It is a film that subverts and contradicts the prevailing screen stereotypes of Japanese women. Think of it as an anti-geisha film.

Her father’s apprentice does not seem like much, but Otsuya convinces Shinsuke to run away with her anyway. Unfortunately, they seek shelter from the wrong person. While Otsuya is sold into servitude as a geisha, Shinsuke finds himself a murderer on the run, having killed his own would-be assassin.

Not surprisingly, Otsuya demonstrates a remarkable aptitude for the seductive geisha business. She does not have much choice though. Having been branded with a man-eating geisha-spider tattoo by her purchaser, Otsuya carries the permanent mark of her new life. Though she claims her tattoo has an eerie power over her, it is hard to tell just how different the new Otsuya truly is from the old. Perhaps only her social context has changed. It hardly matters for the men in orbit around her though. Slowly but surely, her fugitive lover, the man who betrayed them, her former master, and the artist who tattooed her, all become enmeshed in her web.

Much like the celebrated collaborations between Setsuko Hara and Yasujiro Ozu, Wakao was a frequent muse-like presence in Masumura’s films, including all four of her selections in the Mad, Bad series. Clearly not intimidated by edgy subject matter, Masumura was considered the forerunner of the so-called Japanese “New Wave.” Yet he apprenticed under master filmmakers Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa. Just as Masumura defies easy classification, so does Tattoo, a film distinguished by the richly elegant look and feel of Japanese art cinema, despite its often sensational storyline.

Characters frequently make decisions in Tattoo that are both morally and logically indefensible, but as melodrama, it is all great fun. Sultry and severe, Wakao’s performance as Otsuya ranks with Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven as one of the all-time great screen femme fatales. With an emasculating gaze, she reduces the rest of the cast to sniveling children. She is indeed dangerous to know.

Tattoo is one of those films in which the audience never develops a true rooting interest per se. Instead, most viewers will watch in rapt fascination to see what amoral depths the characters will sink to. Yet, Masumura’s visual sense and Wakao’s riveting performance are so compelling it is ultimately a thoroughly entertaining, highly recommended cinematic experience. Not currently available on DVD in America, the Japan Society’s screening will be a rare opportunity to see it. A perfect choice to be part of Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer Tattoo plays Saturday.

Tribeca 2018 Opening Night - LOVE GILDA (2018)

As I write this I'm just in from the Opening Night of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. It was a blast. I went with my friend Julie who had never been to Tribeca before and she had a good time.

Before the film we went around and tried to see the Red Carpet. We waited for the better part of an hour for anyone to show up however they were only just arriving when we had to head into take our seats.

We did manage to see Lorn Michaels and Tina Fey
Gilbert Gottfried center  and Lorraine Newman (in the Green)
And Gilbert Gottfried and Lorraine Newman before we headed in.

Once inside we waited for the show to start.

First Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal made some opening remarks

Then director Lisa D'Apolito spoke about making the film...

...before Tina Fey came out and talked about Gilda and what she meant to her.

The film is a loving portrait of Radner covering her whole life, largely in her own words. Audio recordings are supplemented with sections from her notebooks either read by Saturday Night Live alumni or written on the screen. There is also a huge amount of film and video spanning her entire life. Nothing seems left out.

It is, as was suggested in someone's opening remarks, as if Gilda was talking directly to you. I suspect that unless you are an obsessive Radner fan there is going to be a lot of new stuff here.(you'll have to see the film to find out what, I don't want to spoil it)

Everyone laughed and...well... while we may not have been moved to tears we were still moved at watching the arc of a great soul.

This is a super film I can't say more than that...other than see it- preferably not on CNN where some of the language is sure to be bleeped.(And make sure to stay through the end credits for a great post credit sequence)

For more information and tickets to the remaining screenings go here