Friday, June 30, 2023

GLUE TRAP (2023) Dances With Films 2023

Strange thriller/black comedy has a couple going to the woods and meeting a weird and overly perky woman who is someone they never should have let into their house.

Okay thriller never quite manages to get a tone  or a focus right. The first half hour is all set up as we get to know the couple and its just okay. When the woman shows up the film becomes cringy sort of the comedy as the couple isn’t certain what to do with her. The film than turns again as the woman goes off the deep end and the film skates into darkness…that isn’t that dark. The shift with each chapter breaks any sort of spell and by the end I just didn’t care.

A miss

BIBI (2023) Dances With FIlms 2023

Vivian is a woman dealing with the death of her daughter. She is  slowly beginnings to lose her grip on reality. Her surviving child is unhappy that her mother is drifting. As reality and fantasy blur Vivian finds that she is being stalked by a dark figure.

Okay psychological thriller is intriguing so long as its cards aren’t revealed.  Sadly as the film goes on and the film begins to reveal answers the suspense disappears and by the end the excitement of the early part of the film is gone.

I was disappointed.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Detroit Will Breathe (2021)

Kate Levy's DETROIT WILL BREATHE is a kick in the chest. It's a film you need to see because it is going to piss you off.

The film is the story of the peaceful demonstrations that occurred in Detroit in 2020 in the wake of  the death of George Floyd. Cut from police body camera footage, raw news footage and footage shot by protesters and witnesses, the footage is part of the evidence for a lawsuit, and it's a damning portrait of police out of control.

I have few words to express what this film made me feel.  As the film's coverage of the first day of protests ends we see a police spokesman talk about how the police acted bravely taking on the protesters, the problem is that we have just seen the police wading into and beating the shit out of the protesters.  The film then makes things worse for the cops by showing them joking about beating up the protesters before wading into the peaceful protesters and smacking them around.  At one point the cops decide to effectively steal a woman's car.  Having made a wrong turn she wanted to get out of where she was but one cop just wanted her keys and her car.

By the end of the film I was truly pissed off.  

What makes the film work is that Levy doesn't use typical  news footage or the footage of one POV, but she weaves the footage together  so that we get moments from various POV's that make us certain that what we are seeing is an accurate portrait of the events. In an age where everyone argues about fake news, Levy gives us no doubt, what we are seeing, is very real and very much the right way as we are supposed to see it.  

One of the most shocking things about the film is it clearly shows that the cops have no shame and don't understand how the body cam footage could get them into deep trouble. As we see in other areas people truly don't understand that being on camera is not the time to do something violent or stupid.

Currently playing film festivals  and and on the subscription service Means TV DETROIT WILL BREATHE is a film you need to see.

Five And A Half (2023) Dances With FIlms


A young girl is allowed to spend an afternoon with her ex con father. She has to disappear into her mind 

Uncomfortable drama is based on a true story. This is a well acted little tale that at times feels much to real. I was squirming in my seat seat.

Worth tracking down.

Waiting For The Light To Change (2023) Dances With FIlms 2023

Five friends get together in a beach house and talk.

A couple of quick tidbits and quibbles with the promotional material to start. Ignore the talk of the budget. They are trying to promote the film as being made for a minimal amount of money. It’s a pointless come on. I say that because unless someone pointed it out you’d never know. This is a film about people and not effects so cost doesn’t enter into it.

The other thing to ignore any comparison to The Big Chill. It’s lazy. The film is good enough that it stands on it’s own feet.

What is not a quibble is the fact that this is a great little drama about friends hanging out. It’s a film that feel vital and alive. Told largely in long takes with the camera settling in just observing. It’s a method of story telling that sometimes can result in a film that feels static, but here, with everyone close together with the camera, the film feels alive. We are in this place with these people and living life. The choice by director Linh Tran is a good one because instead of making us outsiders  we are one of the group.

There is magic here.

Tran has assembled a magnificent cast. I have no idea if they were friends going into the film, but on screen everyone feels like they belong together. We sense connections that most films never manage. Everyone feels like they really are friends. Its this point that makes this film better in many ways than Big Chill it wants to compare itself to.

I really liked this film a great deal. While the characters are a good deal younger than myself, thoughts and feeling still connected to me. There is a reason that great art transcends age in that it speaks to something universal in us all. There is something about the human condition that touches us. WAITING… connects us to our humanity.

This is a small gem


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Safe Space (2022) Fantaspoa 2023

A group of friends go away for a weekend and some time at a one of a kind escape room experience.

This is a hard film to discuss. While the film is very much an exploration of life, love and sex among long time friends, there is a point where things begin to shift and slide. It's not giving anything away to say that things end up going completely differently then you expect (no really).  Because where you start is now where you end up it's nigh impossible to discuss the  film since things changes as we go. I can't talk about what happens without wrecking it all, so I'm not going to try.

I'm going to be honest and say I'm not sure what I think about this film. There are sections of this film I love and sections of the film that I am not certain of. I suspect that my refusal to completely commit to an opinion is the result of my still pondering how it all hangs together. This is a film where you can't know what you think until the end because the geography keeps changing. There is also enough here that I don't want to dismiss anything out of hand. I also want to compare it to a couple of other recent and not recent films but I'm not sure if that's fair.

Apologies for not being forth coming  but I think only people who are going to dismiss the film will discuss the twists and turns because they won't care f it ruins anyone's experience with the film.

If you want a twisty turny, uneven film that may not work, but which is going to give you a true unique cinematic experience (in other words a typical Unseen Films reader) then give SAFE PLACE a try.

ANGIES CURE (2023) Dances With FIlms 2023

Young woman who was a rape victim years earlier, takes out her rage on a an intruder to her shop. She then pushes things even farther making her wonder if the drive for revenge is turning her into a similar monster.

This well made and well acted film didn't really work for me. Blame the pacing which stretches what should have been a tight little thriller into an almost two hour slog. While I like the way the trauma is handled,  in other ways it doesn't quite work since the film also wants to be a more serious exploitation film.

A well made miss

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Perfect Find (2023) Tribeca 2023

After going through a bad break up that wrecked her career Gabrielle Union is forced to take a job working for a very meticulous boss. When Union’s friends take her for a girls night out she meets a younger man  and is smitten. The flirting goes nowhere. However things become complicated when she discovers the young man is the son of her boss.

Lovely cinematic themed romance is just a delight from start to finish. A story about people and not movie characters, I was delighted to be watching a bunch of adults on the screen instead of stereotypical movie characters. Sure there  are some nods to cinematic romance, how could it not this is after all a film about movie lovers, but it all works.  I was smiling from ear to ear from start to finish.

PERFECT FIND premiered at Tribeca a couple weeks back and once the screenings started everyone started talking the film up as a great find. More than one writer was puzzled as to why the film wasn’t getting more of a push from Netflix because it was so good. I don’t have answer other than small films like this are not getting theatrical pushes when they should.

On the other hand it is on Netflix where everyone can see it and fall under its spell

Dances With Films 2023 Shorts- Bucket City, Firefly, A Real One

The story of a squirrel and a duck and their love of basketball over time. This is a neat little film that moves like the wind and put a big smile on my face.

You’ll remember the visuals more than the story of  the spirit of a dead boy telling her sister about how their mother survived the fire bombing of a city in Japan.  As good as the visuals and the central tale is, the framing device doesn’t really work and actually keeps us out of the film instead of putting us into the tale.

Much too short story of two friends - one of whom discovers the secret of the other- she is romantically involved with her teacher. This is a beautifully made film that really needs to be expanded. Despite being only 15 minutes this film has a great deal to say about numerous subjects and I would love to see what writer/director McKenzie Chinn would do in a long form version. Recommended

Monday, June 26, 2023

In The Company of Rose (2022) opens Friday


James Lapine talks to Rose, William Styron’s widow  in a conversation that lasted six years over which she revealed he very full life

While made up of numerous conversations over the years this plays as if it’s one long fascinating conversation. Sometimes there are some split screen or videos to highlight what is being said, but mostly his is just talk. And if you don’t think that’s amazing you haven’t heard rose recount her life. What a joy.

Highly recommended

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Nightcap 6/25/23 -winding down from Tribeca and what to do about people not going to movies

Over a week since my last in person screening Tribeca is still haunting me. I’m still writing, still posting and mostly still tired.  This year’s festival kicked my ass- in a good way, but I’m still paying for it.

The real problem with the festival is that the move to June from April/May means it crashes right into Dances with Films and all of the festivals in July.  Its not that I mind the watching its simply that the crush has worn me out verbally. After I spent a weekend writing up thirty plus films from the in person Tribeca started to watch & review twenty films for Dances and if you haven’t noticed the pieces are shorter and much more direct. I haven’t cushioned some of my feelings for the films. It bothers me that the pieces are a bit abrupt but it’s the best I could do. More so when I have had to start coverage of New York Asian, Japan Cuts and Fantasia  lest I fall hopelessly behind.

I’m sure I will end up behind, I always do, but I want to at least create the illusion I’m ahead.

It’s going to be interesting so belt in and remember when you make bets about when I turn into a pile of mush I’d like a cut of your winnings.


There has been a couple of stories concerning theatrical releases of films this week.

First the Academy issued a decree that in order for a film to be eligible for Best Picture films have to play a longer time in more theaters. While I love this idea in principle I know it’s potentially going to hurt smaller inde films who may not be able to mount a theatrical run of the required length. I suspect that this is being done to make it a bit more complicated for the streaming companies to throw a film into a  theater for a week and then end up a Best Picture contender. I’m over stating it, but I think you’ll get my meaning.

The other theatrical story has been the rumblings that with the failure of FLASH and ELEMENTAL in theaters things may change with what’s produced and what gets a theatrical release. I know the people at Pixar are pondering  their future since their last few films have not done well theatrically.

I blame the parent companies like Disney and Warners for this. Forgetting FLASH’s production problems and those of its star,  Disney and Warner have been so quick to push their streaming services that they have trained everyone to wait for the 45 days for the films to show up on the service. Why pay almost twenty dollars a head when you can pay a fraction of that to see the film at home. It gets worse when you consider that they are raping theaters to the point that you’ll pay more for popcorn and soda then the ticket to get in.  

Who has the money to do that for movie after movie? I don't.

And remember I am NOT on the big studio press screening lists. I do not get invited most screening for big films which is a big reason you don’t see them reviewed at Unseen until well after the fact. I have to pay to see the films just like you. I only covered ELEMENTAL because I saw it at Tribeca.

As to how to get people to go to movies I have no answer on how to correct it, short of lengthen the window to streaming and cut ticket prices.

Goodbye Tango (2023) Dances With Films 2023


An older lesbian couple is put to the test when one of the partners refuses to accept that her pet hamster has passed away

Amusing small little comedy seems to be a trifle of a film until we reach the ending and it not only sticks the landing but ends so magnificently that it made me smile and get teary. It’s a film that proves emotion and reality is hidden in unexpected places


Pruning (2023) Palm Springs Shortfest 2023

A controversial conservative talk show host has the things she rallies for come crashing into her life.

Uncomfortable "horror" film about how people disconnect from the sings they say and the things they cause to happen. It's a fictional accounting of what we see happen on the TV talk shows again and again. Hannity, Tucker and the others of their ilk have been name checked in the rants of the mad men who are shooting up America, but it never stops them from repeating their hate over and over again. 

While the film is a reflection of the things we see every day, it shouldn't be effective as it is. However despite the film being too close to reality, it still kicks our ass because the fictional nature of the film allows the film to cross out of the purely emotional add the intellectual. Instead of just reacting in a kne jerk sort of way, we are thinking  about the tragedy more deeply. As a result the film kicks us harder than just watching this play out for real.


MERMAID’S LAMENT (2023) Dances With Films 2023

This is probably the most beautiful film at Dances With Films. It’s a beautiful tale of a therapist who takes on a patient who may or may not be a mermaid. 

Yes I know it’s a version of stories we’ve heard before, however the reality is that the visuals make the story. For me the film pushes things just far enough away from reality that the world can safely operate in its own little world. More importantly the visuals and the other things that work in the film are good enough that we don’t mind the occasional bump or hick up.

Watching a screener of the film for a review my brother came into the room to do something and was so intrigued by the little bit he saw he sat down and joined me in watching the rest of the film. That may not sound like much but it’s a statement of the power of the film's visuals to grab us and pull us along to it’s conclusion. Truthfully I’m hoping that the film eventually makes it’s way near me so I can get the change to see it on a truly big screen and lose myself in it.


Saturday, June 24, 2023

Heightened (2023) Dances With FIlms 2023


A woman with OCD returns to Maine to live with her parents and deal with court ordered public service as a park ranger.

How you take this quirky comedy will depend upon how you take this film's heightened sense of humor. With everything mannered and happening in a sitcom sort of way the film is one you are either going to love or hate.  The film didn't really work for me most of the time, with the film only really clicking in the smaller quiet moments which were too few and far between to really win me over. 

I was disappointed

Nate Hood on Pixar's ELEMENTAL (2023)


I remember the first time I saw the trailer for Pixar Animation Studios’ Elemental a few months ago. It was at a theater with a group of friends who, like myself, had grown up with the first wave of Pixar films in the late nineties and early two-thousands. We all had fond memories of the Little California Studio that Could—the company who beat the seemingly invincible Walt Disney Animation Studios at their own game over and over at the box office and the Oscars. While the Mouse floundered with bland, forgettable comedies, Pixar gained a reputation for movies unafraid to exercise the audience’s hearts and tear ducts. Once, the release of a new Pixar movie was an Event with a capital “E.” Then came their 2006 merger with Disney and something…changed. While still capable of the occasional film with the old Pixar magic—Inside Out (2015) and Coco (2017) come immediately to mind—the innovators who gave the world talking toys, soft-shoeing robots, and balloon houses became a conveyor belt of Good-Not-Great sequels, prequels, and direct-to-streaming releases. When the credits of the Elemental trailer flashed, my friends and I sat in bewildered silence, looked at each other, and laughed.

Perhaps we were unfair. By all accounts, Elemental wasn’t the Pixar-on-autopilot cash-grab the trailer seemed to suggest. Pitched way back in 2015 and largely based on director Peter Sohn’s memories of growing up in the States the child of Korean immigrants, the film is obviously a labor of love with the highest (and noblest) artistic intentions. It’s the story of two star-crossed lovers—one a lower-class fire element named Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis) and the other an upper-class water element named Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie)—living in Element City, a metropolitan wonderland peopled with anthropomorphic versions of the four classical elements of fire, water, earth, and air. After a painful meet-cute where Wade, a city inspector, almost puts Ember’s family’s shop out of business—long story—the two team up to solve a mystery threatening the entire fire element quarter of the city. Oh, and somewhere in there they fall madly in love. Elemental takes bold swings at such weighty topics as racism, the immigrant experience, class differences, and escaping parental expectations (the last being one of Pixar’s favorite themes as far back as Finding Nemo and The Incredibles in the early two-thousands). It also has the distinction of being one of the only Pixar romantic comedies since WALL-E (2008).

Unfortunately, Elemental isn’t particularly good. But it’s not bad, either, which is the problem. In today’s crowded animation marketplace, the most dangerous thing a film can be is mediocre: great films are remembered for their excellence, bad films for their notoriety. But mediocre films? Those are quickly forgotten. Frankly, I don’t see anyone remembering this film in a year or two any more than other Pixar missteps like The Good Dinosaur (2015) and Onward (2020). Too many of the story beats are cookie-cutter predictable, right down to Ember’s contrived falling out with her doting father to Ember’s even more contrived break-up with Wade at the start of the third act. Watching it, I couldn’t escape the impression that I was seeing something Frankensteined together from other, better Pixar movies. 

Instead, Elemental is at its best when it steps back from the plot and lets the audience drink in the incredible world-building and art direction. Element City is one of the most dazzlingly realized locations in any Pixar film with exquisite, near obsessive detail poured into its every nook and cranny. Unlike many animated cities that feel like clones of real-world locations like New York City with a few strange buildings thrown into the background for flavor, everything about Element City feels constructed with a city planner’s eye for accommodating real-life creatures of fire, water, earth, and air. Consider, for example, the fire element quarter of the city where Ember lives. As the city was originally built with water elementals in mind, their neighborhood was reverse engineered between a series of drained canals. Since the city’s subway system is essentially a giant log flume ride, the sidewalks underneath their elevated lines are covered with drains to catch and dispose of spilled water so it doesn’t harm the fiery inhabitants. This is world-building of the highest degree, and I haven’t even mentioned the glass tower swimming pools of the water elementals, the tree-filled offices of the earth elementals, or the sky-high spherical sports stadiums of the air elementals.

Element City deserved a better story. The narrative’s need to shoehorn all its weighty themes like racism and classism around its uneven romance fails the latter at the expense of the former. It’s not that you can’t make a good romantic comedy that explores these ideas—this just isn’t one of them. I’ve heard that during production certain story ideas were nixed because the filmmakers wanted to save them for a potential sequel. Despite Elemental’s mediocrity, I hope it gets made, if only because I want to see this creative team take a crack at a better story worthy of Element City.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Transition (2023) Tribeca 2023

Journalist Jordan Bryon walks a razors edge as Afghanistan falls to the Taliban and he begins his transition from female to male. As the country explodes around him he can't let the Taliban fighters he is profiling know that he was born a woman. 

Edge of your seat biography will have you wondering how this is all going to come out. While we know on some level this will be fine, you can't be certain to what degree nor what is going to happen to the people around him. This is a hell of a tale that is expertly told.

Truth of the matter is that TRANSITION is the sort of absolutely great film that can get lost in a huge festival like Tribeca. Anyone I know who saw the film loved it, but many people simply didn't have it on their radar. You need to put this on your list of must sees and track it down either at the next festival or when it shows up in theaters.

Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall (2023) Tribeca 2023

A look at the history of  dancehall, the music style that has roots in reggae, links to hip hop and other styles. Its told by the people who created it and danced to it.

This film filled in a blind spot for me. While I was familiar with a bunch of the music we hear in this film I didn't know what it was called. I had no idea about any of the details of the story and I sat there wide eyed like a little kid as I learned new thing after new thing. 

I had a great time watching this film and it was a joy not to be the only one in the audience bouncing to the beats of the music.


IT'S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL (2023) Tribeca 2023

This is the life and times of the Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, from their meeting as kids on through the present day. It's a warts and all look at the ladies, their music, their causes, and lives that will have you going out and buying some of their albums.

Everything you ever wanted to know is here and that's both a good thing and a bad thing. I say that as a guy who absolutely loved the film, but also as one who questioned the film 123 minute running time. There is nothing really wrong with the run time, except that the editing is so loose at times that the film occasionally feel rambling. I had the feeling that if it was cut a little tighter or lost about 15 minutes this would be one the great films of 2023.

Seeing the film early on the first day of press screenings I spent the remainder of the festival getting blank stares from people who were horrified that they missed the screening because they love the Indigo Girls. Apparently most of the people I know would have loved to see the film but somehow didn't realize the film was playing (the title doesn't give away it's connection to the duo)

Don't make the same mistake, track this film down and see it.

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on F*ing Buck Dent (2023) Tribeca 2023

David Duchovny adapts his novel of the same name for the big screen at Tribeca’s 2023. If you grew up a Red Sox fan like I did, the name Buck Dent is akin to “He Who Shall Not Be Named” in Harry Potter. Being a Sox fan, I was constantly aware of the curse. You can spot the mix of joy and anguish on my face throughout the years in a series of photos of little Lizzie propped up against The Green Monster. Duchovny perfectly captures the masochistic nature of born and bread fans in his heartwarming and hilarious film BUCKY F*CKING DENT.

Ted is a failed writer who slings peanuts at Yankee Stadium -of all places. When he finds out his estranged father, Marty, has terminal lung cancer, the two go on an unexpected journey of reconnection through an elaborate hoax by Ted. Through the aid of Marty’s barbershop buddies and his assigned “Death Nurse,” Mariana, father and son discover they are more alike than they realized.

Logan Marshal-Green in Tribeca's Bucky Fucking DentA bit of truth and fiction, the film combines Super 8 recreations of scenes from a novel Marty never intended for anyone to see and the masterminded shenanigans from Ted and Co. The dialogue is pure acerbic deliciousness. The chemistry between Duchovny and Logan Marshall-Green is divine. The back-and-forth between the two feels effortless. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at the inevitability of death.

BUCKY F*CKING DENT is a joyous celebration of forgiveness, fearlessness, and living. Dare I say it is a crowd-pleasing home run of a film? Nay. It’s a Grand Slam.

FOr more from Liz go to her regular home at REEL NEWS DAILY

LET THE CANARY SING (2023) Tribeca 2023


A look at the life and times of Cyndi Lauper.

A must see film portrait of a wonderful woman, that every little kid should be shown since it shows you that if you are yourself you will find a place to grow and thrive. It took a while but Lauper found her place and thus changed the world for the better.

Focusing primarily on her early life and the period surrounding her first three albums this is a giant ball of nostalgia. Those of you who have been fans for decades will find your lives replaying as you watch Cyndi relive her life. I was moved to tears. 

While the film focuses in the early part of her life the film also highlights her  causes she supports. What I absolutely love about this film is the way it does this is makes us feel exactly why she is supporting the LGBT community, and AIDS research and everything else. We see how the causes connect to her life. For the first time in any portrait of an artist do we viscerally understand why these causes matter.

And then there is the music-or in the case of many of us the soundtrack of our lives. It's wonderful and best of all it has lots of songs I completely for got about.

Highly recommended

Performing during the post screening concert

The awesome Mister Sister is playing the Zanzibar International Film Festival


With the wonderful MISTER SISTER playing the Zanzibar International Film Festival here is a repost when the film played Dances With Films a while back

A down on his luck young man stumbles from Minneapolis to New York after a bad break up. Falling in with a drag queen he finds his luck changing. He begins acting as an MC in a drag club under the name Mister Sister, and begins a romance with a single mother.

This is a one of a kind film in the best sort of way. This look at people living and surviving in New York feels more like a documentary than a feature. While I know there was some sort of script involved, I suspect everything was tweaked based upon the wonderful cast. Everyone has to be playing a version of themselves. I say this because no screenwriter could ever get away with this wild and crazy collection of people. Additionally the way everyone looks is the way people look in real life and not movie life.

This is a jagged and raw film that will make you smile and tear up and feel real feelings. As I said this is a film  that more or less feels like it’s a feel good story dropped into the the lives of real people. It’s a film that welcomes you with wide open arms and gives you a hug  whether or not you want it. I say that because I was hesitant to see this film. I avoided it at one festival  and only jumped at the Winter Film Awards screening because I saw it was playing other festivals. Once I was a couple of minutes in I fell into it and had a great time.

What a joy.

Recommended. This is good time with great people.

For tickets and more information on the screening go here

Enter The Clones of Bruce (2023) Tribeca 2023

This is a look at the Bruce Lee knock off films that followed in the wake of Lee's passing. Officially there are 88 however the actual number is closer to 200.

Seven years in the making the film was being worked on until the very last minute. Despite being accepted into Tribeca the film had to be recut at the last minute when the man who was Bruce Li agreed to talk 4 weeks before the festival. I can only image what had to be lost, as well as I'm curious what the original three hour cut of the film looked like.

While the film seems to be a bit rambling, no doubt the result of a last minute editing, I really enjoyed this film a great deal. It was wonderful to hear all the stories about the making of the films. It made me want to go and pull out the films I have in my collection and watch them (A box set with this doc and some titles is coming soon)

 I had a blast.

After the world premiere screening there was a Q&A (see below) which was great fun and absolutely not long enough.

Highly recommended to anyone who ever heard about the clones of Bruce Lee.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

The League (2023) Tribeca 2023

This is a look at the Negro Leagues of Baseball  out of which came many of the greatest players of all time.

This is a glorious celebration of the men who played the game better than anyone ever, it's also a record of a piece of history that most people have never heard. Sure every baseball fan has heard of the Negro League but most don't really know the details, nor have they seen any of the film that was shot of the games.

All hail director Sam Pollard who has made a film that is going to open the eyes of many people who only know the subject as a few cold sentences. This is a film that brings it all to life.  This is a film that explains simply and easily why the men who played in here were the best that ever was.

I don't say that lightly. While I am a white guy, I grew up hearing stories of the Negro Leagues. While I know my dad never saw a Negro League game he was a fan, the result of the stories his friends would tell him of the games that they went to. As the greats like Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Satchell Page moved over to MLB he was regaled with tales of what these giants did  before.

Luckily Pollard tells us and amazingly occasionally shows us.  What a joy it is to see the found footage on the big screen where it can truly impress us.

I loved this film.

Talking to someone connected to the film's PR between screenings I mentioned how much I loved the film and I inquired if there was any plans to expand the film into a mini-series. They looked at me quizzically until I explained how much more there was to tell. There were so many great players and so many great stories that a film of 103 minutes can't contain them all.  I wanted to see more.

What a great film. It's so good that I'm planning on seeing it on the big screen again when it its theaters in July. 

Somewhere Quiet (2023) Tribeca 2023

A Meg and her husband go his families summer home in order to help her try and recover from a terrible kidnapping.

This is a film that is pretty much told from Meg's point of view. She has been so traumatized that she is unsure of anything. Even simple events take on ominous shading. We are never certain of anything at any point. Watching the film we get a  good sense of what Meg is feeling.

As well done as much of this film is there is a point where the narrative begins to break apart. The problem is that there is such a lack of communication between the couple and between the filmmakers and the audience that a couple of turns seem to come from out of left field. We are told things that would alter how we see events but are instead only mentioned when they would result in a gasp from the audience, not at a point where it would be natural to insert the information into the story. The story telling doesn't feel fair.  

I was fine for a while and then I stopped caring. I felt that the filmmakers weren't telling Meg's story so much as gaslighting the character in order to produce a reaction in the audience.

I was disappointed.

Miracle Club (2023) Tribeca 2023

One of the best films of the Tribeca Film Festival (and maybe 2023) is a magnificent exploration of life, faith and forgiveness.

When Chrissie (Laura Linney) returns to Ireland after the death of her mother, many people are shocked, they never thought she'd return. Her ex-best friend (Kathy Bates) is bitter and angry, the mother of the love her life (Maggie Smith) doesn't know what to do. Through circumstance the women, all end up on a trip sponsored by their church to Lourdes.

While some of this plays out as you expect, most of this does not. While it does have a warm and fuzzy feel at time the pain all the women feel is very real. Nothing is completely sugar coated, people are bruised, do terrible things and reveal wounds that time may not be able to heal. I am not going to go into details, I'm only going to say that you will be moved.

It's a no duh that a large part of the reason the film works is the cast. Linney, Bates Smith and Agnes O'Casey as Dolly, a young woman desperate to have her son speak, tear the screen apart with their performances. They are so good that you may not want to forgive Bates being a bitch on wheels for a chunk of the film.

And then there is the script by Joshua D. Maurer,  Timothy Prager and  Jimmy Smallhorne which is just gangbusters. Warm and wise, the script perfectly explores the things we do that drive us apart and how life can reshape us enough that down the road that we can come back together. It's a brilliantly written film that will have you pondering faith, belief and forgiveness in ways you hadn't before because it doesn't take the easy road. I also have to cheer the fact that it doesn't give us answers to everything, nor does it reveal all it's magic to everyone. One thing that happens is unexpected because the film chooses to have it happen not in a big mushy scene but a small private moment almost as a throw away. Its a choice to do a BIG thing in a small way and it will make you gasp-in a good way.

This is a glorious filmmaking. It's so good that I shocked the PR person outside the screening by asking if there would be an Oscar push for the film, particularly for the ladies at the center of the tale. She didn't know. Frankly if they are smart they will.

This is an absolute must see.

Lost Soulz (2023) Tribeca 2023

A winner of an audience award at Tribeca LOST SOULZ was a film that many of Tribeca staff and several writers insisted that I see.  The mix of characters and music had clicked with everyone who saw the film. Based on Word of mouth this looked to be one of the best films of festival. 

This is the story of a young rapper named Sol who lives with his best friend Wesley and his family.  After Wesley overdoses, Sol hits the road, traveling across Texas with a group of artists he met that night. As the group travels and performs Sol discovers who he is and what it means to be responsible and have a family.

This film is wonderful. Full of great characters and greater music LOST SOULZ is  one of the best films of Tribeca.

The look of this film is magical. The stunning visuals mix perfectly framed images with pumped up colors to create a world that is like our own and frequently like our dreams. 

The Music is note perfect. So many times in films about fictional performers the music isn't what it should be, you can't understand why people are falling over the music we hear. You get one, maybe two good songs that stand out but no more, but that isn't the case here. The music is so good that you want to lean in and follow Sol's journey. There is the added bonus that the songs and the score blend together to create a seamless whole.

The cast is great. Sure it helps that I haven't seen most of the cast before so they are real people, but even so none of performers seem to be acting. Everyone seems to be inhabiting their characters. This makes everyone feels real and inviting.

I love the narrative of the film. I love that the film doesn't do what you expected. LOST SOULZ doesn't take any of the regular paths in similar music films. Things aren't pumped up dramatically, life flows. It's a joy not to have confrontations that are coming from the mind of the writer instead of the life of the characters.

This is a great little film. 

What an absolute joy. This is why I love going to festivals and dwelling among the inde films, it's because I get to discover wonderful films like this.

Highly recommended.

Scream of My Blood: A Gogol Bordello Story (2023) Tribeca 2023

Portrait of performer Eugene Hutz who ended up leaving Ukraine for America just before the USSR fell, and into a punk rock crowd in Vermont. Many years it later resulted in his forming the punk band Gogol Bordello which fuses folk music with rock and roll.

Absolutely joyous film about life and music as well as life as music as we follow Hutz and his band across the globe and back to Ukraine to perform for the soldiers during the war. It's one of a kind film that is an absolute delight for the soul as the insanity of life gives birth to musical joy. I and the the few people at the press screening I attended were dancing in our seats. I now I regret not going to to the world premiere screening where the band played after the movie.

This is as good a marriage of performance and cinema as they come when you aren't a pure concert film.

One of the great films of the festival and the year.

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on The Listener (2023) Tribeca 2023

Steve Buscemi‘s Tribeca 2023 film, THE LISTENER, finds Tessa Thompson playing Beth, a crisis line operator who works the overnight shift. Watching Thompson process callers’ stories in real-time is akin to live theatre. Scenarios range from a call from a formerly incarcerated man, a husband who just told his wife he doesn’t love her, an overburdened mother, a runaway in danger, and more.

Keen-earned viewers will recognize more than a few familiar voices over the phone. Beth’s story is the last to reveal itself. Her final call, which is also the lengthiest, challenges her sense of emotional security but ultimately invites us into Beth’s life in earnest. The camera follows Beth around her apartment. There are moments of silence, but just a few. Thanks to screenwriter Alessandro Camon, THE LISTENER is fully ripe for the stage.

Tessa Thompson is in every single frame. The gentleness in her voice is soothing. Her patience is breathtaking. Underneath her job slips a weary face. The emotional investment is palpable. This performance is a master class in measured behavior. Thompson had me in the palm of her hand.

Steve Buscemi has given audiences a contemplative character study brimming with empathy and humanity. A peak inside the world of mental health workers is nothing short of fascinating. THE LISTENER is a skillfully directed film and another magnificent performance from Tessa Thompson. It’s a must-see at Tribeca 2023.

More from Liz can be found at REEL NEWS DAILY

Once more with feeling: More Tribeca 2023 Capsule reviews: ROLLING ALONG, BOCA CHICA, POISONED, CHASING CHASING AMY, OTE

The filmed record of Bill Bradley's one man show is not  at all what I expected. A completely compelling autobiographical look at the basketball great and legendary politician, it turns the notion of "documentary" on it's head. I say that because watching the film I felt infinitely more informed than I did coming out of most of the other documentaries at this year's Tribeca. Yes the story told is Bradley's tale slanted to make him look good, but there is a human side to it and it makes you feel like you were having dinner with the man. One of the great surprises of the festival, it's highly recommended.

Young woman in the Domincan Republic struggles with her identity and with her dreams of becoming a big star as an upcoming wedding threatens to reveal secrets.  This is a good small scale drama that I liked but which I had seen at the start of the festival since 110 films in it ended up being unfairly compared to the rest. Definitely worth a look

Excellent Netflix documentary on the contaminating of our food. 
I really liked this film a great deal. Having had a father who spent 40 years working for the local health department where he was in charge of food and beverage I found the film full of all the stories and warnings he had been telling me all my life.  What I loved was that going into the film with a friend who said that he was certain that because he was a vegan he was not going to have anything to worry about. By the time the film ended he looked a bit green around the gills as he saw the dangers in many of his favorite foods. A great film that is highly recommended.

Sav Rodgers explains how his life was forever changed by the controversial film CHASING AMY. This is a deeply moving story of one man's connection to a piece of art and how that art allowed him to survive and thrive. I really liked the film and its story of how hope for those who feel lost, can be found in unexpected places. Highly recommended.

Meandering tale of a Black woman from New York traveling across Turkey who decides to make a trip to Armenia. True road film, it begins as she arrives and ends when she meets her friend, moves at the speed of life, Whether that clicks for you or not will be determined by whether you fall into the rhythm of the walking woman. I liked the film a great deal but I wished I could have seen it in a theater where I could have been fully focused on the film and not distracted by the things around me.  That's not a problem since getting a future chance to see this on the big screen is something I wholeheartedly am looking forward to.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

You'll Never Find Me (2023) Tribeca 2023


On a dark and stormy night a frighten man hears a knock at the door. It's a young woman who is looking for a ride home. 

An almost stage play between a man and an unexpected guest was  the best of Tribeca's Midnight section this year. While the film isn't perfect it goes the wrong sort of weird in the last 20 minutes, it is for most of its running time a scary nerve wracking  experience as we are never certain what is happening and who is who. It was a film that had the writers I was with grinning at each other when it ended. This was a film that kept us locked and loaded until the end.

The only problem with the film is the last 20 minutes or so which show signs of not knowing how to end. It was an ending that resulted in a wonderful discussion with a filmmaker about what can happen when you don't know how to end something...basically you end up like this.

Ending aside, YOU'LL NEVER FIND ME is a pretty little suspense machine and is recommended.

Open Heart (2023) Tribeca 2023

This is a look at New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It's a look at his life and career and how heart issues changed his life.

If you go into this film looking for just a highlight reel of great hockey moments then you will be disappointed. Yes there are some great hockey sequences, but the truth is this film is actually about a man trying to find his place in the world.  It's a film about a man who was so driven to win that when he couldn't, he wasn't sure what to do.

I loved that this film isn't what I expected. I love that it isn't the greatest hits. I loved that this film was all about a man trying to find inner peace after realizing he never had it when he was striving to be the best at what he did. This is a film about finding out what happens when the circus leaves town without it's star attaction.

I was moved. As much as I hate to say it this film is full of great life lessons for everyone not just over achieving hockey stars. If you can go into the film understanding that you are going to find great things here.


Still even more short pieces on Tribeca Features: CYPHER, RATHER, RON DELSENER PRESENTS


Big winner at this year's Tribeca is a good psuedo-documentary about a rapper who is stalked by an unknown person and gets dropped into the middle of a conspiracy theory. It's a wild and head trippy film that I really liked, despite not being sure that it pulled enough of the story together to fully work. Reservations aside, the act of watching the film for the first time is a fantastic ride and that alone makes it worth seeing even if I'm not sure that I'll need to see it again.

Excellent portrait of the legendary reporter is exactly what you'd expect from a film about the man as made by the director. 
To be honest my original plan was to do a big write up of the film however as the fest went on I delayed writing as I battled to find words for a really good film that did exactly what I thought it would but didn't really leave any room for discussion. Its a great portrait and exactly what you think it is, and nothing beyond that

Watching this film was like reliving the last 50 years of my life because Delsener was the guys who brought everyone to the New York area. A good look at the man and his achievements, it was a walk down memory lane for me.  I'm not sure how this will play in Peoria because they don't know the man, but I suspect the last part of the film when we find out he helped engineer the the mega-mergers of concert promoters and ticketing services are going to piss them off.  While there is no denying he was always in it for a buck, the fact that the guy everyone said was great because it made concerts personal and human, is responsible for the cold faceless entities who control music now is crushing. More so since despite retiring he is still trying to do it his way. A lot of people who saw the film came out after seeing the end saying "you know I used to like him". It's almost as if he killed his own kids.

Loren And Rose (2021)

An up and coming filmmaker details his friendship with an aging actress (Jacqueline Bisset)  over six years and the course of three meals.

If you want action look elsewhere, for while the film has fireworks they are purely of the verbal kind. This is a film that’s more akin to MY DINNER WITH ANDRE as opposed to THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.  In actuality it’s a film that could very easily be turned into a stage play. That isn’t a knock, rather more a statement of the sort of film it is.

Wise and knowing this is a film that is going to delight people who like films with meaty ideas and clever discussions. It’s a film that mirrors any sort of discussion you’ve ever had where you were talking about things other than who was doing what with whom. This is a film where what we are discussing are discussions of life on a deeper level.

The important thing about the film is Bisset who is finally given a role where she is allowed to hold the screen. Fore decades she was given roles where she wasn’t allowed to show how good she was. Yes she was always good, but she was either relegated to a minor role or a named role where she just had to look good. Here she is on screen for most of the film and allowed to tear into things like never before. The result is a performance that will make you realize she was wasted in the past.

If you love good acting or thoughtful films, LOREN AND ROSE is a must

Between The Rains (2023) Tribeca 2023

A coming of age tale set in the Turkana-Ngaremara community of Kenya during a long drought. The film follows a young goat herder as he has to contend with  keeping his herd safe while at the same time going through the rituals of becoming a man.

Great looking film has a story that is messily told. While the film primarily focuses on the young herder the film has other threads as well tha aren't always integrated. For example there is a woman who is supposed to be a kind of fixer to prevent conflicts but all she does is sit in various locations and talk on her cellphone. We don't know how she really ties into anything. Additionally other details are never fully explained with the result we never have a full grasp as to what we are watching. 

Somewhere in the middle I tuned out and simply waited for some ah ha moment that never came. To be certain the film has some great sequences but it doesn't hang together.

A miss.

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily talks about Our Son (2023) Tribeca 2023

Luke Evans plays Nicky with a workhorse attitude that comes off as dismissive and arrogant against Billy Porter’s caregiver grace. This dynamic rings authentic for me as the default parent in my marriage. Porter nails every aspect, from his sing-songy tone of voice with Owen to the hesitancy to speak up for his emotional needs. Seeing myself on screen hit hard. While I’ve not had to go through divorce and custody dynamics, I have had these “come to Jesus” moments with my husband. I’ve been lucky.

Both Evans and Porter give us their all in these roles. Watching them navigate the complexities of an evolving relationship is heartbreaking but universally relatable, regardless of your romantic circumstance. Love is complicated and messy. Christopher Woodley as Owen is outstanding. He captures the boundless curiosity and impressionable innocence of a child his age. Writer-director Bill Oliver and co-writer Peter Nickowitz‘s dialogue could be taken directly from my world as a wife, parent, and friend.

OUR SON greatly benefits from two standout supporting performances. Andrew Rannells‘s sarcastic yet caring presence grounds the relationship between Nicky and Gabriel. He is spectacular in every role he tackles. Phylicia Rashad plays Gabriel’s mother, and the pairing is pure magic.

OUR SON is a story of a family trying to figure out what’s best for their child and each other. The characters are fully fleshed-out flawed humans working their way through ever-changing feelings of emotional security. You cannot help but connect with them through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

FOr more from Liz go to REEL NEWS DAILY

MARINETTE (2023) Tribeca 2023

The story soccer player Marinette Pichon who was so good that she played with the men's  team, before moving on to the Women's National Team and eventually going to America. 

One of the great discoveries of Tribeca, the film was an unexpected joy. I went into the film curious but more with a sense of obligation and came out of the film telling people they should see it.

To be certain the film hits many of the expected notes of a sports bio, but there is enough here, from the difference in the story, to the great performers to the physical filmmaking that it all comes together in order to becomes something special.

I really like this film a great deal and I can't wait to see it again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

SAINT OF SECOND CHANCES (2023) Tribeca 2023

This is the story of Mike Veeck, son of Baseball owner Bill Veeck, whose Disco Demolition  forced his father to have to sell the White Sox. After bumming around for year Mike found redemption in the independent leagues of baseball where his crazy stunts brought in fans and his willingness to give second chances brought some greats back to the game.

Despite having some annoying recreations of Mike's younger life, this is one the great films of 2023. A delightful film about some good people who just want to have a good time.  It's a magical tale that put a big smile on my face and had me talking to everyone afterward about how this was the great unseen film of Tribeca. Why no one was talking about it and why no one seemed to have any interest in it was lost to us. 

This is pure magic. Its a film you put on and just fall into. Its good times with great people and even when it gets emotional, it earns earns every tear.

Highly recommended

Austin Belzer Interviews Everyone at Tribeca 2023 Part One

Because I love Austin's work and because I got a good response when we cross posted the interviews that Austin did for Sundance and SXSW I'm cross posting Austin's Tribeca Interviews.

These are the first ones he's posted at his home AUSTIN B MEDIA and I'm told there will be more. As with everyone I know who covered Tribeca things are running a bit behind because it was all one big wave.

A general note- while I am posting's Austin's festival interviews, he is doing muliple interviews every week on a wide variety of topics so you should be reading and watching his pieces at AUSTIN B MEDIA and perhaps, if you can afford it consider becoming a Patron. It will be good for your soul and your head.

Lastly a big shout out to Austin for letting me grab some of his coverage to share with you. (and he has more Tribeca coverage at his site as well)