Saturday, April 29, 2017


Taking a two sentence horror story and filing in what happens in between (the film opens with the first sentence and closes with the second) TWO SENTENCE HORROR  STORIES is a wonderful little series that is available on the Stage 13 streaming service (information here)

Tribeca screened a killer episode called MA. The story is about a young woman named Mona who lives with her mom. When a new neighbor moves in and attracts  Mona's attention tension rises between mother and daughter.

A scary little film with one killer "oh shit moment" that must be seen.Beautifully acted, directed and written this is horror filmmaking at the highest level possible. Its so good that I am not going to say much about it simply because I don't want to wreck the chills.

If the rest of the series is as good as this film then we have a new classic series on our hands. An absolute must see.

TILT (2017) is a waste of your time- Tribeca 2017 (Contains plot spoilers)

I hate this film.

While it isn't a film that fills me with unbridled loathing, I despise that the film wasted 100 minutes by doing absolutely nothing for almost the entire time.

How the hell did this get picked up by Tribeca?

I'm going to reveal the entire plot and if you don't want to know - just know you don't need to see this and move on. If you want to know read on.

In a men's bathroom in Hawaii  Joseph Burns writes something on a piece of paper and then leaves. Back home Joe and his wife get back into the groove, he works on his political documentary and she works as a nurse. They are expecting their first child, a fact that has rattled them both. Over the net few weeks Joe deteriorates mentally. Constantly checking on the name he wrote in the bathroom he is haunted by the figure of a Japanese tourist with blood on his head. Taken to wandering around at night he almost beats up or kills any number of people. Fearing he is breaking down he tells his wife about her fears but she says it will be okay. Meanwhile the Hawaii police are calling to ask the couple some questions. Finally he breaks and beats a wino to death. After staying out for a day or two he comes home and kills his wife. As he cooks dinner his sister in law shows up with her baby and gives it to Joe- he and his wife were to watch the child for the weekend. The end.

That sounds like its exciting but the vast majority of the film is Joe wandering round not doing anything or watching public domain clips that may or may not have anything to do with the film he is making. Its as dull as dirt. People around me were snoring. Seriously he wanders around the city doing wait he smokes a lot of cigarettes...but ultimately he wanders around and glares.

The film is supposed to be a portrait of a man breaking apart and we are supposed wonder when he's going to break. The problem is that Joe says almost nothing to indicate his mental state. Hell, he says almost nothing at all. The entire clue to his breaking  apart is he puts the hood of his sweatshirt up (except for the one time he gets really pissed and takes it off - but that doesn't work since without its magic power he gets his ass kicked)

When something really happens that might be of interest- his killing the homeless man or his wife- it's largely off screen. Additionally when the film ends with the arrival of the baby the film ends. While I am not suggesting that I would want to see a baby killed, I am suggesting that the film finally has something interesting happen only to roll the credits. While we could guess what happen, we could be wrong since the entire crowd thought the film was going to have something happen in the previous 95 minutes.

Of course the film has other problems.  The biggest problem is that Joe and his wife don't fit together. Why are they together? There is no sense of them being a couple. Worse they don't even seem to be in the same universe. Why she puts up with his crap is beyond me because they don't seem remotely connected- like every other couple in the film does.

And there are plot points that make no sense. Why does she allow his refusal to work?  How did they afford a vacation when Joe gave up his cellphone to cut costs? Doesn't she check their answering machine? Why isn't she worried when her husband is gone for over a day? Of course there are more bits that make son sense  but those arete ones that sprung to mind.

Nothing happens- and when it does it doesn't make any sense.

What a waste of my time.

TILT is 100 minutes of truly lost time I will never get back.

Tribeca ’17: Intent to Destroy

The Armenian Genocide did not suddenly happen. The Ottoman Empire orchestrated the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the Hamidian Massacres of 1894-1896. Carried out without the obscuring benefit of the fog of war, it was essentially an early rehearsal for the genocide conducted by the Young Turks government in 1915. For years, the Turkish government pressured Hollywood to conform to their redacted view of history, but thanks to the financial support of Kirk Kerkorian, Terry George’s The Promise was produced and recently released nationwide. Joe Berlinger documents the behind-the-scenes making of The Promise as well as the ugly business of genocide denial in Intent to Destroy, which screens during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

You will hear Spanish on the set, because Spain was one of the locations selected as a good architectural and topographical double for Turkey, which was automatically considered off limits for shooting, for obvious reasons. George was a logical choice to helm The Promise, because he had previously addressed genocide in the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda. He finally succeeded where others caved-in. Pointedly, Berlinger gives viewers a detailed blow-by-blow of the campaign launched against MGM’s canceled adaptation of Franz Werfel’s Fort Days of Musa Dagh, one of the bestselling novels in translation of the 1930s.

Intent has been uncharitably likened to a making-of DVD extra for The Promise, but that is not entirely fair. Berlinger does indeed chronicle the production of the film, starting with an early public table read, featuring Eric Bogosian and Anna George. However, the doc also incorporates a great deal of historical and cultural context. Indeed, context is exactly what Turkish nationalists and other genocide deniers do not want viewers to have.

Perhaps most enlightening are the sequences that expose the assassination of Hrant Dink, a prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist who directly addressed the Genocide, as well as the lackadaisical prosecution of his murderer. In rather eye-opening segments, Berlinger also lets prominent Genocide Obfuscators (since the object to the term “denier”) a chance to make their case. Arguably, M. Hakan Yavuz takes the cake for most risible argument, suggesting it was Turkish Muslims who suffered most from WWI and its aftermath, because they were so demoralized by the loss of the empire.

Although neither is a masterpiece, The Promise is a pretty good film and Intent to Destroy is a pretty good documentary. While Terry George was the perfect director to helm Promise, Berlinger’s aversion to transparency and his legal battle to keep outtakes from Crude out of the public eye will make him an easy target for deniers looking to discredit Intent. That is a shame, because there could be a narrow window of opportunity for the U.S. government to finally officially recognize the Armenian Genocide after decades of deferring Ankara for geopolitical reasons. Given Erdogan’s continued tilt towards Iran and his recent blatant power grab, would it really be so bad if American reversed course? It would certainly cost him serious face.

Regardless, Intent is definitely more than EPK stuff for The Promise. There is quite a bit of fascinating history and timely exposures of human rights violations. Recommended for general audiences, Intent to Destroy screens again this afternoon (4/29) at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival—and also today and this coming Friday (5/5) at Hot Docs up north.

Chuck (2017) Tribeca 2017

Liev Schrieber  stars as Chuck Wepner, the Bayonne Bleeder who was the inspiration for Rocky Balboa.

Charting the course of Wepner's life as it connects to the Rocky films the film shows the ups and downs of his life and the struggles he had within himself to try and find peace.

An enjoyable film CHUCK is a nice portrait of a nice guy. The film is less concerned with facts the film is more a psychological portrait of the man. Those looking for the whole story will be disappointed since things like Wepner's eventual lawsuit concerning Rocky is never touched on. Also some details are rearranged or changed. Ah the joys of the movies biopics.

For me,  long time boxing fan, I was entertained. It was more than I had hoped for.

To be honest the film has the feel of a film that was supposed to be longer. Plot threads come and go. Details seem to be missing. Its not fatal but it hurts.

Reservations aside definitely worth a look see.

Devils's Gate (2017) Tribeca 2017

The only film at Tribeca that could be called a Midnight film (the section it is part of) DEVIL'S GATE is a grand old monster on the loose story (of a sort) that is worth a bucket of popcorn.

The plot of the film has an FBI agent called to a small town in order to investigate the  disappearance of woman and her son. They were supposed to have gone to her sisters house but they never arrived. Hooking up with a sheriff's deputy they show up at the woman's house to find that there are deadly traps in the yard and the doors and windows are barricaded. Once the husband appears things begin to escalate and it isn't long before he's in handcuffs and the officers are wondering what is going on and what is the thing in the basement.

To be honest I like this film  but I'll be the first to admit the film has problems. Well made and probably wildly over produced film moves like a frieght train for much of it's running time. If you can click into it's weird mind set it's a great deal of fun

The problem is the film has lots of problems. Full of WTF moments and odd twists the film really doesn't make sense. Part of the problem is the time frame doesn't add up. Things happen either too quickly or too slowly depending on the need of the  story. The house had all it's protections put into place in a couple of days despite it all looking weathered. The denouncement makes no sense and leaves you asking lots of questions. Even I who was long for the ride can't over look them any more than I can over look the flaws of classic bad films.

 I like the film and recommend it if you like flawed weird ass monster films.

Friday, April 28, 2017


I am behind in writing. I  personally have seen over 80 Tribeca film and events so its little wonder that last night I was in bed by 10:10pm.  I have pictures from Ariela and Unseen's friend Sam Juliano to get up, longer reviews to write, shorts to catch up on and a best of the fest report to do. (I also have 2 non-tribeca films to watch and review)

Today I got to hang with JB for a bit and I saw five films.....

YEAR OF THE SCAB is another ESPN 30 for 30 about the NFL scab games.  This is a very good film that I wish was a bit longer. There was more that they could have covered. It also has one hell of a moving final half hour as the last game is played and the guys move on. Recommended.

THE TRIP TO SPAIN was described by JB as more of the same.  He is dead on right about that, which means if you love Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and their trips around Europe then you're going to love this. If you hated the others you wouldn't have ever gone in the theater so no loss. While I wasn't as taken with the film as much as the woman who sat behind and laughed from first frame to last without taking a breath, I enjoyed it.

PARIS CAN WAIT is based on a trip director Eleanor Coppola took from Cannes to Paris with a friend of her family. While the script was written a while ago she only recently decided to make the film with the result that at 81 she made her narrative debut. The film stars Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard as the travelers and Alec Baldwin as her husband. An instantly forgettable trifle PARIS CAN WAIT will either thrill you or make you want to gnaw your leg off (I've heard it called one of Tribeca's best and its worst). I won't even suggest what your reaction willto be other than to say its a trifle. (Ariela may or may not do a longer review)

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT is a giant ball of nostalgia. Having come of age listening to WLIR part of me was in heaven. A dual mix of a portrait of the radio station and New Wave music the film has a lot going for it. I'll have a longer review coming or if I can manage it Randi will. Randi was a lover of the station so she should be the one to write this up. Watch this space.

TILT is a waste. Essentially the story of a man on the edge, nothing really happens on screen for 90 minutes- it almost does- it's not until about 90 minutes in that it does something before suddenly ending. An absolute waste of time. I will be saying rude things about the film in a longer review

And now time for bed- the last trip to the fest is tomorrow and I have to be out the door at 630am

Pilgrimage (2017) Tribeca 2017

In 1209 AD needing a relic that may help turn the tide in the war against it, the Catholic Church sends a Cistercian priest  to a monastery on the West coast of Ireland to collect it's most holy relic. Accompanied by a group of monks the priest takes the relic and heads off. However things get complicated as the warring factions in Ireland attempt to take possession.

Thoughtful and thought provoking adventure film PILGRIMAGE ponders the varieties of religious experience and belief. What does one's faith make one do? Is belief simply a means to an end? Is there a god? Is it possible to have a pure heart? All are explored, often with out any real answer. Indeed the lack of answers is summed up by the final haunting line, "Where to now?" There is no answer but the question will haunt you for a long time after the credits roll.

If you don't like the questions that are quietly being asked there is always the adventure. The slow trek across the country side is full of dangers, not all of them apparent. A bloody, violent affair where sudden death can come at any instant and in the most horrible way (one man's entrails are pulled out of him while he watches) this film is very much into showing it like it was. In a weird way the film is a brother to the film BLACK ROBE from several years back with its realistic portrayal of a priest traveling to a far out outpost.

After the screening I had a couple of conversations with people who didn't like the film as much as myself. Some had problems with the odd split between action and intellect. It simply didn't match up the way it should. Others didn't like it for technical reasons, the cinematography wasn't lush enough or there was a burp here or there. In most cases people said effectively they didn't like the film because it didn't do what they wanted. I understand that but at the same time they aren't the filmmakers and we have to accept the film on it's own terms.  I think on it's own terms it works beautifully.

While not the best of the fest the film is a really good one that I hope to visit again soon.

Super Dark Times (2017) Tribeca 2017

Dark moody film about two friends in love with the same girl who find their friendship and lives unraveling in the face of a tragic accident is not for all tastes.

Set two decades ago and looking like a film made after repeated viewings of Donnie Darko this film, about lost innocence and the messed up things we do to ourselves has style to burn. A gorgeous looking film the images instantly evoke a mood and are pretty much the sort of thing that you'd want to hang on the wall. Clearly director Kevin Philips knows how to shoot a film and assemble it for maximum effect.

The trouble is script isn't quite as clever as it should be and it begins to unravel if you look to closely. I was so bothered by the script that I ended up taking copious notes about all the odd things contained in the dialog. From lines that sound really cool to the point of being quotable, but which serve no real purpose, to Josh and Zach saying things to each other that no life long friends would ever say to each other, to Josh's lines often coming in from another movie, the dialog just never felt real. (Josh's character never worked for me since he felt like a construct for effect not a person)

Actually much of the film doesn't feel real as is illustrated by a group of friends going to the local bridge which is closed. The discussion is framed to suggest its been closed for years or something they just stumbled upon- but since it's in their town we are left to wonder why don't they know the reason. More to the point if it was closed for any length of time why is there just a couple of signs? It makes no sense. There are several other moments like this, where things are referenced that the characters should know about but don't seem to simply because it would change the film or prevent a moment of "deep meaning".

And while I shouldn't have been dwelling on odd moments like that there was nothing in the scenes prior to draw me into the film.

I never really cared.

Tribeca 2017 ENDLESS (2017)

ENDLESS was a film that everyone who had seen it had warned me to be wary of. The film they said worked for most of it's running time but collapsed in the final third as things went loopy.  Normally I would have taken the advice but the description as a modern take on HP Lovecraft was too much to pass up.

The plot of the film has two brothers who aren't happy and barely employed returning to the "UFO death cult" they grew up in in order to say goodbye after they are mailed a videotape message. They aren't sure what will happen when they get there but they go anyway. Once there they are welcomed which kind of surprises them. While the cult isn't happy they are forgiving, as is, it seems, their god an unknown thing living in the woods. The return to the camp begins to set the brothers against each other as one decides maybe they shouldn't have left after all.

Odd ball film makes zero sense even on it's own loopy terms. What the film says is going on makes so little sense that if you try to line it up your brain will explode. Rules are broken left and right to the point that the more you think about it the worse it seems- I could explain the basic lot to you, which would be fine, but the details are such bullshit the film implodes the more you think about it.

In a weird way I like the film. As long as I see it as a story about the two brothers I'm fine with it. The one thing the film has that works is the characters. But as soon as you see it as a horror/science fiction/fantasy film (that is no way scary) the film crumbles because it's so badly written.

To be honest everyone who hates the final third is right in doing so. While we still have characters and moments the actual explanation is, as I've said bullshit.

The choice to see this film is yours.

The King’s Case Note: King Yejong Investigates

Even during the Joseon Dynasty, trouble came from the north. A conspiracy of court officials eager to protect their power and privilege will foment and exploit northern unrest, but the king is unusually learned and assertive. Of course, that is exactly why they started plotting against him in the first place. It will be king versus court in Moon Hyun-sung’s The King’s Case Note, which opens today in Los Angeles.

This will be pie-faced Yoon Yi-seo’s first day as a court historian chronicling King Yejong’s wise rule. After passing the civil service exam with the highest score, Yoon assumed such a position would be an honor, until he meets the King. His Majesty likes to keep officials on their toes, Yoon most definitely included. However, Yoon comes to respect the loose cannon precisely because of the enemies he has earned.

Northern official Nam Gun-hee is definitely one of them. Following a keep-your-enemies-close strategy, the King has just appointed him defense minister. Unfortunately, Nam’s men will still cause all sorts of chaos through rumors, especially after they kidnap the King’s popular adolescent nephew and inevitable rival for the throne, Prince Jaseong. There are also reports of a mysterious “ghost fish” sea monster wreaking havoc in northern rivers. However, the coup-plotters misunderestimate the King’s deductive skills and early forensic investigational techniques.

Although billed as a comedy, it is really the intrigue that drives Case Note. Granted, the King constantly hits poor sad sack Yoon over the head with whatever might be handy, but it is far less shticky and slapstick than a lot of Korean comedy imports (that generally play awkwardly for American audiences). Instead, Case Note is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of Joseon skullduggery.

Slightly playing against type, Lee Sun-kyun (the roguishly corrupt cop in A Hard Day) is electrically charismatic as the stubbornly virtuous king. As his Watson and Boswell, Ahn Jae-hong provides the comic relief without going excessively over the top. Jung Hae-in shows off some impressive action chops as the King’s nick-of-time bodyguard, Black Cloud. However, Kim Hee-won might be too understated as devious Nam.

Shrewdly, Moon plays down the Scooby Doo elements in favor of courtly machinations and betrayals. The result is just a lot of fun. The film also comes at a time when it will resonate with a lot Americans, due to its portrayal of a maverick head of state sabotaged by featherbedding civil service bureaucrats. Highly recommended for fans of historical mysteries and thrillers, The King’s Case Note opens today (4/28) in the O.C. at the Buena Park CGV Cinemas.

Dabka (2017) Tribeca 2017

Fact based film concerns Jay Bahadur who is wannabe writer who takes the advice of one of his favorite journalists (Al Pacino) to go somewhere no one else would go to and flies off to Somalia in order to find out the true story behind the pirates. Once there he makes a name for himself by actually getting the warlords and other people to talk to him,

This is an uneven film that  gets much better as it goes on. The problem with the film is that the man at the center Bahadur comes off as either bland or a bit of a jerk for a good part of the film. I haven't figured out if the problem is the script  or the performance but it's not hard to believe that Bahadur wasn't getting anywhere in his life was because he was an idiot, not finishing school and not having any good ideas.Its probably not until we're a third of the way in that we actually begin to like him. Whether the real Bahadur is this way or not its miscalculation on the part of the filmmakers, since it takes too long to really warm to the film.

I do blame the script for some poor moments, The opening narration which makes fun of itself is awful. As is the fact that everyone Bahadur hangs with at home are jerks. You kind wish something bad would happen to them. The film also ends as awkwardly as it begins with polemic speechifying and it is just gawd awful. Worse it is completely out of place

That said the performances other than Evan Peters are fine. The film also makes the case for Oscar Nominee Barkhad Abdi to get more film roles. He grabs the screen and holds it and limiting him to roles like this is a waste of his talent. He deserves more roles, even starring ones.

Bumps aside I really like the film, I just wish I the script were better because when the film works its great.

A word of warning if you're looking for an Al Pacino film look elsewhere. While he devours the scenery, he is only in about four scenes. Melanie Griffith, who plays Bahadur's mom, has about four scenes as well.

Small Crimes: E.L. Katz’s New Film on Netflix

Joe Denton is not the slightest bit remorseful, but he sure is sorry. Formerly a corrupt cop, the recently released ex-con has caused a lot of trouble for people close to him. However, the truth of the incident he did time for is even worse than people think. Unfortunately for Denton and his prospects for a straight life, the gangster who ordered it all might be considering turning deathbed stool pigeon in E.L. Katz’s Small Crimes, which debuts on Netflix today.

Denton might have conned the parole board, but his long-suffering parents doubt whether he has truly reformed—not that they will see much of him after his release. Having survived a random, small-time set-up (awkwardly orchestrated by the wayward daughter of Phil Coakley, a prosecutor literally scarred by Denton’s misadventures), the ex-cop gets a good talking-to from his ex-partner, Lt. Pleasant, who isn’t. Vassey, the gangster who ordered the disastrous hit-job Denton claimed was self-defense, has been having long conversations with Coakley. Pleasant insists Denton must kill Vassey or potentially suffer the consequences.

However, getting close enough to Vassey will be difficult, thanks to the interference of his psychotic son Junior and the diligent care of his nurse, Charlotte Boyd. Denton starts romancing her for strategic reasons, but finds himself genuinely attracted to Boyd, which complicates matters even further.

Small Crimes is an insidiously clever one-darned-thing-after-another crime thriller, featuring a veritable who’s who of genre cult favorites in its supporting cast. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (from Game of Thrones) is absolutely terrific as Denton. He has such disheveled sad sack charm, you lose track of how truly degenerate he is, until the totality of his jerkweedness comes back to roost down the stretch. He also develops some surprisingly subtle and mature chemistry with Molly Parker’s Boyd.

Co-screenwriter Macon Blair (screenwriter and star of Blue Ruin) adds color and poignancy as Scotty, the oblivious brother of the best friend Denton kind of, sort of killed, while Pat Healy does his thing as the sadistic Junior. Larry Fessenden adds further genre cred in a small but appropriately sleazy role. However, nobody upstages or in any way steps in the light of Gary Cole’s entertainingly evil Lt. Pleasant.

Small Crimes is old school all the way. Its characters exist in a world where evil prospers because it is more fun. Katz keeps the noir badness lean and mean, with credit also due to the tight work of frequent horror movie editor (and sometimes actor) Josh Ethier. If you want to enjoy some skullduggery without any tiresome teaching moments, this is your cup of spiked tea. Enthusiastically recommended for hardboiled fans, Small Crimes is now streaming on Netflix.


Lots of movies, talking to the volunteers, making jokes with JB and Hubert and a mad dash home to write today:

Sebastian Junger's history of the Syrian civil war and the rise of Isis is a very good primer on the whole situation. Filled with video of the conflict you will feel as if you are there. I will need to see this again before I can do a full review.

Fly on the wall look at the noted dancer as she leaves Israel to return to the US and begin a new phase of her career. How you react will depend on how much you care about or can connect with Jene. I never connected and after about twenty minutes my attention wandered. Your mileage may vary, but personally I never cared (And I'm left scratching my head how this won multiple awards at the festival when so many other films are soooo much better)

Extremely up to date (it mentions things than happened last month) look at the coal industry and how the use of coal is polluting the environment.

A confused and confusing film, FROM THE ASHES  suffers from coming on the heals of several other recent films on the coal industry. The problem is that the film is cut in such away that there are times where we really can't be sure where the film stands on coal. While its admirable that the film makes it clear that there are no easy answers I was left feeling I wasn't sure what the filmmakers wanted me to feel.

New girl in high school is an undercover cop and her relationship with the local drug kingpin becomes complicated. Good little crime film isn't anything we haven't seen before. Entertaining but unremarkable its worth a look in an undemanding mood.

Slow to get going boing film has an ex-con returning home after 17 years to find it's hard to get work. He has a shot at a payday thanks to an Italian boxing champ who notices his talent. Good but unremarkable film suffers from bouncing between the two main characters to the point where we never really get a handle on either man. I was half way into the film when I realized I still wan't sure who anyone really was as a character. Yea things moved along but I never connected.

A full review is coming- but this latest film is very often director Sabu at his most amazing- and deliberate. The plot has a Taiwanese hit man getting stranded in Japan after a hit goes wrong. Unable to get back home he takes refuge in a run home and makes friends of the locals who love his cooking. If you've seen any of Sabu's other films you know to expect the unexpected. A violent, charming and moving film this is a fil for anyone who wants something unexpected and wonderful.
I have much to say so as I said at the top expect a full review.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ariela discusses whether you should have PERMISSION (2017) Tribeca 2017

Anna and Will have been together for years. They are madly in love and Will is thinking of proposing. They have both never been with anyone else. At Anna's birthday party, her brother's boyfriend says they should sleep with other people before deciding they want to be with eachother forever. They laugh it off, but then they(or rather mostly Anna) suggests maybe they really should give it a try. That they know they love each other so what's the big deal? Will says "do we have an open relationship?" She says "the relationship isn't open!"

There is also a second story within the film. Anna's brother wants to adopt but his boyfriend isn't so interested. I think I might have liked this part of the story more.

What happens when you mess with a perfect relationship? There really are only two possibilities. I won't spoil it though.

I would say skip it. The film wasn't bad, but I think the story itself just annoyed me.

A Gray State (2017) Tribeca 2017

David Crowley is considered a martyr in the eyes of the anti-government movement of the far right and lunatic fringe where people like Alex Jones dwell. Crowley was trying to make a film called THE GRAY STATE about the coming of the New World Order and creation of a tyrannical state in America that will crush all our rights. After shooting a trailer Crowley kickstarted enough money to fund writing the script which he then began to shop around Hollywood. Unfortunately sometime around Christmas 2014 Crowley and his family were found shot to death in their home. The conspiracy theorists said it was because he knew too much but there may have been something simpler and sadder at work here.

Twisty film is one that needs to be seen to the end in order to get it's full effect. Beginning as a portrait of Crowley as he makes the trailer the film seems to be angling to be about a conspiracy theorist who was killed to be silenced. However at a certain point the film pulls the rug out from under us and we begin to piece together what really happened.

This is not a portrait of a conspiracy but a very troubled young man who fought one too many battles. It is the sad story of a man needing help who didn't get it. We watch as the conspiracy theorists ponder what "all" the clues mean while at the same time director Erik Nelson quietly lays out everything in such away that we realize what was going on was something else. All we need do is see some of the videos that Crowley shot when he was alone or listen to the odd audio recordings to realize that he could do bad all on his own. As several of Crowley's friends say on camera this is the only way that makes any sense once you really see everything. Even the picture above-the flow chart of THE GRAY STATE is a clue that provides an "ah ha" moment.

To be honest I was deeply bothered by this film. THE GRAY STATE is a film that speaks volumes about  things from conspiracy theory, to the effects of war on soldiers, to on line life, to filmmaking, to mental illness and death. Watching the film I was spun around so much that when I left the theater I didn't walk so much as stagger. I wasn't sure what the hell I just saw but I knew I wanted to see it again so I'd be able to really piece it together.

A definite must see who loves documentaries, true crime stories or just a really good film

Ariela says KEEP THE CHANGE (2017) Tribeca 2017

Keep the Change is a different movie than one I'm used to. The film centers around a group of people with autism (played by non professional actors who have autism). The films main stars are David(who actually sat two seats away from me at the screening), and Sarah.

David has to go to a autistic community group after telling an inappropriate joke to a cop about a pig. He is more functioning than some of the others, and feels he doesn't need to be there. During one of the lessons he is grouped with Sarah. The group leaders instructs them to go to the Brooklyn Bridge together (to which David makes a joke about jumping off the bridge). At first David seems annoyed and doesn't want to be bothered by Sarah, but their relationship winds up growing and blossoming.

I think because this is an area I am unfamiliar with, some of the lines that the audience laughed at, I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to laugh at or not. Some scenes such as them kissing felt awkward for me.

Keep the Change is sweet and funny and honest. Sarah especially is very open with how she expresses herself, which was impressive. She always said what was on her mind(which wasn't always a good thing!)

I don't think there are many movies that show romance in this world so it was nice to be exposed to it. To see that even though people are different and may have a disability that they still have the desire and ability to love.

I recommend it!

Dog Years (2017) Tribeca 2017

I was sick the day DOG YEARS was shown during the pre-Tribeca press screenings. Immediately afterward and in the days that followed I was told about how the film laid out the press corps and how many people were saying it was best of the fest. I would have to wait until after the world premiere screening to see it and form my own ideas.

The plot of the film has Burt Reynolds, playing essentially himself. He is a faded star who is notified that a film festival in Nashville is going to be awarding him a Lifetime Achievement Award. If he wants to come he would get first class treatment. Mourning the death of his dog and trying to come to terms with his own mortality he flies out to find his first class accommodations are not as promised and the festival is being held in the backroom of a bar. Wanting to head home he instead forces his driver, Lil, the sister of the festival organizer, to make a turn on the way to the airport and he ends up going down memory lane.

A melancholy comedy drama DOG YEARS gives Burt Reynolds the best role he's had in maybe two decades. A stunning piece of acting, the role shows just how good a performer he is and makes you wonder what would have happened if he had done less comedies and more dramas, It is conceivable (though probably unlikely) that a wave of nostalgia could put Reynolds back in the running for an Oscar. (Yes he really is that good)

Outside of Reynolds the film is an odd mix. A rambling film that picks up and drops plot threads at random the film never gets enough narrative traction to be truly great, despite having great things in it. Watching the film I was frustrated by the way the film would go off on an odd tangents at the drop of a hat or simply not finish one thing before picking up another one.

The thing that shows off the random nature is the one thread that I'm sure lays everyone out, mostly because it had me crying as well, That is the the thread involving Reynolds going to visit to his first wife. The series of scenes, probably the best in the film, seem to be inserted at random in the film. The sequences when looked at in context of the film, especially that last one in the sequence, seem not to belong. While ultimately they are the  point of the whole film, they don't really feel connected to it,  I'd say cut them but they are the scenes you remember.

I blame writer director Adam Rifkin who only occasionally seems to stage sequences  that they feel real instead of feeling like we're on a soundstage. I'm not sure why he chose some of the shots he did or why he positioned Reynolds as he was in many scenes, it seems its like Burt sat down and Rifkin just shot around him.. Was it a clash of star and director or was it just a poor choice. I'm not sure but there are times the film looks like a film that's a middle of the road director to home video release instead of a film where it's star could be hunting Oscar gold.

While I have a lot of problems with the film (its not even close to the best of the fest) I do like the film. I like it because Burt gives a performance for the ages, and I liked it because Ariel Winter as his reluctant driver Lil shines everytime she's on screen.  She is also is Reynold's equal which bodes a very long career if she wants it. I also like the fact that this very messy film has three or four scenes that in combination rip your heart out.

Strong reservations aside DOG YEARS is a must see for Burt Reynolds- and worth a shot for everything else

Get Me Roger Stone (2017) Tribeca 2017

While you have to admire Roger Stone's balls at the things he's done, he is ultimately a charming dick who will make his greatest contribution to mankind when he finally shuffles off this mortal coil. Don't get me wrong I like the son of a bitch but my love for America and mankind in general makes me realize that we'd be better off if he never started with his dirty tricks.

Ultimately its a matter of emotionally I like him but intellectually I want to punch him in the face.

Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, and Morgan Pehme's GET ME ROGER STONE is the Roger Stone story, largely in his own words comes . In its way its a vitally important document, it shines a light on a man who has shaped American politics for the last 40 years.  Stone rose to prominence when he was was named as being one of the Watergate conspirators. Stone's role was minor but being named gave him cache which he turned into life that altered the way politics are conducted in America.

In the film Stone is a silver haired devil. Literally. Sitting drinking fine alcohol, smoking big cigars while sitting in finely tailored suits with suspenders he looks very much like the movies depiction of Satan.  Add to it the fact that Stone speaks so charmingly,  and so honestly (he admits he has no morals because all he wants is money) you kind of will begin to think he is straight from hell.

It is as good a look at Stone as we are ever likely to see where he is involved with it. A warts and all examination of the man this film lays it all out so that we can really understand the damage the man is doing as part of Trump's inner circle. And when I do mean warts and all I do mean it since we get to see all of his missteps, including his infamous sex scandal. Not that any of it really matters because Stone has survived it all.

One of the small gems of information in the film, and something I kind of wish had been dealt with a bit more, is the fact that some of Stone's triumphs may not have been quite what he sells them as. Going back to Watergate and onward there are several times where Stone increased his reputation by inflating the way things really happened. He simply took credit for things that no one wanted to go near.

Another reason that this film is important is because it shows us not only Stone, but many other people connected to him, a good number of which ended up working with Donald Trump either in his campaign or in the White House. The film really lets us know who they are and why they are dangerous- they really don't give a rat's ass about anything other than making more money.

While I like the film a great deal the film kind of runs out of  steam in the final third. This is not the filmmaker's fault, the story simply slows to a crawl. Once we get to about the time of the recent presidential election there we're pretty much run out of revelations regarding Stone. While there is no doubt he was farting around behind the scenes of recent events, Stone's smoke and mirrors act hits the high gear and he clams up. Because things were still playing out as the film was being made Stone smartly controls his statements as a result what we see just becomes more of the same from the previous hour.(Basically he is waiting for things to shake out so he doesn't say anything to get himself into trouble and he's waiting to find a juicy tidbit he can take credit for doing)

A vital and important film- the film is must see.

Manifesto- The feature film version (2017) Tribeca (2017)

This is the feature film version of Julian Rosefeldt's art installation of the same name. I saw the installation back in January when it was at the Park Avenue Armory (My review is here). The films rocked my world.

The feature film version takes the 13 films that all played simultaneously in the drill hall and cut them together as one film. Where the presentation in the drill hall allowed us to wander in and out of the 13 parts, the feature film controls our view. Several of them are intercut, words that were spoken in some sequences by the n screen Cate Blanchett are now heard in voice over. The approximately two and a quarter hour installation is cut to  just over an hour and a half.

The film does not have a narrative as such. The film is a series of vignettes that are strung together by the 14 Blanchette characters speaking the words of 50 artistic manifestos strung together. The effect is a commentary on manifestos and a creation of a new one. This is a giant head game that makes you think and feel and ponder.

Some people are going to hate this others will be like me and be delighted.

Yes this has a series of stellar Blanchett performances, which will be enough for some. For me I love the head games. I love how things are repurposed and rethought. I love how it forced me to think about what I was seeing and hearing.

What I loved about the film was that it is a different experience than the installation. Where in the Armory people were afraid to laugh, the audience in the press screening filled the theater with laughter in all the right spots. Better yet the recutting of the shorts so they are intercut allows for the humor of some sequences to be intensified. For example the dinner prayer which kind of laid there in the installation brought gales of laughter each time it returned.

What does it all mean? Nothing and everything. This is a film that makes the manifestos live again as it removes the piss and vinegar from them

I loved this and I can't wait to see it again.

Will you like it?

I have no idea. This is a one of a kind film with a great piece of acting at it's core. If the film weren't so quirky I'd say Blanchett is in the running for the Oscar. If you are adventurous or love heady stuff this is a must. If you aren't the choice is yours. Personally I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try it.

Ariela on THE LAST ANIMALS (2017) Tribeca 2017

The Last Animals is a documentary about elephant and rhino poaching. This is actually a topic I am very passionate about. I went to Kenya a few years ago to "meet" the last three remaining Northern white rhinos in the world who reside at Ol Pejeta Conservatory. I wanted the chance to meet them before there was no longer that chance.

Director Kate Brooks, who is a former war photographer, started the documentary to document the link between ivory and terrorism but when she found out about rhino horns, she had to include that too.

Poachers kill elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns, as there is a myth that their horns have medicinal purposes. During the filming of this documentary, 100,000 elephants were killed and 50,000 rhinos. They estimate 96 elephants are killed a day. It's truly heartbreaking.

There used to be millions of Northern white rhinos in the world, now there are 3. There is a very good chance this species will go extinct. They brought the rhinos from a zoo in Europe to Kenya so that they would be in their natural habitat. It was their first time seeing grass or playing in mud. They tried to breed them but sadly had no luck.

The rangers are really heroes. They know that a bullet is possible and they risk their lives for these animals. They know their is a chance they can be injured or killed. Over 1,000 Rangers were killed in the last 20 years.

Many of the people involved in poaching are also involved in exporting narcotics and human trafficking. It's a very sick business and extremely corrupt. One man was arrested after they found a facility with Ivory. Within 24 hours, the facility was demolished.

It's awful what greed can do to people. Destroy these beautiful animals. I can't imagine growing up in a world without elephants and rhinos. This film made my heart so heavy. For hours after. I am glad there are some people fighting to save these animals, but we need more. This documentary really shows the urgency. Time is running out.

This documentary is a must see.

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