Sunday, April 30, 2017

THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER AND ISTITUTO LUCE CINECITTÀ ANNOUNCE COMPLETE LINEUP FOR THE 17TH EDITION OF OPEN ROADS: NEW ITALIAN CINEMA, JUNE 1-7

Opening Night selection is Edoardo De Angelis’s Indivisible

14-film festival features eight North American and six New York premieres

New York, NY (April 28, 2017) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà announce the complete lineup for the 17th edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, June 1-7.

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema offers North American audiences a diverse and extensive lineup of contemporary Italian films. This year’s edition again strikes a balance between emerging talents and esteemed veterans, commercial and independent fare, outrageous comedies, gripping dramas, and captivating documentaries, with in-person appearances by many of the filmmakers.

The Opening Night selection is the New York premiere of Edoardo De Angelis’s Indivisible, a captivating feature about talented conjoined twins whose dreams for their futures start to diverge around their eighteenth birthday. This year’s edition showcases 13 additional titles, all North American or New York premieres, including At War with Love, acclaimed Italian TV personality Pierfrancesco Diliberto’s World War II–set satire; Federica Di Giacomo’s exorcism documentary Deliver, which won the Orizzonti Prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival; Marco Tullio Giordana’s Two Soldiers, the last in his popular organized crime trilogy; and The War of the Yokels, Davide Barletti & Lorenzo Conte’s fable about a society at war—cast almost completely with children.

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema is co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Organized by Dennis Lim and Dan Sullivan, Film Society; and by Carla Cattani, Griselda Guerrasio, and Monique Catalino, Istituto Luce Cinecittà.

Acknowledgments:
Italian Trade Commission; Italian Cultural Institute New York; Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò—NYU; Antonio Monda

Tickets for Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and our upcoming Marcello Mastroianni retrospective, Il Bello Marcello, go on sale May 4, with Film Society members receiving an early access period beginning May 2. Tickets are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or Open Roads Access Pass. Learn more at filmlinc.org.

Films & Descriptions

Tribeca 2017 Quotes

Every year I do a post that is a collection of quotes from Tribeca films. This is more for my amusement rather than anything else. Some of them may mean something to you, some may not. Many are are non sequiturish as they seem cut from the film.

CHUCK is a great film about a mobster from Brooklyn in the late 70's named Chuck Wetner who fought a bear. - a critic talking to other critics about films she loved and seemingly completely misunderstood (and she really said Wetner)

If it were 1% more humid we'd all drown - 1% MORE HUMID

It was a cosmic mistake that we got his file- first spoken line in BUSTER'S MAL HEART

Once you've seen the inside of the Machine, they don't let you leave - BUSTER'S MAL HEART

If you sell a painting for 150 million dollars you no longer see the art but the value - BLURRED LINES

Thank you for not killing me - DABKA

You always said you couldn't kill anyone unless they did something terrible to to one of your kids- what are you going to do now? - son to his mother after killing his sister in THE FAMILY I HAD

You know Kirk Douglas is a Jew with a jaw like that - SHIVA

Half Jewish half gluten free- woman describing a half Jewish guy she is trying to pick up in SHIVA

The German's lost the war but won the fashion show - Gilbert

You don't go to Florida on purpose, it's a death sentence - SWEET VIRGINIA

The devil lied to me - THE LAST ANIMALS

Bowl. We are in a bowling alley-Bowl-otherwise you look like a child molester with those shoes - LITERALLY RIGHT BEFORE AARON

I can't tell if you're charming or if you're an asshole- LITERALLY RIGHT BEFORE AARON

The sinister Forrest Gump- Jeffrey Toobin describing Roger Stone GET ME ROGER STONE

Politics is show business for ugly people - GET ME ROGER STONE

(he's) Just a guy I was obsessed with hen I was messed up on Lithium, thorazine and PCP - ENDLESS

You mess up everything. But you're family and that's what people do - ENDLESS

I am smiling against my will so that the children aren't scared -HELL ON EARTH

(as everyone begins to take a shine to Mr Long he asks his small friend)
Why is all this happening?
Because you act cool and don't say anything -MR LONG

When she said she makes chizo that looks like her grandmother does it mean she looks like this? - TRIP TO SPAIN

And I will show you my collection of PG Wodehouse first editions -THE EXCEPTION

We are not normal, we're Americans - NO MAN'S LAND

They are speaking of how terrible things are while eating good food, carrying expensive weapons and driving fancy trucks - NO MAN'S LAND

The Glen Keane/Kobe Bryant talk at Tribeca 2017

I find I can't do the talk Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant had last weekend justice. It was simply something special yu would be better off taking an hour and just seeing it.

To that end Cartoon Brew has posted the talk which can be found here.

In Brief: ELLA BRENNAN: COMMANDING THE TABLE (2016)

Leslie Iwerks portrait of Ella Brennan is going to make you're mouth water. This is a history of not only Brennan, her family and their restaurants but also the history of food in New Orleans and ultimately America

What can I say Ella Brennan and her family changed how America eats. The woman who gave Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, Tory McPhail and their start also. came up with methods of serving have slowly been creeping into restaurants around the country. Its the portrait of  a woman who knew what she wanted and managed to get it and more, by having an excellent palate and by working with a wonderful staff.

You'll forgive my lack of description or even the lack of criticism but some films just kind of transcend that. You know those special films you run across where you really can't say much about them other than tell everyone you know that they should be running out and seeing them.ELLA BRENNAN is one of those films.  Its a really good film about an intriguing woman that is going to make you want to go out and go to a really good restaurant. Half an hour in I wanted to make a trip to New Orleans to go to one of her restaurants- and I'm not a foodie- I don't go to eat for the hell of it

I don't know what else to say other than see it.

The film plays on Netflix starting May 1 and will play theatrically later in the month.

Ariela's DABKA World Premiere pictures Tribeca 2017

Ariela attended the world premiere of DABKA at Tribeca and sent in these photos


Kiani Madani, one of the producers, Jay Bahadur (the subject of the film and writer of the book), Bryan Buckley (director), Barkhad Abdi & Evan Peters




Bryan Buckley, Barkhad Abdi, Evan Peters

Sam Juliano's Tribeca pictures

Good friend of Unseen Films Sam Juliano sent me some pictures from his time in the Tribeca trenches

The director of THE DEPARTURE  Lana Wiilson and the film's subject Ittetsu Nemoto

NEWTON's director Amit Mansurka

From TRUE CONVICTION - Steven Meltzer,  Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey and director Jamie Meltzer

The cast and crew of DOG YEARS that's Burt Reynolds with the glasses and Ariel Winter to the right
Sam's full reporting can be found at his own home on the web WONDERS IN THE DARK.

And a huge thank you to Sam with whom I have been carrying on an running internet conversation about the festival since pre screenings started.

Tribeca 2017 does Art: SHADOW MAN and BLURRED LINES: INSIDE THE ART WORLD

During the pre-festival screenings Tribeca scheduled a double feature a of art related films. Here are my thoughts

SHADOWMAN
Richard Hambleton was once considered the very top of the art world in the late 70’s and early 1980’s above even poster boys Keith Harring and Basquiat. His Shadow men portraits across New York were the precursor to Banksy. Hambleton was all set to become a superstar- but his erratic behavior intensified by his drug addiction brought it all crashing down.

Uneven portrait of Hambleton is a mix of glorious art (I love his shadows and landscapes) and frustrating madness. The problem is that Hambleton for all is talent is an a prickly pear of a person (and that’s being kind). An SOB who follows his muse wherever it leads he runs rough shod over anyone who comes near him- all the while turning out art of the sort that makes you think he is divinely inspired. However he’s such a pain that you want to hit him.

Amazingly the film seems to be aiming toward an ending that says that Hambleton has died, but despite being an addict and having health problems (including a cancer that is eating away his face) he is still chugging along.

Give director Oren Jacoby points for making a film about a surly son of a bitch but take a couple back for not making him likable enough that you really want to spend time with him. While I like that there is no tacked on triumph at the end I’d have liked it more if we had just had a slide show of his art.


BLURRED LINES INSIDE THE ART WORLD
A look at the high finance world of Modern Art. Looking at the artists, the market, the dealers, the collectors, the galleries, and the institutions this is good introductory look at a place where pieces go for tens of millions of dollars.

How you react to this film will depend upon how much you know about the art world. A good place to start, if you don't know much is BLURRED LINES, which will give you enough to have a basic understanding. Sitting in the critics screening I found that those who don’t have a detailed knowledge of the art world liked the film more than those who were already aware of the art world’s craziness.

The problem with the film is that the brief running time of the film (it only runs 84 minutes) doesn’t allow for truly detailed examination of everything it wants to present. We blow through the various topics at speed so while we get an idea who Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst are because they play the market for maximum profit, we don’t get a handle on some of the others like Julian Schnabel or Taryn Simon. Why are they important to the discussion for any other reason than they were interviewed is not revealed.

 The biggest problem with the film is that it speaks of the outright corruption and market manipulation rampant in the art world and then let's the notion lay there. After rvealing how things are being manipulated and suggesting that the industry should be regulated it then never explains how that would even remotely be possible (It leaves it at the fact the government has thrown up its hands at trying). The film seems to want to have its cake-mentioning the corruption – and eat it too-  so as not piss anyone off because it might offend the people involved.

None of that is fatal but it keeps this film being anything other than a basic primer

Steve looks at ICE MOTHER (2017) Tribeca 2017

Off beat by American film standards, ICE MOTHER is a really good change of pace about a grandmother whose life is in a bit of turmoil but who finds hope after rescuing a man who was swimming in frigid waters.

Impossible to predict where this is going film is an interesting look at a selfish family and a woman who tries to find her own place. As Hana's sons bicker she feels as though she has no purpose in life. One son wants to hide his antique books in her home, the other wants him to move closer so she can be a defacto made and babysitter. She chafes at both options and when she rescues light hearted Brona things change, even for her withdrawn grandson.

This is a film about trying to find not only what you want but where you belong. Twist follows twist and each moment of happiness brings new complications- the mere idea that she would have friends outside the family bring death stares from her children. By the end of the film Hana is buffeted but still goes on.

I really like this film a great deal. Part of the joy comes from it simply being so different than anything else at Tribeca. Mostly though this i just good time with good people. While I think there is a bit too much of a thread of cruelty through the film, I'm okay with it simply because it's probably closer to reality than anything Hollywood would have done even if it feels forced at times. 

One of the recommended films at Tribeca.

Tribeca ’17: I Am Heath Ledger

To date, Heath Ledger is the only posthumous best supporting actor Oscar winner. That is not exactly the sort of honor an actor aspires to, but there is no getting around it. The actor’s meteoric rise and tragically early demise are chronicled in Adrian Buitenhuis & Derik Murray’s I Am Heath Ledger, which screens during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Even apart from his youthful twenty-eight years, Ledger’s death was especially sad. He was a proud new parent, whose already red-hot career was poised to go stratospheric with the opening of The Dark Knight, featuring his Oscar-winning turn as the Joker. In compiling I Am Heath Ledger, the latest installment in Spike’s “I Am” series, Buitenhuis & Murray were blessed in the bounteous video footage Ledger compulsively shot of himself and his mates and cursed with the reticence of those closest to him. Do not hold your breath waiting for Michelle Williams to appear.

Presumably, they also made do with whatever ground rules were offered to them. For instance, Naomi Watts only talks about Ledger as someone who always supported fellow Australians who came to Hollywood, never mentioning their relationship. At least, his parents and siblings were willing to reflect on Ledger’s early years.

Frankly, IAHL is rather disappointing when compared to its predecessor, IA Chris Farley, because it is dramatically less forthcoming. While Farley’s friends and family directly address his addiction issues and the role they played in his ultimate death, Ledger’s demons and the circumstances surrounding his death are completely whitewashed from his Spike profile. Anyone watching the film completely cold will be baffled as the how a healthy actor who played a surfer on more than one occasion could suddenly pass away.

On the other hand, it is striking how Ledger built such an accomplished reputation on a comparatively small body of work. Most of the doc’s cinematic focus is reserved for hits like The Patriot and A Knight’s Tale, his breakout in 10 Things I Hate About You, and critically acclaimed awards-winners, like The Dark Knight (the Neocon War-on-Terror allegory) and Brokeback Mountain, with passing mention given to a handful of other releases. Somehow, his Vatican-set horror film The Order gets short-shrift.

Ledger was indeed a restlessly creative soul, but Buitenhuis & Murray risk driving the point into the ground. One could also argue by sanitizing Ledger’s life they forego the chance to dramatically illustrate the perils of prescription drug interaction to the actor’s presumably young fans. The resulting documentary is easy to watch, but conspicuously safe. Recommended mainly for the devoted, I Am Heath Ledger screens again today (4/30), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, in advance of its special nation-wide one-night-only Fathom Events screening on May 3rd.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Tribeca 2017 Day 10 NO MAN'S LAND, THE EYESLICER, THE EXCEPTION, WARNING THIS DRUG MAY KILL YOU and JULIAN SCHNABEL

Final day of press screenings- which means I've partaken  part of 88 (no really) films, talks shorts collections, TV shows ect. Adding in the work of Ariela and Joe Bendel we'll have reported on around a hundred or more- or will have when the run of reports ends next Sunday. We have ton of stuff to still write up not to mention more shorts to see, picture posts to share and a Best of/Worst of post to do.

I saw five films today and here is a brief report before I attempt long pieces:

JULIAN SCHNABEL:A PRIVATE PORTRAIT is a look at the artist, his life and work. Its not bad but it is much too loving a portrait of the man to really be interesting. That's understandable since Schnabel is one of the producers of the film so it doesn't really have anything to say that isn't rapturous about the man. That might have worked had the film really explained why he's such a big deal but even that isn't fully there. I like it but I can't say more than that.

WARNING THIS DRUG MAY KILL YOU is an HBO documentary that should have been better than it is. A very speedy and competent hour long look at opioid addiction in middle America the film hits all of the right buttons but never transcends the feeling that this is little more than a public service announcement. Apologies all around but Tribeca has a habit of programing films on the same subject every year and over the last seven or eight years there have been several that really kicked it to the curb and left you feeling exhausted at the end. While WARNING is moving I couldn't help but wonder why this film didn't do more.

THE EXCEPTION is exactly that, an old fashioned film that is ultimately really really good. The plot of the film has a Nazi captain tasked with guarding the the former Kaiser during his exile. Along the way he is asked to spy in the Kaiser, falls in love with a maid in the house and has to deal with the sudden appearance of Himmler on a secret mission. Its old school storytelling that  spins out a tense little tale that is really satisfying. One of the unexpected delights of the Festival. (perhaps a longer is coming)

THE EYESLICER- Very strange, largely very good (the linking Max Headroom host is beyond awful) collection of short films. To say that the content was unexpected is an understatement. I want to see more of these episodes. (A longer review is coming)

NO MAN'S LAND is an on the ground look at the siege that occurred last year at Malheur Refuge in Oregon. The film is a mix of footage shot at the time with talking head interviews. The film walks us through what happened and makes us wonder what anyone was really hoping to get out of it since it kind of becomes clear at a certain point that what the protesters were looking for could never be. It also makes clear that how the actual stand off ended was inevitable given the course of events. I have to ponder this one since this s a film that quietly sneaks up and smacks you a couple hours later. (A longer review is coming)

TWO SENTENCE HORROR STORIES: MA Tribeca 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 nothing...no 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 are the 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

Tribeca 2017 Day 9 YEAR OF THE SCAB, TRIP TO SPAIN, PARIS CAN WAIT, DARE TO BE DIFFERENT and TILT

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.

Tribeca Day 8 HELL ON EARTH, BOBBI JENE, FROM THE ASHES, SAMBA, THUMPER and MR LONG

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

HELL ON EARTH
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.

BOBBI JENE
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)

FROM THE ASHES
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.

THUMPER
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.

SAMBA
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.

MR LONG
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 Grey 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.