ComingSoon.net’s Tribeca Film Festival Preview

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As April comes to an end, it’s time once again for the annual New York tradition, the Tribeca Film Festival, a constantly-evolving event that gives tens of thousands of New Yorkers and out-of-towners a chance to see the premieres of new movies from a variety of indie, documentary and foreign filmmakers, as well as a first look at some of the movies coming out in the early summer. This year’s festival runs from April 24 through May 4, and unlike last year, all of the screenings will be held below 23rd Street plus the festival offers a unique fluctuating pricing system that offers half-price tickets for movies showing before 5pm on weekdays or after 11pm every day. (Horror fans who enjoy the festival’s annual midnight movies–see below–can save themselves money by staying up late.)

As in past years, the festival has scored a number of big studio movies to make their New York premieres as part of the festival with the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama (Universal – April 25) kicking things off in style on Wednesday night, April 23, with its world premiere at New York’s prestigious Ziegfeld Theater. This is the third time that a Universal movie has opened the festival following previous festival openers The Interpreter and United 93. The festival will close on Saturday, May 3 with the Wachowski Brothers’ anticipated take on the popular cartoon Speed Racer (Warner Bros. – May 9) starring Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci and Matthew Fox, which will be shown in two downtown New York locations.

David Mamet’s first movie in four years, the martial arts drama Redbelt starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (look for our interview with him soon) will have its Gala World Premiere to kick-off the second annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival that proved very successful last year. Other movies in the sub-festival include Beastie Boy Adam Yauch’s filmmaking debut, the basketball doc Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot, the global soccer doc Kickin’ It, another martial arts drama called Fighter and the doc Football Under Cover about a German women’s soccer team who travel to Iran to play against the country’s female team who’s never been allowed to play a game.

Errol (Fog of War) Morris’ new documentary Standard Operating Procedure (Sony Classics – April 25) about the infamous Abu Ghraib photos gets a special screening on Thursday, April 24 at the DGA theater with a conversation with Morris to follow. (You can read our own exclusive interview with Morris here.)

In John Cusack’s dark action-comedy War, Inc. (First Look – May 23) , he plays a hitman sent into the middle of a war in the Middle East run by the corporations; it will premiere on Monday, April 28 making it one of the bigger festival debuts. (You can seen an exclusive clip here and we’ll have an exclusive interview with Cusack later this week)

Michelle Monaghan stars in James Mottern’s debut drama Trucker as a female truck driver trying to deal with changes in her life brought on by her dying ex-husband (Benjamin Bratt), taking care of her estranged son (Jimmy Bennett) and fighting her feelings for her married friend (Nathan Fillion). Look for an interview with Monaghan and Mottern shortly.

Frank Langella and Elliot Gould star in the drama The Caller from Richard Ledes, whose first film A Hole in One debuted at Tribeca four years ago. It’s an intriguing drama set in the world of corporate intrigue in which Langella’s corporate killer hires Gould’s aged detective to keep an eye on him.

Melvin Van Peebles is another Tribeca regular, ever since his son’s Baadassss! played at the festival four years ago, and the legendary filmmaker behind Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song will premiere his eclectic new movie Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Ithchyfooted Mutha on Sunday, April 27.

There’s a lot of interest and some morbid curiosity for Aaron Woodley and Russell Schaumberg’s Tennessee since it marks the return of Mariah Carey to movies for the first time since the bomb Glitter. It’s another road movie–another Tribeca staple–this one about two brothers who return to their hometown, joined by a spirited woman they meet in their travels. (That would be Carey.)

The festival will also screen a number of Sundance favorites that were picked up for release like The Wackness (Sony Classics – July 3) and Baghead (Sony Classics), both playing for New York audiences for the first time. (You can read my reviews from Sundance by clicking on the respective titles.)

I’m personally interested in Erica Dunton’s The 27 Club, which stars up ‘n’ comer Joe Anderson (Control, Across the Universe) as a musician who goes on a cross-country road trip after the death of a bandmate, and equally intrigued by the Chinese-Korean martial arts epic Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon about an age-old battle between two kingdoms, led by Andy Lau of House of Flying Daggers and the awesome Maggie Q from Live Free or Die Hard.

Shane Meadows, whose This Is England blew audiences away at least year’s festival returns with the comedy Somers Town, starring the breakout star of that film, Tommo Turgoose, as a 16-year-old boy who befriends a Polish immigrant.

The Weinstein Company continues its tradition of having a strong film festival presence with a number of films that have been doing the rounds including Lou Reed’s Berlin (July 17), a concert film directed by recent Oscar nominee Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), John Crowley’s Boy A (July 23) starring Andrew Garfield as a juvenile offender released back into the world after 14 years, and the controversial Brazillian thriller b>Elite Squad.

The Swedish vampire thriller Let the Right One In (Magnet) from Tomas Alfreson debuts at the festival as part of the World Narrative Competition as does Delphine Kreuter’s 57,000 Kilometers Between Us, a French film about digital communication in which a dysfunctional teen girl escapes from her troubled life by going online. The critically-acclaimed Russian film Simple Things about an anesthetist whose life falls apart will make its U.S. debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Tribeca Film Festival has always excelled in its ability to premiered some of the highest-quality docs, something made evidently clear by the recent Oscar win of Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side, which premiered at the festival last year.

This year has an equally strong line-up but the doc to beat is likely to be James Marsh’s Man on Wire (Magnolia – August 15), a look at the amazing stunt pulled by French high-wire artist Philippe Petit when he snuck into the newly-built World Trade Center in 1974, set up a wire between the two buildings and walked back and forth between them, making him a legend in the city. Christopher Bell’s Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (Magnolia – May 30) (also a part of the ESPN Sports Festival) is an intriguing look at the use of steroids in this country, told from a very personal point of view since both of his brothers are steroid users. Eclectic Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin will debut his very unique take on his home city My Winnipeg (IFC Films – June 13) at the festival as well.

A couple docs looking for distributors include Joe Carnahan-produced musical doc Playing for Change: Peace through Music by Mark Johnson and Jonathan Walls in which they traveled the globe looking for musical inspiration. C. Karim Chrobog’s War Child takes a different approach to the situation in Sudan by following Emmauel Jal, a former child soldier who has been finding huge global success as a rapper, while Chevolution examines the famous image of Che Guevara that has been so inspirational years after the revolutionary’s death.

Tribeca’s Midnight movie track is also becoming infamous for debuting classic films like the original Thai horror film The Eye and Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, and they have another horrifying line-up of gory horror fun this year. British filmmaker Paul Andrew Williams, whose thriller London to Brighton was recently released in the States, has The Cottage, a horror-comedy about two brothers and a hostage who stumble upon the wrong farmhouse, premiering at the fest before its DVD release on May 13. There’s also the Australian horror flick Dying Breed about four friends being stalked by cannibals in the Australian bush, From Within, a teen horror movie about a town rocked by a mysterious wave of suicides, and Killer Movie, a slasher movie set in the world of reality TV. (Look for more about these movies over on our sister horror site ShockTillYouDrop.com) For the late night crowd looking for some non-horror movies, the midnight track also debuts James Westby’s adult comedy The Auteur about Italian pornographer Arturo Domingo, who hopes to reunite with his leading man to make his greatest film ever.

The Tribeca Film Festival starts on April 24 and runs through May 4. You can find out more about the films discussed above and more, as well as buy tickets on the official website, plus look for a number of interviews and reviews to be posted over the next few weeks.