As mentioned last week, Jeremy Wein from ThisMyShow has agreed to help us cover the Tribeca Film Festival this year while Edward Douglas was in Vegas for CinemaCon, and here’s his rather thorough recap of the movies he saw this year:
I have been reading Comingsoon.net since I was in high school, so to cover this year’s Tribeca Film Festival for them was an honor. This was my first Tribeca as a member of the press, which essentially entitled me to attend screenings, access to the fancy press lounge and some invites to some parties and some interviews. My eating habits also became even worse then normal during the festival; visits were made to Five Guys, Trailer Park Bar, A Salt And Battery (Twice) & Burger King. Because I ran around in the rain the first weekend of the festival, I unfortunately got a cold that I couldn’t shake for the duration of the festival and missed a handful screenings. However I still managed to see eleven films during the festival (and three beforehand) while also starting a new day job and having class (which I ultimately didn’t go to the whole week).
Below from best to worst are some quick reviews at what I took in during the festival:
Struck By Lighting: Even being killed by a bolt of lightning won’t keep budding young journalist Carson Phillips (Glee’s Chris Colfer) quiet. Trapped by his small-minded town, this outspoken high school senior recounts the last few weeks of his life through a series of upbeat flashbacks in this playful and energetic comedy written by Colfer himself. I really enjoyed this film, the first written by star Colfer. It’s funny and has a really strong screenplay and features excellent performances from the entire cast, that includes Christina Hendricks, Polly Bergen, Sarah Hyland, Rebel Wilson and Allison Janney, whose performance as Sheryl Phillips is bound to generate her buzz around award season.
Any Day Now: In the late 1970s, when a mentally handicapped teenager is abandoned, a gay couple (played by Alan Cumming & Garrett Dillahunt) takes him in and becomes the family he’s never had. However once authorities discover this unconventional living arrangement, the men must fight a biased legal system to adopt the child they have come to love as their own. It has all the makings of an Oscar bait movie (and it’s based on a true story). Thankfully, it ultimately rises above the possible trap of its premise by not being too over the top with its characters and strong performances from Dillahunt and Cumming.
Burn: This documentary takes us to the heart of the once-roaring industrial Mecca of Detroit to meet the men and women charged with saving a city many have written off as dead. With vast stretches of forsaken buildings left as kindling, the highest arson rate in the country, and a budget crisis of epic proportions, “Burn” spends a year within the heat, introducing us to members of a close-knit brotherhood and a community within a shattered city that is unwilling to give up. This documentary executive produced by Denis Leary (“Rescue Me,” The Amazing Spider-Man) is visually stunning as we follow the guys inside actual fires and the company, filled with interesting subjects, acts as our window into the bigger story of Detroit, which is badly damaged but unwilling to throw in the towel.
Don’t Stop Believing – Everyman’s Journey: The real life rock ‘n’ roll fairy tale story of Filipino Arnel Pineda, who was plucked from YouTube to become the front man for iconic American rock band, Journey. This kind of story is begging for a documentary. The film however would have benefitted by being ten minutes shorter. Arnel Pineda, the band’s new lead singer and subject of the documentary, is very charming and humorous and will have you hooked within minutes.
Your Sister’s Sister: Iris (Emily Blunt) invites her friend Jack (Mark Duplass) to stay at her family’s island getaway after the death of his brother. At their remote cabin, Jack’s drunken sexual encounter with Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt), Iris’ sister, kicks off a revealing stretch of days. A great comedy directed and written by Lynn Shelton (Humpday) featuring real dialogue from real characters, that is until somewhat unnecessary plot twist are thrown into the last 20 minutes, but it still makes a strong case for Mark Duplass as a leading man. I also was pleasantly surprised by the cameo appearance by comedian Mike Birbiglia. Also the audience I saw it with groaned at the ending almost as hard as the audience I saw Inception with.
Lola Versus: Dumped by her boyfriend just three weeks before their wedding, Lola (Greta Gerwig) enlists her close friends (Zoe Lister Jones, Hammish Linklater) for a series of adventures she hopes will help her come to terms with approaching 30 as a single woman. This interesting indie is cute and light and features humorous performances from Greta Gerwig, Bill Pullman and Hamish Linklater, it also includes one of my favorite lines from any film in the festival.
Side By Side: This documentary from producer Keanu Reeves covers how the film industry has undergone a multitude of changes. From the way audiences access movies to the way filmmakers shoot them, the art and business of film is evolving at a shockingly swift rate. Reeves interviews many of the most innovative “game changers” in the world of cinema to examine how the digital age has transformed the movies. It is definitely a documentary for film junkies, featuring an enormous list of A-list directors including James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, and many others. It is, however, a little jarring at first to see producer Keeanu Reeves interviewing folks like Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, but the comprehensiveness of the subject matter makes it well worth any aspiring filmmaker’s time.
The Giant Mechanical Man: An offbeat romantic comedy about a silver-painted street performer (Chris Messina) and the soft-spoken zoo worker (Jenna Fischer) who falls for him. Considering the cast involved it could have been a lot funnier, but some interesting dream sequences and nods to films past make this a slightly above average romantic comedy. Topher Grace plays a great douchebag and I was in love with Chris Messina by the end, however I felt Malin Ackerman (playing Fischer’s sister) was underused as was Lucy Punch and Bob Odenkirk.
Revenge For Jolly: A man (Brian Petsos) recruits his cousin (Oscar Issac) to find out who is behind his dog’s suspicious death. That is the simple premise of a revenge film that’s played straight but uses many comedic actors for most of the roles, including Elijah Wood, Kristen Wiig, Bobby Moynihan and Garret Dillahunt. It’s a crazy film with a high body count, but sadly, due to some behind the scenes drama (rewrites, recasting), it potentially could have been a lot better and ultimately leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to its conclusion. However, due to the talent involved it’s worth your dollar when it makes its way to the Redbox next year or a late night viewing on Netflix.
Take This Waltz: A happily married woman (Michelle Williams) falls for the artist (Luke Kirby) who lives across the street. It’s beautifully shot and has its moments, but its repetitive script presents pacing issues and unclear character motives. I was, however, impressed with the music choices and how a sequence that used “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles has still stuck with me even as I am writing this almost a week later. It is a problem though when the excellent Sarah Silverman almost steals the entire movie away from Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen (Williams’ husband) with one scene as the recovering alcoholic sister of Rogen’s character.
The Fourth Dimension: Three filmmakers (Aleksei Fedorchenko, Harmony Korine and Jan Kwiecinski) offer a different perspective on what the Fourth Dimension is, based on a set of rules created by Vice Films Eddy Moretti and Harmony Korine. Of the three segments in order I enjoyed Kwiecinski’s “Fawns” the most because it has the most cohesive thing to a plot. Korine’s “The Lotus Community Workshop” was amusing but only because Val Kilmer plays a crazy version of himself in it, and the middle section Fedorchenko’s “Chrono Eye” was so uninteresting to me I actually walked out of it halfway through to get a soda. As an experiment it works, as an actual movie, not so much.
Free Samples: A Stanford law-school dropout named Jillian (Jess Weixler) escapes to the anonymity of Los Angeles to figure out what she wants to do with her life, and on the day of her college boyfriend’s birthday, she finds herself stuck running an ice cream truck, fending off locals and oddball friends alike. It kind of feels like ice cream – it’s a light film with no real substance to enjoy in the afternoon, a lighter version of “Clerks” but with an ice cream truck. Jesse Eisenberg plays Jesse Eisenberg, while Jason Ritter has a very enjoyable scene involving no pants. As a comedy nerd, a major issue for me is that Matt Walsh is somewhat wasted.
Francophrenia (Or Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where The Baby Is): A mini-thriller consisting of documentary and TV footage of actor James Franco’s guest-starring appearances on the American daytime drama, “General Hospital.” By far the worst film I saw the entire festival, and this is coming from someone who has enjoyed some of Franco’s vanity projects. The film is so awful that I was hysterically laughing at the pure absurdity and stupidity that I was witnessing onscreen. For example, the film features multiple sequences of Franco’s inner monologue conversing with a men’s bathroom sign. It honestly would have worked better as a regular documentary.
Fame High: Everyone dreams of fame. From the nail-biting freshman auditions to the spectacular year-end performances, “Fame High” captures the in-class and at-home drama, competition, heartbreak, and triumph during one school year at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), also known as Fame High. A lack of diverse subjects (three white kids [one of which has a father who is a theatre producer] and an Asian girl) and being a theatre student myself made me walk out of this somewhat obnoxious and low stakes documentary after 20 minutes.
Look for Edward Douglas’ take on what he saw at Tribeca later this week.