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In Your Eyes at Tribeca

Tribeca Film Festival

Joss Whedon was a busy man with The Avengers. But in between the writing and the shooting and the wrangling of a real, live Hulk (I’m assuming that was the real Hulk, right?), he also shot Much Ado About Nothing on his days off.

Apparently Much Ado wasn’t enough, because Whedon actually had a third project in the works at the same time. In the early months of 2012, Whedon’s screenplay for In Your Eyes was being shot in New Hampshire. Not by Whedon, mind you, but by Brin Hill – and before you say, “Who?” Hill is known mostly for writing the competitive b-boy flick Battle of the Year. Somehow, Whedon found a way to oversee the production anyway, even if it was just through a tenuous psychic connection.

Which, conveniently enough, is the very same plot device at the center of In Your Eyes. Starring Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) and Michael Stahl-David (the lead in Cloverfield), it’s a love story touched by a vague kind of movie mysticism. Kazan and Stahl-David fall in love despite the fact that they’ve never met and live on opposite sides of the country. Somehow, a metaphysical, psychic-ish connection is to blame.

The film premieres this Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival, and Entertainment Weekly has shared the first three minutes in case you won’t be in NYC but would still like to take a look. And why wouldn’t you?

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IFC Midnight

IFC Midnight

Director/writer Zack Parker‘s plot-heavy thriller Proxy opens on Esther (Alexia Rasmussen), a young, expecting mother at her doctor’s appointment. Good news follows her down the street and into an alley where bad news finds her. She’s knocked unconscious, and her pregnant stomach is savagely attacked by someone with a brick, and it’s exactly as shocking and uncomfortable a scene as you’d expect. The entire first hour of the film relies on the pure dramatic value of this scene to keep your interest, and, to be fair, it does. It’s a challenge though as Esther’s character develops painstakingly slowly, meandering around her apartment until she finally reaches out at a support group where she meets another mother, Melanie (Alexa Havins), who has lost her son.

About halfway through the film, a major plot twist reveals that the two women are alike in that they have some serious, underlying issues. The complex characters become a bit confusing, and thanks to either a few errors in continuity or possibly intentionally vague editing decisions, much of the story is muddled. Proxy is the type of film that slowly reveals answers over time, but Parker and co-writer Kevin Donner seem to have flat-out forgotten to answer some necessary questions, despite the space that the film’s two-hour running time allows.

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Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival

Roman Polanski‘s Venus in Fur is a film haunted by an epigraph. It’s a quotation from the apocryphal Book of Judith, used first by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in his similarly titled 1870 novel and later by David Ives in his play, from which this film is directly adapted. It goes something like this: “The Lord hath smitten him and delivered him into the hands of a woman.” The biblical context is the slaying of the Babylonian general Holofernes, whose unfortunate drunken stupor made him easy prey for the knife of the Jewish hero. Polanski’s film is somewhat more wordy, but not necessarily more complex.

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A24

A24

As it turns out, you can take the vampire out of Twilight and find some pretty unexpected results. With The Rover, the new film from director and writer David Michôd (Animal Kingdom), Robert Pattinson sheds his sparkly teen vampire image yet again to take part in a dark and dreary drama devoid of all supernatural intervention. Pack all your girlish screams away somewhere, because this isn’t the time or place.

“Anarchy is loosed upon the world,” and it’s up to Eric (Guy Pearce) to dig through that chaos as “things fall apart” in the Australian outback (things are really bleak out there). His quest: to hunt down a strange band of criminals who have taken hold of his last possession as he attempts to stay alive and keep his head above water in the process.

In his journey, he meets Rey (Pattinson), one of the members of the gang who have messed with his life. Rey is injured and alone, no longer the menacing threat he used to pose to Eric when he and his gang stormed into his life long before. But now Eric recognizes that Rey can no longer hurt him, and scoops him up along for the ride. With Rey’s gang leaving him in the dust by himself at the beginning of the trailer, he doesn’t have much of a choice, now does he?

Check out the trailer for The Rover below.

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About Alex

Tribeca Film Festival

“You know what this is like? This is like one of those eighties movies.”

Jesse Zwick’s About Alex makes no bones about its apparent pedigree – the first-time filmmaker clearly pulled from a host of eighties features, especially the similarly themed The Big Chill for his debut, but he’s added a nice little twist to his work: no one is actually dead here. Instead, the group of college friends that make up the cast of About Alex are brought back together because someone is almost dead. (This actually makes quite a difference.) Reunited due to the attempted suicide of their pal Alex (Jason Ritter), the erstwhile group assemble at his house in upstate New York to welcome home a recently discharged Alex, find out what went wrong, and learn some stuff about themselves (and each other!) as the film unfolds over an appropriate ninety-six minute runtime.

But although the premise of the film is clearly a little contrived, but Zwick clearly knows that – amusingly enough, the dead protagonist in The Big Chill, the friend who really did succeed at his suicide, was also named Alex, and he also slit his wrists in a tub – but About Alex is so charming on its own merits that Zwick’s decision to rife on earlier features emerges as a wily and wise one.

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Dune Movie

Universal Pictures

Anyone who knows David Lynch’s work is familiar with his penchant for messing with the audience. One only has to look at how he ended his popular series Twin Peaks, or pretty much any part of the mind-bending Eraserhead, to realize this.

Even though in the early 1980s, Lynch had been courted as a potential director for some major films (including Return of the Jedi… wouldn’t you have liked to see the Ewoks in that version?), he had his big studio break with the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. While it was a commercial and critical failure, Dune also represents Lynch’s subversive filmmaking nature, more than some people even realize.

At the time, Hollywood was looking for the next Star Wars, much like how they are furiously searching for the next Hunger Games now with films like Divergent and The Maze Runner. Dune had been in development since the early 1970s, and it finally got off the ground with Lynch at the helm.

Lynch was a bold choice for the film, considering he was handed a massive potential franchise when he was known for more intimate and often obscure and surreal personal films. Ultimately, Lynch made a film that ensured a sequel was impossible, and that was a brilliant though almost career-ending move.

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The Immigrant

The Weinstein Company

For some reason, James Gray‘s The Immigrant didn’t get released last fall as an awards contender. Like SnowpiercerThe Immigrant was far better than pretty much everything else Harvey Weinstein decided to release in 2013. Both movies sat on the shelf for a little bit, but thankfully for not too long. Snowpiercer and The Immigrant will have limited releases this summer, and it’s highly recommended to seek out the theaters that will show Gray and Bong Joon-ho‘s films. Both movies were made for the big screen. Bong Joon-ho’s exceptional control over tension makes for a true theatrical experience, while Gray’s new movie features gorgeous cinematography and another superb performance from Joaquin Phoenix that shouldn’t be first seen on your television set.

Following up his best film, Two Lovers, Gray tells the story of an immigrant, played by Marion Cottillard, hoping to make it in America with her sister. It’s an often moving, refreshingly funny, and smartly structured drama.

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Ray-Kurzweil-in-Transcendent-Man

Docurama

I have not seen Transcendencebut the critical buzz is not good at all. Cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, headlined by Johnny Depp playing a scientist specializing in AI, follows that scientist as he gets his brain uploaded into a computer and begins to leave his humanity behind. While it’s a thoroughly sci-fi concept, there are some who believe that such scenarios will in fact be possible one day — and that that day may be sooner than you think.

The chief proselytizer of such ideas is Ray Kurzweil, one of the most famous futurists in the world. He’s made a fortune off of multiple patents, and he doesn’t like the idea that he’ll die someday. Which is fair enough, as most people harbor the same feeling. But unlike most people, he’s serious about beating death. He consumes over 200 pills a day to regulate his body, claiming to have beaten diabetes through this regimen. But that’s just a stalling tactic until science brings us to “the singularity.”

Kurzweil has proposed “The Law of Accelerating Returns.” The rate of change in evolutionary systems, he argues, increases exponentially as time goes on. It took a billion years for single-celled organisms to develop from the elements, but “only” 10 million for more complex life forms to come about. In the past century, humankind has seen more technological progress than in most of our previous history.

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Cannon Film Distributors

Cannon Film Distributors

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too.

Our latest look at Top Shelf releases from smaller labels features two new Blu-rays from across the pond, and in addition to both being region B releases the two share a genre similarity too in that they’re both coming-of-age teen comedies. That said, they handle their themes quite a bit differently.

First up is Gregory’s Girl which explores one gangly, Scottish teen’s efforts to woo the beautiful new girl at school. His friends are equally lost in a sea of hormones, but the film pursues it all with a light and innocent touch. Far, far away at the other end of the tonal spectrum is The Last American Virgin. It’s Porky’s-style comedy including crass behavior, nudity and sex, but it has zero interest in satisfying viewers with a typical happy ending.

Keep reading for our look at the new import Blu-rays of Gregory’s Girl and The Last American Virgin.

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Metropolis Movie

Paramount Pictures

Transcendence casts Johnny Depp as a brilliant scientist who plots out grand plans for The Singularity, only to become that omnipotent, sentient technological himself when an assassination attempt goes awry. While the new film is a look at what happens when technology becomes humanoid, it’s certainly not the first movie to ever do so. In fact, cinema has been toying with the idea of The Singularity — the point at which A.I. acquires beyond-genius-level intelligence — since the 1920s, even if it was never called that back then.

The Singularity has been showing up in films for decades, ranging from talking, all-knowing computers who refuse to do what we say to robots who serve along humans without explicit direction or order. As such, there are some amazing examples of Retro Singularity, a primitive, Tomorrowland-esque version of the future that writers of the past may have not even known they were predicting.

Think all the way back to Metropolis, the 1927 film that brought us Maria, the robot who was so lifelike she threw an entire city into flux with their insatiable lust. When Maria is built, she resembles her inspiration so closely that it tricks the citizens of Metropolis into believing she’s the original. She’s burned as a “witch” because of their confusion – she walks, talks and persuades just as well as any woman.

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Bears

Disneynature

Disneynature films are not for the faint of heart. The entertaining and educational series has consistently placed a premium on absolute veracity – even when it comes with a very palatable and painful cost. The last Disneynature film, Chimpanzee, was built almost entirely on tragedy, as it centered on a young chimp (adorably named Oscar) who struggled to survive after the sudden death of his mother. The film’s very plotline was centered around death – a natural and normal death, but death nonetheless – and the entire film was a steady mix of the sad and the joyful (Oscar is eventually taken under the furry arm of an unexpected surrogate parent – another male chimp). Back in 2011, death also hung thick over African Cats, with one plotline following a cheetah mom who eventually loses two of her five cubs to hunting hyenas, and another chronicling an aging lioness who must abandon her own cub to her pride after getting injured and feeling compelled to sneak off to die alone.

Yet, for all the tears that Disneynature aficionados are seemingly doomed to shed (and, man, are you doomed to shed them), the films are also fiercely satisfying in ways that are hard to replicate in the majority of purely fictional, human-based settings. Yes, you’re going to cry, but damn if it’s not worth it. The latest Disneynature film, Bears, is no different than its predecessors – in fact, it’s the best of an already very fine bunch.

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Like Someone In Love

IFC Films

One of my favorite aspects of Abbas Kiarostami’s films is how thoroughly he realizes the world within and around his characters. You hear the “world of the film” used often to describe the visions of directors attendant to detail, but no other filmmaker manifests a world of the film at quite the intimate yet expansive scope that Kiarostami does. His films make the camera feel almost incidental, as if this is simply the character or the moment that Kiarostami decided to focus on amongst a great many incidents and possibilities happening around that character or that moment.

The world of his films offers glimpses into the lives of supporting characters, any of whom could be the focus of a Kiarostami film all their own. Take his latest, Like Someone in Love, for example. At one point Akiko (Rin Tanakashi) has her cab driver circle a roundabout while she looks on at her grandmother at a transit stop, who obliviously waits for a family visit that will never occur. Kiarostami sticks with Akiko, but we carry that glimpse into the world of other possibilities that surround her life for the rest of the film. It takes incredible craftsmanship to make films feel as seamless, realist, and spontaneous as Kiarostami does.

Last week, Kiarostami stopped by the Indiana University Cinema to discuss filmmaking with Richard Peña on the occasion of the Cinema’s retrospective of his career. So here is some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) shared by the internationally renowned director.

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Drafthouse Films

Drafthouse Films

Editor’s note: Our review of The Final Member originally ran during Fantastic Fest 2012, but we’re re-posting it now as it opens today in limited theatrical release.

It is an unfortunate state of affairs that, as far as sexuality is concerned, America is still vastly conservative. This is no place for a discussion of conservative versus liberal, but in the category of sexuality it’s important only to say that even the word “penis” is still relatively taboo despite being the proper medical term for the main part of the male genitals. People don’t go around talking about penises, generally, and if they do they tend to make other people uncomfortable. We’re also all 12 years old at heart, and so penis jokes and snickering are sure to abound when you produce a documentary about some dude in Iceland who collects penises. Fortunately, The Final Member takes its subject seriously, but not too seriously, and crafts a beautiful portrait of one man’s lifelong obsession.

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published: 04.18.2014
C-
published: 04.18.2014
C
published: 04.18.2014
B+
published: 04.18.2014
A

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