Film Festivals

In Your Eyes at Tribeca

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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Time Is Illmatic

If you’re a working musician who has residential roots to New York City and you happen to have some sort of fraught relationship with your family, the Tribeca Film Festival has a spot for you: Opening Night. Last year, the festival opened with the debut of Mistaken For Strangers, a documentary about the band The National, with a tight focus on the band’s lead singer and his doofus brother as they attempt to coexist on tour together. This year, the festival bowed with the premiere of Time Is Illmatic, another documentary centered on a working musician (in this case, rapper Nas) who has residential roots to the city (he grew up in Queens’ Queensbridge Houses) who happens to have some sort of fraught relationship with his family (though nothing quite so tense as the relationship at the center of last year’s premiere). Time Is Illmatic is pegged to the twenty-year anniversary of Nas’ debut album, “Illmatic,” a hip-hop milestone that, as we are frequently reminded in the film, still resonates today. Nas tells us early on in the film that he sought to make “a perfect album” with “Illmatic,” and though it appears that he absolutely accomplished that, the majority of the film isn’t about actually making the album itself – it’s about making a way out of his existing life into a place where he could even dream of making such an album. Time Is Illmatic is primarily concerned with sharing Nas’ early life experiences (call that the “time” […]

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Rezo Films

On the outskirts of Tbilisi there is a enormous prison. It hovers over those who come to visit and the first images of Tinatin Kajrishvili‘s Brides are of this approach. Women stand on below, looking up at this aging monolith while they wait to be allowed inside. It is an eternal sight that echoes the women of Aci Trezza watching the sea for the return of their sons and husbands in the Neorealist classic La Terra Trema, though here cinematographer Goga Devadiani uses a more intimate framing. Grandeur can be found in the building itself, an imposition of state power. Its walls are so oppressive and its hallways so drab that a viewer unfamiliar with the nation of Georgia might mistake much of this film to be a Soviet-era period piece rather than a contemporary narrative. But back to those women. One of them is Nutsa (Mari Kitia), a young mother whose long-time partner is being held inside. She and those standing by her have visited as a result of a newly changed policy: the inmates are now allowed to receive visitors, but only legally recognized family. Nutsa and Goga (Giorgi Maskharashvili) have two children but no marriage license. The prison has granted this small group, including an elderly woman and a terrified teenager, the right to a brisk wedding inside the prison walls in order to cement future visitation rights.

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Most Anticipated Tribeca Films

Hey, look, it’s film festival time again! (It’s always film festival time, much like it’s always awards season time.) This time around, the films are unfurling at New York City’s own Tribeca Film Festival, and two of our very own NYC-based scribblers are on the ground to cover the best of what the festival has to offer. As ever, the festival offers a robust programming slate of brand-new premieres, holdovers from other festivals around the world (we recommend titles like In Your Eyes, Chef, and Begin Again, if you’re looking to play catch up), and some uniquely compelling titles just daring you to try them out (one word: zombeavers). The festival kicks off tonight with the premiere of the Nas documentary, Time Is Illmatic, and runs until Sunday, April 27th. For these next few days, Lower Manhattan will be jumping with the festival and its many offerings, and we dare say that our own Kate Erbland and Daniel Walber have picked out some of the best.

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Roosevelt Harris in The Great Invisible

In addition to its normal slate of invited and in-competition docs, as well as a tribute to the work of Steve James, this year the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival invited filmmaker Lucy Walker to curate a thematic program of her choosing. Walker built her sidebar around memorable characters, and how they both enrich and sometimes problematize documentary storytelling. It was a choice that resonated not only in the films she chose, such as the Robert Evans doc The Kid Stays in the Picture and Marcel Ophüls’s Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, and her own 2002 effort Devil’s Playground, but also in the new docs screening throughout the weekend. Many of my favorites from the fest were those that fit well with Walker’s program, as you can see below. From topical and historical stories that are most effective when focused on individual subjects to strictly character-driven narratives, the following five titles represent the best of what the 2014 Full Frame had to offer as well as some of the best docs of the year so far. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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LESSON OF THE EVIL from Takashi Miike

The Stanley Film Fest is the new kid on the block in the film festival game as 2013 was their premiere. We had the pleasure of attending and covering the genre-themed gathering last year, and in addition to the films that played the fest one of the biggest highlights was the location. The historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO hosts the festival, and as horror fans know it was an extended stay here that inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining.” The hotel and grounds are an architectural and atmospheric joy, and the surrounding mountains add a gorgeous sense of natural beauty. Basically, it’s a perfect setting for a horror film festival. This year’s list of films playing the fest is unfortunately light on premieres, but it features a fantastic bunch of critical darlings, new releases and genre favorites. It’s essentially a make-up fest offering a chance to see recent festival hits on the big screen where they belong. Some of the highlights include Jennifer Kent’s wonderfully creepy Sundance hit The Babadook (our review), Gerard Johnstone’s fresh horror comedy Housebound, Hitoshi Matsumoto’s incredibly funny, strange and affecting R100 (our review), and the funniest film of the year so far, Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement’s What We Do In the Shadows (our review). The fest also features some retrospective screenings including Joe Dante’s Gremlins, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and Mick Garris’ Sleepwalkers. (One of those things is not like the others…) There are other non-screening events planned too including a murder mystery dinner, a […]

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Tribeca Film Festival

When the greatest city in the world (patent pending) is home to your film festival, it seems pretty obvious that said film festival should play plenty of films about said city — a love letter or ten, if you will — and this year’s Tribeca Film Festival appears to be taking that to heart. The festival, now in its thirteenth year, will hit New York City this April 16 through April 27, and the first half of the festival’s slate (the second half will be announced tomorrow) is very heavy on the Gotham-influenced fare. Think of it this way — at this year’s Tribeca, you can take in at least seven films about New York and its various neighborhoods, and then you can step outside into that actual city. Wild stuff, you guys. These seven films span the city and its far reaches, while also spanning a number of cinematic genres (there’s comedy here, but there’s also some hard drama), and covering topics from ballet to hot dogs and everything in between. Take a look at some of the New York City-centric films (narrative and documentary!) that Tribeca will be offering this year, along with some notes on offerings that – sigh – take place elsewhere.

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piff proxy2

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 25th. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. Our 8th look at the films playing this year’s PIFF share absolutely nothing in common, but we’re approaching the end of it all and the stragglers need to be collected somehow. First up is the oddly structured romantic comedy of sorts from France, 2 Autumns 3 Winters. Next is Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, the new film from critically acclaimed South Korean director Hong Sang-soo. And lastly, we have the low-fi American thriller, Proxy. Keep reading for capsule reviews of 2 Autumns 3 Winters, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, and Proxy, and follow all of our coverage here.

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piff the tough guys header

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 25th. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. Our seventh trio of PIFF films all hail from the same region of Europe and all feature kids fusing fantasy and reality to grow up and join genre stories usually reserved for adults. Antboy sees a boy turned into a superhero after being bitten by a special insect, but the fun he has fighting crime is threatened by the arrival of an equally powerful villain. The Tough Guys follows another boy who fancies himself a superhero but lacks anything resembling a super power. His efforts to help others lead to some tough consequences for himself. Lastly, The Zigzag Kid bypasses the comic book stuff all together in favor of a boy setting off on an adventure in an effort to emulate his cop father and discover the truth of his dead mother. Keep reading for capsule reviews of Antboy, The Tough Guys, and The Zigzag Kid, and follow all of our coverage here.

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piff37 header i am yours

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 22nd. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. My sixth capsule review round-up of films playing this year’s fest includes three Oscar submissions for Best Foreign Language Film from Norway, Georgia, and Afghanistan. The three also share a coincidental theme of sorts in their collective view of women as the more oppressed and stressed of the sexes. I Am Yours follows a single mother trying her damnedest but faced with the reality that she may not be cut out for motherhood. In Bloom is focused on two teen girls coming of age in the hell that was Tbilisi in the early ’90s. And Wajma explores the sad reality of what happens when young women get pregnant out of wedlock. Fair warning, none of these are happy movies. Keep reading for capsule reviews of I Am Yours, In Bloom, and Wajma: An Afghan Love Story, and follow all of our coverage here.

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piff37 header before snowfall

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 22nd. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. Our fifth trio of capsule reviews focuses on three films that tease thriller territory while telling dramatic, human stories. Before Snowfall follows a Kurdish man searching for his sister, but it’s no heartwarming reunion he’s after. His intent is to kill her for running out on an arranged marriage. Metro Manila concerns a family of four who move to the big city hoping for a better life, but hope is a worthless currency in a place like this. Finally, Salvo is the story of a hitman who takes something after his latest job that proves troublesome to his sense of morality. That something is a blind woman. Keep reading for capsule reviews of Before Snowfall, Metro Manila, and Salvo, and follow all of our coverage here.

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piff header young and beautiful

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 22nd. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. My fourth look at this year’s crop of international titles features three films concerned with love and sex in modern day Paris, but while two of the three are French films the third is a UK production set in the city of lights. Just a Sigh follows a Parisian actress whose rough day is complicated by a chance meeting and flickers of emotion between strangers. The second French film, Francois Ozon’s Young and Beautiful, concerns a teenager whose budding sexuality leads to a brief career as a call girl. Finally, Notting Hill director Roger Michell sends a couple to Paris for their 30th anniversary, but their celebration is quickly revealed to be a dying gasp. Keep reading for capsule reviews of Just a Sigh, Le Week-End, and Young and Beautiful, and follow all of our coverage here.

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MAIDENTRIP - 2013 FILM STILL - FIRST RUN FEATURES - Photo Credit:

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 22nd. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. My third look at this year’s festival entries include a trio of documentaries from Netherlands and the UK. In addition to their basis in non-fiction though they also share a thematic concern with their focus on people who, for various reasons and with varied results, find themselves far away from civilization. The Galapagos Affair explores a decades old mystery from an island paradise involving Germans, the Swiss Family Robinson, a baroness, and the wisdom of giant land turtles. Maidentrip features a more recent sea-bound adventure as a teenage girl sets out to sail the world alone. And finally, Village at the End of the World visits with a tiny Inuit community in Greenland as they face pressures to disband and fade away. Keep reading for capsule reviews of The Galapagos Affair, Maidentrip, and Village at the End of the World, and follow all of our coverage here.

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piff header ernest and celestine

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 22nd. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. My second look at the films playing this year’s festival include three animated tales from Spain, the U.S., and France. Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises will be opening the fest this Thursday, but between its Oscar nomination and Miyazaki’s apparent retirement the film is already getting more than its share of press. Plus, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t actually all that impressed with it outside of the animation itself. Instead, I decided to review three other animated films more in need of the exposure. Keep reading for capsule reviews of The Apostle, Cheatin’, and Ernest & Celestine, and follow all of our coverage here.

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piff37 remote area medical

The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs this year from February 6th to the 22nd. They’re screening 104 feature films and 24 shorts across those two weeks from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iceland, Nepal, and Taiwan. Check out the official site for tickets and/or more details. And what better way to lead off my coverage of an international film festival than with a look at three titles from the United States? Two of the films are slightly askew suspense thrillers, and one is a documentary that takes a very specific look at the sorry state of affairs that is America’s health care reality. First up is Coherence, a Twilight Zone-like tale in the form of a tightly wound thriller tinged with sci-fi and paranoia. It’s a smartly scripted, constantly moving film guaranteed to keep viewers on their toes and possibly on edge. Ti West’s The Sacrament sends a group of journalists to visit a religious compound in search of a missing woman, but they may need more than prayer to get back out again. As scary as those two try to be though, the documentary Remote Area Medical is far more terrifying. It’s also sad, inspiring, and eye-opening. Keep reading for capsule reviews of Coherence, Remote Area Medical, and The Sacrament, and follow all of our coverage here.

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piff37

As a recent transplant to Portland, OR, one of the many things I’ve come to appreciate about the city is the incredibly diverse, affordable, and delicious food scene. But this ain’t no food blog, so thankfully I’ve also fallen hard for the local movie houses. The area’s populated with numerous theaters showcasing films new and old, foreign and domestic, wide release and independent. As rewarding as it’s already been, I’m about to be even more spoiled. Portland’s International Film Festival (PIFF) returns next week for its 37th year (official site), and its 104 feature films and 24 shorts promise something for everyone. Welcome to the Northwest Film Center’s 37th annual showcase of new world cinema! The Portland International Film Festival explores not only the art of film but also the world around us. The cultural diversity, the extraordinary range of subjects, genres, and experiences explored—for all ages and from matinee to midnight—invite exploration and discovery, movie-lover or not. We welcome you to join in this shared cinematic and community experience.” Keep reading for a look at the fest’s (unintentionally) eerie teaser video and some of the scheduled film highlights.

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Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

*Editor’s note: Our review of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty originally ran during this year’s NYFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens wide on Christmas Day.* The joke of Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an old one – far older than both the James Thurber short story that inspired it and the 1947 Danny Kaye-starring film of the same name – centering on a man so prone to daydreaming that he has ceased to live his life inside the “real world.” It’s hard to blame Walter (Stiller), however, because the real world hasn’t been especially kind to him for a long time. It hasn’t been particularly cruel, either, but Walter has long suppressed his dreams of something more (and of being someone more), and his more creative and individual instincts come out to play in the vivid (and overly effects-laden) daydreams that Walter periodically lapses into (so frequently, in fact, that those closest to him just refer to it as Walter “zoning out” and that’s all there is to it). The regular life issues that Walter faces are hard enough – a dead dad, an aging mother (Shirley MacLaine), a wacky sister (Kathryn Hahn), a job in a changing industry, a hopeless crush on a clueless co-worker (Kristen Wiig, who isn’t given nearly enough to work with to make the romantic element of the film stick) – so it’s understandable that he would slip into fantasy when things get rough. But Walter’s […]

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The Invisible Woman

*Editor’s note: Our review of The Invisible Woman originally ran during this year’s NYFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens Christmas day in limited theatrical release.* It’s best to assume that when Ralph Fiennes took on the story of Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and his teen lover Ellen “Nelly” Ternan (Felicity Jones) for his The Invisible Woman, he didn’t intend for the film’s big takeaway to be that the beloved British author was basically a big jerk, at least when it came to matters of the heart. And yet, that’s the unexpected result of the apparently fact-based tale, a “romance” devoid of emotion that fails to capture any of the spirit or intelligence of Dickens’ own works. While the film has some very compelling source material, including a book by Claire Tomalin and a script from Abi Morgan (who penned the wonderful Shame and the laughably bad The Iron Lady), it ultimately falls spectacularly flat. Cold, emotionless, and strangely paced, the film thankfully features breathtaking cinematography and one hell of a supporting performance by the real invisible woman in Dickens’ life – his own wife. But this is meant to be a film about a life-changing romance, and it simply doesn’t deliver on that front, no matter how many times Jones wanders a beach with a haunted expression on her face or Fiennes acts out in a horrible way simply because he’s a man in love.

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Slamdance Logo

Just up the hill from the buzz and hubbub of the Sundance Film Festival, a smaller film festival nestles at the top of Park City, Utah’s charming Main Street – the Slamdance Film Festival, a fest dedicated to the principle that it’s “by filmmakers, for filmmakers.” Over the years, the festival has grown exponentially, and plenty of vey recognizable filmmakers and features have emerged from it (remember a little thing called Paranormal Activity? That one worked out, to the tune of millions). Now in its twentieth season, the Slamdance slate of emerging filmmakers and talents is impressive as ever, and it’s packed with films that might be worth walking up a mountain (read: steep and sweet small town street) to check out. This year’s Slamdance Film Festival received over 5,000 submissions, and they seem appropriately happy to show off a slate that includes 10 narrative and 8 documentary films, including 11 World Premieres, 4 North American, and 1 US Premiere. Slamdance selections come with a couple of notable caveats – the films have to have been made for less than a million bucks and without U.S. distribution – that help ensure that these things are truly independent. Want to mix up your Park City movie-going this year? We’ve got some ideas for that.

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Philomena

Editor’s note: Our review of Philomena originally ran during this year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release today. In a strictly paint-by-numbers world, Stephen Frears’ Philomena is one hell of a prestige picture bound for awards season glory – who could possibly balk at a Judi Dench-starring true-life tale of a woman’s decades-long quest to find the baby who was taken from her by the evil Irish Magdalene laundries? – but the final execution of the film is so contrived and unoriginal that it all but begs for an immediate remake that possesses even a drop more sensitivity. Even with the essential inclusion of Steve Coogan (who also helped script the film) as a smirking journalist on the outs with the entire world, Philomena never fully embraces either its humor or its drama. Uneven and weirdly insensitive, Philomena is unable to combine its many elements into something rich, despite prime subject matter. The film centers on the heartbreaking real life story of Philomena Lee (Dench), an Irishwoman who was forced to give up her first child while toiling in a Magdalene laundry, a church-run home for “fallen women” who got pregnant out of wedlock. (The laundries were indeed real and, shockingly enough, the last Irish one closed only in 1996.) Frears effectively uses flashbacks to mince together the “present day” story of a still-haunted Philomena and the “past” portion that focuses on a stellar Sophia Kennedy Clark as a young Philomena just […]

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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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