Film Festivals

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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Dallas Buyers Club

Editor’s note: Our review of Dallas Buyers Club originally ran during this year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film expands into more theaters. Matthew McConaughey’s quest to establish himself as one of the finest, most committed actors of his generation (post-Fool’s Gold, of course) continues apace in Jean-Marc Vallee’s fact-based Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a Texas good old boy with a taste for women, rodeo, good times, and intravenous drugs. When Ron’s hard-partying lifestyle results in a very unexpected HIV positive diagnosis, his life changes completely (and in some very surprising ways, as predictable as that may sound). Set in the eighties, in a time when public misconceptions and misunderstandings about AIDS, HIV, and victims ran rampant, Dallas Buyers Club is tasked with turning Woodroof, an initially unlikable and unlikely hero, into a gutsy and brave protagonist. McConaughey doesn’t balk at playing up Ron’s least appealing features – a womanizer, a drug addict, and an opinionated asshole to the fullest extent, Ron’s diagnosis comes with a sense of inevitability. He’s been reckless with his life and body, and he’s paying for it in the most final way possible. Initially given thirty days to live, Ron’s hardened stubbornness and profound spite for the entire situation seemingly keeps him alive, especially after his illegally procured meds dry up.

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About Time

Romantic comedy fans have long been starving for satisfying genre fare to hit the box office, all the Valentine’s Days and New Year’s Eves and Arbor Days (surely, the next one, right?) notwithstanding, and it’s long seemed as if the When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail glory days (we loved Nora Ephron, what can we say?) were far gone. Yet, with Love Actually writer and director Richard Curtis finally returning to the sort of films he excels at crafting, it’s perhaps a bit early to consider the entire genre dead. Maybe it’s just sleeping. Curtis’ About Time certainly comes with an enviable pedigree (any film that features Curtis directing Bill Nighy is cause to celebrate), but it’s the film’s charming cast and cleverly tangled plot conceit that keeps it ticking right along. About Time centers on hapless young Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, who is utterly adorable in every frame of the film), a sweet guy who has never been very lucky in love. Tim’s been lucky elsewhere, however, as he had an exceedingly idyllic childhood in the arms of his “sturdy” mother Mary (Lindsay Duncan), deeply bookish dad (Nighy), heartbreakingly sweet Uncle Desmond (Richard Cordery), and whimsical sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) and he’s soon to embark on an exciting (well, somewhat) legal career in London. Before all that, however, he’s got some time to kill at his family home, and it’s only after one of his family’s rip-roaring New Year’s Eve parties that dear old dad shares an […]

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It should come as little surprise that Gotham’s own DOC NYC – the largest documentary film festival in the country – has knocked out a very impressive lineup for this year’s fest, but that doesn’t make the breadth and depth of available offerings any less exciting. Only in its fourth year, the fest has already scheduled over one hundred films for screening, along with twenty different events. These are specs that would sing at any festival, but they really shout when it comes to a fest entirely devoted to documentary storytelling. As DOC NYC’s artistic director Thom Powers explains it, this year’s “films range from profound and mysterious to humorous and sexually provocative. Not only can you experience unforgettable stories on the big screen, you can also meet many of the makers, participants and other documentary lovers.” Sexually provocative, you say? Sign us up, Thom. Of course, there’s far more available at DOC NYC than the sexually provocative, because there’s actually something for just about everyone – from awards season watchers to art geeks to Noam Chomsky fans, the festival promises to deliver programming for the masses. (And, unlike the adorable Forever Fest, we definitely plan on making time for this one.) What’s DOC NYC got lined up for you? Let’s find out.

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review peaches does herself

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran as part of our coverage of SFIFF, and we repost it now as the film opens today at the Quad Cinemas with a national rollout to follow. It seems like the appetite for widely-loved trans/glam/camp musical/rock operas can take a new one about once every two decades. Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in the late ‘70s, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the end of the 90s (even if it wasn’t made into a film until 2001). With Peaches Does Herself, electroclash musician and performance artist Peaches is gunning for an early next spot. The career retrospective/genesis story of the “electro-artist persona Peaches,” Peaches Does Herself is told with the help of trans porn star Danni Daniels, veteran stripper Sandy Kane, and the Fatherfucker dance troupe. It’s a high-energy, transgressive, genial revue with barely a word of dialogue. As the title’s double-entendre suggests, it does risk being a little too self-regarding, solipsistic, or — excuse me — masturbatory to transcend its subject and resonate with a new generation of genderqueer kids looking for a new musical soundtrack to sing along to. But who knows? Peaches and company create an appealing vision of a world where people ardently give zero fucks about gender in order to sing, dance, and dry-hump with abandon, which might be just what it takes to join the trans/glam musical/rock opera pantheon.

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12 Years a Slave

Editor’s note: Our review of 12 Years a Slave originally ran during this year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens today in theatrical release. In certain circles, the excellence of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave has just been assumed for months now – after all, how could a film that features such a talented cast, a gifted director, and a dramatically ripe true life tale not be a masterpiece? It’s a dangerous business, the kind of prognostication and hype that can exist before even one frame of a film is shot, but McQueen’s latest is the rare bird that lives up to its hype (and then some).

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The Fifth Estate

Editor’s note: Our review of The Fifth Estate originally ran during this year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens today in theatrical release. If nothing else, Bill Condon’s tone-deaf and inept The Fifth Estate will make plain the impact that the controversial Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks have had on modern journalism, the Internet, and whistle-blowing in general. Unfortunately, little of the depth and power of Assange’s work is conveyed via adept filmmaking, instead the facts have to speak for themselves, and it’s to their credit alone that they manage to emerge from the mess Condon’s film has made of a compelling story. Thank goodness Benedict Cumberbatch is there to make an otherwise shockingly uninspired biopic even remotely interesting.

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