Tribeca

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In the entertainment industry, a lot of women get forsaken in the public’s consciousness even before they reach middle age. In Chiemi Karasawa’s documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, the legendary Elaine Stritch celebrates her 88th birthday. And per one of her oft-performed Stephen Sondheim songs, “she’s still here.” The title of the doc is clearly a play on words – Stritch is hardly a fatalist, but instead she demands to be the center of attention, to be filmed. “Shot” in that way. The documentary follows Stritch as she gears up for her last tour as she battles the ravages of aging and diabetes. Karasawa paints a well-rounded portrait of Stritch here, because in addition to filming Stritch being her glorious brash self, Karasawa films her forgetting song lyrics, without her makeup, and dealing with her sobriety, among other things. Because of this multifaceted look at Stritch, the film succeeds in being enjoyable, especially since Stritch is such a magnetic presence on screen. There are also interviews with celebrity friends like her 30 Rock son Alec Baldwin (also Executive Producer), Tina Fey, John Turturro, James Gandolfini, and many others. However, Karasawa doesn’t take very many filmic risks that make it stand out from the rest of the pack, and that generic approach ultimately detracts somewhat from the film’s overall quality.

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Clark Gregg’s 2008 Choke may be the lesser known of the cinematic world’s big screen Chuck Palahniuk adaptations (it is, after all, hard to compete with names like Fincher, Pitt, and Norton), but the multi-hyphenate’s directorial debut adeptly translated the author’s trademark black humor to the screen without a hitch. For his second feature, Gregg again goes in for funny stuff with a truly dark edge and, for at least its first half, Trust Me is more brutally and bruisingly amusing than just about any other current comedy around. But Gregg’s stellar first half ends with one hell of an abrupt, tone-changing twist, and he’s never able to fully reconcile his dark humor with true darkness. Trust Me takes its audience inside the twisted world of dealmaking amongst Hollywood elite – specifically, the twisted world of dealmaking amongst Hollywood elite trying to capitalize on the talent and ability of would-be child stars. Gregg is still interested in trafficking in regular guys with extreme problems – while his Choke centered on Sam Rockwell’s otherwise-average-beyond-that-crushing-sex-addiction Victor, Trust Me focuses on Gregg’s Howard, a sad sack Hollywood agent trying to find the next big kid thing. It’s not easy and it’s not fun and Howard’s particular career path seems like the most weirdly soul-crushing career path imaginable. But Gregg’s Howard doesn’t know any better and he doesn’t know anything else – he’s been in the game since he was just six years old, back when he was a child actor himself, and it’s […]

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In God We Trust

Perhaps the only thing bigger than the capacity for human greed is the capacity for human stupidity. Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson’s feature debut, In God We Trust, a somewhat enlightening documentary about the financial misdeeds of financier Bernie Madoff, spends just as much time chronicling the negligence and inattention that allowed Madoff to rob his clients of billions as it does trying to unravel just why he actually did it. The film centers on the journey of Madoff’s personal secretary of 25 years, Eleanor Squillari, who has made it her mission to complete her own investigation into just what her boss did, how he did it, and who else was involved. While the majority of In God We Trust focuses on the heartbreak and fallout from Madoff’s crimes – and there’s plenty of heartbreak and fallout to mine here – its final third crumbles into aimless finger-pointing and raising questions it is in no way equipped to answer, trading emotion for hackneyed investigation.

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Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist would like to be a novel. In fact, it once was a novel. The film is based on Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 best-seller, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is already being taught in freshman English classes. It’s understandable that Nair and screenwriter William Wheeler would want to preserve the spirit of the original text as best they can. Unfortunately, the result of their work isn’t a film. At best it’s a two-hour mid-season episode of a network terrorism drama, and at worst it’s a cacophony of brutally simplified metaphors spat onto the silver screen. Wheeler’s script has big, big ideas. At its center is Changez, played by rising star Riz Ahmed, whose skilled performance is really the only exciting thing about the film. He’s a college professor in Lahore, suspected by the CIA of having ties to a local terrorist organization. A Western academic, a colleague, has just been kidnapped and the city is about to erupt in a panicked violence. Yet Changez is calmly sitting in a tea house across from Bobby, an American journalist (Liev Schreiber). To call the tension palpable would be an understatement – riding on this single conversation is the weight of the entire world.

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Almost Christmas, the latest film from Junebug director Phil Morrison, helps to explain the process of how all those Christmas trees get to the street corners of Brooklyn and why they cost so much. It does indeed take a lot to get them there, as we discover from a pair of tree-transporting frenenemies from Québec, played by Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd. Once you get past the fact that these guys are probably the only two Québecois who don’t speak French, the actors win in their roles. However, the film is filled with pacing issues as well as comic situations and characters that just fall completely flat. Giamatti plays Dennis, a guy who has just completed a four-year prison sentence for a botched heist. He heads to the home of ex-wife Therese (Amy Landecker) to see their young daughter (Tatyana Richaud), only to discover that she’s been told he died of cancer. He also finds out that Therese is in love with his best friend, Rene (Rudd). The two men already have a complicated relationship, as Rene bailed on their heist, which caused Dennis to be caught by the police.

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Bluebird

Comparisons to Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter will likely plague Lance Edmands’ Bluebird, thanks to the films’ similar subject matter – both are set in snowy small towns, both center on a tragedy that occurs on a school bus, both find their drama in the aftermath – but Edmands’ new feature quickly finds its own footing and announces the arrival of a talented new independent filmmaker. Bluebird approaches its seemingly familiar plotline with a tighter focus than Egoyan’s, as Edmands spends the majority of his film with school bus driver Lesley (Amy Morton), a kind and well-intentioned woman whose life is destroyed by a minor moment of distraction. During an end-of-shift bus check, a trilling bluebird draws Lesley’s attention away from the task at hand, with the hautning consequences of her bird-watching not revealed until late the next morning. Lesley is, however, not the only person at fault in Bluebird (the accident at the center of the film is a unique and jarring one, and is best revealed within the film), though she is the one most obviously culpable. While Lesley is absorbed with the titular bluebird, across town young Marla (Louisa Krause) is similarly engaged, but with depression, drugs, and drinks. As with Lesley, we do not know the full extent of Marla’s negligence until many hours later. Lesley and Marla’s small, twin mistakes bloom outward, and Bluebird maps the fallout from common missteps in an unforgiving world. It is, simply put, deeply heartbreaking.

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At Any Price is truly a baffling film. At many times I found myself laughing, I found my mouth agape, I buried my head in my hands… And I hardly think that was the filmmaker’s intended audience reaction. It’s almost hard to believe that someone actually wrote this thing, that the film is even for real. This is especially surprising since the film’s writer/director, Ramin Bahrani (who co-scripted with Hallie Elizabeth Newton), has several good indie films under his belt, including Goodbye Solo and Man Push Cart. The film throws logic and caution to the wind, features an insanely campy performance from Dennis Quaid, flip-flops each character’s motivation with abandon, has zero regard for morality and never ceases to have a cheese factor that explodes through the roof. On the positive end (which is understandably quite narrow), the two race car scenes were shot well, as they were quickly paced and tension-filled. And Zac Efron is always a sight for sore eyes, especially during his two passion-filled sex scenes.

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“Poet” as a career path isn’t exactly the safest or sanest route for the creative youth of America to take, but Amy Anderson (Emma Roberts) doesn’t appear to have taken that sort of thing (i.e. actual reasonable thought) into consideration when it comes to her post-grad life. Back at home with her parents, the guileless Amy wiles away her time penning new poetry, applying for various “accolades” (really, this is how she talks) from different publications and using her parents’ dime to fund the entire endeavor. Sick of putting her up (and putting up with her), Amy’s parents demand she find a job, though they probably weren’t pulling for her eventual hiring at Adult World, the local adult video store. The joke, of course, of Scott Coffey’s Adult World is that Amy is entering the “adult world” for the first time, a realm of maturity that she desperately needs to spend some time in, as she’s been coddled and spoiled to within an inch of her life. Let’s put it this way – when Amy’s parents accuse her of still being a child, she responds precisely as a child would: shooting back with a whiny “I am not a child!” before literally running away from home (she even sneaks out her own bedroom window). It’s a different sort of role for Roberts – Amy isn’t inherently likable, though she does seem to be generally well-meaning – but Roberts’ charm shines through and elevates Amy to someone we can actually get […]

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Oceana, West Virginia used to thrive via the coal mining industry. It was a town where you could leave your door open to your house overnight and wake up knowing you were safe. Then things changed as the coal business began to decline. In response, the town eventually became the epicenter for Oxycontin abuse, resulting in a population largely of addicts. As doctors over-prescribed the drug, an industry was born when the only viable way to make money outside of the coal industry was to deal Oxy. Director Sean Dunne’s visceral documentary Oxyana, what many have nicknamed the town, is composed of a series of interviews with Oceana inhabitants – the overwhelming majority of them addicted to Oxy – and it doesn’t shy away from anything. Addicts of all ages are filmed snorting and injecting Oxy, they are filmed getting high, they are filmed coming down. They’re filmed smoking cigarettes inches away from their babies’ faces. They’re filmed smoking while pregnant. You might want to look away, but you can’t.

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Imagine living every day of your life knowing that you are more famous for not amounting to anything than you are for your actual success. In Josh and Benny Safdie’s documentary, Lenny Cooke, the eponymous subject struggles with that exact reality. The film chronicles Cooke’s life from 2001, when he was ranked as the number one high school basketball player in the nation – higher than than LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony –  to the present, as he lives in relative obscurity in Virginia, overweight and struggling to earn a living. The question the film sets out to answer is what went wrong. The Safdies, making their documentary debut here, weave together a gut-wrenching tale of missed opportunities, sheer chance and reconciliation with the past. Very luckily supplied with hours of footage capturing Cooke in the most pertinent moments of his saga, the Safdies bridge the past to the present with excellent vérité-style cinematography and their keen ability to craft a well-drawn out, perfectly-paced film.

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Byzantium

Vampire movies are about sex. This has become practically a rule, and that’s totally okay. I have no problem with Taylor Lautner winning Best Shirtless Performance at the MTV Movie Awards. But if you’re going to make a movie with irrepressibly erotic vampires, you should figure out why you’re doing it. The problem with Neil Jordan’s Byzantium is that it so drips with sex it loses purpose. It has elements of every recent incarnation of the genre, moments of horror and action and myth-making, but in the end it’s more of a bland vampiric soup than anything with real bite. Saoirse Ronan is Eleanor, two centuries old but trapped forever in her teenage years. She feeds only on those ready to die, which typically means the silent and fading elderly. She writes of her life but then tears up the pages, knowing that no one can ever know who she truly is. This secrecy is under the rule of Clara (Gemma Arterton), a woman the world knows as her sister but who we can easily see is her mother. “My savior, my burden, my muse,” Eleanor writers of Clara, whose torrential personality and dangerous profession only exacerbate their tense relationship.

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Mistaken for Strangers

If you asked Matt Berninger what his younger brother, Tom Berninger, thinks of indie rock, he’d tell you it straight: “he thinks indie rock is pretentious bullshit.” Which is a bit of a problem, because Matt is the lead singer of beloved indie band The National and Tom is about to go on tour with The National to capture a documentary about, well, The National. Will Tom change his mind about indie rock? Probably not, but he might just change his mind about just about everything else. The basic plot of Berninger’s Mistaken for Strangers is almost eerily movie-ready. The National is, as one journalist puts it, a band of brothers – a group composed of the Devendorfs (Scott and Bryan) and the Dessners (Aaron and Bryce, who also happen to be twins, just for good measure), along with lead singer Matt – and while Tom is ostensibly coming on tour to help out with basic roadie duties, he’s actually there to make a movie, but he’s really there to reconnect with his brother.

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Daniel Patrick Carbone’s Hide Your Smiling Faces can be compared to Stand By Me in several ways. In both films, boys find the dead body of another boy in the woods. There are also meaningful interactions with woodland creatures and nature, dysfunctional parents, and the tethering bond of brotherhood, but despite the parallels between the two films, Hide Your Smiling Faces is its own entity. It is deeply meditative about life and death, about the relationship between humans and nature. And all of these meditations, very intriguingly so, come from two young boys. Perhaps the most admirable thing about the film is that it never falls victim to what’s expected. It veers away from typical coming-of-age tropes and thinks beyond the norm. Brothers Eric (Nathan Varnson) and Tommy (Ryan Jones) live with their loving parents in rural New Jersey. Eric is in the budding stages of being a teenager and is appropriately surly to the younger Tommy, shooing him out of his room and keeping his distance. Though their dynamic changes when Eric and his friends discover Tommy’s friend, Ian, lying dead in the forest, apparently after having fallen off the bridge above. Ian’s father (Colm O’Leary) is a single parent and an outwardly violent person, so he immediately arouses suspicion from the boys, especially since he always threatens to shoot their dog, Daisy. As Tommy mourns Ian’s loss and as Eric experiences a rift with a suicidal friend, the two brothers come together as they act out against Ian’s […]

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Mistaken for Strangers

If you’ve somehow missed our relentless reportage on the subject, the Tribeca Film Festival kicks off later this week with the premiere of Tom Berninger‘s Mistaken for Strangers, a tour documentary about Berninger’s time on tour with his brother’s (Matt Berninger) band The National. The film’s first trailer is a solid mix of standard tour stuff (life as a rock star is wacky!), family drama (it looks like the Berningers get down to some long-needed heart-to-hearts in the film), and performances by the band. Basically, a perfect music doc. Jam out with the first trailer for Mistaken for Strangers after the break.

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Tribeca Film Festival

The spring film festival season is about to kick off in a big way with the opening of New York’s own Tribeca Film Festival later this week, and with a schedule that spans eleven days and includes hundreds of features and shorts, the festival is crammed with solid picks for everyone from the casual moviegoer to the hardcore cinephile. This year’s Tribeca is a more down-to-earth affair than it has been in years past (there’s certainly no massive Marvel film opening of closing Tribeca 2013), and that’s a good thing for movie fans looking to make some true discoveries. Here at NY Reject HQ, we’ve already spent plenty of time poring over the fest’s schedule, all the better to bring you the very best that the festival has to offer. We’re reasonably sure we’ve already picked out some winners for you (just reasonably, really). After the break, check out Team Rejects’ twelve most anticipated films of the Tribeca Film Festival. Trust us, this is one list that has everything.

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Tribeca Film Festival

Now that the Tribeca Film Festival has rolled out their impressive feature slate and their massive shorts program, the fest has revealed the complete lineup for their seventh annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. Per the fest, “this year’s film program features a selection of sports and competition-themed films that celebrate competition, passion and teamwork, and reflect the diversity of filmmaking in this genre,” which includes nine films, four of which are a part of ESPN Films’ “Nine for IX” series (a new series focused on celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Title IX, which consists of a full nine documentary films about women in sports directed by outstanding female filmmakers). The world premiere of Kevin Connolly‘s Big Shot  (yes, that Kevin Connolly) will kick off the fest-within-a-fest with a gala screening on April 19th. Connolly’s latest explores John Spano’s fradulent purchase of the New York Islanders in 1997, which ended up being “the biggest fraud in hockey history.” Check out the full lineup for the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival after the break.

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Tribeca Film Festival

Now that this year’s Tribeca Film Festival has unveiled their feature slate (to remind you of the great lineup, check out HERE, HERE, and HERE), the fest has now rolled out their ironically huge short film slate, which includes a massive sixty films, including thirty world premieres (a new record for the festival), along with one special screening. This year, Tribeca has divided their giant shorts program into eight thematic programs – including five narrative categories, two documentary categories, and one experimental category – with sections dedicated to New York City and vampire and werewolf themes (juicy). Some of the shorts also include performances by such recognizable talents as Lauren Ambrose, Kevin Corrigan, Elle Fanning, Jessica Hecht, Nastassja Kinski, Julian Sands, Jay O. Sanders, Dominic West, and Elijah Wood. With such a depth of theme and talent, Tribeca looks to be offering a short for everyone. And, hey, if you don’t like them, they’re, well, short. Check out the full listing of all the just-announced shorts (and their respective categories) after the break.

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S-VHS

On the heels of yesterday’s announcement of the festival’s World Narrative, World Documentary, and Viewpoints sections, the Tribeca Film Festival has now unveiled the rest of their (quite exciting) feature line-up. Announced today are picks from the Spotlight section (featuring 21 narratives and 12 documentaries), the Midnight section (formerly known as Cinemania), Special Screenings, and the brand new Storyscapes section (a “multi-platform transmedia program celebrates new trends in digital media and recognizes filmmakers and content creators who employ an interactive, web-based or cross-platform approach to story creation”). There is a lot here to get amped about, including the New York premiere of Ramin Bahrani‘s Zac Efron-starring At Any Price, the New York premire of Before Midnight, the U.S. premiere of lady vampire drama Byzantium, the U.S. premiere of Greetings from Tim Buckley, the Zoe-Kazan-in-a-dual-role The Pretty One, the New York premiere of the apparently-retitled V/H/S/2, and lots more. The complete list of films selected for Spotlight, Midnight, Special Screenings, and projects in Storyscapes is available after the break.

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Tribeca Film Festival

New York’s own Tribeca Film Festival has previously announced its Opening Night Film, rock doc Mistaken for Strangers, and now the fest has begun rolling out the rest of their slate, including today’s announcement of their World Narrative and Documentary Competition titles and their Viewpoints section. As part of newish Tribeca tradition, each section will also have its own “Opening Night” film, with Big Men opening the World Documentary competition, Bluebird opening the World Narrative competition, and the documentary Flex is Kings kicking off the Viewpoints section. All three films will premiere on April 18th. Guess which one features Adam Driver. Check out the full listing of all the just-announced titles after the break.

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Mistaken for Strangers

Last year’s Tribeca Film Festival opened with the world premiere of the Judd Apatow-produced and Jason Segel-starring The Five-Year Engagement, a big studio film with big studio names, but this year’s Opening Night film seems to signal a return to the more indie-minded roots of the festival. Tom Berninger‘s Mistaken for Strangers, a tour documentary about Berninger’s time on tour with his brother’s (Matt Berninger) band The National, will open the festival on the evening of April 17. The film will, of course, be followed by a special performance by the band, which means you should probably get your lighters ready now (is that still a thing?). The film “follows The National on its biggest tour to date. Newbie roadie Tom (lead singer Matt Berninger’s younger brother) is a heavy metal and horror movie enthusiast, and can’t help but put his own spin on the experience. Inevitably, Tom’s moonlighting as an irreverent documentarian creates some drama for the band on the road. The film is a hilarious and touching look at two very different brothers and an entertaining story of artistic aspiration.” The festival’s feature film slate will be announced next week. The Tribeca Film Festival runs in New York City from April 17th until April 28th. [Press Release]

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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