Tribeca Film Festival Review “Slow West”

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorious, Rory McCann
Directed By: John Maclean
Running Time: 84 mins
A24/DirecTV

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

There’s a surprising streak of gallows humor coursing through Slow West, available now on DirecTV and having its NY premiere at Tribeca this week. The terrain is merciless and bloody but plenty meet their doom with a darkly ironic twist. Coupled with stunning visuals and a plethora of perfectly cast outlaws, John Maclean’s tale of star crossed lovers in the old west is an unexpectedly quirky entry into the genre.

We meet Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), an upper class young Scotsman riding through the deep Colorado woods on a mission to find his lost love, Rose (Caren Pistorious). Jay is way out of his depths, bearing with him too much luggage and the old west equivalent of a Frommer’s guide. He narrowly avoids being shot when a lone bounty hunter named Silas intervenes on his behalf. “You need chaperoning,” the rugged Silas says, “and I’m a chaperone.” Naturally Silas has his own agenda regarding Rose, but Jay pegs Silas as a lonely man in need of company and accepts his help.

Naïve Jay is an interesting romantic lead insofar as his flashbacks to his time with Rose in Scotland reveal him to have been ye olde friend-zoned. It puts a nice tragicomic edge on his mission and earnest dealings with Silas. It’s also entertaining to watch the wide-eyed McPhee wear down the gruff Fassbender. The addition of Silas to Jay’s mission comes with its own baggage in the form of Ben Mendelsohn’s Payne. Payne, in an outrageous large furry coat, leads Silas’s old gang each of them looking every inch the old-timey outlaw. They bring with them absinthe and their own absurd tales from the road where Maclean is not afraid to cull some laughs from deadly stories even as Payne’s gang looms ominously over our leads.

Ultimately of course finding Rose is going to come down to a good old fashion shoot out as the west demands. Like the rest of the film, its gorgeously shot (New Zealand subbing for Colorado) and gives all the players a chance to shine before the bullets begin to really fly. It’s a satisfying climax to top off this brief offbeat journey through the west.

 

 

 

“Intramural” Takes the Field at Tribeca Film Festival

I think you may have been hard pressed this past week at the Tribeca Film Fest to find a more entertaining red carpet than that of Andrew Disney’s sports comedy, Intramural. Packed with comedic talent, the film enjoyably marries the comedic sensibilities of 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer with the game plans of sports movies almost too numerous to list. Much of the cast and creators gathered on the carpet to discuss the inspiration behind the film and their characters.

Lauren Damon: Can you talk about movies that inspired Intramural?

Director, Andrew Disney: I think comedy-wise, Wet Hot American Summer, Hot Rod–which I think is so underrated—a bit of Happy Gilmore and Teen Wolf, I watched a lot of Teen Wolf–

LD: And from that you did manage to incorporate a little supernatural into your players–

Disney: Right! Right, which I love in Teen Wolf, they just accept it in that world.

Nick Kocher plays Grant, former Panthers team player, back on the field to coach the team to victory after an accident paralyzed him from the balls down.

LD: Your character goes through a dramatic transformation into the coach, did you draw the DNA from other classic sports movie coaches to create him?

Nick Kocher: Did I ‘draw the DNA’? [laughs] I love that! Yeah, I mean the character’s like somewhat similar to the Rip Torn character in Dodgeball in that he’s in a wheelchair but then my character’s also like 22 in the movie so like the fact that he becomes this–I think it’s more I drew inspiration from a guy who would draw inspiration from these coaches. He just watches these movies all day long and you know wants to be this person so literally becomes this character given the opportunity.

LD: You think these movies were most of his childhood?

Kocher: I think Grant hasn’t really had that much attention paid to him and then he gets a lot of attention paid to him when he makes this game winning  catch and realizes this is all he wants to do with his life…is just live out these weird sports fantasies and like get attention that way. That was sort of–I love that you’re asking me these in depth questions about this character!

LD: I enjoyed the movie!

Kocher: No, that’s amazing!

LD: Finally, is Coach Grant aware that there are two sports commentators [SNL’s Jay Pharoah and DC Pierson, recently of the Apple guy in The Winter Soldier] talking about his game?

Kocher: [laughs] No! I don’t think they can hear it. I think they’re aware there’s two like stoner guys who come to each game and they’re like ‘oh what’re those guys talking about? I dunno!’ but the stakes are just as high for all of them.

 

Beck Bennett, who is currently enjoying his first season on “Saturday Night Live”, plays the evil Dick Downs, captain of the opposing team.

LD: What famous film rivals inspired Dick?

Bennett: A lot of things that Ben Stiller does, he was always an influence. Like his character in Heavyweights and also in Dodgeball. Will Ferrell in Zoolander, that’s not a sports movie, but those types of bad guys. Also Bradley Whitford in…

LD: Happy Gilmore?

Bennett: Happy Gilmore.

LD: Oh, not Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison–uh oh, Adam Sandler mix up. I think we’ve committed an SNL crime!

Bennett: You lead me astray! I didn’t say it! You said it!

LD: I’m calling Lorne Michaels!

Bennett: [laughs] So yeah, those are some of the great comedy bad guys.

 

Backing up Dick Downs is the lackey whose actually a nice guy, Ace, played by Kirk C. Johnson.

LD: Do you have any favorite sports movie rivals?

Johnson: Yeah, for sure. Like Necessary Roughness, have you ever seen that? Yeah, they spit in each other’s mouths before to get each other pumped up. They hit each other on the shoulders and spit at eachother, that. And then like the actual real ones, like Remember the Titans, Rocky and Little Giants. Little Giants is very influential for me.
Kate McKinnon, also of SNL, plays the Vicky who Mckinnon described as “just a girlfriend who just really loves her man but just doesn’t know how to do it quite right.” I asked if she felt out of the sports action of the movie:

McKinnon: I didn’t feel left out not getting to do the sports scenes because I am a horrible athlete and it was Texas in July and I would have died. So no, I didn’t feel left out. I feel that I was spared from a terrible thing.

Creating a sports movie, I asked the cast whether there were any actual football going on off screen. Gabriel Luna, who plays Vinnie, first gave us the details of on-set games:

Luna: No, we played a lot of Cornhole which is a beanbag you throw in a platform. We did a lot of that. A lot of competitive drinking. A game that Nick and Brian [McElhaney] invented called Running Flipcup Charades. Which you may have seen on the Much Ado About Nothing extra features. They played it on a bus, which blows my mind, I don’t know if that’s even possible but apparently they did.

Disney: Cornhole? Yeah I played a lot of cornhole. I wasn’t as much in the competitions, I usually try–when I make a film, I try to abstain from alcohol which is hard but I think it’s good for a director. Like Cool Runnings how like that guy is always in his room studying while…well anyway! I don’t why I’m talking about Cool Runnings, I could talk about cool runnings forever!

Nick Kocher, who detailed the entire rules for Running Flipcup charades for me added:

Kocher: There’s lots of injuries. Brian broke his toe…Also I can say playing Running Flipcup Charades, people were playing much more intensely than they did the actual film sports film. People gave much more of their all to the drinking games.

Finally, seeing as so many of the creators mentioned [Walt] Disney sports movies as influencing them (McKinnon also cited The Mighty Ducks as a favorite), I couldn’t help but wonder if they could see Andrew Disney’s name bringing in the Miracle or Invincible-watching crowd:

Disney: I love Disney sports films! I mean I love like Cool Runnings and grew up watching every Disney sports film…

Johnson: [laughs] I hope! I hope that this says “DISNEY’S INTRAMURAL” that’d be great, yeah. We should make like a mock logo that looks exactly like it, it’d be perfect.

Kocher: GOD WILLING we get confused with the Disney sports film because then it’ll make a lot of money!

You can check out our 4-star review of Intramural, here, and view the trailer below:

Leigh Janiak and Harry Treadaway talk about their film “Honeymoon” at Tribeca Film Festival

Director Leigh Janiak debuted her first feature, the horror film Honeymoon, this week at the Tribeca Film Fest. The film stars Rose Leslie (“Game of Thrones”) and Harry Treadaway (Showtime’s upcoming “Penny Dreadful”) as happy young couple, Bea and Paul. Their blissful honeymoon is interrupted when Bea is found disoriented in the woods one night, resulting in a terrifying personality change.

MediaMikes: Can you describe the idea of using something as happy as a honeymoon as your starting point?
Leigh Janiak: That’s where we came from when we started it. It was we’re going to take something really happy and seemingly beautiful and see what we need to do to it to really destroy it and watch it decay. And it was just like idea of how something so personal can become foreign and fall apart.

MediaMikes: Can you talk about your cast, because it’s mostly just the two of them throughout?
Janiak: They’re both lovely. It was the first time they’d both really done American accents to the full extent but I think that they did an amazing job, I’m completely blown away and you believe them. And you believe their love. They both have an incredible energy, they’re obviously extremely talented, but you never know chemistry-wise. We didn’t do a chemistry read before and it was kind of just like feeling their different vibes separately and it worked, thank god.

MediaMikes: Rose Leslie specifically has to undergo such a huge change in the middle of the film, did you discuss with her specifics about how her character is, I’ll say, pre- and post-op?
Janiak: We spent a lot of times with Rose just generally tracing her transformation and just understanding where she was hiding from Paul, when her character was trying to tell the truth but couldn’t do it. But it was really a scene by scene basis. And we did the same thing with Harry too by the way because Paul’s character transforms as well, just not quite so physically.

MediaMikes: Horror films tend to go either the way of the supernatural or the way of aliens, which one do you find scarier?
Harry Treadaway: I don’t know, like it depends! It’s also about almost what you don’t see, I think that’s what makes me scared. It’s sort of the emotions and stuff behind it that would actually get me scared. I think. Not aliens though, the other one!

MediaMikes: Ghosts?
Treadaway: Yeah!

MediaMikes: Coming up, you’ve got Penny Dreadful where you’re playing Dr. Frankenstein, what is the show bringing to this character?
Treadaway: That’s not for me to say…all that I’ll say is that it was, I mean, John Logan is you know a pretty incredible writer…Sam Mendes producing and then Juan Bayona who directed the first two is really amazing and we’ve got a cool exciting cast. And I’m just doing my little bit, really.

Here MediaMikes got into a little spoiler territory with both Leigh and Harry, so if you’d like to remain unspoiled, you can check out the trailer below, and keep an eye out for Honeymoon, which has recently been acquired by Magnet Pictures. For those of you who’d like some more gorey details head past the video. 

Spoilers ahead…In the film’s climatic scene with now-transformed Bea, the long suffering Paul has to essentially birth a slimy alien entity from Bea. I asked both Janiak and Treadaway to talk about creating and performing this standout horror moment.

Treadaway: That was another night. Just another night…That was the fourth scene up that night and we were like ‘right, how are we going to do this?’ and we tried to do it the best we could. But it was uh, certainly one of the most unusual scenes I’ve probably done.
Janiak: My special effects makeup artist was this guy named Christopher Nelson and he’s been working in this business forever. He’s also incidentally the groom in Kill Bill Volume 2, super talented, he works on American Horror Story. I had put together a really extensive look book and it’s funny I actually referenced like a shower cord but I wanted biological material. And we looked at things like The Fly or Alien. We wanted that really tactile physical effect. And he created this thing and it was perfect and really disgusting and awesome. That scene took two nights to shoot so it was a very intense time.

MediaMikes: Why did you opt for the alien approach rather than supernatural for your feature?
Janiak: It was really just about making an intimate body snatcher movie. So I think that a lot of the horror is actually grounded body-horror and then there was this idea of, we wanted to give answers, the main thing for me is about this relationship falling apart but beyond that we wanted the answers of what’s actually driving these transformations. And that’s why it was the extraterrestrial thing.

Jon Favreau talks about “Chef” at Tribeca Film Festival

Chef, the new film from Jon Favreau held its premiere on Tuesday in New York. The hugely successful director of “Iron Man” and “Elf” hasn’t directed an independent film since 2001’s “Made” and was excited to debut the comedy, which he also wrote and stars in, at the Tribeca Film Festival.

In the film, Favreau plays Carl Casper, a chef whose embarrassing confrontation with a food critic goes viral on the web causing him to lose his job at a successful restaurant and start from scratch with a food truck and a road trip with his son. Favreau spoke on the red carpet about the inspiration for this story: 

Favreau: “When you write something like this, you’re not really sure where it comes from. I wanted to write something about a chef and something about being a dad and this is the film that came out. And the fact that I’m at the point in my career where if I have an idea like this, I could get it made and have such great friends who would come together and be part of the cast so I found myself very fortunate.”

Luckily for audiences, Favreau’s friends include Robert Downey Jr who plays Marvin. It’s a small but pivotal role as Marvin provides Carl with his new food truck.

How was it working with Robert Downey Jr. without having him playing Iron Man?
Favreau: “I love working with Robert and it was great for him to be on my movie. Because on the Iron Man movies, I feel like I was really there to help support him and make the character look good and make the story make sense and you know, be there in a supportive role. Here, he came on board my movie to do whatever he could to elevate the film.”

As the story concerns a man frustrated working for a successful business while being artistically unfulfilled, I couldn’t help but wonder if coming off of studio films, the story was at all autobiographical, but Favreau maintains this isn’t the case:

Favreau: “No, I’ve been very lucky, I work on big movies and small movies and I really am very proud of all of them. As a matter of fact, I’m going to do “The Jungle Book” [for Disney] after this which is much bigger than “Chef” so unlike the character in the movie, I really like mixing it up a bit. I think the character I play is a little more confused with what drives him. But I really did have a good time doing a small movie like Chef which is similar to how he feels in the film.”

Favreau was joined on the carpet by his onscreen son, the talented, 10-year-old Emjay Anthony, who had nothing but good things to say about his veteran cast:

Anthony: “Sofia Vergara is just drop dead gorgeous, and [John Leguizamo’s] kind of a ladies’ man and so am I, so there was a little contest there. And then Jon Favreau is just such a great actor.”

As for any upcoming projects for the young Anthony, he told us not right now, but “I’m open for business if anybody wants me!”

“Chef” opens in the US on May 9th.

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Intramural”

Starring: Jake Lacy, Nikki Reed, Kate Mckinnon, Beck Bennett, Nick Kocher, Brian McElhaney, Jay Pharoah and DC Pierson
Directed By: Andrew Disney
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Running Time: 98 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

As in actual intramural leagues, there is basically nothing at stake in the film Intramural, Andrew Disney’s hilarious send up of the Inspirational Sports Movie. Not that this stops any of the players from being balls to the wall committed to the game. Complete with underdogs and training montage, Intramural is the sports movie full of characters who have watched their Mighty Ducks and their Karate Kids an unhealthy amount of times.

Caleb (Lacy) has turned his back on his flag football team after rival team the Titans paralyzed best friend and teammate, Grant (Nick Kocher) “from the balls down” as he made a game-winning play. Four years later, facing the LSATS and an accidental engagement to his crazed girlfriend (McKinnon), Caleb is drawn back to the game and the Titans are waiting to avenge their defeat.

Lacy is an amiable everyman lead but it’s when he reassembles the rest of the team that the movie really shines. As in every sports movie, the Panthers require an inspirational coach to whip them into shape. Fortunately, Kocher’s Grant returns to the fold now with a wheelchair and crotchety old man voice. He might be the same age as the players, but he’s got the soul of Rocky’s Paulie and a psychotic dedication to the sports movie formula. Kocher, of internet duo BriTANick, (partner Brian McElhaney here takes the role of illusionist player, Chance) plays Grant with such fevered conviction that you don’t doubt for one second that he’s seen every single installment of Air Bud. For better or worse.

Matching Kocher’s energy on the evil Titans side is Beck Bennett’s team captain, Dick Downs, a screaming man child to whom the game means everything. It’s as though he’s aware of his role in the sports movie universe but wholly oblivious to the fate of his character type.

Even with the predictable formula in place, Disney manages to find new laughs in how he pulls off the traditional sports movie tropes including a hugely crowd pleasing ‘magic’ play. Gifted with a cast of comedians who, like the Panthers, are giving their all. It’s a lot of yelling, a lot of dick jokes and a lot of fun.

Intramural debuted at New York’s Tribeca Film Fest and has remaining public screenings through April 26th. For more information check out their TFF Film Guide page.

“A Single Shot” Premieres at Tribeca

Based on Matthew Jones’s 1996 novel of the same name, A Single Shot stars Sam Rockwell as a down and out hunter who accidentally kills a young woman. Having found money in her camp, he decides to hide what he’s done and use it to try and put his life back together leading to an escalating cat-and-mouse game with the owners of the money. Having made its debut at the Berlin International Festival, the film held it’s US premiere at Tribeca on Friday April 26th.

Actress Heather Lind plays Mincy in the film whom she describes as a “free spirit, impulsive woman that tries to befriend Sam’s character and bring him out of his funk”. Lind is a familiar New York face coming from Boardwalk Empire as well as a long list of Broadway credits, I asked her what it meant to have the Film Fest in the city:

Heather Lind: “It’s a great question, I’ve been in New York for about twelve years, I grew up up in Albany but I’ve been in the city for twelve years. I just love this city, I think anything that happens, that appears in the city is a good thing. Working on this film was kind of surreal enough and then getting to come to the premiere here in New York was, you know great.”

The atmospheric film, though set in West Virginia, was shot in Vancouver, Canada. Director David M Rosenthal discussed this choice:

David M Rosenthal: “I was looking for a place to shoot that had, you know this kind of gray weather and that provided this fog layer and this mist layer. And there’s not that many places where you can find that and Vancouver has it in spades and also has great crews and great secondary actors. It seemed to make a lot of sense.

Rosenthal went on to praise his ensemble cast: “It was so wonderful for me to get all of these people together because you know, there’s so many actors in this movie that I got to work with who I absolutely revere. I’m not even talking shit, I really revere these actors like Sam Rockwell and Jeffrey Wright and Bill Macy and Jason Isaacs and Kelly Reilly. Really I just walk around feeling just blessed about the fact that I got to work with them.”

The director was particularly excited to see Sam Rockwell take on the part of John Moon: “Sam Rockwell is one of the most versatile actors in America. He’s maybe one of the very best actors of his generation. I don’t think many people could argue with that. So the list gets short when you’re thinking of someone of a specific age, it’s like ‘okay, maybe we could get x, maybe we could even get this guy, maybe we can get this guy, maybe we can get Sam Rockwell. Let’s get Sam Rockwell.’ ‘Sam Rockwell read it, he likes the script.’ ‘Really?’ Fantastic!”

British actress Kelly Reilly plays Rockwell’s wife in the film and added to Rosenthal’s enthusiasm for their lead: “I had probably six days on this movie, all-in-all and I just remember working, just having a blast with Sam. He’s such a fun down-to-Earth man. So I really enjoyed working with him.”

Considering the film begins with John Moon carrying out a murder, I asked writer Matthew F. Jones if he could see John Moon in a sympathetic light:

Matthew F Jones: “I always look to John as a very noble, upright guy in a very tough situation and part of the, I think part of the interesting of this movie…was that anyone of us could put ourselves in John situation. The life he was living and then what happens to him in a single shot and the decisions that he had to make and so…I don’t look at him as a shady character, I look at him as a noble guy in a tough situation.”

Sam Rockwell was in agreement with Jones regarding his character: “I do sympathize with him, but you know, that’s–I hope that everybody does. I think he’s really isolated and a lonely guy, he’s trying to reconnect with his family and stuff.”

Lauren Damon: Are you drawn to isolated characters like John?

Rockwell: Well, I don’t know, maybe. I’m drawn to those guys for some reason but I like them all.

LD: A lot of this movie is physically grueling, how was that?

Rockwell: Yeah, a lot of cramps! Waking up in the middle of the night with a lot of cramps and stuff.

Rockwell was also on the red carpet at TFF this year supporting other films he was in, Trust Me and A Case of You.

LD: Was it by accident you wound up with three films premiering at Tribeca?

Rockwell: Well, that was a fluke. That was a fluke.

 

You can read our review of A Single Shot here!

Tribeca Film Festival Review “A Single Shot”

Director: David M. Rosenthal
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright, Kelly Reilly, Jason Isaacs, Joe Anderson
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 116 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

 A Single Shot begins with West Virginian hunter John Moon (Sam Rockwell) accidentally shooting a woman dead while hunting deer. As if this weren’t enough cause for alarm, John discovers both a hand gun and a suspicious stash of cash in her makeshift camp. Moon hides the body and takes the money. Never the best plan. What follows is a tense backwoods cat and mouse game held together by a strong lead in a terrifying setting.

Moon, it turns out, has already been in trouble with the law as a poacher and sees the money as a means to get back his estranged wife (Kelly Reilly) and son. It doesn’t forgive Moon for his actions but reveals him as a desperate fool for thinking his plan has any chance of succeeding. He’s not unfamiliar with breaking the law, but not on the scale of the men whose threats start with phone calls and escalate. Rockwell does an amazing job at taking John through all the levels of fear. Whether he’s trying to remain calm as his phone rings in the presence of an old friend (Jeffrey Wright) or outright challenging unseen attackers in the woods, you can really feel the panic of a man realizing he’s in way over his head. The forrest surroundings John was so familiar with at the start of the film suddenly turn on him and it seems as though violence can, and in fact does, break out anywhere around him. Often shockingly so. The woods are beautifully shot in all their ominous foggy glory by Eduard Grau, and manage to seem expansive and claustrophobic at the same time.

The strong ensemble cast is perhaps too large to be sustained by a film whose focus must remain solidly on Moon’s dilemma. For example, as Waylon, the thug behind the money, Jason Isaacs isn’t given as much screen time as you would like considering he’s supposed to be the big bad of the movie. Consequently he is out-menaced early on by lackey Obadiah (a magnetic, psycho Joe Anderson) and Moon’s divorce lawyer played by William H. Macy (wearing a crime against toupees). Similarly, Moon and his wife’s relationship could have been strengthened to get at the heart of Moon more than the flirtations we wind up seeing with his neighbor’s daughter. Ultimately though this is Rockwell’s movie and there’s no doubt he’s an expert at isolation. His Moon is reason enough to wander into these woods.

 

Tribeca Film Festival Review “V/H/S/2”

Directed by: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, Jason Eisener
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Rated: R
Running Time: 95 mins

Score: 4 out of 5 stars

V/H/S 2 is, as was its predecessor, an anthology film comprised of horror shorts by different directors strung loosely together by a framing story. The excuse for getting the tapes together this time are investigators stumbling upon the collection on a search for a missing person. Sure. So how are the tapes?

The first one, “Clinical Trials” I thought was cause for concern. A man’s new artificial eye is doubling as a recording device for its creators’ research. Of course this being a horror film, the eye brings with it the startling additional ability to see the dead. Eventually the patient links up with an eccentric female patient who can hear the dead and panic and chaos ensue. Well made and a bit slicker for having the eye-camera being so super high-tech, “Clinical Trials” just seemed a bit predictable compared to what V/H/S delivered.

If “Clinical Trials” had me worried, the second short “A Ride in the Park” brought me right back on board. A biker mounts a camera to his helmet in order to record his ride through the park when he is unfortunately attacked by zombies. But the mounted camera records regardless. From then on, we get a hilarious look at the POV of a zombie– from the uninterrupted conversion from human to undead, to his bumbling recruitment of his small zombie posse. A bloody climax at a kids’ park birthday party had me cracking up.

“Safe Haven” continued the upward climb of these stories for the sheer number of WTF moments per minute. A film crew looks to investigate a cult leader and his flock in their compound. The Indonesian guru, ominously known as “father”, is surrounded by tons of female acolytes who eventually over power the crew in a deliriously over-the-top and hellish finale. The punchline of this short was my favorite in V/H/S 2.

It’s difficult to follow the madness of “Safe Haven” but “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” does so admirably. Eventually the most serious of the bunch, it relies on a dog-mounted video recorder (he’s the tool in a prank war), to capture a terrifying batch of aliens assaulting a kids’ party. It’s a blur of panicked teens, woods, and that poor dog having to face aliens. The sounds of the alien invasion are what really sell the terror here, but having the dog camera-man makes this one the hardest to watch both for the visual shakiness and his helplessness.

Notable in this installment is often its reliance on broad sunlight over shadows which help tip the scale towards more humor than horror on occasion, while helping to showcase the gore in all its glory. Like the previous film, the setup to our watching this collection is mostly irrelevant but the payoff contains to my mind the most gruesome shot of the film. After what we’ve been through, it’s an impressive feat and a great closer to our trip through this horror funhouse.

Tribeca Film Festival Review “What Richard Did”

Starring: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley and Lars Mikkelson
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Rated: Not Rated
Running time: 1 hr 27 mins

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Richard is the leader of his local rugby club in Dublin who’s enjoying an idyllic summer of beach house parties with his teammates and their friends. Charming and well-liked by most everyone around him, Richard easily catches the eye of Lara (Roisin Murphy), the would-be girlfriend teammate Connor (Sam Keeley). One drunken night out, tensions run especially high between the two boys causing Richard to lash out with tragic consequences. What follows is an impressive, slow-burning morality tale that I find myself continuing to think about days afterwards.

Typically being the “alpha-male” in a teen film is cause enough for an audience to condemn someone like Richard, nevermind the act upon which the title hinges, and yet Reynor manages to win us over. The interactions amongst his crew early in the film are by turns humorous, immature, and occasionally insulting (as teen boys can get) but above all things, they feel genuine. These are basically likable teens for whom things are going well. We meet Richard’s parents (Lorraine Pilkington and a brilliant Lars Mikkelsen) who are also likable and proud of their son but for the most part are hands off. This too is to the films benefit. When Richard’s underlying rashness gets the better of him, it is to his mates and girlfriend that he turns to first in dealing with the guilt. Abrahamson relies on nothing but ambient sound and hushed conversation to increase the pressure felt by all.

Watching Reynor go through all the stages of his guilt, including a stunning loss of control in Richard’s family’s beach house, is fascinating. That he manages to do it while maintaining a degree of the audience’s sympathy in an objectively awful situation is the real triumph of What Richard Did. It’s a tricky film without any easy answers.

Tribeca Film Festival 2013 – Red Carpet Coverage & Film Reviews

The 12th annual Tribeca Film Festival is being held from April 17-28 in New York City. The festival’s mission is to help filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enable the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promote New York City as a major filmmaking center. Tribeca Film Festival is well known for being a diverse international film festival that supports emerging and established directors. The Festival has screened over 1400 films from over 80 countries since its first festival in 2002. Since its founding, it has attracted an international audience of more than 4 million attendees and has generated an estimated $750 million in economic activity for New York City.

Check out the following link for the 2013 film schedule

A Single Shot: The writer and director join stars Sam Rockwell, Kelly Reilly and Heather Lind at the thriller’s TFF premiere. Rockwell stars as John Moon, a man caught in a tense cat-and-mouse chase after stealing money from a woman he accidentally shot while hunting in rural West Virginia. Check out our review here!

Lil Bub and Friendz : Documents the rise of cat videos on the internet as both a subculture and in some cases, a potential goldmine. Bub and owner Mike Bridavsky joined doc directors Andy Capper and Eisner on TFF’s red carpet.

Trust Me: Clark Gregg’s second directorial effort after 2008’s Choke finds the actor also starring as Howard Holloway a down on his luck agent to child stars. The film’s premiere at Tribeca included Gregg, newcomer Saxon Sharbino, and co-stars Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”) and Paul Sparks (“Boardwalk Empire”).

V/H/S 2: Follow-up to last year horror film, which is an anthology film that is comprised of horror shorts by different directors strung loosely together by a framing story. Click here for our review.

What Richard Did: Director Lenny Abrahamson joined star Jack Reynor to talk about their Irish drama which made it’s Stateside debut at Tribeca. Check out our review here!

Click each poster below for our red carpet coverage from the following films:

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Clark Gregg’s “Trust Me” Premieres at Tribeca

Clark Gregg is known the world over for acting as bad ass Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel cinematic universe, however five years ago the actor added directing to his resumé with his wonderful first feature, Choke, based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel. This week he returns to directing as well as writing and starring in Trust Me. Described as a Hollywood Neo-noir, the movie follows Gregg as Howard Holloway, a onetime-child-actor-turned-Hollywood-agent, who allies himself with a talented rising star, Lydia (played by Saxon Sharbino). Sharbino and Gregg are joined in the cast by Felicity Huffman as a fierce producer and Paul Sparks as Lydia’s drunken father. They premiered the film at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday night to an audience that included Michael J Fox and Gregg’s wife, actress Jennifer Grey.

Director Gregg finished the film extremely close to the start of the festival. “Nobody’s seen the film,” he said of the impending screening, “Nobody’s seen the film and you kind of, you hope it works! And this is a lot of people in a very public way to see it. You know it’s like you’re going to the edge of the high dive, you’re kind of praying some water’s down there.” As for taking on multiple roles in the film making process, Gregg doesn’t have a preference. “No, it’s funny I love them as a whole, I don’t see them really as different. I see them parts of different jobs on the same ship. And to me there’s something about making a film that’s my voice, that I wrote using actors that I love and am comfortable with–there’s just nothing better.” Comparing acting in last summer’s mega-blockbuster Avengers to helming Trust Me, he added “You have a lot less responsibility. It feels like a lot more channeled and focused. I knew what I had to do on The Avengers and I was very glad I wasn’t Joss! And in this case, this was something that, I don’t know, I just had a deep personal connection to the script that I wrote.”

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For actors Paul Sparks and Felicity Huffman, that script was a major factor  in attracting them to their parts.

Paul Sparks: “I really like the script. I’m like a script person. I was fascinated by the tone of the movie because it’s very funny. It’s funny and then it kind of really turns at one point and I think that’s really brave.”

Felicity Huffman: “What attracts me is good writing and good storytelling what you want to be saying, at least what I want to be saying when you read the script is ‘oh my god, what happens next?’ And that’s indeed what I was saying while I was reading this and so I loved this story. It was compelling and unique. I don’t think this story has been told.”

Relative newcomer Saxon Sharbino wasn’t familiar first with Clark Gregg as a writer-director. “I watched him in The Avengers but I didn’t really like know him really…it was really cool meeting him” she told us. As for working with all of these veteran actors–the cast also includes Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell and William H Macy–Sharbino said she learned “just to stay grounded and know who you are.”

 

 Of course, audiences can next expect to see Gregg back at it as Agent Coulson on ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” despite his death last summer at the hands of Avengers villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston). At a recent Tribeca press day, he referred to the God of Mischief as the “Asgardian bastard” who ran him through. When I brought this up on the red carpet, Gregg was quick to reply “I don’t think I’m stepping out on a limb when I say that. I feel like a billion people saw it!” So how would a resurrected Coulson react to being reunited with his murderer? “Oh…if Coulson actually turns out to be alive in this new show, I think he and Loki have some business to settle.” And apparently not with Coulson’s trademark dry humor, “I think we’ve gone beyond snarky comments–the impaling thing kind of takes it to a new level of rancor.”

 

By Popular demand, Trust Me has added additional screenings at Tribeca. For further info, you can check out the TFF Film Guide’s page. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is expected to debut on ABC this fall.

“What Richard Did” Premieres at Tribeca

Having played in the UK,  the phenomenal Irish drama, What Richard Did, received its United States premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Monday April 21st. Actor Jack Reynor, who plays the titular Richard, joined director Lenny Abrahamson to talk about the film on the red carpet.

The director summed up the story of the film: “It’s based on a book called Bad Day in Blackrock by an Irish writer called Kevin Power which is a book set in the world of privileged South Dublin teenagers. In Ireland they’re a well-known group, they’re very you know, urban, very well-heeled, attractive and this film focuses kind of on the boy at the center of this group. Kind of Alpha Male, beloved by his fellow team mates but also by all the girls. Liked by the parents and teachers as well, so it’s about that kid. And one of the reasons I was interested in making it is that films about teenagers tend to focus on the kid on the outside of the group. I mean that’s who most of us identify with  and therefore often the ones in center are often pretty caricatures so I was interested in taking a character at the center of the group. The one who appears to have the least complex life, the most blessed life, and look at what it’s like to be inside that person. And what it’s like particularly for what it’s like for a character who’s not used to failure or self-criticism to deal with both. You know most of us have a lifetime to come to terms with…our own failings, the things we don’t like about ourselves and the ambitions that we didn’t achieve. But with Richard we took him and we made him face, to deal with a lifetime’s worth of disappointment in the course of like a couple of weeks. ”

What’s it liked to be picked up by Tribeca Film Fest?

Abrahamson: It’s great! I mean…it’s brilliant to have distribution in the States and especially with Tribeca and for Imagine because it’s such a name that people understand and they associate with really interesting cinema so for me it’s really great. I’m delighted that it’s up in the festival and particularly the way it’s going to go on release.

 

Jack Reynor: “Oh my god, it’s just amazing to be here, it’s great. I mean to get recognition from the festival

and for them to host our film here it’s amazing. I mean it’s Tribeca!”

What was the most difficult scene for you?

Reynor: “Probably I think the most difficult and the most rewarding scene at the same time is the scene outside on the bench where Richard and his father were having that conversation on the bench. We

changed the entire film that day. We made some very critical decisions while we were on set that day and it actually shaped the movie. But that was by far the most difficult to do in a truthful way because that’s where you get your performance.

 

How did you develop your on screen relationship with Roisin Murphy as Lara?

Reynor: “We spent a lot of time together, we workshopped, we were great friends–still are. And yea, we just invested a lot of time. And we spoke–Roison and I knew eachother before the film, we knew each other from school actually so yea, I mean in that sense it was kind of natural enough.”

 

Both men were happy to talk about their exciting upcoming projects as well.

You’re in the next Transformers movie?

Reynor: That’s right!

Can you tell us anything about it?

Reynors: It’s gonna be awesome.

Can you say anything about your next film, Frank?

Abrahamson: “Yea, Frank is a comedy about a band lead by a very strange band leader called Frank–the name of the film–played by Michael Fassbender.

He’s in a giant mask, was that difficult to direct through?

Abrahamson: “It was, I mean never mind directing, tough to act in! But he’s you know, you need an actor with real character, with real charisma to play through that limitation and he does that really well. So, hope to have that finished by the end of the year.”

What Richard Did has remaining Tribeca screenings listed on the TFF film guide with a limited NY engagement set for May 10th. Also be sure to check out our review here!

“Lil Bub and Friendz” Premieres at Tribeca

Lil Bub, the internet cat star owned by Indiana musician Mike Bridavsky received a red carpet welcome on Thursday night  as  the documentary she stars in, Lil Bub and Friendz, made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. While last year’s fest featured a feline-centric short titled “CatCam,” Lil Bub is a feature-length doc, dubbed by co-director Juliette Eisner as “the most epic cat video in the entire world”.  It also features Bub’s peers, Grumpy Cat and the man behind animated viral phenomenon, Nyan Cat. Eisner and co-director Andy Capper discussed the appeal of cat videos at the premiere.

 

So why are people so obsessed with cats?

Eisner: I mean that’s a good question. We try to kind of answer that in the film but I think it has to do with the unscripted nature of the cat video. People don’t really see cats doing strange things often because they’re not as you know, out there as a dog per se.

Capper: Dogs are just out there…cats you have to live at someone’s house for like five years til you have access.

Eisner: People just keep cat videos open at their desktop while they work every single day and it just makes them feel fuzzy inside. Fuzzy and warm. So this is an hour-long fuzzy and warm film.

 

Bub owner, Bridavsky carried Bub down the carpet as her signature physical appearance—Bub lacks any teeth, has a constant overbite due to a shortened lower jaw, extra toes and a bone condition in her legs—also causes difficulty walking.

 

How’s Bub handling the red carpet and all of this attention?

Bridavsky: It’s great, she’s just cold right now.

 

Her health is okay?

It is, she has a bone condition that makes it hard for her to walk. Sometimes her bones get inflamed and she is in some pain but I have a very good vet and specialists who take care of her.

 

How’d you choose the name Bub?

Bridavsky: I actually just, the first time I met her, I just picked her up [holds Bub aloft] and just went ‘Hey Bub!’ And that was it.

 

So not a Wolverine reference?

Bridavsky: It’s not but we’ve done stuff with Wolverine since because of it.

 

How’s fame changed Bub?

Bridavsky: It has not changed her.

 

How about you?

Bridavsky: Yea, probably.

 

In what way?

Bridavsky: I have a famous cat now!

 

As for whether or not the filmmakers are all ‘cat people’, Bridavsky has four other cats who reside in his studio, Eisner revealed in the post-screening Q&A that she had cats dubbed Brother and Sister growing up while Capper was missing his feline friend who was back home in London.

Lil Bub and Friendz will be screened tonight (4/20) as part of the free Tribeca Drive-In series with additional public screenings on Tuesday and Thursday. Information regarding tickets can be found on the Tribeca Film Guide.

Meanwhile, you can check out Bub’s official Youtube channel at youtube.com/lilbubbub

Tribeca Film Festival Review “One Nation Under Dog”

Directed by: Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Amanda Micheli, Jenny Carchman
Producers: R.J. Cutler, Julie Goldman, Allyson Luchak, Danielle Renfrew, Ellen Goosenberg Kent
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 73 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s difficult to say who One Nation Under Dog, which screened last week at the Tribeca Film Fest, will appeal to when it makes its debut this summer on HBO. Dog lovers, of which I include myself, will undoubtedly find it at times unbearable and those who swap over channels when they see Sarah McLachlan’s SPCA ad starting up might mistakenly do so again. However, to do so would be needlessly dismissive to an extremely well made look into the conflicting relationship this country has with man’s best friend.

In three parts derived from the doc’s subtitle, ‘Stories of Fear, Loss and Betrayal,’ directors Kent, Micheli and Carchman show the various ways in which a population so obviously in love with dogs comes to euthanize millions of them every year. ‘Fear’ gives a fascinating view at the ins and outs of how dogs, in this case a New Jersey family’s pack of Rhodesian Ridgebacks with a history of violence, come to be legally defined as ‘dangerous’, ‘potentially dangerous’ and ‘vicious.’ The distinctions sound small but they do determine whether a dog lives or dies after biting a human. ‘Loss’, arguably the most sensitive third of the film, delves into how people cope with their pets’ passing. It may surprise some to watch an adult dog-loss support group in progress, but to anyone whose lost a significant pet it’s not hard to see the benefits of such a place and the filmmakers never once look down on them. Neither is the funeral of a terrier at a pet cemetery treated with any less sincerity than that of a human friend.

It’s in the last third of the doc, ‘Betrayal’, where the film turns from the stories of individual lost pets to the outright slaughter that occurs on a daily basis for preventable reasons. Betrayal hammers home the importance of spaying or neutering pets and the merits of adopting the shelter dogs so desperately in need of homes. Some of the footage in this chapter comes with a warning about its graphic nature and it is indeed brutal to the point I felt physically unsettled but ultimately a documentary on this subject would have been incomplete without going this far.

To those who watch this documentary, you will need tissues at the ready for the obvious lost dogs but thankfully, also for the inspiring stories of dogs saved from the brink of death by the numerous rescuers who stand up for those who can not for themselves. Watching one such trainer turn some left for dead, terrified animals into loving members of new family’s was one of the most astonishing things I saw amongst Tribeca’s docs this year.

One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss and Betrayal premieres on HBO June 18th at 8pm

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Burn”

Directed by: Tom Putnam, Brenna Sanchez
Producers: Tom Putnam, Brenna Sanchez
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 85 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Burn”, winner of the Heineken Audience Award for Documentary at TFF, takes a look at the firefighters of Detroit, a city where abandoned buildings are everywhere and arson is rampant. More specifically, directors Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, reveal the ups and downs of fire fighting in the Motor City through the eyes of Engine 50. Ultimately Burn is a heartfelt and character driven documentary, that doesn’t lose sight of the larger picture of a struggling US city.

The directors of “Burn” introduce us into the company through a good cross section of figures within it. We first meet Dave Parnell, a field engine operator on the eve of his retirement after 33 years of driving the truck. He opens the film with the sage sounding “I wish my mind could forget what my eyes have seen.” It’s a beautiful and sincere statement but also brilliantly connects him to his younger colleagues who in quick edit repeat this mantra they’ve obviously heard during Parnell’s many years. The camaraderie among the ladder company is immediately recognizable here and the directors smartly establish the whys of these men’s chosen occupation when the risks are so great. The ladder company is their home away from home, they bicker and eat together like family and when the time comes they admittedly get an adrenaline kick from the actual fire fighting. Burn includes footage actually shot from the firemen’s helmets that is incredibly impressive.

Being able to capture the bonds between Engine Company 50 early on is crucial to the rest of the film, as we turn to how many sacrifices these men make and just how much help they still need. For all the dedication of the firemen, they are severely underfunded and often their equipment is in need of repair that’s not in the budget. In a city full of abandoned buildings, an ethical dilemma arises in the form of deciding whether or not it’s worth the hazards of saving a building “designed to kill firemen” or to just let it burn. The latter option is brought in by a new executive fire commissioner, Donald Austin, who to the film’s credit is treated really fairly despite clearly being seen by the Engine 50 men, as an outsider. Austin was born in Detroit but spent 30 years in Los Angeles. The let-it-burn policy will of course save on the company’s equipment but it reveals to us the dedication of the E50 men whose instincts it goes against. It’s hard to choose either well meaning side and the film rightly doesn’t try to.

A third focus shows explicitly what these men can face when we meet Brendan “Doogie” Milewski who at age 30 became paralyzed from the waist down after a wall in an arson fire collapsed on him. Putnam and Sanchez get an intimate look into his physical therapy process and he is completely candid about the struggles he now faces both physically and mentally. Doogie is grateful to have survived but neither him nor the filmmakers downplay the lost plans for his future.

At 85 minutes, “Burn” moves swiftly and yet in an amazing balancing act still manages to engage us in so many personal amongst the story of a city in need. These men give so much to the city they care about, it’s about time this dedication was shown to a larger audience.