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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Director of Napoleon Dynamite Has a New Comedy Coming Out, But It Doesn't Look Good

Remember a few weeks ago when I was lamenting about the decline of comedy? Well, MASTERMINDS is the kind of film I had in mind when I posed the question. Though the cast is pretty decent (Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson and SNL alums Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis), everything else about the film just looks so...blah. So safe and expected -- two of the most annoyingly prevalent qualities of modern comedy. Don't believe me? Read the synopsis:

In this action comedy based on true events, directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite; Nacho Libre), David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) discovers the true meaning of adventure far beyond his wildest dreams. He is an uncomplicated man stuck in a monotonous life. Day in and day out he drives an armored vehicle, transporting millions of other people’s money with no escape in sight. The only glimmer of excitement is his flirtatious work crush Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) who soon lures him into the scheme of a lifetime.

Along with a group of half-brained criminals led by Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) and an absurdly faulted heist plan, David manages the impossible and makes off with $17 million in cash…only problem is he foolishly hands the money over to this wild group of double crossers and has been set up to take the fall. With the bandits blowing the millions on lavish and ridiculous luxuries, they leave behind a glaring trail of evidence. Now on the lam and in over his head, David must dodge the authorities, evade a hilarious hit man, Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis), and try to turn the tables on the ones he trusted most.

Get what I'm saying? Now watch the trailer:

MASTERMINDS will hits theaters in the U.S. on August 7th.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Watch The Moody New Trailer for Zombie Drama MAGGIE, Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin

You may remember a few weeks ago I included Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin's upcoming drama, MAGGIE, among the films I am looking forward to at the Tribeca Film Festival -- mostly because the premise has a Warm Bodies vibe to it (which I love) and I am anxious to see Schwarzenegger not be an action hero for a change. I also think Breslin is one of the most underrated working actresses right now.

Here's a recap of the synopsis:

When a deadly zombie virus sweeps the nation, a father will stop at nothing to save his infected daughter in this post-apocalyptic thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin.
Today brings us the first look at the trailer, which is appropriately moody as most other post-apocalyptic stories but also surprisingly sad. Check it out:

Thoughts? MAGGIE will open in theaters and On Demand May 8. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PARIAH Star Adepero Oduye's Directorial Debut Set to Premiere This Weekend in NYC

Ever since her breakout performance in Pariah (2011), I've kept one eye on Adepero Oduye. Okay, I didn't love Lifetime TV's completely useless remake of Steel Magnolias, in which she starred, and her long-grieving performance in 12 Years a Slave didn't really allow her to explore the nuance of more complex characters in which she excels. However, I know with the right role Oduye can deliver an absolutely heartbreaking performance.

But first, the actress is trying her hand at acting and directing with BREAKING IN, a topical new narrative short film that's debuting at the Brooklyn Girl Film Festival in New York City Saturday, March 28.

I only heard about this project earlier today on Twitter when the actress tweeted the following:

From the festival website, I was able to gather this very brief synopsis:

One afternoon in Sunset Park, another black boy gets broken in by the NYPD.

So it sounds like the film explores the socio-political narrative of racial profiling and the police that has become a hot-button topic of conversation among millenials and political experts alike. I'm looking forward to it.

I'll keep you updated on this project as I learn more.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Featurette for FURIOUS 7: "You Get to Say Goodbye to Someone Really Special"

You know that amid the completely implausible but awesome car stunts, we're all going to be boo-hooing by the ending credits of FURIOUS 7, right? At least, I know I will be. Because pretty much all the clips and interviews I've read about the new film (in theaters April 3rd) have alluded to the fact that there will likely be a really touching sendoff for the late Paul Walker. And I'm just not ready to face that.

But alas, from the look of today's new featurette, all great things must come to end. Though Walker and his car gang won't go out without one last brouhaha. As Vin Diesel says in the video, "The Fast & Furious saga is growing up," so much of what we'll see may be a more mature, emotional portrayal of these characters (yet not without the wild antics that die-hard fans of the franchise have come to expect and love). Watch:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tom Cruise Reminds Us that He's Still the Most Reliable Action Star We've Got

Let it be known that before Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson began smashing heads on the big screen, and before Paul Walker and Vin Diesel personified what it means to be fast and furious, Tom Cruise redefined the big screen action genre with death-defying stunts (like dangling on the outside of a speeding plane) and oh-so-cool dialogue in the blockbuster franchise, Mission Impossible

Now, nearly 20 years since the first film, Cruise returns with the fifth installment, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION. And judging by the teaser trailer alone, he's still got that same fierce commitment to the epic spy thriller as ever before (bags under his eyes and all). Returning cast members Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames (as well as franchise newbie Alec Baldwin) are also along for the ride. More on the film in the synopsis:

Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

Watch the clip:

Read this USA Today interview with Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher), and watch MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION when it hits theaters July 31. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Time to Feel Old. GOODFELLAS Was Released in Theaters a Quarter Century Ago

This is definitely one of those "God, you're old" moments. I mean, has it already been TWENTY-FIVE years since Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas? Let me go lie in my grave now then...

For those of you who aren't familiar with this classic gangster film, here's a little more info:

Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Ray Liotta and Paul Sorvino, Goodfellas is an acclaimed 1990 Academy Award-nominated classic based on the true-crime bestseller “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi

To honor the film's quarter century of existence, the Tribeca Film Festival (with likely a big push from Co-Founder De Niro) will close out on April 25 with a screening of the 1990 gangster film, followed by a Q&A and discussion with the film’s creators and cast members.

In a press release issued today from the festival, Scorsese expressed his excitement: “I was so excited to learn that this picture, now 25 years old, would be closing this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Excited and moved. It was an adventure to get it on screen—we wanted to make a movie that was true to Nick Pileggi’s book and to the life of Henry Hill and his friends, which means that we broke some rules and took some risks. So it’s heartening to know that GoodFellas has come to mean so much to so many people. It’s wonderful to see one of your pictures revived and re-seen, but to see it closing Tribeca, a festival of new movies, means the world to me.”

And the anniversary celebrations won't end there. On May 5, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will release GoodFellas 25th Anniversary on Blu-ray and Digital HD which will include the new documentary, “Scorsese’s GoodFellas,” featuring interviews with De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta and more.
Tickets for the 25th anniversary screening will be available to American Express Card Members on March 23 and to the public on March 28 via

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

David Oyelowo to Star as a Real-Life Murderer and Accused Rapist in CAPTIVE

Honestly, every time I hear that David Oyelowo has been cast in a new film, I feel like doing a little cheerleader chant. I am just so thrilled that he is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Even better, he's not being pidgeon holed into any one particular role. From stepping into the giant shoes of Martin Luther King in Selma to playing a long distance love interest in the upcoming Americanah adaptation, he has proven that he's not a one-note

But he has yet to play a hard core villain, save for his role in the forgettable Jack Reacher (if you count that). That will change for next role in CAPTIVE, which he co-produced and stars as a real-life fugitive, murderer and accused rapist who terrorizes a woman played by Kate Mara (House of Cards). More after the jump:

The film tells the dramatic, thrilling and spiritual true story of Ashley Smith (Mara), a single mother and recovering drug addict who was taken hostage in her own apartment by fugitive, murderer and accused rapist Brian Nichols (Oyelowo). With her back against the wall, Smith turned to the personal spiritual journey of Rick Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life in an attempt to survive and help Brian find a better way out.

The premise kinda lost me once they brought in Rick Warren and this whole "spiritual" journey. It's been a while since I've seen a spiritual story on the big screen that I didn't roll my eyes at. But Oyelowo has been pretty good about choosing films lately, and I like Mara well enough. So...I guess we'll just see how this goes. Oh, and Oyelowo's wife Jessica will appear in the film, as well as Michael K. Williams, who makes everything better. 

CAPTIVE is based on the book Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero by Ashley Smith with Stacy Mattingly. The film is directed by Jerry Jameson (TV's Mod Squad, Andy Griffith Show), from a screenplay by Brad Bird (Not Easily Broken, TV's Touched by an Angel). Paramount Pictures will release the film on September 18. 


Monday, March 16, 2015

KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER: A Runaway Nerd Looking for Meaning

Let me say this first: Any time we get to see Rinki Kikuchi in a film it's a treat. Not only is her filmography diverse and so completely unexpected from the traditional Hollywood typecast of Asian actresses, but she delivers. Each and every time. Though that aside, KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER might be the most peculiar film she's done to date.

To say the movie is quirky would be an understatement. I mean, it's about a woman named Kumiko (Kikuchi) who becomes so obsessed with the buried suitcase filled with cash from the Coen brothers' film Fargo that she embarks on a journey to go find it. Oh, and she lives in Japan, so this is a rather far and rather determined trip. Okay, I'll admit that the premise is ridiculous. But that aside, the film actually touches on other issues within the realms of feminism and tradition that other more commonplace Hollywood films don't even go near. So there's that.

We already presume from the general plot that Kumiko may be a little...strange. Actually, she's just reclusive, socially awkward, desperate for a purpose outside of her mind-numbing job, and  the stigma of being a single woman "of a certain age" and friends and family who simply don't get her. She is looking for meaning. And she finds that when she assumes a role in a fictional movie, and gives it a new plot -- one in which she has a stronger, more heroic role than she does even in her actual life. Is that the definition of crazy? Not in this movie.

There's a deeper exploration of character in KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER that goes beyond the surface story. It's the idea of self-actualization by way of searching for a purpose in a place you least expect it: in this case, a fictional film. What drives a woman like Kumiko to this level of fantasy, to the point in which she actually leaves her native country in order to experience what it feels like to actually accomplish something -- even if no one else can understand it? Well, a dreamer, someone who is unfulfilled, who doesn't feel she has anything to lose. It doesn't really matter whether or not the money is real, it's Kumiko's restored ambition that adds heart to this otherwise odd film. And Kikuchi plays that up well as she breathes life into a character that is not accessible in the beginning of the film. By the end, when she finally achieves the connection she'd been searching for, the audience also feels closer to her.

The Zellner brothers (director David and co-writer Nathan) have obviously borrowed a page from the Coen brothers (whose filmography continues to inspire offbeat spin-offs on the big and small screens). Their work in KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER reminds me of the quirky, uninhibited early work of the Coens. The film isn't polished, perhaps on purpose, but it's endearing, special even. I look forward to seeing more from this team.

Rating: B+ (**** out of *****)

KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER will open in theaters on March 18th in New York City and on March 20th in Los Angeles.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Zoë Kravitz and Ethan Hawke Star in a New Drama from the Director of GATTACA

First of all, can I tell you how much I love Gattaca and I am kicking myself because I only saw it for the first time, like, two years ago? Second of all, Ethan Hawke is on a roll, and I continue to root for him. And lastly, Zoë Kravitz for the win.

So that said, I am all the way here for GOOD KILL, a new drama from Gattaca director Andrew Niccol. In it, Hawke plays Major Tommy Egan, a man "fighting a war from the safety of a Nevada trailer, but commitment to the mission comes at a price."The movie is also described as a "timely drama about the human costs of advanced war technology."

As you can see, there are not many details about the film right now (is it some kind of war sci-fi film, or maybe a tech-fi film?), but the talent is definitely there. No word yet on which role Kravitz will play, or January Jones who is also in the film.

Coming off the heels of American Sniper, which I still haven't seen even though apparently the rest of the world has, I wonder how many people will be equally as invested in this story, despite its rather thin premise.

GOOD KILL opens in theaters and on VOD May 15. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Freida Pinto Discusses Her Role as an Iranian Dancer in the Upcoming Political Drama, DESERT DANCER

I've been really keeping my eye on this film ever since I first told you about it a few weeks back. And I admit that most of that anticipation comes from the fact that Freida Pinto looks like she is back to playing more than a pretty face on the big screen. In this "making of" featurette from her upcoming film DESERT DANCER, she discusses the importance of using dance as a narrative to express yourself, especially when other means fail.

You may remember this film is inspired by the true story of Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian (played by Reece Ritchie), who, along with some friends, risks his life to form an underground dance company when his cultural freedom is threatened amid a volatile political climate in 2009 Iran.

More in the official synopsis:

Set in Iran, this powerful and unbelievable true story follows the brave ambition of Afshin Ghaffarian. During the volatile climate of the 2009 presidential election, where many cultural freedoms were threatened, Afshin and some friends (including Elaheh played by Freida Pinto) risk their lives and form an underground dance company. Through banned online videos, they learn from timeless legends who cross all cultural divides, such as Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly and Rudolf Nureyev. Afshin and Elaheh also learn much from each other, most importantly how to embrace their passion for dance and for one another.

Watch the video:

DESERT DANCER opens in limited theaters April 10 and expands on April 17.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Guess It's Time for Me to Finally Watch the Monty Python Series

You know, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was another one of those "absolutely hilarious" movies that I kinda figured I could live my whole life without watching. But alas, it's 2015 and the Tribeca Film Festival has decided to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary with a special screening of the film and the world premiere of the documentary Monty Python - The Meaning of Live directed by Roger Graef and James Rogan. More on that after the jump:

This feature-length documentary offers unprecedented access to the preparations and staging of the Pythons’ 2014 reunion shows at The O2 in London and gives a fascinating insight into the personalities, relationships, and circumstances that made the Pythons into a global phenomenon.
Included in this celebration, TFF will also screen two other films in the franchise: Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, and feature special appearances and Q&As with the five surviving members of the comedy group (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin).

So, now there won't be any way to avoid it. Because I do plan to attend Tribeca this year, and if you're also checking it out as well, know that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is scheduled to screen on Friday April 24 at The Beacon Theatre, and you can get tickets for that here beginning March 23. Monty Python - The Meaning of Live will premiere on Saturday, April 25, Monty Python’s Life of Brian will screen on April 25, and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life on April 26.

More each film below:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones (UK) – Special Screening. Monty Python re-creates England of 932 A.D in their first film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When King Arthur enlists Knights to join his Round Table, they are inspired by God to go on a quest for the Holy Grail that is constantly interrupted by all manner of challenges.

Monty Python - The Meaning of Live, directed by Roger Graef and James Rogan (UK) – International Premiere, documentary. While perhaps best known for its eminently quotable films, Monty Python has performed its signature, surreal humor in live shows since the group’s earliest days. Dive into the history of Monty Python’s on stage and the genesis of some of its most well-known pieces as they prepare for their last-ever live shows at The O2, London in July 2014. Monty Python - the Meaning of Live is a hilarious and illuminating survey of what is takes to bring Monty Python to the stage.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian, directed by Terry Jones (UK) – Special Screening. Monty Python delivers an anarchic satire of both religion and Hollywood's depiction of all things biblical with their second film. Brian Cohen, born in Bethlehem in the stable next door, by a series of absurd circumstances is caught up in the new religion and reluctantly mistaken for the promised messiah.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, directed by Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam (UK) – Special Screening. Monty Python examines birth, life, death and fish in their third, final, and probably most tasteless yet funniest feature film that finally reveals The Meaning of Life.

The Tribeca Film Festival will be held in New York City April 15-26.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Does It Matter When White Actors Voice Ethnic Characters in Animated Films?

So I'll be honest: it bothers me that an animated movie so rich with Asian themes and references is voiced by a largely white American cast. I didn't put up a stink when last year's Oscar nominee The Wind Rises cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt in the lead roles, partly because the movie is so great. But that too was a problem. So now this issue is brought to my attention once again after recently watching this year's Oscar-nominated film, THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA.

Granted, this version of the film, which is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, is only the American version of the original Japanese film that debuted in 2013. But why is there even a need for an English version of the film -- which uses the same story, characters and dialogue? Would it have been too crazy to sell the original lead actors, Aki Asakura and Kengo Kôra, to American audiences? Instead we have Mary Steenburgen and James Caan playing the Asian parents of Chloe Moretz's character, a young girl who soon must decide to become a traditional Japanese noblewoman and bid adieu to her life as an innocent adolescent (who we learn also has fantastical powers).

Though the whitewashed casting isn't the only concern I have about Princess Kaguya, it is the most pressing, the most objectionable one. It's also far too long, too opaque in its art direction, with the kind of pacing that makes your eyes glaze over after a while. Which is a real shame because it deeply resonates with such great themes as self-identity, the idea of not wanting to "belong to someone else" and determining the definition of "home." But it takes a long time to arrive at these themes. The film ends up becoming an often lifeless saga, and not a vibrant coming-of-age story that steadily engages its audience.

But maybe this is just me. Maybe after being wooed by lively films like Paranorman, Brave and Frankenweenie, a movie like THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA, while charming, comes off as a bit of a buzzkill. But I can't be the only one who finds a film that is so rich with themes that transcend age, time and race be portrayed by standard white American actors to be an odd thing.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Documentaries on Mary J. Blige and Misty Copeland are Among the Films World Premiering at Tribeca

It looks like this year's Tribeca Film Festival is piggy backing off the success of last year's Nas: Time is Illmatic with another music documentary competing in the Special Screenings section that will also accompany a live performance at the event. R&B queen Mary J. Blige's concert documentary Mary J. Blige - The London Sessions will follow the singer as she writes, records, and curates her 13th studio album. The film, which is making its world premiere at the festival in New York City next month, will be followed by a live performance from Blige.

Also among the Special Screenings, well-respected indie director Nelson George will debut his documentary on Misty Copeland, the first African-American female soloist at New York’s American Ballet Theatre® in two decades at the festival. A Ballerina's Tale will followed by a discussion with Copeland and a performance from one of her protégées from Project Plie.

Below is a list of other highlights from the newest slate of films competing in the Spotlight and Midnight categories:


Aloft, directed and written by Claudia Llosa. (Canada, France, Spain) – New York Premiere, Narrative. In parallel narratives, single-mother Nana (Jennifer Connelly) has a mysterious experience at the hands of a traveling healer, years later her troubled son Ivan (Cillian Murphy) sets out in search of his now absent mother. Academy Award®–nominee Claudia Llosa’s (The Milk of Sorrow) decade-spanning family drama is a dreamlike rumination on faith, forgiveness, and family, set against an otherworldly frozen landscape. A Sony Pictures Classics Release.

As I AM: the Life and Times of DJ AM, directed and written by Kevin Kerslake. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Adam Goldstein, better known as DJ AM, was a man with deep passions and aggressive demons. As I AM is an insider’s look into the life of the late, famed mash-up pioneer: his professional successes that made him the first million-dollar deejay in the United States and his incredibly complex personal life that was lived under the specter of drug addiction.

Backtrack, directed and written by Michael Petroni. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In this spine-tingling supernatural thriller, troubled psychotherapist Peter Bowers (Adrien Brody) is suffering from nightmares and eerie visions. When he uncovers a horrifying secret that all of his patients share, he is put on a course that takes him back to the small hometown he fled years ago. There he confronts his demons and unravels a mystery 20 years in the making.

Grandma, directed and written by Paul Weitz. (USA) – New York Premiere, Narrative. Reeling from a recent breakup and still mourning the loss of her longtime partner, once-famous poet Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is surprised to find her teenage granddaughter on her doorstep in need of $600 and a ride. The two embark on an all-day road trip that ends up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets all over town. Co-starring Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, and Sam Elliott. A Sony Pictures Classics release.


Maggie, directed by Henry Hobson, written by John Scott 3. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. There's a deadly zombie epidemic threatening humanity, but Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a small-town farmer and family man, refuses to accept defeat even when his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) becomes infected. As Maggie's condition worsens and the authorities seek to eradicate those with the virus, Wade is pushed to the limits in an effort to protect her. Joely Richardson co-stars in this post-apocalyptic thriller. Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions release.

The Wannabe, directed and written by Nick Sandow. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Gotti-obsessed and hopelessly in love, Tommy (Boardwalk Empire’s Vincent Piazza) and Rose (Academy Award®–winner Patricia Arquette) are New York nobodies who get their moment in the sun when they begin robbing New York’s mafia elite in this real-life crime story of mob culture and amour fou. Based on true events surrounding the 1992 trial of John Gotti. From writer-director Nick Sandow (“Orange is the New Black”) and executive producer Martin Scorsese.


Emelie, directed by Michael Thelin, written by Richard Raymond Harry Herbeck. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. After their regular babysitter Maggie can’t make it, the Thompson family turns to her friend Anna to supervise their children while the parents go out to celebrate their anniversary. At first Anna seems like a dream come true to the kids, allowing them to eat extra cookies and play with things that are usually off-limits, but as her behavior becomes increasingly odd, the kids soon find out that her intentions are dark and twisted, and she is not who she seems to be.

Scherzo Diabolico, directed and written by Adrián García Bogliano. (Mexico, USA) – World Premiere, Narrative.Armed with a fine-tuned chokehold and penchant for piano sonatas, a wearied accountant breaks his mild-mannered routine when he kidnaps a young woman. What starts as a carefully calculated plan soon crescendos into his worst nightmare. A delightfully twisted black comedy, Scherzo Diaboloco is the latest opus from director Adrián García Bogliano. In Spanish with subtitles.

The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival will take place in New York City April 15-26. For general ticket information, click here

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Trailer Watch: Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds Switch Bodies in a New Sci-Fi Thriller

Goodness knows we don't need any more convoluted and pointless science fiction films right now (I'm looking at you, Transcendence). so let's hope that this isn't yet another one to add to the pile. SELF/LESS, starring Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds and directed by Tarsem Singh (Mirror, Mirror, Immortals), is described as a "psychological science fiction thriller" that seems to use the well-worn "playing God" trope (you know how much I love that). More in the synopsis:

In this provocative psychological science fiction thriller, an extremely wealthy man (Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley) dying from cancer undergoes a radical medical procedure that transfers his consciousness into the body of a healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds). But all is not as it seems when he starts to uncover the mystery of the body's origin and the organization that will kill to protect its cause.

Eh, I guess we'll have to wait and see how the drama will all unfold. In the meantime, watch the trailer:

What do you think? SELF/LESS hits theaters nationwide this summer. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This Year's Tribeca Film Festival Will Feature the Highest Percentage of Women Directors in Its History

Okay, so the number is only 30 out of 119 directors, but the fact that women directors are slowly yet steadily becoming more prevalent at one of the country's premier film festivals is nothing to scoff at. Yesterday the Tribeca Film Festival released its selection of films competing this year in the World Narrative, Viewpoints and Documentary sections, which includes the recently announced Live From New York!

A few of the highlights from the list that I think are most noteworthy:


Franny: directed and written by Andrew Renzi. (USA) – World Premiere. Richard Gere delivers a bravura performance as the title character, a rich eccentric who worms his way into the lives of a deceased friend’s young daughter (Dakota Fanning) and her new husband (Theo James). The narrative feature debut of writer-director Andrew Renzi, Franny is a warm and winsome drama about the pangs of the past, and the families we choose. 

Meadowland: directed by Reed Morano, written by Chris Rossi. (USA) – World Premiere. Sarah and Phil’s son goes missing, shattering their life together and forcing each to find their own way to cope. Cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano presents a masterfully crafted contemplation on a relationship strained to the breaking point. Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson capture the unraveling emotions with remarkable power, alongside Kevin Corrigan, John Leguizamo, Elisabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, and Merritt Wever.

The Survivalist: directed and written by Stephen Fingleton. (Northern Ireland, UK) – World Premiere. Self-preservation takes on a new level of meaning in this organic post-apocalyptic drama, where the only way to get food is to farm it. A man is threatened when two starving women stumble across his cabin and demand to stay. Each new mouth to feed strains the limits of what the farm can produce and diminishes their chance for survival. 

Sworn Virgin (Vergine Giurata): directed and written by Laura Bispuri, co-written by Francesca Manieri. (Albania, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Switzerland) – North American Premiere. As a young woman living within the confines of a Northern Albanian village, Hana longs to escape the shackles of womanhood, and live her life as a man. To do so she must take an oath to eternally remain a virgin. Years later, as Mark, she leaves home for the first time to confront a new set of circumstances, leading her to contemplate the possibility of undoing her vow. In Albanian, Italian with subtitles. 

Wednesday 04:45 (Tetarti 04:45): directed and written by Alexis Alexiou. (Germany, Greece, Israel) – World Premiere. A life's work becomes a prison for jazz club owner Stelios when a shady Romanian gangster calls in his debts. This gripping, underworld drama is a parable on the perils of accumulated debt, and a depiction of the descent of a mostly decent man. Director Alexis Alexiou perfectly balances the complex emotions that drive a man to take the most drastic measures available. In Greek with subtitles.


In My Father’s House: directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, co-written by Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, and Pax Wassermann. (USA) – World Premiere. After moving into his childhood home on Chicago’s South Side, Grammy Award–winning rapper Che "Rhymefest" Smith hesitantly sets out to reconnect with his estranged father, the man who abandoned him over twenty years ago. In My Father’s House is a stirring, multigenerational chronicle of Che's sincere but often-fraught journey to build a future for his own family by reconnecting with his traumatic past.

Very Semi-Serious: directed by Leah Wolchok. (USA) – World Premiere. The New Yorker is the benchmark for the single-panel cartoon. This light-hearted and sometimes poignant look at the art and humor of the iconic drawings shows why they have inspired and even baffled us for decades. Very Semi-Serious is a window into the minds of cartooning legends and hopefuls, including editor Bob Mankoff, shedding light onto their how their humor evolves.


Being 14 (À 14 ans): directed and written by Hélène Zimmer. (France). – International Premiere, Narrative. Adopting an observational style, Being 14 captures all the secrets, trials, and anguish of adolescence, as experienced by best friends Sarah, Louise, and Jade in their final year of middle school. The narrative plays like a documentary in each true-to-life scene; the camera is witness to their lives unfolding, as it unobtrusively records the moments of a year, after which everything will change. In French with subtitles

Sunrise (Arunoday): directed and written by Partho Sen-Gupta. (India, France) – North American Premiere, Narrative. Social Service officer Lakshman Joshi is led on a chase through the dark gutters and rain-soaked back alleys of Mumbai by a shadowy figure. His pursuit leads him to Paradise, a seedy nightclub seemingly at the center of the kidnapping ring he is investigating. Joshi's hunt brings back memories of his own kidnapped daughter, as his past and current reality converge. In Marathi with subtitles.

The festival will unveil the feature-length films in the Spotlight, Midnight and Special Sections this Thursday. Stay tuned. 

And to purchase tickets for the Tribeca Film Festival, which will take place from April 15 to 26 in New York City, click here

Check Out Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden in a New Film Directed by Oliver Stone

You'd think after Citizenfour won the Oscar just a few weeks ago, Hollywood would have squeezed everything it could out of the whole Edward Snowden storyline. But alas, here comes another movie about the iconic whistleblower before he became a worldwide symbol -- this time played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Oliver Stone directs Gordon-Levitt in SNOWDEN, which describes Snowden as "an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country."

The film is shooting in Munich right now, and Open Road Films will release it the U.S. on December 25. 

Check out the first official image from the film:

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