It’s another strong year at the Tribeca Film Festival, but as always, it's impossible to see everything or even almost everything in person.
With close to 150 movies, documentaries, and shorts offered, it’s impossible even to remember what you thought you wanted to see. One of us resorted to the system used back in the day to register for college classes: What’s available for this empty block of time? Medieval Flemish painting? Fine, I’ll take it.
But if you don't like Flemish, or can't get medieval, some of these films are already available via cable on demand or on-line at the festival's "streaming room" here: http://www.tribecafilm.com/tribecaonline/streaming-room/
Herewith, some of our reviewers' notes:
"Angels Crest"- Sometimes movies fail to adapt. Taken from Leslie Schwartz's novel about a searing tragedy and its after-effects in a small Colorado town, "Angels Crest" deploys a strong cast capable of striking the right chords when given the chance. But the movie never finds its rhythm, rushing through some key passages and eliding others. With Thomas Dekker, Lynn Collins and Elizabeth McGovern. JT
"The Bang, Bang Club" - Already in theaters, Steven Silver's powerful and thought-provoking film is based on a book recounting the real exploits of four adventure-loving young white photographers covering violence in South Africa. It captures both the pulse-racing excitement of being young and fearless in a dangerous place and the aftereffects of seeing and recording appalling situations. Starring Ryan Phillippe with Malin Ackerman as a photo editor and love interest. (See full review) MR
"Cinema Komunisto" - From a modest starting point, the movie projectionist for the late Yugoslav strongman Josip Broz Tito, first-time director Mila Turajlić creates a dazzling history of a country, told through its movies and those who made them. Expertly weaving modern interviews, movie clips, archival footage, radio dialogue, documents and photos, "Cinema Komunisto" evokes a vanished time and place through a moving trajectory of triumph and loss. Accessible to everyone, but a must-see for cineastes. (See full review) JT
"Donor Unknown" - Subtitled "Adventures in the Sperm Trade," this documentary is a fascinating examination of the relatively recent reproductive technology of anonymous sperm donors. A young woman, the daughter of two lesbian mothers, decides she wants to find out whether she has any half-siblings, and that successful search eventually encourages her to look for her father. Viewers meet Jeffrey, the unknown donor, long before she does, but that makes her journey all the more involving. Director Jerry Rothwell has a light touch, and “Donor Unknown” is a real life “The Kids Are All Right.” MR
"Gnarr" - Concerned about your country's future? Irate that its politicians are wholly owned subsidiaries of banks and brokerages? If you're Icelandic comedian and rocker Jon Gnarr, you run for office yourself in this hilarious documentary. The candidate promises free trips to Disneyland and a polar bear for the Reykjavik zoo. More sensibly, he will only work with people who enjoy "The Wire." (See Full Review) JT
"Last Night" - With a high-powered cast fighting her high-concept script, writer/director Massy Tadjedin puts well-off young New Yorkers Joanna and Michael Reed under the relationship microscope for 48 hours. Joanna (Keira Knightley) is startled that sexy Laura (Eva Mendes) is the co-worker accompanying Michael (Sam Worthington) on an overnight business trip. She's even more surprised when old flame Alex (Guillaume Canet) turns up on her street. JT
"The Loving Story" - In 1958, Richard Loving married Mildred Jeter in Washington, D.C. When they returned home to rural Virginia, the county sheriff burst into their home at 4 a.m. and arrested them. Richard was white and Mildred was black. Seen as a work in progress, Nancy Buirski's documentary shapes up as an affecting reminder of a time not long ago when many white Americans, including judges, felt empowered to openly espouse and enforce the most bilious racist garbage. Now, it's quieter. JT
"Puncture" - Ostensibly set in Houston, the generic looking “Puncture” could be taking place anywhere. Based on the true story of Mark Weiss and Paul Danziger, two low-rent personal injury lawyers who take on a huge case involving the refusal of hospitals to use much-safer single-use plastic needles, “Puncture” might have been another “Erin Brockovich.” Instead, directors Adam and Mark Kassen choose to focus on Weiss’s drug addiction, preferring to film actor Chris Evans getting high in a dozen different ways. MR
"Rabies" - Although I didn’t enjoy this Israeli horror flick, that may have less to do with the merits of the film than my distaste for the genre. “Rabies” does play with the formula of attractive teens going off into the woods where a homicidal maniac happens to be lurking, delivering its predetermined shocks in novel ways, but it’s still a lot of dumb people doing really dumb things. People in the audience seemed to enjoy it, though. MR
"Rid of Me" - Mad love for the latest drollery from Portland, Or., writer/director James Westby. Katie O'Grady is adorable as Meris Canfield, whose former jock husband has lost his high-paid computer industry job and is moving back to his hometown and to his high-school friends. That Meris is the square peg is only the start of an exquisite comedy of embarrassment. "Rid of Me" is one of the finds of this year's Tribeca festival. JT
"Roadie" - Another film that revolves around a high-school reunion, "Roadie" follows Jimmie back to Queens when he's let go after twenty-odd years by the metal band Blue Oyster Cult. Played by Ron Eldard, whose face is a map of regret and disappointment, Jimmie returns home because he has no other place to go. Lois Smith is magnificent as his mother, teetering on the edge of dementia. So is Bobby Cannavale as the jerk who tormented Jimmie in high school and is now married to his old girlfriend. Uneven in spots, “Roadie” has a great sense of place and real compassion for its characters. MR
"Stuck Between Stations" - Brady Kiernan's directoral debut is a quiet and affecting romance set in Minneapolis. Casper, a young soldier home to attend his father’s funeral, runs into Rebecca, the girl he had a crush on in high school. Smarter and much more ambitious than Casper, Becky is in graduate school, sleeping with her advisor. “Stuck Between Stations” is another "Before Sunset," two young people spend a wandering a city and getting to know each other. But it's sweet and believable with fully realized characters. With Zoe Lister-Jones and Sam Rosen. MR