Review: ‘Sputnik’ is stomach churning, sci-fi glory.

SPUTNIK

Due to her controversial methods, young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina, Lilya 4-Ever) is on the precipice of losing her medical license. Her career may not be over, though. After she’s recruited by the military, Tatiana is brought to a secure science research facility to assess a very special case, that of Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov, The Darkest Hour), a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and has returned to Earth with a unique condition: there’s something living inside of him that only shows itself late at night. The military has nefarious plans for it. Tatiana wants to stop it from killing Konstantin. And the creature itself thrives on destruction.

This intensely dark and visually frightening sci-fi film will get under your skin and stay there. The lighting choices alone, the perpetually dark and ominous choices will throw you into a state of disorientation from the very beginning. Practical effects, mixed with stunning CGI and creature design make for an enthralling watch. Performances are so strong you will be audibly rooting for our leads. As the tension builds, so does your heart rate. Oksana Akinshina as Tatiana Yurievna is a force to be reckoned with. Her measured tenacity, boldness, and bravery jump off the screen. As the sole female, her energy is what drives this film to success. Pyotr Fyodorov as Konstantin is an entirely different animal (no pun intended). His physical and emotional arch are the perfect foil for Akinshina. The emotional energy displayed onscreen will drain you as much as it must have Fyodorov Even with a runtime of nearly 2 hrs, Sputnik keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering how it will end. So, pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and get ready for a spine chilling tale from a secret Russian location. Sputnik will make you look differently at the stars.

Release Details: SPUTNIK opens today, Friday, August 14th, in select theaters, digital platforms, and cable VOD, courtesy of IFC Midnight.  https://www.sputnik.movie/

Director: Egor Abramenko (THE PASSENGER)
Writers: Oleg Malovichko, Andrei Zolotarev
Cast: Oksana Akinshina (LILYA 4-EVER), Pyotr Fyodorov (THE DARKEST HOUR), Fedor Bondarchuk (9TH COMPANY)
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Distributor: IFC Midnight

Review: ‘You Don’t Nomi’ documentary takes a good, hard look at the phenomenon that is Showgirls.

Paul Verhoeven‘s Showgirls (1995) was met by critics and audiences with near universal derision. You Don’t Nomi traces the film’s redemptive journey from notorious flop to cult classic, and maybe even masterpiece.

Peaches Christ plays Cristal Connors in the stage production of “Showgirls! The Musical!” as featured in the documentary YOU DON’T NOMI, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.

Paul Verhoeven directed RoboCop, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct, three incredibly influential films of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Then he directed Showgirls. Oftentimes known as the rise and fall of Elizabeth Berkley‘s career, it is a film that gets s visceral reaction no matter what. You Don’t Nomi is a documentary about the ins and outs of the film’s effect on critics and audiences alike.

The film is edited to show his other films “reacting” to whatever scene we’re discussing. Which eventually becomes massively cathartic in juxtaposing sexual violence in Verhoeven’s films. Author Adam Nayman uses his book’s structure; Piece of Shit, Masterpiece, and Masterpiece of Shit. You can see how many of his films are wrapped into Showgirls. There is fascinating filmmaking happening once it’s broken down for you. You also meet April Kidwell, the star of I, Nomi, the Off-Broadway tribute to Showgirls. She discusses her parallel past and how performing a musical comedy based on the film has been her therapeutic outlet. Peaches Christ uses drag to, in a sense, improv shadow cast the film for sold-out crowds. The audience still loves this movie, no matter where that love comes from is a total phenomenon.

Audience at Showgirls at Midnight Mass in San Francisco in the documentary YOU DON’T NOMI, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.

The opposing opinions all make weird sense. I walked away feeling like I had just had a cinematic lobotomy. I still don’t know how I feel about Showgirls, but I know I want to gather friends and colleagues when this pandemic is all over and watch the hell out of it again. Same thing with this doc. You Don’t Nomi is brilliant in all the ways it challenges viewers and fellow critics to rethink Showgirls so many years later. It may just upend your brain, too.

YOU DON’T NOMI On Demand and Digital June 9, 2020

Review: We Are One – A Global Film Festival short film ‘CIRCUS PERSON’ is an emotional high wire act.

Synopsis:
Left by her fianceì for another woman, a grieving painter (Britt Lower) abandons the life she knew to join the seemingly chaotic, yet invigorating world of a one-ring circus. Intermingling live-action circus arts and animated body paint, CIRCUS PERSON follows an introspective artist through the often humorous landscape of heartbreak to reclaim her forgotten wildness.

 

 

 

 

This mixed media, sometimes stop animation, twist on a “Dear John” letter is simply amazing. Vibrantly colored, engrossingly shot, Circus Person is a little bit of every visual storytelling treat you didn’t know you needed. It’s poetic and cathartic and funny. Watching it literally makes me want to join a circus for my own set of personal reasons. The script is easily about grieving, changing, and accepting the fact that we cannot control a damn thing. I first met Britt Lower at the premiere of Beside Still Waters (which if you haven’t seen, do yourself a favor and experience some more great storytelling). This feat of acting, directing, and writing is ripe for further development. (Hint, hint) I want to know what happens next. It is smart and touching from every angle. I highly recommend you catch it while you can! You can watch Circus Person on YouTube now as part of Tribeca’s contribution to the We Are One – A Global Film Festival.

TRT:                                      17 min
Country:                               USA
Curated by:                          Tribeca Film Festival

Screening information:
CIRCUS PERSON will be available to view for 10 days at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioS4X7O2sZA&feature=youtu.be

Creative Team:
DIRECTOR/WRITER:                          Britt Lower
CREATIVE PRODUCER/EDITOR:      Alex Knell
PRODUCERS:                                     Sam Fox, Desiree Staples
CO-PRODUCERS:                              Alexandre Naufel, Jasmine Dickens
ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS:               Elsa Gay, Tricia Lee
CINEMATOGRAPHER:                       Alexandre Naufel
COMPOSER:                                       Jason Lesser
BODY-PAINTING:                                Christopher Agostino
CAST:                                                   Britt Lower, Philip Smithey, Jess Marks, Ramona Young

Free Virtual screenings of ‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice’ June 4th-10th from BrightFocus Foundation!

The life and career of singer Linda Ronstadt is traced from her childhood in Tucson through her decades-long career and to her retirement in 2011 due to Parkinson’s disease.

If I’m being honest, when asked to review this film, I wasn’t able to name a single Linda Ronstadt song. Growing up, The Beach Boys and Carole King were on constant rotation in Mom’s station wagon tapedeck.  How then, 40 years later, was I recognizing so many hits from a woman whom I assumed was a country singer when I heard her name? Clearly I was mistaken. This film was a reeducation, and boy am I glad for it. In watching Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice I came to realize I have always been a fan.

Linda Ronstadt’s extraordinary rise to fame is almost like a fairytale. Her incomparable voice quickly rose her from the LA club scene to a record deal. She broke genres and records along the way. Her intellect and wit were evident in the way she promoted herself and other female artists. She was fearless in calling out the toxic masculinity that was rock up until that point. Her vocal range was unmatched by almost any other artist. When a producer told her not to make a certain album, she went ahead and did it anyway… and usually won awards for it. Linda Ronstadt is someone to be respected and amazed by. You can tell, simply by the number of industry stars that participated in sit down interviews (Cameron Crowe, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, to name a few) what an impact she made in her long and successful career. Without even knowing it, I’ve been a Linda Ronstadt fan through Blue Bayou, Don’t Know Much, A Different Drum, Rescue Me, Desperado, When Will I Be Loved, You’re No Good, It’s So Easy To Fall In Love, and many many more. She is someone I can look up to as a performer and as a woman. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice is a stunning lesson in music history. You will find yourself singing along and living in the music just as Linda does.

Lucky for audiences, LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE At-Home Movie Night with BrightFocus can
be watched for free at brightfocus.org/movie, or via Facebook Live and viewed on any computer, tablet, or phone from June 4-10. BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization funding
scientific research and promoting public awareness to end diseases of mind and sight. The at-home movie night will feature an introduction from producer James Keach, and interviews with key scientists discussing their current research.

“I believe in the power and promise of science to end disease and save lives, and this is why I am glad to showcase both the transcendent beauty of Linda’s voice in this film as well as
the bold, groundbreaking research of BrightFocus,” Keach said, noting that Ronstadt’s iconic career was cut short by a neurodegenerative disease.

Stacy Haller, BrightFocus Foundation President and CEO, added, “The scientists supported by BrightFocus are relentless in their drive to slow and end diseases that rob us of our memory and
our sight. We could not have found a better film to both bring back so many great memories and remind us how now, more than ever, the need for innovative science is abundantly clear.”
In addition to James Keach’s introduction prior to the presentation of the film, four BrightFocus- funded scientists will briefly introduce their work. They include: Sarah Doyle, PhD, Assistant
Professor in Immunology, Clinical Medicine, Trinity College Dublin; Makoto Ishii, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University;
Amir H. Kashani, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, the University of Southern California and Roski Eye Institute; and Yvonne Ou, MD, Associate Professor, Ophthalmology,
University of California, San Francisco. They are among over 200 scientists around the world whose ongoing research is supported by BrightFocus.

FREE VIRTUAL SCREENINGS beginning Thursday, June 4 at 7:00 PM EST to benefit the BrightFocus Foundation. More information at brightfocus.org/movie

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 review: Angela Bettis clocks in for ’12 Hour Shift’

It’s 1998 and over the course of one 12 Hour Shift at an Arkansas Hospital, A Junkie Nurse (Angela Bettis), Her Scheming Cousin (Chloe Farnworth) and a group of black market Organ-Trading criminals (Mick Foley, David Arquette, Dusty Warren) start a heist that could lead to all of their demises.

Angela Bettis is horror royalty in my book. Watching her interpret Brea Grant’s script is heaven. During this uncertain, weird, and exhausting time in our history, watching an overworked nurse with vices for days adds an extra element of terrifying WTF. Bettis is a revelation. The weight of desperation and the constant barrage of emotional abuse is palpable. It is written on her face. There is so much backstory bubbling under the surface. I would watch an entire series developed from 12 Hour Shift. (Hint, Hint)

The opening scene is divine in establishing the attitude of Bettis’ character. It’s a symphonic white trash word vomit. The attention detail of Y2K paranoia and the late ’90’s in general land perfectly between over-the-top and completely legit. If you lived through it, you’ll laugh and nod. But it’s the delicious moral dilemma that Grant has given us that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. We’re definitely rooting for bad over worse and it is fun as hell. The climax is so batshit crazy it’s like watching a ping-pong tournament; super fast and just as fantastically absurd. Performances all around are stellar. Practical FX are gagworthy and wonderful. The final scene is actually the most frightening. Brea Grant, I’ll be looking forward to a sequel to 12 Hour Shift, ASAP.

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 interview: Filmmaker Justin Fair on his highly stylised short, ‘Sloan Heart Neckface’

Synopsis: Sloan (Clara Mamet) has a not-so-low-key crush on Neckface, an anonymous graffiti artist. Neckface (Raúl Castillo) has less-than-resolved intimacy issues and a no relationship policy. Which he makes abundantly clear to his obsessive fan girl. That is, until Neckface realizes he and Sloan may be the same kind of crazy; and embarks on a mission to win her back. Which may or may not involve exploiting his roommate (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), stealing a much-coveted pair of sneakers, and incurring the wrath of a ferocious lunch lady.
Appearing in the New York Shorts Program at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival 2020, Sloan Hearts Neckface is something special. It’s an incredibly engaging 15 minutes. It was like watching a tennis match of NYC characters. As a New Yorker, it really felt like home. It’s visually vibrant and quite emotionally turbulent. I was lucky enough to speak with filmmaker Justin Fair on what makes Sloan Hearts Neckface as unique as it is. Check out our interview and the teaser trailer below.
Did the initial script look and feel like the now finished film?
Yes! I hope so anyway. I hope we captured what was great about the script. Some things we captured quite literally from what was written, a lot we cut, and a lot we elaborated on, but I hope the essence remained intact.
I adore that each character has a signature color. Whose decision was that?
It’s great to hear that translates! We had an extremely talented Art Director, Lydia White, who lives in a Shell House. She created these beautiful mood boards consisting of a lot of Blues and Reds and we decided to run with that. I wanted not only for the characters to have a certain color, but also to have those colors impose themselves on the other characters at certain times of the story.
Have you ever had someone who was, shall we say, “a little more than enthusiastic”, pursue you?
Haha. I can’t say that I’ve ever been pursued in the way Sloan pursues Neckface in the film. I’ve never had that pleasure.
Who does the art on the letters?
We had a whole team of artists work on the art. I thought it important that each character’s artwork came from a different artist. The Neckface character actually had several artists: Jeff Weinberg did the sketches on the Priority Mail stickers, Landon Webb designed all but one of the tags. The big practical tag that Neckface rips off the fence was done by John Gagliano. Jenny Herbert created all of Sloan’s artwork. Henry White did Lester’s portraits of Sloan, and Ruth Sylvestre did the other Lester drawings. Really proud of all their work, thank you for asking.
Are Neckface’s tags real? 
Absolutely not haha! There’s actually only one practical tag in the film and that was one made on our own materials. The rest of the tags that appear on subway beams, buildings, and monuments were created and then added afterward by a great VFX guy, Matt Brant. He did all the compositing, tracking and rotoscoping.
I love that this is essentially a string of monologues. Did Ian Grody sit in on casting? 
It is a string of monologues! Initially, it was just two monologues that Ian wrote for a magazine, if I’m not mistaken. Later he expanded it to several more monologues for an evening of staged readings at NYU- which is where we met. He eventually adapted it into the short film script. Ninety percent of the actors in the film are friends of Ian and mine. We never held auditions.
Do you have a favorite short film?
No, I can’t say I do. I don’t get to see enough of them. There are a lot of places online to see them now, but I prefer to see them in a theater. The earliest short films I remember seeing are Charlie Chaplin’s. I still have a big love for them.
What directors inspire you?
So many greats. I love both the classics and contemporary stuff. For inspiration, I look to Scorsese, Cassavetes, Kubrick, Ozu, Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, Fincher, Sofia Coppola, Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, Denis Villeneuve, Wes Anderson
What is the most rewarding part of directing for you, and also what is the most challenging? 
The most rewarding part of directing is for me is being surprised by my collaborators. If your collaborators feel like they can take risks and be heard and their contributions will be honored (as opposed to having their job/performance dictated to them), then they will give to the film in beautiful and surprising ways. In other words, if I’ve created the space for everyone involved to feel like they own a piece of the film, then we all got to do what we came to do and that love will show up on the screen. That’s when I feel most successful as a director. The most challenging part of directing is the discipline of rolling with the punches because things will always go wrong. When they do, the challenge is to embrace it as a chance for creative problem-solving. I try and trust that it’s just the film finding its own way. It pretty much always leads to something better than what was planned.

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 interview: Best Narrative Short Winner- writer/director Abraham Adeyemi and his film ‘No More Wings’

At a divergent point in their lives, two lifelong friends (Ivanno Jeremiah, Parys Jordon) meet at their favorite South London fried chicken shop.

 

The directorial debut from Abraham Adeyemi, ‘No More Wings in the Don’t Look Back program was the winner of the Best Narrative Short Competition at Tribeca 2020. Once you experience the film for yourself, you’ll immediately understand why. With captivating storytelling, in a mere 10 minutes, you will experience two lifetimes of memories, regrets, and choices. There is a heavy cyclical feeling you cannot shake as you watch. The authenticity of the writing, directing, and performances will stick with you long after the credits. I was lucky enough to interview Abraham during the festival and get to peek behind the curtain of the process and the mindset. I cannot wait to see what is coming to audiences next.

 

 

Abraham, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about this extraordinary short. This feels like a major labor of love for you. Can you describe the specific inspiration for a story that will undoubtedly resonate with so many?

Hi Liz, thank you for having me and for the kind words about the film! Sure thing. Well, whilst this film isn’t biographical… My upbringing wasn’t too dissimilar to the two characters. I was raised in South London, went to a Grammar School… What really inspired me was spending some time thinking about two friends I grew up with whose lives have turned out quite differently, and imagining what it might be like if they were to meet at this point in their lives. And, above all in some ways, trying to understand why their lives have turned out differently when things were so similar for them.

 

What did you learn from your mentorship with Sam Mendes? 

There was something that Sam said to me on set of 1917 which I actually wrote down… He said that I needed to make sure there was somewhere on set that I could be to concentrate and watch takes alone, without anyone’s opinion and that I always needed to be sure for myself that “this is what I wanted”. As I learned whilst on set, there are times where – for a host of different reasons – people might think they hit a scene but if it’s not how you imagined it, even the smallest detail, then it means it needs to be done again until it is. And whilst I didn’t have the gigantic set-up that Sam had – it was like a blacked-out marquee with TV screens and all sorts of tech that probably cost more than our film – in our own low budget way, we were able to ensure that I could concentrate and watch takes back without anyone else’s opinions but my own.

 

Being both writer and director, did you find yourself changing the script as you shot?

There were no major changes whilst we were shooting, no. I did quite a lot of work on the script beforehand. I initially wrote the script with just my writer hat on. Then, eventually, I had to switch to the director hat. On the morning of the first shoot day, I made a final few tweaks – things that probably came off the back of the rehearsal we did the day before – but I went in pretty happy with what we had on paper and I was more concerned about getting great performances and how things looked visually. On occasion, actors may have asked me if they could tweak a line, or just done it off their own volition and I’m usually fine with that as I trusted the actors I was working with and their understanding of the characters they were playing.

 

Thank you for adding subtitles. It was helpful to put regional slang in context. It was reminiscent of how our vernacular changes when we are most comfortable. 

Ah, thank you! I’m really glad the subtitles helped. That was actually a suggestion made by Sharon Badal at Tribeca and I’m really glad I took the advice if it means ultimately that it made it more accessible for a wider, global audience.

 

How long did you shoot for?

We shot the film over two summer nights, which also meant shorter nights! Once that sunlight even began to creep up… It was game over. The first night we shot felt straightforward but the second night… The pressure was really on. But it could have been worse, up until about ten days before the shoot I was still clinging tightly to an ambition of shooting the film as one continuous shot and my first thoughts – maybe an hour into the shoot – was that I was so glad that I was convinced to scrap that idea. 

 

Having three distinct roles, writer, director, producer, which was most enjoyable, which the most frustrating, which did you learn more from?

Ooh I love this question! I enjoyed all of them but the one which I am without a doubt most in my element with is the writing. I always say in life that I am most at peace when I have my head buried in writing and, actually, in these strange times it’s been the saving grace for my sanity. I’d have to give the frustrating award to producing because there are just so many things that go wrong but I can’t complain because, for all the hard work I did, my producer Abiola Rufai did 100x more in producing! So my frustrations must be so minimal compared to all she has to deal with… Without a doubt, I learned the most from directing. As a producer, I’m always learning but you have to remember, this was my first time directing and prior to this, I hadn’t been to film school nor taken a conscious interest in directing. From the moment I won the competition that gave me funding for this film (where one of the rules was that whoever wins must also direct the script), I had approximately ten weeks to learn how to direct. That was reading books, studying the art of filmmaking,  the great advice that my more experienced peers were able to give me and so much more. Directing was definitely a steep learning curve but I’m so excited to get behind the camera again (something I never thought I’d say!).

 

Can you give us any clues about your upcoming feature-length script? 

Which one?! There’s a concept for a No More Wings feature. 

But, as for the one I reckon you’re asking about… I’m holding it tightly to my chest but what I will say is that Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise is one of my favorite films. The entire trilogy, in fact, I love those. 

 

Abraham, congratulations on Tribeca. I cannot wait to share your film with our readers.

It’s been a pleasure talking with you, thank you for taking the time to watch the film and talk to me.

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 Shorts Program review: ‘Update Required’

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 Shorts Program- UPDATE REQUIRED

Out of this world Sci-Fi shorts.

Playing in this program:

Toto

Rosa Forlano, a 90-year-old Nonna, falls in love with a Robot while teaching it how to make spaghetti. Unfortunately, her recipe is forgotten after a software update.

A charming look at companionship through the eyes of a 90-year-old woman and her robot. Marco Baldonado, writes, directs, produces, and voices our titular character. It’s a lovely look at generational relationships in more ways then you’d expect.

Abducted

A tongue-in-cheek Southern thriller about a rookie cop’s (Jenna Kanell) first date gone horribly wrong.

This film immediately sent me into panic mode as a woman. Never leave your drink unattended. Don’t worry, the universe works in mysterious ways.

Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die

Jack (Justin Kirk) works at a suspension facility where people choose to halt their lives. On the night of his suspension, Jack’s life takes a turn when he meets Jo.

Justin Kirk plays a heartbroken man who is confronted with his own mortality. This film beautifully explores the small moments that make living so wonderful.

A Better You

Living in a dystopian, neo-steampunk world, a shy young man named Douglas (Seán T. Ó’Meallaigh) invests in a customizable carbon clone to help him win the girl of his dreams.

This shirt is a gorgeously stylized look at being confident in your own skin. It’s one of the most endearing performances of the festival this far.

Carmentis

An injured and grief-stricken miner (Ben Mortley) on the desolate planet Carmentis must overcome his personal demons in order to survive, but can he get there before the planet freezes?

Human instinct Vs the AI created to protect it. This short is completely unpredictable. It’s a beautiful commentary on the fragile human spirit.

The Light Side

An aging Sith Lord (Joseph Ragno) must come to grips with his past and discover why humility may be the greatest force in the galaxy.

Utilizing a booming voice over from Tim Plewman combined with lead actor Joseph Ragno’s physical performance, this film shines with true humor. It is pure fandom fun with a side order of redemption.

System Error

George works at a convenience store, desperately hoping for a friend. But George is a robotic service unit, and robotic service units do not have friends. Not yet, anyway.

This short challenges how emotion and information alter a being’s perception of others. It will leave the imagination running wild. I can safely say I would watch an entire series or full-length feature based on the storytelling laid out in this 13-minute cut. It sounds like I’ll be getting my wish, as the filmmakers have a development deal at Screen Australia for a dystopian rom-com TV show based on the characters in System Error. I could not be more excited. There is so much more to explore and laugh at here.

Review: ‘After Class’ pits generational activism against itself with thoughtful writing and a lot of laughs.

Synopsis:
AFTER CLASS follows a New York City professor (Long) as he spends a week reconnecting with his family while defending his reputation over controversial behavior at his college.

After Class is one hell of a film. Lead by Justin Long as an adjunct professor of creative writing, the plot revolves around a moment in class that triggers his students. While the script deals head-on with the MeToo movement, it’s complexity must be experienced first hand. It’s about loyalty and family and standing up for what you believe in with some goddamn conviction. While Long leads the way, this feels like an ensemble cast because of the amount of talent stacked up. There is not a loose thread in this film. I’ve never seen Fran Drescher in a role so opposite her iconic days on The Nanny. Cast this fabulous lady in all the things. Richard Schiff is excellent in his attempt to keep the peace with families old and new. Watching him keep it together (or not) is a delight. Kate Berlant is perfection as Long’s feisty sister. She feels like she’s been doing this for ages. She easily steals the attention in every scene she’s in. And now to Long. As far as I’m concerned, Juston Long can do no wrong. His eclectic body of work always catches me off guard. While we get to see his quirky comedy, we also get some serious drama and vulnerability I didn’t know would affect me as much as it did. I was particularly amused by the fact the Berlant’s character has a podcast since Long’s newest venture (and fun as hell to listen to I might add) is a podcast with his brother titled Life Is Short. Drescher appeared on an episode I have not listened to yet and now I know why. He is undeniably charming as ever in After Class, but incredibly nuanced making it easy to remember how he is able to helm so many films. The script is constantly challenging your thought process, perhaps even making you roll your eyes, depending on what generation you relate most to. That’s kind of the beauty of this film. It’s got a lot going on in all the best ways possible. Congrats to the cast as well as a big round of applause for writer-director Daniel Schechter for a sincerely heartfelt indie. Everyone should be proud.

**Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Rome Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Traverse City Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Fort Lauderdale Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Greenwich Film Festival**
**Official Selection – San Francisco Jewish Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Boston Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Nantucket Film Festival**

—————————————–

Gravitas Ventures is set to release Daniel Schechter’s smart comedy/drama AFTER CLASS (formerly SAFE SPACES) in theaters and on VOD beginning December 6, 2019. The film stars Justin Long, Fran Drescher, Richard Schiff, and Kate Berlant.

The film is a compelling study of a well-intentioned millennial-aged teacher overstepping the line in class in the MeToo era and dealing with the repercussions. This comes in the middle of a family emergency when his grandmother requires hospice care, and family chaos begins to consume his life. The film provides raw moments of emotional turmoil that switches between loss, comedy, and drama, providing glimpses of beautiful and awkward moments that happen in life.

Release Date:                     December 6, 2019 – In the theaters below and on digital/VOD nationwide:
Los Angeles – Arena Cinelounge and Galaxy Mission Grove
Orlando – Old Mill Playhouse
Cleveland – Tower City Cinemas
Boston – Entertainment Cinemas Leominster
Minneapolis – Emagine Rogers 18, East Bethel 10 and Lakeville
Seattle – Galaxy Monroe
Dallas – La Gran Plaza 8
Reno – Galaxy Victorian
Las Vegas – Galaxy Theaters Luxury and Galaxy Cannery
San Francisco – 4 Star Theater
Santa Barbara – Galaxy Colony Square
Directed by:                        Daniel Schechter
Written by:                          Daniel Schechter 
Cast:                                    Justin LongKate BerlantLynn CohenBecky Ann BakerFran Drescher &
Richard Schiff
Genre:                                 Comedy, Drama
Specs:                                 93 min
Distributor:                         Gravitas Ventures

Review: Kevin McMullin’s ‘Low Tide’ is a successful teen noir.

LOW TIDE

In the long days of summer in a beach town on the New Jersey shore, high schooler Alan (Keean Johnson) and his friends Red (Alex Neustaedter) and Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri) break into vacation homes to steal valuables, funding dates at the boardwalk and lunches at the burger stand. When Alan and his younger brother Peter (Jaeden Martell) find a bag of gold coins, they try to hide them from the others — but Red, suspicious and violently unpredictable, seems willing to do anything to get the money.

This teen thriller is so well written and acted that the foreboding behinds immediately and never lets up. Nothing good can come of white boy rage and resentment. But a whole lot of great can come from a brilliant young cast of this caliber. Jaeden Martell is captivating as younger boy scout brother Alan. There is something truly special about this young man’s ability to fill a frame with a powerful silence. Older, sort of ne’er do well brother played by Keean Johnson is a dynamic foil for Martell. Fueled by equal parts passion and pride, he inadvertently puts both boys’ lives in jeopardy. The other two young men that keep these brothers deeply mired in danger are complete opposites of one another. Daniel Zolghadri gives a phenomenal performance as Smitty, playing somewhere between a mob rat and a boy who is terrified to feel rejected. The fourth and certainly most brutal of the bunch is Red. Alex Neustaedter utilizes a physical and emotional volatility that is truly unsettling. You will keep one eye on him at all times because you know nothing good can come of his angry townie attitude. These four boys try to avoid getting caught robbing summer tourists but deceit leads the group down a deadly path. Writer-Director Kevin McMullin has crafted a real thriller. The cinematography is beautiful. Existing in a time driven by greed and favoring the elite, Low Tide proves that human nature reveals its flaws just as easily among children as it does adults. This film undoubtedly brings unsettling intrigue and true noir.

Written and Directed by: Kevin McMullin
Produced by: Brendan McHugh, Kevin Rowe, Richard Peete, Rian Cahill, and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones 
Starring: Keean Johnson, Jaeden Martell, Alex Neustaedter, Daniel Zolghadri, Kristine Froseth, Shea Whigham

Distributed by A24 and DIRECTV
Run Time: 86 Minutes
Rated R for language, some violence and teen drug use

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Blow The Man Down’ is one of the year’s best films.

Blow The Man Down

While grieving for the loss of their mother, the Connolly Sisters suddenly find they have a crime to cover up, leading them deep into the underbelly of their salty Maine fishing village.

Growing up in a small New England town, I have a full appreciation for the glorious specificity in Blow The Man Down. From the regional slang to the understanding that everyone knows everyone else’s business, this film is filled with surprises and its very own version of a Greek chorus in Maine fisherman form. A completely femme-centric story boasts magnificent performances from the entire ensemble cast. June Squib, Annette O’Toole, Marceline Hugo, Margot Martindale, Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor, and Gayle Rankin. Co-directors and screenwriters Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy have created a suspenseful, funny, incredibly dark murder mystery. It’s only after walking away from the screening did I realize the small clues that were sprinkled along the way and but honestly had no idea what would happen from moment to moment. It was refreshing. Martindale plays the dominant town matriarch with the skill we’ve come to expect from her. Squib, O’Toole, and Hugo are a smart trio. They cleverly play their hand close to the chest and become the saving grace of our two young leads. Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor are fantastic foils as sisters. Their chemistry is spot on. Gayle Rankin’s emotional journey is much larger than it might first appear. She continues to be one to watch. Blow The Man Down is in my Top 3 films from the festival this year.

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Podcast Interview: Jeremy Gardner, Christian Stella, and Brea Grant share all the gory and gorgeous details of ‘AFTER MIDNIGHT’ (Something Else).

AFTER MIDNIGHT (Something Else) Podcast

AFTER MIDNIGHT (formerly titled Something Else) was one of the most unique selections in this year’s festival. Both a monster movie and a love story, the film’s deliberate structure is a standout all on its own. The writing is fresh and funny and the use of light makes it a joy to watch. There are brilliantly theatrical moments. I believe this film would actually translate incredibly well onstage! When you see it, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a complete compliment. I sat down with co-directors Christian Stella and Jeremy Gardner (who also stars and wrote the script) and star Brea Grant to chat all things AFTER MIDNIGHT. How did the script come about? What in the world were they thinking with certain choices? What did Brea think the first time she read the script?  We talk favorite movie monsters, and how the filmmakers of one of my favorite films The Endless, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, got on board. You can read my full review of AFTER MIDNIGHT here, but give a listen to the awesome time we all had together. Be warned, when I walked into the room, Christian, Jeremy, and Brea had all been in the super cool bathroom of our interview room at The Roxy Hotel taking a photo, and I’m disappointed in myself for not getting in on the selfie action on my way out the door. Also, when you hear us refer/talk to “Ted”, we’re actually talking to We Are Still Here and Mohawk filmmaker Ted Geoghegan who just so happened to be in our presence. No big deal. Anyhow, without further ado, here is our podcast talking all things Tribeca, monsters, and AFTER MIDNIGHT.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR(S)

Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella are the filmmakers behind the indie zombie film The Battery and survival comedy Tex Montana Will Survive! Lifelong friends, both directors were born and raised in Florida.

FILM INFO
  • Section:
    Midnight
  • Year:
    2019
  • Length:
    83 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
  • Premiere:
    World
  • Connect:
CAST & CREDITS
  • Director:
    Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella
  • Producer:
    David Lawson Jr., Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Arvind Harinath
  • Screenwriter:
    Jeremy Gardner
  • Cinematographer:
    Christian Stella
  • Editor:
    Christian Stella and Jeremy Gardner
  • Executive Producer:
    Venu Kunnappilly
  • Cast:
    Jeremy Gardner. Brea Grant, Henry Zebrowski, Justin Benson, Ashley Song, Nicola Masciotra

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Bunker Burger’ and ‘The Neighbor’s Window’, two shorts that keep you watching.

Bunker Burger

The members of an underground, post-apocalyptic bunker invite a psychologist from the radioactive and chaotic surface to audition for a place to live among them.

This short has everything you’re looking for in any film; suspense, distinct style, consuming plot, brilliant performances. There is not a hair out of place with this dark comedy. It is the perfect proof-of-concept piece. I am delighted to hear that writer/director Adam Yorke is developing it into a feature. I’m already there.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR(S)

Adam Yorke is a writer/director/producer and head of development at Wildling Pictures, a ProdCo. in Toronto. He’s made two previous shorts and has had two feature scripts optioned. He’s currently writing the feature version of Bunker Burger.


The Neighbor’s Window

The Neighbors’ Window tells the true story of a middle aged woman (Maria Dizzia) with small children whose life is shaken up when two free-spirited twenty-somethings (Juliana Canfield and Bret Lada) move in across the street.

This film is absolute perfection for anyone thinking the grass is always greener. A married New York City couple watching the progression of a neighboring couples’ lives play out over the course of about a year is simply captivating. In the city, personal space lines are thinly drawn. It can feel as if no one here owns curtains. But we make too many assumptions and cannot fully appreciate what we have until tragedy strikes. The Neighbor’s Window is about people. With stunning performances, a lovely score, it’s pure and wonderful.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR(S)

Marshall Curry is a three-time Academy Award® -nominated documentary filmmaker. Many of his films have premiered at Tribeca and include the Academy Award®- and Emmy® -nominated documentary Street Fight, as well as A Night At The GardenRacing DreamsPoint And Shoot, and If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front.

 

 

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Charlie Says’ flips the script on the Manson girls.

 

Charlie Says

Charlie Says, directed by masterful filmmaker Mary Harron and written by Guinevere Turner, tells the familiar story through fresh eyes—those of Manson’s most devoted girls, van Houten (Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon), and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón). Thanks to a devoted prison educator who slowly draws the women out from years of a madman’s mesmerizing and abusive spell (Matt Smith), the women’s story is told in eerily detailed flashbacks, forcing them to reflect on the path that leads them to such unforgivable crimes.

This is not a story about Charles Manson. This is a story about three women who were manipulated by a mentally ill man who convinced them they were loved. Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houten, all came to be followers of Charles Manson because they were lost and looking for someone to make them feel important. It’s the performance from Hannah Murray, Sosie Bacon, and Merritt Wever that catapult this story forward. Wever, in particular, is the heartbeat that guides these broken girls into reality. Bacon represents every girl that needed Manson (played by Matt Smith with a quiet but fiercely alarming power) to be their father figure. Murray, as Leslie, is the audience. You feel for these ladies through intercut flashbacks and prison scenes. Each like a peek behind the curtain and into the insanity of a man who thought the Beatles were speaking to him through the ‘White Album”. These women were brainwashed sex slaves. It wasn’t until a feminist teacher Karlene Faith, with enough empathy to teach these women, did anyone begin to realize that they too were victims alongside those murdered. The film is chilling. The structure is disturbingly effective. You end up caring about these women who history has taught us to loathe. Charlie Says is not about Charles Manson. I’ll say it again. Charlie Says is not about Charles Manson. It is about the victims he kept closest to him.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR

Mary Harron is the writer and director of films including American PsychoThe Moth DiariesI Shot Andy Warhol, and The Notorious Bettie Page. Her television credits include episodes of The L WordSix Feet UnderBig Love, and Oz, and, most recently, The Following (FOX), Constantine (NBC), and Graceland (USA).

How to see the Tribeca Audience Award Winners & Runner-ups

These films will be showing tomorrow on the last day of the Tribeca Film Festival or you can also catch them below. See You Yesterday is coming to Netflix!

  • Documentary Audience Award
  • Narrative Audience Award

Airbnb-produced Gay Chorus Deep South is making its way around the country on the festival circuit. Next stop will be Montclair, NJ followed by Greenville, SC. Check out the schedule here: https://www.gaychorusdeepsouth.com/seethefilm

Gay Chorus Deep South, directed by David Charles Rodrigues, written by David Charles Rodrigues, Jeff Gilbert. Produced by Bud Johnston, Jesse Moss. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. To confront a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ laws, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarks on an unprecedented bus tour through the Deep South, celebrating music, challenging intolerance, and confronting their own dark coming out stories. With The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Dr. Tim Seelig, Ashlé, Jimmy White


Plus One is to be released June 14th, and I assume that means theatrically, although it is not clear.

Plus One, directed and written by Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer. Produced by Jeremy Reitz, Debbie Liebling, Ross Putman, Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer, Greg Beauchamp. (USA) – World Premiere. In order to survive a summer of wedding fever, longtime single friends Ben and Alice agree to be each other’s plus one at every goddamn wedding they’re invited to. With Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid, Ed Begley Jr., Rosalind Chao, Beck Bennett, Finn Wittrock.


You’ll find See You Yesterday on Netflix on May 17th.

See You Yesterday, directed by Stefon Bristol, written by Stefon Bristol & Fredrica Bailey. Produced by Spike Lee, Jason Sokoloff, Matt Myers. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. Two Brooklyn teenage prodigies, C.J. Walker and Sebastian Thomas, build make-shift time machines to save C.J.’s brother, Calvin, from being wrongfully killed by a police officer.


Watson, directed by Lesley Chilcott. Producers: Louise Runge, Lesley Chilcott, Wolfgang Knöpfler. . (USA, Costa Rica, Tonga) – World Premiere. Co-founder of Greenpeace and founder of Sea Shepherd, Captain Paul Watson has spent 40 years fighting to end the destruction of the ocean’s wildlife and its habitat. Part pirate, part philosopher, Watson’s methods stop at nothing to protect what lies beneath.

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘ONLY’ in an emotional gut punch worth waiting for.

ONLY

Will (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Eva (Freida Pinto) seem destined for a storybook life together, so pure and supportive is their mutual love. But their alone time is suddenly interrupted when Eva’s roommate, Carolyn (Tia Hendricks), bursts through the door and collapses as torrents of mysterious ash fall from the sky. During a chaotic trip to the hospital, Will learns what he needs to do, quickly covering Eva in a hazmat suit, then rushing home with her and hermetically sealing the doors and windows. Weeks become months become years and, after Eva makes a desperate move, the couple is forced to run for their lives.

Only is a mysterious, dreamy post-apocalyptic love story told elegantly and in non-sequential order by director Takashi Doscher. Tony Award-winner Odom, Jr. (Hamilton) and Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) play the doomed couple whose fear that their secret will be revealed unveils the layers of pain and longing between them. As Will and Eva struggle to reach a beloved waterfall from their past, the couple attempts to survive in a new world where she is a commodity of unparalleled worth.

While watching Only, I was furiously taking notes because I wanted to remember every little nuance I was experiencing. From the opening scene, the imagery is haunting and a sense of doom and urgency sit in the pit of your stomach. The phenomenally edited film builds its intensity through non-linear storytelling. While it can be a challenge to follow at times, it is an effective way to make sure you are paying full attention. At every turn in the script, I was surprised. Its dark premise will take you down a rabbit hole of needing to find answers. Once the puzzle is solved and all the pieces are in place, your stomach will drop and your soul will weep. The captivating performances from Frieda Pinto and Leslie Odom, Jr. help Only stand apart from Tribeca’s other selections this year. Their chemistry is electrifying. With subtly suggested elements of Handmaids Tale weaved into the narrative, this post-apocalyptic tale has an eerie patriarchal theme that makes it all the more upsetting. Only is easily one of the best of the fest this year.

Remaining screenings:
2:45 PM – SAT 5/4

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: SHORTS: WTF

SHORTS: WTF

These films were curated especially for late-night.

Playing in this program:
Twist

No choice but to walk home alone, Hannah (Helena Howard) sees an opportunity for a ride, but others see an opportunity in her.

With a well-built tension familiar to any young woman, Twist leaves much to the terrifying imagination, making it all the more frightening. Beautiful performances bring fear to life.

Whiteout

When a young couple (Sarah Tihany and David Call) encounters a strange old man (Patrick M. Walsh Jr.) wandering in a snowstorm, they must decide if he needs help, or if he has more sinister intentions.

A real “What would you do?” scenario set in the middle of the road on a snowy night. It begs the question, “Who’s the real monster?”

His Hands

Two men (Arron Blake and Philip Brisebois) of different ages meet for the strangest encounter of their lives.

While I’m not completely sure what was actually happening in this film, I know I was damn uncomfortable as a viewer. Performances are striking and I need to know more.

Momster

When notorious bank robber, the Momster (Amanda Plummer), catches her daughter Angel (Brianna Hildebrand) mid-gunfight, Angel thinks she’s being rescued… until she realizes she has to do the saving.

This short has a Robert Rodriguez/ QuentinTarantino Grindhouse feel with its quippy dialogue, vivid pops of color, and effective narration.

Hunting Season

Callie (Hannah Levien), a small town gas station attendant, has an unexpected encounter which will change the course of her life forever.

This short begins by utilizing the major trope of failing electricity to build up suspense. The sparse dialogue is meaningful enough to create an entire backstory and the perfect amount of dread, culminating in a magical ending no one will see coming.

11:50

In the pouring rain, a junkie (Jerry Chih-Wei Huang) takes the hotel key of a man that his car has accidentally killed. As he walks into the hotel and finds that room, he has to face a mysterious journey that will never have an end.

This cinematic little masterpiece is a proof of concept from heaven. Not only visually delicious but one hell of a reveal that will keep you wanting more.

Snaggletooth

An unusual girl (Jolie Ledford) needs to get her teeth fixed at midnight.

The 50’s era sets, costumes, and lighting lead up to a visual shock that is both scary and delightful.

FILM INFO
  • Section:
    Shorts Program
  • Year:
    2019
  • Length:
    75 minutes
  • Premiere:
    New York

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Picture Character’ #therealemojimovie

PICTURE CHARACTER

Spotlight Documentary, World Premiere – Directed by Martha Shane and Ian Cheney

As silly as you may think the topic, you can’t deny that emojis are everywhere. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? The story of the creation/inception of emojis is interspersed with three stories of the quest to get new emojis added – hijab emoji, mate and menstruation (blood).

While following these stories, something is revealed that is is far more interesting. Remember when emojis weren’t the same on iOS vs Android? Then, miraculously, they became universal? Welcome to the Unicode Consortium. A non-profit organization that unifies character sets.

Suddenly, there are a lot of questions. The film gives enough information about Unicode without overwhelming the audience and changing the course of the story, but for me, it was such a large elephant in the room that I couldn’t stop wondering about it.

Whether you just send the occasional smiley face or you carry on conversations via emoji, you’ll enjoy seeing the behind the curtain.

List of universal emojis: https://unicode.org/emoji/charts/emoji-list.html

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘For They Know Not What They Do’ and this is the problem

FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO

Documentary Competition, World Premiere – Directed by Daniel Karslake

More maddening than enlighting, For They Know Not What They Do follows four families that facing challenges and did their best. It’s heartbreaking, frustrating and exactly what happens when people are not empathetic with each other.

I liked the structure with switching back and forth between each story, as it made the progression much more interesting. However, it felt at some points that the audience was somehow meant to forgive these people of their ignorance and lack of compassion.

There’s always value in hearing the stories of others, but I left the theater shaking my head rather than feeling like I learned something.

When the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality across the nation in 2015, many assumed that the fight for LGBTQ rights was won. But politicians and religious conservatives launched a state-by-state campaign to retract the human rights of America’s LGBTQ citizens under the guise of religious freedom. Introducing four American families caught in the crosshairs of scripture, sexuality, and identity, this documentary weaves together clips from the national news and the church pulpit, alongside family photos and intimate testimonies to show the undeniable connection between the personal and the political.

These individual experiences of rejection and validation, tragedy and triumph include Ryan Robertson, who was encouraged by his Christian family to attend conversion therapy; Sarah McBride, the transgender student body president who went on to work at the White House; Vico Báez Febo, whose Catholic grandmother locked him out of the house when a neighbor outed him; and Elliot Porcher, a young trans man who endured self-harm before his parents’ acceptance enabled him to come to terms with his gender. An emotionally impactful follow-up to the award-winning For The Bible Tells Me So, this powerful examination of the intersection of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity offers much-needed healing, clarity, and understanding.

—Lucy Mukerjee

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘RECORDER: The Marion Stokes Project’ – how one woman gave us 33 years of recorded television history

RECORDER: THE MARION STOKES PROJECT

Documentary Competition – World Premiere, Directed by Matt Wolf

In 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis, Marion Stokes started recording the news on VHS tapes on different channels on different televisions. 24 hours a day. The recording didn’t stop for 33 years when she passed away on December 12, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The film is structured chronologically and I would have liked to have seen Marion Stokes’ story told in the juxtaposition of the process to digitize the over 70,000 VHS tapes. They used the closed captioning to index! How cool is that? I want to know more. Instead, the story unfolds in a traditional method of speaking with those closest to her and focusing on the woman behind this astounding asset to humanity. It’s good, but not nearly as compelling.

Even with its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and it’s sparked many interesting conversations.

There’s 1 more screening left and it’s also coming to other film festivals.

Tribeca Film Festival
World Premiere
April 25, 26, 27, May 4

HotDocs, Toronto
International Premiere
May 1, 2, 5

Montclair Film Festival
May 8, 12

Maryland Film Festival
May 9, 10

More Screenings Soon

Long before our current era of “fake news,” Marion Stokes was amassing an incredible archive in an effort to protect and tell the truth. Beginning with the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 and ending in 2012 with the massacre at Sandy Hook, Stokes archived and preserved the television that others were not. She recorded an incredible 70,000 VHS tapes capturing wars, triumphs, catastrophes, and more. The archive reveals the past and how it shaped television and the present moment.

Matt Wolf goes deep inside this captured history of television, providing insight into Stokes as keeper of the archive, while also showing the world that she wanted humanity to see. Taking on the aura of a mystery, Recorder delves into the curious world of a Communist radical and genius recluse who dedicated her life to a seemingly crazy mission, which in the end, is a glorious gift to the world.

—Deborah Rudolph