First Winter review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Sex, drugs, and yoga … in a cabin in the woods, in winter, with hippies. Or as Benjamin Dickinson’s affecting and stylish movie should be called: Apocalypse, Wow! This is a moody indie/arthouse that opts for ambiguity over answers but is none the worse for that.

Prepare to be unsettled during the movie’s opening sections, as Dickinson’s camera doesn’t sit still. It swoops and swirls around the members of a commune as they go through their daily cooking routines, yoga sessions and evening relaxations (three people in a bed, that’s for warmth, right?). It’s a relentless and dizzying experience – but is one that makes sense in relation to the end goal for the movie and its characters in their search for tranquility. Continue reading

The Fourth Dimension review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Harmony Korine, Alexey Fedorchenko and Jan Kwiecinski each take a directorial segment in this trio of short (around 30mins each) films based around the concept of the fourth dimension. Each has its own distinctive style and tone but in so doing reveals the problem of buffet filmmaking: if you only like one of the dishes, I’m sorry but you’re actually stuck with the other two as well.

Each director was given a set of rules to abide by in making their short – including using a song made up especially for the movie, having a character called Mickey House, and shooting one scene blindfold – but how they put those into practise was down to them. It’s a list reminiscent of the Dogme school of filmmaking – itself a signal that you might expect mixed results. Continue reading

Replicas review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

And lo, it was written ‘manners maketh man’ but just below that it should also read, ‘and manners can also dump you in a whole heap of trouble.’ Such is the way of things in director Jeremy Power Regimbal’s tense home-invasion thriller Replicas; a powerful and compelling movie that’s likely to leave you slamming the door in the faces of any new next-door neighbours.

The reason manners and politeness figure so prominently here is because what Replicas plays and preys upon is the situation where you find yourself opening up that front door and welcoming people into your home, when all of your spidey-senses tell you that you shouldn’t. Most of us feel the need to be ‘nice’, even when the vibe is all wrong. Herein lies a warning … Continue reading

Revenge for Jolly! review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Revenge for Jolly! is a good idea wrapped up in a bad movie. The good bit comes because we all know that you can have as many shootouts as you like but the golden rule is ‘just don’t kill the dog’. This time out Harry’s (Brian Petsos) handbag-sized mutt bites the dust in the first reel, and so, like him we want vengeance. Fine.

The bad bit arrives because successful filmmaking is all about setting the right tone. And Revenge for Jolly! gets it all wrong. You want to root for Harry because his pet is now barking away in canine heaven but you run out of sympathy, fast, as the filmmakers cross over the line marked dark comedy and head into cold-blooded-killing-not-funny-gags territory. Continue reading

Freaky Deaky review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Elmore Leonard’s novels are fuelled by dialogue. Punchy, quick-witted words fired off in a way to give you the lowdown on character AND drive you through the story. But film versions? Now that’s a tricky one. For every Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch (filmed as Jackie Brown) there’s a Be Cool, Killshot, and Stick … and the list of negatives outweighs the positives.

Fortunately, Freaky Deaky is no crime against filmmaking. It’s a good, solid, fun movie with a handful of standout performances and, having read the book, I can confirm it stays faithful to Elmore’s words and wisdom. Continue reading

Headshot review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Headshot is both the title and metaphoric description for Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s (Last Life in the Universe, 6ixtynin9) latest mind-melting noir thriller. This is non-linear storytelling, people, so let’s keep alert and on our toes, shall we?! By the by, it also happens to be a moody and atmospheric cinematic treat, so buckle up, we’re going in …

Right from the start, Headshot grabs you with is enigmatic shots, a clever mix of close-ups, and low and obscure camera angles. The soundtrack chimes with portent while drama and expectancy hangs thick in the air like cigarette smoke in a windowless room. Characters drive through city streets that are either beset by grey, sulphurous skies or dramatic downpours. Continue reading

Free Samples review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Put your fears on hold, Free Samples is a Jess Weixler movie that won’t have men running for the hills with their hands covering up their precious regions. That’s not to say the Teeth star’s turn in this comedy doesn’t have bite but this time the snappishness comes from verbal dexterity … well, jokes, irony and a huge dose of sarcasm anyway.

Director Jay Gammill and screenwriter Jim Beggarly choose to take a day in the life of Jillian (Weixler), a law school dropout whose friend Nancy (Halley Feiffer) asks her to help out by giving away free ice-cream samples from her mobile food truck. Nancy has a family crisis to deal with and leaves Jillian in charge on handing out the free stuff: it’s chocolate or vanilla, how hard can that be? Continue reading

Eddie – the Sleepwalking Cannibal review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Coming on like Fargo meets Shaun of the Dead, Boris Rodriguez’s debut feature is a funny, quirky, horror that also manages to take a nibble at the pretentions of the art world too. We’re not in slasher territory here, instead this one keeps its shocks short (if not sweet) but while the gore may not be piled high, the laughs are certainly at the top of the menu.

Continue reading

Rat King review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Those crafty Scandinavians, what with The Killing, Borgen, and hmm, Those Who Kill, they’re really trying to take over TV. If Rat King’s their – and when I say their, I mean in this case a Finnish-Estonian co-production – attempt to take on the multiplex, then it’s a darn fine effort.

Still, like De Niro told Stallone in Copland: ‘You blew it!’ So it’s not a total success, because this computer-game-oriented thriller unravels in the final third by adding a dash too much twisty-turny, crafty-wafty shenanigans, and a plot revelation that’s on the wrong side of taste, decency – oh, and plausibility. Continue reading

Consuming Spirits review: Tribeca Film Festival 2012

Melancholic, mournful, literate and bittersweet, Chris Sullivan’s 15-years-in-the-making animation is like a dark soulmate to Garrison Keillor’s much-loved Lake Wobegon tales. It must be a personal triumph for Sullivan, but viewers – if they have the patience for this languid journey – are rewarded with a wry, keenly observed story that also isn’t afraid to engage with weighty issues.

With wood, paper and scissors among the equipment list in the credits – as well as a 16mm film camera – it’s a sign that Consuming Spirits isn’t going to be giving Pixar any sleepless nights. But Sullivan’s movie revels in the homespun charm of its cutout animation, pencil drawing, collage, and stop-motion animation. Continue reading