The cute cat effect is there, but the tragedy of Lil Bub’s condition, the lack of a well constructed narrative, and the inclusion of some weakly related side stories keep “Lil Bub & Friendz” from being as fun and poignant as it could have been.
For those who aren’t in-the-know, Lil Bub is the ultimate Internet cat celebrity. One day a video of Bub popped up on YouTube, showing her stalking and then pouncing on the camera. Soon thereafter, the views started pouring in and then in came the Lil Bub blog, Facebook page, merchandise, and more. However, while we were all fussing over and admiring Bub’s unusually adorable mug, she and her owner, Mike Bridavsky, had to pay very close attention to the condition that made Bub who she is – a number of genetic mutations that left Bub with dwarfism, polydactylism and deformed lower jaw.
While “Lil Bub & Friendz” does cover every angle, exploring the evolution of the Internet celebrity, the appeal of cats specifically, Bub’s fan base, Mike’s personal connection to Bub, and more, co-directors Juliette Eisner and Andy Capper have a tough time creating much momentum because they don’t seem to know what to do with the material they have. For instance, if you’re making a film about a cute cat that went viral, you’re basically handed an opening hook. However, rather than show what makes Bub worthy of such fame, we get this strange presentation of Bub on a tacky alien spaceship set, jokingly yet oddly suggesting the cat is so bizarre, she’s otherworldly. Perhaps it could have worked had it been funny, but it comes across more like the uncomfortable situation when you’re stuck watching a pet prance around in a costume who very clearly doesn’t appreciate being dressed up. Plus, even worse, the opening also alienates viewers who aren’t already familiar with Bub.
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Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton are captivating enough, but this hybrid drama-period piece lacks the zest, pace and tension you’d expect from a film digging into the repercussions of vampirism.
Clara (Arterton) and her daughter Eleanor (Ronan) may be able to conjure their pointy nails, draw blood, and suck a victim dry, but making enough money to put a roof over their heads is a different story. Over two centuries after leaving their humanity behind to become vampires, the pair is still on the run, struggling to support themselves and keep their condition a secret. While Clara resorts to former human habits, making a living via prostitution, Eleanor consoles the elderly, putting those who are ready out of their misery.
When a run-in with someone connected to their past turns bloody, Clara uproots Eleanor yet again and the two set out to find a new home. Having just lost his mother, Clara befriends the lonely Noel (Daniel Mays) and convinces him to let her and Eleanor live with him at the property he just inherited, a hotel called Byzantium. While Clara runs her brothel out of their new abode, Eleanor reluctantly strikes up a relationship with Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), a connection that tempts her to finally reveal her unique history.
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After all these years and all these film, the Marvel Universe is starting to feel very real and that’s vital to “Iron Man 3’s” success because without that acquired ability to re-tap into this realm where Iron Man, Thor, and more are the norm, the details of this installment of the franchise might have been too unsupported to let you enjoy the charm of Tony Stark, the excitement of seeing dozens of Iron Men assemble, watching Pepper Potts get a hefty dose of action and more well earned highlights.
It’s post-“Avengers” time and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is still reeling from the battle in New York. Even while suffering from frequent anxiety attacks, Tony must carry on because there’s a new threat that needs his attention, a terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
That synopsis is cut and dry, but “Iron Man 3” is loaded with new and returning characters, intricate story details, and plot offshoots, too. Everything works well enough to make “Iron Man 3” the electrifying Tony Stark showcase you’d hope it to be, but unless you’re coursing through on cruise control, it’s easy to get caught up in the barrage of information and then frustrated with the lack of cohesive details.
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Horror’s had a presence at the Tribeca Film Festival ever since I started covering it back in 2009, but 2013 marks the first year the festival’s Midnight Section feels particularly well-programmed and cohesive to the point that it’s attracting attention normally reserved for sections like Spotlight and Viewpoints. Not every film in the program is a winner, but the group does offer a little something for every breed of genre fan, from horror-comedy to sci-fi to sheer terror and more.
Best Brutal Combat: Raze
If you’ve got a taste for boxing, MMA or particularly vicious big-screen hand-to-hand combat,Raze delivers and then some. However, the “then some” will likely chase some away. The movie is about women who are kidnapped and forced to fight each other to the death until just one remains, so, yes, violence is necessary, but there’s just so many heads you can see bashed in until even the hungriest gore hounds start to squirm. Then again, that also makesRaze the ideal showcase for actress/stunt woman Zoe Bell. Clearly she’s got the combat skills that make her the ultimate action hero, but here she really gets the chance to prove herself as a commanding leading lady.
Whereas the ruthlessness of Raze could very easily be too off-putting to stomach, Bell’s Sabrina functions as an appealing and entertaining vehicle of sorts, making you want to stick with it. She also gets a surprisingly profound assist from Tracie Thoms and Bailey Anne Borders who contribute an unexpectedly emotional and heart-wrenching scene that’s far more successful than it should be considering the context.
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A group of women are forced to fight to the death until just one remains. Sounds a lot likeThe Hunger Games, right? Well, yes and no.
In Raze, this epic throwdown isn’t billed as an event geared towards the greater good of the country, rather for entertainment and entertainment alone. There is some talk about the winner defying weakness and becoming a Munad, whatever that is, but the film is really much more about boxing-savvy women being targeted, seduced by a nice looking guy, kidnapped, and thrown in a prison cell until it’s their time to fight. Then, two by two, the women are forced into an arena and required to battle to the death in an effort to keep a loved one alive. If a contender loses her life in the fight, the event organizers put a bullet in her husband, child or parent’s head.
While talking with director Josh Waller and stars Zoe Bell, Tracy Thoms, Rebecca Marshall and Doug Jones in New York City just before the film’s world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, Bell laughed and recalled, “I remember at one point we were all sitting around the table and I was like, ‘You know this Hunger Games thing? Is it bad that that’s similar?’” She continued, “One person said, ‘No, it’s a maximum budget, different sort of genre,’ blah, blah, blah, and then someone else said, ‘I don’t reckon that movie’s gonna do any good anyway.’”
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Writer-director Rob Meyer and co-writer Luke Matheny’s “A Birder’s Guider to Everything” likely won’t incite a mainstream birding craze, but the pair does deliver a charming coming-of-age tale that’ll at least let you enjoy it vicariously through the film’s Young Birders Society.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alex Wolff and Michael Chen are David, Timmy, and Peter, the only members of their high school’s Young Birders Society. When David is convinced he spotted an extinct Labrador duck, the YBS vows to track it down before it flies off for good. With their classmate Ellen (Katie Chang) and her powerful camera lens in tow, the boys “borrow” Timmy’s cousin’s car and head off to a park in Connecticut in order to catch the duck in the flesh (or feathers), and become birding legends.
While celebrating the premiere of their very first feature film at the Tribeca Film Festival, Meyer and Matheny sat down to talk about the challenges of transitioning from short films, the honor and pressure of working with Sir Ben Kingsley, the infectious high spirits of their young cast, and more. Catch it all for yourself in the video interview below and hopefully we’ll see “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” back on the big screen soon as it continues its festival run.
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Of course it’s a thrill to see Thor back in action, but for those who aren’t familiar with the source material and don’t know where the sequel plot stems from, more story details could have elevated Thor: The Dark World’s first trailer from banking on familiar faces to suggesting his next adventure is worth experiencing. However, the piece does offer loads of striking imagery and battle sequences, leaving both the top and bottom three positions up for grabs.
The Best Stuff
1. A Hijacking: Lucky for A Hijacking, the Tom Hanks-starrer Captain Phillips isn’t due in theaters until October 11. Not only will it give the film a little room to breathe after its June 14 limited release, but there’s also a chance the Captain Phillips trailer won’t sneak in and steal this one’s thunder. If what was screened at CinemaCon ends up being the official Captain Phillips trailer, it’s good, but this one for The Hijacking is nearly equally as effective, showing the takeover in a particularly brutal and authentic light, making it tough to forget.
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