Tag Archives: Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Review: Lil Bub & Friendz

Lil-Bub-and-FriendzThe 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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Tribeca Review: Byzantium

Byzantium_PosterSaoirse 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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Surviving Tribeca Fest’s Midnight Movies: A Female ‘Fight Club,’ New Zealand Cannibals, Indonesian Cults and More

RazeHorror’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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Why ‘Raze’ Is Like ‘The Hunger Games’ for Adults

Zoe-Bell-RazeA 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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Tribeca 2013 Interview: A Birder’s Guide to Everything’s Rob Meyer & Luke Matheny

Kodi-Smit-McPhee-A-Birders-Guide-to-EverythingWriter-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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Tribeca 2013 Interview: The Machines’ Caity Lotz

Caity-Lotz-The-MachineUnless you caught “The Pact,” actress Caity Lotz is probably off your radar, but between “The Machine” making waves at the Tribeca Film Festival and “Battle of the Year” heading towards a September 13th release, that could change fast.

In “The Machine,” Lotz first steps in as budding programmer Ava. Dr. Vincent McCarthy’s (Toby Stephens) been hard at work trying to develop a cybernetic super solider to help Britain’s Ministry of Defence through the second Cold War, and when he realizes Ava has the technology he needs to perfect his design, he makes her his #2. When their work is complete and Vincent automates the first robot with the potential of being the ideal model, Lotz takes on another role, playing the machine itself.

Playing the machine versus Ava didn’t just require Lotz to speak with a mildly robotic voice or adopt a stilted gait, but also to understand the technology and how it works, which, in turn, left her with the challenge of selling the concept that this machine is capable of comprehending, feeling, and learning.

While celebrating “The Machine’s” world premiere in the festival’s Midnight division, Lotz sat down to talk about the difficulty of keeping her facial muscles within machine range, the extensive makeup process, how her dancing background came in handy, plans for “The Pact 2,” and much more. Catch it all for yourself in the video interview below and, if you’re in the New York area, see “The Machine” in full at its final Tribeca showing on Saturday the 27th at 11:59pm.

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‘V/H/S 2’ Video Interview: Robotic Eyes, Zombie POV & Sleepover Crashing ETs

VHS-2-PosterV/H/S may have put the horror anthology format back on the map, but V/H/S 2 truly solidifies it as an effective form of storytelling that can satisfy the masses just as well as any feature narrative. This time around, the film is comprised of four short films connected by a wraparound component, and all achieve a notable degree of innovation and true terror.

V/H/S 2 is currently making waves on the festival circuit leading up to its June 6th On Demand release and July 12th theatrical debut. It already hit Sundance and SXSW and is now wrapping up its run in the Tribeca Film Festival’s Midnight Program. In honor of its Tribeca presence, Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Edúardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), and Simon Barrett (You’re Next) all sat down to discuss the art of short form horror.

After having directed the V/H/S wraparound, Wingard goes an entirely different route in the sequel with “Phase I Clinical Trials,” ditching the old school camcorders for a far more advanced perspective – a robotic eye. Wingard stars in the piece himself as a guy who’s left without an eye after a car crash. He’s fitted with a bionic one and gets his vision back, but with the addition of some eerie supernatural entities he never saw before.

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Tribeca 2013 Interview: Mr. Jones Producer Ross Dinerstein

Mr-Jones“The Killing Room,” “The Divide,” “The Pact,” and loads more in the works, but right now, it’s all about “Mr. Jones” for producer Ross Dinerstein.

The Tribeca Film Festival Midnight Program entry features Jon Foster and Sarah Jones as Scott and Penny. When Scott insists on ditching the big city for a secluded cabin so he can make a nature documentary, she leaves everything behind to support the venture. The place is the ideal no rules, no pressure existence until filming sunrises, local greenery and creatures becomes monotonous and Scott loses all motivation. However, just before giving up entirely, they catch a glimpse of the most interesting thing they’ve seen the whole trip, their neighbor, the famous yet mysterious sculptor, Mr. Jones. What starts as a serene show of nature descends into a suspenseful and nightmarish investigation as Scott and Penny try to creep closer to Mr. Jones’ workshop to get the ultimate close-up with his infamous scarecrows.

While the narrative is conveyed using a shaky cam technique, rather than calling “Mr. Jones” found footage, Dinerstein dubs it a “point of view film.” While the term is accurate, “Mr. Jones” is also far more than that. Not only is the story told from Scott and Penny’s perspective, but it also functions as a documentary, too, and when that documentary style implodes right along with Scott and Penny’s POV as they’re consumed by the narrative’s nightmare, you end up with something far more thoughtful than a camera crushing-induced cut to black.

While celebrating the film’s world premiere in New York City, Dinerstein took the time to sit down and talk about his collaboration with writer-director Karl Mueller, the challenge of subverting the found footage stigma, finding the ideal location, and more. Catch it all for yourself in the video interview below and see “Mr. Jones” in full at its final Tribeca screening on April 24th at 9pm.

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Tribeca 2013 Interview: A Birder’s Guide To Everything’s Alex Wolff, Katie Chang And Michael Chen

Birders-Guide-ThumbWant a good taste of what to expect from Rob Meyer’s Tribeca Film Festival entry “A Birder’s Guide to Everything?” Just check out this interview of Alex Wolff hamming it up, Michael Chen geeking out about his birding knowhow, and Katie Chang trying to keep them under control.

The film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as David Portnoy. While he’s still feeling the effects of his mother’s passing, his father is preparing for his second wedding. David’s only outlet is his passion for birding so when he suspects he spotted an extinct Labrador duck, he and his Young Birders Society friends, Timmy and Peter (Alex Wolff and Michael Chen), take off on a road trip with Ellen and her top-notch photography gear in tow in order to intersect the duck’s migration and snap a picture before it’s gone for good.

After wrapping up a very important business call, the group dished on the audition process, their birding training, and most importantly (and amusingly), the slew of shenanigans that went on behind and in front of the camera, something that undoubtedly enhanced the on-screen group dynamic making the YBS an undeniably loveable bunch.

Check out the gang in action in the video interview below and see the film in full when it screens at Tribeca on Wednesday the 24th at 3pm or Friday the 26th at 6pm.

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Tribeca 2013 Interview: The Machine’s Caradog James

The-MachineDon’t expect to see any ass-kicking, super intelligent robots that look like Caity Lotz to hit the market anytime soon, but, until the real scientists move beyond mapping slug brains, you can catch the ultimate cybernetic super soldier in action in Caradog James’ Tribeca Film Festival entry, “The Machine.”

Neck deep in the second Cold War, Britain’s Ministry of Defense is desperate to develop the ultimate weapon to give them the edge so they hire expert programmer Dr. Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens). Vincent does manage to develop an implant to restore a degree of life to veterans suffering from brain damage, but in order to prefect the design and avoid costly malfunctions, he needs a technology that exhibits a degree of humanistic understanding. After perfecting his work, he gives rise to the ultimate machine, but even while it adheres to his and his superior’s requirements, it also questions the ethics behind its creations and whether the robot will really bring them safety or rather a new form of danger.

Having just celebrated the film’s world premiere on Saturday night, James was in town to discuss the research required to create a believable narrative, the extensive amount of preparation needed to accommodate the VFX, the challenge of conveying all the necessary details without overloading an audience and more. Hear all about it straight from James himself in the video interview below and, if you’re in the New York area, catch “The Machine” tonight at 10pm or on Saturday the 27th at 11:59pm.

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