Synopsis: A straitlaced policeman embarks on a reckless pursuit to save his village from the onslaught of a mysterious, murderous samurai who dresses in women's clothing and wields an enormous katana, but finds the killer exerting a seductive pull on his own psyche, as his long-repressed urges come to the surface.
What You Should Know: Well, our selection wouldn't be complete without a little midnight madness-style cult viewing and sure enough, in the Midnight section of the festival, this German oddity looks exactly offbeat and strange enough to satisfy that urge. The debut feature film from German director Till Klieinert, "Der Samurai" picked up impressive (if occasionally nonplussed) notices at its Berlinale premiere, but having missed it there we look forward to catching up with the stylish queer-themed horror in Tribeca instead.
Synopsis: A crime story based loosely on the true story of antiques dealer-turned-"Gentleman Bank Robber" Eddie Dodson, who ripped off over 60 banks in the 1980s.
What You Need To Know: Another year, another attempt to make Jim Sturgess happen, with the "21" and "Cloud Atlas" star taking the lead role in this true-crime picture. But there's some reason to hope that this might work where some others have failed. Firstly, it has a strong true-life tale to tell. Secondly, it marks the fictional debut of director Tristan Patterson, who made a real impression a few years back with his skateboarding documentary "Dragonslayer." And the supporting cast— Isabel Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, Patricia Arquette, Christophe Lambert—is just bonkers enough that it could work, plus indie legend Christine Vachon is producing. Maybe this is finally the one that makes Sturgess' name?
"Point And Shoot"
Synopsis: Documentary following a young Baltimore man who left the U.S and ended up joining the Libyan rebellion against Colonel Gadaffi.
What You Need To Know: Documentaries are often a highlight of Tribeca, and this certainly looks like one of the most promising. For one, it's directed by Marshall Curry, an executive producer on last year's toast-of-Tribeca "Mistaken For Strangers," and whose last film, "If A Tree Falls," was nominated for an Oscar. And for another, it has a hell of a story, focusing on OCD-sufferer Matthew VanDyke, who left grad school searching for adventure, worked as an embedded journalist in Iraq, taking up arms and actually fighting to depose Colonel Gadaffi, and spending over six months in enemy hands in solitary confinement. It's the stuff of which hugely compelling documentaries are made, and should be made even more compelling through the presence of footage actually shot by VanDyke himself. Definitely one we're likely to be hearing about for some time to come.
Also of note:
Of course in exploring the packed slate a few other titles caught our eye without making the final cut, but we will be keeping a weather eye out for the work-in-progress screening of the James Brown Documentary from Alex Gibney, which would have been on our main list had it been in finished form. Other documentaries we like the look of include "Beyond the Brick" about the making of "The Lego Movie," which will be of interest to that film's many fans; "Regarding Susan Sontag," about the famous New York intellectual icon; "Ne Me Quitte Pas," an offbeat look at friendship and mid-life crises in a rural Belgian setting; "Silenced," which follows the stories of several people incarcerated under the "Espionage Act" in the U.S.; and "Famous Nathan" about, yes, the iconic hot dog brand, while opening documentary "Time is Illmatic" is undoubtedly unmissable for Nas' substantial following.
Elsewhere Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs pop up in "Life Partners," a relationship drama that sounds a little overfamiliar in premise but could surprise; "Match" features a reportedly strong performance from Patrick Stewart as an aging dancer, co-stars Carla Gugino and is based on the director's own play; black comedy "Miss Meadows" stars Katie Holmes as a sweet-as-pie vigilante who tangles with the town Sheriff played by Playlist favorite James Badge Dale; Courtney Cox takes her first turn behind the camera for "Just Before I Go" starring Seann William Scott; Italian film "Human Capital" stars Valerias Golino and Bruni-Tedeschi in a multi-stranded narrative revolving around a stranger's death; "Sister" is a family drama about mental instability with the matriarch role filled by Barbara Hershey; "Lucky Them" has jury member Toni Collette team up with Thomas Hayden Church in a romantic comedy with a music industry spin; "Pi" actor Sean Gullette presents his directorial debut "Traitors"; Tsai Ming Liang's 56-minute "Journey to the West" stars Denis Lavant and got good notices in Berlin; while prior experience high concept B-movie fare like "Snakes on a Plane," "Iron Sky" and "Sharknado" has taught us not to fall for the flashy advance charms of a daffy premise and title, and so we're firmly wait-and-seeing with "Zombeavers" which is about ... well, we think you can probably guess what it's about.
And we've already seen:
Additionally, Tribeca boasts a nicely curated selection of films that we've already caught up with at other festivals. Click on the titles to bring you to the full reviews, but the ones we recommend most wholeheartedly are "Starred Up," "Night Moves," "In Order of Disappearance," "Love is Strange," "The Overnighters," "Battered Bastards of Baseball" "The One I Love" and "Land Ho!" Also playing are Berlin Golden Bear Winner "Black Coal, Thin Ice," "Palo Alto" "Venus in Fur" and "Begin Again" (formerly "Can a Song Save Your Life") about which we were somewhat cooler, while we'd advise you to swerve to avoid "Chef," and "Third Person." We also saw "Something Must Break," which we did not review but is a stylishly shot but rather overblown queer issues drama detailing the angsty relationship between a trans woman and her purportedly heterosexual lover, which gazes at its own navel rather too intently to really invest in; and "Bad Hair" which we likewise did not review but found to be a well-intentioned but rather forgettable story with an improvisational feel about a young boy from an underprivileged background's obsession with straightening his naturally curly hair, and the conflict it causes with his widowed mother.
If you're attending Tribeca this year, hope this helps with your scheduling, and enjoy your festival. If not, well, you can do the next best thing and follow all our coverage.