By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 16, 2012 at 10:02AM
This year's Tribeca Film Festival carries one of its strongest line-ups in years. In addition to films from Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Sundance and Berlin circuit, there's also a wealth of U.S. premieres or lesser-known festival movies in the line-up that look just as promising this time around; after a relatively weak SXSW, it looks like the East Coast is getting some of the good stuff.
Below, you'll find fifteen films that seem among the most intriguing Tribeca has to offer this year. Of course, we can't speak for their quality as yet, but they certainly look promising at this point at time. And for the record, we haven't included the high-profile opening and closing films -- "The Five-Year Engagement" and "The Avengers" -- partly because they're getting more than enough attention elsewhere, and partly because we've already seen both (although can't review them just yet -- keep your eyes peeled for our verdicts later in the week). Read on for the 15 films that look like they could be the potential gems of Tribeca. Oh and wondering where gems like "2 Days In New York" and "Take This Waltz" are? Dont fret, look tomorrow for 15 Films From The Tribeca Film Festival we've already seen. The festival runs from April 18-29.
“As Luck Would Have It”
Synopsis: An unemployed ad man (Jose Mota) gets in a freak accident which puts him in the middle of a potentially profitable media frenzy, even as he tries to keep the family financial situation from his wife (Salma Hayek).
What You Need To Know: Ever since his debut "Accion Mutante" nearly twenty years ago, Alex De La Iglesias has been one of the most unpredictable, out-there filmmakers around, thanks to films like "The Day Of The Beast" and "Perdita Durango." After a dismal English-language debut with "The Oxford Murders," he was back on form last year with "The Last Circus." This picture seems more down-to-earth than usual, although his darkly comic streak seems to be firmly in place. It seems to be deeply relevant to the world around it too, so we've got high hopes for this one.
When: 24th at the SVA Theater Silas, 25th and 26th at the AMC Loews Village and 27th at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea.
“Cheerful Weather For The Wedding”
Synopsis: On the morning of her marriage, Dolly (Felicity Jones) shuts herself in a room, much to her mother's consternation, while waiting for the arrival of her best friend, Joseph (Luke Treadaway).
What You need To Know: It's over a year since Felicity Jones became one of the hottest things around with "Like Crazy," but to her credit, the young British actress didn't immediately sign up to play a love interest in a superhero movie: she worked in the theater in London, and shot this independent U.K. flick, based on a book by Julia Strachey, and directed by first time Donald Rice. "Downton Abbey" comparisons are flying around, in part because of the presence of Lady Crawley herself, Elizabeth McGovern (at the head of a strong supporting cast also including rising star Treadaway, Mackenzie Crook and Zoe Tapper), but we're hoping this could be a little less soapy, and a little more fun.
When: 20th at the BMCC Tribeca PAC, 22nd at the AMC Loews Village, 24th and 28th at the SVA Theater Silas.
Synopsis: When his brother is killed by the yakuza for failing to pay back a loan used to finance movies, a young man becomes a literal punching bag to pay off his debt to the gangsters.
What You Need To Know: Iranian director Amir Naderi isn't as well known as his countryman Abbas Kiarostami at this point, but he's also been a key figure in the New Iranian Cinema movement, and like Kiarostami, his latest film sees him head to Japan. It's likely to be very different, however: it's a conscious tribute to Japanese directors from Mizoguchi to Kurosawa, with brutal violence and heavy stylization. It could be an indulgent exercise, but it sounds pretty interesting to us.
When: 23rd, 26th and 27th at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea.
Synopsis: A brother-and-sister conman duo (Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde) flee into the Canadian wilderness with the spoils from their latest job, crossing paths with a troubled ex-con boxer (Charlie Hunnam) and his parents (Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson).
What You Need To Know: "Deadfall" (previously known under the titles "Kin" and "Blackbird") is one of the starriest, most prestigious-looking films of the festival. It's got an Oscar-winning director in Stefan Ruzowitzky, helmer of the Best Foreign Language-winning "The Counterfeiters," and an all-star cast (also including Kate Mara and Treat Williams), and what sounds like it could be a muscular, compelling, crime tale at its center. To be honest, its venue of debut gives us a little pause: ordinarily, a film of this caliber would wait for TIFF, or something similar. But with Tribeca's line-up in general its strongest in years, this is still going to be one of our most anticipated of the festival.
When: 22nd at the BMCC Tribeca PAC, 24th and 26th at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea.
"The Fourth Dimension"
Synopsis: An anthology film including chapters from the U.S., Poland, and Russia, most notably featuring an experimental film from Harmony Korine focusing on a motivational speaker.
What You Need To Know: It's been three years since Harmony Korine's outsider-art-esque "Trash Humpers," and, though the director's been busy with a whole series of shorts since, it's been a while since anything hit the big screen. He's making what seems to be his most mainstream effort to date, the comedy "Spring Breakers" with Vanessa Hudgens and James Franco, but we don't think that'll be ready before the end of 2012. Instead, the helmer's next project is a short, "The Lotus Community Workshop," starring Val Kilmer as a dreadful motivational speaker called "Val Kilmer" (of course), that was shot in Nashville and bound by a Dogme-style manifesto, as part of an anthology film funded by Vice Films and Grolsch FilmWorks. The other segments are Alexey Fedorchenko's "Chronoeye," and Jan Kwiecinski's apocalpytic "Pawns."
When: 24th and 25th at the AMC Loews Village, 27th at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea.
Synopsis: A promiscuous, borderline-alcoholic law student agrees to cover her best friend's shift at an ice cream truck.
What You Need To Know: In a sea of twentysomething slacker comedies, "Free Samples" has a couple of advantages that look to set it apart from the competition. Firstly, it's got a killer cast of indie stalwarts, led by Jess Weixler ("Teeth") who is joined by Haley Feiffer ("You Can Count On Me," "The Squid And The Whale"), Jason Ritter ("Good Dick"), Matt Walsh ("Cyrus"), veteran Tippi Hedren ("The Birds") and Jesse Eisenberg. Secondly, it's got plenty of ice cream in it. Who doesn't like ice cream? The directorial debut of USC grad Jay Gammill, and featuring a score by Seattle band Say Hi, the trailer promised something firmly above-average, so this could well turn out to be a little gem.
When: 20th and 21st at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, 24th and 26th at the AMC Loews Village.
Synopsis: A Texan single mother who's lost custody of her child becomes involved in the smuggling of illegal immigrants, and is forced to look after a 9-year-old Mexican girl.
What You Need To Know: After a major breakthrough as the star of Jane Campion's "Bright Star," Australian actress Abbie Cornish had a mixed 2011 -- she appeared in the sleeper hit "Limitless," albeit in a thankless role, but was otherwise stuck in arguably two of the worst films of the year, "Sucker Punch" and "W.E." But 2012 promises better things. "The Girl" marks the belated return of director David Riker, who impressed with his 1998 debut "La Ciudad," and seems to have allowed Cornish the kind of challenging lead role she hasn't been given by the studios to date. Will Patton and newcomer Santiago Maritza are in support.
When: 20th at the SVA Theater Silas, 22nd and 24th at the AMC Loews Village, 27th at the SVA Theater Beatrice.
"Jack and Diane"
Synopsis: A pair of teenage girls fall in love, only for one to reveal that she's a werewolf.
What You Need To Know: Originally intended to reteam "Juno" stars Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby, it's taken some time for Bradley Rust Gray's "Jack and Diane" to get going. But the film finally mounted last year, with rising stars Juno Temple and Riley Keough ("The Runaways") in the leads, and while it might sound like some kind of titillating "Twilight" knock-off on the surface, we're hopeful that it's something much more. Gray has proven a talent to watch so far, and the film will feature animated sequences from stop-motion legends the Brothers Quay, and an interestingly diverse supporting cast, including Dane DeHaan, Jena Malone, Lou Taylor Pucci, Cara Seymour and pop legend Kylie Minogue, as a tattooed lesbian. There's certainly a lot of potential here.
When: 20th at the SVA Theater Silas, 22nd at the AMC Loews Village, 25th and 28th at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea.
Synopsis: A young man is dug out from a bloody crime scene, and relates to the police the story of how he and his friends shared a multi-million dollar soccer pool prize that turned into a deadly rivalry.
What You Need To Know: Thanks to the success of "Wallander," "The Killing" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," Scandinavian crime is big news these days, and Norwegian author Jo Nesbø is right at the top of the heap: his "Headhunters" was a big hit at home and on the festival circuit, and his novel "The Snowman" is being adapted by Martin Scorsese. "Jackpot" is based on one of his stories, and looks like it could be a lot of fun: a riff on the "Shallow Grave" tale of friends being torn apart by a big cash gain, the trailer suggests an ultra-violent dark comedy that could be a breath of fresh air at the festival, and help launch director Margus Martens into the big time.
When: 21st and 23rd at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, 27th at the AMC Loews Village.
Synopsis: A young woman on the verge of turning 30 is dumped by her fiance on the eve of their wedding. Suddenly single for the first time in nearly a decade, she has to make her first steps back into the dating world, with the help of her friends.
What You Need To Know: We've said it before, but 2009's "Breaking Upwards" was a better-than-average indie rom-com, and the writer/director/star combo of Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones are back, with a much more high-profile picture. Fox Searchlight are hoping this might fill the "(500) Days Of Summer" indie rom-com slot this season, and with rising stars Greta Gerwig and Joel Kinnaman in the lead roles, and a promising trailer, this might well have a good chance at that.
When: 24th at the BMCC Tribeca PAC, 26th at the AMC Loews Village, before going on release on June 8th.
“Once In A Lullaby: The PS22 Chorus Story”
Synopsis: A documentary following the Staten Island elementary school school choir, who became viral phenomenons thank to their renditions of popular songs, as they travel to perform at the Academy Awards in 2011.
What You Need To Know: Even the hardest of hearts would be hard-pushed not to melt when watching one of the videos by the PS22 Chorus, the Staten Island kids who've become phenomenons thanks to their covers of the likes of Phoenix, Adele and Rihanna. So it's no suprise that the premiere of the documentary about them was one of the fastest sell-outs of Tribeca this year. Are we expecting a hard-hitting expose, or a potential Oscar contender? Probably not. But there's something hugely uplifting about the whole affair (even the film is directed by Jonathan Kalafer, a New Jersey high school teacher), and so we suspect we'll forgive it an awful lot.
When: 29th at the SVA Theater Silas.
“Revenge For Jolly”
Synopsis: Harry returns home from a night of binge-drinking with his cousin to discover that his dog, the titular Jolly, has been murdered, and he heads out to seek revenge.
What You Need To Know: Are absent dogs an emerging plot trend? It's used as the center of Quentin Dupieux's "Wrong" which premiered at Sundance in January, but "Revenge For Jolly," the debut of NYU grad Chadd Harbold, looks to be a different, pulpier beast. And he's got a great cast involved: led by Brian Petsos (best known as Kristin Wiig's long-time boyfriend) and Oscar Isaac, with Wiig herself, Elijah Wood, Adam Brody, Ryan Phillipe, Kevin Corrigan, Bobby Moynihan, Gillian Jacobs, Garret Dillahunt and David Rasche all cropping up. There are few casts at the festival with more promise, and we've got our fingers crossed that this could turn out to be one of the most entertaining films of the festival.
When: 21st and 22nd Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, 28th at the AMC Loews Village.
Synopsis: A documentary following the Texas Board of Education, who mandate new standards that will go in textbooks across the state.
What You Need To Know: A non-fiction film about textbooks doesn't exactly sound like gripping stuff on the page, but let's not forget that that's been a major battlefield in the culture wars for decades, and this debut doc from helmer Scott Thurmann seems to capture that, following hard-line evangelical Don McLeroy as he's taken on by a liberal activist and a moderate conservative over possible changes to the education system of one of America's most populous states. It couldn't be more relevant, and the buzz is that it's an even-handed, well-judged look at a vitally important issue.
When: 20th, 21st, 25th at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, 28th at AMC Loews Village.
Synopsis: A young, female Israeli military investigator accuses a soldier of unnecessary violence against a Palestinian man, only for the case to prove more complex than first suspected.
What You Need To Know: Israel & Palestine is such a hot-button issue that it's rare for anyone to tackle it, but we're glad that "Room 514" is seeing the light of day at Tribeca, where it will make its U.S. bow. After premiering at Rotterdam a few months back, it looks like it could be a taut, morally-complex single-location thriller (it's set almost entirely in an interrogation room). Whether it manages to feel cinematic rather than theatrical (or overtly political) remains to be seen, but the based-in-fact drama looks like it could be one of the big talking points of the festival.
When: 20th, 21st and 25th at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, 28th at the AMC Loews Village.
Synopsis: Four cops in an elite Spanish anti-drugs unit try to bring down a trafficking network in Seville over the course of the 1990s.
What You Need To Know: The cop movie has become an increasingly international genre, but Spain is one country that's yet to produce a classic entry to the canon. Could "Unit 7" be that film? Coming from writer-director Alberto Rodriguez ("7 Virgins"), one of the most acclaimed and buzzed about filmmakers to emerge from Spain in the past few years, the picture seems to blend gritty realism and thrills in a way vaguely reminiscent of a European take on something like "Elite Squad," with a cast led by Antonio de la Torre ("Volver") and Mario Casas. The trailer does seem to be a little heavy on the cop cliches, but hopefully in context the film will be a little fresher.
When: 20th at the SVA Theater Beatrice, 22nd and 25th at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, and 24th at the AMC Loews Village.