2 items from 1997
"There was a report of a pod of dolphins off the coast of Mexico who spent three days swimming around a dying dolphin, trying to keep him afloat. They took turns pushing him back to the surface for air until they finally let the ocean have her way."
Thus is the stage set for "Ocean Tribe", a winning portrait of a group of childhood surfer buddies who reunite to see their terminally ill friend catch one last wave.
First-time writer-director Will Geiger makes a considerable splash with this energetic and moving picture, which recently received its world premiere at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
Despite its subject matter, this is no movie-of-the-week sob story. Packed with colorful characterizations and breathtaking surfing cinematography, "Ocean Tribe" defies its bottom-of-the-barrel budget with rich storytelling and production values.
When they receive word that their childhood pal Bob Vaughn Roberts) is lying in a cancer ward with a grim future, Noah (Gregg Rainwater), Schwartz (Robert Caso), Jeb (Troy Fazio) and Lance (Mark Matheisen) reunite for the first time in seven years for a farewell road trip to Baja, Mexico.
Of course, things have changed since high school. Noah has a green-card wife and is about to become a father; Schwartz is on the verge of becoming a doctor even though he's terrified of the sight of blood; rebel Jeb just came out of prison after serving time for a drug offense; and ladies' man Lance is having trouble kick-starting his acting career.
When they show up to kidnap their buddy from his hospital bed, Bob, freshly bald from chemotherapy sessions, is less than enthusiastic. But when his friends return with shaved heads and refuse to take no for an answer, he ultimately goes along for the ride.
Strapping a wheelchair to the top of their brightly painted Olds ambulance-turned-surf wagon, they take to the road in search of a monster swell, not to mention themselves.
Geiger's cast, many of whom have worked with Tim Robbins' Actors Gang, make for a believable group of childhood friends -- in many ways no longer the people they once were, though they often revert to their old behavioral patterns.
The film is not without its share of murky plot points and could do with fewer montages of sun-kissed vistas, but Geiger shows considerable promise as a writer and director. A twilight sequence involving the actors swimming among a group of dolphins is magic, as is the touching closing scene.
Technical contributions are all first-rate, led off by Harris Done's crisp photography and, especially, Jeff Neu's invigorating water footage. Jeremy Kasten's smooth editing and Sean Murray's always-in-sync atmospheric score also shine.
Director-screenwriter Will Geiger
Producer Will Geiger
Director of photography Harris Done
Art director Steve Espinoza
Editor Jeremy Kasten
Costume designer Georgia Alemanni
Music Sean Murray
Noah Gregg Rainwater
Schwartz Robert Caso
Jeb Troy Fazio
Lance Mark Matheisen
Bob Vaughn Roberts
Padre Delbert Brian Brophy
Running time -- 102 minutes
No MPAA rating
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- From careers to relationships, reality takes a few bites out of a quintet of young moderns in writer-director Gary Leva's uneven but crowd-pleasing "Plan B", a low-budget indie that premiered recently at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Jon Cryer headlines a talented cast in a well-intentioned but predictable ensemble comedy set during the holiday season. Catchy title aside, "Plan B" has limited theatrical prospects. Cable and video gigs look more promising.
Stuart (Cryer) is a "serious" author who has penned a commercial thriller and hopes for a career breakthrough. His friend Rick (Mark Matheisen) is a handsome but brainless actor constantly on the hunt for ladies.
From Halloween to New Year's Eve, Stuart and Rick Cross paths several times with married couple Clare (Lisa Darr) and Jack Lance Guest) and Clare's promiscuous sister Gina (Sara Mornell). The individual conflicts of the five all have comic elements that are sporadically entertaining.
Clare is waging an all-out campaign to get pregnant and her after-sex tactics to increase the odds are amusing. A professional pilot, Jack is training to fly jetliners when his eyesight suddenly presents a problem. With his own small plane, however, he starts a flying motel bedroom service for adventuresome lovers.
In a promising debut, Mornell has the showiest role as sultry Gina, who sports an eclectic string of lovers before realizing the obvious, she needs to find a good guy. Most of the action takes place at parties and group gatherings, which makes it all seem strained and even contrived.
Not even the likable Cryer can do much with the many flat jokes, but it's Matheisen who has the most thankless job. Rick is too stereotyped a character and his self-absorbed game plan is tedious. First-time director Leva does a competent job, but the whole meandering affair could have been a lot livelier.
Puny But Loud Prods.
Writer-director Gary Leva
Producers Nancy Joslin, Gary Leva,
Executive producers Shelly & Sally Leva Burr
Director of photography Yoram Astrakhan
Production designer Carol Strober
Editor Jane Allison Fleck
Music Andrew Rose
Stuart Jon Cryer
Clare Lisa Darr
Rick Mark Matheisen
Jack Lance Guest
Gina Sara Mornell
Running time -- 102 minutes
No MPAA rating
2 items from 1997
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