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Inside Out (2015)
6 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
In the Top-Tier of Pixar's Already Stunning List of Features, 16 June 2015

The buzz has been huge for Pixar's latest venture about the mind of a little girl and the emotions that live within her. Writer/directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen, along with co-scribes Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley create a film with the most simple and authentic concept, and turns it into a methodical, moving, and layered story with so many different themes to indulge. Though there is a minor element to the film that leaves you a bit cold, "Inside Out" is clearly successful in its approach and just about everything you want in a family film this time of year.

"Inside Out" tells the story of Riley, an eleven-year-old girl whose family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. In her mind live five real, and relatable feelings: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. When Joy and Sadness accidentally are thrown into the land of Riley's long-term memories, Riley undergoes a barrage of emotions that are affecting her relationships with family, friends, and the things she loves. Now, Joy and Sadness must get back to her core command in order to restore Riley's feelings and relationships.

Teamed with the voice talents of Amy Poehler ( who plays "Joy"), Phyllis Smith (who plays "Sadness"), Bill Hader (who plays "Fear"), Lewis Black (who plays "Anger"), and Mindy Kaling (who plays "Disgust"), Pixar's joyful and moving animated feature presents equal parts of humor and tears. A fascinating deconstruction of the mind of a child, and the changes they endure along the way. The subject matter is among Pixar's most ambitious and their most impressive since "WALL-E."

What shines bright is the stunning animation on screen. A beautiful array of colors, just hypnotizing to the eyes as "Joy" and "Sadness" venture off into different parts of Riley's mind. I'd say this is definitely among Pixar's most alluring and aesthetically beautiful films they've ever created.

As we've come to expect from an Oscar-winning composer like Michael Giacchino, the score for "Inside Out" is subtly impeccable. Among his most reserved compositions, Giacchino takes a back seat to the story and lets the film do its work through imagery and narration.

Presenting another key reason for a Voice Work Oscar to be created, both Poehler and Smith are downright magnificent in two of the year's finest performances. Poehler's Joy anchors the film with a glaze of sweetness, and when called upon, will break your heart with epic emotions. Smith's Sadness is a devastating but truly compelling creation, as she bridges our thoughts through tears and loss. Those two will be putting your tearducts to work and in overdrive in several moments. This is another shining example of a female-driven feature that is just as enjoyable, if not more, than any other male protagonist in films today. Film producers need to start taking notice of the slate of successes this year and what they need to do change the landscape.

Where the film doesn't completely connect is in its supporting characters, in particular Anger and Disgust. With no fault going to the sensational voice work of Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling, the narrative creation of their place in the story doesn't seem to quite jive. "Anger" is a simple emotion to portray, but I minor found inconsistencies in his character's actions that were noticeable. "Disgust," which probably would have been better off being called "Sarcasm" just didn't seem like a core emotion that I think exists in the mind of an eleven year old girl. While I think "Disgust" is something that the younger minds can easily understand, I think a different direction may have been needed for her inclusion. Other players like Bill Hader, Diane Lane (who plays Mom), and Kyle MacLachlan (who plays Dad) are strongly assembled. Special shout out to Kaitlyn Dias, who voices Riley, is vivaciously real in each delivery and each line.

With no shortage of tears for the adults, and big laughs for the kids, "Inside Out" fits firmly in the top-tier of Pixar's most vibrant pictures. An echo of love and vulnerability, the feature is gorgeously inventive and passionately executed. A fine selection for all to enjoy, no matter what age. Your frontrunner for the Animated Feature Oscar for 2015 has arrived.

In addition, the Pixar short "Lava" is stunningly delightful and powerfully engaging. Likely another contender for an Animated Short Academy Award.

Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com)

Meadowland (2015)
Embodies an astonishing performance from Olivia Wilde, 10 June 2015
8/10

One of our few female Cinematographers Reed Morano steps behind the camera in a different way to make her directorial debut on "Meadowland," written by Chris Rossi in his screen writing debut. Starring Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson, the film tells the story of Sarah and Phil, a couple who suffer an unimaginable loss and deal with the grief, loss, and hope in two completely different ways. Phil's own moral compass is challenged while Sarah begins to deteriorate, falling deeper into herself and losing all hopes of coming back. "Meadowland" is a methodical and at times very compelling film that presents an intimate portrait of grief and hopelessness.

Reed Morano hawks back to similar feels of films like "Shame," capturing a long shot within a New York street or "Half Nelson," deconstructing the mind of a struggling educator with a student in need of their own guidance. Morano frames the film spectacularly, as you could expect no less from the woman who shot "Kill Your Darlings" and "Frozen River." She appeals to our sensibilities as humans, and puts forth authentic reactions and behaviors of two human beings that can't imagine a world that their presently abound. That's also thanks to the palpable tension and drama set by scribe Rossi. These are two of the strongest debuts by a writer and director team seen in quite some time.

Challenging Jessica Biel ("Bleeding Heart") as our Hollywood hot girl taking on an indie film and knocking it out of the park at Tribeca, Olivia Wilde is electrifying. Standing out in her own way in films like "Her" and "Rush," Wilde finds her niche, accurately portraying a mother on the verge of breaking down but desperately searching for something to keep her afloat. Wilde delivers her finest acting performance of her career yet and is simply astonishing. There's so much that Wilde reveals in subtle moments of silence, whether its watching "Wheel of Fortune," or observing a boy struggling to make friends, she keeps things bubbled to the brim without spilling over. A tremendous and extraordinary actress has emerged.

In one of his most serious and heartbreaking roles, Luke Wilson surprises as the effective Paul. He internalizes much of the grief that lives within his veins and in certain moments, unleashes them but not in the stereotypical bombastic manner in which you'd expect. It's a real and intelligent portrayal, devoid of happy endings and clichéd heroism.

John Leguizamo is taking on an indie market again and its fantastic to see. Building even more excitement for a career post-Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss is superb in a brief role that should have been expanded beyond what was given. Returning to his roots, Giovanni Ribisi excelled in smaller films until Seth MacFarlane got his claws on him for TV and "Ted" (which admittedly he's hilarious in). As Tim, Paul's drug-recovering brother, Ribisi begins to revive the talents that made him so amazing in his early years of his career. In smaller roles, Mark Feuerstein, Merritt Wever, and Juno Temple all get their moment.

"Meadowland" is a fascinating piece, sometimes subtle in the way it presents its material, other times bombastic all leading to a finale that speaks multiple volumes about our own innocence. It's a film that will hopefully find a home with someone caring enough to nurture it into the right audiences.

126 out of 253 people found the following review useful:
All Bark and No Bite, 10 June 2015
5/10

Read more @ AwardsCircuit.com (http://www.awardscircuit.com) Well let's start with the obvious. If you never saw "Jurassic Park" or "The Lost World" and "Jurassic Park III" is your benchmark for the dinosaur franchise, then you'll likely really like "Jurassic World." If you've seen all of them, then you have a glimmer of hope in me saying that it's not as bad as "Jurassic Park III" but that doesn't say much.

Putting the dinosaurs in the driver's seat with the humans in the back, it's as if Amblin Entertainment wanted to make their own version of the "Avengers," bringing all the vicious dinosaurs together to communicate, team together, and take on a new, "badder" villain that is sure to entertainment young adolescents but not anyone who embodies logic and sense.

Director Colin Trevorrow has a respect for the 1993 blockbuster that literally changed the visual effects landscape forever. There are little homages to the original, but "Jurassic World" begins a new story in the quest to re-create the extinct species. Finally opening up to the public, the Jurassic World theme park is now a resort destination for people all around the globe. Founder John Hammond (who was played by the late Richard Attenborough in the original) has passed on and left it to Mr. Masrani (played by Irrfan Kahn). With the help of his overambitious vice president (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and Dr. Henry Wu (played by BD Wong reprising his role), they have created a new genetic hybrid to excite the general public again. Of course, things go wrong. Don't worry…Chris Pratt is there to save the day and he'll figure everything out just by looking at the dinosaurs.

Ridiculous. That's all I could say during several instances throughout. Velociraptors are communicating with humans, in a way that doesn't seem feasibly possible. Anyone familiar with the horror franchise "Puppet Master" from the 80's and 90's might remember that the little killer dolls were scary as hell for the first couple of movies. They struck fear into those who watched until the franchise decided that they needed to become the good guys. That's what scribes Trevorrow, Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa, and Derek Connolly bring to the table. The dinosaurs are fighting…with us…against other dinosaurs…and then are corrupted…to fight with the dinosaurs…now against us…and then have an epiphany….that they are one of us….to fight the dinosaurs again. There is literally a scene in which the velociraptor nudges his head to a human pretty much saying, "I got this." Not sure if I wanted to laugh or cry.

It's not all bad. There are definite instances of fun, and for a casual movie-goer, this summer blockbuster will surely suffice. If you lower your expectations, just see it for what it is, then "Jurassic World" can be wholeheartedly satisfying. The aerial shots of the park are surely impressive. Jake Johnson is terrific comic relief in the best ways and Vincent D'Onofrio is a sleazy, money hungry thug that will set plans in motion for more films in the franchise. Little girls might even find their new teen hunk in the innocent Ty Simpkins or the very awkwardly horny Nick Robinson.

For a franchise that re-defined visual effects, the film is a green screen nightmare. Indominus Rex, the new dinosaur hybrid definitely received the lion's share of the dollars spent on CGI. Its skin, facial expressions, and roar are on point. Everything else around him sadly is not. Hopefully they spend just as much time on ALL the animals next time around.

"Jurassic World" is silly, but I think there's still room for some magic from the once dynamite franchise. The original cast's story lines offer enough material to bridge their way into this new world. Where's Lex and Tim now? Maybe they're activists against the park? Nostalgia can be an easy and lazy way out as we've seen with other sequels/reboots but this is one that I think calls for it. I think "Jurassic World" has places to go from here. I hope the studio finds its way with it.

10 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
George Miller's reboot is full of action, technical marvels, and a badass performance in Charlize Theron..., 12 May 2015
7/10

Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com)

The slickest, coolest ride you can take this year has arrived in the form of George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road" starring the talented Tom Hardy and the impeccably magnificent Charlize Theron. A reboot that blows every aspect of the original away with stunning cinematography by John Seale, luscious production design by Colin Gibson, and the most vivacious score of the year so far by Junkie XL. "Mad Max" kicks ass and takes names.

As action-packed and lively as "Mad Max" is in its gargantuan shell of fire and music, there are some shortcomings that Miller's film exhibits. From a narrative standpoint, it presents some of the most surprising and endearing female characters seen in some time. Everything about the women, particularly Oscar-winner Theron, is excitingly refreshing. You come to think that the title of the film should have been called "Furiosa" rather than "Mad Max." "Max" feels completely secondary to everything that's going on around him. He doesn't envelope the same presence that Mel Gibson's character did in the original, and that's both a positive and a negative. Is it intentional or is the far superior and interesting work of its female heroins just easier for an audience member to latch onto. The script by Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris is rapidly inconsistent in the film's first 30 minutes. With no clear directives or plot devices, it almost comes off as a road trip movie with no set destination, at least in the first quarter. Once the speed picks up, boy does it just thrust you from your seat. There are also some abrupt and sharp turns from explosions to emotions that don't exactly feel natural. There was a time or two that I rolled my eyes at certain attempts of emotional reaction.

Academy Award winner John Seale, who has continued to explore his narrative lenses in his career, takes on a new world of artistic capture. He makes the viewer a passenger and an active member of the action at hand. The sound team rises to the occasion in this post-apocalyptic world of gears, guns, and fire. The greatest achievement of the film's psychedelic roller coaster is the potent and passionate music of Junkie XL, whose previous scores on films like "300: Rise of an Empire" and "Divergent" could have never hinted at the masterpiece composition he would create for George Miller. The score echoes past works from Bernard Herrmann ("Psycho" in particular) and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It'll be a travesty if at bare minimum, the film isn't recognized for Best Original Score at next year's Oscars.

There have been rumors that this is Charlize Theron's version of Ripley in "Aliens." While the comparison is somewhat apt, I find it more in line with someone like Linda Hamilton in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." "Furiosa" is Sarah Connor reincarnated into a one- handed death machine, and she's freaking awesome. It's the badass performance of the year, perhaps the last few years from an action star. A performance that hasn't highlighted her abilities as an actress this well since maybe "Monster." As the villainous "Immortan Joe," Hugh Keays-Byrne dominates with stature and aura that's palpable in nearly every scene he inhabits. He isn't afforded many opportunities to stretch out the boundaries of his Bane-like mask and become intimate with the viewer. Nicholas Hoult maintains a fun, comedic vine that slowly wraps around you as his story progresses. Finally, Tom Hardy is as cool as ever. This guy makes it look so easy to just be a part of something and blend into a canvas such as this. As mentioned before, he's surprisingly secondary to the story but what he does get a chance to offer is vividly real.

Seeing the film in 3D didn't offer anything more than a few dizzy spells from some shaky camera syndrome. It's another example of 3D being utilized more as a gimmick, and not an additional asset. Admittedly, I'm not the hugest fan of 3D films with the exception of few I've encountered. I say save the 3 extra dollars and see it on regular full-size screen experience. It will more than suffice.

From a summer blockbuster standpoint, you have to move "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Furious 7" aside to make way for something that stands on more of solid foundation of action storytelling. "Mad Max: Fury Road" is an audacious and visually striking endeavor that is sure to stand out all year in some capacity. A technical marvel. I'd be excited to see where they'll bring the story from here. A franchise that has been successfully rebooted. Good job Hollywood.

Maggie (2015/I)
64 out of 105 people found the following review useful:
Henry Hobson's emotional zombie film is surprisingly captivating..., 27 April 2015
7/10

2015 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: Zombies have been all the craze for quite sometime with shows like "The Walking Dead" and films like "World War Z" dominating the box office. I've never been such a fan of the genre as something about the undead just hunting on human flesh never seemed appealing. In Henry Hobson's "Maggie," where he recruits Arnold Schwarzenegger and Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin as a father- daughter pair that spend the final days together before the young Maggie transforms into a zombie is one of the more compelling works on the genre seen yet.

Charismatic and truly very moving at times, it's surprising to see where debut screenwriter John Scott 3 brings this compassionate tale. We're introduced to Maggie as her father Wade, just after finds her after a two-week search. She's brought to their farm home where her step-mother Caroline (played by Joely Richardson) and her two younger siblings reside. As Maggie's transformation is sure to become erratic and certain, the entire family sits on the edge as their beloved daughter deals with not only her changing self, but addressing the surroundings of her friends and a future that is now to never be.

In his most reserved and accessible performances of his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger proves what happens when you work with some of the most talented people in the business for decades. You're surely to pick up some of their ticks and beats. Internalized as any performance seen by an actor, Schwarzenegger digs deep to show the soul of a broken man, helpless against a virus that is taking away his most precious gift. In addition, he fights for his daughter's right to live out her final days from the local authorities who believe she must go to quarantine, where the infected are put to death. It's a shocking display of emotion from the former governor of California in what will surely be a talking piece of many following a viewing.

Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin truly is a talent. "Zombieland," which many will think of based on themes, kept her at an arm's distance in terms of allowing the environment to reveal itself through her actions. In other zombie films and TV shows, the ongoing theme and narrative is survival. "Maggie" takes it in a different direction. You see the deterioration of not just the person's body, but their hopes and dreams. Breslin displays the broken heart of a girl who sees her former boyfriend get taken away despite pleading with his father to stay just one more day. You see the realization of her new self in the behaviors she acquires along the way. And most importantly, and probably the most heartbreaking, is in the final interactions with her friends and in the truth of a future that will never come. Breslin shines like no other. It's happy to see her stretching her acting capabilities at this point in her career.

The technical traits of "Maggie" are spot on for the most part thanks to director Hobson. In his feature directorial debut, Hobson hones in on the tone of an emotional drama, not a horror film with something extra to offer. I think back to something like M. Night Shymalan's "The Sixth Sense" when the thrill factor was secondary to its story and characters. Hobson captures most of those things. Cinematographer Lukas Ettlin paints the canvas beautifully as we've seen in other efforts like "The Lincoln Lawyer" and TV's "Black Sails."

"Maggie" is a moving drama. Echoing the moods of hard-hitting films but with the charisma of any entertaining blockbuster you would see this summer. It's well worth every dollar of an admission ticket and is one of the more enthralling and captivating films of the spring.

Grandma (2015)
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Paul Weitz's crisp writing with Lily Tomlin's impeccable timing make for a beautiful combination...., 20 April 2015

Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com)

2015 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: Paul Weitz gave the world "About a Boy" over a decade ago, masterfully telling a story through it character's relationships and actions. The well-received film garnered major acclaim from critics and got Weitz his first Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Since then, Weitz has never returned to that type of reception with admirable yet very visual missteps along the way like "In Good Company." In his newest venture "Grandma," the writer/director puts forth his finest work of his career. He doesn't get all the kudos though. Star Lily Tomlin, a veteran comedic actress that has been sadly overlooked too many times in her career, delivers one of the performances of her career. Possibly THE best.

"Grandma" tells the story of Elle Reid, a misanthropic lesbian who has her world turned upside down when her 18-year-old granddaughter comes to her help. With a day's journey in front of them, and with a goal in mind, the two women share their feelings with one another while confronting their past, and looking forward to their future.

Hands down, front to back, this film excels and soars on the work of Academy Award nominated actress Lily Tomlin. I can't recall a time when Tomlin has been more vulnerable, available, and prodigious as she demonstrates in Weitz's picture. Through all the vulgarity and rough edges, Tomlin finds Elle's humanity. You'd have to go back to something like Jack Nicholson in "As Good as it Gets" to find someone in a comedy who is so complex in nature yet so gratifying and beautiful in essence. Elle's baggage may be pushed down as deep as it can go, but Tomlin allows the audience to see what's underneath at the most suitable times. She'll break your heart and bring you to tears. Make no mistake, Lily Tomlin delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. Tomlin isn't the only one firing on all cylinders. As Sage, Elle's granddaughter, Julia Garner holds her own against the veteran actress. In another enriched turn, Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden delivers her best work since "Mystic River." A brief but sensational work that stands out. Judy Greer, as always, is terrific in her minimal amount of screen time. Someone please give the woman more roles to work with. Magnificently emotional and present is veteran actor Sam Elliott, who hits one out of the park as Karl. Here's an actor whose been virtually everywhere for the past five decades with stand out turns in "Gettysburg," "Wyatt Earp," "Up in the Air," and more. With a career that's been as impressive as his, with a turn as memorable as he delivers, Elliott should be among the conversation for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. He caps off an impeccable ensemble.

If there's one film at the Tribeca Film Festival that can become a conversation starter for awards at the end of the year, "Grandma" has that power. An enlightening and moving film that garners big laughs and big tears; Paul Weitz has created the crowning work of his career.

April showers bring May flowers, and "Grandma" is that beautiful flower for the season. One of the best films that 2015 is sure to offer.

Diane Bell's sophomore feature gets the very best from Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet..., 20 April 2015
7/10

2015 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: The intimate and calm nature of Diane Bell's "Bleeding Heart" is simply mesmerizing. Starring Jessica Biel as May, a yoga instructor who finds her biological sister Shiva (played by Zosia Mamet), who is a sex worker with an abusive boyfriend (played by Joe Anderson). The unlikely pair explores the boundaries of their new-found relationship, the identity of family, and the protection of one another.

Bell's handle of the subject matter is very impressive, as she chooses to focus on reactions in several key scenes rather than words. Having only one feature under her belt (the little seen "Obselidia" in 2010), for which she received two Independent Spirit Award nominations, Bell emulates the passion and demand of storytelling as seen by such filmmakers like Patty Jenkins and Lisa Cholodenko. Taking on double duties with writing the film's script, her exploration into these two female characters isn't as intricate or precise as you'd like. With an 80 minute runtime, there's likely a few more minutes of dialogue, coverage, or something additional that would have rounded out these two women a bit more.

One area that Bell doesn't lack is in her ability to get the very best work out of her actors. Jessica Biel may have finally found her vehicle. With an internalized and very subtle performance, Biel excels in her ability to find the very motivation of May. Her yearn for family, both with her sister and her boyfriend (played by Edi Gathegi, who you'll know from "Gone Baby Gone" and "X-Men: First Class") is richly profound, all leading up to a climax that will keep you at the edge of your seat.

You may all know the adorkable Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna Shapiro on HBO's hit-show "Girls," a role that she's confidently called her own in an ensemble that doesn't exactly allow her to shine. She sheds all her cute and innocent personas to inhabit the soul of an impenetrable woman. Mamet's work as Shiva is hands down the best performance seen by an actress this year yet. She doesn't play it safe or conventional as we've seen with other "hookers with a heart" stories in other films. She's unafraid to be judged by the audience; not looking for an alibi, simply guilty as charged as delivering one of the bravest turns of the year. It's very exciting to see her take on a role like this feet first.

As one of our more standard character creations, Joe Anderson as Cody, Shiva's boyfriend, is just mind-numbingly good. Anderson, who you may remember from films like "The Grey" and "Control," harnesses the energy of a Ben Foster-type, in a vile role that simply stands out.

"Bleeding Heart" is a fascinating film, though a tad predictable. If nothing else, it recognizes the under-appreciated work of Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet, and places writer/director Diane Bell at the forefront of exciting indie filmmakers.

"Bleeding Heart" currently has no distributor.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
There's a few too many ingredients that give Pamela Romanowsky's feature a bad taste..., 18 April 2015
5/10

Writer/director Pamela Romanowsky's adaptation of "The Adderall Diaries" based on Stephen Elliott's memoir has so many great ideas. It's a blend of different genres that calls back to many different films from the past however, it's unfocused execution and narrative ultimately leaves you bewildered rather than intrigued.

Starring Academy Award nominee James Franco as Stephen Elliott, an author whose world is turned upside down when his estranged father (played by Ed Harris) accuses him in public of fabricating his book which tells the story of his life. With a new relationship, drug relapse, and focusing on a very public murder trial, will Stephen be able to survive everything that life is throwing at him?

As previously mentioned, there's A LOT going on in the story. We're getting elements of "Shattered Glass" then "Blue Valentine" then "The Basketball Diaries." Romanowsky isn't confident about what she wants her film to be. Does she want it to be a film about family relationships or dissection of the mind of an addict? Does she want to explore the ramifications of sex through violence or is she trying to make a statement about the perception of our lives within ourselves? She's saying so many things that it all ends up on blurred lines and in a haze. I will say that her abilities is a filmmaker is nothing to scoff at. She creates genuine moments and settles into her better written scenes with courage and ferocity. I'd still be very intrigued to see her next venture.

James Franco's resume with independent cinema has left much to be desired. His performances are often self-indulgent or misguided by his own direction or any other filmmaker he's working with. His turn in "The Adderall Diaries" is one of his more impressive works that he's constructed as of late. Though his motivations and actions aren't always made abundantly clear, Franco sheds some of his barriers to allow some connection with his audience.

You can't get much better than Ed Harris in terms of an actor that shines in just about anything he does, no matter how the film he inhabits turns out. As Neil, Stephen's father, Harris elevates the thin material and focuses on the emotion of a father's regret with near precision. I'm still anxiously awaiting his Oscar-winning role. This doesn't quite make the cut.

Other aspects of the film include the beautiful Amber Heard, the multi-talented Cynthia Nixon, the oddly involved Christian Slater, and the scene-stealing abilities of Jim Parrack (Hoyt from "True Blood").

Overall "The Adderall Diaries" is a misguided attempt by a director who has a keen eye for some things but lacks in others. Romanowsky's guidance on her actors are some of the film's biggest highlights but ultimately just falls short in too many spots. The opening sequence was quite good and there was a scene in which I nearly cried. Some may find some qualities to take home with them, others will simply leave it at the door.

8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
The talents of its cast doesn't provide enough for Patrick Brice's film from being a bit too uncomfortable..., 17 April 2015
5/10

2015 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: There's a point during Patrick Brice's darkly comedic film "The Overnight" where the humor goes from infectiously enjoyable to awkwardly unnerving. That both works for and against Brice's storytelling and filmmaking abilities. Through its strong ensemble that includes Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche, Brice's film touches on the different encounters and reflections of the average thirty- something. Capturing traits from films like "Carnage" by Roman Polanski, the laughs are certainly on display, however the believability and natural character beats certainly are not.

In a film like this, that heavily relies on its script and quick wit and humor, Brice, who both writes and directs, relies far too much on the physical comedic tones rather than focusing on strong characters with a clearly defined destinations. "The Overnight" tells the story of Alex (Scott) and Emily (Schilling), two parents who just move to Los Angeles from Seattle with their son RJ. When they meet Kurt (Schwartzman) at a park with his son Max, he invites them for a play date at his house where he lives with his wife Charlotte (Godrèche). The evening goes as typical before the children are sent to bed and weird things start happening.

Through silly prosthetics, random sexcapades, and a very blundering, borderline amateurish orgy scene, "The Overnight" never really gets off the ground as its intended. Adam Scott relentlessly attempts to bring a sensitivity to Alex, but Brice's script never fully allows him to explore something new. Taylor Schilling is the film's real standout. Infectiously uncomfortable and concerned, Emily feels the most authentic with comedic timing that lands in every instance. Jason Schwartzman is as odd as we've ever seen him. As we're use to his quirky comic ways as seen in "Rushmore" and "I Heart Huckabee's," he brings Kurt to a dimension that was probably unrealized in its early inception. When Schwartzman lands, its lands exceptionally well, but when the character displays unflattering and odd behavior, Schwartzman's talents can't save him from spiraling downward. And finally with the sexiness and beauty of Judith Godrèche, there's not much that can go wrong except that Brice uses her arbitrarily at times and doesn't allow the Charlotte to explore the more interesting avenues of herself.

This doesn't all point to the film as a complete failure. The first half is toxically weird and brings out some of the biggest chuckles. When the story turns in a completely different direction, all leading to an unearned ending, it ultimately just lacks clear satisfaction. If so for the cast and its few bits at dark humor, "The Overnight" can be a fine watch for the independent film lover.

"The Overnight" opens in theaters on June 19.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A documentary forty years in the making is an absolute treasure..., 17 April 2015
8/10

2015 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: NBC's "Saturday Night Live" has become an institution of American television. One line that rings profoundly true in Bao Nguyen's thoroughly entertaining documentary "Live from New York!", about the institution of 30 Rock Plaza, is that people don't speak about what "SNL" means to comedy. Many of us have grown up with it in different ways. For me, it wasn't the 90's that had Molly Shannon and it wasn't the 00's that had Will Ferrell and Tina Fey. Discovering some of their more iconic characters and importance in my later years, I was first formally introduced to SNL just under a decade ago. That's with consistent watching and growing to love a die-hard cast that included Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, and more. It's only now that I go back to the earlier seasons to see people like Cheri Oteri and Horatio Sanz and discovering that their humble beginnings were just in my back yard.

Nguyen provides the opening of a time capsule that SNL producer and creator Lorne Michaels would have hoped for in his over-hyped 40th anniversary celebration that aired in February 2015. Nguyen begins with the first cast of Saturday Night that included then unknowns, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and more. They quickly address the hiatus that Michaels took from the show for five years in the early 1980's. During that time, we get Julia Louis Dreyfus, arguably part of one of the worst cast and years of the iconic show. Now she sits comfortably with half a dozen Emmy Awards and is still skyrocketing with feature films.

Nguyen goes into the struggle for women and their voice on the show. Through interviews with Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, and others, we get an honest and raw insight into the ongoing battle for the female voice on television. To paraphrase a veteran comedian from the film, you know how you know the struggle for the gender equality is still not yet won…because you just asked me that question about it. When the days of Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Maya Rudolph come into play, the doors are open for all types of comedy, from all different perspectives.

The issue of diversity and racism on the show is addressed with a no filters account from the cast members themselves. From original cast member Garrett Morris to recent members like Leslie Jones and Kenan Thompson, the ongoing struggle for diversity and a voice is evident and well-known, though through interviews, you can see that some writers don't see it as a top priority.

The theme of the show and the film is captured in the segments about the September 11th attacks. From the perspectives of former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani, Michaels himself, and many past writers, they recount the dark days following the attack on America. The touching tribute to the fallen heroes, innocent people lost, and the still seemingly real and open wound in some of the cast and crew during the time is a tender, beautiful moment.

"Live from New York!" is one of the rare and very specialized documentaries that touches on a subject so obscure and random like "Saturday Night Live," and gives it a voice. From the musical guests to the many controversies that almost swallowed the show whole, "Live from New York" is an infectious swell of love, humor, and adoration. A dynamite film to watch at the festival!


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