Review: ‘Hooking Up,’ starring Brittany Snow and Sam Richardson

March 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sam Richardson and Brittany Snow in “Hooking Up” (Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

“Hooking Up”

Directed by Nico Raineau

Culture Representation: Set in Atlanta, Dallas and various other U.S. cities, the sex comedy “Hooking Up” has a diverse cast of characters (white, African American and Asian) who represent the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A man and a woman who are almost complete opposites find themselves going on a personal and sexual journey with each other.

Culture Audience: “Hooking Up” will appeal primarily to viewers who like low-concept, slightly off-kilter raunchy comedies with questionable humor.

Sam Richardson and Anna Akana in “Hooking Up “(Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

In an attempt to set itself apart from other sex comedies, “Hooking Up” has some bizarre plot elements that actually lower the quality of this already lowbrow movie. It isn’t until the last third of the film that the movie gets better. But by then, it’s too little too late.

“Hooking Up” is the feature-film debut of Nico Raineau, who co-wrote the movie’s uneven screenplay with Lauren Schacher. It begins, as many sex comedies do, with people having sex. In this case, the sex scene is with a nymphomaniac in her 30s named Darla Beane (played by Brittany Snow), who’s doing the deed very loudly with an older guy named Charlie (played by Rob Moran). The two of them are in Atlanta and are going at it in an empty elementary school classroom, of all places. And it’s clear from their encounter that Darla is a very bossy and selfish lover.

As Darla abruptly gets up and leaves the classroom, she accidentally bumps into 30-year-old nice guy Bailey Brighton (played by Sam Richardson) in the hallway. He asks her what she was doing in the classroom, and she sarcastically replies that she was there for a parent-teacher conference. Is Darla a parent or a teacher? Neither. She’s a sex addict and she’s at the school for an after-hours group therapy meeting with Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA).

It’s her first SLAA meeting, and Darla isn’t thrilled to be there at all, because she’s only there under a court order. What did she do to get in trouble? It’s not really made clear, but it’s hinted at later in the movie. As Darla angrily tells a member of the group, she doesn’t belong there because she’s not an addict.

Just when Darla has made it abundantly clear that she’s not interested in making friends in the group, in walks the group leader: It’s Charlie, the guy she had sex with moments before. Darla and Charlie both look surprised to see each other, but viewers shouldn’t be. After all, how many group therapy sessions are taking place after hours at the same time in this school?

It turns out, there’s another group-therapy session taking place in another area of the school. It’s for a group of cancer survivors. And Bailey is one of them. He has testicular cancer, and it’s resulted in the removal of his left testicle. Bailey’s group already knows that he’s had this procedure.

And unfortunately, viewers know about it too because Bailey’s genital area is constantly used for ongoing crude jokes in the movie. This type of humor (especially for people who’ve had body parts removed because of cancer) is bound to make some people uncomfortable and possibly offended because the jokes really aren’t that clever or funny.

Soon after viewers see Darla and Bailey in their respective group therapy sessions, we see what Darla and Bailey do for a living. Darla works as a sex columnist for a local women’s lifestyle magazine called ATL Style. And viewers see that Darla isn’t just rude and abrasive at therapy sessions she doesn’t want to go to—she’s rude and abrasive all the time.

Bailey works in a lowly position at a gym. In a FaceTime chat that Bailey has with his loving but overbearing parents—Ron Brighton (played by Bryan Pitts) and Cindy Brighton (played by Vivica A. Fox)—viewers see that Bailey’s father is a successful gym owner who is expanding his business in their hometown of Dallas.

The movie goes to great lengths to show how opposite Darla and Bailey are. While Darla openly watches porn on her work computer, Bailey is moping around at his job because he’s nursing a broken heart over his recent breakup with his high-school sweetheart Elizabeth “Liz” Cartwright (played by Anna Akana), whom he still stalks on Instagram. Later in the movie, Bailey reveals that he moved to Atlanta because Liz moved there too.

Bailey is so stuck on Liz that he calls her and asks her out on a date, even though they’ve broken up. It’s in this scene that viewers find out that Liz was the one who dumped Bailey. She tells him that their breakup is for the best and that he should move on and meet new people, because that’s what she’s doing. Later, she stops by the gym to give Bailey a box of his belongings that he hadn’t bothered to pick up after their breakup. It’s clear from their interactions that Bailey’s life revolved around Liz, and now he feels lost without her.

And then, Darla and Bailey each gets bad news. Darla gets fired because her boss Tanya (played by Jordana Brewster) thinks that the quality of Darla’s work has gone downhill. Tanya is also tired of putting up with Darla’s shenanigans, which included Tanya having to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit that was brought against Darla, who has a habit of hooking up with co-workers.

Darla also had sex with a male intern in an empty conference room and recorded the encounter on video. Bizarrely, the video is played on the TV screen in Tanya’s office while Darla gets fired. It’s meant to be a funny part of the movie, but it’s downright creepy to have a boss watch a sex video of an employee while the employee is sitting right in front of the boss. Darla begs Tanya not to fire her (Darla shouts, “I’m the Oprah of orgasms!”), but Tanya is unmoved.

Meanwhile, during a visit to his doctor, Bailey finds out that the testicular cancer that he thought was in remission has now returned with a vengeance. A lump in his right testicle shows that his right testicle will have to be removed too. Feeling anxious and depressed, Bailey shows up unannounced at a restaurant where Liz is (he knows she’s there at that moment because she did an Instagram Story about it) and finds her at a table that’s set for two people. Viewers can see from the items that are on the table that she’s there with a date (who stepped away for a few moments), but a distressed Bailey doesn’t see these visual clues and plops down at the seat opposite from Liz, drinks from a nearby wine glass,  and says he needs to tell her something important.

Liz is visibly annoyed and starts to lecture Bailey about how he needs to move on with his life. She also lets it slip that she’s going back to their hometown of Dallas for her mother’s retirement party. Before Bailey can tell her about the bad news about his medical condition, Liz’s date shows up and that’s the end of the conversation.

At another SLAA meeting with Darla and the rest of the group, they’re each given a map of the U.S. where, as a therapy exercise, they have to mark places on the map where they’ve had sex. It’s another weird element to this movie that doesn’t make sense, but it’s used as a basis for the plot. At this SLAA meeting, Bailey suddenly shows up very drunk and blurts out to the entire group that his right testicle is going to be removed because of the cancer. Eventually, Bailey makes his way to his cancer therapy session. The only purpose of this “drunken outburst” scene is to set up the “coincidence” that happens when Bailey and Darla see each other later and she already knows about his testicular cancer.

The map gives Darla the idea to take a road trip, relive her sexual encounters at as many places where she’s had sex before, and write about it. She contacts her ex-boss Tanya to pitch the idea for the story. After some persistent begging, Tanya reluctantly agrees that Darla can blog about her experiences for the magazine’s website, but she won’t be paid for it. Darla eagerly agrees, which shows you how desperate she is.

While at a bar, Darla and Bailey see each other and strike up a conversation. Darla already knows about Bailey’s recent troubles, but she doesn’t tell Bailey what’s going on in her life. All she’ll say is that she’s a writer, but she doesn’t mention that she writes about sex and that she’s recently been fired from her job. Even though Bailey works at a gym, his dream job is to be an illustrator artist, but he tells Darla that his parents discouraged him from having this dream because it’s very difficult for artists to make a solid income. (Bailey’s artwork in the movie is very much like what one would see in a comic strip.)

When Bailey sees Darla’s map, he asks her what it’s for, and she tells him. She also mentions that she wants to recreate her sexual experiences on a road trip and invites Bailey to go with her on the trip. Bailey is very reluctant at first, but then says he’ll go on the trip with Darla, on the condition that they make a stop in Dallas at some point during the trip. And so begins the road trip that takes up about 60% of the movie.

Even though Darla and Bailey had a “meet cute” moment when they first met in the school hallway, it’s important for viewers to know in advance that “Hooking Up” isn’t much of a romantic comedy because there’s very little romance in the movie. Darla and Bailey, who end up being “no strings attached” sex partners on the trip, aren’t really friends for most of the story, and they’re definitely not falling in love with each other.

In fact, Bailey is still hung up on Liz and is posting photos of himself and Darla together on his social media, in the hope that Liz will see the pictures and get jealous. He wants to go to Dallas to show off Darla to Liz. Meanwhile, Darla is using Bailey by blogging about their sexcapades, including details about what it’s like having a one-testicled man as a sex partner. The movie wants viewers to believe that for most of the trip, Bailey and Darla don’t know about each other’s online/Internet activities.

On the trip, Bailey finds out that Darla has a thing for having sex in places (public and private) where she might get caught. (It probably also explains why she ended up being in court-ordered sex-addiction therapy.) But the movie takes Darla’s sex re-enactment quest to a weird tangent when more than once in the story, Darla and Bailey break into someone’s private home to have sex.

Up until this point, Bailey is so straight-laced that when Darla asks him how many sex partners he’s had in his life, he confesses to Darla that he’s only had sex with two people: his ex-girlfriend Liz and Darla. Meanwhile, Darla (who says she’s had sex with 169 people and counting) responds when she find out that Bailey has had sex with only two people in his life: “That’s the most terrifying thing I ever heard, other than ‘Smell this rag’ and ‘I think I love you.'” That’s what passes for a joke in this movie.

But once Darla and Bailey start breaking into people’s houses, it’s when the movie will probably start to alienate viewers because the break-ins are just so bizarre and unrelatable. Even if the house is empty, what if someone who lives there comes home? What if a neighbor sees them and calls the police? Darla is not that much of a prize (she’s a very troubled and angry woman) and there’s nothing for Bailey to gain by risking a possible arrest for breaking-and-entering or trespassing.

Even though it’s believable that Bailey would start to loosen up around Darla, it’s a bit of an unrealistic stretch that he would gleefully start sneaking into people’s houses just to have sex with her. But that’s what happens, and it doesn’t ring true that he would go through such an extreme transformation in such a short period of time. (And he’s not intoxicated when he makes these decisions.)

It’s during one of these break-ins that the movie takes a very dark turn when Darla confesses a secret about the previous sexual encounter she had in the house. It’s the first time that viewers see that Darla has a heart, because she actually cries with guilt over a tragedy that happened because of what she thought was a meaningless escapade. But then, after that emotionally raw scene, the movie goes back to its silly, slapstick-ish tone. It’s like trying to throw in a scene that wants to be Meryl Streep in an Adam Sandler comedy.

As the two main characters, Snow and Richardson don’t have much chemistry together, although Richardson has better comic timing than Snow. But then again, they’re playing two mismatched people who start off in a very awkward situation, which continues for the vast majority of the movie. Some of the best acting in the movie is not from the two lead actors but from supporting actors Akana (as Bailey’s ex-girlfriend Liz) and Amy Pietz, who plays Darla’s mother Betty in scenes that somewhat explain why Darla turned out to be such a hard-edged nympho. The screenplay is what’s most problematic about this movie, because some of the dialogue and situations in “Hooking Up” are just plain dumb and cringeworthy.

“Hooking Up” has a somewhat predictable ending, but it’s not as predictable as people might think it is. The first two-thirds of the film are pretty awful, and the last third is actually watchable, but it can’t quite make up for the movie’s beginning and middle. It’s like trying to use air refreshener to cover up the stink that comes from something rotting in the room.

Saban Films released “Hooking Up” on digital and VOD on March 20, 2020.

Review: ‘Big Time Adolescence,’ starring Pete Davidson

March 13, 2020

by Carla Hay

Griffin Gluck and Pete Davidson in “Big Time Adolescence” (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

“Big Time Adolescence”

Directed by Jason Orley

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. suburban city, the comedy/drama “Big Time Adolescence” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African American and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A high-school student’s close friendship with an older guy who’s a stoner ends up being problematic for the student.

Culture Audience: “Big Time Adolescence” will appeal primarily to people who like male-centric coming-of-age stories or stories about young people partying.

Pete Davidson and Griffin Gluck in “Big Time Adolescence” (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

“Big Time Adolescence” is just another way of saying “Overgrown Man-Boy,” which is the typecast persona that “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson has cultivated for himself so far in his entertainment career. It’s exactly this type of person that Davidson plays in this comedy/drama, where his Zeke character is an irresponsible stoner in his early 20s who’s a bad influence on high-school student Monroe “Mo” Harris (played by Griffin Gluck), who is Zeke’s best friend.

Viewers know this from the beginning of the story, which shows in the opening scene that Mo is getting taken out of his classroom by a police officer. And Mo says in a voiceover that it’s Zeke’s fault that Mo got into this mess. What exactly is the mess that has gotten Mo in trouble with the law?

Most of the rest of the movie shows what happened that led up to this moment. In a flashback to six years earlier, Mo became friends with Zeke when Mo was about 10 years old and Zeke was about 16. At the time, Zeke was dating Mo’s sister Kate (played by Emily Arlook), who eventually broke up with Zeke because she suspected that he was cheating on her. The night that they broke up, Mo asked Zeke if he and Zeke could still be friends. At first, Zeke doesn’t think it’s good idea, but Mo insists and Zeke relents, and off they ride in Zeke’s car.

Over the next six years, Mo and Zeke have become close enough that they consider each other to be “best friends” and have what might be considered something like an older brother/younger brother relationship. Now 16 years old, Mo hasn’t made any real friends in high school. His social life revolves around hanging out with Zeke and Zeke’s fellow dimwitted stoner friends, which include Danny (played by Omar Shariff Brunson Jr.) and Nick (played by Colson Baker, also known as rapper Machine Gun Kelly).

Mo isn’t a complete loner at school. He’s on the baseball team, but he does not excel there. He’s not good enough to be frequently chosen for playing on the field during games, and it adds to his insecurities. Mo wants to quit the team, but his supportive parents Reuben and Sherri (played by Jon Cryer and Julia Murney) urge him to not give up.

Zeke goes to watch Mo at baseball practice, where he sits far away from Reuben and Sherri and is shown to be the loudest and most irritating spectator on the benches. Instead of giving Mo tips to improve his baseball playing, Zeke encourages Mo to not take a swing when he’s at bat and instead take the lazier option of base on balls (also known as a walk) to get to first base.

Zeke has his own house that he inherited from his late grandmother. It’s party central at the home, but somehow, up until a certain point in the story, Mo has managed to never get stoned, although he does partake in underage drinking when he’s with Zeke. Even though it’s entirely believable that Mo declined to smoke marijuana while being Zeke’s friend, what’s harder to believe is that Mo never got a contact high from all the years of partying with Zeke and his friends.

The movie shows Mo’s first “contact high” with Zeke much later in the story, when a stoner friend from Zeke’s murky past just happens to see Zeke and Mo while they’re out driving in Zeke’s car.  Zeke’s long-lost pal wants to catch up and get high for old time’s sake and makes Zeke close all the car windows while they smoke blunts.

Even though Mo spends a lot of time with hard-partying Zeke, Mo is very sheltered when it comes to dating. It’s revealed in the movie that not only is he a virgin, but he’s also never been on a date or kissed or girl. Considering the kind of person Zeke is and how he pushes Mo so hard to be a reckless partier, it’s kind of unrealistic that Mo didn’t get involved in drugs sooner. We’re supposed to believe that during the relatively short period of time that this movie takes place (about a month or two), Mo’s life suddenly took a downward spiral because of Zeke.

What flipped this switch? For starters, Mo got his driver’s license, which allows him to have more freedom. The other thing that happens is that Mo unexpectedly gets a chance to hang out with some of the “cool” older kids in school. But there’s a catch. He’s invited to his first high-school house party by a fellow nerd named Will, who goes by the nickname Stacy (played by Thomas Barbusca). Stacy says that he was invited to the party because Stacy promised the older kids that he would bring alcohol, but Stacy doesn’t know how to get alcohol and he needs Mo to get the alcohol through Zeke. In return, Mo will get to go to the party as Stacy’s guest.

When Mo tells Zeke about the party, Zeke immediately sees it as an opportunity to sell some of his marijuana and make a profit. He tells Mo that Mo has to be the one to sell the weed at the party because Mo is underage and the legal consequences won’t be as severe if he gets caught. Mo is extremely reluctant, but since he idolizes Zeke, Mo is convinced to do it. As part of the deal, Zeke says that he will split the profits with Mo.

Things go much better at the party than Mo expected. Not only was he instantly accepted because he brought alcohol and marijuana, but he also got to connect at the party with a fellow student named Sophie (played by Oona Laurence), who’s been a secret crush of his from afar. Sophie is smart with a sarcastic sense of humor. She finds Mo’s awkwardness endearing, even though she’s trying to hide some of her awkwardness too.

Mo felt so good about his first party experience with his high-school peers that he jumps at the chance when he’s invited to another house party soon afterward. At the first party, he and Zeke made a tidy profit from the drug sales, so Zeke wants Mo to keep selling marijuana at these parties. Zeke has even quit his job as a sales clerk at an appliance store because he figures that he can make enough money by overcharging high school students for drug sales, so he doesn’t have to work.

Zeke literally tells Mo all of this, but naïve Mo still acts surprised that Zeke doesn’t want a job and would rather sit back and let Mo do all the dirty work in the drug deals while Zeke reaps the monetary benefits. Mo protests and says his drug dealing at the party was just a “one-time thing.” But once again, Mo gives in to whatever Zeke wants because Mo is desperate to look “cool.”

That desperation is reinforced when an attractive older girl approaches Mo at school and asks him if he can score her some molly, which she wants him to bring to the next house party. Feeling buoyed by this attention, Mo says yes and asks Zeke for help to get some molly. Of course, Zeke has the molly that Mo requests, along with a stash of other drugs that are randomly lying around his house.

Reuben and Sherri sense that Zeke isn’t a very good influence on Mo, but they still let Mo hang out with Zeke because Mo seems to be doing well-enough in his school academics and they don’t want Mo to resent them for being too restrictive. Reuben is more suspicious of Zeke than Sherri is. In a private moment alone with Zeke, Reuben even gives Zeke same cash to keep Mo out of trouble. Zeke takes the money. But then, like the smarmy person that he is, he asks Reuben for a raise. Reuben just has to shake his head and walk away.

Meanwhile, Mo starts a budding romance with Sophie. She’s his first date and first kiss. But once again, Zeke interferes by advising Mo to play hard to get after a while, in order to manipulate Sophie to like Mo even more. Zeke has a girlfriend named Holly (played by Sydney Sweeney), who is nice to Mo and very tolerant of Zeke’s childish ways. Holly parties with Zeke and his friends, but she also does things like cook for Zeke and make his house more domestic.

Unbeknownst to Mo and Holly, Zeke is still in love with Mo’s sister Kate, who is planning to go to law school. Zeke and Kate have a parking-lot hookup in Zeke’s car, but it’s an encounter that she immediately regrets and tells Zeke that it won’t happen again. She has also moved on to a responsible live-in boyfriend named Doug (played by Esteban Benito), who is the type of ambitious art-collecting yuppie that Zeke despises but secretly envies.

We know that Zeke is insecure about not measuring up to someone like Doug  because not long after meeting Doug (when Mo convinces Zeke to drive him over to Kate and Doug’s place), Zeke and Mo go to an art museum (it was Zeke’s idea of course), where Zeke tells Mo that he can appreciate art too. But viewers see how unsophisticated Zeke is when he foolishly thinks he can buy one of the paintings on display and offers a museum employee cash on the spot. (Whatever amount he offered was also obviously laughable.) Zeke has to settle for buying an oversized print at the museum gift shop instead.

The movie doesn’t really show what kind of academic student Mo is, but it’s implied that he’s probably good enough to consider going to college. However, Mo is definitely not “street smart.” He doesn’t realize until it’s too late that his new “social status” at school is very superficial because it’s about people using him to get drugs.

Mo’s relationship with Zeke is a little more complicated because of the big brother/little brother relationship they’ve had over the years. As Mo says about Zeke near the beginning of the film, “He was the man and he made me feel like the man.” But this type of co-dependence has now turned dark, as Mo gets more involved in dealing drugs to fellow students. The movie doesn’t let Mo off the hook so easily by portraying him as a completely innocent child corrupted by an adult, because despite Zeke’s influence, Mo still knew right from wrong and had a choice to do what he did.

As Kate tells Mo, it’s weird that Zeke wants to be best friends with a teenager, and it’s only because Mo makes Zeke feel cool. But to the rest of the world, Zeke isn’t cool. Her warnings to Mo fall on deaf ears. But there are signs that Mo knows she’s right, such as when Mo mentions to Zeke that he’s thinking of introducing Sophie to Zeke, but Mo asks Zeke to not make the moment into “The Zeke Show.”

Davidson has made a career of being an often-obnoxious, immature guy who’s not as funny as he thinks he is. Zeke is that kind of person too, so if you’re not a fan of Davidson, his Zeke character is going to wear very thin because it just seems like Davidson is playing a version of himself for the entire movie.

“Big Time Adolescence” is the first feature film from writer/director Jason Orley, who also directed Davidson’s “Alive From New York” Netflix comedy special. If Orley and Davidson continue to work together, it’ll be interesting to see if they can do something different from the same “man-child” shtick that Davidson has been stuck on repeat in doing. The Zeke character is almost a caricature because there’s no real depth to him, and the movie tells almost nothing about his background.

Because the movie revealed from the beginning that Mo gets arrested, there’s not much suspense to “Big Time Adolescence.” And it’s certainly not an original idea to do a movie about teenagers and young adults who like to party. But what saves this movie from complete mediocrity is Gluck’s authentic and sometimes emotionally touching performance as Mo, because Mo (not Zeke) is ultimately the one who grows up and is the character in the movie that audiences will care about the most.

Hulu released “Big Time Adolescence” in select U.S. cinemas and began streaming the movie on March 13, 2020. The streaming premiere date was moved up from March 20, 2020.

2020 SXSW Conference and Festivals cancelled because of coronavirus concerns

March 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Roger Waters

The 34th annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals has been cancelled. The event was scheduled to take place from March 13 to 22, 2020, in Austin, Texas. A public health state of emergency has also been declared in the city of Austin. SXSW includes festivals for music, film and live comedy, as well as a conferences for technology, education and gaming.

Days before the cancellation, several companies pulled of out participating in the event this year, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Lionsgate, Starz, TikTok, Twitter, Vevo and WarnerMedia.

Keynote speakers who were announced for SXSW 2020 included Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, Bumble founder/CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, The Blackstone Group’s Jon Korngold, “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King, DJ/producer Diplo, Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs​ and LightShed founder/creative director Gabo Arora.

Featured speakers were to include T Bone Burnett, Troy Carter, Anil Dash, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Steven Levy, Bob Odenkirk, Maria A. Ressa, Susan Rogers, Angela Roseboro, Jerry Saltz, Rhea Seehorn, M. Night Shyamalan, Nicole Wong, Stephen Colbert, Jack Dorsey, Samantha Bee, Bob Chapek, Jonathan Van Ness, Tarana Burke, Dr. Brené Brown, Dr. Werner Vogels, Lynn Shelton and Jen Wong.

Movies that were supposed to have their world premieres at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival included Paramount Pictures’ “The Lovebirds” (starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani), A24’s “The Green Knight” (starring Dev Patel) and Universal Pictures’ “The King of Staten Island,” starring Pete Davidson. The SXSW Film Festival announced that it will still give awards this year in the jury-voted categories. The films in competition are being made available online to jurors. Winners will be announced online and not at an awards ceremony.

Participants in the SXSW Comedy Festival were to include Judd Apatow, Davidson, Samantha Bee, Hannibal Buress, Joel Kim Booster, Thomas Middleditch and Horatio Sanz. And the cancellation of the SXSW Music Festival means that hundreds of upcoming artists will no longer be performing at the event this year.

The cancellation of SXSW is the largest entertainment event so far to be shut down due to coronavirus concerns. SXSW is one of Austin’s biggest sources of revenue, bringing in an estimated $355.9 million in 2019. Approximately 417,400 people attended SXSW in 2019. Over the past 10 years, the festival’s attendance and revenue had continued to grow. However, the costs of a coronavirus outbreak would be much more devastating to people’s health and well-being. Austin is not taking that risk.

Here is SXSW’s full statement about the cancellation:

“The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.

“We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.

“As recently as Wednesday [March 4, 2020], Austin Public Health stated that ‘there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.’ However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.

“We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.

“We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.

“We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”

Click here for an updated list of other corona virus-related cancellations and postponements in the entertainment industry.

Review: ‘Holly Slept Over,’ starring Nathalie Emmanuel, Josh Lawson, Britt Lower, Erinn Hayes and Ron Livingston

March 4, 2020

by Carla Hay

Nathalie Emmanuel in "Holly Slept Over" (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Nathalie Emmanuel in “Holly Slept Over” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

“Holly Slept Over”

Directed by Joshua Friedlander

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the sex comedy “Holly Slept Over” focuses on two middle-class white American married couples and the biracial British free-spirited woman who had an affair with one of the women when they were in college.

Culture Clash: The men are bored with their sex lives and think of ways to spice things up in their marriages, while complaining that their wives are too uptight to agree to their ideas.

Culture Audience: “Holly Slept Over” will appeal mostly to people who want to see a formulaic comedy about a threesome.

Britt Lower and Josh Lawson in “Holly Slept Over” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The concept of two women and a man in a sexual threesome has been done so many times in movies and TV shows that the comedy film “Holly Slept Over” brings nothing new or clever to this idea. In fact, for most of this approximately 90-minute movie (written and directed by Joshua Friedlander), a hoped-for threesome is pretty much what the men in the movie obsess over, as soon as one of guys finds out that his wife had a sexual relationship in college with a woman who wants to see the wife again. It’s a flimsy basis for a story when the characters are as two-dimensional as the ones in this movie.

“Holly Slept Over” is the very definition of a “sex comedy,” because sex is the primary focus of all the main characters. The film’s opening scene is of friends/neighbors Noel (played by Josh Lawson) and Pete (played by Ron Livingston) barbecuing in a backyard and complaining about their sex lives. Pete warns Noel, who’s been trying to start a family with his wife, that having kids will kill a couple’s sex life. Pete tells Noel that he knows this from experience, because he and his own wife rarely have sex, ever since they’ve been raising children.

Pete confesses to Noel that because he’s had no satisfying release for his sex drive, he’s resorted to ejaculating on his wife’s breasts when she’s asleep. Pete also says that he’s been able to clean off the “evidence” without her knowing what happened. “Maybe I’m a monster,” Pete says unapologetically. “I defiled my wife. It’s the best feeling I’ve had in months.” Meanwhile, Noel’s biggest complaint about sex with his own wife is that it’s too boring.

As this conversation is taking place, Noel’s wife Audra (played by Britt Lower) and Pete’s wife Marnie (played by Erinn Hayes) are in the kitchen having their own candid talk. Audra hasn’t been able to get pregnant with Noel, and she reveals that she’s worried that she might not be able to conceive a child, ever since she miscarried an unplanned pregnancy when she was a junior in high school.

Audra also tells Marnie that she’s gotten an unexpected message from her former college roommate Holly, who contacted her out of the blue after they stopped speaking to each other 12 years ago. Holly wants to see Audra again, but Audra tells Marnie that she’s not interested. Audra says that when she and Holly were in college, their friendship ended because Holly was “too wild and free-spirited for me,” because Holly drank too much, did too many drugs, and slept around.

It isn’t long before the truth comes out about the real reason why Audra is uncomfortable with reconnecting with Holly. Audra tells Noel that she and Holly used to be lovers, but Audra describes it as an experimental fling. She insists that she hasn’t been with another woman since Holly, and she asks Noel to keep this a secret between the two of them. Noel is surprised by Audra’s revelation, because he always thought that Audra was sexually conservative.

“Holly Slept Over” uses a predictable trope that’s often seen in stories about two couples. One couple is “nice” (usually boring) and the other couple is “no filter” (usually quarrelling). It’s obvious within the first 10 minutes of the film which type of couple is which. Noel and Audra are both lawyers: He’s a tax attorney, and she’s a criminal-defense attorney. It’s not mentioned what Pete and Marnie do for a living, probably because viewers won’t care.

Another thing that’s obvious in this movie is that both couples have no privacy boundaries, because they blab sexual secrets about their spouses to someone who’s part of the other couple. It should come as no surprise then that Noel tells Pete about Audra’s affair with Holly. Pete then tells Marnie, who then tells Audra that she knows about Holly too.

It’s very easy to see that this movie was written and directed by a man, because the conversations between the two women don’t ring true and sound like they’re from a perspective of someone projecting male fantasies. For example, when Marnie and Audra talk about the affair with Holly that is no longer a secret, Marnie tells Audra that she’s impressed that Audra knows how to “dig clam.”

It’s the kind of talk that sounds like what you’d hear at a frat party instead of an authentic conversation between two adult female friends. That’s not to say that women don’t describe sex in raunchy terms. But when women talk about sex, they aren’t very likely to compare their private parts to sea creatures.

Despite the fact that three of the five main characters are women, a great deal of the movie is focused on what the husbands want and need, and the women’s wants and needs are secondary to the men’s. We know this because most of the complaining in the movie comes from the men feeling deprived by their “uptight” wives who aren’t giving them the kind of sex that they want. It didn’t occur to the filmmakers to show much of the women’s perspectives, since the women’s purpose in the movie is to react to what the men want.

For example, the filmmakers seem to want viewers to assume it’s all Marnie’s fault for losing interest in having sex with her husband Pete. However, it’s obvious within the first 10 minutes of the movie that he’s a selfish jerk in other aspects of life—he’s resentful of parental responsibilities because they take time away from when he wants to have sex—which probably has a lot to do with why his wife is turned off by him. Anyone who somewhat brags about sexually violating his wife’s body without her knowledge when she’s asleep (in other words, she didn’t consent) has some seriously unhealthy sexual issues. It tells you what you need to know about what a lousy husband he is.

Because Pete says he has such an unfulfilling sex life, he tries to live vicariously through Noel, whose marriage is happy in comparison to Pete’s marriage. Pete is the one who plants the idea in Noel’s head that Noel should have a threesome with Holly and Audra. Pete essentially berates Noel into thinking that he’ll be a boring wimp if he doesn’t try to have this threesome. After checking out Holly on Instagram and seeing how attractive she is, Noel confesses that the threesome is all he can think about, but he’s doubtful that Audra will agree to it. The two men then start scheming up ways to try to convince Audra to have a threesome with Holly and Noel.

By the time that Holly shows up about 30 minutes into the movie, it’s very easy to see where this story is going to go. Instead of staying at a hotel, Holly has sort of invited herself over to Noel and Audra’s place when she said she wanted to visit. And they didn’t say no. Never mind that Audra has been “estranged” from Holly for years and there’s no guarantee that their reunion will go well. Audra and Noel have let Holly stay over at their place anyway.

And when Holly arrives at their house, with her suitcase in hand, it’s around 8 a.m.—hours before Audra and Noel were expecting her. (How rude.) Holly tells a surprised Noel when he answers the door that she was so eager to get there, that she drove all night. Then, Holly asks to take a shower and a nap at their place, since she’s already there. Audra, who’s nervously taking a bath when Holly arrives, is a little put off by Holly showing up so early. But Audra and Noel clearly want Holly to be in their home, which sets the tone for the rest of her time there.

Holly’s “nap” turns into her sleeping for 11 hours. (An obvious sign that she’s hasn’t given up her partying ways.) Based on Audra’s annoyed reaction at not being able to hang out with Holly, because Holly’s been in a deep sleep, there’s more to Audra’s feelings for Holly than she’s willing to immediately reveal. When Holly wakes up, she and Audra make somewhat awkward apologies to each other for how their college relationship ended.

Audra and Holly ask each other questions about how their lives have been since college. To no one’s surprise, Holly is still single, sexually fluid, and she’s started her own marijuana edibles business called Holly’s Good & Baked. And guess what? She’s brought a gift basket of samples for all three of them to share.

At some point, Noel blurts out that he knows about Audra and Holly’s past sexual relationship. Audra seems to be horrified and embarrassed that Noel has even mentioned it. Holly then says that she’s done with having flings and only wants to have sex in “meaningful relationships.” The disappointed look on Noel’s face is all that manipulative Holly needs to start turning on the charm and flattery, because she now knows that she and Noel both have the same ulterior motive. Any adult can see what’s going to happen next in the movie.

To its credit, “Holly Slept Over” does not clutter the story with a lot of unnecessary characters. (The cast and film set are so small that this story could easily be a play.) And the movie telegraphs its intentions from nearly the beginning, so at least it’s up front that the potential threesome is the hook for this film. The problem is that the sparseness of the movie is to the detriment of character development.

The movie gives no indication of what any of these characters’ personal interests are besides sex. Pete complains about how being a parent has ruined his sex life, but the movie doesn’t show how he and Marnie are as parents. About 80% of what Noel and Audra talk about are topics related to their own sex life and how Holly is affecting them sexually. Even the marijuana edibles in the movie are only in the story to loosen up inhibitions for what is obviously going to happen.

The actors do the best that they can with the mediocre script that they’ve been given. As nerdy and insecure Noel, Lawson is the only actor in the cast who brings a playful sense of humor to the awkwardness and jealousy that can arise from a couple bringing a third person into their sex life. Some of his facial expressions are sure to make some viewers laugh at loud.

Livingston’s Pete character is the token crude blowhard that seems to be a required character in every sex comedy. Hayes plays Marnie as someone who can be sassy or shrewish, depending on her mood. (And it’s certainly not easy to be married to someone like Pete.)

Emmanuel portrays Holly as a lot more likable than her actions. Holly tends to do a lot selfish and irresponsible things. She’s also good at quickly figuring out what people want and using that to her advantage.

However, Holly is still a stereotypical “unicorn” (swingers’ terminology for a woman who’s open to dating couples) in movies like this—she’s pretty, available, and mostly invited into the couple’s sex life to fulfill their fantasies, but not get in the way of the couple’s relationship. She’s not there for any deeper meaning. And quite frankly, she’s a lot more disposable than she thinks she is—which is kind of like how someone could describe this movie.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released “Holly Slept Over” on digital and Redbox on March 3, 2020.

2020 Tribeca Film Festival: features lineup announced

March 3, 2020

Tribeca Film Festival - white logo

Drew Barrymore and Drew Barrymore in “The Stand-In”

The following is a press release from the Tribeca Film Festival:

The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, today unveiled its feature film lineup. Continuing its tradition of championing the discovery of emerging voices and celebrating new work from established talent, the 19th edition of the Festival foregrounds comedic, music-centered, political and socially-conscious films from diverse storytellers who use art to inspire positive change and community restoration. The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival will run April 15-26.

The features program will include 115 films from 124 filmmakers from across 33 different countries. The line-up includes 95 world premieres, 2 international premieres, 4 North American premieres, 4 U.S. premieres, and 9 New York premieres and one sneak preview. This year’s program includes 19 directors returning to Tribeca with their latest projects, and 44 of the feature films have one or more women directors. The feature program was curated from 3,385 submissions, and this year’s Festival received a record 10,397 total submissions across all categories.

“First comes the story, then empathy, then comes change.  When you change the narrator, you empower different voices to show audiences new worlds through their eyes,” said Paula Weinstein, Chief Content Officer of Tribeca Enterprises and program advisor.  “We are privileged to have so many new and rich worlds brought to life by visionary storytellers. We hope audiences leave the Festival deeply touched, moved, and entertained.”

“This year’s festival embraces the unique power of film to bring people together — whether that’s literally the communal experience of watching a film in a packed theater, or the more intangible way a great film can make you empathize with a stranger’s struggle,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director. “In an election year where we will go to the polls to make big decisions about our future together, these films are an opportunity for connection and understanding.”

“The 10 films in our International Competition reflect the power of political and artistic filmmaking from all over the world. From returning filmmakers to new voices, we will welcome and celebrate the diverse storytellers who will share their personal visions of their own cultures. Tribeca audiences will embark on 10 journeys full of poetry and emotion in these innovative international tales,” said Frédéric Boyer, Artistic Director.

The competition category includes 10 U.S. Narratives, 10 International Narratives, and 12 Documentary competition features. Additionally, the feature line-up includes 16 Spotlight Narratives, 20 Spotlight Documentaries, 17 Viewpoints, 5 Midnight, 13 Movies Plus selections; 6 Tribeca Critics’ Week, 3 films as part of this year’s new Women at Work section, and a family event.

As previously announced, the 2020 Festival will open April 15 with the world premiere of award-winning director Mary Wharton’s documentary, Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President, at the Beacon Theatre as part of the City National Bank Screening Series with live performances from music legend Willie Nelson, Musical Director Paul Shaffer, Nile Rodgers and others. New this year, the Festival will be expanding across the Hudson river to the city of Hoboken, NJ, using cinematic storytelling and experiences to connect to this culturally vibrant community.

In addition to Weinstein, Cusumano, and Boyer, the programming team includes VP Filmmaker Relations and Shorts Programming, Sharon Badal; Senior Programmers Liza Domnitz (features, TV, and online work), Loren Hammonds (immersive and features), Lucy Mukerjee (features); Programmer Ben Thompson (shorts); and a team of associate programmers.

 

2020 Feature Film Selection:

U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION

Tribeca’s U.S. Narrative Competition showcases extraordinary work from breakout independent voices and distinguished filmmaking talent. These 10 world premieres will vie for the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

Angela Bettis in “12 Hour Shift”

12 Hour Shift, directed and written by Brea Grant. Produced by Jordan Wayne Long, Tara Perry, Matt Glass, Christina McLarty Arquette, David Arquette. (USA) – World Premiere. Nurse Mandy is just trying to make it through her double shift alive, but her nasty drug addiction, annoying coworkers, needy patients, and devious cousin are making it pretty tough, not to mention organ-stealing criminals and an injured convict. With Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnworth, Nikea Gamby-Turner, Kit Williamson, Tara Perry, David Arquette.

Cowboys, directed and written by Anna Kerrigan. Produced by Gigi Graff, Anna Kerrigan, Dylan Sellers, Chris Parker. (USA) – World Premiere. Troy and his young transgender son Joe are on the run from his conservative mother in the Montana wilderness, with a detective in hot pursuit in this emotionally powerful narrative. With Steve Zahn, Jillian Bell, Sasha Knight, Ann Dowd.

Fully Realized Humans, directed and written by Joshua Leonard. Produced by Sean Drummond, Chelsea Bo. (USA) – World Premiere. Parents-to-be Elliott and Jackie (an eight-months pregnant Jess Weixler) embark on a quest for self-actualization before the imminent birth of their first child in this strikingly honest and hilarious portrait of parents and children. With Joshua Leonard, Jess Weixler, Tom Bower, Beth Grant, Michael Chieffo, Janicza Bravo.

The Half of It, directed and written by Alice Wu. Produced by Anthony Bregman, M. Blair Breard, Alice Wu. (USA) – World Premiere. In a modern-day Cyrano-meets-Pygmalion, Ellie, a shy Chinese-American straight-A student finds herself helping the school jock woo the girl they both secretly love. With Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire, Collin Chou. A Netflix Release.

Little Fish, directed by Chad Hartigan, written by Mattson Tomlin. Produced by Lia Buman, Rian Cahill, Chris Ferguson, Tim Headington, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Mattson Tomlin. (USA) – World Premiere. A pandemic attacking people’s memory is spreading around the world at an alarming rate. Two young newlyweds struggle to hang onto who they are, both as individuals and as a couple. With Olivia Cooke, Jack O’Connell, Raúl Castillo, Soko.

Lorelei, directed and written by Sabrina Doyle. Produced by Francesca Silvestri and Kevin Chinoy, Jennifer Radzikowski. (USA) – World Premiere. Reformed ex-con Wayland returns to his hometown and reconnects with his high school girlfriend Dolores, now a single mom with dreams of Hollywood in Doyle’s fable-like tale of second chances. With Pablo Schreiber, Jena Malone, Amelia Borgerding, Parker Pascoe-Sheppard, Chancellor Perry.

Materna, directed by David Gutnik, written by David Gutnik, Jade Eshete, Assol Abdullina. Produced by Liz Cardenas, Emily McEvoy. (USA, Kyrgyzstan) – World Premiere. Four women whose lives are separated by race, culture, and class but connected by the complexities of motherhood become inextricably bound together by an incident on the New York City subway. With Kate Lyn Sheil, Lindsay Burdge, Jade Eshete, Rory Culkin, Michael Chernus, Sturgill Simpson, Assol Abdullina. In English, Russian with English subtitles.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, directed and written by Jonathan Cuartas. Produced by Kenny Oiwa Riches, Anthony Pedone, Jesse Brown, Ian Peterson, Patrick Fugit. (USA) – World Premiere. Dwight and his sister Jessie reach a crossroads over what to do about their little brother Thomas, a sickly child with a mysterious affliction, in this moody American indie feature debut. With Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Owen Campbell.

No Future, directed by Andrew Irvine, Mark Smoot, written by Mark Smoot. Produced by Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams, Jeff Walker, Lisa Normand. (USA) – World Premiere. Following the overdose of an estranged friend, recovering addict Will, still struggling with his own sobriety, returns to his hometown where he begins a troubled affair with his friend’s grieving mother. With Catherine Keener, Charlie Heaton, Rosa Salazar, Jackie Earle Haley, Austin Amelio, Jefferson White.

The Violent Heart, directed and written by Kerem Sanga. Produced by Ed McDonnell, Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Tobey Maguire, Matthew Plouffe, P. Jennifer Dana, Mark Roberts, Ross Putman, Dave Hunter. (USA) – World Premiere. Fifteen years after the murder of his older sister, taciturn Daniel finds himself falling for Cassie, a vivacious high school senior in this southern gothic-inspired Romeo & Juliet story set in the American heartland. With Grace Van Patten, Jovan Adepo, Lukas Haas, Mary J. Blige, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Jahi Di’Allo Winston.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Over Tribeca’s 19-year history, the non-fiction film selections have exhibited work from emerging and renowned filmmakers, including future Academy Award® winners. This year’s films will compete for Best Documentary Feature, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.

Eduardo San Juan Breña in “499” (Photo by Alejandro Mejia/AMC)

499, directed by Rodrigo Reyes, written by Rodrigo Reyes, Lorena Padila. Produced by Inti Cordera, Andrew Houchens. (Mexico) – World Premiere. The powerful hybrid documentary 499 examines Cortez’s legacy almost five centuries later through the eyes of a stranded conquistador traveling through Mexico. The film is a cinematic meditation on the violence that still vibrates through society. With Eduardo San Juan Breña. In Nahuatl, Spanish with English subtitles. TFI supported.

Dear Mr. Brody, directed and written by Keith Maitland. Produced by Megan Gilbride, Melissa Robyn Glassman, Keith Maitland, Sarah Wilson. (USA) – World Premiere. In 1970, eccentric hippie millionaire Michael Brody, Jr. decided to give $25 million away to anyone who needed it, sparking a media frenzy and thousands of letters from strangers all requesting his help.

Enemies Of the State, directed by Sonia Kennebeck. Produced by Ines Hofmann Kanna. (USA) – World Premiere. When their hacker son is targeted by the US Government, the DeHarts will do anything to protect him.  And so begins to unravel a web of secrets in this twisty, stranger-than-fiction cyber-thriller story. With Joel Widman.

Father Soldier Son, directed by Catrin Einhorn, Leslye Davis. Produced by Leslye Davis, Catrin Einhorn, Kathleen Lingo, Nancy Donaldson Gauss. (USA) – World Premiere. This intimate documentary from the New York Times follows one American family over the course of ten years, becoming an intergenerational exploration of the meaning of sacrifice, purpose, family and American manhood in the aftermath of war. A Netflix release.

Jacinta, directed by Jessica Earnshaw. Produced by Jessica Earnshaw, Holly Meehl, Nimisha Mukerji. (USA) – World Premiere. An astonishing and ultimately hopeful record of the hereditary nature of trauma, Jacinta follows the lives of three generations of women struggling to maintain stability. TFI supported.

Landfall, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo. Produced by Ines Hofmann Kanna, Cecilia Aldarondo. (USA) – World Premiere. Chronicling the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Landfall is a sensitive and urgent portrait of the continued fraught relationship between the US and Puerto Rico, a land in mourning and resistance. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. TFI supported.

The Last Out, directed by Sami Khan, Michael Gassert, written by Sami Khan. Produced by Michael Gassert, Jonathan Miller, Sami Khan. (USA) – World Premiere. An affecting story of raw talent, passion and naivete, The Last Out follows three Cuban baseball players with Major League dreams who, facing difficult choices, embark on radically different paths when those dreams don’t pan out. With Happy Oliveros, Carlos O. González, and Victor Baró. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. Also playing as part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Pray Away, directed by Kristine Stolakis. Produced by Jessica Devaney, Anya Rous. (USA) – World Premiere. Pray Away is a powerful exposé on gay conversion programs, revealing the damage inflicted by shame and repression through intimate testimonies from current members and former leaders of the pray the gay away movement. TFI supported.

Socks on Fire, directed and written by Bo McGuire. Produced by Tatiana Bears, Amy Dotson. (USA) – World Premiere. Bo McGuire returns home to rural Alabama to document the bitter property feud between his homophobic aunt and gay uncle. Blending home videos with cinematic reenactments, McGuire paints a riveting picture of a house divided. With Odessa Young, Carron Clark, Chuck Duck, Michael Patrick Nicholson, John Washington.

Simple as Water, directed by Megan Mylan. Produced by Robin Hessman, Megan Mylan. (USA, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Germany) – World Premiere. Megan Mylan’s closely observed fragments of lives cut between Turkey, Greece, Germany, and the U.S.. Each unfolding scene portrays the elemental bonds holding together Syrian families pulled apart by war, searching for a new life. In Arabic, English with English subtitles.

Wake Up on Mars (Réveil sur Mars), directed and written by Dea Gjinovci. Produced by Sophie Faudel, Dea Gjinovci, Britta Rindelaub, Jasmin Basic. (France, Switzerland) – World Premiere. Two teenage sisters lie in a vegetative state in the small Swedish home of their Kosovar family, the cause of their mysterious malady, known as “resignation syndrome,” entwined with their personal trauma experienced as refugees. With Furkan Demiri, Djeneta Demiri, Ibadeta Demiri, Nurje Demiri, Muharrem Demiri, Resul Demiri. In Albanian, Swedish with English subtitles.

Wonderboy, directed and written by Anissa Bonnefont. Produced by Stella Maris Pictures. (France) – International Premiere. French fashion house Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing allows the camera to become his confidante as he embarks on a search for his birth mother, in this enchanting documentary about adoption and identity. In French with English subtitles. 

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION

The New-York based Festival breaks its geographical boundaries with the International Narrative Competition, welcoming filmmakers from abroad to join a global platform for contemporary world cinema. These films will compete for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

Kantu Shimokura in “Ainu Mosir” (Photo by Sean Price Williams)

Ainu Mosir, directed and written by Takeshi Fukunaga. Produced by Eric Nyari, Harue Miyake. (China, Japan, USA) – World Premiere. In an indigenous village in Northern Japan, sensitive 14-year-old Kanto takes his first tentative steps towards manhood as a debate brews among the community about a controversial ceremony. With Kanto Shimokura, Debo Akibe, Emi Shimokura, Toko Miura, Lily Franky. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Asia, directed and written by Ruthy Pribar. Produced by Yoah Roeh, Aurit Zamir. (Israel) – World Premiere. Asia is not your average mom. She’s free-spirited, open-minded and non-judgmental; but all that is put to the test when her teenage daughter – who happens to be differently abled – announces that she’s ready to lose her virginity. With Alena Yiv, Shira Haas, Tamir Mulla, Gera Sandler. In Hebrew, Russian with English subtitles.

Contactado, directed by Marité Ugás, written by Marité Ugás, Mariana Rondón. Produced by Mariana Rondón. (Peru) – World Premiere. Tribeca alums Mariana Rondón and Marité Ugás return with a captivating drama about an aging self-proclaimed prophet who revisits his past as a spiritual guru after an eager young follower entices him to return to preaching. With Baldomero Cáceres, Miguel Dávalos, Lita Sousa, Samantha Castillo, Solange Tavares, Beto Benites. In Spanish with English subtitles.

The Hater (Hejter), directed by Jan Komasa, written by Mateusz Pacewicz. Produced by Jerzy Kapuściński, Wojciech Kabarowski. (Poland) – International Premiere. Disgraced Law student Tomek will do what it takes to impress Gabi and her liberal family. Taking a job at a sordid PR company, he finds he excels at spreading political misinformation. But at what cost? With Maciej Musiałowski, Vanessa Alexander, Maciej Stuhr, Agata Kulesza, Danuta Stenka, Jacek Koman. In Polish with English subtitles.

Kokoloko, directed and written by Gerardo Naranjo. Produced by Gabriel Garcia Nava, Gerardo Naranjo. (Mexico) – World Premiere. In a tropical seaside village, Marisol pursues personal freedom while navigating between the two men in her life – her lover and her violent cousin who is keeping her captive. With Alejandra Herrera, Noé Hernández, Eduardo Mendizábal. In Spanish with English subtitles.

My Wonderful Wanda (Wanda, mein Wunder), directed by Bettina Oberli, written by Cooky Ziesche, Bettina Oberli. Produced by Lukas Hobi, Reto Schaerli. (Switzerland) – World Premiere. Wanda nurses the patriarch of the wealthy Wegmeister-Gloor family. When an unexpected complication arises, family secrets come to light and arrangements are made to try and appease everyone in this biting family drama. With Agnieszka Grochowska, Marthe Keller, André Jung, Birgit Minichmayr, Jacob Matschenz, Anatole Taubman. In German, Polish with English subtitles.

Nobody Knows I’m Here (Nadie sabe que estoy aquí), directed by Gaspar Antillo, written by Enrique Videla, Josefina Fernández, Gaspar Antillo. Produced by Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín. (Chile) – World Premiere. Memo lives on a remote Chilean sheep farm, hiding a beautiful singing voice from the outside world. A recluse with a glittery flair, he can’t stop dwelling on the past, but what will happen once someone finally listens? With Jorge García, Millaray Paz Lobos García, Luis Gnecco, Alejandro Goic, Gaston Pauls, Eduardo Paxeco. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. A Netflix release.

She Paradise, directed by Maya Cozier, written by Maya Cozier, Melina Brown. Produced by Mishka Brown, Jeniffer Konawal, Kara Baker, Jolene Mendes, Marie-Elena Joseph. (Trinidad and Tobago) – World Premiere. When naïve teenager Sparkle joins a dance crew of confident older girls, she encounters an alluring but unsettling new world of sex and money in this snapshot of sisterhood in Trinidad and Tobago. With Onessa Nestor, Kimberly Crichton, Chelsey Rampersad, Denisia Latchman, Kern Mollineau, Michael Cherrie.

Sublet, directed by Eytan Fox, written by Eytan Fox, Itay Segal. Produced by Gal Uchovsky, Micky Rabinovitz, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery. (Israel, USA) – World Premiere. In this heartwarming latest from Eytan Fox (Yossi), John Benjamin Hickey plays a gay travel writer who trades New York for Tel Aviv, where a charming young man helps him get perspective on his long-term relationship. With John Benjamin Hickey, Niv Nissim, Lihi Kornowski, Miki Kam, Omri Loukas, Tamir Ginsburg. In English, Hebrew with English subtitles.

Tryst with Destiny, directed and written by Prashant Nair. Produced by Manish Mundra. (India, France) – World Premiere. A billionaire learns there is something money can’t buy, a lower-caste couple attempts to build a new life, and a corrupt city cop finds himself far outside of the law in Nair’s slyly biting triptych on class in contemporary India. With Ashish Vidyarthi, Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Viineet Kumar, Kani Kusruti, Jaideep Ahlawat, Palomi Ghosh. In English, Hindi, Telugu with English subtitles.

 

SPOTLIGHT NARRATIVE

Anticipated premieres from acclaimed filmmakers and performers are the focus of the Spotlight Narrative section which continues to be a launching pad for compelling stories.

Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney in “Bad Education” (Photo by JoJo Whilden/HBO)

Bad Education, directed by Cory Finley, written by Mike Makowsky. Produced by Fred Berger, Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Oren Moverman, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Mike Makowsky. (USA) – US Premiere. In the wake of an impending embezzlement scandal, a charismatic superintendent struggles to maintain order to keep his high school district prosperous in this energetic dark comedy based on an outrageous true story. With Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan and Ray Romano. An HBO Films release.

Clean, directed by Paul Solet, written by Paul Solet, Adrien Brody. Produced by Daniel Sollinger, Adrien Brody, Paul Solet, Elliot Brody. (USA) – World Premiere. Tormented by a past life, garbage man Clean attempts a life of quiet redemption. But when his good intentions mark him a target of a local crime boss, Clean is forced to reconcile with the violence of his past in this brutal and bloody thrill ride. With Adrien Brody, Glenn Fleshler, Richie Merritt, Ari Chandler-DuPont, Mykelti Williamson, Rza, Michelle Wilson, John Bianco.

Don’t Tell a Soul, directed and written by Alex McAuley. Produced by Merry-Kay Poe. (USA) – World Premiere. Joey’s older brother Matt convinces him to rob a house for their sick mother and security guard Hamby falls in a well chasing them. Now Hamby must match wits with the teenagers in order to get out. With Jack Dylan Grazer, Fionn Whitehead, Rainn Wilson, Mena Suvari.

The God Committee, directed and written by Austin Stark. Produced by Molly Connors, Amanda Bowers, Jonathan Rubenstein, Ari Pinchot, Jane Oster, Bingo Gubelmann, Benji Kohn. (USA) – World Premiere. When a donor heart arrives at a New York City hospital, a committee of doctors and bureaucrats must convene to decide which of three patients deserves the life-saving transplant in this ethically charged medical drama. With Kelsey Grammer, Julia Stiles, Colman Domingo, Janeane Garofalo, Dan Hedaya.

Happily, directed and written by BenDavid Grabinski. Produced by Jack Black, Nancy Leopardi, Ross Kohn, Spencer Berman, BenDavid Grabinski. (USA) – World Premiere. Joel McHale stars in this Jack Black-produced romantic-comedy-thriller about a happily married couple whose friends perform an intervention to put an end to their constant public displays of affection. With Joel McHale, Kerry Bishé, Stephen Root, Natalie Morales, Paul Scheer and Natalie Zea.

Inheritance, directed by Vaughn Stein, written by Matthew Kennedy. Produced by David M. Wulf, Richard Barton Lewis, Arianne Fraser. (USA) – World Premiere. When the patriarch of a wealthy and powerful New York family suddenly dies, his daughter is left with a shocking secret inheritance that challenges her beliefs in justice and threatens to destroy her family’s lives. With Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Chace Crawford, Patrick Warburton, Michael Beach. A DIRECTV release.

The King of Staten Island, directed by Judd Apatow, written by Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus. Produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel. (USA) – New York Premiere. Judd Apatow directs Staten Island’s own Pete Davidson in this bracing, emotional comedy about a burnout who has to learn to let go of the past and finally grow up. With Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Ricky Velez and Steve Buscemi. A Universal Pictures release.

Love is Love is Love, directed by Eleanor Coppola, written by Eleanor Coppola, Karen Leigh Hopkins. Produced by Anahid Nazarian, Adriana Rotaru. (USA) – World Premiere. Tribeca alum Eleanor Coppola delivers a heartwarming triptych that explores love, infidelity and romance. With Maya Kazan, Joanne Whalley, Chris Messina, Kathy Baker, Marshall Bell, Cybill Shepherd, Rita Wilson, Rosanna Arquette, Polly Draper.

Love Spreads, directed and written by Jamie Adams. Produced by Jamie Adams, Maggie Monteith. (Wales) – World Premiere. Rock band Glass Heart seclude themselves in a remote cottage to find inspiration and energy for their next album. It all hinges on star Kelly, but inspiration won’t come, and tensions start to build. With Alia Shawkat, Eiza Gonzalez, Chanel Cresswell, Nick Helm, Dolly Wells, Tara Lee.

Monday, directed and written by Argyris Papadimitropoulos. Produced by Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Damian Jones, Deanna Barillari. (Greece) – World Premiere. Mikey and Chloe are two Americans living in Athens. Both are romantically unattached when they meet one hot summer Friday. Their instantaneous chemistry leads to a whirlwind weekend and questions about their future when they wake up Monday. With Sebastian Stan, Denise Gough.

My Zoe, directed and written by Julie Delpy. Produced by Malte Grunert, Gabrielle Tana, Andrew Levitas, Julie Delpy, Hubert Caillard, Dominique Boutonnat. (Germany, France) – US Premiere. In this hybrid of drama and science fiction, audiences are treated to director and star Julie Delpy’s newest exploration of modern relationships—here the eternal tie of parent and child. With Julie Delpy, Daniel Brühl, Gemma Arterton, Richard Armitage, Sophia Ally. In English, French, German with English subtitles. A Blue Fox Entertainment release.

Silk Road, directed and written by Tiller Russell. Produced by Stephen Gans, David Hyman, Duncan Montgomery, Alex Orlovsky, Jack Selby. (USA) – World Premiere. Ripped from the headlines, Silk Road captures the birth of the titular darknet marketplace through an elaborate, thrilling cat-and-mouse game between its ambitious creator Ross Ulbricht and a disreputable DEA agent desperate to bring down the millennial kingpin. With Jason Clarke, Nick Robinson, Alexandra Shipp, Katie Aselton, Jimmi Simpson, Paul Walter Hauser.

The Sound of Philadelphia, directed and written by Jeremie Guez. Produced by Aimee Buidine, Julien Madon, David Hinojosa, Christine Vachon, Trevor Matthews, Nick Gordon. (France, Belgium, Netherlands, USA) – World Premiere. Raised as brothers, cousins Peter and Michael are the progeny of Irish hitmen. Thirty years later, both are caught in an endless familial cycle of revenge and destruction. With Matthias Schoenaerts, Joel Kinnaman, Maika Monroe, Paul Schneider, Nicholas Crovetti, Ryan Phillippe.

The Stand-In, directed by Jamie Babbitt, written by Sam Bain. Produced by Tom McNulty, Caddy Vanasirikul, Ember Truesdell, Chris Miller, Brian O’Shea (USA) – World Premiere. Drew Barrymore stars in this comedy about a Hollywood actress who trades places with her enthusiastic stand-in so that she can take a break from the public eye. With Drew Barrymore, Michael Zegen, TJ Miler, Holland Taylor, Charlie Barnett, Ellie Kemper, Andrew Rannells, Lena Dunham.

Stardust, directed by Gabriel Range, written by Christopher Bell, Gabriel Range. Produced by Paul Van Carter, Nick Taussig, Matt Code. (UK) – World Premiere. In 1971, David Bowie embarked on a transformative road trip through America with struggling publicist Rob Oberman. Stardust provides an intimate glimpse into the moments that inspired Bowie to reinvent himself in order to truly become himself: his iconic celestial alter-ego Ziggy Stardust. With Johnny Flynn, Jena Malone, Marc Maron.

The Trip to Greece, directed and written by Michael Winterbottom. Produced by Melissa Parmenter. (UK, Greece) – World Premiere. Back for their fourth cinematic travelogue, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan head out together on a Greek excursion inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey—and, naturally, fueled by sharp-witted banter and the best Werner Herzog impressions imaginable. With Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon. An IFC Films release.

SPOTLIGHT DOCUMENTARY

Documentaries consistently make waves at Tribeca as notable filmmakers and major stories are represented in this section through high-profile premieres.

Bishop Juan Gerardi in “The Art of Political Murder” (Photo courtesy of Prensa Libre)

The Art of Political Murder, directed by Paul Taylor. Produced by Teddy Leifer, Regina K. Scully. (UK) – World Premiere. The shocking murder of human rights activist Bishop Juan Gerardi in the aftermath of the Guatemalan Civil War sets the ground for a powerful battle between justice and corruption in this political crime thriller Executive Produced by George Clooney. With Francisco Goldman, Ronalth Ochaeta, Claudia Méndez Arriaza, Leopoldo Zeissig, Rubén Chanax, Arturo Aguilar. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. An HBO Documentary Films release.

Athlete A, directed by Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk. Produced by Serin Marshall, Jen Sey, Julie Parker Benello. (USA) – World Premiere. In the riveting Athlete A, filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk delve into the world of elite competitive gymnastics and the toxic culture within that allowed sexual abuse to go on for decades unchecked. A Netflix Release. Also playing as part of the ESPN/Tribeca Sports Film Festival.

Banksy Most Wanted, directed and written by Aurélia Rouvier, Laurent Richard, Seamus Haley. Produced by Laurent Richard. (France) – World Premiere. Banksy is a household name, but behind this name hides a multitude of stories, artworks, stunts, political statements and identities, leading to one of the art world’s biggest unanswered questions- who is Banksy? In English, French with English subtitles.

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, directed by Brent Wilson, written by Brent Wilson, Jason Fine. Produced by Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page, Brent Wilson. (USA) – World Premiere. The Beach Boys’ lead songwriter takes a drive around Los Angeles with Rolling Stone editor and longtime friend Jason Fine in this nonlinear cinematic memoir, as vivid and multifaceted as his music. With Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Sir Elton John, Linda Perry, Jim James, Nick Jonas, Gustavo Dudamel.

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful, directed and written by Gero von Boehm. Produced by Felix von Boehm. (Germany) – World Premiere. Catherine Deneuve, Grace Jones, Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Wintour and others give their take on legendary photographer Helmut Newton’s life, art, and legacy, in this portrait of a man who was at once provocative, unconventional, subversive and genius in his depiction of women. With Grace Jones, Sylvia Gobbel, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Wintour, Nadja Auermann, Phyllis Posnick, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Faithfull, Claudia Schiffer, Hanna Schygulla, Carla Sozzani, Arja Toyryla, June Newton.  In English, French, German with English subtitles.

Hydration, directed by Mimi Valdés. Produced by Pharrell Williams, Mimi Valdés, Jerry Kolber, Adam “Tex” Davis. (USA) – World Premiere. Hydration takes audiences backstage and behind the scenes of Pharrell’s ground-breaking Something in the Water festival, using music to bring together his divided hometown of Virginia Beach. Featuring exhilarating live performances by legendary music artists Jay Z, Missy Elliot, Gwen Stefani and others. With Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Pusha T, Dave Grohl, Snoop Dogg and more.

Ice Cold, directed by Karam Gill, written by Karam Gill, Nicholas Stafford Briggs. Produced by Peter Scalettar, Carmen Garcia Durazo, Andrew Primavera. (USA) – World Premiere. From Executive Producers Migos & Quality Control, explore one of rap music’s most elaborate forms of personal expression…jewelry. Fans love it; haters only see superficiality. Ice Cold cuts deep into the “bling bling” obsession to examine its often overlooked socioeconomic motivations. With Migos, Lil Yachty, J Balvin, Slick Rick, Ben Baller, ASAP Ferg.

Kubrick by Kubrick (Kubrick par Kubrick), directed and written by Gregory Monro. Produced by Jeremy Zelnik, Martin Laurent. (France) – World Premiere. A rare and transcendent journey into the life and films of the legendary Stanley Kubrick like we’ve never seen before, featuring a treasure trove of unearthed interview recordings from the master himself. In English, French with English subtitles.

Larry Flynt for President, directed by Nadia Szold, written by Nadia Szold, Tchavdar Georgiev. Produced by Ben Browning, Lauren Mekhael, Steven Prince, Ivan Orlic. (USA) – World Premiere. Assembled from never before seen footage shot in 1983, this fascinating film documents controversial Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt’s unlikely bid for the White House after a gunman’s bullet left him partially paralyzed. With Larry Flynt.

Not Going Quietly, directed by Nicholas Bruckman, written by Amanda Roddy, Nicholas Bruckman. Produced by Amanda Roddy. (USA) – World Premiere. An intimate, inspiring look at activist and loving father Ady Barkan, diagnosed with ALS at age 32 and who, in spite of declining physical abilities, embarks on a nationwide campaign for healthcare reform. With Ady Barkan, Rachael King, Elizabeth Jaff, Ana Maria Archila, Nate Smith, Tracey Corder.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, directed by Laura Gabbert. Produced by Steve Robillard, Mohamed Al Rafi, Jeff Frey, Lauren Deuterman. (USA) – World Premiere. Follow celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi as he assembles a star-studded team of the world’s most innovative pastry chefs to put on a Versailles-themed culinary gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With Yotam Ottolenghi, Dominique Ansel, Ghaya Oliveira, Dinara Kasko, Sam Bompas, Janice Wong. In English, French, Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian with English subtitles.

Rebuilding Paradise, directed by Ron Howard. Produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Xan Parker. (USA) – New York Premiere. Director Ron Howard profiles several survivors of California’s deadliest wildfire who must decide whether to leave or to remain and rebuild in a town that is now on the front lines of the climate crisis. With Woody Culleton, Michelle John, Carly Ingersoll, Matt Gates, Zach Boston. A National Geographic release.

Ricky Powell: The Individualist, directed by Josh Swade, written by Josh Swade, Christopher McGlynn. Produced by Josh Swade, Christopher McGlynn, Eamon O’Neil. (USA) – World Premiere. Ricky Powell boasts a quintessential New York story, rising to fame as a street photographer in the 80’s and 90’s and touring with the Beastie Boys, capturing some of the wildest moments in popular culture. With Ricky Powell, Natasha Lyonne, Debi Mazar, Mike D, Laurence Fishburne, Chuck D, LL Cool J, DMC.

Somebody Up There Likes Me, directed by Mike Figgis. Produced by Peter Worsley, Louis Figgis. (UK) – North American Premiere. A series of intimate conversations with Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, whose extraordinary music career placed him at the forefront of the British R&B explosion to rock ‘n’ roll stardom. With Ronnie Wood, Sally Wood, Imelda May, Damien Hirst, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Sir Rod Stewart, Charlie Watts.

Stockton on My Mind, directed by Marc Levin, written by James Lester, Marc Levin. Produced by Marc Levin, Mike Marangu, Cassius Michael Kim, Daphne Pinkerson. (USA) – World Premiere. In 2016, Stanford graduate Michael Tubbs became the youngest and first African-American mayor of Stockton, California. Stockton On My Mind follows Mayor Tubbs through his first term in office as he tirelessly advances his innovative proposals for a city at a turning point. With Mayor Michael Tubbs. An HBO Documentary Films Release.

This Is Paris, directed and written by Alexandra Haggiag Dean. Produced by Aaron Saidman. (USA) – World Premiere. There’s Paris Hilton and there’s “Paris Hilton”, the latter a character created by a teenage girl desperate to escape into a fantasy. Alexandra Dean’s revealing documentary offers the real Paris’ untold story. With Paris Hilton, Kathy Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild. A YouTube Originals release.

Tough Love: The Lennox Lewis Documentary, directed by Rick Lazes, Seth Koch, written by Josh Dubin, Seth Koch. Produced by Chad A. Verdi, Rick Lazes, Nick Koskoff, Tom DeNucci. (USA) – World Premiere. Lennox Lewis’ rise from humble beginnings in the East End of London to the top of the boxing world defied the odds. Using never before seen footage from Lewis’ personal archives, Tough Love: The Lennox Lewis Documentary shines a light on what makes a true champ. With Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Dr. Dre, Nelson Mandela, Emmanuel Steward, Jim Lampley.

Wojnarowicz, directed by Chris McKim. Produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Chris McKim. (USA) – World Premiere. A collage-like, incisive look at the life of writer, painter and thinker David Wojnarowicz, whose powerful, unapologetic way of seeing the world gave voice to queer rights at a critical time in US history. With David Wojnarowicz, Fran Lebowitz, Peter Hujar, Kiki Smith, Richard Kern, Nan Goldin, Carlos McCormack.

Yung Lean: In My Head, directed and written by Henrik Burman. Produced by David Herdies & Michael Krotkiewski, Ludvig Andersson. (Sweden) – World Premiere. When a Swedish teen rapper finds a rabid fanbase via the internet, international superstar Yung Lean is born. But as his fame grows, darkness settles in, blurring the line between reality and his own vivid imagination. With Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, Axel Tufvesson, Carl-Mikael Berlander, Benjamin Reichwald, Emilio Fagone, Oskar Ekman.  In English, Russian, Swedish with English subtitles.

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, directed by Muta’Ali, produced by Jevon Frank, Victorious De Costa, Muta’Ali (USA) – World Premiere. In 1989, a black youth was murdered in Brooklyn when he was misidentified as the boyfriend of a local white girl. The aftermath of Yusuf Hawkins’ death exploded into a social movement, exposing racial prejudices that continue to plague us today. With Al Sharpton, Amir Hawkins, Diane Hawkins, Freddy Hawkins, Mayor David Dinkins. An HBO Documentary Film release.

VIEWPOINTS

Viewpoints, which includes narratives and documentaries, recognizes distinct voices in independent filmmaking by creating a home for bold directorial visions and embracing distinct characters or points of view.

Ben Irving in “Giants Being Lonely”

Giants Being Lonely, directed and written by Grear Patterson. Produced by Olmo Schnabel. (USA) – North American Premiere, Feature Narrative. From lauded mixed-media artist Grear Patterson, this engrossing coming-of-age drama centers around two troubled high-school baseball players — the gifted star-pitcher, Bobby, and the overlooked coach’s son, Adam — as they struggle with sex, love, difficult family dynamics, and teenage isolation. With Jack Irving, Ben Irving, Lily Gavin, Gabe Fazio, Amalia Culp.

A Glitch in the Matrix, directed by Rodney Ascher. Produced by Ross Dinerstein. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Are we living in a simulation? Acclaimed documentarian Rodney Ascher (Room 27, The Nightmare) tackles this question with compelling testimony, philosophical evidence and scientific explanation in this engaging journey for the truth.

Harley, directed by Jean-Cosme Delaloye, written by Jean-Cosme Delaloye, Lila Place. Produced by Jean-Cosme Delaloye. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. With inklings of American Movie, Jean-Cosme Delaloye’s Harley stands out as an outrageously entertaining portrait of Harley Breite, a thriving criminal defense lawyer attempting to win over his Dulcinea.

Honeymood, directed and written by Talya Lavie. Produced by Eitan Mansuri, Jonathan Doweck. (Israel) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. Following a fight in their honeymoon suite on the night of their wedding, a bride and groom embark on a surreal urban odyssey through the streets of Jerusalem in Tribeca award winner Talya Lavie’s dazzling romantic comedy. With Ran Danker, Avigail Harari. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

I’m No Longer Here (Ya No Estoy Aqui), directed and written by Fernando Frias de la Parra. Produced by Gerardo Gatica, Alberto Muffelmann, Gerry Kim. (Mexico) – US Premiere, Feature Narrative. 17 year old Ulises loves to dance. But when the local cartel mistakenly targets him, he’s forced to flee his home in Mexico, landing alone in the wilds of Queens. With Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño, Bianca Coral Puernte Valenzuela, Jonathan Fernando Espinoza Gamez, Luis Leonardo Zapata, Leonardo Ernesto Garza Ávila, Estefania Judith Tovar Ramirez, Rocio Monserrat Rios Hernandez, Brandon Yahir Alday Vazquez, Yesica Avigail. In Spanish with English subtitles. A Netflix release.

La Llorona, directed and written by Jayro Bustamante. Produced by Jayro Bustamante, Gustavo Matheu. (Guatemala, France) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. As the patriarch of a privileged family stands trial accused of genocide, a new housemaid comes to the house. Her presence unleashes something– is it the pent-up tensions of a family at the breaking point, or does she bring something more sinister with her from the depths of Guatemalan folklore? With María Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz, Margarita Kenéfic, Julio Díaz. In Spanish with English subtitles. A Shudder release.

La Madrina: The Savage Life of Lorine Padilla, directed, written, and produced by Raquel Cepeda. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. While the Bronx burned, Lorine claimed her place as queen of the NYC street gang The Savage Skulls. 40 years later, she examines her impact in the intervening years: as mother, spiritual advisor, activist, and keeper of a controversial legacy. With Lorine Padilla, Elizabeth Maldonado, Senator Luis Sepulveda, Council Member Ritchie Torres.

Looking for a Lady With Fangs and a Moustache, directed and written by Khyentse Norbu. Produced by Max Dipesh Khatri. (Nepal) – US Premiere, Feature Narrative. Plagued by otherworldly visions, a young Nepali musician and entrepreneur is told that he only has one week to live. Norbu’s atmospheric, trancelike fourth feature sees him reckon with his spiritual skepticism. With Tsering Tashi Gyalthang, Tulku Kunzang, Orgen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Tenzin Kunsel, Tulku Ngawang Tenzin, Rabindra Singh Baniya.  In Nepali, Tibetan with English subtitles.

Marvelous and the Black Hole, directed and written by Kate Tsang. Produced by Carolyn Mao. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. A teenage delinquent befriends a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic. With Miya Cech, Rhea Perlman, Leonardo Nam, Kannon Omachi, Paulina Bugembe,  Keith Powell. TFI Supported.

Miracle Fishing, directed by Miles Hargrove, written by Miles Hargrove, Eric F. Martin. Produced by Eric F. Martin. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. In 1994, Tom Hargrove was kidnapped in Colombia by the FARC. With a $6M ransom price and without support from the authorities, Tom’s wife and sons pick up the phone (and a Video8 camcorder) to negotiate directly with the largest terrorist group in the Western Hemisphere. In English, German, Spanish with English subtitles.

The Outside Story, directed and written by Casimir Nozkowski. Produced by Frank Hall-Green, Brian Newman, Joseph Stephans, Casimir Nozkowski. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. Having just broken up with his girlfriend, introverted video editor Charles gets locked out of his apartment, accidentally embarking on a transformative odyssey through his neighborhood. With Brian Tyree Henry, Sunita Mani, Sonequa Martin-Green, Olivia Edward, Asia Kate Dillon, Rebecca Naomi Jones.

P.S. Burn This Letter Please, directed and written by Michael Seligman, Jennifer Tiexiera. Produced by Jennifer Tiexiera, Michael Seligman, Craig Olsen. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. A box found in an abandoned storage unit unearths a time capsule of correspondences from a forgotten era: the underground drag scene in 1950’s New York City. Firsthand accounts and newly discovered footage help cast a long overdue spotlight on the unsung pioneers of drag. With Henry Arango, Michael Alogna, James Bidgood, Robert Bouvard, Terry Noel, Joseph Touchette, Claude Diaz, George Roth, Esther Newton, Joe E. Jeffreys, George Chauncey, Robert Corber, Thomasine Barlett, Michael Henry Adams.

Pacified (Pacificado), directed and written by Paxton Winters. Produced by Paula Linhares, Marcos Tellechea, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Muskat, Paxton Winters. (Brazil) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. Following the violent clean-up and occupation of Brazilian favelas for the Rio Summer Olympics, timid teenager Tati is drawn to the father she’s never met in this layered, vivid portrayal of a world where loyalty to your neighbors comes above all else. With Bukasa Kabengele, Cassia Nascimento, Debora Nascimento, José Loreto, Raphael Logam, Lea Garcia.  In Portuguese with English subtitles.

The State of Texas vs. Melissa, directed by Sabrina Van Tassel. Produced by Isaac Sharry, Sabrina Van Tassel, Philippe de Bourbon. (France) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Melissa Lucio was the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas. For ten years she has been awaiting her fate, and now faces her last appeal. Van Tassel’s urgent documentary is the portrait of a woman against the entire system.

Stateless (Apátrida), directed and written by Michèle Stephenson. Produced by Michèle Stephenson, Jennifer Holness, Lea Marin. (USA, Dominican Republic, Haiti) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. In 2013, the Dominican Republic stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, rendering over 200,000 people without nationality, identity or homeland. Stateless explores this complex history and politics through one young woman’s fight to protect the right to citizenship for all people. With Rosa Iris Diendomi-Álvarez, Teofilo Murat, Gladys Feliz. In Creole, Spanish with English subtitles. TFI supported.

Stray, directed and written by Elizabeth Lo. Produced by Elizabeth Lo, Shane Boris. (Turkey, Hong Kong) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Bringing us into the world of Zeytin, a stray dog living life on the streets of Istanbul, Stray delivers a deceptively simple and wonderfully touching journey of marginalization and resilience. In Turkish with English subtitles.

Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal, written by Loira Limbal, Malika Zouhali-Worrall. Produced by Jameka Autry. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. This poignant and intimate documentary examines the emotional toll on families in pursuit of the American dream, told through the lens of a 24-hour daycare center in Westchester, New York. With Delores “Nunu” Hogan, Patrick Hogan, Marisol Valencia, Shanona Tate. In English, Spanish with English subtitles.

MIDNIGHT

Tribeca’s Midnight section provides a space for fans to discover new projects in genre filmmaking.

“Becky”

Becky, directed by Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott, written by Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye. Produced by Raphael Margules, JD Lifshitz, Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Russ Posternak. (USA) – World Premiere. Mourning her mother’s death, teenaged Becky doesn’t think she could possibly have a worse time during a lake house trip with her dad. The unexpected arrival of four escaped convicts is about to prove she can. With Kevin James, Joel McHale, Lulu Wilson, Amanda Brugel.

The Boys from County Hell, directed and written by Chris Baugh. Produced by Brendan Mullin, Yvonne Donohoe. (Ireland, UK) – World Premiere. For decades, the residents of Ireland’s Six Mile Hill have traded urban legends about an ancient blood-craving ghoul that sleeps beneath their land. Bad news for the locals: A father-and-son team of pipeline workers have woken it up. With Jack Rowan, Nigel O’Neill, Louisa Harland, Michael Hough, Fra Fee, John Lynch.

The Dark & The Wicked, directed and written by Bryan Bertino. Produced by Bryan Bertino, Adrienne Biddle, Sonny Mallhi, Kevin Matusow. (USA) – World Premiere. On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying.  His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the family. With Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Xander Berkeley.

Honeydew, directed and written by Devereux Milburn. Produced by Dan Kennedy, Alan Pierson. (USA) – World Premiere. Unfortunately for a young couple on a camping trip, their car broke down in the middle of the night. Even more unfortunate: In hopes of using a phone for help, they’ve stepped foot inside a house of, to put it lightly, very strange horrors. With Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kingsley.

Sputnik, directed by Egor Abramenko, written by Andrei Zolotarev, Oleg Malovichko. Produced by Mikhail Vrubel, Alexander Andryushenko, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Ilya Stewart. (Russia) – World Premiere. The lone survivor of an enigmatic spaceship incident hasn’t returned back home alone—hiding inside his body is a dangerous creature. His only hope: a doctor who’s ready to do whatever it takes to save her patient. With Oksana Akinshina, Peter Fyodorov, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Anton Vasiliev, Pavel Ustinov. In Russian with English subtitles.

MOVIES PLUS

A Tribeca tradition, Movies Plus offers audiences the unique opportunity to continue the experience of a film through buzzworthy conversations or performances after each special screening. Past Movies Plus experiences have included a Sheryl Crow tribute to Linda Ronstadt (2019), the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performed after the world premiere of Gay Chorus Deep South (2019), and a Broadway-style performance following Bathtubs Over Broadway (2018).

Sean Penn in “Citizen Penn” (Photo courtesy of KTF Films)

Citizen Penn, directed and written by Don Hardy. Produced by Shawn Dailey, Don Hardy. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. On January 12, 2010 a devastating 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti altering the landscape and lives of millions. Aid workers from around the globe descended on the island, along with one unlikely leader – actor and filmmaker Sean Penn. With Sean Penn, Ann Lee, Anderson Cooper, Cecile Accilien.

After the Movie: A conversation with director Don Hardy along with Sean Penn and CORE CEO Ann Lee.

Disclosure, directed and written by Sam Feder. Produced by Amy Scholder. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Documentary. Executive Producer Laverne Cox amplifies this study of transgender representation in the media, bringing together trans creatives and activists to deconstruct scenes from cinema through the ages in order to confront our evolving understanding of gender. With Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, Jen Richards, Mj Rodriguez, Chaz Bono.

After the Movie: A conversation led by Laverne Cox (Executive Producer), and Sam Feder (Director) with some very special guests, about the current rise and history of transgender representation in film and television.

Call Your Mother, directed by Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady. Produced by Eleanor Galloway. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Comedians’ mothers take center stage in this documentary from the directors Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing (TFF 2006 selection Jesus Camp), a hilarious ode to moms and the way they have shaped the work of some of comedy’s biggest stars. With Louie Anderson, Awkwafina, Jimmy Carr, Bridget Everett, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Jim Gaffigan, Judy Gold, Jen Kirkman, Jo Koy, Bobby Lee, The Lucas Brothers, Norm Macdonald, Jim Norton, Tig Notaro, Yvonne Orji, Kristen Schaal, Roy Wood Jr..

After the Movie: A conversation with comedians Bridget Everett, Rachel Feinstein, Judy Gold, Roy Wood Jr. and more.

Don’t Try to Understand: A Year in the Life of Earl “DMX” Simmons, directed by Christopher Frierson. Produced by Clark Slater. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Hip-hop icon DMX returns from a recent stint in prison determined to reignite his career, but his comeback proves ill-fated when faced with the mounting pressures of fatherhood, faith and addiction. This unfiltered documentary presents an intimate glimpse into the man behind the public persona.

After the Movie: A special performance by DMX.

Freedia Got a Gun, directed by Chris McKim. Produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Chris McKim. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. After losing her brother to gun violence, New Orleans’ queen of bounce Big Freedia uses her national platform to shine a spotlight on gun reform in this achingly honest and human documentary plea for activism and reform. With Big Freedia.

After the Movie: A conversation with musician Big Freedia, journalist and executive producer Charles Blow, director and producer Chris McKim and producer Randy Barbato.

Fries! The Movie, directed and written by Michael Steed. Produced by Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. To better understand the globe’s obsession with the fried potato, chefs, food scientists, historians and celebrities, including Malcom Gladwell and Chrissy Teigen, take the audience on a joyous and mouth watering journey around the world to delve into everyone’s favorite fried food. With Chrissy Teigen, Malcolm Gladwell, Eric Ripert, Dave Arnold, Harold McGee.

After the Movie: A conversation with cookbook author and model Chrissy Teigen, chef Eric Ripert, Museum of Food and Drink founder Dave Arnold, and director Michael Steed.

The Go-Go’s, directed by Alison Ellwood. Produced by Trevor Birney. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Documentary. Through a wealth of archival material and candid interviews, Director Alison Ellwood takes us on a nostalgic look back at the Go-Go’s rise to fame in the 80s all the way to today, as the band collaborates on new music for the first time in nineteen years. With Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin. A Showtime release.

After the Movie: A special performance by The Go-Go’s.

John Lewis: Good Trouble, directed by Dawn Porter. Produced by Laura Michalchyshyn, Dawn Porter, Erika Alexander, Ben Arnon. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Using a combination of vérité and archival along with the 80-year old Georgia Congressman’s own words, John Lewis: Good Trouble examines Lewis’ current work and activism, and takes a look back at a lifetime of campaigning for political and social change. A Magnolia Pictures and Participant release.

After the Movie: A conversation with director and producer Dawn Porter and subjects from the film.

Kiss the Ground, directed by Josh Tickell, Rebecca Tickell, written by Josh Tickell, Rebecca Tickell, Johnny O’Hara. Produced by Rebecca Tickell, Josh Tickell, Bill Benenson, Darius Fisher. (USA, France, China, Uganda, Zimbabwe) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. A revolutionary group of activists, scientists, farmers, and politicians band together in a global movement of “Regenerative Agriculture” that could balance our climate, replenish our vast water supplies, and feed the world, narrated by Woody Harrelson. With Woody Harrelson, Ian Somerhalder, Gisele Bündchen, Patricia Arquette, David Arquette, Tom Brady, Jason Mraz. In English, French with English subtitles.

After the Movie: A conversation with model and activist and Executive Producer Gisele Bündchen, actor and activist Ian Somerhalder and directors Rebecca Tickell and Josh Tickell.

The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show, directed by Yoruba Richen, written by Yoruba Richen, Valerie Thomas, Elia Gasull Balada. Produced by Valerie Thomas, Joan Walsh. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. While the country was embroiled in a divisive election with racial tensions flaring, civil rights activist Harry Belafonte guest hosted The Tonight Show for one week in 1968 transforming it into a multicultural political experience. With Harry Belafonte, Whoopi Goldberg, Questlove, Tamron Hall.

After the Movie: A conversation with Artivist, Producer and Executive Director of Sankofa.org Gina Belafonte, director Yoruba Richen and Producer Joan Walsh. Moderated by Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editorial director and publisher of The Nation.

Truth to Power, directed, written and produced by Garin Hovannisian. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. The Grammy-winning lead singer of System of a Down, Serj Tankian helps to awaken a political revolution on the other side of the world, inspiring Armenia’s struggle for democracy through his music and message. With Serj Tankian, Rick Rubin, Tom Morello, Shavo Odadjian, John Dolmayan, Carla Garapedian.

After the Movie: A special performance by System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, accompanied by the NYU Symphony Orchestra.

Underplayed, directed by Stacey Lee. Produced by William Crouse. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. From Delia Derbyshire to Alison Wonderland this inspiring music documentary portrays radical female artists breaking the rhythm of inequality in the electronic music industry and opening doors for the next generation. With Alison Wonderland, Tygapaw, Tokimonsta & Suzanne Ciani.

After the Movie: A World Class performance by iconic Brooklyn artist, Tygapaw, presenting an inspiring interactive vision of electronic music today.

With Drawn Arms, directed by Glenn Kaino, Afshin Shahidi. Produced by Glen Zipper, Sean Stuart. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. At the 1968 Olympics, gold medalist Tommie Smith iconically raised his fist in a symbol of black struggle and solidarity. With Drawn Arms follows Smith as he looks back 50 years to the moment that helped define a movement and changed the course of his life forever.

After the Movie: A conversation with directors Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi, subject Tommie Smith and musician and executive producer John Legend.

TRIBECA CRITICS’ WEEK

In its second year, Tribeca Critics’ Week is a section of the Festival that presents a curated slate of six feature films from New York-based film critics including Eric Kohn (IndieWire), Joshua Rothkopf (film critic), Bilge Ebiri (film critic and editor, New York Magazine/Vulture), Alissa Wilkinson (Vox.com), and Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly).

Christian Bale in “American Psycho” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron, Produced by Christian Halsey Solomon, Chris Hanley, Edward R. Pressman. (USA) – Feature Narrative. Twenty years after its debut, Christian Bale’s turn as the murderous NYC yuppie Patrick Bateman has lost none of its simultaneously hilarious and chilling power. With Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas. Join Tribeca and director Mary Harron for a special 20th anniversary screening and conversation.

I Carry You With Me, directed by Heidi Ewing. Written by Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga. Produced by Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing. (USA, Mexico) – New York Premiere. Acclaimed documentarian Heidi Ewing’s narrative debut is a cross-border romantic drama about a gay New York chef reflecting back on his experiences coming of age in Mexico. With Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Raúl Briones, Arcelia Ramírez, Pascacio López, Michelle Gonzáles, Luis Alberti, Yael Tadeo, Nery Arredondo, Alexia Morales. A Sony Pictures Classic Release.

Lux Aeterna, directed and written by Gaspar Noé. Produced by Gary Farkas, Clément Lepoutre, Olivier Muller. (France) – North American Premiere, Feature Narrative. In the midst of a hectic shooting day, a women-led film set gradually descends into psychological disarray. Singular provocateur Gaspar Noé’s latest sensory experience takes a piercing look at the dark side of the collaborative filmmaking process. With Beatrice Dalle, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Félix Maritaud, Karl Glusman, Clara 3000, Paul Hameline, Luka Isaac. In English, French with English subtitles.

The Nowhere Inn, directed by Bill Benz, written by Carrie Brownstein, St. Vincent. Produced by Carrie Brownstein, Lana Kim, St. Vincent, Jett Steiger. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. What’s meant to be a documentary about St. Vincent’s music career devolves into a mind-bending distortion of reality once the singer hires her best friend as its director. Deliriously warping the mockumentary template, Portlandia veteran Bill Benz’s directorial debut defies genre categorization. With Annie Clark, Carrie Brownstein.

Shirley, directed by Josephine Decker, written by Sarah Gubbins. Produced by Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Sue Naegle, Sarah Gubbins, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman, Elisabeth Moss. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. Shirley Jackson, the celebrated author of the iconic 1948 short story The Lottery, is brought to blisteringly sharp life in Josephine Decker’s immersive drama. With Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman. A Neon release.

Sweet Thing, directed and written by Alexandre Rockwell. Produced by Louis Anania, Kenan Baysal, Haley Elizabeth Anderson. (USA) – North American Premiere, Feature Narrative. In this follow up to Rockwell’s acclaimed Little Feet, Billie and her younger brother Nico struggle through adolescence with an alcoholic father and negligent mother. Forced to run away, this band of outsiders find solace in a new friendship. With Will Patton, Karyn Parsons, Lana Rockwell, Nico Rockwell, Jabari Watkins, ML Josepher.

WOMEN AT WORK

What does it mean to be a working woman today? As the question becomes a more urgent part of the cultural conversation, Tribeca has curated a group of documentaries that seek to answer it across industries from sports, science, and law enforcement. These films consider how women in the workplace have struggled and thrived and always gotten the job done.

Frieda Zamba in “Girls Can’t Surf” (Photo courtesy of Frieda Zamba)

Girls Can’t Surf, directed by Christopher Neliusm and written by Christopher Nelius and Julie Anne DeRuvo. Produced by Michaela Perske and Christopher Nelius. (Australia, USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Under the radical glow of Australian sun, peroxide hair and fluorescent surf-shorts, a dark wave of male chauvinism crashed down on 1980’s surf culture. Girls Can’t Surf shares the untold story of pioneering women who surfed against this tide. With Pam Burridge, Lisa Anderson, Wendy Botha, Jodie Cooper, Rochelle Ballard, Pauline Menczer, Jolene Smith, Jorja Smith, Nic Carroll, Jamie Brissick, Ian Cairns, Alisa Schwarzstein, Frieda Zamba. Also playing as part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Picture a Scientist, directed by Ian Cheney, Sharon Shattuck. Produced by Manette Pottle, Ian Cheney, Sharon Shattuck. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Despite the minimal news coverage, sexual harassment and gender inequality against women are no less prevalent in science than they are in pop culture and corporate America. Picture a Scientist illuminates this uncomfortable truth while also advocating for change.

After the Screening: A conversation with directors Sharon Shattuck, Ian Cheney and groundbreaking scientists and film subjects, Raychelle Burks Ph.D., Jane Willenbring, Ph.D., and Nancy Hopkins Ph.D.. Hosted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Women in Blue, directed and written by Deirdre Fishel. Produced by Beth Levison. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. After a high-profile police shooting rocks the Minneapolis Police department, its first female chief is forced to resign. Women in Blue takes a look at policing in America, as it follows the stories of the women officers who carry on the effort to reform the department and restore trust in the community. With Alice White, Melissa Chiodo, Janée Harteau, Erin Grabosky, Catherine Johnson, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Medaria Arradondo. TFI supported.

FAMILY EVENT

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, directed and written by Tim Hill; Story by Tim Hill and Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger; Based on the Series “SpongeBob SquarePants” Created by Stephen Hillenburg. Produced by Ryan Harris. (USA) – Sneak Preview. SpongeBob SquarePants, his best friend Patrick Star and the rest of the gang from Bikini Bottom hit the big screen in the first-ever all CGI SpongeBob motion picture event. After SpongeBob’s beloved pet snail Gary is snail-napped, he and Patrick embark on an epic adventure to The Lost City of Atlantic City to bring Gary home. As they navigate the delights and dangers on this perilous and hilarious rescue mission, SpongeBob and his pals prove there’s nothing stronger than the power of friendship. With Tom Kenny, Awkwafina, Matt Berry, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence, Reggie Watts. A Paramount Pictures release.

2020 JURIED FEATURE FILM AWARDS:

Awards in the three main competition sections — U.S. Narrative, International Narrative, and Documentary Competition — will be determined by a jury and presented in the following categories: Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best International Narrative Feature; Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature; Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature; Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature; Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature; Best Documentary Feature; Best Editing in a Documentary Feature, and Best Cinematography in a Documentary Feature.

In addition, the Festival juries will present awards for Best New Narrative Director and The Albert Maysles Award (Best New Documentary Director) for first time feature directors in any section.

Two feature films—one narrative and one documentary—will be selected to receive the Audience Award, the audience choice for best feature film. Films playing in the Competition, Viewpoints, Spotlight, Midnight, Movies Plus, and Tribeca Critics’ Week screenings sections are eligible.

Passes and Tickets for the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival:

All festival passes are on sale now. Ticket Packages are currently available for purchase and will remain on sale until March 8, 2020. Single tickets to attend the Festival go on sale on March 17, 2020. Visit: https://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets

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About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, brings visionaries and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, VR, gaming, music, and online work. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment. The Festival champions emerging and established voices; discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators; curates innovative experiences; and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.

The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Now in its 19th year, the Festival has evolved into a destination for creativity that reimagines the cinematic experience and explores how art can unite communities. The 19th annual edition will take place April 15 – 26, 2020. www.tribecafilm.com/festival.

#Tribeca2020

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Facebook: facebook.com/Tribeca

About Presenting Sponsor AT&T:

As Presenting Sponsor of the Tribeca Film Festival, AT&T is committed to supporting the Festival and the art of filmmaking through access and innovation, while expanding opportunities to diverse creators around the globe. AT&T helps millions connect to their passions – no matter where they are. This year, AT&T and Tribeca will once again collaborate to give the world access to stories from underrepresented filmmakers that deserve to be seen. AT&T Presents: Untold Stories -an Inclusive Film Program in Collaboration with Tribeca, is a multi-year, multi-tier alliance between AT&T and Tribeca along with the year-round nonprofit Tribeca Film Institute.

About the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival Partners:

The Tribeca Film Festival is pleased to announce its 2020 Partners: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), BVLGARI, CHANEL, City National Bank, CNN Films, Diageo, ESPN, HBO, Montefiore, National CineMedia (NCM), New York Magazine, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, P&G, PwC, Spring Studios New York, and Squarespace.

Review: ‘Greed,’ starring Steve Coogan, David Mitchell and Isla Fisher

February 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Steve Coogan in "Greed"
Steve Coogan in “Greed” (Photo by Amelia Troubridge)

“Greed” 

Directed by Michael Winterbottom

Culture Representation: Taking place in England and the Greek island of Mykonos, the dark satirical comedy “Greed” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Indians and Syrians) representing the rich, middle-class and poor.

Culture Clash: “Greed” takes a scathing look at a ruthless billionaire retail mogul and the exploitation of poor laborers who helped build his empire.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who like comedies that address issues about social classes and poke fun at rich people, but the film overstuffs the story with too many flashbacks and distracting subplots.

Steve Coogan in “Greed” (Photo by Amelia Troubridge)

On the surface, “Greed” (written and directed by Michael Winterbottom) might give the most screen time to the pompous billionaire who’s the central character, but the movie’s heart really lies with the anonymous laborers who are exploited to make this arrogant mogul (and others just like him) wealthy and mostly able to dodge accountability. The story, which is a dark satire, centers on British billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie (played by Steve Coogan), who has made his fortune with an empire of discount clothing stores whose chief rivals are H&M and Zara. He is so proud of being a ruthless businessman that he’s created a nickname for himself: “Greedy McCreadie.”

About half of the movie shows Richard on the Greek island of Mykonos, where he’s planning a lavish, star-studded 60th birthday party that will have a Roman toga theme. Things aren’t going so well, since the small amphitheater being constructed for the party probably won’t be finished in time. Many of the invited celebrity guests are canceling or declining their invitations. And the party is really a distraction from the Parliamentary inquiry that McCreadie has had to answer to about allegations of his company’s corruption and improper use of funds.

If you think all of this sounds like Sir Philip Green, the British billionaire founder of Arcadia Group (the parent company of Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Outfit and many more clothing stores), you would be right. Green went through a scandalous Parliamentary hearing in 2018 over mishandling of pension funds. That same year, a member of Parliament also named Green as someone with numerous employee accusations of racism and sexual harassment, with the complaints settled out of court. Winterbottom says that although Green inspired many aspects of “Greed,” the movie isn’t about him, and the Richard McCreadie character is a composite of billionaire moguls.

Greedy McCreadie has an orange-tinted fake tan, super-white dental veneers and a cocaine-snorting, supermodel trophy girlfriend named Naomi (played by Shanina Shaik), who’s young enough to be his daughter. He’s narcissistic, he judges people’s worth by how much money they have, and he treats people like disposable pawns in a game of chess.

In other words, he’s the epitome of what people despise about the type of super-rich people who think they’re cool but they’re actually superficial jerks. His 60th birthday party will be an ostentatious display of wealth. The event planner Melanie (played by Sarah Solemani) tells Richard that the party will be like “The Great Gatsby” meets “Gladiator” meets “The Godfather”—and Richard loves the idea.

And just like many billionaires, Richard wants to surround himself with celebrities. Melanie’s main job is to wrangle in as many famous people as possible to attend the party. She and Richard go down a list of possible performers in a somewhat hilarious takedown of what real-life celebrities charge for personal appearance fees. (Richard is appalled that Shakira charges as much as Elton John, and he’s thrilled that Tom Jones’ fee is a bargain in comparison.) There’s enough name dropping in this movie to fill the half-finished amphitheater for the party, which has a caged lion on display.

Several real-life celebs (mostly British) make cameos in the film, including Stephen Fry and Fatboy Slim, who are actually at the party. Most of the other stars—including Keira Knightley, Colin Firth and Coldplay’s Chris Martin—appear via video messages where they wish Richard a happy birthday. And when Richard thinks that not enough celebrities will be at the party, Richard gives Melanie the go-ahead to hire celebrity impersonators. One of the movie’s funniest scenes is when the fake celebs are gathered in a dressing room at the party and get various levels of approval by Richard.

The movie begins on a somewhat jarring note, with a celebrity cameo whose life came to a tragic end in real life. The opening scene is of Richard at a company event where he’s giving out awards to employees. The host of the award ceremony is British TV presenter Caroline Flack, who in real life tragically died by committing suicide at the age of 40 on February 15, 2020. At the ceremony, Richard announces that he’s giving a huge chunk of his company dividends to his ex-wife Samantha (played by Isla Fisher), making it the largest dividend payout from a privately held company.

Samantha (who is the mother of the youngest of Richard’s three kids) is among the family members who will be at Richard’s 60th birthday bash. They include his domineering widowed mother Margaret (played by Shirley Henderson); his insecure teenage son named Finn (played by Asa Butterfield); and his spoiled 20-something daughter Lily (played by Sophie Cookson). Richard has another child, a pouty son in his 20s named Adrian (played by Matt Bentley), who shows up later in the story. Samantha has also brought her much-younger lover named François (Christophe de Choisy) to the party.

Richard’s entourage includes his vapid girlfriend Naomi and his kind-hearted and hard-working personal assistant Amanda (played by Dinita Gohil), who’s risen to this position after starting off as a factory employee for his company. She’s part of a subplot involving extremely underpaid workers (most of them women) in Sri Lanka who make the clothes that Richard’s company sells.

Richard’s official biographer Nick (played by David Mitchell), who’s an opportunistic journalist, is also tagging along at the party. Half of the time, Nick wonders what he’s gotten himself into with this assignment, because he’s witnessing some very unflattering things about Richard that would be tricky to put in the biography. Richard is essentially the Boss From Hell, who does a lot of yelling and hurling of insults when things don’t go his way. He’s also the type of toxic head honcho who will demand that things be done a certain way, forget that it was his decision, and then blame it on someone else if things go wrong.

Although “Greed” might sound like a clever concept to expose the corrupt side of the fashion industry, the execution of the idea is unfortunately a little too haphazard and overstuffed. There are so many flashbacks in the movie, that even the flashbacks have flashbacks. They include seeing how a young Richard (played by Jamie Blackley) went from being expelled from school at age 16 to becoming a hotshot and unscrupulous wheeler dealer in the discount fashion business.

Richard is a tough negotiator and he has no qualms about exploiting workers so he can get cheap labor and increase profits. There are also scenes of Richard facing the Parliament investigation into his shady business practices. Richard is almost proud of the fact that he gets people to invest millions in his companies, he keeps the profits, but then when the investors want their share of the profits, he shuts down the business by declaring bankruptcy.

There’s one scene where a female protestor crashes into the hearings and throws a pie in Richard’s face, which is an obvious spoof of what happened in real life to billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 2011, during his own Parliamentary hearing. Greedy McCreadie, ever the name dropper, tells Parliament that at least he’s more honest than Richard Branson and Bono when it comes to investors’ money.

And then the movie has subplots about other people during the party preparations in Mykonos. Several refugees from Syria have camped out at the public beach near the party site. Richard wants the refugees to move because he thinks they’ll ruin the party atmosphere. But since it’s a public beach, the refugees refuse to leave. But then, a plan is put in motion that will get them off the beach, by hiring the refugees as kitchen workers for the party.

Lily is a star of a reality show, so the TV cameras have followed her to Mykonos. The show’s annoying producers and director frequently bark orders at Lily, her TV boyfriend and her friends to redo their pre-fabricated scenes when the director needs another take. (This usually happens when someone who’s not part of the show’s cast “ruins” a shot by accidentally walks into a scene while filming.) One of the staged scenes includes Lily handing out food to the refugees to make her look charitable. But when the producers want her to film the scene again, she has to take back the food, which angers the refugees, who don’t know that they’re being used as part of the staged scene.

The movie also shows Richard’s difficult and complicated relationship with his youngest child Finn, who’s constantly seeking his father’s approval and attention and not getting much of either. Finn, who both admires and fears his father, gets a little bit of Oedipal revenge when he makes moves on Richard’s trophy girlfriend Naomi while high on some of her cocaine.

Meanwhile, Richard and his ex-wife Samantha clearly have unfinished personal business. When they’re alone together, they flirt and give each other loving kisses. Samantha also tries to be the “cool ex-wife” by being very friendly to Naomi, probably because she knows that Naomi is just a fling, while Samantha still has a hold on Richard because she’s a big part of his business and she’s the mother of one of his children.

And if all these shenanigans weren’t enough, during the party preparations, there are plenty of meltdowns from logistics coordinator Sam (played by Tim Key), who’s frantic about the amphitheater being finished on time, as well as issues with laborers who are unhappy with their wages and unrealistic time constraints.

In the production notes of “Greed,” Winterbottom says that when he was seeking financing for the movie, he told potential investors that the tone of “Greed” would be similar to “The Big Short,” writer/director Adam McKay’s 2015 Oscar-winning satire of Wall Street’s manipulation of the U.S. housing market. The biggest differences between “The Big Short” and “Greed” (besides “The Big Short” being a much-better movie) are that in “Greed,” there’s no breaking down of a fourth wall with characters talking directly to the viewers, and “Greed” tries to do too much with the characters in the story instead of keeping it more focused. This is supposed to be a movie, not a TV series.

Although there are some snappy and witty lines in “Greed,” the movie’s overall tone has the same smugness that it lampoons in Greedy McCreadie. The movie spends so much time inflating and skewering the super-rich and their flunkies that it feels almost like a pandering afterthought when the film tries to counterbalance the satire at the end, with sobering statistics about laborer exploitation in the fashion industry. The materialistic and selfish characters in “Greed” are like people who’ve overstayed their welcome at their own party. And viewers of this movie will find most of these characters so unappealing that they’ll be glad when this party is over.

Sony Pictures Classics released “Greed” in select U.S. cinemas on February 28, 2020.

Review: ‘My Boyfriend’s Meds,’ starring Jaime Camil and Sandra Echeverría

February 25, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sandra Echeverría and Jaime Camil in “My Boyfriend’s Meds” (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)

“My Boyfriend’s Meds” (“Las Pildoras de Mi Novio”)

Directed by Diego Kaplan

Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Set in San Francisco and the fictional Mexican island of San Voitar, the Spanish-language romantic comedy “My Boyfriend’s Meds” has a cast of Latino and white characters that are primarily from the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A man tries to hide his multiple mental illnesses from his new girlfriend, and things turn disastrous when he accompanies her to a business retreat attended by her boss and co-workers.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who like over-the-top, somewhat formulaic romantic comedies, but might offend some people who won’t like how various mental illnesses are made the butt of jokes.

Sandra Echeverría and Jaime Camil in “My Boyfriend’s Meds” (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)

The romantic comedy “My Boyfriend’s Meds” (“Las Pildoras de Mi Novio”) tries to put a somewhat different spin on the genre by having its leading man as someone with various mental illnesses, which he controls through a lot of medication and therapy. But what happens when he goes on a business retreat with his new girlfriend (whom he hasn’t told yet about his psychiatric problems) and accidentally leaves behind his medications?

Because of this very tricky and sensitive subject, the movie takes a very broad, slapstick approach that has mixed results. The humor works best when it’s about mixed signals and failed communications, but it’s downright awkward and cringeworthy when it attempts to show the dangerous effects of a mentally ill person who goes off of medication for a few days.

“My Boyfriend’s Meds” (directed by Diego Kaplan, who wrote the screenplay with Gary Marks) also has an underlying patriarchal message that expects people to be more tolerant of men with mental illnesses than women. If the lead female character in the movie had the mental problems instead of the lead male character, there would be a lot less likelihood that characters in the movie would be willing to laugh off the inappropriate and offensive behavior shown by the mentally ill person.

Although this movie is a comedy that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, “My Boyfriend’s Meds” cynically presents itself as a movie that can lessen the stigma of mental illness. But instead, all the movie does is inflate the worst stereotypes of people with mental-health issues.

In the beginning of the film, viewers are introduced to San Francisco marketing executive Jess Overman (played by Sandra Echeverría), who’s looking for her Mr. Right. She’s single, successful, attractive and a nice person—an all-around great catch. The problem is that she’s very unlucky in love—or does she just have bad taste in men?

Her latest wrong boyfriend has proposed to her over a romantic dinner at a restaurant. He’s had the unusual idea of having a flying drone carry the engagement ring to the table when he proposes. But things go terribly wrong when the drone malfunctions and crashes, which causes Jess’ hair to catch on fire, and then the drone gets tangled in her hair, which requires large chunks of her hair having to be cut off. She’s so humiliated that she immediately breaks up with the boyfriend.

While she’s home alone after the fiasco, Jess lies on her water bed and smokes a joint. She then falls asleep and the joint burns through her water-bed mattress. After just going through her hair being set on fire, now she’s experienced a mini-flood in her home. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Jess goes to a mattress store to buy a new mattress—one that definitely won’t be a water-bed mattress. While she’s lying down on a mattress in the store to try it out, she senses someone lying beside her. It’s a good-looking guy who’s about 10 years older than she is. He introduces himself as Hank Gasper, the owner of the store.

Hank then proceeds to tell her that he can deduce what she needs just from how she’s lying down on the mattress. He correctly guesses that she used to own a water-bed mattress and now wants a regular mattress. He then follows her by lying down with her from mattress to mattress.

Instead of being creeped out by his behavior, she finds it charming, so she accepts his invitation to go out on a date with him. During dinner, Hank is the perfect date, and their chemistry together is so strong that they end up in bed together after that first date. They continue to see each other, and Jess can’t believe her luck at how much this guy is her ideal man. He’s charismatic, he treats her like a queen (including cooking gourmet meals for her), and they have a passionate sex life.

But this wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without a problem. Hank has a big secret: He has several mental illnesses and conditions, such as having a bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder,  agoraphobia, Tourette syndrome and attention-deficit disorder. He’s been controlling these issues with lots of medication and the help of his psychiatrist Dr. Sternback (played by Jason Alexander), who urges him to immediately disclose his conditions to any woman he’s dating if he thinks it might turn into a serious relationship. Hank doesn’t take Dr. Sternbach’s advice (which Hank continues to ignore for most of the movie), so he doesn’t tell Jess about his psychiatric problems.

Meanwhile, Jess works at a company called Tequila Tuxcueca, which has a hotshot founder/CEO who thinks Jess’ personality is more “banana juice” than “tequila.” The company is having an upcoming retreat where employees can bring a guest, and Jess is desperate to impress her boss and co-workers to prove that she has a fun personality. Jess is a needy people pleaser who’s divulged way too much of her love life to her nosy, mostly married co-workers, who can’t hide their condescension that she hasn’t found Mr. Right.

The co-workers remind Jess that she’s broken up with a lot of boyfriends for various reasons. One ex-boyfriend was rejected because he has one testicle. She ended a relationship with another ex-lover because he has a habit of crying after has sex. She dumped another man because he acted like an airplane pilot during sex. The fact that her co-workers know all of this about Jess’s sex life says a lot about what type of person Jess is too.

Jess mentions to her co-workers that her current boyfriend Hank Gasper could be The One, and of course they want to meet him at the retreat. Feeling pressure to bring a “date” to the retreat, she asks Hank if he wants to go to the retreat with her, even though she tells him that she knows it might be too soon in their relationship for this type of getaway trip. Unbeknownst to Jess, Hank had been planning to tell her about his psychiatric problems that night. But instead, he says yes to the retreat invitation and decides to postpone telling her.

The retreat is at a fictional Mexican island called San Voitar. The company employees are staying at the Shanadu Hotel, which takes the term “getaway resort” seriously, because it’s a place that does not have cell phone service or Internet access for the guests. The movie also has a running gag (which gets old very quickly) about how the hotel employees emphasize the “sh” in “Shanadu,” to indicate that they want people to be as quiet as possible.

Things start off well on the trip, until Hank finds out that his big bottle of pills (he put all of his necessary medication in one bottle) is missing from his luggage. In a flashback, viewers see that Hank’s cat accidentally knocked the bottle out of his travel bag, and the bottle rolled underneath Hank’s bed without Hank knowing this happened.

Hank immediately panics and tries to call his psychiatrist, but that turns into a mini-ordeal because of the lack of cell-phone service and the slow-paced concierge whose pen runs out of ink. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. Hank ends up using a land-line phone to make the call to Dr. Sternbach. And wouldn’t you know, there isn’t a pharmacy at the hotel or nearby, so the meds will have to be flown in by special delivery. Of course, this can’t happen overnight, since Hank has enough prescriptions to fill a medicine cabinet, so Hank will have to go without his meds for a few days.

The rest of the movie is a slapstick fest of Hank having various meltdowns because he’s doesn’t have his meds, while Jess is confused over why he’s acting so crazy. Hank’s OCD kicks in when he sees walkways paved with stones, and he tiptoes to avoid stones. He starts to hallucinate, and one of his frequent hallucinations is seeing an animated pink medication capsule and a blue medication tablet, which he calls “Pila” and “Dora,” which can talk and dance. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Hank keeps in touch with Dr. Sternbach, who advises him to get as much sleep as possible, avoid drinking alcohol, and try not to have sex because sex will get him over-excited. Of course, Hank does the opposite of what his doctor advises, so he begins to act crazier.

A male concierge notices that Hank is acting unstable, so there’s a subplot of the concierge conspiring with one of the hotel’s cooks to con Hank out of money. The plan is for the cook to pretend to be a witch doctor who will charge Hank $1,000 to get a “special cure” for his medical problems. The concierge and the cook decide to split the money in their con game. Of course, Hank takes the bait, and sneaks off to meet with the “witch doctor” who promises to make him a magical concoction. Hank believes everything this stranger tells him. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

And then, Brooke Shields has a small supporting role as a New Age healer named Alicia Santos, who leads teambuilding therapy sessions at the hotel The sessions include people snapping their fingers in unison when they agree on something, which actually makes them look more like drag queens than a group of corporate employees. But the peaceful harmony that Alicia is trying to spread is frequently broken, because by this time, Hank’s Tourette syndrome begins to act up, so he starts shouting out random curse words. At first, the co-workers think he’s just being uninhibited, but then he begins shouting random insults at Jess’ co-workers, and they see that something is very wrong with him.

As Jess becomes increasingly mortified by Hank’s behavior (he still hasn’t told her why he’s acting this way), things go from bad to worse during a karaoke party, where Hank (wearing a cowboy hat and tight jeans) sings Backstreet Boys songs, strips down to his underwear, and starts dry humping the legs of one of Jess’ co-workers. It’s as cringeworthy to watch as it sounds.

But that’s not the worst part of the movie. That comes later when someone in the movie tries to commit suicide (take a wild guess who it is) by jumping off of a high ledge. What happens next is nothing short of ludicrous. It’s also bound to offend some people who think that suicide and suicide attempts should not be trivialized for the sake of making a slapstick scene in a comedy.

Despite making the leading man a psychiatric mess, “My Boyfriend’s Meds” is still a formulaic and predictable movie. As the troubled Hank, Camil handles his physical comedy pretty well, but the rest of the performances in the movie are serviceable at best. The message that the film tries to convey is that love can conquer all obstacles. Too bad some obstacles can’t be overcome for this movie, such as its ridiculous script and sloppy direction.

Panetelion Films released “My Boyfriend’s Meds” in select U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.

Review: ‘Impractical Jokers: The Movie,’ starring James ‘Murr’ Murray, Brian ‘Q’ Quinn, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano

February 22, 2020

by Carla Hay

Brian “Q” Quinn, James “Murr” Murray, Sal Vulcano and Joe Gatto in “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” (Photo courtesy of truTV)

“Impractical Jokers: The Movie”

Directed by Chris Henchy

Culture Representation: The predominantly white cast of the comedy film “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” has the four prank-playing stars of truTV’s “Impractical Jokers” going on a road trip to Miami and encountering people from various walks of life.

Culture Clash: This entire movie is about how the stars of “Impractical Jokers” compete with each other over an invitation to a Paula Abdul party, and they play pranks on unsuspecting people and themselves as part of the competition.

Culture Audience: “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” will primarily appeal to “Impractical Jokers”/The Tenderloins fans and other fans of lowbrow pranks.

Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano, James “Murr” Murray and Brian “Q” Quinn in “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” (Photo courtesy of truTV)

Fans of truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” which has been on the air since 2011 and follows the New York City-based comedy troupe The Tenderloins, should already know what to expect for “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” the first theatrically released feature film from truTV. The question is if it’s worth paying extra money to see a movie that could basically be a TV special available at no extra charge for people who have truTV. You’d have to be a humorless grouch to not enjoy some of the genuinely laugh-out-loud moments in the movie. However, “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” falls on its face when it steers away from the pranks, and it has the stars of the show reading scripted lines as actors portraying themselves.

“Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” directed by Funny or Die co-founder Chris Henchy, is absolutely the type of lowbrow, frat-boy comedy that fans love about the “Impractical Jokers” TV series. It’s the same format, with the guys using hidden cameras, as well as hidden speaking/listening devices to feed lines to whichever guy is doing the prank, in order to make things more uncomfortable for him.

The movie is made for “Impractical Jokers” fans, not anyone looking for anything intellectual or groundbreaking. But for people who don’t know anything about “Impractical Jokers,” the movie is a pretty good introduction to the four “Impractical Jokers” stars: James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano, also known as the comedy troupe The Tenderloins. (All four of The Tenderloins, along with Henchy and Funny or Die’s Jim Ziegler and Buddy Enright, are producers of the movie.)

Murr is the group’s biggest physical daredevil and the “ladies’ man” in the movie: He gets completely naked during a boat prank, and near the end of the film, there’s a scene of him tied to the top of a small airplane as a stunt. (It’s not a stunt double.) Sal is the one who’s most likely to get the most humiliating pranks from the other guys. Q is the most sensible one of the group and is the one most likely to stop a prank if he thinks it’s headed in the wrong direction. Joe is the best improviser who’s the most likely to think quickly on his feet if a prank doesn’t go the way it was originally expected.

The movie begins with a scripted “origin story” of the “Impractical Jokers” stars’ first prank. At a Paula Abdul concert in the early 1990s, the four guys pull the fire-alarm switch, which abruptly ends the concert by sending frightened audience members heading for the exit. Abdul (who portrays herself in flashback scenes and present-day scenes) is so enraged that she gets in a physical fight with the four pranksters, including punching Sal in the throat, and she vows to get revenge on them.

Fast forward about 25 years later, and the guys are having dinner together at a restaurant, when Abdul sees them, but only recognizes them as the stars of “Impractical Jokers.” She comes over and gushes about how much of a fan she is, and the guys are relieved that she doesn’t remember them as the pranksters who ruined her concert years ago. Abdul invites them to a party she’s having in Miami, where she will also perform.

The guys are happy to accept the invitation because they think the party will be a “do-over” for them to make up for the fiasco of the previous time they were around Abdul. But there’s a problem: When they get the laminated badges that will give them access to the party, only three badges have been provided for them instead of four. Instead of asking for a fourth badge, they decide that on their road trip to Miami, they’ll do a series of pranks, and the guy who loses the most pranks will be the one who won’t get to go to the party.

So off they go on the road trip. One of their first stops is in Washington, D.C., which yields some of the best laughs in the movie. First, the guys do a prank challenge at the Lincoln Memorial, where they each have to convince strangers to approve a very inappropriate and distasteful eulogy. Each of the guys, while holding an urn said to contain someone’s ashes, separately approach visitors at a memorial monument. They ask the strangers to tell them what they think of a eulogy that they’ve written, and then read the eulogy. Each eulogy turns out to be insulting to the “dead person,” and most of the strangers approached say that the eulogy shouldn’t be read at the memorial. In the end, all but one of the guys fails this challenge.

In an even better scene, hidden cameras follow a tourist group being taken on a guide of caverns in the area. Joe then surprises the group by crawling out of a cave and pretending to be someone who had been trapped there since 1987. He’s wearing ghoulish light green makeup and alien-looking ears. And the startled and shocked expressions on the tourists’ faces are priceless.

Joe then makes up a story about being lost in the cave as a kid, when he got separated from his parents on a tour guide of the caverns. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’m the Beef” (in reference to the famous “Where’s the Beef?” Wendy’s ad campaign from the 1980s. He asks the tour group, “Who shot J.R.?” (in reference to the famous cliffhanger from the TV series “Dallas”), and he asks if Walter Mondale got a second term. (Mondale ran against Ronald Reagan in the 1984 U.S. presidential election and lost.) All of these jokes land best with people who know about or remember the ’80s. Based on some of the puzzled or blank expressions of the younger people in the tourist group, the jokes went right over their heads.

When the guys are in Atlanta, another highlight of the movie is a challenge where they each interview for a job with the Atlanta Hawks, and they have to act like the interviewee from hell by saying and doing bizarre things during the interview. Joe is the funniest one in the group for this challenge, because he excuses himself to use the restroom during the interview, and then goes down to the basketball court that can be seen from the interview room, and starts playing basketball while the interviewer looks on in shock. When he comes back to the interview room, he tells the interviewer that security in the building isn’t very good because he was able to shoot hoops on the court without anyone stopping him.

Other prank challenges are hit-and-miss. One of these mixed-results challenges takes place on a private tour boat and resulted in a “win” for any of the “Impractical Jokers” guy who could convince tourists not to let the boat captain rescue someone in distress in a nearby raft. (The person “in distress” and the boat captain are really actors who are in on the prank.) This challenge was inconsistent because it had someone playing a military man in distress for part of the challenge, but then in another part of the challenge, a completely naked Murr plays the person in distress.

Another challenge that probably sounded funnier on paper than how it ended up on screen is when Murr celebrates his birthday at a strip club. While he’s getting lap dances in a private room, the blinds on a window in the room are lifted to reveal that members of his family (including his mother and underage nieces and nephews) are in the next room and watching him getting grinded on by strippers.

And in the beginning of the movie, a challenge with Sal dressed up as a shopping-center Santa Clause starts out funny when he pretends to fall asleep while a child is sitting on his lap. But then it becomes a little too mean-spirited to kids when Sal is told by the other guys to keep interrupting a little girl on his lap, and Sal “wins” if he can prevent her from telling “Santa” what her wishes are. It’s one thing to play hidden-camera pranks on adults. It’s another thing to subject kids to these pranks when they’re too young to understand what’s going on. But some parents must’ve signed release forms for their kids to be in this movie, so there you have it.

Another prank that will get mixed reactions is a roadside assistance challenge, where each guy pretends to be a stranded motorist with a broken-down car on a busy expressway, and tries to get help by flagging down cars that are passing nearby. There’s a slightly homophobic undertone to this prank, because some of the guys (namely, Joe and Murr) each try to act like a gay man to test the reactions of the people (who are all men) who stop to help. The pranksters apparently picked an area of the South that has a lot of redneck types, just to see their reactions when these locals are around a man who gives hints that they’re stereotypically gay. Murr scares one guy off when he leans over and shows that he’s wearing a purple thong. There are also double entendre jokes about gay sex to test if the Good Samaritans will pick up on the jokes.

While that questionable humor might not work so well in the movie, one of the funniest scenes is when the Sal, who doesn’t like cats, gets a prank played on him by the other guys. They lock him inside a motel room with a white tiger, which is chained up but sill close enough for Sal to have a panic attack. They don’t let Sal out of the room until he agrees to say things like “I’m a bitch boy.”

When one of the “Impractical Jokers” stars is the target of a prank, it’s hard to know how much of his reaction is real or is acting. And the movie’s cameo scenes with celebrities (such as Joey Fatone and Jaden Smith, who each portray themselves) lose their impact because viewers are told that Fatone and Smith are already in on the jokes.

The enduring popularity of “Impractical Jokers” is mainly because of unscripted reactions from everyday people who are truly unsuspecting targets of harmless pranks. Those are the best parts of the TV series and the best parts of this movie. As for the movie’s filler scenes where the “Impractical Jokers” stars have to memorize lines and recite screenplay dialogue like professional actors, here’s some unsolicited advice for these pranksters: “Don’t quit your day jobs.”

truTV released “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” in select U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.

Review: ‘Emma’ (2020), starring Anya Taylor-Joy

February 21, 2020

by Carla Hay

Anya Taylor-Joy in "Emma"
Anya Taylor-Joy in “Emma” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“Emma” (2020)

Directed by Autumn de Wilde

Culture Representation: This comedic adapation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel “Emma” is set in the fictional countryside town of Highbury, England, and revolves around the white upper-class main characters and some representation of their working-class servants.

Culture Clash: The story’s title character is a young woman who likes to meddle in people’s love lives as a matchmaker, and her snobbish ways about social status sometimes cause problems.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to fans of Jane Austen novels and period movies about British culture.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn in “Emma” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

This delightful and gorgeously filmed adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel “Emma” stays mostly faithful to the original story but spices it up a bit to appeal to modern audiences. In her feature-film debut, director Autumn de Wilde takes the comedy of “Emma” and infuses it with more impish energy that’s lustier and more vibrant than previous film and TV adaptations.

The title character of the story is Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), a woman of privilege in her early 20s, who lives with her widowed father in the fictional countryside town of Highbury, England. Emma is a somewhat spoiled bachelorette who thinks she has such high intelligence and excellent judgment that she takes it upon herself to play matchmaker to people she deems worthy of her romance advice.

The movie takes place over the course of a year, beginning one summer and ending the following summer. Viewers know this because different seasons are introduced in bold letters, like a different chapter in a book.

One of the changes from the book that the movie makes is that it begins with Emma attending the wedding of her friend and former governess Miss Taylor, (played by Gemma Whelan) to Mr. Weston (played by Rupert Graves). (The book begins after Emma has attended the wedding.) Because Emma had introduced the Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston to each other, Emma feels that she has what it takes to play matchmaker to the unmarried people in her social circle. It’s at the wedding that viewers are introduced to most of the story’s main characters.

Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse (played by Bill Nighy), is a loving dad but often exasperated by Emma’s antics. He’s a hypochondriac who tries to shield himself from imaginary drafts of cold that he’s sure will cause him to get sick.

George Knightley (played by Johnny Flynn) is the handsome and cynical brother-in-law of Emma’s older sister Isabella (played by Chloe Pirrie). He thinks Emma can be an annoying meddler, but he nevertheless seems fascinated by what she does.

Mr. Elton (played by Josh O’Connor) is a social-climbing local vicar who has his eye on courting Emma, mostly because of her wealth and privilege. He’s unaware that Emma doesn’t see him has husband material.

Miss Bates (played by Miranda Hart) is a friendly, middle-aged spinster who is slightly ashamed about being unmarried at her age. She lives with her mother, Mrs. Bates (played by Myra McFadyen), who is a friend of Mr. Woodhouse.

Missing from the wedding is Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill (played by Callum Turner), who has a different last name because he was adopted by his aunt, who is frequently ill. Frank chose to stay home with his aunt instead of attending his father’s wedding.

Emma, who says multiple times in the story that she has no interest in getting married, nevertheless takes it upon herself to tell other people who would be suitable spouses for them. She starts with her gullible best friend Harriet (played by Mia Goth), a slightly younger woman of unknown parentage who idolizes Emma for being more glamorous and seemingly more worldly than Harriet is. Knightley can see that Harriet will be easily manipulated by Emma, and he expresses disapproval over Emma befriending Harriet.

A local farmer named Mr. Martin (played by Connor Swindells) has asked Harriet to marry him, but Emma convinces Harriet to decline the proposal. Why? Even though Mr. Martin is kind and clearly adores Harriet, Emma thinks that Harriet deserves to marry someone who’s higher up on the social ladder. As far as Emma is concerned, Mr. Elton would be an ideal husband for Harriet, so Emma sets out to pair up Harriet and Mr. Elton, whom Emma describes as “such a good-humored man.” It’s too bad that Emma doesn’t see that his humor is really buffoonery.

Mr. Knightley occasionally stops by to visit the Woodhouses, and he warns Emma not to interfere in other people’s love lives. He thinks Mr. Elton would be a terrible match for Harriet. Mr. Knightley is right, of course, but Emma ignores his warnings. Emma begins to manipulate communications between Harriet and Mr. Elton, with the goal that they will end up together and happily married. At one point in the story, Emma and Mr. Knightley have a big argument and they stop talking to each other.

Meanwhile, a new ingenue comes on the scene named Jane Fairfax (played by  Amber Anderson), who is the orphaned niece of Miss Bates. Jane (who is close to Emma’s age) is attractive, intelligent, talented. And everyone seems to be gushing about how wonderful she is, so Emma gets jealous. As Emma complains in a catty moment, “One is very sick of the name Jane Fairfax!”

Frank Churchill, a very eligible bachelor, begins spending more time in the area. And it isn’t long before Emma has thoughts about who would make a suitable wife for him.

However, things don’t go as planned in Emma’s matchmaking schemes. A series of events (and a love triangle or two) make Emma frustrated that things aren’t going her way. Unlike most heroines of romantic stories, Emma can be very difficult, since she can be bossy, selfish and occasionally rude. However, there are moments when she redeems herself, such as when she tries to make amends for her mistakes. If you know anything about romantic comedies and don’t know anything about how “Emma” ends, you can still figure out what will happen and if she’ll fall in love.

One of the changes made in this “Emma” screenplay (written by Eleanor Catton) that’s different from the book is that it puts more heat in the characters’ sexuality, with a makeout scene that’s definitely not described in the book. Another change is Emma shows more acknowledgement of people in the working-class, such as her servants and Mr. Martin, by interacting with them more than she does in the novel.

As Emma, actress Taylor-Joy brings a little bit more of a “hot mess” attitude to the role than Gwyneth Paltrow did when she starred in 1996’s “Emma.” Whereas Paltrow’s version of Emma was the epitome of prim and proper, Taylor-Joy’s version gives the impression that she would be ready to show her legs or knickers under the right circumstances. And as Mr. Knightley, Flynn’s pouty-lipped delivery gives him a smoldering quality that Jeremy Northam’s Mr. Knightley didn’t quite have in 1996’s “Emma.”

“Emma” director de Wilde comes from a music-video background (she’s helmed several videos for rock singer Beck), and perhaps this background explains why this version of “Emma” has a snappy rhythm to the pacing, which is sort of a tribute to 1940s screwball comedies. This pacing is subtle if this is the first version of “Emma” that someone might see, but it’s more noticeable when compared to other movie and TV versions of “Emma,” which tend to be more leisurely paced.

This version of “Emma” is also pitch-perfect when it comes to its costume design (by Alexandra Byrne), production design (by Kave Quinn), art direction (by Alice Sutton) and set decoration (by Stella Fox), because everything will feel like you’ve been transported to the luxrious English estates of the era. The costume design in particular is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

“Emma” certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea for people who don’t like watching period pieces about stuffy British people. However, fans of Austen’s “Emma” novel will find a lot to enjoy about this memorable movie adaptation.

Focus Features released “Emma” in select U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.

UPDATE: Because of the widespread coronavirus-related closures of movie theaters worldwide, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has moved up the VOD release of “Emma” to March 20, 2020.

Review: ‘Olympic Dreams,’ starring Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas

February 15, 2020

by Carla Hay

Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas in “Olympic Dreams” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Olympic Dreams”

Directed by Jeremy Teicher

Culture Representation: Taking place during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, this romantic dramedy is about two white middle-class Americans—a 22-year-old Olympic cross-country skier and a 37-year-old Olympic volunteer dentist—who meet and have an undeniable attraction to each other.

Culture Clash: The potential romance has obstacles, such as the age difference, insecurities about the future, and the dentist being undecided over what to do about his suspended relationship with his fiancée.

Culture Audience: “Olympic Dreams” will appeal primarily to people who like independent movies that are more “slice of life” character studies than action-filled stories.

Alexi Pappas and Nick Kroll in “Olympic Dreams” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

Two socially awkward people meet and have a connection that could turn into a romance. This type of story can take place anywhere, but in the dramedy “Olympic Dreams,” the story takes place on location during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, where the movie was actually filmed during the games. Most of the movie’s cast, except for star Nick Kroll, are real-life Olympic athletes. It adds to the realism of the film, which is shot almost like a documentary.

There is no melodrama in this quiet character study of a movie, and there are no scenes revolving around intense athletic competitions. Instead, “Olympic Dreams” takes a close look at the internal battles of insecurities that can prevent people from pursuing what they really want in life.

Directed by Jeremy Teicher, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas (a Greek American real-life Olympic long-distance runner), “Olympic Dreams” is the first narrative feature to be filmed inside the Olympic Village, where the athletes stay during the games. This access was made possible by the International Olympic Committee, which invited Pappas and three other Olympians who are also artists to participate in the Olympic Art Project. Pappas’ project was “Olympic Dreams,” and she is one of the producers of the film, along with Kroll, Teicher, Will Rowbotham and Nora May.

In the movie, Pappas plays Olympic cross-country skier Penelope, an American who’s there for her first Olympic games. She’s feeling anxious and isolated, since she doesn’t know anyone there. Meanwhile, Olympic volunteer dentist Ezra (played by Kroll), who’s also American, is feeling a different type of anxiety. He and his fiancée have recently decided to take a break from their relationship. He calls her and leaves an awkward message on her voice mail, by telling her that he doesn’t know if it’s appropriate to call her, but he wanted to tell her anyway that he’s settled in at the Olympic Village.

Ezra meets Penelope when he sees her sitting alone at the Olympic Village dining hall, and he asks if he could join her. She agrees, but Penelope (who’s quiet by nature) is feeling tense over her upcoming race that will happen that day. They make small talk by introducing themselves and saying why they’re at the Olympics, but Nick senses that Penelope is preoccupied and nervous, so he backs off, but not before giving her a dental-floss item as a friendly gesture.

Penelope has a disappointing placement that doesn’t qualify her for the next round. She calls her parents and pretends that she’s been making friends with other athletes who’ve been comforting her over her Olympic loss. In reality, Penelope is all alone. Although her Olympic roommate Maggie (played by real-life Olympic freestyle skier Morgan Schild) is friendly, Penelope hasn’t been able to make any friends in the short time that she’s been at the Olympics.

The next time Penelope and Ezra see each other, he invites her to get coffee with him. This time, he has another gift for her: a stuffed animal. And then they start to open up to each other more when he examines Penelope’s teeth during an appointment that she has with him. He tells her that it was always his dream to be at the Olympics. Back in America, he works at a clinic, but his goal is to one day have his own family practice.

Meanwhile, Penelope confesses that she’s uncertain about her future, now that her Olympic dreams have been dashed this year. She hasn’t decided yet if she wants to try out for the next Olympics in four years or if she wants to do something else with her life. At this point, it’s clear by the way that Penelope looks at Ezra that she’s starting to become romantically attracted to him, because she becomes more flirtatious and she asks him about his relationship status, sexual orientation, and if he has any children. (Ezra is straight and has no kids.)

Ezra also tells her about his fiancée and how the situation is complicated because even though they’re taking a break from each other, he doesn’t think he’s completely available either. Ezra and Penelope also tell each other their ages—he’s 37, and she’s 22—and Ezra looks a little concerned about the age difference, but he’s also feeling attracted to Penelope. They both encourage each other to pursue their dreams.

Although Ezra has a more extroverted personality than Penelope does, he has a nerdy, eager-to-please approach when he first tries to get to know people, so he’s found it difficult to make friends at the Olympic Village too. Penelope and Ezra sense that they’re both social misfits, and that’s part of their attraction to each other. Penelope invites Ezra to spend the day with her to do tourist sightseeing around town, since she now has a lot of free time on her hands, and Ezra readily accepts her offer.

Their first date is extended from a day trip to hanging out a night. Even though Ezra is much older than Penelope, he’s still a kid at heart because one of the places they go to during the nighttime part of the date is a center where people play video games. Ezra comments that watching people intensely play video games reminds him of his lonely youth when he would spend hours playing video games by himself. But Penelope has a different perspective: She says that people with that kind of passion and drive, even if it’s about winning video games, should be admired.

Is the relationship between Ezra and Penelope going to go anywhere? At the end of their first date, Penelope kisses him, but he pulls away. Then they get in an argument because Penelope criticizes him for not knowing what he’s going to do about his fiancée and for being not being more proactive about having his own family practice, while he criticizes her for being undecisive about her future. They end the date on this sour note.

Feeling a little down, Penelope’s confidence gets a boost when she meets a fellow Olympic athlete at the gym. He’s an American freestyle skier named Gus (played by real-life Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy), who introduces himself and invites Penelope to a party that’s being held in his building. Gus and Penelope start hanging out with each other, and when Penelope introduces Gus to Nick, it’s obvious that Nick is uncomfortable and jealous.

Much of the dialogue in “Olympic Dreams” looks improvised, since there are realistic awkward moments of silence or people talking over each other. Even though this movie takes place during the giant spectacle of the Olympics, it feels like a very intimate movie because the cast is so small and because there are no scenes of the massive crowds watching the games. There’s a scene that was filmed near an Olympic ski jump and a pivotal scene in an empty stadium that serve as reminders of the Olympic setting.

“Olympic Dreams” director Teicher used a hand-held camera and many close-ups in the scenes to covey the feeling of the movie being a portrait about these two people in a specific time in their lives. Although Ezra and Penelope are both American, it isn’t said in the movie exactly where they live in the United States.

And that leaves some lingering questions: If they get together, what happens if they live in cities that are very far away from each other? Will they have a long-distance relationship or will one of them move closer to the other? And do Ezra and Penelope think this relationship is worth pursuing in the first place? That last question is answered by the end of the movie, which makes it clear that the real Olympic dreams for Ezra and Penelope are the ones that can last longer than an athletic competition.

IFC Films released “Olympic Dreams” in select U.S. cinemas and on VOD on February 14, 2020.