Movie Review ~ Awake

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The Facts:

Synopsis: After a sudden global event wipes out all electronics and takes away humankind’s ability to sleep, chaos quickly begins to consume the world. Only Jill, an ex-soldier with a troubled past, may hold the key to a cure in the form of her own daughter.

Stars: Gina Rodriguez, Ariana Greenblatt, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Frances Fisher, Barry Pepper, Gil Bellows, Shamier Anderson

Director: Mark Raso

Rated: NR

Running Length: 96 minutes

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review:  Blame Sandra Bullock and that darn Bird Box but ever since the 2018 film premiered on Netflix and created a massive amount of publicity for the streaming service, a number of imitators centered on a massive world event have tried to capture that film’s same energy.  It’s not that the original movie was all that special, but it hit at just the precise moment when audiences needed that particular kind of escapist entertainment and didn’t mind some of its sillier plot mechanics.  The point was, it was led by an A-list, Oscar-winning actress who may have brought people in initially, but who eventually stuck around for the effective scares.  Any attempt to duplicate that would be a bit pointless…but oh did people try.

At first glance, you may look at the new Netflix film Awake and chalk it up to another Bird Box wannabe, but any doubt of its intentions wears off within the first few minutes and you realize this is no mere imitation but a different kind of beast with its own plan of attack.  Like Bird Box, it can’t quite figure out how to untangle itself from third act problems and takes a bit of a nosedive just when it should be accelerating to the finish line. Up until that point, it’s a breathless thriller that succeeds on the merit of the performances and the skill of the filmmaking.

Recovering veteran and single mom Jill (Gina Rodriguez, Kajillionaire, an excellent actress that always seems to be one role shy of truly breaking through) is putting her life back together working as a security guard for a government run psychiatric unit while repairing the fractured relationship with her two children.  While she occasionally lifts unused pills from her job so she can sell them in order to make ends meet, she’s largely on the level, which is beginning to earn back trust from her former mother-in-law (Frances Fisher, Titanic) and daughter Matilda (Ariana Greenblat, A Bad Moms Christmas), though her son Noah (Lucius Hoyos, What If) remains wary that his mom has truly turned over a new leaf.

After a solar flare creates an enormous electromagnetic pulse, wiping out all electronic devices and means of transportation, at first the family believes they need to just wait out this incredible inconvenience.  However, soon it becomes apparent that the unexplained phenomena triggered something else within the human race, rendering them unable to sleep.  Returning to her workplace, Jill finds the unit in chaos and her boss (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Single White Female) scrambling to relocate their operation to The Hub, a secret facility where they can study what has happened and, using a mysterious woman who has been able to fall asleep, figure out a way to fix it. 

What Jill fails to tell them is that Matilda can also sleep, something her mother-in-law has already figured out and told their local pastor (Barry Pepper, Crawl) who, in turn, has told his congregation.  Already whipped into a frenzy due to their lack of sleep, the prospect of having one in their midst that might hold the key to getting back their slumber becomes too much for them and violence erupts.  That’s about where Awake reaches the first of its numerous points of no return and as an audience member you’re going to have to either love it or leave it as Jill and her family go on the run from all kinds of sundry sorts over the next 90 minutes. Encountering car thieves (two different sets of them!), a highway full of nude cultists, and, in one of the film’s eeriest looking moments, a small town with streets full of wandering prison inmates in orange jumpsuits, there’s danger down every highway for this household. 

It’s a lot to handle, but Canadian director Mark Raso (who wrote the film along with his brother Joseph) keeps the pieces moving in a rather orderly fashion the majority of the time.  Raso isn’t above putting young Matilda in as much danger as possible but managing to do it in a way that has a sort of cinematic thrill to it.  That sounds weird. Let me explain. There’s a scene where Jill, Matilda, Noah, and a passenger who I won’t reveal are all in a car and attacked from the outside. In one camera move (or meant to look like one) we are inside the car, front and center, for the attack and it feels real and raw.  All this intensity works up unto a point near the end and that’s when Awake veers off course into territory that’s more messy than structured.  The final act may be a letdown after such a promising start, but it doesn’t completely overshadow the skill in which Raso constructs the setup.

Rumors abound that a Bird Box 2 is happening sometime in the future but until then we are going to have to be satisfied with films that run a similar route to that earlier movie.  Awake is one of the better Netflix films to arrive and wholly worth keeping your eyes open for. I don’t believe the Rasos intended to create a film to outpace the popular Netflix film Bird Box, but they’ve wound up with one that could easily be mentioned in the same breath and draw some favorable comparisons. 

Streaming Review ~ Loki (Episodes 1 & 2)


The Facts:

Synopsis: After stealing the Tesseract during the events of Avengers: Endgame, an alternate version of Loki is brought to the mysterious Time Variance Authority who give Loki a choice: face being deleted from existence due to being a “time variant” or help fix the timeline and stop a greater threat.

Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino, Wunmi Mosaku, Richard E. Grant, Sasha Lane

Director: Kate Herron

Running Length: ~50 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review:  Can you believe it’s been nearly two years since the last Marvel film was released in theaters?  It’s true, not since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home have we seen one of our favorite superheroes on the big screen.  Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have missed out on their chance to see Black Widow in theaters this past year when it was delayed due to the pandemic, but in 2021 we’ll make up for lost time as that film is released along with a whopping three others, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. It hasn’t been too quiet in Marvel’s world, though. We’ve all had our fair share of consolation prizes in not one, but two well-received television series that have premiered on Disney+. 

The streaming service watched the quirky WandaVision become a bona fide hit with its tonal differences from the previous films.  It had its moments where it reared its more Marvel-y moments but by and large this felt like a self-contained bit of creative freedom that wouldn’t have been possible outside of Disney’s weekly platform release structure.  This was followed fairly quickly with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier mere weeks after WandaVision concluded its 9-episode run.  The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s 6-episodes, by comparison, were much more like the traditional Marvel movie.  Not that that was an all-together bad thing.  Allowing supporting player Anthony Mackie (Anthony Mackie, Pain & Gain) to rise to leading man status was welcome and if Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya) didn’t do as much to forward his character as I would have liked, the duo proved to be a smart pairing.

Now comes Loki, the third Marvel series to debut on Disney+ and it appears to be the most ambitious one to date.  But wait, you may be asking, didn’t Loki, you know, perish in Avengers: Endgame?  Well, that’s where the storytellers in the big Marvel warehouse have worked some magic and come up with an interesting way to keep Loki alive, but as a “variant” of himself.  In fact, according to the Time Variance Authority (TVA), there could be multiple timelines that we follow if we aren’t careful and that’s why they are there, to help police the master timeline and ensure it is proceeding as intended. 

When he steals the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Only Lovers Left Alive) upends the timeline and sets into motion a series of events that puts him in front of Ravonna Lexus Renslaye (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, A Wrinkle in Time) from the TVA who prefers that he be “reset”, i.e. zapped, for his infraction.  She’s persuaded by TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson, Bliss) to release Loki to his watch because he needs the trickster’s help in solving a mystery currently confounding the TVA.  Apparently, someone has been jumping through timelines and getting rid of any TVA security detail that comes looking for them.  Agreeing to help Mobius but planning his own escape by infiltrating the TVA from within, Loki becomes an unlikely ally to combat a most unexpected villain.

Above and beyond the production design for the series which has a retro vibe from the late 60’s/early 70’s mixed with a dash of steampunk (not the annoying kind), there’s a boldness to Loki that feels like another step forward for Marvel where their television endeavors are concerned.  Further, it’s totally different than WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, showing that Marvel is having fun experimenting with their style as well as their substance.  Director Kate Herron keeps the vibe fresh and fun, allowing Hiddleston free range to let his Loki grow in stature without making the villain too unlikable.  It’s also a great showing for Wilson, who takes the role just seriously enough to be convincing but not overtly dry.

Time-travel shows can be a tough sell because it’s easy to play fast and loose with the rules.  At times during the first two episodes there are some head-scratching moments where the action can be tough to track, but that is what the rewind button is for.  Still, I wouldn’t want to keep having to think too terribly hard over the remaining four episodes about how the timelines merge together but trust that it will all line up by the finale.  Loki proves that Marvel is running a solid three for three.  Still to come in 2021 is an animated series (What If…?) and two more live-action entries, Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye.  Based on the track record so far, the bar is set awfully high for what’s next.      

Tribeca 2021 Preview – Tribeca at Home

If you’re like me, you’ve simply read about the Tribeca Film Festival from year to year and thought “one day, I’ll go” but the logistics of scheduling yourself for the length of the festival is quite the commitment.  Luckily, the organizers of the fest have found a way to bring Tribeca out of Lower Manhattan out to the communities around the country by introducing Tribeca at Home.  While you may be missing the fun atmosphere that comes with attending a film festival and being in the room when a movie screens for the first time, you can be one of the first audiences to see a title before it’s released or finds a distributor.  Hey, I’ve been to film festivals and seen very good films that haven NEVER come out in the U.S. so…you might get lucky and see a hidden gem that stays hidden!

The final category to examine is brand new this year: Tribeca at Home.  Like many film fests did this year, Tribeca will stream a number of films through their portal so audiences can watch the movies on their computer or compatible devices on their television.  (Side note: buy a Roku, they have every app for every service you could want…screening life is so much easier now!)

Let’s take a look the films I am going to make some time for over the next few weeks.  Surprisingly, we’ll start with several shorts that aren’t part of the other group but do show up in the online-only option.

Almost a Year, directed by Jamieson Baker

Face it, over the next several years the pandemic is going to play a key role in a heaping helping of documentaries, plays, TV shows, movies, and, yes, shorts.  In Jamieson Baker’s Almost a Year, we watch the lives of three New Yorkers over time and witness how they can change with little notice.  This one is produced by Katie Holmes, which is a key reason I have this on my list.  Famous names also attracted me to David, directed and written by Zach Woods and starring Will Ferrell.  The plot doesn’t say much but with a comedian creating the short and Ferrell as the star, it’s not one you can easily skip.  Rounding a sharp turn of tone is Last Meal, from writer/director Daniel Principe, a documentary about the final meals of death row inmates.  Likely one that will be hard to watch, it’s another subject that feels like it could be of some importance later in the year and I’m interested to see how Principe captures this important event. It took 10 years for Caleb Slain’s surreal musical Enough, to make it to the screen and after all that time I’m intrigued to see how it all comes together. There’s a good chance that Agazi Desta’s Waves, could be a sleeper hit if my gut is leading me in the right direction.  A Black, deaf teen heads to the barber shop before prom night but gets paired with the wrong barber – sounds excellent.

David, written and directed by Zach Woods

Digging deeper into the at-home offerings, viewers have a wide range of selections at their fingertips.  From biopics to road-trip comedies to horror to documentaries – even if you wanted to try out just one film, I know you’ll be able to find one title that will spike your curiosity.

Glob Lessons, directed by Nicole Rodenburg

For instance, I’m not all that familiar with the Britpop sounds of the 90’s so Nick Moran’s Creation Stories might not be first on my list, but the appealing cast and nostalgia for the era have absolutely moved this one into a high position on my “to see” list.  As someone that toured through the Midwest with one other person doing a children’s show, Nicole Rodenburg’s Glob Lessons which follows pretty much the same plot is an absolute must in my book.  I also felt an instant attraction to a film like Peace by Chocolate, with its idyllic (or maybe is it familiar) sounding story of a son of Syrian immigrants being torn between honoring his family and following his own dreams. The pandemic theme rears up again in the road trip dramedy No Plan A, directed by Linda G. Mills, and Venus as a Boy, written and directed by Ty Hodges could be a refreshing take on the California/New York mismatched lovers storyline we’ve seen a million times over.

No Running, directed by Delmar Washington

It’s a good thing these next five titles are available in your home because I’m not sure I’d want to be watching them in a dark theater and then have to drive home to a dark house.  Featuring a blind former Olympic hopeful trapped in a secluded house with a trio of criminals and only a third-party app to help her “see” the danger, Randall Okita’s See For Me, looks freaky as all get-out and if this doesn’t land at IFC Midnight I’ll be shocked.  Speaking of IFCMidnight, they’re already represented here with Settlers, directed and written by Wyatt Rockefeller, and set on Mars.  Like every film set on Mars…something terrible happens.  Horror loves a good scary nun film so now we have Agnes to keep us up at night. Directed by Mickey Reece, it concerns two priests who arrive at a convent to determine if one of the nuns is indeed possessed by a cruel demon and finding that it’s another nun they need to worry about instead. If you’re going to take a chance on something, I’d suggest thinking about Delmar Washington’s No Running, which has the makings of a paranoid thriller with supernatural elements to it.  There’s a little bit of a Get Out vibe with a M. Night Shyamalan essence to it. I’m also curious about Asking For It, written and directed by Eamon O’Rourke. Featuring names like Kiersey Clemons, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Ezra Miller, Radha Mitchell, Gabourey Sidibe, and Luke Hemsworth and with a plot centered on revenge and frat boy comeuppance, it could be a sly winner.

See For Me, directed by Randall Okita

Right now, I’m only tracking two documentaries in this at-home space but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your own investigation to see if there are others that fit into your tastes better.  As an out and proud MN, I know my RuPaul’s Drag Race stars and of course had a “I remember her when” moment when Bebe Zahara Benet won the first season of the show in 2009.  Now, Emily Branham’s Being BeBe, charts the drag queen’s journey from being the first winner when the show was still finding its feet to now when life has forced certain concessions to be made.  I’m also looking forward to learning more about Will Vinton, the “Father of Claymation” in ClayDream, directed and written by Marq Evans. 

Claydream, written and directed by Marq Evans

So many movies – never enough time to see them all but hopefully over the last three posts you’ve gotten a good taste of what Tribeca has to offer.  Look these titles up, buy your tickets, support this programming because this is a well balanced and diverse line-up.  Keep checking back here for my reviews – I’ll be posting them shortly after the films have premiered officially in person or virtually.

Tribeca 2021 Preview – Shorts

Now if you have read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I love a good short.  Live Action Short, Documentary Short, Animated Short, Deck Short (finally, they’re in season!), and so this list of films was a lot of fun to look over and see what the possibilities were!  Pardon my Minnesotan, but what a smorgasbord!  A total of 46 films were selected from 20 different countries and you can already see it showcases the innovation that is taking place in media around the globe.

Taking a page out of the Oscars, I’ll break these down into three groups.  Documentary, Live Action (Narrative), and Animation.

Documentary

If you’re in NYC, I’m jealous because you might get the chance to see the subjects of Blondie: Vivir En La Habana, directed by Rob Roth.  The iconic rock band will be performing in concert as part of the festival programming in support of their documentary about traveling to Havana to perform for the first time.  As a longtime fan, this is top on my list.  William A. Kirkley’s Radical Love also looks appealing, delving into the lives of Michael and Eleanora Kennedy, legal eagles who counted a number of those going against the political grain in the 1960s as clients.  Then there’s Coded, directed by Ryan White which uncovers the legacy of J.C. Leyendecker, an illustrator of carefully designed ads that would pave the way for more overt marketing toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Blondie: Vivir En La Habana, directed by Rob Roth

Lamar Bailey Karamañites pays tribute to Miss Panama, which is about far more than winning a crown.  National kata karate champion Mahiro Takano faces her greatest challenge in James Latimer’s Kata, and keep your eyes out for The Queen of Basketball, directed by Ben Proudfoot which I have a feeling might be the type of documentary short to stick around come awards season.  Proudfoot’s profile of Lucy Harris, the Olympic basketball player most of us have never heard of sounds like just the inspiring story audiences eat up. Finally, I’ll be interested to the dynamics of two filmmakers forced to live together in How to Fall in Love in a Pandemic, directed and produced by Michael-David McKernan.

Kata, directed by James Latimer

Live Action

Here’s where you really can get adventurous because with these live action shorts, you just never know what you’re going to get.  The best thing about your choices?  If you don’t care for them, they’ll be over pretty quickly.  So if you aren’t feeling the family drama of Peninsula, directed and written by Fiona McKenzie, you could switch things up with the light zombie apocalypse comedy The Last Marriage, directed by Gustav Egerstedt & Johan Tappert.  If The Cocktail Party is any indication, I’m guessing writer/director Jessica Sanders knows how to throw a good shindig, what with its unforeseen shift into a martial arts action film. Judging by the logline for Liza Anonymous, directed by Aubrey Smyth, there’s going to be ample room for its star to make several shifts of her own during the short as she changes characters based on what support group she is attending.

Liza Anonymous, directed by Aubrey Smyth

There are at least two different shorts where dance plays a central role.  First up is Stephanie Bollag’s Esther In Wonderland, finding a married Hasidic woman drawn to the freedom she feels through hip hop and breakdance.  In Tj O’Grady Peyton’s Silence, a man at a crossroads happens upon a young ballet dancer in an abandoned building.  I’m not sure if that constitutes a “meet cute” but there’s definitely one in The Angler, directed by David Darg. I mean, when you have a fisherman who gets his line tangled with a single mother…that’s straying into some fairly cute rom com territory, right?  I suppose Girl With a Thermal Gun, directed and written by Rongfei Guo could also fall into this “meet cute” area.  Any man that has fantasies about a woman that takes his temperature can’t be a Mr. Wrong, right?

GraceLand, written and directed by Bonnie Discepolo

The final four shorts to keep watch for are a bit of a jumbled bunch but I think will be worth seeking out if you can find the time. A Syrian FBI informant is put into a desperate situation in No Longer Suitable For Use, directed and written by Julian Joslin. This is another title I could see being an early one to play the long game on its road to the Oscar ceremony.  Something about the plot seems on target to me.  I think the relationship between a bumbling carjacker and his kindly victim in Jon Huertas’s Two Jacked, sounds like twisted fun.  What else sounds fun right about now?  The chance to hear some Elvis in early June, courtesy of writer/director Bonnie Discepolo’s GraceLand, starring the great Anna Camp as a mother to a daughter that thinks she is the reincarnation of The King.  Lastly, the high-school dropout planning to rob her drug dealer in Molly Robber, directed and written by Austin Hall and Zach Visvikis gives the film the whiff of a tightly wound crime nugget and I’m more than ready for it. 

Animation

Simply by process of elimination as I went through the list, I found that I wasn’t left with a lot of animated titles, though that could change as the festival kicks off and I hear the good buzz about certain premieres.  For now, I’m setting my sights first and foremost on Namoo from writer/director Erick Oh.  Nominated for an Oscar just this past year for his captivating short Opera, Oh is back with this poem brought to life as a tribute to his grandfather.  Could Oh nab a nom two years running?

Namoo written and directed by Erick Oh

Even though I’m slightly wary of owls (ok, they freak me out), I’ll make an exception for the baby owl in Try to Fly, who, when inexplicably pushed from her nest, experiences an entire life flash before her eyes. For a darker tale, we turn to director Jeff Sher’s Dirty Little Secret, a retelling of The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 through song and animation.  How about even darker?  You got it!  I also have Death and the Lady, directed, written, and produced by Geoff Bailey & Lucy Struever on my list.  This one has Death itself visiting an elderly woman and her faithful canine companion on a rainy evening.   Perhaps ending things with Blush, written and directed by Joe Mateo will send you out on a lighter note.  This looks like a just lovely animated film following an astronaut crash landing on a barren planet…and the visitor that soon arrives.

Blush, written and directed by Joe Mateo

You aren’t tired after the Feature Film category, are you?  We still have Tribeca at Home to explore!

Tribeca 2021 Preview – Feature Film

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Originally founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, and Craig Hatkoff to kickstart the once-thriving neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, the Tribeca Film Festival has grown year after year into a multi-week event that’s about more than just movies.  While 2021’s fest will be slightly scaled back due to more cautiously optimistic panning at the outset, there’s still plenty to keep people busy both in NY and virtually June 9 – 20.

To mark the high achievement of their 20th year holding the festival, the organizers of Tribeca have pulled together a massive list of titles for their feature film division across a wide spectrum.  Over 3,000 films were submitted, and the final list was (at the time of this writing) down to 66, with some holdovers from the postposed 2020 festival. It’s nice to read in the press notes for the festival that more than 60% of the films this year are directed by women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ filmmakers, voices from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in film.  Giving them a platform like this where their movie could gain wider distribution if it plays well is just the thing that keeps our film community advancing in the right direction. 

For this special year, Tribeca is going the extra mile with something completely new, a community screening program in all five boroughs of NYC in indoor and outdoor spaces.  Great effort has obviously been made to accommodate everyone no matter where the comfort level is as we all slowly emerge from our year in lockdown.

The three main lineups that I’m following and will be previewing for you are Feature Film, Shorts, and Virtual and while this won’t be representative of all the titles available at the fest (check out Tribeca’s website for all the info on titles and tickets) it will give you an idea of how to navigate the options open to you.

Like I said above, this bucket covers a wide range of film and film styles and a number of these will only be available to screen if you attend the fest in person.  Check the website for full details as screenings through Tribeca at Home may be added but if something piques your interest, do what I do and keep a notebook handy so you can make sure to watch for it in the future.

Any time I am faced with a long list of movies to choose from I tend to always look for two categories first, documentary and horror/thrillers. These are often the films that can emerge from festivals with a warm glow of buzz surrounding them, and I’m already hearing good things about Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, Morgan Neville’s documentary about the late superstar chef Anthony Bourdain.  Neville is an Oscar winning documentarian and Bourdain, though a complicated man in life and death, is a dynamic screen presence so expect this one to hit big.  On my radar is also Dan Chen’s documentary Accepted, concerning an elite prep school with a solid reputation that crumbles after a NY Times article shatters public perception.  

a-ha the Movie, directed and written by Thomas Robsahm

If you like celebrity documentaries, there are three that I think might be fun ones to get in line for. a-ha the Movie charts the career of the Norwegian synth-pop band who had several massive hits and even landed a coveted James Bond theme song.  The wild life of a funk legend and music icon is explored in Sacha Jenkin’s BITCHIN’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James and Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story, from director Laura Fairrie, goes between the pages of the life of the glamorous novelist of lusty fiction

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story from director Laura Fairrie

Fans of the arts will get their cups filled with documentaries on world-famous choreographer Alvin Ailey (Ailey, directed by Jamila Wignot) and Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno (Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, directed by Mariem Pérez Riera) while lovers of the written word should consider checking out selections such as Suzanne Joe Kai’s Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres focused on the Rolling Stone writer and editor and Vivian Kleiman’s No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics, following five LGBTQ+ comic book artists as they rise from obscurity to international fame.

Finally, there are three that might wind up being sleeper hits based on their content and appeal to crowds on the ground.  The Scars of Ali Boulala, directed by Max Eriksson introduces us to Swedish skateboarding prodigy Ali Boulala “through the DIY videos and fast-paced lifestyle of his coming-of-age in the ’90s skating scene.” The trailer for CJ Hunt’s The Neutral Ground sold me on it, though I already know I’ll be wincing at some of the conversations he’ll have as the comedian explores the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans, leading to a deeper look into the history of the Confederacy. Evan Mascagni’s Building a Bridge feels like a film with a message we could all use right now, profiling a NY priest attempting to bring the Catholic Church and LGBTQ+ community together.

Ultrasound, directed by Rob Schroeder

Documentary not your thing?  What about something a little more on the scary/nervy side of the aisle?

Shapeless, directed by Samantha Aldana

I’m keeping an eye on Shapeless, directed by Samantha Aldana.  Written by a husband-and-wife team that also star, this looks like a scary little bit of body horror using an eating disorder as a jumping off point. Director/writer Jim Cummings is building a nice following with his quirky and dark films and The Beta Test, about a Hollywood talent agent that lives to regret a steamy sexual encounter appears to be another feather in his cap.  The preview reveals more of a comedic slant but Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within, could be winning Agatha Christie-esque thriller…plus it has a great cast. I’m also listening closely for early word on the creepy Ultrasound, directed by Rob Schroeder, revenge thriller Catch the Fair One, written and directed Josef Kubota Wladyka and executive produced by Darren Aronofsky, and We Need To Do Something, directed by Sean King O’Grady, about a family weathering the aftermath of a tornado unaware something worse is out to get them.

Werewolves Within, directed by Josh Ruben

Bridging the gap between horror and drama are films like God’s Waiting Room, from writer/director Tyler Riggs about dangerous lives intersecting in Florida and director Lauren Hadaway’s The Novice featuring Isabel Fuhrman as a college freshman who becomes obsessed with achieving top status on her university’s rowing team.  Count on hearing about Amber Sealey’s No Man of God in some form after Tribeca concludes.  Not only is it another film about Ted Bundy (this time about his conversations with FBI investigator Bill Hagmaier) but because it stars Elijah Wood.

God’s Waiting Room, written and directed by Tyler Riggs

If you’re looking for stars, check out the cast list for With/In: Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Sanaa Lathan, Rebecca Hall, Rosie Perez, Emily Mortimer, Alessandro Nivola, Debra Winger, Arliss Howard, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Gina Gershon – just some of the names of the writer/directors/stars who made short films on their iPhones during last year’s quarantine, tasked with turning their lockdown into something freeing.  That’s followed up with another pandemic-filmed, cameo-laden effort, How It Ends, directed and written by Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones, but this one has a more comedic tale to tell. Another feature in a similar vein but told entirely through video calls and digital diaries detailing the ups and downs of lockdown is as of yet, directed by Chanel James & Taylor Garron.

as of yet, directed by Chanel James & Taylor Garron

The remaining titles all focus on the human relationships and the funny/sad/dramatic/happy ways they shape our daily lives. In Mark, Mary & Some Other People, writer/director Hannah Marks follows two newlyweds through some unexpected turbulence, revealing more truths than they had originally known about each other.  Director Andrew Gaynord’s All My Friends Hate Me, invites us along on an awkward birthday weekend for Pete and his college crew. The Columbus, OH music scene and a tricky mentorship is the setting for Ori Segev & Noah Dixon’s Poser. Will audiences hail the Queen of Glory, directed and written by Nana Mensah with central character Sarah, a Ghanaian American reevaluating her future plans when a tragedy at home shifts her priorities?

Wild Men (Vildmænd), directed by Thomas Daneskov

Travel the world a bit and venture toward Ayten Amin’s Souad, featuring an Egyptian university student struggling with the duality of her traditional family life and more free-spirited peers – which sounds similar in theme to Geeta Malik’s India Sweets and Spices. Hear the call of the Wild Men (Vildmænd), in Thomas Daneskov’s Norwegian comedy about a man who seeks purpose by emulating a strange historical character.  Star Essie Davis has been on the cusp of a breakout role for several years now, could The Justice of Bunny King, directed by Gaysorn Thavat, help her crash through as a woman attempting to gain back her estranged children?  Writer/director Ziyang Zhou travels to a dinosaur theme park in the Inner Mongolian desert for his drama Wu hai and wine is on the menu for the Australian entry Blind Ambition, directed by Robert Coe following four Zimbabwean men who form their country’s first Wine Tasting Olympics team.

Perfume de Gardenias, directed by Macha Colón

Three final films to pay attention to would be Oscar-nominee Vanessa Kirby’s newest film, Italian Studies, directed and written by Adam Leon.  I don’t know much about this one, but it sounds like something an indie distributor (or Netflix) would like to get their hands on. I’m also encouraged by the press materials for Macha Colón’s Perfume de Gardenias concerning an elderly Colombian woman’s talent for creating the perfect funeral…and the lengths to which the town biddies will exploit it.  Finally, I must confess that I’ve already seen 12 Mighty Orphans, directed by Ty Roberts, and it’s very good.  It’s the true story of the Depression-era football team the Mighty Mites, made up of players from a Fort Worth orphanage.  This one will sneak up on you.

So, you see…lots to choose from and we haven’t even gotten to the Shorts or the Tribeca At Home options even!  Have you bought your pass yet??