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2:00 PM on 08.22.2013

Review: Una Noche

With every film festival I've ever been to, there is always at least one movie about the plight of a male/female protagonist(s) (X) from an impoverished spanish speaking country (Y) using a certain mode of transportation...

Andres Bolivar


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Review: Off Label photo
Review: Off Label
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Off Label is not for the faint of heart. There's nothing about the use of prescription drugs for off-label purposes that strikes me as particularly disturbing to watch, and there isn't. It's the cursory things that the film decides to show and tell. It's the pictures of blown off faces as a result from the Iraq war and the story about the son who slit himself open with a box cutter as a result of a pharmaceutical study. These things are not necessary, but they do exist.

As interesting as the topic at hand is, the way it's presented is occasionally distressing and frequently depressing. Consider yourself warned.

[This review was originally published as part of our 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the limited theatrical release of the film.]

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Review: Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie photo
Review: Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie
by Hubert Vigilla

I was only eight years old when Morton Downey Jr. was at the height of his popularity (roughly 1988-1989). It would be at least another five years before I got into Downey's protégés like Richard Bey and Jerry Springer. I wouldn't even know who Downey was until roughly college.

As a figure of sensation and self-promotion, Downey is fascinating. His abrasive style is fun to watch and yet frightening at the same time. It's a rampage of chain-smoking rage and absolute narcissism, fueled by a rowdy pack of rabid New Jersey meatheads in the audience. He was the unironic ancestor of Stephen Colbert in some ways, a pre-Papa Bear built off the stylings of Joe Pyle and Wally George and promoted with the savvy of MTV's heyday.

Downey was a much more complicated man than his TV persona let on. That's what Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie sets out to show, with varying degrees of success.

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the limited theatrical release of the film.]

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Review: Caroline and Jackie photo
Review: Caroline and Jackie
by Hubert Vigilla

There was a moment during our interview with Adam Christian Clark, Bitsie Tulloch, and Marguerite Moreau that caught me by surprise. Tulloch began to tear up when talking about a key scene at the end of Caroline and Jackie. Without giving anything away, she said that the scene still felt real to her. There was a little quaver in her voice as she said this, the sort of spontaneous reaction that's hard to fake.

Caroline and Jackie is Clark's first feature film. He's got a background in reality television and a major love for the work of John Cassavettes. (Oddly, I think Cassavettes movies feel more real than reality television.) Tulloch's sudden emotion made a lot of sense. Caroline and Jackie feels real in a complicated way, even when things happen that seem unpredictable. It's just the nature of family.

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical and VOD release.]

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Interview: The director and stars of Caroline and Jackie photo
Interview: The director and stars of Caroline and Jackie
by Hubert Vigilla

Caroline and Jackie is the debut feature from writer/director Adam Christian Clark. It centers around two sisters with a troubled history: Jackie (Bitsie Tulloch of Grimm) and Caroline (Marguerite Moreau of Wet Hot American Summer). What starts out as a pleasant dinner with friends becomes a night of intense emotional strife. It brings down both the sisters as well as some of Jackie's friends. The film's all about family, and how you can stick to someone so closely even when they're clearly distraught.

I had a chance to sit down with Clark, Tulloch, and Moreau the day after the film's world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. While Clark's background in reality television informs the film, there's a palbable John Cassavettes influence as well. After talking a bit about the fun he had at Fantastic Fest and the Alamo Drafthouse opening in New York, I started the interview with the obvious question.

Look for our review of Caroline and Jackie tomorrow.

[This review was originally posted as part of our 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]

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Review: Graceland photo
Review: Graceland
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I have a lot of trouble writing reviews about certain kinds of movies. It's not that I can't think of things to say or formulate some sort of general opinion. It's because the subject matter that the films deal with are very difficult to write about. Graceland is one of those movies, and this is one of those reviews.

Graceland is a film about the trafficking of child prostitutes. It's a disturbing subject matter that makes watching certain parts of the film really unpleasant to watch. That doesn't mean it's not worth watching (it is), but it means that any recommendations that I give come with a number of caveats.

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical. Graceland is also available on VOD.]

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Review: Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal photo
Review: Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
by Hubert Vigilla

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal.]

Immediately when I saw the title Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, I wanted to see it. I didn't even care of it was a non sequitur. Some names just have a certain ring to them.

The movie delivers in the Eddie department and the sleepwalking cannibal department. It also tries to be something more: a dark splatter-comedy, a misfit buddy picture, and a send-up of tortured artists and the art world. It's a bit of a mulligan stew -- a dish made of meat, potatoes, vegetables, small art schools, and people.

What's odd is that even though Eddie has so much absurdity and kookiness going for it, it doesn't push one of its key elements far enough. It's tasty when it's tasty, but one of those ingredients in the stew is undercooked, and it's not the human flesh that Eddie enjoys at night.

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Review: Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey photo
Review: Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey
by Hubert Vigilla

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical/VOD release of Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey.]

Sometimes I feel bad about using the adjective "feel good." Whenever I hear the phrase "feel good movie," it immediately conjures up images of treacly, saccharine, unsatisfying dreck that deals in cliches and simple, familiar comforts. But Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey is a feel-good movie in a good way.

It's the unlikely tale of Arnel Pineda, the new lead singer of Journey, who was discovered on YouTube. I didn't even realize Journey had a new lead singer, though to be fair, I'm casual fan at best, and don't really follow news on Steve Perry. (And by casual Journey fan, I mean I will sing along with "Don't Stop Believin'" or "Any Way You Want It" if I hear it in a bar.)

If the movie deals in any sorts of familiar comforts, it's the kind that are inspirational because they are improbable: Cinderella stories, Horatio Alger stories, local boy makes good stories. This is the stuff that arena rock dreams are made of.

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Review: Future Weather photo
Review: Future Weather
by Hubert Vigilla

[This review was originally posted as part of our 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of Future Weather.]

Sometimes you see a movie that blends several elements that are seemingly disparate. In Future Weather, there is a generational family story, and also a coming of age story, and also a bit of global warming awareness, and maybe even a call for more involvement in the sciences from young people.

Ideally you want all of these disparate elements to play off each other, creating this network of greater meaning and enhanced significance. By the end, you should see some comingling and connection that enlarges each element. Future Weather doesn't quite connect the links, and they hover as their own separate points of interest. It feels striated rather than emulsified, a parfait of personal drama and social advocacy.

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Review: In Their Skin photo
Review: In Their Skin
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival back when it was called Replicas. Aside from the header image, headline change, and the addition of a rather spoiler-heavy trailer, the review is unchanged. Sorry for the confusion.]

I can't remember the last time I felt as physically uncomfortable as when I was watching Replicas. My muscles tensed up early in the film, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't calm down them until the credits rolled. Usually when I feel uncomfortable while watching a movie, I pause it and give myself a moment. In a theater, that was not an option. So I just had to sit and suffer while the tension built.

And built.

And built. 

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Review: The Revisionaries photo
Review: The Revisionaries
by Hubert Vigilla

[This review was originally posted as part of our 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the wider theatrical release of the film.]

The Revisionaries is a documentary that made me angry in the way it was intended to. I remember following the Texas Board of Education textbook story as it was unfolding, and was outraged by the ideological muck-up spearheaded by Don McLeroy, a member of the board. The repercussions of their actions will affect education in Texas and other states for at least a decade.

The whole argument stemmed from a desire for supposed balance, that intellectually bankrupt idea that there is always validity to both sides of an issue. (Only dunces think both sides of an issue are equally valid at all times, or that there are always only two sides to every issue.) It's the same reasoning used to force intelligent design into science classes, and results in a site like Conservapedia, the conservative version of Wikipedia.

So in the interest of fairness and balance, here are both sides of something I learned from The Revisionaries. On the one hand, Don McLeroy is a cretin. But on the other hand, Don McLeroy's a cretin who is sincere in his backward beliefs.

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Review: Chicken with Plums photo
Review: Chicken with Plums
by Hubert Vigilla

[This review was originally posted as part of our 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the wider theatrical release of the film.]

Chicken with Plums reteams Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, the duo behind 2007's animated adaptation of Persepolis. The new film is also based on one of Satrapi's graphic novels, though the vast majority of the movie is live-action. Maybe live-action cartoon is the best description.  I haven't read Chicken with Plums, but there was at least one major change in this adaptation: Nasser-Ali Khan plays the violin in the film rather than the tar. (A tar is a Persian lute.)

Perhaps the violin gives the movie an international feel. It's an instrument more people are familiar with, and its sound has a certain versatility -- you can do light and happy on a violin as well as heavy and sad. The violin may be just the right instrument for the movie because Chicken with Plums hops back and forth between highs and lows with a lot of beauty and a nimble kind of whimsy. It's sort of like a chronically depressed Jeunet/Caro film -- Amélie on suicide watch.

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Review: Searching for Sugar Man photo
Review: Searching for Sugar Man
by Hubert Vigilla

[This review was originally posted as part of our 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the wider theatrical release of the film.]

The old joke about obscure musicians is that they're big in Japan. Rodriguez was a no-hit wonder who released only two albums. They got good reviews but no one cared; his music -- think Bob Dylan by way of the Detroit sound -- was ahead of its time and hence forgotten in its time.

Legend had it that Rodriguez died during a bad show. He either OD'd during a song, shot himself between numbers, or drenched himself in gas and self-immolated on stage. It's the stuff of obscure rock and roll mythology; too unreal to be true, but it fit the persona of this shadowy figure who was brilliant and ignored. What better way to go out if you're a musician?

The thing is, the rock and roll legends aren't always true, even for people so obscure they aren't even big in Japan. Rodriguez was big in South Africa. As director Malik Bendjelloul mentioned in our interview yesterday, this was the great story he'd been looking for. Enter Searching for Sugar Man.

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Flixclusive Interview: Searching for Sugar Man's director photo
Flixclusive Interview: Searching for Sugar Man's director
by Hubert Vigilla

[This interview was originally posted as part of our 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the wider theatrical release of Searching for Sugar Man.]

Malik Bendjelloul may be the most enthusiastic person I've interviewed, and there's good reason for it. His debut feature film, Searching for Sugar Man, has been getting rave reviews and been a crowd favorite on the festival circuit. The documentary is about the mostly forgotten musician Rodriguez. His two albums from the 1970s sounded a little like Bob Dylan by way of Detroit. They sold very little in the United States, yet years later and without him knowing it, Rodriguez became a major hit in South Africa.

Before sitting down with Bendjelloul, I got to watch Rodriguez play a solo set. Even in front of a seated crowd in the brightness of daylight, he's still got swagger. He should have been a big star -- he may yet become one. (Since seeing the film, both Cold Fact and Coming From Reality have been on steady rotation.) While I spoke to Bendjelloul in a small meeting room, Rodriguez was just outside under a stairway conducting a few select interviews. Periodically, both Bendjelloul and I would look out the glass at him in admiration.

Look for our review of Searching for Sugar Man tomorrow.

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Review: Mansome photo
Review: Mansome
by Andres Bolivar

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical release.]

As Flixist's mustachioed malcontent, I take certain pride in my looks (or rather, my "swag"). With my Colombian heritage giving me the curse of abnormal facial hair/body hair/a unibrow, I'm left with no option but to take part in the culture of manscaping. Do I feel shame every time I take scissors to my chest hair or shave the lower half of my leg just to be able to see my tattoo? Absolutely ... and as far as I was concerned, I was doomed to hold this deep dark secret within me for the rest of my life.

When I heard that Morgan Spurlock was tackling the topic of male vanity and the culture of manhood with Mansome, I felt relief that I may finally have the answers/support that I have been seeking. Am I able to be a bearded man's man who wears flannel and eat slabs of meat while shaving myself like an asexual marshmallow at a vegan restaurant? Am I able to maintain my masculinity while primping myself into the handsome journalist you see before you? Also, how did Morgan Spurlock sprout that wonderful handle bar mustache? Did he kill a mythical ox for that ability?

All those answers and more in this review.

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Tribeca Film Festival 2012: Flixist Awards and Recap photo
Tribeca Film Festival 2012: Flixist Awards and Recap
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

For the past few weeks, we here at Flixist have brought you what is most certainly the best film festival coverage that has ever happened ever. Between Hubert, Dre, and I, we saw and reviewed 34 movies at/from this year's Tribeca Film Festival. That's more than one-third of the entire festival. The three of us. You know what that is? That's awesome.

Because we are awesome. And so were some of those many films that we saw, although not all of them. Films ranged the entire spectrum, from rage-inducing terribleness to mind-blowing amazingness. We didn't get to see everything, but we did one hell of a job.

And by "we," I mostly mean Hubert.

Anyways, keep reading for a recap of all of our crazy coverage as well as some festival awards of our own.

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Tribeca Review: Supporting Characters photo
Tribeca Review: Supporting Characters
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]

When a movie tries to tell a story about filmmakers, it puts itself between a rock and a hard place. There are obviously many legitimate and interesting stories that can be told about people who make movies, but as soon as I hear that the movie is about movies, even peripherally, I begin to pay attention to the small things even more closely. Imperfections in audio leveling and continuity go from being things that I notice to things that I actively look for. When the movie is not only about making movies but editing them, I look even harder. 

So I looked hard at Supporting Characters, and what I saw was far from perfect. But it sure was funny.

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Tribeca Review: Nancy, Please photo
Tribeca Review: Nancy, Please
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]

There is something inherently weird about psychodramas. Trying to delve in the psychology of a character seems like a fool's errand, especially in 90 minutes or less. But even so, it can't hurt to try. Nancy, Please makes an honest effort to justify the mental deterioration of its protagonist and simultaneously keep the audience from getting too alienated.

But is it successful? Well... kind of.

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Tribeca Review: Knuckleball photo
Tribeca Review: Knuckleball
by Hubert Vigilla

[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]

I feel like I'm not necessarily the best judge of Knuckleball! because I don't watch baseball. I've been to a few games and had good times, but just don't care for it on television. I do like sports documentaries regardless the sport, however, which is what drew me to the film. I like stories about oddballs and goofs, the idea of supposed fluke stars looking for some respect through hard work, improbable successes and chance occurrence; I love heroes who are palookas and ham-and-eggers and coulda-beens that find a way.

All of that is bundled up into what a knuckleball is, essentially: a ball without spin, slow but unpredictable. At one point the art of knuckleballing is described with real sportswriting panache: a knuckleball pitcher needs to have the fingers of a safe cracker and the mind of a Zen Buddhist. It's during those moments of unique insight that Knuckleball! was the most alive for me, the non-baseball fan.

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Tribeca Review: Beyond the Hill photo
Tribeca Review: Beyond the Hill
by Hubert Vigilla

[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]

Beyond the Hill is built on a lot of impending moments. There is paranoia and suspicion pervading the rural Turkish landscape. It's the sort of film where the amplified buzz of flies just can't be good, or the sudden fall of rocks could mean a dangerous encounter with nomadic people. There is the expectation of escalation, a tension that rises and rises until the sudden release, like a rubber band finally breaking after a slow and continual stretch.

Yet Beyond the Hill is less like an ascent up a mountain or a hill and more like a trek across a plain. There are some interesting bumps in the terrain, but I don't think that a few bumps are enough given what seemed to be at stake.

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Tribeca Review: As Luck Would Have It photo
Tribeca Review: As Luck Would Have It
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]

When people ask what I'm majoring in, I tell them that my school doesn't have majors. After they punch me in the face and tell me to stop being an ass, I tell them I'm concentrating in media studies. I think the media is amazing, and the way it is changing and has changed is fascinating. So it makes sense that I would like As Luck Would Have It. Although As Luck Would Have It doesn't deal with newer, social media, it is still relevant to any ongoing discussions about the impacts the media have.

So it's about a topic I love, but being about something interesting isn't enough. There needs to be something to back it up. Fortunately, As Luck Would Have It has something behind it. And it has that thing in spades.

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Flixclusive Interview: Director of Death of a Superhero photo
Flixclusive Interview: Director of Death of a Superhero
by Hubert Vigilla

[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]

Death of a Superhero played the last weekend of the Tribeca Film Festival. It's currently available on VOD and will be released in select cities over the next few months. I got a chance to speak with Ian Fitzgibbon, the director of the film, last Thursday afternoon. The publicist told me before heading in to meet him that he was a really nice guy, and she was right. He was smiling and thoughtful, and occasionally he'd look out the window at the gray city while constructing his thoughts.

When I stepped into the room, I immediately asked him how his festival experience had been so far. (It was something I asked everyone at the festival after the first weekend.) I assumed that he'd been in town for a few days already and had watched a few other movies. Maybe he'd gone to some parties.

"Very brief," he said. "I only arrived last night."

I was also surprised to learn that Fitzgibbon wouldn't be sticking around the city once the film premiered. "I'm going back [to the UK] tomorrow night," he said. "I start shooting a TV series on Monday."

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