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Jay Gammill’s
Free Samples
2012 Tribeca Film Festival
April 18-29, 2012
Various Venues in New York City

Screenwriter: Jim Beggarly.

Starring:: Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter, Halley Feiffer, Keir O’Donnell & Tippi Hedren.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Jillian is a fascinating creation in the hands of the uber-talented Jess Weixler in Jay Gammill’s hilarious, nasty and biting Free Samples. Weixler is one of the better indie actors working today and this performance should move her up the appreciation scale a few notches—despite the fact that she dares to play an angry, mean, slutty law school dropout.

I am going to guess that the same critics that groused about Charlize Theron’s character being unlikeable in Young Adult (costing her a deserved Oscar nomination) will probably also moan and bitch that Weixler’s Jillian is a detestable bitch. Most of these critics happen to be men who need their women either dumb and sexy or sweet and likeable…and sexy. God forbid there should be any sign of multifacetedness. I say: fuck them!

Cleverly penned by playwright Jim Beggarly, Free Samples opens with Jillian getting shitfaced in a bar with her BFF (Haley Feiffer) and two guys (Jason Ritter and Jesse Eisenberg). The next day, dealing with a horrific hangover, she must fill in for her BFF as a server in an ice cream truck giving away free samples to the potpourri of thundering loons in an L.A. suburb, including an aging actress played by 82-year-old Tippi Hedren.

Jillian is going through a life-crisis and this particular day proves quite cathartic. I can easiky forgive the contrivances since the journey is wicked fun and the payoff is fulfilling without being hackneyed and pat.

Weixler is the reason the film soars. Reminiscent of a young Goldie Hawn, she has perfect comic timing but is able to lace her role with just enough truth to allow us to care about her crisis.

Jason Ritter continues to show he’s terrific at clueless and quirky, in this case playing a scene--without pants--to great effect.

As for Hedren, she has an engrossing scene with Weixler where art may be imitating life—just how close only Hedren knows--but she handles it nicely, never overplaying. I was struck by how much Melanie Griffith (Hedren’s daughter) I saw in her mesmerizing face.

Jay Gammill’s impressive direction proves he is a newcomer to look out for.

Free Samples is a delight worth paying for.

Tickets for 2012 Tribeca Film Festival:

Tickets for the Festival will be $16.00 for evening and weekend screenings, and $8.00 for all late night and weekday matinee screenings.

Advance selection ticket packages and passes are now on sale for American Express Cardmembers, and go on sale Monday, March 12 for the general public. All advance selection packages and passes can be purchased online at www.tribecafilm.com/festival, or by telephone at (646) 502-5296 or toll free at (866) 941-FEST (3378).

Single ticket and discounted ticket package sales begin Tuesday, April 10 for American Express Cardmembers, Sunday, April 15 for downtown residents, and Monday, April 16 for the general public. Single tickets can be purchased online, by telephone, or at one of the Ticket Outlets, with locations at Tribeca Cinemas at 54 Varick Street, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea at 260 W. 23rd Street, and AMC Loews Village VII at 66 3rd Avenue. The 2012 Festival will continue offering ticket discounts for evening and weekend screenings for students, seniors and select downtown Manhattan residents. Discounted tickets are available at Ticket Outlet locations only. Discounted ticket packages can only be purchased online and by phone. Additional information and further details on the Festival can be found at www.tribecafilm.com.

About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival helps filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promote New York City as a major filmmaking center. It is well known for being a diverse international film festival that supports emerging and established directors.

Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center, to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of the lower Manhattan district through an annual celebration of film, music and culture, the Festival brings the industry and community together around storytelling.

The Tribeca Film Festival has screened more than 1,300 films from more than 80 countries since its first edition in 2002. Since inception, it has attracted an international audience of more than 3.7 million attendees and has generated an estimated $725 million in economic activity for New York City.



Lee Kirk’s
The Giant Mechanical Man
2012 Tribeca Film Festival
April 18-29, 2012
Various Venues in New York City


Screenwriter: Lee Kirk

Starring: Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, Malin Akerman, Lucy Punch, Rich Sommer, Bob Odenkirk, Topher Grace.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

In the first few minutes of Lee Kirk’s sweet and charming film, The Giant Mechanical Man, Janice (Jenna Fischer), a unique and quiet twentysomething, arrives late to her train station and begins asking various commuters if the train is running late—no one answers because they’re all too device-involved. But one gets the feeling that even if they weren’t already plugged-in, they’d pay little attention to Janice—since she is so different from the masses that follow the rules and live a paint-by-numbers existence.

Jenna encounters a giant mechanical man on the street and is fascinated by him. And she seems to be the only one. The GMM is Tim (Chris Messina), a Tin-man gray performance artist mime on gigantic stilts. Tim lives with his materialistic girlfriend (Lucy Punch, nice and bitchy) and is fairly miserable but doesn’t wake up to it until his gal dumps him.

Meanwhile, Janice has a pushy half sister (Malin Akerman) who, along with her whipped husband (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer) tries to fix her up with an egomaniacal self-help guru (Topher Grace effectively channeling Tom Cruise in Magnolia as well as every infomercial caricature on TV).

Both Janice and Tim take on jobs at a local zoo meet and begin a strangely believable courtship.

In his director’s statement, Lee Kirk said he posed the following question: “What if only one person understands your art?”

That notion is deftly, comically and cleverly probed in this indie-rom-com and even though we do get some contrived situations, forced moments and cliché characterizations—we also get a lovely portrait of two true individuals trying to find their way in the world.

Fischer and Messina are magic together. And Grace is hilariously unenlightened.

Writer/director Kirk is challenging ideas about what defines the norm and how people often tend to make assumptions about others based on their own reality. He also questions the idea that there is a certain way one should live their lives—some ridiculous blueprint that seems to only exist in the minds of those who are never truly comfortable in their own skin.

Tickets for 2012 Tribeca Film Festival:

Tickets for the Festival will be $16.00 for evening and weekend screenings, and $8.00 for all late night and weekday matinee screenings.

Advance selection ticket packages and passes are now on sale for American Express Cardmembers, and go on sale Monday, March 12 for the general public. All advance selection packages and passes can be purchased online at www.tribecafilm.com/festival, or by telephone at (646) 502-5296 or toll free at (866) 941-FEST (3378).

Single ticket and discounted ticket package sales begin Tuesday, April 10 for American Express Cardmembers, Sunday, April 15 for downtown residents, and Monday, April 16 for the general public. Single tickets can be purchased online, by telephone, or at one of the Ticket Outlets, with locations at Tribeca Cinemas at 54 Varick Street, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea at 260 W. 23rd Street, and AMC Loews Village VII at 66 3rd Avenue. The 2012 Festival will continue offering ticket discounts for evening and weekend screenings for students, seniors and select downtown Manhattan residents. Discounted tickets are available at Ticket Outlet locations only. Discounted ticket packages can only be purchased online and by phone. Additional information and further details on the Festival can be found at www.tribecafilm.com.

About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival helps filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promote New York City as a major filmmaking center. It is well known for being a diverse international film festival that supports emerging and established directors.

Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center, to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of the lower Manhattan district through an annual celebration of film, music and culture, the Festival brings the industry and community together around storytelling.

The Tribeca Film Festival has screened more than 1,300 films from more than 80 countries since its first edition in 2002. Since inception, it has attracted an international audience of more than 3.7 million attendees and has generated an estimated $725 million in economic activity for New York City.




Andrew Semans’s
Nancy, Please

2012 Tribeca Film Festival
April 18-29, 2012
Various Venues in New York City

Written by Andrew Semans.

Starring: Will Rogers, Eleonore Hendricks, Rebecca Lawrence, Santino Fontana

84 min.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Nancy, Please is an absorbing account of what happens when a weak-willed person comes in contact with a bully. In this case the bully is Nancy (Eleonore Hendricks) the balls-out bitch ex-roommate of our too-docile protagonist, Paul (Will Rogers).

Paul is PHD-candidate at Yale working on a dissertation involving Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit. He has just moved in with his girlfriend, Jen (Rebecca Lawrence), and out of the house he shared with good ol’ Nancy. Paul soon realizes he’s left his copy of the Dickens classic at Nancy’s—whom—initially through dialogue we learn is not the sweetest person in the world. And once we do meet her we realize she’s a moody monster seemingly bent on driving Paul nuts—refusing to give him the book.

“You’re stupid and obnoxious and you’re gonna die alone,” Paul screeches during one of his many altercations with Nancy. But no matter how forceful he wants to be with her he always ends up completely under her cunning control.

As things escalate, Paul becomes obsessed with seeking revenge on his former mate.

Nancy, Please is Andrew Semans’ first feature and he proves to have a knack for creepy- thriller filmmaking. He has fashioned a psychological study of the dark natures lurking in all of us--how certain behavior will trigger varying and sometimes lunatic responses.

Newcomer Will Rogers (so good off-Broadway in Unnatural Acts) delivers a rich, sometimes infuriating, always fascinating portrayal of a guy completely unraveling before our eyes.

And Henricks is the ultimate enigma—giving us just the right amount of clues to who Nancy is without ever making us feel comfortable—she lets us in just long enough to jolt us away. This is no one-dimensional demon, although the best word to describe her begins with a ‘c’ and is still the biggest profanity no-no.

You will feel quite uneasy after seeing Nancy, Please. You will also feel a great rush!



 


Daniel Schechter’s
Supporting Characters
2012 Tribeca Film Festival
April 18-29, 2012
Various Venues in New York City

Screenwriter: Written by Daniel Schechter & Tarik Lowe.

Starring: Alex Karpovsky, Tarik Lowe, Kevin Corrigan, Melonie Diaz, Sophia Takal, Arielle Kebbel.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Daniel Schechter’s Supporting Characters is yet another indie film about making indie films. What separates it from most in the growing subgenre is its bleak and negative take—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it isn’t necessarily a good thing either.

Nick (Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (co-writer Tarik Lowe) are film editors working on a mess of a movie that no one seems to like or understand. The director (Kevin Corrigan, perfectly milquetoast) is deliberately absent from most of the process, leaving our protagonists to attempt to cut together something watchable. Both Nick and Darryl have stormy relationships with their respective girlfriends (Sophia Takal and Melonie Diaz, neither giving more than one-dimensional performances). Nick finds himself attracted to the sexy leading lady (a terrifically seductive Arielle Kebbel), while Darryl deals with his own issues.

The script wants to be clever and have satiric bite and it succeeds half the time. Unfortunately, during the other half, the film just sits there. And the fact that most of the performances are dull and devoid of nuances doesn’t help.

The best and most intriguing turn is by Lowe who is sweet and quite vulnerable as Darryl. His is the only real and fully-rounded performance.

To their credit Schechter and Lowe do have some interesting insights to share about the filmmaking process as well as relationships and how the success or failure can often be quite paradoxical—one person may feel happy while the other is miserable. But the whiny and self-indulgent ways most of the characters act and interact—while sometimes realistic--can also be a turn off.

Tickets for 2012 Festival:

Tickets for the Festival will be $16.00 for evening and weekend screenings, and $8.00 for all late night and weekday matinee screenings.

Advance selection ticket packages and passes are now on sale for American Express Cardmembers, and go on sale Monday, March 12 for the general public. All advance selection packages and passes can be purchased online at www.tribecafilm.com/festival, or by telephone at (646) 502-5296 or toll free at (866) 941-FEST (3378).

Single ticket and discounted ticket package sales begin Tuesday, April 10 for American Express Cardmembers, Sunday, April 15 for downtown residents, and Monday, April 16 for the general public. Single tickets can be purchased online, by telephone, or at one of the Ticket Outlets, with locations at Tribeca Cinemas at 54 Varick Street, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea at 260 W. 23rd Street, and AMC Loews Village VII at 66 3rd Avenue. The 2012 Festival will continue offering ticket discounts for evening and weekend screenings for students, seniors and select downtown Manhattan residents. Discounted tickets are available at Ticket Outlet locations only. Discounted ticket packages can only be purchased online and by phone. Additional information and further details on the Festival can be found at www.tribecafilm.com.

About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival helps filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promote New York City as a major filmmaking center. It is well known for being a diverse international film festival that supports emerging and established directors.

Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center, to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of the lower Manhattan district through an annual celebration of film, music and culture, the Festival brings the industry and community together around storytelling.

The Tribeca Film Festival has screened more than 1,300 films from more than 80 countries since its first edition in 2002. Since inception, it has attracted an international audience of more than 3.7 million attendees and has generated an estimated $725 million in economic activity for New York City.



Lynn Shelton’s
Your Sister’s Sister
2012 Tribeca Film Festival
April 18-29, 2012
Various Venues in New York City

Screenwriter: Lynn Shelton.

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt, Mark Duplass, Mike Birbiglia.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Lynn Shelton’s somewhat improvisational new comedy, Your Sister’s Sister is a refreshing indie gem that should put a wide 90-minute smile on your face.

The bare-bones plot surrounds Jack (Mark Duplass) who lost his brother, Tom, a year ago, but is still an emotional wreck. His best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt)—who also happens to be Tom’s ex--suggests he bike over to her remote family cabin (on an island in Washington state) to sort himself out.

Jack reluctantly agrees and upon his arrival, meets Iris’ half sister, Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt), who has just ended a seven-year relationship with a woman and has gone to the cabin to lick her wounds. After a near catastrophic beginning, Jack and Hannah booze-up, bond and Jack—thinking it’s safe—flirts with her. The two end up having an awkward sexual encounter. The next morning Iris arrives on the scene and Jack begs Hannah to not tell Iris about their liaison. We soon learn that Jack and Iris are both hiding something. And so is Hannah.

Shelton has crafted a smart and incisive narrative where secrets are revealed and it isn’t the surprise that matters as much as the way the characters react. It’s also bracing to see a depiction of sisters who truly love one another despite their differences.

Shelton allows her scenes to breathe and that allows the audience to really get to know all three characters based on what they’re saying and, often, what they’re not saying. As a matter of fact the film is made up of very few scenes and limited cuts. How daring for a filmmaker working today and knowing attention spans are at an all time low…oh, what was I typing? Sorry I had to answer a text…you get my meaning!

The trio of actors is what makes the film so extraordinary--always engaging, fascinating to watch--showing us little glimpses into their thoughts and feelings usually via a subtle facial expression. Duplass walks the fine schlub line without ever veering into done-to-death-annoying Seth Rogen territory. His Jack is in pain and Duplass isn’t afraid to show it. Dewitt is a wonder. Her face registers so much, often showing us a host of contradictory emotions. She is one of indie film’s top talents and this performance should be remembered at year’s end. Blunt, as always, is an absolute delight and matches her scene partners effortlessly.

According to the press notes, Mark Duplass came up with the story idea and the script was collaborative with “vast swaths of the film, completely improvised.” All I can say is kudos to Shelton for casting her film to perfection and directing with confidence and generosity.

Your Sister’s Sister is one of 2012’s best films to date and has most satisfying ending of any film since The Descendants.

Tickets for 2012 Festival:

Tickets for the Festival will be $16.00 for evening and weekend screenings, and $8.00 for all late night and weekday matinee screenings.

Advance selection ticket packages and passes are now on sale for American Express Cardmembers, and go on sale Monday, March 12 for the general public. All advance selection packages and passes can be purchased online at www.tribecafilm.com/festival, or by telephone at (646) 502-5296 or toll free at (866) 941-FEST (3378).

Single ticket and discounted ticket package sales begin Tuesday, April 10 for American Express Cardmembers, Sunday, April 15 for downtown residents, and Monday, April 16 for the general public. Single tickets can be purchased online, by telephone, or at one of the Ticket Outlets, with locations at Tribeca Cinemas at 54 Varick Street, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea at 260 W. 23rd Street, and AMC Loews Village VII at 66 3rd Avenue. The 2012 Festival will continue offering ticket discounts for evening and weekend screenings for students, seniors and select downtown Manhattan residents. Discounted tickets are available at Ticket Outlet locations only. Discounted ticket packages can only be purchased online and by phone. Additional information and further details on the Festival can be found at www.tribecafilm.com.

About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival helps filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promote New York City as a major filmmaking center. It is well known for being a diverse international film festival that supports emerging and established directors.

Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center, to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of the lower Manhattan district through an annual celebration of film, music and culture, the Festival brings the industry and community together around storytelling.

The Tribeca Film Festival has screened more than 1,300 films from more than 80 countries since its first edition in 2002. Since inception, it has attracted an international audience of more than 3.7 million attendees and has generated an estimated $725 million in economic activity for New York City.


 


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