By: Rob Perez –
(ALL FILM DESCRIPTIONS COURTESY OF TRIBECAFILM.COM)
So Movieboozer.com was once again granted a most sought after credential for the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. And we’re happy to report, this year’s crop of indie films, documentaries, even TV series was the best crop of films the festival has shown in the four years we’ve been covering the festivals. With popcorn and soda at hand, we watched over a hundred hours’ worth of great films (with a few snoozes in between we gotta report). We caught celebrities such as Jessica Biel, Jeffrey Wright, Dustin Hoffman, and Kobe Bryant in post screening Q&A’s or taking part in roundtable discussions. Heck, we even got to see the reunion of the original cast of Reservoir Dogs at the film’s 25th anniversary screening, courtesy of the festival. Music played a big role in many of the documentaries we checked out, from documentaries that looked into the lives of Clive Davis, 80’s rock stars, and Whitney Houston, to Johnny Rotten.
The Tribeca Film Festival attracted audiences in droves, marking Tribeca 2017 as its most successful year yet, and the outlook for next year is looking strong with calls for more film submissions, greater press coverage, and more celebs coming to town to maybe take a selfie or two with the many fans that camped outside of theaters hoping to get a glimpse.
The list below is a partial list of films we checked out. While there were hundreds of films screened, we only profiled films we actually saw (with reviews of many of them to follow) and thought were worth telling our readers to check out when they arrive to a theater near you. So when you have the time, go give these films a look. Have your movie club card ready, a big tub of goodies, and have fun.
Better known as the Bayonne Bleeder, Chuck Wepner was a 70s-era heavyweight boxer with the ability to take a punch like no other, facing off in his career against Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and even an actual live bear. But despite his numerous wins, and even more numerous losses, the apex of his life story was serving as the real-life inspiration for a little film called Rocky. Played with flair and pathos by Liev Schreiber, Chuck is taken in by his own newfound celebrity, succumbing to an epic life of drugs, booze, and wild women, while struggling to maintain the only true relationships he’s known- with his no-nonsense wife (Elisabeth Moss) and a straight-talking local bartender (Naomi Watts) with whom he has an undeniable immediate spark. Philippe Falardeau’s Chuck is an entertaining chronicle of the rise and fall of this larger-than-life legend.
Vic Edwards (Burt Reynolds) was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, known of his mustachioed good looks and cocky swagger. With his Hollywood glory a distant memory, the now-octogenarian Vic begins reassessing his life with the passing of his beloved dog and the arrival of an invitation to receive a lifetime achievement award from the (fictional) International Nashville Film Festival. Intrigued by the promise of long-lost adulation, Vic accepts the offer. The festival, however, turns out to be very different from the glitz and glamour affair he expected, personified by his foul-mouthed, text-obsessed, punkish escort/driver for the weekend, Lil (Modern Family’s Ariel Winter). Humiliated but motivated to make the most of his time in his home state of Tennessee, Vic and a reluctant Lil take off for Knoxville on a road trip neither will soon forget. Utilizing archival footage from Reynold’s real-life filmography, and featuring sterling lead performances from the rakish icon and Winter, Adam Rifkin’s Dog Years is a funny and ultimately touching cross-generational comedy.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the popular narrative held that skateboarding was in its death throes, just another fad on the wane after the boom of the 1980s. But all of that changed with the founding of the influential underground magazine Big Brother. An irreverent, boundary-pushing breath of fresh air that spoke to skaters and non-skaters alike, nothing was out of bounds for Big Brother– which covered music, stunts, and nudity with as much gusto as skateboarding.
Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine is a fast-paced and entertaining chronicle of the rise and fall of the cult magazine, whose taboo-breaking stunts and unapologetically crass humor spawned MTV’s Jackass and a generation of skaters. Featuring a trove of original footage and interviews with the magazine’s major players, including Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, Steve-O, and Tony Hawk, Dumb is a stylish celebration of the lowbrow legacy of this touchstone of 90’s counterculture.
As the new millennium began, one news story captured the attention and hearts of nearly every American. On Thanksgiving 1999, a young Cuban boy named Elián González was found floating in the Florida Straits by himself after his mother drowned trying to seek refuge in the United States. Before long, the 5-year-old González became the centerpiece of an intense custody battle between his father back in Cuba and his relatives in Miami, which, in turn, brought attention to the long-brewing tensions between Fidel Castro’s Cuba and the U.S. Throughout the news coverage, though, one voice was too young to join the heated international conversation: that of Elián himself. Eighteen years later, in the wake of Fidel Castro’s monumental death last November, ELIÁN lets the now 23-year-old tell his story, along with the other key players, of one of the biggest news events in modern times. Executive produced by Alex Gibney, Tim Golden and Ross McDonnell use Elián’s intimate details as the jumping-off point for a powerfully relevant historical account.
As an NYPD officer in the late 60s and early 70s, Frank Serpico blew the whistle on the corruption and payoffs running rampant in the department, was shot in the face during a drug arrest, and most famously became the subject of Sidney Lumet’s classic film Serpico. Forty-plus years later, Serpico talks about his Southern Italian roots and upbringing, his time as an undercover officer, and his post-NYPD life in Europe and ultimately upstate New York. Adding their own recollections are his fellow officers, childhood friends, his West Side neighbors, and his admirers such as writer Luc Sante and actor John Turturro. With unprecedented access to its subject and augmented by original music by Jack White and an original score by Brendan Canty of Fugazi, Antonino D’Ambrosio creates a memorable, powerful portrait of an always-committed public servant who still walks the walk in his very own unique way.
Legendary comedian Gilbert Gottfried has had quite the career. Rocketing to fame in the 1980s, he was thrust into the public consciousness almost immediately thanks to his brash personality, unique worldview, and off-kilter comic timing. Now, foul-mouthed and unapologetic after decades of flying solo in both his work and in his personal life, Gilbert has shockingly reinvented himself… as a family man.
Director Neil Berkeley’s Gilbert reveals an unexpected side to the iconic comedian. The film peeks behind the larger-than-life persona at a more personal story about growing up in Brooklyn and becoming a husband and father late in life. Gottfried’s singular outlook on life and his ability to bring humor to even the darkest situations has, at times, gotten him into trouble. Still he soldiers on, an expert craftsman at bringing his audience to the edge (and sometimes pushing them over). Gilbert strips the comedic character away to reveal the man behind it. Berkeley allows the audience an intimate — even vulnerable — view of Gottfried out of character.
Every year, thousands of rape kits containing DNA evidence are left untested by police around the country. Over 175,000 kits have been uncovered to date, resting in backlogs and storage facilities, each of them an unsolved case. Currently, only eight states (Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York) have passed laws requiring that rape kits be tested by police. As a result, decades’ worth of kits have been shelved, perpetrators remaining free and victims ignored, the potentially crucial evidence left to languish.
Produced by Mariska Hargitay, I AM EVIDENCE takes an intimate look at this widespread problem and its consequences. By taking a step closer, it gives access to the reality that hides behind these daunting statistics. In victims’ accounts of their assaults and the serious consequences they suffer, we see the people behind the numbers. Shining through is the hope of a different future, brought to reality by the extraordinary efforts of people like prosecutor Kym Worthy to combat this issue. Not only have cases been solved, but perpetrators have been prosecuted and justice served.
With his bespoke suits and collection of Nixon memorabilia, political firebrand and noted eccentric Roger Stone has been a fixture of Republican politics since the 1970s, yet at the same time, Stone has always been an outsider to the political establishment. The youngest person called before the Watergate grand jury, Stone wears his notorious reputation (and his full-back Nixon tattoo) like a badge of honor. His candor in this timely and unexpectedly entertaining documentary opens the book even further on his proprietary brand of underhanded politicking. Despite its success, his strategy of confrontational (some would say “dirty”) politics was always publicly rejected by the Conservative mainstream. But now, with the shocking ascendancy of his longtime pet project Donald Trump (interviewed in the film), Stone — the ultimate political trickster — would likely say he was just ahead of his time.
Few images are seared into the American consciousness like the beating of Rodney King at the hands of four white Los Angeles police officers and the riots after the officers’ acquittal in the spring of 1992. The unrest, sparked by a verdict many viewed as yet another example of judicial indifference to law enforcement’s harassment of Los Angeles’s African American population, lasted for six days. The widespread looting, arson, and assaults were all captured by TV news and broadcast to a shocked nation. By the time the violence was quelled, more than fifty people had lost their lives and over $1 billion dollars in damage had been done to South Central Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Twenty-five years after the verdict, Academy Award®-winning directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin (Undefeated) draw on archival news images and unseen footage to craft an in-depth portrait of those riots and the tempestuous relationship between Los Angeles’s African American community and those charged with protecting it.
Before Jeffrey Dahmer became one of the most notorious serial killers of all time, he was a teenage loner. Conducting grisly experiments in a makeshift backyard lab, Jeff was invisible to most. That is until his increasingly bizarre behavior unexpectedly attracted friends. Based on the cult graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer chronicles the origins of the man. The monster. The high school senior.
Writer/director Marc Meyers adapts graphic novelist (and actual Dahmer classmate) Derf Backderf’s source material with a careful eye, presenting this origin story with a thoughtful approach and drawing remarkable work from his young cast. At the center of the film is a revelatory performance from former Disney® star Ross Lynch as the teenage Jeff, who lends unexpected dimension to his portrayal. Shot on location not just in Dahmer’s hometown, but also in his actual childhood home, the film nails the necessary period details with stunning accuracy. Meyers has crafted a unique biopic, entertaining the audience with a frighteningly compelling narrative while simultaneously presenting a nuanced snapshot of mental illness, the inherent desire for human interaction, and the perils of duplicitous friendship.
A Republican president takes office at the height of his Hollywood-powered, camera-ready fame. He governs with lenses constantly flashing, and claims that he’s just the public face in front of real policy-makers and dangerous global threats. That’s the story of America’s 40th president, Ronald Reagan. The movie star, known for playing cowboys and gun-toting heroes, took over the White House in 1981 and led the United States against Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s threats of war. Amidst the actual governing, though, Reagan’s presidency set a new standard for video documentation. Cameras followed Reagan’s every move, leading opposing pundits to accuse him of “majoring in public relations” more so than hardline presidential affairs.
Comprised entirely of archival footage taken during those pre-reality-television years, The Reagan Show is a highly entertaining and informative look at how Ronald Reagan redefined the look and feel of what it means to be the POTUS. Co-directors Pacho Velez and Sierra Pettengill’s film uncannily provides a fascinating precedent for the made-for-TV President.
New York native and Tribeca alum (Boulevard, TFF 2014) Dito Montiel heads out west with his hilarious satire, The Clapper, adapted from his novel of the same name. After the death of his wife, Eddie Krumble (Ed Helms) moves to Los Angeles looking for a fresh start and becomes a professional paid audience member for infomercials and other live studio tapings, with his best friend Chris (Tracy Morgan) at his side. Though struggling financially, Eddie seems to have finally caught a break as he forms a bond with comely gas station attendant Judy (Amanda Seyfried). But when Eddie’s many disguises and telegenic enthusiasm catch the eye of a notorious late night talk show host and his producer (Adam Levine), they turn Eddie’s life into the newest national obsession, threatening his budding romance with Judy. Montiel’s latest film is a charming and original romantic comedy for our modern, meme-obsessed moment.
A family is torn apart by an unthinkable crime: the brutal and seemingly unmotivated murder of a young girl by her teenage brother. At the center of the story is the beleaguered single mother Charity, now mother to a murdered child and the murderer himself- how does she move forward, and what kind of relationship can she forge with her now incarcerated son? Devastatingly honest, The Family I Had performs a family archaeology to understand not only this tragedy itself, but the generations of intra-family violence, mental illness, and unspoken secrets that preceded it. More than just an undeniably compelling true crime story, Katie Green & Carlye Rubin’s The Family I Had is a study in both the power and the limits of family, forgiveness, and filial love.
It asks the most basic questions about human existence, and the most complex. It demonstrates the simplest application of physics, and the most nuanced. The most unscientific aspect of its construction is also its most ethereal: the famed Golden Record. It blazed a trail beyond our solar system, a trail that won’t be followed by anyone in our lifetime. Voyager is a collection of paradoxes, least of all a masterpiece of ingenuity that has already become the first manmade object to journey into interstellar space.
With The Farthest, documentarian Emer Reynolds provides ample evidence that Voyager remains the most audacious project in human history, and one of humankind’s greatest successes. Through a rhapsodic collection of interviews, animations, photographs, and never-before-seen archival footage, she recreates the forty-five years it took the spacecraft to reach its current point in space, and the secrets it uncovered along the way. The enthusiastic men and women who built Voyager and nurtured it along its twelve-billion-mile flight (and counting) complete the film with fascinating behind-the-scenes stories. The Farthest is a joyful celebration of a golden age of American curiosity, exploration, and the will to look up at the sky and ask, “Why not?”