By Sean Boelman
Note: We at disappointment media do not support many of the decisions that the Tribeca Film Festival has made in regards to its treatment of the media during the 2021 edition. However, we also recognize the fact that the festival is an important launchpad for many films seeking distribution. As such, we will continue to cover films in the lineup, but will focus on the films themselves rather than the festival as a whole.
False Positive is a deeply unoriginal film with a script that borrows heavily from, if not entirely ripping off, better films. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of classic horror will be able to predict where the story is going from a mile away, and the fact that the film seems to think it is smart and subversive is, quite frankly, insulting. A decently eerie style from director John Lee and a devilishly fun performance from Pierce Brosnan are nowhere near enough to make up for this joyless attempt at atmospheric horror, especially with the ending being so outright laughable.
False Positive streams on Hulu beginning June 25.
Creation Stories is clearly meant to exist in the same vein as the much better 24 Hour Party People, a comedy-tinged biopic about someone whose hand guided the evolution of British pop. However, despite having plenty of interesting stories to pull from, the script by Dean Cavanagh and Irvine Welsh is so messy that it’s nearly impossible to make anything out of it. Ewen Bremner is solid as music mogul Alan McGee, and the soundtrack is obviously great, but the writing is just horrid, and director Nick Moran’s failed and cheap-looking attempts to infuse the film with a sleek style don’t help.
Creation Stories will be released later this year.
The Justice of Bunny King
Gaysorn Thavat’s tear-jerking drama The Justice of Bunny King offers some genuinely heartbreaking commentary on the failures of the system which it critiques, but its emotional beats are too predictable and artificial for it to be especially resonant. The performances by Essie Davis and Thomasin McKenzie are fabulous, but this story of a mother struggling to provide for her children has a script that is less than impressive. The first two thirds are sentimental but bearable, but the final act goes way overboard, nearly to the point of being unwatchable.
The Justice of Bunny King is currently seeking distribution.
Larry Flynt for President
The story of Hustler founder and unlikely Presidential candidate Larry Flynt is so insane that it got the biopic treatment in 1996, but the charm of Nadia Szold’s new documentary Larry Flynt for President is that it features lots of unearthed, never-before-seen footage from the Flynt campaign. Clocking in at a lean ninety minutes, the film is definitely very entertaining thanks to its subject’s larger-than-life personality and the often absurd antics in which he involved himself. But beyond that, it’s an interesting exploration of the issue of freedom of speech and the press, which has always been a hot-button topic.
Larry Flynt for President is currently seeking distribution.
a-ha: The Movie
Norwegian pop band a-ha has a large, passionate fanbase, so one would think that a documentary about their rise to fame would be absolutely delightful. However, director Thomas Robsahm’s approach to telling the story is very straightforward, to the point of it becoming dull. There are some interesting moments that feature animation in the style of a-ha’s iconic music videos, but other than that, it’s mostly a compilation of interviews and archival performance footage. It’s good enough to be worth watching, but there’s also no doubt that fans and the group deserve something better.
a-ha: The Movie is currently seeking distribution.
Perhaps the most influential American composer in all of history, Leonard Bernstein lived an absolutely fascinating life and the documentary Bernstein’s Wall allows audiences to hear about it in his own words. It’s a bit traditional in how it’s presented — mostly archive footage with the interviews used as voiceover — but Bernstein is such an exceptional subject that flashiness isn’t necessary. Admittedly, it’s a film that’s going to appeal more to those who are already interested in classical music, but it could also win over some fans for Bernstein’s impressive body of work.
Bernstein's Wall is currently seeking distribution.
We Need to Do Something
Sean King O’Grady’s film We Need to Do Something is an absolute masterclass in tense horror filmmaking. Following a family who find themselves trapped in a bathroom after a devastating storm, this starts out as a lean slow-burn thriller before going absolutely off the rails around the thirty-minute mark. The things that O’Grady is able to do with sound and set design are thoroughly impressive and succeed in capturing the feeling of anxiety that the film requires, and Pat Healy’s unhinged performance as the family’s patriarch is a scene-stealer. Genre fans definitely need to check this one out.
We Need to Do Something hits theaters and VOD on September 3.
Kelly Murtaugh wrote and stars in Shapeless, which is clearly a very personal film, but personal and compelling aren’t always synonymous. Following a lounge singer with an eating disorder that turns her life into a waking nightmare, the film does some interesting things with body horror, but for the most part, is just dull and repetitive. It gets its point across early on, and the rest of the runtime feels like we are trapped in an endless loop of misery. Of course, this seems to be the point, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an altogether unpleasant film to stomach.
Shapeless is currently seeking distribution.
No matter how many are made, there is a seemingly eternal demand for nature documentaries, and the streaming services are often the ones who provide the supply. The newest film from Apple TV+, Fathom, follows two scientists who set out to decode the language behind humpback whale songs. The mission that these researchers are undertaking is pretty fascinating, even if the sound of these whale calls is so soothing to almost lull the viewer to sleep. Still, director/cinematographer Drew Xanthopoulos has a tremendous eye, shooting the film in a breathtakingly gorgeous way that will make this a crowd-pleaser.
Fathom streams on Apple TV+ beginning June 25.
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road
If one is discussing the best albums made of all time, at least one by the Beach Boys should undoubtedly come up — Pet Sounds — but the documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road seeks to remind audiences of just how prolific Wilson’s entire discography is. In terms of how filmmaker Brent Wilson (no relation) presents the eponymous musician’s story, this is a pretty standard biographical documentary, but it’s an entertaining watch nevertheless, especially for those who are already fans. And of course, the best part of the documentary is getting the chance to hear about the origins of some of the best songs ever straight from the mouth of their creator.
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road is currently seeking distribution.
The Beta Test
Jim Cummings has become quite the indie superstar since his feature debut Thunder Road, and his newest film, The Beta Test (co-written and co-directed with PJ McCabe), is his best and most ambitious yet. Although the film is a tad busy, biting off a bit more than it can chew in terms of themes, it is a mind-blowing satire of Hollywood and social media. Many films have tried and failed to do this same thing before, but Cummings and McCabe have pulled it off in a way that is thoroughly stylish, entertaining, and anxiety-inducing, making for one of the best thrillers of the year so far.
The Beta Test will be released in theaters and on VOD this fall.
The Danish dark comedy Wild Men starts off strong, with some excellent situational humor and the promise of a twisty storyline, but after a while, one begins to wonder why it all matters. Entertaining moments are sprinkled throughout, but the film peaks early and plateaus for much of the rest of the runtime. Perhaps the best thing in play here is a great performance from Rasmus Bjerg, who does a great job with both the comedy and the action. Still, viewers will largely be left unfulfilled, wishing that the film had lived up to the untapped potential of the set-up.
Wild Men is currently seeking distribution.
Although the adjective gets thrown around a lot more frequently than it needs to be used, there is no better word to describe Elisabeth Vogler’s film Roaring 20’s than “pretentious”. Although the execution of the film as a one-take ensemble drama shot on the streets of Paris during the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly impressive, it often feels like the purpose of this film is merely to prove what Vogler was able to do. It’s gimmicky in all the wrong ways, with minimal story or character development and themes that are scattered at best. It’s a shame that Vogler couldn’t put her obvious talent to use on something more profound.
Roaring 20's is currently seeking distribution.
No Man of God
As long as audiences aren’t able to get enough true crime content, filmmakers will keep putting it out, and No Man of God is the latest film that will come and go in the genre. Strong performances from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood keep this chamber piece about conversations between serial killer Ted Bundy and an FBI psychoanalyst from being entirely forgettable, but the whole affair is frighteningly one-note. The first two thirds are competent but largely dull, but once it gets to the climax, it starts to get outright bad with hokey and forced emotional beats.
No Man of God will be released in theaters and on VOD on August 27.
Recent years have seen an uptick in the amount of socially conscious genre films, and Delmar Washington’s feature debut No Running hopes to put a timely spin on the sci-fi mystery genre. However, the fundamental issue with the film is that first-time writer Tucker Morgan’s script has next to no suspense. There are a lot of genuinely great ideas at play within the story, but an unsubtle hand and a failure to take advantage of the intriguing premise keep the film from elevating beyond competent B-movie level.
No Running is currently seeking distribution.
The Last Film Show
A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the cinema should be an immediate hook for any cinephile, but The Last Film Show is far too familiar for its own good. Pam Nalin’s film is impeccably shot, and it sticks the landing tremendously well, paying off with an unsurprisingly resonant finale, but the abundance of tropes (particularly in the first two acts) make this more sentimental than genuinely emotional. It clearly wants to recapture the magic of Cinema Paradiso, but it just doesn’t have the same level of oomph as that classic.
The Last Film Show is currently seeking distribution.
See For Me
Many horror movies capitalize on the very common fear of the unknown to create a sense of terror. Randall Okita’s film See For Me attempts to double down on that by having a blind protagonist, but fails to translate that to an experience that is particularly tense for the audience. It’s an entertaining and lean thriller, but a very basic one at that, and there have been plenty of movies that have done this same thing much more effectively in the past (just watch Wait Until Dark instead).
See For Me is currently seeking distribution.
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To
Although the magnificent title is one of the best in the horror genre since the days of giallo, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a disappointingly dull affair. Following a brother and sister who begin to clash over the care of their sickly younger brother, this film is far more interested in mood and tone than anything else. Filmmaker Jonathan Cuartas is playing with some interesting ideas here, but the slow burn it takes to the minimal payoff isn’t worth suffering through in the name of an occasionally distinctive take on genre tropes.
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To will hit theaters and VOD on June 25.
By Sandy Robinson
Ned Beatty passed away this week and it got me thinking about his various roles and which I liked the best. Some will say Deliverance, Network, Rudy, or as a character in Toy Story 3, but for me, it will always be the lovable nitwit Otis in the Superman franchise.
I was born in the early ’70s and other than Star Wars, the only other movie that I watched as a young kid was Superman: The Movie. Released in 1978, this movie is essentially about good versus evil: Superman/Clark Kent as the good and Lex Luthor as the evil. Played by Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman respectfully, the two main characters have their story written. By themselves, this is still a good movie; however, you need to have great secondary characters to thicken the plot, and in this case, someone to bungle Lex’s plans. That is right, Otis. Otis, played by Beatty, is a simple-minded minion of Lex Luthor and does whatever he commands, or at least tries to. In one scene, cops are following Otis into the subway as he heads to the secret base unknown to him, but not unknown to Lex who has cameras up and takes care of the police. You can actually see on Otis’s face how sorry he is because he wants to protect and help Mr. Luthor as much as he can. This character is flawed but provided the majority of the lighter, funnier scenes in the movie. When Lex first tells us of his plans and reveals the new map, we see one city named Otisville. Lex has a fit and Otis slinks back from comments. His reaction is like he’s been hit multiple times and is waiting to get hit again. As soon as Lex yells for him he comes running like nothing ever happened. Otis getting the codes wrong because he wrote them on his arm and they wore off, classic comedy right there. And his body language alone tells Lex that he screwed up and they would need another plan.
This movie, in my opinion, is an exceptionally good origin story. It is so because the actors took their roles seriously and played them to perfection. Ned Beatty played Otis perfectly and had he not, the movie may have looked silly and not very believable. You can have the greatest hero and greatest villain of all time but without secondary characters like Otis to make it more realistic. While he may be more recognizable in some of his other more serious roles, this one for me is my favorite of his. Rest in peace, Ned Beatty. Now you can fly as well.
By Sean Boelman
The 2020 Gasparilla International Film Festival was one of the first major film events to be cancelled in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with vaccinations rolling out and audiences returning to the cinema, the festival returns for a 2021 edition featuring a lineup of exciting premieres and screenings of films that have been picking up buzz on the festival circuit.
This year’s Opening Night Film, screening on June 10 at 7:30pm at the Tampa Theatre, is Lady of the Manor, the feature directorial debut of brothers Justin and Christian Long. A comedy following a stoner who befriends a ghost at the Civil War-era estate where he works as a tour guide, this sounds like an absolutely delightful watch, and the writer-directors will be in attendance for a Q&A session after the screening.
The other big event screening is the Closing Night Film, Midnight in the Switchgrass, a crime thriller which serves as the directorial debut of prolific film producer Randall Emmett. It follows a pair of FBI agents who team up with a state cop to investigate a string of murders. Starring an ensemble cast of Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Emile Hirsch, and Lukas Haas, the film’s local connections are sure to interest Tampa filmgoers.
Other high-profile films playing the festival include Enemies of the State, an Errol Morris-produced documentary which explores how a family is torn apart when their hacker son is targeted by the U.S. government, and Lorelei, a family drama about an ex-convict forming a bond with a single mom, starring Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber.
In terms of films that we have gotten to see at other festivals, the GIFF lineup includes a few interesting selections. We recommend the quirky comedy-thriller Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break, which offers a goofy but entertaining spin on the revenge arc, and Superior, a visually intriguing surreal drama.
As always, the festival also includes some intriguing independent offerings. The documentary Mentally Al, about an unsung comedian, sounds like it could be both funny and endearing, and the Indian film Khape will probably fill the spot of the tear-jerking but crowd-pleasing international festival flick.
We are excited to be getting the opportunity to return to the more normal film festival experience after what felt like an eternity, and it is local festivals like GIFF and the Florida Film Festival (which happened in April in Orlando) that are starting to usher back those experiences. And we at disappointment media would like to say with all our hearts… welcome back to the movies.
The 2021 Gasparilla International Film Festival runs from June 10-13 in Tampa, FL with in-person and virtual options available.
By Dan Skip Allen
It's no secret that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were fans of the pulp serials of the early '40s and '50s. They loved the movies, don't get me wrong, but they really loved the pulp serials of Batman, Buck Rogers, Tarzan, and the like which kept them coming back week after week. The cliffhangers were almost unbearable for the duo as kids growing up on the verge of becoming filmmakers decades later. These serials were what gave Lucas the idea for Indiana Jones. With that, he got his good friend Spielberg to come along for the ride on this extraordinary adventure.
Dr. Henry Jones (Harrison Ford) is a professor for his day job, but on the weekends he goes by Indiana, whether it was the dog's name will soon be determined in later installments of the franchise. He galivants around the globe on a crazy adventure and dangerous exploits. When his friend and sometimes assistant, Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), comes to him with the idea that the Ark of the Covenant still exists and they need to find it before the Nazis, he can't resist the chase and the danger that goes along with it. The Nazis make the perfect villain! They are set on world domination and the ark can help them get it.
Like a lot of the shorts, Indiana Jones has its share of heart-pounding escapes. He also has to deal with "Snakes? Why does it have to be Snakes?" a phobia we didn't know about until that moment. Disney even adapted one of his most famous hair's-breadth escapes into a show at their theme parks. He encounters several natives and sword-wielding assassins, as well as men who turn their back on him when he needs them the most. He does have a few friends though, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) who he meets on his trip, and Sallah (John Rhys Davies) his trusty ally in far-off lands. The stage is set for an epic adventure for the ages.
Another frequent collaborator to Lucas and Spielberg is the composer of the Boston Pops, John Williams. He has done epic scores for the Star Wars movies, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by this point in his career, six of the most famous compositions in his long and storied career as a composer. He would need to do something even greater for Indiana Jones though. It had to live up to everything he had done in the past, but bring something new to the table. He did just that. His Raiders of the Lost Ark score is one of the best he ever did. It had such a great catch to it. It was a perfect addition to this amazing film.
Harrison Ford was an established actor by this point in his career. He had a small role in American Graffiti, but his big role came when he got the no-good swindler himself, Han Solo. He brought a sense of colorful suave ladies' man to the table in the Star Wars films. He brought an entirely different side to his performance in the Indiana Jones films. He got to flex his action muscles in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This film required a lot of running and jumping which was very vigorous and hard on him. He enjoyed every moment of it though. He loved playing Indiana Jones, and it showed on screen.
As a kid, I was looking for different kinds of films that I could get behind. I loved everything growing up. I'm not as old as Lucas and Spielberg so I didn't grow up on these serials as they did. I sure as hell grew up on Indiana Jones, though. I was about 7 when the first Indiana Jones film came out and I had never seen anything like it before. The action and adventure were off the charts. The acting, campy at times, was funny and cool. The score by Williams was so amazing as well. Everything combined for a great experience for me and a lot of other people I'm sure of. Forty years later Raiders of the Lost Ark stands up better than ever. Nothing like it has come since so it makes sense.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.