Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tribeca 12: The 50th film....

I've done a count and have gone through fifty features since I started three weeks ago. That's some sort of personal best for a festival. That's why I didn't put anything up yesterday...not that there's anyone out there looking....

Burke and Wills (Australia) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed by
Matthew Zeremes and Oliver Torr

For the record, it’s important to explain that “Burke and Wills” is Australian for “Lewis and Clark.” In other words, the two filmmakers who made this piece of crap decided to give it a title that was either somewhat deceptive, promising an epic that isn’t there, or being cheeky in a particularly lame way. I think it’s the latter because that describes the entire film.

Burke(Oliver Torr) rents a house somewhere in Sydney, and sublets out a room to Wills(Matthew Zeremes). Now Wills has a girlfriend named Elinor(Elizabeth Richmond) and is a bit outgoing. He’s also, one hell of a bore.

So after Wills moves in, nothing happens, then nothing happens some more, then Wills breaks up with his girlfriend, then more nothing. Then Burke’s grandmother dies, then some more nothing.

Near the end, something happens, but by the time it does, we’re already fast asleep and can’t really appreciate it. The last couple of acts (they are separated by chapter headings) are meant to be shocking, but it’s perhaps that the rest of the film is sooooo banal.

This is a complete waste of celluloid, Fortunately, it’ll never see the light of day again, do don’t worry.

Mee Shee: The Water Giant (Canada, U.S.A) - North American Premiere.

Directed by
John Henderson

When you have a film specifically made for babies, you can get away with a heck of a lot more plot holes than you would in a film made for older audiences. A simple story that doesn’t talk down to the wee ones is all that is necessary, and the special effects should be good too. That’s where the Jim Henson creature shop comes in, but more on that later.

Sean Cambell(Bruce Greenwood) is a heroic rescue submariner, flying around the world with his minisub and trusty assistant Neilds(Joe Pingue) saving people and important artifacts from the bottom of the sea. But does his six-year-old son Mac(Daniel Magder) appreciate that? Not on your life!!!

So when a vacation to Sea World is suddenly aborted when a helecopter is shot down over the Great Slave Lake in Northern Canada, Sean and Neilds are on the job, and they decide to take little Mac along, Mac’s mom having been killed offstage sometime before. So they head off to the Great White North, where Mac is told by the landlady(Phyllida Law), about the legend of Mee Shee, the great lake’s own monster, who few have seen and allegedly lives in a cave somewhere.

Given a bike Mac drives around the area, and here he falls into a hole, goes through a rollercoaster-like tunnel into the lake, and gets saved by the monster, who, being made by the Jim Henson company to look friendly, reminds one of a giant manatee.

Of course there’s danger, as evil competitors of the oil company our hero works for has sent to stock villians(Joel Tobeck and Charles Mesure) to sabotage Dad’s mission. In what might be an original idea that seems to have gone nowhere, this is at first blamed on Greenpeace, who in real life do do such things. But this is for little children and we can’t have that sort of thing, especially for a Canadian production.

The film follows a cookie-cutter plot after some cute innovations, and the jokes work. What annoys the grownups is the fact that the government of Canada is nowhere to be seen except for Laura (Luanne Gordon), of the Canadian environment ministry, but she doesn’t have a radio to call the cops with.

Wait until it comes out on the Disney Channel or Nick.

The TV Set (USA) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Jake Kasdan

Write what you know. Except for science fiction or cheesy romance , that’s the first rule of fiction. Jake Kasdan has been in and around show business all his life [his father Lawrence is a big shot honcho] and he’s done TV, including a pilot that never was picked up. So he knows what he’s talking about.

Kasdan’s doppelganger is Mike(David Duchovny) a writer with a vision. He’s doing a thing called “The Winslow Chronicles” about the adventures of guy recovering from his brother’s suicide. The script’s gotten past gate, so to speak, and it’s actually going to be produced. This is exiting news indeed, but there are other factors involved that are going destroy the pure vision Mike originally had.

Lenny(Sigourney Weaver) is the number two person in the network, and she wants as much input on the series that Mike has, but doesn’t want him to actually think that. Her number two is Richard(Ioan Gruffudd), who’s marriage is in trouble because his wife hates LA. Slightly different visions lead to conflicts, and since Lenny is paying the bills, Mike generally loses.

Not for want of trying. He and his assistant Alice(Judy Greer) try to force the hands of the powers that be by getting a bad actor named
Zach Harper(Fran Kranz) to go against the person he wants for the job, so Zach gets it instead, of course. This sort of thing happens for the entire film and by the time it gets picked up, it’s completely different than what was originally pitched.

This is the writer’s protest against the suits who destroy creativity in the TV business. If the writers had been left alone with their vision would the world be a better place? Dunno. But the film is funny, and everyone in the film is fighting on the same side for truth, justice and the American way. Writing for TV is compromise anyway, so nobody should really have all that much to complain about. This is inside baseball and is only going to be popular with the people in the biz.

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