Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tribeca III: the first batch of indies

Choking Man (USA) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Steve Barron

Ah, a sitcom about the mentally ill. Very strange indeed.

Steve Barron, who at one time used to be in the big time,[ he directed “Coneheads,” “Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles” and a whole bunch of those hallmark fantasy series for television, ] has decided to bid Hollywood adeau and do something cheap and personal.

Jorge (Octavio Gómez Berríos) is “morbidly” shy. He works as a dishwasher at the Olympic diner in Queens. When he goes home in the evening, his alter ego, the imaginary “Choking Man” (Paolo Andino) critiques his day for him as Jorge cowers in the background.

One day, Rick (Mandy Patinkin) hires a new waitress named Amy (Eugenia Yuan). She's one of those bubbly people who has a sunny disposition, and everybody at the Olympic falls, if not in love with her, at least in like.

Jorge would like to make a move, but as was said before, is morbidly shy, but the fry-cook, Jerry (Aaron Paul) is not. He's one of those obnoxious guys who in most films gets his comeuppance, but this isn't one of these. Things go slowly.

There is clearly an ambivalence on the part of the auteur about the love triangle. This is because, there are intimations of a violence that never takes place, and weird animated sequences that may or may not advance the plot. If it was all in the perspective of Jorge, then it might have worked, but we get a few subplots which have nothing to do with Jorge, including the courtship between Amy and Jerry. He's a bit of a jerk, but mostly he's a nice guy. Where's the fun in that. The ending is one of those where a breakthrough is made, but not the one we were expected.

This is not entirely worthless, but it's not as lyrical as we might want from a thing like this. Sad.

Mentor (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Directed by
David Carl Lang

Sex in achedemia, now that's a new concept!!! This has been done to death, but then again good, old fashioned melodrama can always be entertaining, especially if done just right. This comes close.

We go time tripping back and forth between the middle 1990s Carter Baines(Matt Davis) is a grad student taking a writing seminar with famous novelist Sanford Pollard(Rutger Hauer), and 2005, where Carter is a professor and Pollard has just died.

Starting with a confrontation in 1995, we find out that Carter's written a novel about the previous summer and that Sanford has bribed him with a cushy job at another university. Then we go forward to the second timeframe where Carter has to put up with his comic relief colleague Howard(Matt Servitto) and the student Carter's currently schtupping(Lynn Chen) when he gets the news.

So we follow the journey to the funeral on the one hand, and his romances with fellow student Marilyn(Susan Misner) and more importantly, Sanford's research assistant Julia(Dagmara Dominczyk) on the other. Thus we have a ménage-a-quart which is both intellectual and sexual, and while there's no hint of homosexuality anywhere, we've got lots of sexual tension between the three principles [Marilyn drops out of the group rather quickly-only to reappear at the funeral]. Other than the romantic relationship between Julia and Carter, and a maguffin that changes everything.

While the acting for the most part is rather good, Davis appears completely out of his league, as Haur, Dominczyk and even Servitto wipe the floor with him for the entire film. It's pitiful. William Whitehurst's screenplay, on the other hand works, and we're interested in what happens between point D and point G after we get to point D from point A.

Not bad for a cheap indie, not bad at all.

Kiss Me Again (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed by
William Tyler Smith

Normality is the enemy at faux NYU, home of PC. Julian(Jeremy London) is a neo-communist professor of history there and is in a spot of trouble. He's just burned an American flag in front of his class and not everyone there thinks that this is a wonderful thing. This is the subplot. Neo-commies are considered normal in this version of the universe, and it forms the backdrop for s nasty little soap opera.

Julian is married to Chalice(Katheryn Winnick), and they live in the Alphabet city neighborhood with Chal's former best friend Malika (Elisa Donovan), a tattooed bisexual slut of a photographer who's hated Julian ever since she met him. Jealously, natch.

While our hero is discussing the ramifications of his political statement with friends Michael(Darrell Hammond) and Szabo(Fred Armisen), he comes across Elena(Mirelly Taylor), a Spanish post graduate who he met while he was in Europe before his marriage.

A kiss is stolen in Washington Square park, but, as is always the case, Milika is doing a photo shoot and…you get the idea.

So feeling guilty and not having done anything beyond a chaste kiss, Julian decides to convince Chal to start experimenting with sexuality, a threesome is just the thing to keep a marriage fresh. So, he contrives to get Elena to be the third person.

The far-left politics as normal situation aside, this film is actually extremely predictable. Everything that happens is telegraphed at the very beginning, and it all goes exactly as one might expect.

The acting is fine, We haven't seen Hammond in much of anything in ages, and it seems he's losing his hair.

This'll only be out a couple of weeks before going to cable.

Kettle of Fish (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Claudia Meyers

There is one truly great scene in this here movie and I'm not too sure if sitting through the awful-to-mediocre crap that precedes and follows it is actually worth the trouble.

Mel(Matthew Modine) a professional saxophonist and lifelong bachelor who's getting on in years and is wondering if he's going to settle down or not, so he decides to move in with his latest girlfriend(Ewa Da Cruz), who he really doesn't like, but hey, you know…so he decides to sublet his apartment for a short time to see if things work out, and the first person to come in is Ginger(Gina Gershon) a fetching biologist who's studying the sex lives of frogs.

But on the way to a job working a wedding, our hero falls in love with the bride(Gloria Reuben) and is determined to destroy her newly minted marriage and run away with her, something his best friend and band-mate Sean(Eddie Kaye Thomas) thinks is a horrible idea. It is, and it's almost a cliché, what can you do?

The acting is fine, and it's cute in parts, but Mel is such a horrible person that we don't actually know whether to root for him and hope he gets the crap beat out of him. This is a romantic comedy, and since Meyers isn't a total wuss as a writer, we get that one glorious scene were he metaphorically does indeed get what's coming to him. Unfortunately it goes back to being a bad cliché for the rest of the film and the ending, while expected, is really dumb.

Don't waste your time.

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