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Beneath the Harvest Sky
Callan McAuliffe in "Beneath the Harvest Sky"

Tribeca Reviews: 4 Wildly Different Movies from Alice Cooper to Paul Haggis

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Seann William Scott in "Just Before I Go"

Seann William Scott in “Just Before I Go”

The Tribeca Film Festival is jam-packed with so many movies that if you aren’t careful, you’ll be loopy by the end of it. I haven’t managed to see nearly as many as I’d like, but below are capsule reviews of four of the films. As you’ll see, I can only recommend three of them.

“Just Before I Go” – This film is Courteney Cox’s feature film directorial debut, and what a brave director she is. The humor is left of center, deliciously strange, and even pushes the envelope of sexual humor (which will, I’m sure, be too vulgar for some people).

Even though “Just Before I Go” is primarily about suicide, it manages to be uplifting. I was constantly surprised by this film, as it went in directions I did not expect. There are a lot of tonal shifts, but I felt that lead Seann William Scott (in a very different role from his “American Pie” Stifler) made those shifts work.

Scott’s character, Ted Morgan, is planning to kill himself, but he has a bucket list of unfinished business to deal with first, mostly with people from his childhood. He moves in with his brother and family, who are a strange bunch, to say the least. Ted is the one contemplating suicide, but he’s the most sane of the people around him. Scott manages to be likable and to convey subtle underlying emotions even though he’s playing a depressed guy who is pretty shut down most of the time.

I enjoyed every minute of this movie. I don’t think there’s a trailer yet, but you can see a short clip here. Watch for my interview with Gabriel Cowan, the producer of the film.

“Beneath the Harvest Sky” – This movie blew me away. It’s a tragic story of two brothers that is so realistically done, I kept forgetting they were actors. The boys are determined to get out of their small Maine town, but there are loads of obstacles in their way. The movie also has a great soundtrack.

Watch out for these filmmakers, Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, and for these actors, Emory Cohen (“The Place Beyond the Pines”) and Callan McAuliffe (“The Great Gatsby”). They’re up and coming in a big way, and they deserve it.

“Third Person” – Paul Haggis (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”) has created another film with interwoven stories and a top-notch cast. Unfortunately, it isn’t entirely successful. It’s more than two hours of the audience trying to figure out what’s going on with the various characters as he switches back and forth between three storylines, sometimes even blending the scenes a bit to confuse you even further. There are themes that each story has in common – the perils of romantic love, as well as children being harmed or killed in accidents.

While Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Maria Bello, Adrien Brody, and Moran Atias act their butts off, I found the confusion a lot of work. While I don’t have to understand everything in a film, I need to understand enough to hold my interest. I also couldn’t find anybody to root for in this movie. Part of the problem is I felt that even the emotional scenes kept the viewer at a distance. The trailer says “one mystery” brings the characters together. Even after having seen the film, I only have an idea of what that might be, but no certainty.

It was an ambitious undertaking, and Haggis is certainly a thoughtful and daring filmmaker. I applaud that, but being daring means that you take risks. In my opinion, those risks did not fully pay off in this case. Nevertheless, if you’re a devoted cinephile or an avid fan of any of the actors in the film, you’ll probably want to see it.

“Super Duper Alice Cooper” –  This documentary about rocker Alice Cooper is a fun look at the man behind the makeup. This is not your average doc, though. It’s more creative than usual with animated segments, as it looks at the life of a man who started out as a self-professed “perfect 50’s kid” and became the most shocking rock star of his time.

Cooper narrates a great deal of it, and there are voiceovers from the likes of Elton John and Iggy Pop. Cooper also says that the character he created (Alice) almost killed him. I think it’s a must see for classic rock fans.

Melanie Votaw

Melanie Votaw is a New York City-based freelance writer and the author of 15 non-fiction books. She’s a former actress/singer/dancer who started performing at age 4 and now loves to write about film, TV, and theater. Visit her Web site, Rule the Word, and follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Melanie Votaw has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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