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The Tribeca Film Festival: 8 movies you should know about
Reviews from the first half of the annual independent film festival, including movies starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Paul Rudd, John Slattery, and more
 
Before Midnight: The Tribeca Film Festival's truly must-see movie.
Before Midnight: The Tribeca Film Festival's truly must-see movie. Sony Pictures Classics

For the past week, lower Manhattan has been abuzz over the Tribeca Film Festival, which has offered hundreds of independent film screenings for critics and movie fans. And The Week has been there to see some of the most anticipated, acclaimed, and talked-about movies of the festival. Which Tribeca films should you track down? Which should you avoid? Here, a guide to eight films from the first half of the Tribeca Film Festival:

1. Before Midnight
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

(Despina Spyrou)

What is it?
The third entry in an unlikely series that began with 1995's Before Sunrise and continued in 2004's Before Sunset, Before Midnight revisits star-crossed couple Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) nearly two decades after they first met on a Vienna-bound train and spent a single, romantic evening in each other's company. It's difficult to write about what makes this film so brilliant without spoiling why it's so brilliant — but suffice it to say, Before Midnight picks up nine years after Jesse and Celine's romantic Paris rendezvous in Before Sunset, which ended on a cliffhanger as Jesse deliberately missed the flight that would have taken him back to his wife and son in America. This time, Jesse and Celine spend a night in Greece, discussing their increasingly complicated lives in the years that have passed since Before Sunset. 

Should you see it?
Absolutely (though if you haven't already seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, see them first to get the full effect). Before Midnight is a masterpiece — a gorgeous and meaningful film that offers genuine insights about romantic relationships. Don't miss it. 

2. Prince Avalanche
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch

What is it?
This oddball remake of the 2011 Icelandic comedy Either Way stars Paul Rudd in an against-type performance as Alvin, a stiff, mustached construction worker hired to repaint a stretch of highway after a 1988 forest fire in Texas. As a favor to his girlfriend, Alvin takes on her immature, horndog younger brother Lance (Emile Hirsch) to work alongside him. The two men alternate between bonding and butting heads as they work, drink, and meet the locals in a series of surreal encounters, framed by shots of nature and set to an original score by Explosions in the Sky.

Should you see it?
If you're intrigued by the premise, sure. It's far from a must-see, but Rudd and Hirsch are both very good, and it's a relief to see director David Gordon Green returning to smarter, more challenging fare after bland duds like Your Highness and The Sitter.

3. The Moment
Directed by Jane Weinstock
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Henderson, and Alia Shawkat

(James Welling)

What is it?
In this thriller, Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Lee, an acclaimed combat photographer contending with severe post-traumatic stress disorder that has — conveniently enough — given her some kind of equally severe amnesia. When her boyfriend John (Martin Henderson) goes missing shortly after his birthday, Lee teams up with her daughter (Alia Shawkat), her therapist (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), and a fellow patient that looks suspiciously similar to John (Martin Henderson, again) to determine what really happened to him.

Should you see it?
No. The film is packed with frustrating, circuitous, and generally pointless narrative twists, with the final resolution serving as the most underwhelming of them all.

4. Run and Jump
Directed by Steph Green
Starring Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam, and Will Forte 

(Karina Finegan)

What is it?
This Irish dramedy follows a family coping with the changes in their lives after patriarch Conor (Edward MacLiam) comes out of a stroke-induced coma having totally and permanently changed from his former self. As his cheery, resilient wife Vanetia (Maxine Peak) attempts to find a new normal for herself and their children, she allows a stoic psychiatrist (former Saturday Night Live cast member Will Forte, in a rare dramatic role) to tape Conor for two months, in an attempt to understand his condition and secure some much-needed extra income.

Should you see it?
Yes. Though it suffers from an uneven third act, Run and Jump is a heartfelt, well-realized dramedy anchored by Maxine Peake's terrific lead performance and Will Forte's subdued supporting turn. 

5. The Machine
Directed by Caradog James
Starring Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, and Denis Lawson 

(Content Media Corp.)

What is it?
A moody, offbeat sci-fi thriller set in a near future in which Great Britain and China have embarked on a second Cold War based on the development of smart machines. While working in a top-secret governmental weapons lab, programming genius Vincent (Toby Stephens) develops an uncannily human robot (Caity Lotz) that seems to be developing a sentience of its own — but the government agent overseeing the lab (Denis Lawson) is bent on shaping the robot into a weapon.

Should you see it?
Yes, if you have any interest whatsoever in the genre. The Machine is a strange and gorgeously shot sci-fi thriller with an intriguing thematic undercurrent about the ever-blurring boundaries between people and machines. 

6. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
Directed by Chiemi Karasawa
Featuring Elaine Stritch, Tina Fey, and Alec Baldwin

(Courtesy of Smart Broad Films)

What is it?
A documentary about 88-year-old Broadway legend Elaine Stritch, whose decades-spanning career began in 1944 and continues today. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me follows Stritch through multiple performances and a health scare, alongside loving tributes from fellow performers and admirers including Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Nathan Lane, and James Gandolfini.

Should you see it?
Only if you're an Elaine Stritch fan. It's always a joy to see the irascible Stritch in her characteristically blunt style — "If I forgot my lyrics, f--- it," she concludes during one particularly memorable performance — but this is a fairly glossy look at Stritch's life and career, without much to add by way of insight. 

7. Bluebird
Directed by Lance Edmonds
Starring Amy Morton, John Slattery, and Louisa Krause

(Jody Lee Lipes)

What is it?
In this ponderous drama, school bus driver Leslie (Amy Morton) fails to check the back of her bus before locking up for the day, leaving a young boy trapped there for an entire freezing Maine night — a mistake that has profound implications for both the boy's family and Leslie's own. Mad Men's John Slattery rounds out an enormously talented ensemble cast that includes several other cult-favorite TV actors, including Adam Driver (Girls) and Margo Martindale (Justified).

Should you see it?
Yes, if you're willing to put up with some of its flaws. Bluebird is overstuffed and overlong, but its quiet depiction of tragedy leaves a strong impression, and the performances are uniformly excellent — particularly Slattery, who's miles away from Mad Men's Roger Sterling as a blue-collar working man trying to keep his family afloat. 

8. Raze
Directed by Josh Waller
Starring Zoe Bell, Rachel Nichols, and Rebecca Marshall

(Frame grab)

What is it?
This bloody exploitation film follows a group of women captured by a mysterious assailant and forced to fight each other in hand-to-hand battles to the death for the enjoyment of a mysterious audience. Sabrina (Zoe Bell) engages in a series of brutal fights as she searches for a way to escape and get revenge on her captors before she's killed in the arena. 

Should you see it?
No. This is an ugly, disheartening movie that mistakes its own nihilism and misogyny for satire. A well-executed exploitation film manages to transcend the bloodiness and sexism of the genre to challenge and subvert traditional mores. This is not a well-executed exploitation film.

 
Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.

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