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DOWN IN TRIBECA: SINISTER U.S. VPS, CREEPY WHISTLE BLOWERS, PUSHY SURROGATE MOMS, SCREWED-UP SONS, ALL-AMERICAN MASTERS OF TORTURE


Not far from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, the seventh annual Tribeca Film Festival--founded by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal as part of an effort to spur the recovery of the area following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center--is now in full swing. A sampling of movies to be shown during the festival, which runs through May 4, are described below. For complete details, click here and visit the official festival web site.


STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Directed by Errol Morris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


It's a story that must be told, and we're grateful that it's Errol Morris who has undertaken the challenge of examining the horrors that took place at Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Morris, arguably the finest documentary filmmaker of our time, is the man responsible for such sharp, provocative works as “Gates of Heaven,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.” and “Fog of War.” You can count on him to shed light on the shameful, dark deeds committed at Abu Ghraib, sparing no one, not even those at the very top of the dung heap. "I feel this is one of the most significant films I have ever worked on," he says. "There is a mystery about the war in Iraq. Not just how and why it started, but what it is ultimately about. It is a mystery that I am trying to investigate.” His investigation met with the jury's approval at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, where "Standard Operating Procedure"--the first documentary ever to be shown in competition at the Berlin event--won the Silver Bear award.

A Sony Pictures Classics Release
Now playing in theaters

BABY MAMA

Written and directed by Michael McCullers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Principal Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Romany Malco, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor, James Rebhorn

At the clock-ticking age of 37, over-achieving career woman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) suddenly realizes that in her rush to succeed in the cutthroat world of the health-food industry, she has robbed herself of something important--the joy of motherhood. Enter Angie Ostrowiski, a coarse, pushy member of the masses willing to play surrogate mother for Kate’s offspring-on-demand. Nifty. But not so nifty is the sudden arrival of the unexpectedly homeless Angie on Kate’s doorstep. She seeks shelter from Kate and gets it. And, after nine months of sitcomedic cohabitation, guess who’s bringing up baby. Those of us who’ve followed the Saturday Night Live progress of performers Fey and Poehler, writer Michael McCullers and co-producer Lorne Michaels, look forward to celebrating the birth of their big-screen “Baby.” And, as a strictly-for-fun bonus, we get Sigourney Weaver as the awesomely fertile director of a surrogancy center and Steve Martin as a ponytailed, new-age guru with super sales savvy. Mama Mia!

A Universal Pictures release
Opened the Tribeca Festival on April 23
Now playing in theaters

 

LAKE CITY

Written and directed by Perry Moore and Hunter Hill

 

 

 

Principal Cast: Sissy Spacek, Troy Garity, Rebecca Romijn, Dave Matthews, Drea de Matteo, Keith Carradine

Sissy Spacek, who proved she is one of America’s finest actresses in such powerful films as “Badlands,” “Carrie,” “3 Women,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Missing,” was at the very top of her form in “In the Bedroom,” the harrowing 2001 drama that cast her as a woman obsessed with nailing the murderer of her son, even if she had to do the deed herself. Now, in “Lake City,” Spacek is once again a tragically troubled mom. This time, her son Billy (Troy Garity, who in real life is the son of Jane Fonda) is running for his life, hoping to evade the drug dealer (Dave Matthews) who has been double-crossed by Billy’s gone-missing wife (Drea de Matteo). What does Billy do? He grabs his own young son and heads for the Virginia hills home of his estranged mother. Once there, he seems safe, at least for a while, from the fury of the duped dope peddler. But how safe is Billy from the threat of memories of a dark, suffocating relationship with mama?

WAR, INC.

Directed by Joshua Seftel

Written by John Cusack, Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Principal Cast: John Cusack, Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Ben Cross, Montel Williams

Something’s rotten in Turaqistan, and that something is Brand Hauser (John Cusack), the hit man dispatched to the war-ravaged Middle East nation by the former U.S. vice president. What is Brand’s mission? To bump off the CEO of a company that’s competing with the VP’s company for a spectacular outsourcing military contract. Cusack, in a twist on his memorable portrait of a professional terminator in “Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997), is joined by sibling Joan Cusack, also doing a “Pointe Blank” encore, this time playing the assassin’s nutty assistant. Marisa Tomei is a relentlessly snoopy journalist and Hilary Duff’s a shallow celeb who plans to wed it wealthily in Turaqistan.

A First Look International Release
Opens in theaters on May 23


THE CALLER

Directed by Richard Ledes

Written by Richard Ledes and Alain Didier-Weill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Principal Cast: Frank Langella, Elliott Gould, Laura Harring


Whistle blowers are, almost by definition, losers. They may experience a rush of pride, a flash of glory for their role in exposing the corrupt schemes and brutal deeds of their corporate bosses, but in the end they are the ones left without a job or friends to offer a supporting hand. Or sometimes--as in the case of Jimmy Stevens, a tell-all employee at a firm whose top executives are guilty of major criminal activity in Latin America--they are left without much hope of staying alive. That’s why Jimmy (Frank Langella) hires Frank Turlotte, a quirky but reliable private eye (Elliott Gould) to keep tabs on people who might be tailing him. Before long, Turlotte suspects that the man he should be tailing is Jimmy Stevens himself. And it seems clear that the detective should not lose sight of the femme fatale played by Laura Harring (slinking back on track in the aftermath of all the schlock roles that followed her dynamite performance in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.”) This noir thriller is one of what appears to be a trio of upcoming winners for veteran actor Frank Langella, the other two being “Frost/Nixon,” in which he creates his Tony Award performance as the disgraced Tricky Dicky, and “All Good Things,” a murder mystery from Andrew Jarecki, director of the terrific documentary, “Capturing the Friedmans.” And it’s good to have Elliott Gould back in what sounds like a role of substance.