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TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: 15 Most Anticipated Films to Watch

From Oscar Isaac to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the festival has plenty for everyone…

TribecaThe 2015 Tribeca Film Festival will be underway this Wednesday, April 15 with some of the best and talented filmmakers in independent cinema will present their most passionate and thought-provoking projects.  Or at least so we hope.  In terms of finding your general Oscar contenders from Tribeca, you can look at 2014 claiming Netflix’s “Virunga” which went on to be nominated for Best Documentary Feature.  Clever, heartwarming, and resourceful films premiered like “The One I Love” with Elisabeth Moss or “Begin Again” by John Carney.

This year, we’ll have another abundance of talent on hand as we count down the fifteen most anticipated films of the festival that could have some massive Oscar potential if handled properly.

AdderallDiaries_web_215. THE ADDERALL DIARIES

Director: Pamela Romanowsky
Cast: James Franco, Ed Harris, Amber Heard, Christian Slater, Cynthia Nixon
Synopsis: Writer and Adderall enthusiast Stephen Elliott reaches a low point when his estranged father resurfaces, claiming that Stephen has fabricated much of the dark childhood that that fuels his writing. Adrift in the precarious gray area of memory, Stephen is led by three sources of inspiration: a new romance, the best friend who shares his history, and a murder trial that reminds him more than a little of his own story.

There’s an eclectic mix of characters thrust together in a film by one of the directors of “The Color of Time.”  While we should always celebrate an opportunity for a female director to have her voice heard, the case assembled is what’s getting us all gitty.  James Franco has been on the independent circuit for some time with his own directorial endeavors missing the mainstream.  Deep down, the guy is a talented actor as shown in performances like “127 Hours” and “Milk.”  Taking on the leading role, with hopefully someone who can hone in on his talents, could provide an opportunity for him to shine once again.  Four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris is aching for that one last shot at the podium and we’re hoping he gets it at some point.  There’s also the Oscar-winning director Robert Redford who has a producing credit on the film.

CartelLand_web_114. CARTEL LAND

Director: Matthew Heineman
Synopsis: CARTEL LAND is a classic western set in the 21st century, pitting vigilantes on both sides of the border against the vicious Mexican drug cartels. With unprecedented access, this character-driven film provokes deep questions about lawlessness, the breakdown of order, and whether it is just for citizens to take up arms to fight violence with violence.

Tribeca offers up many opportunities to see films that otherwise wouldn’t get the mainstream push.  “Cartel Land” takes a look at the Mexican drug war between its cartels and the citizens that surround them.  Reminiscent of such films like “The Project” in 2013 that captivated its audience (at least the ones that saw it), this could locks its claws into our psyche and never let go.

Ethan-Hawke-and-January-Jones-in-Good-Kill-slice13. GOOD KILL

Director: Andrew Niccol
Writer: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz
Synopsis: A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.

Andrew Niccol wrote one of the finest screenplays of the 90’s with “The Truman Show,” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.  Since then, the New Zealand native has dabbed his feet in projects like “The Terminal,” “Lord of War,” and “The Host,” two of which he directed himself.  Not all of those were embraced by critics and none found love with the Academy but its worth noting that leading man Ethan Hawke, who starred in Niccol’s first directorial effort “Gattaca” is in tow.  Fresh off his fourth Oscar nomination for “Boyhood,” we’re eager to see the four-time nominee expand himself into rich, fuller characters.  The sound of a man questioning his ethics as a drone pilot sounds like something he can sink his teeth into.

maggie12. MAGGIE

Director: Henry Hobson
Writer: John Scott 3
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson
Synopsis: A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.

It’s hard to imagine that Arnold Schwarzenegger has any dramatic chops.  His filmography has always played to his strengths, which has been mostly physical.  In another zombie tale in which people are transforming, it would look like another cheap parlor trick for Arnold to mutter “Get down!” or something in his normal Arnold-isms.  However, we were quite moved and intrigued by the looks of the first trailer that dropped which looks like Arnold being as serious as Arnold can be.  Looking much more internalized than his Golden Globe nominated performance in “Junior” and finally taking something on that looks age appropriate, this story could pull on some of the heartstrings, while mesmerizing the audience with pure entertainment value.   Abigail Breslin as the doomed Maggie is also an exciting factor.

Wannabe_web_111. THE WANNABE

Director: Nick Sandow
Written by: Nick Sandow
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Michael Imperoli, Vincent Piazza, David Zayas
Synopsis: Obsessed with mob culture, and desperate to fit in, Thomas sets out to fix the 1992 trial of John Gotti. He believes if the plan is executed, it will put him at the center of all that he idolizes. The plot is foiled, setting off events worthy of mob lore. The Wannabe intertwines real people and true events, past and present, with fantasy.

After glow work is always a must-see for anyone who just won an Academy Award.  Winning for “Boyhood” this year has made Patricia Arquette a hot commodity and this indie crime drama from Nick Sandow (who plays Joe Caputo on “Orange is the New Black”) is something worth checking out.  The rest of the cast is also impressive including Michael Imperoli and David Zayas, who remains one the great unsung heroes of Showtime’s “Dexter.”

dirtyweekend10. DIRTY WEEKEND

Director: Neil LaBute
Written by: Neil LaBute
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alice Eve, Phil Burke
Synopsis: During an unexpectedly long layover in Albuquerque, a pair of work colleagues end up venturing downtown and find an unusual rapport developing, as they reveal more of their secrets to each other.

Matthew Broderick hasn’t brought any pizzazz to a role in quite sometime.  Writer/director Neil LaBute’s credits include “In the Company of Men” and “Nurse Betty.”  Still, this seemingly comedic take on a regular real-life situation has us intrigued.  I hope it presents an opportunity for Broderick to shine.  Alice Eve is also on her way to superstardom following “Star Trek Into Darkness” and last year’s “Some Velvet Morning,” which also premiered at the festival.

Franny_web_19. FRANNY

Director: Andrew Renzi
Written by: Andrew Renzi
Cast: Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, Theo James, Clarke Peters
Synopsis: A philanthropist meddles in the lives of newly-married couples in an attempt to relive his past.

Richard Gere has reinvented himself in his later years, straying away from the normal rom-com’s and big studio projects.  He’s focused on independent flair and has delivered in many of them as we saw in “Arbitrage” and “Time Out of Mind,” which premiered at the New York Film Festival last year and will screen at Montclair Film Festival earlier next month.  Gere should be able to find himself in a Bruce Dern-type situation at some point in the near future and “Franny” sounds like something exciting and different for him.  We also have Dakota Fanning and Theo James playing the young couple that Gere’s character focuses on.  And then there’s Clarke Peters, who’s work in Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” two years ago was one of the award season’s greatest tragedies.

Tumbledown_web_18. TUMBLEDOWN

Director: Sean Mewshaw
Written by: Sean Mewshaw, Desiree Van Til
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Rebecca Hall, Blythe Danner, Joe Manganiello, Griffin Dunne
Synopsis: A young woman struggles to move on with her life after the death of her husband, an acclaimed folk singer, when a brash New York writer forces her to confront her loss and the ambiguous circumstances of his death.

This romantic-comedy on the surface may look like something standard and ready for a summer movie date with an obsessed girlfriend.  Sean Mewshaw’s directorial debut has a near stellar cast with Rebecca Hall (snubbed horribly for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Jason Sudeikis (on the verge of breaking out in a bigger way post-SNL), and Blythe Danner (an actress who is much better than the roles she’s been given. SEE: “The Last Kiss”).  This has massive potential to be intimate and present some strong writing and performances if handled correctly.

PressRelease-Image-LFNY_crop47. LIVE FROM NEW YORK!

Director: Bao Nguyen
Synopsis: Live From New York! explores the early years of “Saturday Night Live”, an experiment from a young Lorne Michaels and his cast of unknowns, and follows its evolution into a comedy institution. The film looks at SNL as a living time capsule, encompassing decades of American politics, media, tragedy, and popular culture with an irreverent edge. Archival footage is interwoven with stolen moments and exclusive commentary from SNL legends, journalists, hosts, musical guests, crew and others influenced by the comedy giant. Live From New York! captures what has enabled SNL to continually refresh itself over nearly 800 episodes and keep America laughing for 40 years.

The machine of “Saturday Night Live” has been going on for 40 years, and in February the world celebrated that with their massive special that brought back classic cast members and hosts.  In an institution that has survived this long, I’m sure much went on in the early and later years including politics, death, and more.  We can’t wait to see how Lorne Michaels and the rest of the family managed to keep it afloat when everything else seemed stacked against them.


Director: Tim Blake Nelson
Written by: Tim Blake Nelson
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Sam Waterston, Glenn Close, Tim Blake Nelson, Gretchen Mol, Corey Stoll, Michael K. Williams
Synopsis: Multiple lives intersect in the aftermath of the violent mugging of a Columbia University philosophy professor.

Tim Blake Nelson is a fine actor and has shined in films like “Lincoln,” “Blue Caprice,” and “O Brother Where Art Thou?” His directing credits have been even smaller including “Leaves of Grass” with Edward Norton and 2001’s “O” with Mekhi Phifer and Josh Hartnett.  This ensemble piece which brings together talent like Kristen Stewart (fresh off her win for “Clouds of Sils Maria” at the César Awards), Glenn Close (still looking for her first win after her loss for “Albert Nobbs”), Corey Stoll (a film or two away from his first big role that will score him many accolades), and Sam Waterston (a veteran who has flown under the radar far too long).  While big ensembles like “Crash” have gone on to do big things within AMPAS, others like “Bobby” and “Short Cuts” find themselves ignored.  We’re betting on something special from this.


Director: Diane Bell
Written by: Diane Bell
Cast: Jessica Biel, Zosia Mamet, Joe Anderson, Harry Hamlin
Synopsis: A yoga instructor looks to protect her sex-worker sister from her deadbeat boyfriend.

Writer/director Diane Bell has only one feature under her belt (“Obselidia”), which virtually no one has seen.  It did win two prizes at Sundance in 2010, and it was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.  More so than that, every now and again, a once hot, attractive star, that we never really thought could deliver a powerhouse performance does.  Look back at people like Charlize Theron in “Monster” or Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball.”  Jessica Biel has never been on offensive territory with her acting or film choices, does some admirable works as we’ve seen in flicks like “The Illusionist.”  Teamed up with Zosia Mamet of HBO’s “Girls,” we could be in store for surprising look at a sex-worker, which Oscar tends to love.  Call this a wild card of sorts.

Meadowland_web_14. MEADOWLAND

Director: Reed Morano
Written by: Chris Rossi
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Elisabeth Moss, Juno Temple, Giovanni Ribisi, John Leguizamo, Luke Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Mark Feuerstein
Synopsis: In the hazy aftermath of an unimaginable loss, Sarah and Phil come unhinged, recklessly ignoring the repercussions. Phil starts to lose sight of his morals; Sarah takes off on a potentially disastrous journey, falling deeper into her own fever dream.

Many of the reasons expressed in the “Bleeding Heart” section apply here.  Olivia Wilde has continuously stood out in pictures like “Rush” and “Her,” when her screen time doesn’t allow for such a thing.  Elisabeth Moss has shown herself to already have a post-Mad Men career that will likely include many engaging roles as seen in “The One I Love” last year.  Juno Temple has taken on the “weird, eccentric” girl in films like “Killer Joe” but there’s no telling what she’ll do in Morano’s film.  A tightly wound-up cast could add some fire to a dry 2015 thus far.  Can’t wait to see if this stands out.

Grandma_web_13. GRANDMA

Director: Paul Weitz
Written by: Paul Weitz
Cast: Lily Tomlin, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Julia Garner, Elisabeth Pena
Synopsis: Self-described misanthrope Elle Reid has her protective bubble burst when her 18-year-old granddaughter, Sage, shows up needing help. The two of them go on a day-long journey that causes Elle to come to terms with her past and Sage to confront her future.

The word out of Sundance this year was big for Best Actress hopeful Lily Tomlin.  We just love it when a once golden aged actress like Tomlin surprises in a vehicle that many weren’t really looking at.  Just one Oscar nomination under her belt for “Nashville,” the acting legend has offered much more than a citation in a Robert Altman film.  She also has some great company in Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden, the underutilized Judy Greer, and “it” girl at the moment Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black.”  We can’t forget that writer/director Paul Weitz has had his run ins with Oscar with “About a Boy” thirteen years ago.  The word for it is very positive.


Director: William Monahan
Written by: William Monahan
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Mark Wahlberg, Walton Goggins, Dania Ramirez
Synopsis: A suicidal artist goes into the desert, where he finds his doppelgänger, a homicidal drifter.

A thriller that we’ve all been anxiously waiting for since last year.  William Monahan, who won Best Adapted Screenplay for penning “The Departed,” gets into the director’s chair for a second time (following “London Boulevard”).  With that, he has brought in a die-hard cast that includes Oscar Isaac (probably in the top ten of our finest actors of today), Garrett Hedlund (criminally overlooked for “On the Road”), Mark Wahlberg (whose sole acting nomination was with Monahan’s words), and Dania Ramirez (who you should remember from “Entourage,” “Devious Maids,” and “Heroes”).  Can this find some traction on the circuit this year?  Who knows, but this could be a fascinating structure of thrills and words.


Director: John Maclean
Written by: John Maclean
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendolsohn, Rory McKann
Synopsis: ‘Slow West’ follows a 16-year-old boy on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of the woman he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveler Silas.

Just. Watch. The. Trailer.  If that isn’t enough to get you jumping out of your seat, Michael Fassbender reading the excerpts from the Encyclopedia Letter Q series should be able to get a rise out of you.  Add in Ben Mendolsohn, who is just about as amazing as any leading man from Australia at the moment and you had us at “Hello.”  Everything around it just looks like a romp time at the movies.

RUNNERS UP: “Misery Loves Comedy” (dir. Kevin Pollack), “The Driftless Area” (dir. Zachary Sluser), “The Survivalist” (dir. Stephen Fingleton), “When I Live My Life Over Again” (dir. Robert Edwards), “Prescription Drugs” (dir. Christopher Bell), “Man Up” (dir. Ben Palmer), “Jimmy’s Hall” (dir. Ken Loach)

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What do you think?


Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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