Critic's Picks: 10 Best Tribeca Films at the Midpoint

1:20 PM 4/20/2016

by THR Staff

As the fest hits the halfway mark, standouts include a lesbian love story starring Lola Kirke, a courtroom drama with Viola Davis, a doc about Syrian refugees and a Dave Eggers adaptation headlined by Tom Hanks.

Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

  • After Spring

    Courtesy of Jason Graham Howell

    Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching’s documentary (executive produced by Jon Stewart) about the people living in Zaatari, the largest camp in the world for Syrian refugees, puts a vital and much needed human face on the crisis. Various snippets from home movies provide an illustration of what Syria was like before the civil war, with scenes of people enjoying shopping, dancing, sunning themselves on the beach and visiting the Happy Land amusement park. These images offer a stark and haunting counterpoint to the bleak current lives of Zaatari’s residents. — Frank Scheck

    Read the full review here.

    Read more 'After Spring' Doc Trailer Goes Inside Largest Syrian Refugee Camp

  • AWOL

    Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

    Mistress America co-star Lola Kirke comes into her own with this sensitive look at a lesbian teen's first major relationship — with an older, married woman. Karolina Waclawiak's and Deb Shoval's screenplay offers no shortage of "she's no good for you" warnings to the youth, who joins the army partly in the hope of being able to support Breeda Wool's Rayna after she (fingers crossed) leaves her husband. As the title promises, things don't go as planned. — John DeFore

    Read more Lola Kirke Falls for Breeda Wool in 'AWOL' (Exclusive Video)

  • The Banksy Job

    Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

    A caper so cheeky, unlikely and laced with art-world subversion one is tempted to wonder if the prank-loving victim actually staged the whole thing, Ian Roderick Gray and Dylan Harvey's documentary offers street-art provocateur Banksy as, for once, the butt of someone else's prank. Lively throughout and riffing hard on Exit Through the Gift Shop, the celebrated 2010 film about the artist, the new film appeals to the earlier one's audience without feeling too much like a coattail-rider. — John DeFore

    Read the full review here.

  • Burden

    Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

    Outside Los Angeles, where his late works have become surprise crowd-pleasers, sculptor Chris Burden probably is known mostly as the nut who had a friend shoot his arm with a rifle and called it art. That perception will evolve if enough people see Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey’s excellent portrait of the artist, who died almost a year ago. Not comprehensive but a must for viewers seeking to understand that amorphous creature called "contemporary art," it richly deserves theatrical exposure beyond fests before it finds a berth on video, where it should be a go-to reference point for some time. — John DeFore

    Read the full review here.

  • Custody

    Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

    A judge played by Viola Davis must decide if a mother (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is fit to care for her children after an accident at home in stage writing-directing vet James Lapine’s compassionate and wrenching drama. The movie’s broad appeal is enhanced by the two exceptional lead performances, which help us forgive a couple of lame stylistic devices that feel borrowed from second-rate TV crime shows. Hayden Panettiere co- stars as a defense attorney who finds herself in over her head. — John DeFore

    Read the full review here.

  • Dean

    Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

    Stand-up comic Demetri Martin (Taking Woodstock) stars in his own writing-directing debut, a winning dramedy about mourning and moving on. As the title character, a Brooklyn cartoonist who has been blocked in the months since his mother’s death, Martin commands the screen with well-honed comic skills. It’s a funny, gentle misfit tale boosted by a strong supporting cast that includes Kevin Kline, Gillian Jacobs and Mary Steenburgen. — John DeFore

    Read the full review here.

    Read more How Demetri Martin Mixes Death Drawings, Deadpan One-Liners and Kevin Kline in His First Movie (Q&A)

  • Elvis & Nixon

    Steve Dietl/Bleecker Street

    Liza Johnson's film comically imagines exactly what transpired to result in the meeting of Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) and Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) in 1970. Featuring hilarious yet acutely observed performances by the two leads, the film also flaunts a sharp satirical screenplay by Joey and Hanala Sagal and actor Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride). If Elvis & Nixon doesn't show things the way they actually happened, it shows them the way they should have. — Frank Scheck

    Read the full review here.

  • For the Love of Spock

    Courtesy of CBS & Kai de Mello (Contemporary)

    That actor Leonard Nimoy lived a rich and full life is made vividly clear in Adam Nimoy's loving documentary about his father and his most famous, iconic role. Packing in a wealth of information and nostalgia as well as presenting an intimate portrait of the sometimes contentious father/son relationship, the film will be a must-see for Trekkies getting primed for this summer's third installment of the rebooted franchise. — Frank Scheck

    Read the full review here.

    Read more Leonard Nimoy's Son Talks Paying Tribute to His Famous Father in 'Star Trek' Doc (Q&A)

  • A Hologram for the King

    Helmut Prein

    Though it isn’t without its awkward missteps, Tom Tykwer’s engaging, visually assured adaptation of the 2012 Dave Eggers novel finds the filmmaker back in form after the muddled mess of Cloud Atlas. As the protagonist, an American businessman who travels to Saudi Arabia for work, a perfectly cast Tom Hanks delivers a poignant turn. When it isn’t trying too hard to be instructive or jokey, the movie fluently conveys the hard truth of diminished relevance, geopolitical as well as personal. — Sheri Linden

    Read the full review here.

    Read more Tom Hanks Talks 'Hologram for the King' Relatability: "How Many Americans Are In That Same Boat?"

  • Kicks

    Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

    With his expressive eyes and a wild mane that dances like a sea anemone, talented newcomer Jahking Guillory makes a transfixing central presence in this inner-city coming-of-age drama about codes of friendship and masculinity, revolving around the theft of a pair of flashy Nike Air Jordans. First-time director Justin Tipping's finesse with dialogue and story is less developed than his visual sense, but the movie's silky blend of lyricism with urban grit marks it as a promising debut. — David Rooney

    Read the full review here.

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