Nia DaCosta’s LITTLE WOODS is a bleak, powerful drama that gives a stellar role to Tessa Thompson. She plays a woman named Ollie, living in a fracking boomtown in North Dakota. Life has dealt her a pretty shitty set of cards and she has been forced into crime (smuggling and selling) to make money for her family and to save her home. Ollie has been working hard to get through her probation, which she received for dealing drugs and running medicine over the Canadian border to people who needed it and couldn’t afford the insured kind. But even as close as she is, the old way of life is tempting her to stray before she’s free and clear. Her broken down sister Deb (Lily James) is dead broke and pregnant, her Mother has just passed away and she’s going to lose her house. Unless she makes one last run across the border and can fix it all.


Thompson gives a searing and understated performance here, playing out every bit of drama like a high stakes’ thriller. And a thriller it is, because the consequences of every single action in this film are sky high. This is life and death stakes, but on a lower, broken class scale. The sound design and cinematography really capture the dreariness of the steps around her, making you feel adrift as you watch her float in and out of some particularly bad decisions. The only person she trusts is her probation officer (Lance Reddick) and although she trusts him, he shouldn’t return the favor because she definitely is lying to him. But he does trust her, or at least wants to, and wants to see her rise up. But with a sharp eye on the small-town drug trade, LITTLE WOODS really does ask, “Is change possible, or is the end just inevitable?” Under the smart direction of DaCosta, you’re unsure of any answer.



WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Nia Dacosta STARRING Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale, Lance Reddick. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.



Words, as they can, can be sharper than knives. That’s certainly the case in EGG, the new film written by Risa Mickenberg and directed by Marianna Palka. The premise revolves around two couples who are joining together in a loft style apartment to welcome a child into the world. Once they all arrive, verbal daggers and veiled judgments surround them, mostly in real time. You alternately howl with laughter or tense up, and the ensemble cast crackles with venom, reminding you of a modern Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.


Tina and Wayne (Alysia Reiner and Gbenga Akinnagbe) are a married couple in New York who at first seem like a loving couple that simply accepts Tina’s success and understands Wayne’s aimlessness. The live in a huge “artist loft” and have invited Tina’s lifelong friend Karen (Christina Hendricks) and her husband Don (David Alan Basche). Karen is eight months pregnant and very excited for motherhood. Tina is very excited to tell her everything that’s wrong with having a baby. All four of them could not be any different. And…. they’re off.


One of the great that works in EGG is how the razor-sharp zingers don’t just come from the tongue of Tina, they come right back at her from Karen. No one here is a victim and everyone has their say. As they go back and forth, you wonder if this would play even better as an intimate Off-Broadway play, as much of the staging feels “theatre-esque.” Most of the dynamics of the characters work, and Alysia Reiner and Christina Hendricks are especially great. Gbenga Akinnagbe has some solid moments as well, but sadly you hate David Alan Basche immediately and you don’t stop. He’s the only character that felt like so much of a shit that you don’t understand why his wife would be married to him. He’s awful, and I suppose it’s a credit to Basche that he plays it right up. Anna Camp has a bit of a thankless role in a part that isn’t fully needed but nonetheless works. With firecracker dialogue by Mickenberg and assured directing by Palka, EGG grabs your throat and doesn’t let go.

WRITTEN BY Risa Mickenberg DIRECTED BY Marianna Palka STARRING Christina Hendricks, Anna Camp, Alysia Reiner, David Alan Basche, Gbenga Akinnagbe. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.





The experience of sitting back and watching Mitzi Peirone’s hypnotic horror thriller BRAID is about as close to fully tripping out without having to do any illegal drugs. Or even any legal ones. This hallucinogenic thrill ride is one of the craziest, trippiest, and most beautiful experiences at the festival this year. The style of the film is very intoxicating. The story is so bananas that you simply stop trying to keep up or make sense of anything because, quite simply, rarely any of it does make sense. Characters simply do things. Forget motivation. They’re going to just do them. But if you can throw your common sense out the window for a bit, you just may have one hell of a time.


Two friends, Petula and Tilda (Imogen Waterhouse and Sarah Hay) deal drugs in New York and are having a grand old time. But after a bust gone haywire, they must flee the town, elude the police, and escape their pissed off dealer. Their plan is simple: they end up heading to their childhood friend Daphne’s (Madeline Brewer) mansion of a house and steal everything she’s got. So, they can have enough to really skip town proper. But doing this ends up not being easy at all, as they are forced (well, kind of forced. They sort of just do it) into a twisted role-playing game that all three girls used to play as kids (these are three kids I am VERY glad I didn’t know growing up). The main rule is simple: last 48 hours and walk away with the money. And that’s really where it stops even sort of making sense.


The role playing takes a lot of gruesome twists and turns and why they don’t just kill her and run away with the money is never addressed. What is address is a lot of purple, pink, yellow, and bright and crazy hued scenes straight out of Wonderland. You are at the Mad Hatter’s tea party here and all three girls take turns being in charge, being a prisoner, and being screwed over. A lot of the actual “story” is maddening if you think about it. But the movie seems to know that and not care. This film is meant to be an “immersive, check your common sense at the door and come trip out with me” experience. And all of the actresses are game, giving fully crazed commitment. BRAID is certainly not for everyone. It’s not even for most people. But I guarantee that if you give it a shot, you haven’t ever seen anything quite like it.

VERDICT: SEE IT (With strong reservations if you're not 100% "in")

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Mitzi Peirone STARRING Madeline Brewer, Imogene Waterhouse, Sarah Hay, Scott Cohen. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.