NBFF Review: Greetings From Tim Buckley, Isolated, And Welcome To The Jungle

Welcome-to-the-Jungle-poster whysoblu-001Saturday at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival was a busy day.  I specifically planned it that way, as I wanted my Sunday to be more relaxed.  So I ended up seeing 4 different films, none of which were similar in any way.  It was a full schedule and I have thoughts on three of them.  I say three, because the first film of the day was a retrospective screening of the John Wayne western, The Searchers.  This classic film was preceded by an interview with author Glenn Frankel who recently released “The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend”, essentially making it unnecessary for me to write anything about the film.  Unfortunately (and this really upset me), the recording of this conversation has been lost on my part.  Still, while many have written about The Searchers already (and it is a great film), I would rather spend my time sharing my thoughts on three new films that have been largely unseen by general audiences:  Greetings from Tim Buckley, Isolated, and Welcome to the Jungle.

Greetings from Tim Buckley (Movie Review)


Following The Searchers, my first screening of a new film on Saturday was the music-based biopic Greetings from Tim Buckley.  Set in 1991, this is the story of a young musician named Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley), who rehearses for his public singing debut at a Brooklyn tribute concert for his father, the late folk singer Tim Buckley (played by Ben Rosenfield in flashbacks).  Struggling with the legacy of a man he barely knew, Jeff finds solace in a relationship with an enigmatic young woman working at the show, Allie (Imogen Poots).  As they explore New York City, their adventures recall glimpses of Tim’s own 60s heyday, as he drives cross-country with a girlfriend and finds himself on the verge of stardom, despite having a newborn Tim left with his mother back at home.

I enjoyed the way the film crosscut back and forth between Jeff and Tim Buckley.  It made for an effective way to tell the story, shedding light on a character that we otherwise would not be able to see and the one who has grown up to be just as talented as his father.  This transition never felt forced and always seemed to come at the right time in order to break up the action going on in the film’s present.  Since the film largely capitalizes off the idea that Jeff is playing in a concert for a man he has never known, it works to see him battle his feelings about the situation, while we get an actual glimpse of a guy who had a complicated situation of his own to deal with.  Tim Buckley was clearly not ready to be a parent and was literally breaking through the barrier with his music.  This is not to say that his actions are justified, but I liked how the film put this on display.

Greetings-From-Tim-Buckley whysoblu

There really are a lot of nice aspects to this film.  The performances are solid, with Penn Badgley making a good impression on me, given that I am not too familiar with the work he seems to be better known for (Gossip Girl).  I also continue to find Imogen Poots to be a young actress destined for good things, as she pops up in small roles and always seems quite effective.  I would say that the film, for being about more important things, does use a fairly clichéd romantic angle in order to drive the story forward, but the actors are very likable and that goes a long way.

What really matters is the fantastic soundtrack heard in this film.  I am not sure who is actually singing, but the type of music that the Buckley’s play is very folksy with a lot of other elements such as rock, jazz, and blues.  We get to hear a lot of music throughout this movie and it really makes it worth it.  I would say that the pace is a little slack because of this extended musical focus, but if one is really in the mood to see a slice of the lives of Tim and Jeff Buckley, then this movie is a nice place to turn to.  Greetings from Tim Buckley is a strong feature overall, with some great sounds to really dig on.

Check out the film’s trailer here:

Greetings-from-Tim-Buckley-Poster whysoblu

Isolated (Movie Review)

The next feature I had a chance to see was one of the features from the NBFF’s Action Sports series of films, a very good documentary titled Isolated.  Here is the exciting film synopsis provided by the film festival:  A group of merciless surfers and modern day explorers embark on a journey to search for one of the world’s last undiscovered waves in the journalist dead zone island of New Guinea.  Their adventure becomes all too real as they encounter real life cannibals, uncover governmental genocide, expose a highly unethical gold mining corporation, and are followed by the military only to be later kidnapped by the rebel freedom movement.  Isolated features never before seen footage of a dying aboriginal culture as well as one of the most epic wave discoveries of the past 20 years.

Now the synopsis makes this sound like it could practically be a Hollywood thriller, but it is in fact a really strong documentary that starts off as an entertaining surfing doc, only to have a twist related to the humanitarian efforts sought out by the surfers involved.  You are almost getting two films in one here, with a lot of great surfing footage (this is the second time in recent months that I want to mention how awesome an IMAX surfing doc would be) making up a large portion of the film and the sad facts about what is going on in New Guinea making up another portion of the story.


What I enjoyed is how the film seemed very genuine in how it transitioned over to this dramatic angle.  It seems very apparent that the goal was to initially make a surfing doc about finding isolated waves in unexplored areas, only to find a number of isolated groups of people that are going through a lot of political turmoil.  Given that the explorers and the filmmakers spend time with random tribes of people out in the jungles of New Guinea, it is hard to argue against anything that they have to say here.  A lesser film could seem very shallow in bringing up an agenda, but Isolated has been effectively put together to remain entertaining throughout its relatively short runtime, despite the shift in what topic is most important.

Director Justin Le Pera has worked well with his crew to dig through the 100s of hours of footage that I imagine were at their disposal and did a fine job of making an effective documentary that shifts gears completely and still remains an absorbing watch.  For those who want a solid feature about surfing, it is in Isolated.  For those who want to see a documentary that is not too heavy, but still has a nice level of substance within it, Isolated works on that level as well.  Given that I try to come in as fresh as possible for the features I see at the film festival, I was very happy to not get what I was expecting with this film.

Check out the trailer below and visit the website
to learn more about the film’s cause – www.isolated.tv

isolated poster whysoblu

Welcome to the Jungle (Movie Review)

The last film I got to see at the film festival on Saturday was actually the world premiere of the comedy Welcome to the Jungle.  Nearly the entire cast and crew were on hand to present the film to a packed audience in Newport Beach’s Lido Theater and I was happy to not be disappointed.  The film is a comedy that has some very familiar beats in it, but works due to many of the comedic performances on display.  It really worked as the kind of film that would be nice to end a long day of screenings on.

Welcome to the Jungle revolves around a group of office workers sent on a team building exercise on a tropical island.  Adam Brody stars as Chris, the workplace weakling who is regularly bullied by Phil (Rob Huebel), the office loudmouth.  This team building exercise is headed up by Storm (JCVD himself, Jean Claude Van Damme), an unhinged ex-Marine, who really gets a kick out of these extreme activities.  However, Phil quickly assumes leadership after the pilot of the plane who flew the office workers to the island is found dead and Storm is attacked by a wild tiger (just one of those days, I guess).  As Chris is much more qualified to lead, it quickly becomes a battle for supremacy, which comes at the risk of everyone remaining stranded on the island.


It really is the cast that makes this film work.  Along with Brody and Huebel, the film also stars Kristen Schaal, Dennis Haysbert, and Megan Boone, among others, and everyone really does a good job of balancing out the laughs.  Huebel is easily the best comedic weapon this film has to offer however, as he brings the right level of dickishness and ridiculousness to the role he is playing, as the film veers into being a twisted and raunchier version of Lord of the Flies with regards to how he leads the group.  Van Damme is notably quite funny in this film as well, but it is not so much that Van Damme’s comedic timing is very good, as it is just kind of jarring to watch the Mussels from Brussels play around with his image.  Obviously that is the point, but it does feel like the film tries to get more out of the fact that it is Van Damme playing this part rather than suggest that Van Damme is a comedic talent finally being tapped (although he is hilarious in Expendables 2).

The premise is a good one.  Playing around with the idea of team building exercise, the concept of being stranded on an island, and turning it into a workplace comedy gone off the deep end is a fairly fresh concept.  That said, I would easily recommend Severance for those who want this sort of comedy with a little more edge thrown in.  Still, Welcome to the Jungle is pretty funny.  It made me laugh quite a bit, even in the midst of seeing where a lot of the punch lines were going to come from early on.  Again, in a case like this, it comes down to the kind of energy a film has in getting across its goal and I was happy to give in and smile, while watching this film.

No trailer yet, but here are a couple clips from the film:

Welcome-to-the-Jungle-poster whysoblu

Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website,
and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week
for more of my coverage of the festival!


Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “NBFF Review: Greetings From Tim Buckley, Isolated, And Welcome To The Jungle”

  1. Brian White

    Nice! I’m glad to see JCVD back in action!

    His peeps on the web really ate this review up yesterday!