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Opening This Week: Docs on teens, tightropes and tradition

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07212008_americanteen.jpgBy Neil Pedley

With blockbusters taking a week off after “The Dark Knight” so thoroughly conquered the box office and its core audience descends upon Comic-Con in San Diego, an outstanding array from the indie scene offers plenty of alternative viewing.

“American Teen”
Her longtime collaborator Brett Morgen may be out of the picture, but “The Kid Stays in the Picture” co-director Nanette Burstein infiltrated the cliques, classrooms and hallways of an Indiana high school for her first solo doc, which netted her a directing award at Sundance earlier this year. Burstein follows a cross section of Warsaw High’s senior class for 10 months in pursuit of their respective ambitions and priorities, and discovers that bonding at the library during Saturday detention is no way to communicate when text messaging and IM can be just as intimate.
Opens in limited release.

Mumblecore alumni Jay and Mark Duplass celebrate their favorite genre (and others) by destroying it, taking aim at film festival darlings, amateur actors unafraid of nudity and the ever-so-hip fad of ultra-low budget minimalist horror. This time around, “The Puffy Chair” co-writing and directing team keep the action mostly confined to a cabin in the woods, where a group of wannabe actors and filmmakers (Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller) channel their inner Heather Donahue and set about writing a hit script, only to be stalked by a malevolent stranger who wears a paper bag on his head. Inspiration never came without such perspiration first.
Opens in limited release.

“Boy A”
“Intermission” director John Crowley adapts Jonathan Trigell’s bleak and downbeat tale of unending purgatory, which itself was loosely inspired by a number of infamous child-on-child murders in Britain over the last 20 years. The story follows Jack (Andrew Garfield), a young man freshly released from prison after serving a sentence for murdering a fellow child, and his attempts to rehabilitate himself into society under an assumed identity and lead something approaching a normal life. A critical hit in its native Britain, the film already earned Crowley a BAFTA award for best director.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Brideshead Revisited”
The only thing braver than adapting a revered period novel that has grown into a veritable British institution for the big screen is doing so and not immediately telephoning Kate Winslet, Colin Firth and Keira Knightley. Here director Julian Jarrold does both with Evelyn Waugh’s masterwork, ably enlisting BAFTA award-winning writers Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies to give this tragic love story a suspenseful shot in the arm. Matthew Goode and Hayley Atwell take the roles of doomed lovers Charles Ryder and Lady Julia Flyte, whose fledgling romance is thwarted at every turn by family, religious obligation and the class system.
Opens in limited release.

“Bustin’ Down The Door”
Writer/director Jeremy Gosch, whose debut feature centered on two best friends taking a snowboarding trip together, once again indulges his passion for extreme sports, but trades fiction for reality. Set against the backdrop of the explosive Hawaii surf scene, Gosch looks back at the mass migration of Australians and South Africans to the North Shore of Oahu leading to the emergence of several future world champion surfers, all of whom set out on a mission to transform surfing into a respectable professional sport.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“CSNY: Déjà Vu”
Bernard Shakey (a.k.a. Neil Young) steps behind the camera once again to document the reunion of his longtime rock ‘n’ roll family of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash for their 2006 “Freedom of Speech” tour across North America. Riding the wave of anti-war sentiment, the quartet performs to raise awareness against perceived injustice in America to an audience that needs their voice now as much as they did 30 years ago.
Opens in limited release.

With the state of Japan’s youth firmly on his mind, writer/director Akihiko Shiota uses the backdrop of the devastating 1995 sarin gas subway attacks to ask some uncomfortable questions of a society he views as decadent, infirm and out of touch. Hoshi Ishida and Mitsuki Tanimura co-star as Koichi, a disillusioned member of the cult responsible for the attack now on the run, and Yuki, a streetwise runaway who recognizes him from the news and helps him pick up the pieces, respectively. In Japanese with subtitles.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on August 8th.

“Late Bloomer”
A portrait of the unending frustration and loneliness of a man trapped inside his own body is the subject of writer/director Go Shibata’s debut feature. All the kindness, support, and goodwill in the world are no comfort for Sumida, a severely disabled man who finds a reservoir of rage and resentment slowly fill inside of him as he watches life happen all around him in maddeningly simple ways he will never experience himself.
Opens in New York.

07212008_manonwire.jpg“Man on Wire”
One of the major revelations of the festival circuit this year, this retrospective documentary is a inside look at French daredevil Philippe Petit’s audacious and infamous 1974 stroll across tightrope at 1300 feet between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Described by director James Marsh as something of a “heist movie,” the film inserts freshly staged recreations into a wealth of archival footage shot by Petit and his guerrilla crew that details the exhaustive planning and skillful execution of this unprecedented feat, while at the same time chronicling Petit’s own personal history, his obsession with the towers and the genesis of the so-called “artistic crime of the century.”
Opens in limited release.

“No Regret”
Julian Jarrold might be brave for messing with “Brideshead Revisited,” but Leeson Hee-Il is positively fearless in his directorial debut, the first film to feature gay subject matter from an openly gay filmmaker to come out of the doggedly conservative South Korea. Having been forced to leave the orphanage that was his home and subsequently laid-off from his dreary factory job, the film follows Lee Su-min (Lee Yeong-hun) a young man forced to take work as a male lap dancer at a local gay club, where he catches the eye of Song Jae-min (Lee Han), the closeted son of the factory’s CEO whose arranged marriage is quickly approaching. In Korean with subtitles.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“The Order of Myths”
Mobile, Alabama was the site of the very first Mardi Gras celebration way back in 1703 and although over 300 years have passed, little has changed when it comes to the segregated celebrations in the southern city. Opting to ditch the documentary staple of voiceover narration and let her subjects try to explain the situation themselves, filmmaker Margaret Brown charts the almost identical parallel process of planning and executing the two segregated Mardi Gras parades and pageants, tolerated by both blacks and whites, under the guise of “tradition.” Brown’s look at the division in her hometown has had an opposite effect on the festival circuit, where it picked up a Cinematic Vision Award at SilverDocs and praise from our own Alison Willmore.
Opens in New York.

“Red 71”
Mixing the cool of neo-noir with the heat of the desert, this stylish mystery centers on Shane (Nathan Ginn), a gumshoe who becomes smitten with a woman that coaxes him into investing in her husband’s club. When her husband and a few of her other past conquests turn up dead, it’s left up to Shane to figure out who’s on the level in the small desert town.
Opens in New York.

“Step Brothers”
Will Ferrell has built his entire career around playing grown men behaving like immature children, so even if this appears to be a rather on-the-nose retooling of “Grumpy Old Men,” don’t expect Ferrell and co-star John C. Reilly to act their age. “Talladega Nights” director Adam McKay once again directs the duo as Brennan and Dale, a pair of 40-year-old losers, still unemployed and living at home. When their single parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) get hitched, the petulant Peter Pans are forced to share a bedroom where they quickly break out the duvet-and-two-kitchen-chair-forts and wage a territorial battle.
Opens wide.

“Two Tickets to Paradise”
Veteran actor D.B. Sweeney gathers together an impressive ensemble to aide him in his directorial debut about a trio of overgrown juveniles looking to recapture the glory days during an anarchic road trip to the college football championship game in Florida. John C. McGinley, who already played second fiddle in the like-minded “Wild Hogs” a year ago, appears here as a former football pro and Sweeney plays a failed rock star. In a shrewd casting coup that will remind many of the actor’s own glory days, Sweeney’s “Cutting Edge” co-star Moira Kelly plays his wife in the film. M.C. Gainey and Ed Harris round out the eclectic support cast.
Opens in limited release.

“The X-Files: I Want to Believe”
With the sharp decline in quality that quickly followed the departure of Glen Morgan and James Wong from “The X-Files” writing staff and the train wreck of the final two seasons that occurred with David Duchovny’s exit, it’s easy to forget what a masterful blend of intelligent drama, supernatural suspense and conspiracy theory the show used to be. With six years having passed since the series ended and the plot a closely guarded secret, it remains to be seen if the reemergence of Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully will make fans believe again, even with creator Chris Carter at the helm and the addition of Billy Connolly as psychic priest.
Opens wide.

[Photos: “American Teen,” Paramount Vantage, 2008; “Man on Wire,” Magnolia Pictures, 2008]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.