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Opening This Week: DIY art, Philip Roth, the Germs and motorcycle gangs

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08042008_beautifullosers.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week’s delectable delights include, amongst other things, such highbrow morsels as a gallery retrospective on D.I.Y. art and a crash course in the history of the California vineyards. If that’s not your cup of proverbial tea, there’s always psychotic bikers and the ballad of two stoned losers on the run from gangsters and the police.

“Beautiful Losers”
More than 15 years after founding the hugely influential Alleged Gallery in New York, the freelance curator Aaron Rose continues to serve as a cornerstone of the now-global D.I.Y. art scene. Here he teams with “Blair Witch” actor-turned-director Joshua Leonard to chart the evolution and subsequent commercialization of a movement whose genesis was found in a group of outcasts, slackers and misfits from the fringes of subculture. Emerging from the dirty little worlds of surfing, skateboarding and street graffiti, a group of artists including the likes of Harmony Korine, Shepard Fairey and Mike Mills came together and pioneered a fresh and daring new art form.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on August 29th.

“Beer For My Horses”
If television can mine Geico commercials for sitcom concepts, then it must not be too far a stretch for Toby Keith to base his first foray as a screenwriter on his 2003 music video with Willie Nelson that featured the unlikely dynamic duo as detectives hunting a murderer. Nelson may only be around for a cameo, but Keith partners up with comedian Rodney Carrington to play Rack and Lonnie, two small-town deputies who defy the sheriff (Tom Skerritt) and embark on a quest to rescue Rack’s girlfriend, Annie (Claire Forlani), who’s been kidnapped by the comically self-inflated local drug lord. Some have christened this the summer of the superhero, yet between Forlani here and the reemergence of Julia Ormond in “Kit Kittredge,” it could just as easily be called return of the late ’90s ingénues.
Opens in limited release.

“Bottle Shock”
Writer/director Randall Miller obviously took a page from “Sideways” when realizing that the best way to dilute the pretension attached to wine tasting and make it palatable for a mainstream audience is to shackle us with a professionally failing, self-deprecating cynic and then find a way to make us root for him. And who else but Alan Rickman could play such a lovable snob as Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant who championed the vineyards of California at a time when Napa Valley was better known for Calistoga water. In hopes of reviving his own flagging business, Spurrier challenged the French to a blind tasting in 1976, which changed the way the world looked at wine forever. Bill Pullman, Eliza Dushku, Freddy Rodriguez and the future Captain Kirk, Chris Pine, co-star.
Opens in limited release.

Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet looks to conjure a little art house amore with her take on this tale of mortality and sexual politics that hopefully stems the unfortunate trend of bestselling novelist Philip Roth’s rather good books being systematically reduced into rather mediocre films. Based on Roth’s “The Dying Animal,” the film stars Sir Ben Kingsley (in only his fifth role of the summer) as an aging professor who revels in enticing the naïve young beauties around the campus before discarding them, until he becomes besotted with a Cuban student (Penélope Cruz) for whom his passion turns into a crippling sexual jealousy. Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard and Dennis Hopper round out the ensemble.
Opens in limited release.

“Hell Ride”
Twelve years after Roger Ebert wrote that he’d prefer to watch a blank screen over Larry Bishop’s directorial debut “Mad Dog Time,” the writer/director returns as one-third of a vicious motorcycle gang bent on exacting bloody revenge on their rivals, the 666ers, for the murder of one of their own. Accompanied by Michael Madsen and Eric Balfour on screen and executive producer Quentin Tarantino behind the scenes, Bishop promises all the sex, violence and gunplay required by Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” label, along with a print that looks like it was transported to the theater at the bottom of a child’s sandpit. The decision to round out that authentic grindhouse theater experience by pouring soda all over the theater floor and smearing bodily fluids onto the seat next to you is entirely optional.
Opens in limited release.

“Last Stop for Paul”
Minimalism is all the rage in the indie world these days, but longtime television director Neil Mandt’s audacious, experimental road trip film takes the concept to its extreme, employing nothing more than a camera, a few wireless mics and a story idea. With his cinematographer Marc Carter as his lone scene partner, Mandt plays Charlie, a man of many jaunts who convinces his pal Cliff (Carter) to scatter the ashes of their late friend (the titular Paul) at different points around the globe on their way to the Full Moon party in Thailand. If nothing else, the experience of grabbing people off the street and ad-libbing the 83 minute film in 20 countries likely prepared Mandt well for the film’s 35-city-plus festival run.
Opens in New York.

“Patti Smith: Dream of Life”
Photographer Steven Sebring dutifully catalogues the many highs and lows in the life of legendary cult rocker Patti Smith over 11 years. The duly anointed “godmother of punk” narrates her own story, which, as Sebring documents, continues to change as the artist constantly reinvents herself through music, art and poetry. Sebring follows Smith as she travels all over the world, trying to reconcile having to both constantly play down and at the same time live up her image as a rock icon.
Opens in New York.

“Pineapple Express”
David Gordon Green makes a bid for mainstream glory by joining the Judd Apatow posse with a script from Apatow alums Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg for this outlandish stoner romp through the annals of good taste that stars Rogen as a panicky process server who goes on the run with his dim bulb of a dealer (James Franco) when they witness a murder at the hands of a corrupt cop. Returning to the hugely successful “Superbad” mold of gross-out, slapstick humor built on a foundation of genuine affection and friendship, with a dash of chaotic violence thrown in this time, the flavor of this pot comedy looks set to remain salty enough for him yet sweet enough for her.
Opens wide.

Brian Cox stars as Avery Ludlow, a benign widower who loses his only friend when his dog Red is violently murdered by a group of punk kids, headed up by the son of a local business tycoon (Tom Sizemore). Since the death of an animal barely causes a ripple for most in the community, Ludlow’s search for a simple apology quickly descends into a bloody quest for retribution. Based on the novel by Jack Ketchum, the film comes with two directors: Norwegian helmer Trygve Allister Diesen, who filled in for “May” director Lucky McKee for undisclosed reasons.
Opens in limited release.

“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2”
The sequel to the 2005 adaptation of Ann Brashares’ popular coming-of age series skips books two and three and hooks up with our quirky quartet during their first summer after college. Giving girls still bright-eyed enough to regard “Sex and the City” with mostly confusion something more their fit, the film resurfaces its magical pants and finds its good-natured foursome (America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively, and Alexis Bledel) once again turning to each other for support as they chase their dreams and negotiate life’s many trials on the road to adulthood. “Something New” director Sanaa Hamri steps in behind the camera.
Opens wide.

“What We Do is Secret”
Fifteen years in the making, Rodger Grossman’s labor of love biopic of Darby Crash, founder and lead singer of The Germs, finally sees a wider release after premiering at last year’s L.A. Film Festival. Shane West, of “ER” fame, takes the stage as Crash, the chaotic frontman who started playing gigs with his friends, unphased by the minor detail that they had no songs and none of them knew how to play an instrument, which led to their becoming the first breakout band to come out of Southern California’s then-fledgling punk scene. Although West was subject to early criticism by Germs fans who thought his matinee idol looks might diminish his portrayal of Crash, Crash’s real-life bandmates didn’t — West now tours with the band as the New Germs.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Beautiful Losers,” Sidetrack Films, 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.