“Taking Woodstock” Offers Nothing New

“Taking Woodstock” Offers Nothing New (photo)

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Apparently determined to tackle every cinematic genre known to man, Ang Lee has thus far given us his take on the popular-lit adaptation (“Eat Drink Man Woman”), the classic-lit adaptation (“Sense and Sensibility”), the Civil War western (“Ride With the Devil”), the wuxia action flick (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), the Marvel comic-book summer tentpole (“Hulk”), the WWII espionage thriller (“Lust, Caution”) and, of course, the gay cowboy weepie (“Brokeback Mountain”).

It was inevitable, I suppose, that he would eventually get around to the historical docudrama — or, as I’ve recently dubbed that generally useless collection of bullet-point factoids, the Wiki-movie. Technically, “Taking Woodstock” was adapted from key organizer Elliot Tiber’s memoir of the same title; with the exception of some laborious anecdotes involving Tiber’s Russian immigrant parents, however, you can find pretty much every detail of the movie in Wikipedia’s tidy entry on the fabled concert, assuming that you don’t know most of that stuff already. If this film winds up being all that remains after a nuclear holocaust, it’ll be a valuable document. Otherwise, zzz.

A big part of the problem is that Tiber, played here by “Daily Show” correspondent Demetri Martin, didn’t really do much of anything — certainly nothing that required extensive dramatization. He was a civic-minded young music lover who, when he heard that a proposed extravaganza featuring many of his favorite bands was on the verge of being canceled for lack of a venue, used his position on the Bethel, NY city council to wrangle the necessary permit, originally intended for a concert of chamber music. He also put the promoters in touch with nearby dairy farmer Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), who rented out 600 acres for the event. Tiber’s family ran a cruddy little motel, which the Woodstock staff booked in toto; Tiber therefore had to run around changing the sheets and creating smaller mini-rooms (using dividers) to handle the overflow.

Sound scintillating? If it’s a recreation of Woodstock itself you seek, forget it — like Tiber, we see the stage only from a faraway hilltop, at a distance so great that the music isn’t even audible. And there just isn’t anything even marginally interesting about the behind-the-scenes machinations of one two-bit hustler. Martin plays Tiber as an amiable nebbish, practically devoid of personality; it barely registers when he comes out of the closet towards the end of the movie, inspired by the liberation he sees all around him, as the character hadn’t been anything more than a generic plot motor prior to this emotional epiphany. To keep the film from flatlining, Lee and his regular screenwriter, James Schamus, are forced to resort to goofy, mostly unfunny comedy, courtesy of Imelda Staunton as Tiber’s outrageously greedy/stingy mom and Liev Schreiber as a hulking transvestite with a pistol strapped to his upper thigh, who volunteers to be head of security.

08252009_TakingWoodstock2.jpgMostly, though, the experience of watching “Taking Woodstock” — at least for anyone not recently attached to a placenta — amounts to ticking off items from a checklist of “well, duh” expectations. You sit there waiting for the roads into Bethel to be jammed by barefoot hippies, for heavy rains to turn Yasgur’s field into a giant mud pit and, inevitably, for Lee to employ the same split-screen effect that Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker used when editing Michael Wadleigh’s documentary “Woodstock.”

It’s the kind of movie in which you know the acid just kicked in because the background suddenly goes all smeary-psychedelic; the kind of movie in which you’re prompted to chortle with retroactive knowingness at a promoter’s assurance that an upcoming Rolling Stones show will surely be a nonstop groovy lovefest. (Get it? Altamont!) It’s Ang Lee’s lamest movie ever, but at least he has it out of the way now. Bring on the musical.

Trump Funny or Die

Art of the Spoof

Watch Johnny Depp, Jack McBrayer, Patton Oswalt and More in Funny or Die’s Donald Trump Biopic

Johnny Depp just got very classy.

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Photo Credit: Funny or Die

We’re barely halfway through February, but this year’s Too Many Cooks Award for the most bizarre comedy project is already a lock. Blindsiding the world with greatness without any warning, Funny or Die released a 50-minute Donald Trump parody starring an unrecognizable Johnny Depp as Donny.

Ron Howard introduces this “lost” 1988 TV movie adaptation of Trump’s how-to manual The Art of the Deal produced with the retro quality of a Wendy’s training video. Along for the big hair and shoulder pads flashback are Patton Oswalt, Alfred Molina, Todd Margaret‘s Jack McBrayer, Andy Richter, Rob Huebel, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and Michaela Watkins as Ivana — as well as many Reagan-era surprises like a cameo from that loveable cat eater ALF and a theme song by Kenny Loggins.

Much like Eric Jonrosh of The Spoils Before Dying and The Spoils of Babylon fame, “Trump” writes, directs, and narrates his own epic tale of real estate wheelings-and-dealings. Check out the trailer below, and head over to Funny or Die to watch the full Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal movie before the real Donald sics his army of lawyers on Will Ferrell and company. (For more bizarro Johnny Depp characters, be sure to catch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this month on IFC.)

August Evenings

August Evenings (photo)

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This week’s slate reinvents the wheel, so to speak, unveiling a vast array of twists, tweaks, role reversals and reinventions to satisfy all tastes.

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“At The Edge of The World”
Made famous by the weekly embedded correspondence of their TV series “Whale Wars,” the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society puts the active in activism, taking self-described “direct action” (sabotage, vandalism, etc.) against the predominantly Japanese whaling fleets still hunting these gentle giants of the sea. Joining the battle-ready crew on their third Antarctic campaign, documentary filmmaker Dan Stone delivers a firsthand account of the controversial and dangerous tactics employed by these aggressive eco-warriors.
Opens in New York.

“Big Fan”
Having already explored the symbiotic yet mercurial bond between a sports icon and his fans in last year’s indie smash “The Wrestler,” scripter Robert Siegel hops the security barricade to take in a view from the stands with this bleak but touching black comedy that serves as his directorial debut. Patton Oswalt stars as Paul Aufiero, an amiable sad-sack football fanatic whose eager pursuit of his favorite player is rewarded with a personal beatdown. Disillusioned, he must weigh his heartbreak and the needs of his overbearing family with his steadfast loyalty to his beloved team.
Opens in New York and Philadelphia.

“The Final Destination”
Having skipped out on the previous installment to direct “Snakes on a Plane,” stuntman-turned-director David R. Ellis returns to this franchise for what has been billed as the final “Final Destination,” with its so-high-it’s-orbital concept that’s tailor-made for 3-D cinema. Offering up another gaggle of fresh-faced TV actors primed and prepped for some deadly Tom & Jerry mishaps, the installment sees our group narrowly avoid a hail of tires and shards of glass at a NASCAR meet, only for death to pick them off one by one in gradually more gruesome and inventive ways. Prepare to duck. A lot.
Opens wide and in Digital 3-D.

“Halloween II”
Rob Zombie’s latest blood-soaked big screen outing is both a sequel to a remake and a remake of a sequel. With much of Zombie’s original 2007 “Halloween” cast returning, this grisly, gory retread will focus on the psychological bond between series anchor Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and undead psychopath Michael Myers (Tyler Mane).
Opens wide.

“Mystery Team”
In a field overcrowded with spotty adolescents desperate to lose it, this mind-bogglingly simple feature debut from online sketch comedy troupe Derrick Comedy turns the teen comedy genre on its head with a story of three chaste, naïve simpletons desperate to do anything else. Taking teen detective fiction to its extreme logical conclusion, this trio of high school senior super sleuths (Donald Glover, D.C. Pierson and Dominic Dierkes) — comprised of a master of disguise, a genius and a suspiciously gaunt muscleman — scour their town for clues on the path to recognition as they haplessly hunt down a killer.
Opens in Austin, expanding to select cities throughout September; expands nationwide in October.

“The Open Road”
Apparently, writer/director Michael Meredith never met a cliché he didn’t like with this story centered on a retired sports icon reconnecting with his estranged son on an enforced cross-country road trip to reconcile with his hospitalized ex-wife that comes complete with the tagline “sometimes the best thing about a journey is losing your baggage.” But who knows? Maybe there’s life in the old gal yet. Boasting a magnificent Southern drawl, Jeff Bridges co-stars as the onetime ball-playing great, with Justin Timberlake as his son and reluctant chaperone who brings his girlfriend Lucy (Kate Mara) along.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Play The Game”
Still going strong at the grand old age of 83, legendary actor Andy Griffith leads this spirited sex comedy for seniors, the feature debut from writer/director Marc Feinberg. In a neat role reversal, Griffith plays the very definition of a late bloomer as the befuddled Grandpa Joe who gets a lesson in pick-up artistry from his ladies’ man grandson, David (Paul Campbell of “Battlestar Galactica” fame), who in turn comes to realize his student may have a few lessons of his own to give.
Opens in limited release.

Exclusive Video Premiere: The Dandy Warhols’ “And Then I Dreamt of Yes”

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IFC.com presents the world premiere of the music video for the Dandy Warhols‘ “And Then I Dreamt of Yes,” from the album “Earth To The Dandy Warhols,” directed by Mark Helfrich (check out an interview with him below).

08102009_HelfrichDandyWarhol.jpgDirector Mark Helfrich is a romantic. He’s nostalgic about his beginnings as an editor, back when editors actually had to cut reels of 35mm film by hand. He used to be a DJ too, and for him, movies and music go hand in hand like vinyl and a good pair of headphones. A longtime Dandy Warhols fan, he shot this video for their song, “And Then I Dreamt of Yes,” off of “Earth To The Dandy Warhols.” The “Dr. Caligari” couple are so convincing that you may assume they’re projections of original 1919 footage, unless you’ve happened to have seen it recently, but they’re actors in old-timey makeup jobs shot simultaneously in the frame with the band. I had a conversation with Helfrich about the ideas and process behind the video, and we didn’t shy away from a little guy talk about female nudes or the movie “Predator,” either.

Courtney Taylor wrote a song for your film “Good Luck Chuck” — was that your first collaboration with the band?

Yeah, that’s the first time we got together. I really like the Dandy Warhols, so I called them up and asked if they’d do a song. Courtney obliged and came up with the song called “Good Luck Chuck” that fit perfectly in the film. So we started a friendship there and he asked if I’d be interested in doing some videos for them. I said, “Of course!”

You’ve been a Dandys fan…

For a long time. Since the beginning.


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