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DID YOU READ

Disc Covering: “Dolan’s Cadillac,” one to add to the “bad” pile of Stephen King adaptations.

Disc Covering: “Dolan’s Cadillac,” one to add to the “bad” pile of Stephen King adaptations. (photo)

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I find the world of direct-to-DVD movies totally fascinating. You walk into a video store, confident in your knowledge of the current cinema landscape, and suddenly you discover a Morgan Freeman movie you’ve never heard of before in your entire life. It’s hard to imagine why a movie starring Freeman, Antonio Banderas and Radha Mitchell by the director of “Deep Impact” can’t get a theatrical release. Sure, it could be a real stinker, but c’mon — real stinkers get exhibited on thousands of screens across the country every single day of the year.

(My hypothetical example, by the way, isn’t hypothetical: it’s “The Code,” or at least that’s the name it’s rented under at my local video store. IMDb lists it as “Thick as Thieves.” Let’s call that BAD SIGN THAT YOUR MOVIE IS GOING STRAIGHT TO DVD #1: Multiple Titles.)

Still, there’s no denying that direct-to-DVD stigma exists, and not without good reason. But as the independent film distributors and boutique studio labels close, theatrical releases are get harder and harder to come by. As our own DVD columnist Michael Atkinson observed, that’s led some damn fine movies to premiere on disc. So I’m not approaching this world just looking for bad movies to make fun of (though I’m definitely not above doing that if a movie warrants it). In this column, I’m going to search the direct-to-DVD world for undiscovered gems. And if I find some entertaining schlock along the way, I’m cool with that to. Let’s begin.

05252010_dolanscadillacdvd.jpg“Dolan’s Cadillac” (2009)
Directed by Jeff Beesley

Tagline: “An eight-cylinder fuel-injected coffin”

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: Mousy schoolteacher seeks revenge on heinously evil human trafficker who killed his wife; discovers joys of construction work.

Salable Elements: Mid-range, somewhat faded movie stars Christian Slater and Wes Bentley in the two lead roles, a plot based on a short story by top tier literary star Stephen King.

Biggest Success: For a movie about retribution, mental breakdowns, and the slave trade, the film has a pretty wicked sense of humor. After his wife’s murder by a mobster (Slater) who’s worried she’ll testify against him in court, sixth grade teacher Robinson (Bentley) plunges into a nasty downward spiral. He hits the pain medication and alcohol so hard that his wife’ charred corpse starts appearing to him in visions a la John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London.” In a particularly demented scene, she helps him pick out a gun to kill Slater’s Dolan with, one three times more powerful than Dirty Harry’s Magnum (true to its reputation, a stray bullet from the gun later causes a rock slide). Robinson and Dolan’s final confrontation takes place on an abandoned stretch of highway near a sign for Las Vegas bearing the town’s “Whatever happens here, stays here,” motto. That’s already a clever poke at Robinson’s crippled emotional state even before we learn exactly how he plans to strike back at Dolan, which elevates the gag to the level of a great “Twilight Zone” stinger.

05252010_dolans4.jpgBiggest Failure: Despite the dark comedy, and a plump Christmas ham of a performance from Slater — who has maybe three lines in the entire film that don’t involve despicable racial epithets or screaming at the top of his lungs, or both — the screenplay by Richard Dooling leans way too heavily on faux philosophical (let’s call it “fauxlosophical”) narration. The movie begins with “Terminator 2”-style images of the open road, while Bentley describes his adversary in grave voiceover: “He looks like anybody you see on the street. But when he grins, birds fall off telephone lines. When he looks at you a certain way, your prostate goes bad, and your urine burns. The grass yellows up and dies where he spits. He’s always outside. He came out of time. He has the name of a thousand demons.”

Let’s for the moment ignore the whole an-altercation-with-this-gangster-made-my-pee-burn thing (I promise, I’ll come back to it). The movie sets up Dolan to be the bad guy of all bad guys, and when we meet him he’s… Christian Slater? There are very few actors who could live up to that kind of introduction — Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate comes close — and, sadly, Christian Slater isn’t one of them, especially when he’s saddled with a role that requires him to do so much mugging and sweating.

(About the burning urine thing, the movie is strangely preoccupied with peeing. Bentley actually repeats the same line in another voiceover later in the film, and Robinson and Dolan’s first face to face meeting takes place — where else! — at adjacent truck stop urinals. No word on who made whose urine burn though.)

05252010_dolans2.jpgBest Moment: Robinson screams at Dolan, the man who blew up in his wife in a car bomb, “It tears me to pieces to think about how you tore my wife to pieces!” Sincere but poorly chosen expression of rage or brilliant deadpan wordplay? I still can’t decide, though the fact Slater is, by this point in the film, shirtless and flexing his sixpack as he begs for his life makes me lean towards the latter.

Special Features: A 20-minute promotional featurette about the making of the film, which includes director Jeff Beesley’s contradictory claim he made “a Saturday night popcorn movie” that is “at its heart, it very much… an art film.” You and half the directors on the festival circuit, Jeff.

Worthy of a Theatrical Release: No, but “Dolan’s Cadillac” does make a respectable rental title. It certainly looks good enough for a theatrical release, courtesy of some decent cinematography by Gerald Packer. But its whiplash moves between comedy and drama look a lot better on the small screen, where the line between intentional and unintentional comedy is a lot more fluid, and a lot more forgiving.

For Further Viewing: Watch as a bunch of seventh graders interpret King’s “Dolan’s Cadillac” with predictably goofy results.

[Photos: “Dolan’s Cadillac,” Film Bridge International, 2009]

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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