This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


“Cemetery Junction,” Reviewed

“Cemetery Junction,” Reviewed (photo)

Posted by on

Years ago when I was talking to Jon Favreau about “Made,” I brought up a scene that he shot in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles that serves as the lair of Peter Falk’s lowly kingpin. Favreau barely knew where I was referring to, and I would assume he had lived in Los Angeles since filming “Swingers.”

I mention this not to name drop, but because if you don’t live in Southern California, you might not understand what limbo has befallen “Cemetery Junction,” Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s first feature together in the wake of successful TV series like “The Office” and “Extras.” It will be released on DVD next week, but it was dumped first into the Glendale Exchange 10 for a weeklong release that pulled in all of six customers on Monday night and was only publicized by a mention on Movieline and a Ben Stiller tweet, surely the result of a contractual obligation that the film not go directly direct-to-DVD.

Usually, this treatment is only reserved for complete messes like Kevin Costner’s “The New Daughter” or Russell Crowe’s “Tenderness,” and frankly, “Cemetery Junction” didn’t look like it had the potential as a nostalgic coming-of-age story about three teens plotting an escape from their sleepy English steel town in 1973. Instead, it’s more accurately a victim of indifference, a film that shares the romanticism of the cinema that Gervais’ first directorial outing, “The Invention of Lying” (co-directed with Matt Robinson), had, yet completely different in its approach.

08102010_CemeteryJunction3.jpgWhereas “The Invention of Lying” was engineered for Gervais and a crew of famous comic actors to deliver punchlines in a bright, reassuring ideal of a small town, “Cemetery Junction” operates in a fog, with Gervais and the film’s most notable names like Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson taking a backseat to the trio of anonymous teens crushed under oppression of a routine life: the ambitious Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke), the shaggy bad boy Bruce Pearson (Tom Hughes) and the ne’er do well comic relief Snook (Jack Doolan). The palette in “Junction” is drab (shot with as much style as possible by Remi Adefarasin) and the humor bone dry, where it exists.

But the movies are not the laughing matter for Gervais that one would think, once again eschewing the realism that he and Merchant so ruthlessly mined for laughs on television to fall back on sentimentality and cliché in film; if they were always ready to stab someone in the back for a gag on “The Office,” they’re only offering warm hugs here.

And for two-thirds of “Cemetery Junction,” the warmth of the familiar pushes past the predictability of the plot, which sees Freddie ditch his father’s line of work in the steel mill for a white collar job at Vigilant Life Assurance that comes with a boss he’s long admired (Ralph Fiennes), his daughter (Felicity Jones) for whom he holds a torch from childhood, and the promise of a life where his friends won’t pin him down and fart in his face. As the story broadens into subplots involving Bruce’s penchant for picking fights (unsurprisingly stemming from unresolved issues with his father) and Snook’s desire to become his own man, Gervais and Merchant write themselves into corners that only big unwieldy speeches can fix, which sends the film into a tailspin that will please only the least demanding of audiences.

This couldn’t have been the film that its distributor had in mind when they greenlit “Cemetery Junction” and shot a teaser with Gervais and Merchant ribbing Fiennes about “Schnidler’s List.” Indeed, any funny stuff the film has involves Fiennes’ endless reservoir of vitriol, whether he’s admiring his family portrait as fine art that’s likely “gone up in value” since its painter died, or delivering a cold-blooded retirement speech for one of his longest-serving employees that ends with the explanation of buying a more expensive gift since the cheaper one was out of stock. When Fiennes is offscreen, the film feels decidedly less dangerous and save for Gervais and Merchant, who both put in brief appearances that feel a little out of place, “Cemetery Junction” works out of expectation rather than anticipation.

08102010_CemeteryJunction2.jpgIronically, the embrace of nostalgia that makes “Cemetery Junction” interesting coming from Gervais and Merchant is what would make it potentially unbearable from any other filmmaker — the duo responsible for reinventing the sitcom doesn’t have the interest to do the same for film, a medium that they clearly adore as demonstrated by the explosions of the era’s classic rock that fill the film’s soundtrack and the care that goes into their screen composition, though it doesn’t allow for the same build for characters or subtlety in story arcs. As filmmakers, Gervais and Merchant find a rhythm technically that makes the fact they never find the balance between humor and heart that they’ve achieved in the past even more of a disappointment. But “Cemetery Junction” isn’t an embarrassment, it’s just a reminder that these guys are capable of better.

“Cemetery Junction” is now open in Los Angeles; it will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 17th.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

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

Posted by on

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…


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.


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).


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.


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

Watch More

Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

Watch More

G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

Watch More