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DID YOU READ

Disc Covering: “The Confidant,” and the Bell Curve of Stardom

Disc Covering: “The Confidant,” and the Bell Curve of Stardom (photo)

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The careers of most Hollywood actors can be plotted along a bell curve: anonymity, attention, success, stardom, struggle, decline, anonymity. Most of the recognizable stars who’ve appeared in movies featured thus far in this straight-to-DVD column have been at the tail end of the bell curve. This week’s a little different. We’ve got a movie starring a guy right on the cusp of a breakout: Boris Kodjoe, one of the leads of J.J. Abrams’ new series, “Undercovers.” That’s fortunate timing indeed for the makers of “The Confidant,” released to DVD just in time to take advantage of his increased exposure. And if the show takes off at all, he won’t be making too many more movies like it. At least not until he gets to the other side of the bell curve.

The Confidant
Directed by Alton Glass

09142010_confidant2.jpgTagline:“When Your Closest Friend Becomes Your Worst Enemy”

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: Gambling addicted former football star (and current douche) must deal with the return of the man who went to jail for a crime he committed.

Salable Elements: Kodjoe right on the cusp of stardom; an ensemble full of names that look good on a DVD cover including rapper David Banner, original Shaft Richard Roundtree, Bai Ling, and DTV Hall of Famer Billy Zane; a salacious storyline with a fair amount of nudity.

Biggest Success: “The Confidant” has a perfect pulp fiction premise: a cocky college football star named Nigel (Kodjoe) on the verge of signing a huge pro contract gets into a fight with a guy at a poker game and winds up killing him in self-defense. He convinces his friend Daniel (David Banner) to take responsibility for the murder so he can stay out of trouble and in line for his big payday. Daniel reluctantly agrees, and winds up locked away for eleven years (apparently the fact that the victim was Billy Zane was looked upon favorably during sentencing).

Now we fast-forward to the present: Daniel gets released, and finds Nigel washed-up with a bad knee, mounting debts, a gambling problem, and a emotionally fakakta wife (Kenya Moore). Daniel wants compensation for his sacrifice. Nigel wants to keep his secret buried. What to do? By the midway point of “The Confidant” the answer for all parties, unfortunately, is “Act really crazy and stupid.” But kudos to writer/director Alton Glass for dreaming up the idea for the best ’90s sleazefest Paul Verhoeven never made.

09142010_confidant3.jpgBiggest Failure: Kodjoe’s a handsome guy, and he has the charisma to carry a movie, even one as logically challenged as this one. Even if “Undercovers” doesn’t hit, he’s got a bright future. But I’m not sure I can say the same for co-star David Banner. He’s got a good thousand yard stare and he makes a competent and totally believable badass. But his dialogue readings are painfully stilted, and when the screenplay asks him to do anything beyond simple menace, he looks out of his depth. Also, you’d think a popular musician who’s enjoyed his share of partying on tour would know how to play drunk. Not quite. As rapper-turned-actors go, Banner’s not bad, but not great, sort of a poor man’s Ja Rule, who’s sort of a poor man’s DMX who, by the way, looks like a very strong candidate for next year’s DTV Hall of Fame class.

Best Moment: Banner’s intimidating demeanor play perfectly into one of Glass’s most clever directorial decisions: he cast another actor to play Daniel in the flashback scenes that show how he wound up taking the fall for Nigel. Typically you’d just have the same actors play these parts; Kodjoe and Banner could easily pass for early twentysomethings for a couple of scenes. Instead Glass got a younger, innocent looking guy to play Daniel so that when the character emerges from prison eleven years later, he is a new man, both figuratively and literally. It’s a risky choice, but it pays off, since it sells the toll life behind bars had on Daniel in a way that Banner’s performance doesn’t.

09142010_confidant4.jpgI Question: whether a man desperately trying to keep his wife from discovering his criminal past would encourage the man who took credit for said criminal past (and is bitterly angry about it) to live with him in a big empty mansion where he can try to seduce his wife for revenge. Wouldn’t it be smarter to set the guy up with some money and stash him in a condo somewhere? Of course, but then there would be no movie.

Worthy of a Theatrical Release? No. The production values are on the lower end of the DTV scale, and the third act is a mess of crazy ass plot twists and maudlin dream sequences. But the germ of the story here is so juicy. Instead of remaking another popular film from the 1980s, Hollywood should take a movie like this one that doesn’t quite work and tweak it into form. And by the time it happens, Kodjoe’ll probably be a big enough star to anchor that version too.

For Further Viewing: watch Paul Verhoeven defend one of his understood and underappreciated ’90s sleazefests, in a brief excerpt from his DVD commentary for “Starship Troopers”:

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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.