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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.