This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Toronto 2010: “Stone,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Stone,” Reviewed (photo)

Posted by on

Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

To say “Stone” requires faith – both from its audience and as a recurring theme – would be an incredible understatement. That it made this agnostic care would be another.

Already established to some as the “Edward Norton in cornrows” movie, it’s a serious drama that I entered with understandable skepticism, whether it’s seeing the Millenium/Nu Image logo and wondering if this was just another paycheck job for Robert De Niro or if Milla Jovovich can play someone of this earth – the answer to those questions is no, and sort of, but then that’s where “Stone” becomes something special.

It’s during Jack Mabry’s (De Niro) first interview with prospective parolee Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Norton) that Jovovich’s Lucetta is called an “alien” by her lover Creeson and despite not appearing onscreen until later, one might agree knowing “The Fifth Element” actress is playing the part. Weeks from retirement, Mabry appears to think Creeson’s cornrows are pulled to tight, yet learns himself the strange power Lucetta holds when she injects herself into his life on the outside, pleading on him to release her husband on countless voicemails, in the prison parking lot, and ultimately, when Mabry succumbs to her advances, her apartment.

09052010_DeNiroStone1.jpgLucetta is indeed an other, one who takes immense pleasure in the pursuit, but has little interest in the end result, something both Mabry and Creeson know very little of since they’re both serving out life sentences in different ways. Mabry chose his incarceration in the country with a wife (Frances Conroy) that doesn’t love him and going into the city only for a thankless job that rarely holds surprises; the film shows early how Mabry sunk himself into this rut, but it is a rare opening scene that sends shockwaves through the rest of “Stone,” so I won’t spoil it here. Creeson, on the other hand, came by his time in prison the old fashioned way, helping to burn down his grandparents’ house while they were inside.

However, Creeson embraces spirituality in the pen, which isn’t necessarily the key to an early release, but the start of a search for something more profound that actually complicates matters as Lucetta pleads for her husband’s parole while her husband begins to question his culpability. Like an angel and a devil sitting on his shoulder, Lucetta and Creeson plunge Mabry into a moral quandary and if “Stone” were simply about whether prison actually has the ability to rehabilitate its denizens, it would be a thoughtful examination.

Yet director John Curran and writer Angus MacLachlan are after something far more elusive in meditating on the nature of evil in a way that would make it compelling bookend with “No Country for Old Men,” reversing that film’s emphasis on the crimes to the perspective of the punishment received. “Stone” may not be considered quite as accomplished as the Coen brothers’ effort, but that likely depends on whether you appreciate Curran and MacLachlan being more overt in asking the question

Certainly, it is no less provocative, thanks in large part to its trio of actors. Contrary to what the poster reads, Jovovich is the film’s main attraction, putting her husky voice and withering frame to use as a slippery slope of ethical backpedaling for De Niro’s Mabry. She is one of the most memorable femme fatales in some time, made all the more interesting by the fact Jovovich’s slinky charms have rarely been tapped in such a way.

09052010_DeNiroJovovichStone.jpgDe Niro, meanwhile, is gifted with a character with a rich inner life that so many of his recent films haven’t allowed for. He remains a curmudgeon here, but one that has earned it not by holding vomiting babies a tad too close or dealing with an unwanted in-law, but by being asked to be something more than a dispassionate observer and De Niro comes alive in the role, with his considerable gravitas used for far more than selling the prestige of the movie.

As for Norton, he plays the title character of the film, but it’s a part that largely resembles a MacGuffin. In spite of his southern-fried accent and prison yard swagger, Norton impressively takes an outwardly ostentatious character and lets him fade into the background slightly as the man whose fate is being debated, but is only a part of a far larger debate. “Stone” isn’t just interested in spurring that discussion, it deserves it.

“Stone” opens wide on October 8th.

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