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Seattle Film Fest 2011: “High Road,” Reviewed

Seattle Film Fest 2011: “High Road,” Reviewed (photo)

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“Maybe we could make a drinking game out of this,” Matt Walsh told the crowd at the Seattle Film Festival. “Every time you see a comedian onscreen you like, drink a beer.”

No one could legally take the Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder and Todd Phillips regular up on his offer, as the Neptune Theater doesn’t serve alcohol, but if they did, they’d be well past the legal limit about five minutes into Walsh’s directorial debut “High Road.” A comedy that Walsh admitted featured only one actor who wasn’t a good friend beforehand, the film surrounds its central character Fitz (James Pumphrey) with a cast of Ed Helms, Abby Elliott, “The Office”‘s Zach Woods, Lizzy Caplan, Joe Lo Truglio and Rob Riggle.

Before you ask, they all appear for longer than you might think for a low-budget endeavor such as this, ostensibly a road movie once Fitz, an aimless twentysomething drummer turns to dealing pot part-time after his band breaks up and heads to Oakland to see his father once he believes he’s being chased by the cops. He’s joined by Jimmy (Dylan O’Brien), a 16-year-old runaway from the next home over who fears his own father’s threats of military school. Despite there being no police cars in sight, Fitz’s paranoia is justified as Jimmy’s dad (Riggle) and a gym buddy named Fogerty (Lo Truglio) posing as a sheriff’s deputy follows them from pit stop to pit stop while a phone call home to his girlfriend (Elliott) who announces she’s expecting results in Fitz running away from more than just the law.

HighRoad2_05202011.jpgThroughout “High Road,” there’s no doubt that the film’s heart is in the right place even if its focus isn’t necessarily all the time. During the post-screening Q & A, Walsh explained that he developed a script over a number of years, but abandoned the dialogue he and Josh Weiner wrote once he started shooting, instead giving the actors a paragraph prompt for each of the film’s 70 scenes and letting them loose.

Of course, there are probably fewer improv comics more gifted than the UCB, SNL and The State alumni on display here, yet the energy of the performances doesn’t always escape from between the actors as it might during a live performance. For every wonderful digression like Fogerty’s exhaustive knowledge of Gary Glitter’s history of pedophilia or Fitz’s bizarre encounter with a hooker firmly in denial of what she does at a roadside diner, there are scenes where the banter doesn’t quite add up to much more than a few non sequiturs and an awkward transition to whatever’s next.

In his first feature, Walsh actually sidesteps the trap of most improv-heavy films with a determined pace and little to no slack, but with a predictable destination for Fitz and Jimmy, the workman-like approach to storytelling feels even more pronounced and comes at the expense of developing its characters beyond the gags they can pay off. Still, being funny can forgive quite a bit and here, it’s in the service of something sweet, if slight, and promising enough to look forward to Walsh’s next film, which he suggested after the screening could be a really “f’d up take on ‘A Christmas Carol.'”

“High Road” currently does not have U.S. distribution. It will play once more at the Seattle Film Festival on June 7th.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

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

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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….

E.coli-class-

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.

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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.

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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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