DID YOU READ

“Make Believe,” Reviewed

“Make Believe,” Reviewed (photo)

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At one point in “Make Believe,” the mother of the aspiring 17-year-old magician Krystyn Lambert describes her daughter as finding a home in magic since “it’s a little world of oddballs.” Ordinarily, Krystyn wouldn’t fit the profile. Compared at one point to Britney Spears for a combination of looks and talent, the blonde from Malibu who serves as student council president at her high school wouldn’t appear to be an outsider, but in fact she’s clearly set apart in her drive.

J. Clay Tweel’s documentary tries its best to suggest otherwise, but “Make Believe” isn’t so much about a group of teenagers trying to find their way in the world as it is about the fact that they already know where they’re going. As older magicians such as Lance Burton and Ed Alonzo (best remembered as the Max’s resident illusionist on “Saved by the Bell”) explain throughout its 90-minute running time, the dexterity to perform split fans of cards and sleight of hand with ping-pong balls only comes with time, which incidentally is the one thing these kids haven’t had.

Still, the best of the best congregate every year in Las Vegas to compete at the World Magic Seminar, an event that brings out young magicians from across the globe, six of whom are profiled by Tweel before the third act gives way to a traditional competition doc. Whether the kids are from Japan, Cape Town, or Chicago, they not only find a common language in performing, but support each other and are supported by their families, some of whom are more than happy to allow their brood to forgo college plans, at least for a little while, to pursue magic.

The unexpected result is a film that’s actually less about generating dramatic tension about who will be crowned Teen World Champion or whether the subjects, all charismatic even without carrying around a deck of playing cards in their back pocket, will actually be able to make a career of it, than it has to do with the community that’s formed and the infrastructure in place to allow them to develop their skills away from the outside world.

In South Africa, Siegfried and Roy have sponsored a College of Magic for the past 20 years where we meet Siphiwe Fangase and Nkumbuzo Nkonyana, two teens who perform magic to escape the daily crime that plagues their streets. Likewise, Derek McKee, the youngest of the bunch, is taken in by the shopkeeper at a local magic shop in Littleton, Colorado to hone his craft and confront his personal shyness. Of course, Tweel milks the inherent warmth and surprise of seeing adolescents discover something they can own for themselves for the first time and then finding out that others share their passion, but there’s a possibly unintended yet interesting subtext of how insular the magic community can be and how it struggles to expand.

Although the film literally goes to great lengths to show how international a community it is, “Make Believe”‘s most fascinating sequence isn’t when the young magicians are on stage, but off of it at the World Magic Seminar where it isn’t lost on the audience that the event shares a marquee with Engelbert Humperdinck.

when the camera catches Magic Castle Jr. program founder Debra Zimmerman exalting Japanese sensation Hiroki Hara’s performance and the camera catches the normally poised Lambert wear a variety of expressions on her face from forced pleasantry to frustration and possible disappointment over her own performance as she’s made to wait awkwardly by the stage door. (Within the film, it arrives after Zimmerman suggested Lambert could be a superstar back in Los Angeles.) It’s hard to decide if Lambert was just caught off-guard since the film’s cinematography adheres pretty strictly to having a central focus, but it’s both a reminder that despite their age, these teen performers belong to a very adult world.

The scene is a rare glimpse at something that isn’t entirely positive and promotional about magic in “Make Believe,” and it would probably serve the film better if it allowed for more – after all, there’s surely some interesting territory to cover about young people drawn to a craft that’s based on mystery and deception, which is handled here in only the most kid-friendly terms. Yet taken on its own, “Make Believe” is entertaining enough purely from sharing in the joy of its stars, making sure that something permanent and good remains even in a medium where most everything is meant to disappear.

“Make Believe” opens in New York on May 13th and Los Angeles on May 25th. The film is also currently airing on Showtime.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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