DID YOU READ

“Tyrannosaur,” reviewed

“Tyrannosaur,” reviewed (photo)

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A version of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

There are bleak films and then there’s “Tyrannosaur,” a movie so dark it’s like a cinematic black hole, a film from which no light escapes. Just how dark is it? The most cheerful scene in this movie is a funeral.

By the end, “Tyrannosaur” arrives at a deeply moving place, but before it arrives at that deeply moving place the viewer must endure one of the tougher sits of any movie in recent memory. Put this one alongside “Requiem For a Dream” and “Funny Games” on the Mount Rushmore of One-Timers, movies you have to see once, but can’t imagine seeing twice. It’s a powerful film you can’t shake and won’t want to revisit anytime soon.

It tells the story of two desperately sad people in Leeds in the UK, a man and a woman, united by their shared sense of helplessness. Joseph (Peter Mullan) is an unemployed widower whose anger management problem is exacerbated by his drinking problem. As the movie begins, he’s already in the middle of a profane tirade for the ages. Out of his mind with rage, he unthinkingly kicks his own dog to death. Then he brings the dog’s body home and sits quietly, stroking its paw. There is more to this man than meets the eye.

Still, whatever hurt is driving him, he’s still a fairly repulsive person. Joseph’s mere presence onscreen makes the hairs on your arm stand on end; he’s unpredictably violent and incredibly scary. You never know what will set him off next. Watching him prowl through the streets of Leeds is like watching someone stick a bullet in a revolver, spin the chamber and start pulling the trigger as fast as he can. The movie keeps pushing Joseph, waiting for the explosion.

One day, Joseph winds up hiding in a thrift store run by Hannah (Olivia Colman). She’s a religious woman and she takes pity on him. Her shop is filled with perfectly functional items society’s deemed worthless and discarded; perhaps Hannah sees a similar quality in Joseph as he cowers in a coat rack and spews bile at her. Despite his complete refusal to believe in God, or to even tolerate the views of someone else who does — “God ain’t my fucking Daddy,” he sneers at one point — Joseph continues to return to Hannah’s shop. But of course he does: he has nowhere else to go. And for reasons that only later become clear, she continues to welcome him back. They have something to do with the fact that she’s married to a man named James (played in a terrifyingly cold performance by Eddie Marsan) who is outwardly lovely and charming but so cruel to Hannah in private that he makes Joseph look like Mother Teresa.

The darkness of the subject matter, which involves violence against women, children, and animals — yes animals, plural, Joseph’s dead dog is just the beginning — would make this film almost unwatchable if not for the absolutely mesmerizing performances of the lead actors. As the film reveals more and more of Joseph and Hannah’s secrets, Mullan and Colman continue to show us new sides of their characters. With his deeply grizzled face and a voice that’s just a shade higher than a tracheotomy patient, Mullan oozes menace and sadness in equal measure. And Colman takes a really difficult role — full of pain and victimization — and turns it into something really powerful. She finds the humanity in this inhumane world.

“Tyrannosaur” is the first film directed by British actor Paddy Considine, who’s probably best known in the United States for his supporting roles in films like “Hot Fuzz” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (he was the journalist Bourne was trying to protect). “Tyrannosaur” is primarily a film about performance and character so there’s not a lot of room for visual pyrotechnics. But Considine has a knack for knowing where to put his camera. Consider the scene where Hannah’s husband has come to her, pleading forgiveness after he’s treated her badly. She sits in the bed, he lays with his head buried in her lap. The camera sits level with Hannah; we can see her face but James can’t, so that when Hannah sounds utterly sincere saying that she forgives him, we can read the truth in her blank, unmoved expression.

Considine has a way with simply effective imagery, too. He lets the visuals speak for characters who have a hard time opening up to one another. Nothing the reticent Joseph could say about his dead wife would explain their relationship more effectively than the picture on his mantle — ripped in half, then reassembled and lovingly framed. Joseph is a man lost to his own personal darkness. In one particularly striking moment, the security gate of Hannah’s store closes in the foreground, as Joseph stands waiting behind it. As the gate lowers he’s literally engulfed by blackness.

I would have a hard time arguing with someone who said “Tyrannosaur” is similarly overwhelmed by its unquenchable bleakness. Portions are so oppressively harsh they almost verge on parody. But Considine and his great cast never let things go over the top. And I have to tell you, when Joseph and Hannah come to a place of understanding late in the film — not quite happiness, but as close as these two people can probably ever get — and she tells him that she feels safe with him, I was incredibly moved. It’s not an easy film to sit through, but it’s worth it for moments like that.

“Tyrannosaur” opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.