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“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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

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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….

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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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