DID YOU READ

“The Comedy” – First impressions of Tim Heidecker’s controversial Sundance film

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By Jordan Hoffman

There are some characters you love to hate. Like, you know, Severus Snape or Bill O’Reilly. But what about characters that you loathe – how can you spend an entire movie with them? That’s the question behind “The Comedy”, the new experiment in darkness starring Tim Heidecker that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The answer is: it ain’t easy.

Receiving more walkouts than anything else I’ve seen at the fest, those of us who stuck it out collected in the lobby to, first, pat ourselves on the back and, second, collectively agree that while “The Comedy” is one hell of a challenging film that may ultimately be bullshit, it deserves tremendous respect for its clarity of vision.

“The Comedy” opens with slow motion shots of half-naked, none-too-in-shape thirty somethings drunk off their ass and wrestling/dancing/”tucking in” to a a slow R&B tune. These few minutes alone would work as installation art in some of the more rarified galleries.

We’re then introduced to our lead (Heidecker) drinking whiskey and watching a male nurse comfort his ailing, wealthy father. He unleashes a tidal wave of bile, ruthlessly cutting into this young caretaker, going way beyond funny barbs into horrible cruelty. It is one of a number of viscous rants we’ll get from Heidecker as he makes his way being a dick around the hipster areas of Brooklyn.

He’s a man in pain. We get it. And if you have a heart, you want to sympathize with him. But how far can you be pushed? This is the central question behind “The Comedy”, but there’s also something very interesting and now going on right here. Tim Heidecker and his cronies are the titans of underground, experimental comedy right now. They’re “always on” and they’re always pushing boundaries. Is it a barrel of laughs to be with them? No it is horrible.

They drink, slack, put one another down, one-up one another with gross-out jokes and, when feeling really energetic, get out of the house to harass taxi drivers or act disruptively in a church. I don’t even know if this is even anti-humor, it’s just sociopathic behavior. It’s not “Animal House,” it’s Lars von Trier’s “The Idiots,” or Dylan’s crew from “Don’t Look Back” on some dark, dark drugs.

It’s an obvious conclusion of the navel-gazing mumblecore movement, but I can’t tell if The Comedy hates mumblecore or not. Frankly, I can’t tell if The Comedy hates life or not. There’s a brief, brief moment where it looks like love may soften the story (Kate Lyn Sheil, who also appears in this Sundance’s “V/H/S,” is spectacular as Heidecker’s female counterpart) but this is quickly dismissed in one of the film’s most awkward scenes.

There’s a lot of competition for that title, frankly. The scene where Heidecker goes to a bar in an African-American community just to “get out of his comfort zone” elicited many walkouts. I was a little tempted myself.

So. . .is this movie good? It certainly has a commitment to what it wants to say. I interpret it as an examination of the destructive powers of white privilege on itself. No one of our crew works, except
for when Heidecker gets a job washing dishes, just because he probably thinks that it’s an absurdist thing to do. (Or maybe this is a desperate attempt to make some sort of connection somewhere, anywhere.)

Ultimately, the film isn’t pleasant. And it isn’t funny. Some of the set pieces are like a Tim and Eric sketch (Wareheim shows up for a few scenes) drained of all of its humor – leaving only the awkwardness. If you are a hardcore fan of this comedy movement, you should check it out. It’s like a guy from your favorite band putting out a side project album. It won’t be something you play over and over, but it is a unique opportunity to hear a variation on a tune.

Does “The Comedy” sound like something you’d like to check us? Let us know in the comments below.

Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

“V/H/S” – First impressions of Sundance’s scariest film

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By Jordan Hoffman

What’s scarier: ethereal creatures lurking in your bedroom at night or the thought of sitting through another “found footage” horror film? The cabal of independent filmmakers behind “V/H/S,” which tore the roof off of Sundance’s Library theater at its midnight debut, might have trouble answering that one. And like all good artists, they’ve confronted their fear.

“V/H/S” elevates itself from recent gimmick films like “Apollo 18” and “The Devil Inside” in a few ways. First the the framing device. “V/H/S” is presented as a peek at a tape a group of criminal friends made when out assaulting women and destroying stuff. (The tape itself is actually dubbed over one of the guys’ personal love connection home movies, which winks in and out in a nice recurring gag.) One of their misdemeanor deeds is to break in somewhere and “find a special tape,” which now affords the story an opportunity to check out, essentially, five short films.

Each of these tales is shot by a new director. The formats range from recorded Skype chats, a camera specifically of 1998 quality and a spy cam that attaches to a pair of fake glasses. While there is no real narrative connection between the stories, there is a thematic one, which is one of voyeurism, power, deception and murder.

A quick rundown: first is David Bruckner, director of “The Signal,” and a film about three douchey guys who use the aforementioned glasses-cam to scope out women. They pick up two girls at a bar and head back to the motel, but it is clear that one of them (the one who keeps staring directly at the camera in a REALLY CREEPY WAY) is a bit off. It is sexy, scary and solid.

Next, Ti West (“The Innkeepers”) takes us on a young couple’s trip to the Grand Canyon and a motel with the world’s worst security system. This one features one of the most innovative takes on the pan-across-the-room-and-reveal-something-unexpected jump scares in a while. Ya see, this time, it isn’t what is revealed in the frame, but the realization of who is holding the camera.

This is followed by Glenn McQuaid’s (director of “I Sell The Dead”) very stylized teen trip to the woods and a creature that comes to life through the very glitchy medium of video itself.

Joe Swanberg’s (the Grand Mufti of Mumblecore) entry is a scary-as-hell collection of Skype conversation between a frightened college student hearing bumps in the night and her medical school boyfriend. There are some outstanding moments of tension that exploit the video chat format in really unique ways.

The movie concludes with an entry from the new film collective named Radio Silence which takes V/H/S to levels of pure WTF in a haunted house tweak on Ti West’s “House of the Devil.” The framing device from Adam Wingard (director of the yet-to-be-released masterpiece “You’re Next”) lacks some of the jump scare oomph, but is something of the silent hero establishing the dastardly aesthetic of the overall piece.

This is a patch quilt of filmmaking by people who know how to scare the everloving snot out of you. The restrictions of keeping it short and handheld was just what they needed to get the creative juices flowing.

I don’t want to oversell this, though. This is not a landmark cinematic breakthrough – but it IS a really fun midnight movie. The stories are incredibly simple, there may be a tad too much boob-leering for good taste and few of the characters are given much depth, but as an exercise in tension, it can’t be beat.

As for the reaction, well, the place went ballistic. I do not believe in spirits, but at one extremely tense point I was compelled not to look at the screen, but at some of my colleagues to the left. I saw
three quite established veteran film writers with long histories with genre films with a look of absolute dread on their faces. One literally had his knuckles in his mouth. If that isn’t a recommendation to see this flick in the theaters I don’t know what is

Call-In Commentary: Watch a “Filly Brown” clip with directors Youssef Delara & Michael D. Olmos

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For a film that’s already making waves at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, little is known about “Filly Brown.” That’s sure to change, but for now we’ve got an early peek at this music-flavored indie. The film follows a young woman named Maria Jose ‘Majo’ Tonorio (played by Gina Rodriguez), a hard-charging Mexican-American street poet in Los Angeles. After a solid demo under a hustling manager gets her noticed by the major labels, she must decide whether to leave her friends and take the wild ride towards the mainstream.

To get an insider’s take on the film, we recruited co-directors Yousseff Delara and Michael D. Olmos for our “Call-In Commentary” series, where filmmakers provide audio narration to their movie trailers or clips. In the video below, we get a nearly three-minute long crucial scene featuring Tonorio in the recording studio, where she comes face-to-face with her budding antagonist. Check it out, and then stay tuned for upcoming news on “Filly Brown.”

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MORE CALL-IN COMMENTARIES:

Watch the “Newlyweds” trailer with writer/director/star Ed Burns
Watch the “Loosies” trailer with writer/star Peter Facinelli
Watch the “Answers to Nothing” trailer with star Dane Cook
Watch “The Sitter” trailer with director David Gordon Green
Watch the “My Week with Marilyn” trailer with director Simon Curtis
Watch the “Shame” trailer with writer-director Steve McQueen

Will you be checking out “Filly Brown”? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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