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“Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” – First impressions from the Sundance world premiere

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By Jordan Hoffman

Not since John Waters’ “Desperate Living” has a feature film ever been more dedicated to stream-of-consciousness shock humor as Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.” It will simultaneously blow your mind and test your patience, offering bathtubs full of gross-outs, character oddities, baffling post-production tweaks, and, on occasion, some really well-crafted jokes. It is hilarious and innovative, but relentless and exhausting, and will no doubt cause even their greatest supporters to wonder if the fifteen minute format of their “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” might be the perfect clay from which they should sculpt.

The film opens with the greatest series of false starts since “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” but once the story gets rolling our two idiot heroes find themselves in debt to a gangster-businessman played by Robert Loggia after blowing a billion dollars on an awful three minute movie. After a night of hard drinking and body piercing they look to the sky and see their future in the stars: Doing Business.

Doing Business is shortened to DOBIS, a word that is said roughly seven hundred and fifty thousand times in the film (and it gets funnier every time.) DOBIS is a PR consulting firm (or something) and a whacked out, “Top Gun”-loving Will Ferrell convinces then they will find fortune by turning around a decrepit, 1980s looking mall.

The mall, which is overrun by an angry wolf, is a collection of horrible shops like a used toilet paper store and a restaurant where they only serve bread. It’s a perfect way to incorporate the sketch comedy feel into this loose narrative. (Well, that as well as fourth-wall breaking cheap informercials to help you “Learn From Your Film.”)

Some of the sketches are more creative than others, but all of them are funny. And herein lies the problem. “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” is in desperate need of cutting, but I would have no idea what to cut. There’s an “in for a penny, in for a pound” type of deal you have to make with yourself when you watch a type of movie like this.

I’d say that perhaps it is a movie best seen at home, where you can pause the DVD and take a break for a while, but then you would miss out on the thrills of a group experience. Watching the silhouettes of the older couple in front of me who were NOT amused by the spiritual healing via teen diarrhea is something I’ll treasure for quite some time.

My experience with this ludicrous movie began in an appropriate manner. Prior to the big midnight premiere the film’s publicity team threw a rather swank dinner at a hotel atop a giant mountain, then gave some of us a lift in a brightly lit karaoke RV. It got into a light fender bender along the way so we had to hoof in the snow while someone else dealt with the cops.

During the post-screening Q & A Eric was stunned that he counted only six walkouts, and Tim expressed nothing but self-deprecating apologies. Some of the questions got a little silly, like a mom asking if Tim & Eric would sign her son’s nipples, and Tim joked that, “Hey, this was Sundance, maybe ask me what my favorite Godard film is?”

As the crowd filed out, it was clear that the reaction was mixed. Die-hard fans were gleeful and already quoting the film. But one woman looked clearly disgusted and was overheard saying, “They lost me with the masturbation scene.”

Are you looking forward to checking out “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Trump Funny or Die

Art of the Spoof

Watch Johnny Depp, Jack McBrayer, Patton Oswalt and More in Funny or Die’s Donald Trump Biopic

Johnny Depp just got very classy.

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Photo Credit: Funny or Die

We’re barely halfway through February, but this year’s Too Many Cooks Award for the most bizarre comedy project is already a lock. Blindsiding the world with greatness without any warning, Funny or Die released a 50-minute Donald Trump parody starring an unrecognizable Johnny Depp as Donny.

Ron Howard introduces this “lost” 1988 TV movie adaptation of Trump’s how-to manual The Art of the Deal produced with the retro quality of a Wendy’s training video. Along for the big hair and shoulder pads flashback are Patton Oswalt, Alfred Molina, Todd Margaret‘s Jack McBrayer, Andy Richter, Rob Huebel, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and Michaela Watkins as Ivana — as well as many Reagan-era surprises like a cameo from that loveable cat eater ALF and a theme song by Kenny Loggins.

Much like Eric Jonrosh of The Spoils Before Dying and The Spoils of Babylon fame, “Trump” writes, directs, and narrates his own epic tale of real estate wheelings-and-dealings. Check out the trailer below, and head over to Funny or Die to watch the full Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal movie before the real Donald sics his army of lawyers on Will Ferrell and company. (For more bizarro Johnny Depp characters, be sure to catch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this month on IFC.)

“This [Trailer] Must Be the Place” to watch Sean Penn as a goth rock star Nazi hunter

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By my count, it’s been almost twelve years since Sean Penn made a comedy (Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown”). Most of the work he does these days, while often excellent, is also often humorless — “The Tree of Life,” “Fair Game,” “All the King’s Men,” “The Interpreter,” “21 Grams,” and on and on. So “This Must Be the Place” is already an unusual project for Penn. But it gets even more curious when you add in the director: Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian filmmaker best known in the United States for “Il Divo,” an atmospheric drama about former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Does that sound like the right team to make a movie about a bored, retired goth rock star on a quirky quest across America to find a Nazi war criminal on behalf of his dead father? With music by David Byrne?

Well they are, and they did. Penn and Sorrentino’s “This Must Be the Place” premiered last spring at the Cannes Film Festival and will make its first appearance on this side of the Atlantic at next month’s Sundance Film Festival. Here’s the trailer:

At Cannes, reviews ranged from “diverting if derivative” to “occasionally charming” to “bewildering” to “embarrassing”. Wait, derivative? Of all the other movies about zonked out Robert Smith look-alikes who go hunting Nazis?

Nevermind. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Weinstein Company plans to release the film in March of 2012. And, of course, we’ll see if the film fares better with critics and audiences up in Park City. I hope so. Serious Sean Penn’s good, but I miss Funny Sean Penn, too. Funny Sean penn gave us Spicoli. He should flex those comedy chops a little more often.

What do you think of the trailer for “This Must Be the Place?” Give us your thoughts in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sundance adds premieres by Spike Lee, Stephen Frears, and more

Sundance adds premieres by Spike Lee, Stephen Frears, and more (photo)

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Just about every film at Sundance is a world premiere. So why is there a “Premieres” section, and how is it different than the Competition or the Spotlight or the New Frontiers or the NEXT or…okay, I think that’s all of them. Sundance describes Premieres as “a showcase of some of the most highly anticipated dramatic films of the coming year from new and established directors” and Documentary Premieres as “about big subjects or by master filmmakers that showcase the power of the form.”

Basically, what it really means is here’s where you find the attention-grabbers at Sundance. These are the big honking movies, the movies featuring Hollywood directors and talent coming down from their Valhalla of craft services and video village to get their hands dirty with the independents. These are the movies that have the biggest red carpets and the majority of the press coverage (see this post).

True to form, it’s a pretty star-studded Premieres lineup for 2012. Chris Rock joins Julie Delpy for “2 Days in New York,” the sequel to her 2007 film “2 Days in Paris.” “How I Met Your Mother”‘s Josh Radnor returns to Sundance, where his “Happythankyoumoreplease” was a big hit in 2009, with “Liberal Arts,” co-starring Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, and last year’s Sundance It-Girl, Elizabeth Olsen. Director Stephen Frears reteams with his “High Fidelity” co-screenwriter D.V. Devincintis for “Lay the Favorite,” a movie about “geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage” with Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Rebecca Hall. And Spike Lee comes to Park City with “Red Hook Summer,” a story of “a young Atlanta boy [who] spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he’s never seen before” that also features Lee himself returning to the character Mookie that he played in “Do the Right Thing.”

On the documentary side of things, Ice-T directs “Something From Nothing” about the art of rap and “Dogtown and Z-Boys” director Stacy Peralta has a new skateboarding doc, “Bones Brigade.” But the most discussed film in the Doc Premieres will surely be Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis,” a new documentary on the infamous West Memphis 3 murders in Arkansas which premieres at Sundance the same month “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” the last installment in the long-running documentary series that first brought the case into the public’s consciousness, premieres on television. The New York Times recently covered the rivalry and competition between the two films for access to suspects, victims, and witnesses of the crime; read more about it there. The fact that “Paradise Lost” co-director Joe Berlinger will be at Sundance with his latest film, an untitled project on singer Paul Simon, means you are going to see a lot of questions about those two movies.

The full list of premieres is below. And you can find all our “premiere” Sundance 2012 coverage here.

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