This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.

DID YOU READ

“Even Money,” “Severance”

Posted by on

By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Left, “Even Money,” Yari Film Group, 2007; below, “Severance,” Magnolia Pictures, 2007]

Even Money

Per the opening credits as well as the official poster, “Even Money” is “A Mark Rydell Production” of “A Film by Mark Rydell.” So does that mean he’s doubly to blame for this overblown mess of ham(my acting) and cheese(y dialogue)?

“Even Money” is a drama in the mould of “Crash,” in that it presents a very serious topic — in this case, gambling, in all its addictive and destructive forms — and tries so hard to be important it forgets to be engrossing. It features a lot of good actors, including Kim Basinger, Ray Liotta and Forest Whitaker — but few good characters. The actors do a lot of screaming and cursing and crying and fighting, but the characters just sort of sit there at a remove from all the extravagant performances.

Take the characters played by Basinger and Liotta. They’re a married couple, he a professor of literature, she a writer who claims she’s working at the local coffee shop when she’s really at the casino, blowing the family’s life savings. The two have several high-tension on-camera dustups, including one in front of a fireplace where Basinger melodramatically shudders and gasps “I’m an addict!” But they never seem like an actual couple, even one with marital difficulties, except maybe the one scene where Basinger directly addresses Liotta’s penis.

Like “Crash,” the plot follows several loosely related storylines. Nick Cannon is a basketball star whose older brother (Whitaker) is heavily in debt to his bookies (Jay Mohr and Grant Sullivan), who are feuding with a more powerful bookie played by Tim Roth. Roth’s character is being investigated by a crippled cop (Kelsey Grammer in a hideous fake nose), and bothered by a washed-up magician (Danny DeVito). Only Whitaker, appropriately tragic as a born loser, gives something resembling a third dimension to his part.

Even more frustratingly, the narrative hinges on a series of dubious coincidences. Sullivan’s character’s girlfriend is oblivious to his activities until she bumps into an old friend she hasn’t seen in 12 years. The old friend drops a blunt (and incredibly convenient) bombshell on the order of: “Hey, your boyfriend broke my husband’s jaw! Nice seeing you again for the first time in over a decade!”

Some elements are totally unbelievable: no police force would let a cop as severely impaired as Grammer’s do anything more physically demanding than a desk job. Other times, the characters are just too damn stupid: Liotta’s character is shocked to learn that Basinger’s has completely drained their finances, after he finally grows suspicious and takes a look their recent bank statements. Doesn’t this guy even glance at the screen when he goes to the ATM?

What “Even Money” ultimately needs is someone like Robert Downey Jr., who understands addiction and could bring to the piece a much needed sense of reality. Producer/director Mark Rydell, who has made just six movies since he was nominated for an Oscar for directing “On Golden Pond” in 1981, was so proud of the movie he put his name on it twice, but he should have spent a little less time crafting the film’s color palette (the rich cinematography is “Even Money”‘s only flawless aspect) and more time crafting the film’s emotional one.

Severance

“Severance” is to “Hostel” as “Shaun of the Dead” is to “Night of the Living Dead.” As such, it’s yet another pun-intended stab at combining scares and laughs with mixed results. I’m always amazed by how often filmmakers try to marry these two antithetical concepts. As genres go, horror and comedy aren’t peanut butter and jelly; they’re not even peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Terror and joy are at such odds, they don’t make very good bedfellows, even in a movie as good as “Shaun of the Dead,” which is funny at first, and scary at the end, but rarely both at the same time. In his recent appearance on KCRW’s “The Treatment,” “Shaun” director Edgar Wright even admitted that, successful as his film is, it doesn’t really mesh the gags (as in laughing) with the gags (as in choking as you gorge yourself on human flesh).

“Severance” doesn’t really either, which is not to say that it doesn’t have individual moments that are very funny, as well as moments that are very scary. Its quite superb marketing campaign makes it look like a slasher set in a post-Gervais office, but that’s not entirely accurate. In fact, it follows a group of co-workers on a team-building weekend at a remote cabin (in horror movies, cabins are always remote) somewhere in the menacingly wooded foothills of Eastern Europe. Unfortunately for the team, which includes Danny Dyer, Laura Harris and Toby Stephens, they find themselves at the mercy of a brutal serial killer who stalks them and murders them one by one.

Your appreciation of the movie will vary based on your tolerance/enjoyment of torture-vacationer-slashers in the “Turistas”-“House of 1,000 Corpses” vein. As with “Shaun,” this is more genre reconstruction than deconstruction: you point out some hackneyed scare tactics, then you use them anyway in a particularly aggressive manner. So there is a good deal of gore, killings, mutilations, torture, carnage, explosions, and in at least one case, beheading (to some, I may have just made this film sound a good deal more appealing). While you’ll laugh more (at least intentionally) at “Severance” than you would at, say, “Saw,” you’ll still be rendered plenty disgusted and, depending on your temperament, maybe even a little offended.

The screenplay, by James Moran and director Christopher Smith, has at least two genuinely witty moments that involve bodily dismemberment, but that’s still at least a couple short of being a true horror-comedy. This is more “horror, comedy.” Not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but rather two different sandwiches, one PB, one J, which you’ve got to eat all at once.

“Even Money” opens in New York and L.A. May 18th (official site); “Severance” opens in New York May 18th (official site).

IFC_Portlandia-S8_best-of-skits_subaru-blog

Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

Posted by on

The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

IFC_Portlandia-S8_pick-a-lane_subaru-blog

Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

Posted by on

Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…