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“Tyrannosaur,” Reviewed

“Tyrannosaur,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the Sundance Film Festival 2011.

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 with an anger management problem exacerbated by a 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 him 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 Hananh’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” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

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

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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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