Harmontown trailer

It’s been a wild few years for Dan Harmon, the controversial creator of NBC’s Community. There was his notorious feud with Chevy Chase, his very public firing from his own show, and his eventual re-hiring by the same show. The first Harmontown trailer tags along on the cross-country comedy tour he took in the interim, offering a tiny taste of what this beloved but troubled artist was going through during that time.

 

Neil Berkeley (Beauty Is Embarrassing) directed, and several of Harmon’s showbiz friends including Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Sarah Silverman, and Jack Black make appearances. Watch the video after the jump.

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Here’s a huge and very pleasant surprise: Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, who retired that strip in 1995 and has not published a cartoon in the years since, has drawn a movie poster.

The image is for the documentary Stripped, which is about the art and business of newspaper comic strips. Dozens of people were interviewed for the film by directors Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder, including Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, Zot!), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Zach Weiner (SMBC), Bill Amend (Foxtrot), Jim Davis (Garfield), and Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant).

Bill Watterson agreed to be interviewed for the film, and is heard but not seen. He liked the film and filmmakers enough to draw the movie poster, which you can see in full below. Read More »

Life of Pi

There’s something ironic about the fact that the better visual effects are, the more difficult it can be to notice them at all. At the top level, talented VFX artists create imagery so seamlessly lifelike that the average moviegoer isn’t even aware that the fantastical creatures and majestic landscapes they’re watching were painstakingly crafted on a computer, not captured in reality.

What’s really unfortunate, though, is that these workers aren’t just overlooked by the audience but also by the industry they work for. About a year ago, the issue reached a boiling point when effects house Rhythm & Hues picked up the Best Visual Effects Oscar for Life of Pi, two weeks after it had filed for bankruptcy.

The new documentary short Life After Pi takes a good hard look at the broken system that sank Rhythm & Hues, even as the film they’d made possible went on to make five times its production budget at the global box office. Life After Pi is now available online, and you can watch it in its entirety after the jump.

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Let’s call Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ the ‘Sgt. Peppers’ equivalent for rock fans of the 80s and early ‘90s. If you can accept that, then ‘Spiderland,’ the 1991 album by Slint, could be the ‘Pet Sounds’ for the same generation. ‘Spiderland’ is that album that never made a dent in the mainstream upon release, and even had to wait before its true audience, the burgeoning indie and post-rock crowd, embraced it fully.

‘Spiderland’ did eventually hit its audience, and it was almost instantly canonized. Everyone in a certain crowd had it, in part because it has sounds that are impossible to ignore. Gentle harmonics give way to piercingly unusual guitar squeals, with crisp, precise drumming as a stern navigator for most of the songs. Bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky bear the marked, significant influence of ‘Spiderland,’ and have brought sounds derived from the album to huge audiences.

Lance Bangs, part of the Jackass crew (he’s the cameraman who always pukes), and a music video and commercial director and all-around talented guy with a camera, has made Breadcrumb Trail, a documentary about ‘Spiderland.’ The trailer below shows that he has not only amassed the expected interviews with indie luminaries, but also some great early footage of the band when they were just high school kids, at which point they were already playing with the character and talent that is recognizable on the LP. Read More »

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In 2012 Fantastic Fest played a very entertaining documentary called The Final Member. The setting is the world’s only penis museum, located in Iceland. The museum is particularly well-endowed, as its creator, Sigurður “Siggi” Hjartarson, has collected nearly every possible example of the male organ. But there’s one missing, one “final member.” The museum needs a human penis.

The film traces the creation of the museum, and the surprising competition between multiple would-be donors to have their members enshrined in the place. This could almost be a horror film, but instead turns out to be a wry, surprising comedy. Check out a very funny trailer below. Read More »

Life of Pi

February 2013 was a bittersweet month for the visual effects house Rhythm & Hues. Due to the increased cost of effects-based work in Hollywood and the competitive nature of the business, they were forced to declare bankruptcy, fire hundreds of people and close up shop. Two weeks later, the company was given the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for their work in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. The closing spawned tons of protests around Hollywood. How could the best visual effects house not be making any money?

That question has become a fundamental issue within Hollywood, and Rhythm & Hues employees used the unique and upsetting occasion to make a short documentary called Life After Pi. The trailer is out now and the full length short will be released online February 25. Eventually, it’ll be used in a feature length documentary called Hollywood Ending which explores “why the movie capital of the world is forcing filmmakers to leave.”  Read More »

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Decades ago the mad Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky spent a good deal of time and effort trying to film Frank Herbert‘s novel Dune. (This was years before David Lynch made his own adaptation.) Jodorowsky’s version of Dune never came to pass, but the people he assembled for the adaptation would go on to do other wonderful things (if they weren’t superstars already), and that particular incarnation of Dune stands as a legendary movie that could have been.

The documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune chronicles this attempt to make the movie, and landed on my “most anticipated of 2014″ list thanks to rapturous reception at festivals such as Fantastic Fest. We’ve seen some footage from Jodorowsky’s Dune before, but a new trailer has just come online, thanks to the US distributor Sony Pictures Classics. Have a look at it below; if nothing else check out the opening, where Jodoroswsky explains his titanic ambitions for the film. It’s beautiful.

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12 OClock Boys

The Wire with wheelies” is how one outlet described Lotfy Nathan‘s documentary 12 O’Clock Boys. That’s pretty accurate. The film, shot over several years on the streets of Baltimore, follows the titular group, a band of young black men who ride up and down the streets on dirt bikes and four-wheelers. Members attain status by riding wheelies high and long. For the most part, the gang keeps youths off the street and focused on something positive.

Unlicensed motorcycles speeding down city streets isn’t considered to be the safest thing, however, and Baltimore Police have their hands full with the 12 O’Clock Boys. Nathan’s documentary shows how the group was created, and follows a young man named Pug who is desperately trying to join  his hometown heroes.

The film is currently playing in several markets and is on all major on-demand outlets. Below, check out an exclusive clip from the film and read an interview with Nathan about his impressive, interesting documentary. Read More »

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