Based on the premise, Dark Horse sounds like it could be another entry from the Judd Apatow comedy collective. Jordan Gelber stars as a schlubby, overgrown man-child who strikes up a relationship with a pretty woman (Selma Blair), and tries to grow up a little bit in the process. But in fact, this is a Todd Solondz film, which means we’re in for a significantly darker, pricklier take on the world. Watch the new trailer after the jump.

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Dark Horse is the latest Todd Solondz comedy that will (very likely) mine the uglier depths of human relationships. The film is set to play the Toronto International Film Festival, and the fest has dropped the first footage of the film.

This short scene is almost more like a classic gag cartoon than anything else, albeit with a pretty dark undercurrent. Check it out and compare to your favorite Far Side and New Yorker one-panel gags, after the break. Read More »

Hot on the heels of the release of a massive batch of films that will appear in the Toronto Film Festival, we’ve got the main lineup for the 68th Venice Film Festival, which runs from August 31 to September 10.

We knew that George Clooney‘s The Ides of March would open the fest (the trailer premiered last night and you can see it here) and this list confirms quite a few films that we imagined would be playing Venice. Our very much anticipated spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy from Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson is on the list, as is Roman Polanski‘s tense closed-room drama Carnage, starring Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz. And there is Alps, the second film from polarizing Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose film Dogtooth shocked, entertained and angered festival audiences in 2009.

The full list is after the break. Read More »

If you’re more interested in the typical fall slate of festival entrees than summer’s glut of tentpole action fare, this is a great week. The Toronto International Film Festival announced the first wave of films that will play the fest in September. This is a batch of about 50 titles, which makes up only a small chunk of the programming. Usually TIFF features between two and three hundred films. But these are some of the highest-profile entries.

Below you’ll find rundowns on the new films from George Clooney, Bennett Miller, Jay & Mark Duplass, Todd Solondz, Francis Ford Coppola, Cameron Crowe, Sarah Polley, Fernando Meirelles, Lars von Trier, Marc Forster, Steve McQueen, Alexander Payne, and Lynne Ramsay. No announcement yet of the Midnight Madness programming choices, always some of my faves, but this is a great start. Read More »

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Todd Solondz, the provocative, some might say confrontational filmmaker behind such bold, brilliant films as Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, has found his cast for Dark Horse. The indie drama began principal photography earlier this week, with frequent bit player, first-time lead Jordan Gelber taking the center role, Justin Bartha (The Hangover) playing his more successful brother, and Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi (The Last Airbender) playing his love interest’s “not quite” ex-boyfriend.

Now there’s a casting update that sees the film’s actor roster getting a big push. Joining the film are Christopher Walken, Mia Farrow and Selma Blair, who round out a cast that revolves around “a thirtysomething man (Gelber) in arrested development who lives with his parents (Walken and Farrow), reluctantly works for his father and avidly collects toys. He seeks out a thirtysomething woman (Blair) in arrested development in an attempt to shed the “dark horse” status in his family and finally accomplish something.”

(After the break, more on Dark Horse, and Vanessa Hudgens gets cast in the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth.) Read More »

I’m not sure how Todd Solondz managed to shrink Tilda Swinton into the form of a young boy, but he appears to have done so; the figure graces the overseas poster, seen below, for his new film Life During Wartime. (It’s actually the young actor Dylan Riley Snyder. But still.)

Much more important, we’ve now got a UK trailer for the film, which shows off a brief glimpse of the way in which Solondz has taken characters from Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse and brought them forward into a new portrait of family disquiet and the spirit of forgiveness. Read More »

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Update: Buzz continues to build as the film just won Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival.

I like how Todd Solondz talks. In the below featurette—ideal for a Saturday afternoon in both length and Puerto Rico palm casualness—the writer/director of Welcome to the Dollhouse discusses his new film, Life During Wartime. Yep, titled after the Talking Heads’ classic. You may or may not know that Wartime is being cited in early reviews as a return to form for Solondz, the rare American director who is unwaveringly committed to exploring the fringes and norms of society.

There was a time in the mid ’90s when I actually confused Solondz and Wes Anderson, due to their media-buzz indie predilection and similar disheveled nerd-artist appearances. Funny that in 2009, that seems like such an odd and off mix-up. Perhaps tellingly so. Wartime stars Paul Reubens, in sickly make-up, the swell Allison Janney, a dour-looking Ally Sheedy, and Little Boston’s Paul Dano, and finds Solondz revisiting and reimagining several characters from his controversial pedophile study Happiness, in addition to ones from Dollhouse. Variety has called it Solondz’s best.
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Paul Reubens Talks Todd Solondz' Life During Wartime

I lost interest in Todd Solondz sometime around Storytelling. Welcome to the Dollhouse was such a wonderful but painfully examination honest look at adolescence and Happiness was so disturbing, yet compelling. His later work seemed to lack heart, and serve only to shock. When Solondz’ newest film Life During Wartime was announced almost two years ago, I didn’t pay much attention.  Originally the film was said to be a “kind of sequel to — or riff on — ‘Happiness’, and to some extent ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse’.”

“Many of the characters from these movies unexpectedly beckoned to me, and so I have explored new ways of developing and enlarging their stories, with the intent to recast them from a fresh perspective,” Solondz said in a 2006 statement.

MTV recently talked to Paul Reubens (the actor formerly known as Pee-Wee Herman) about the film, and Reubens revealed an interesting new detail – that the script features “characters from ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse’ and ‘Happiness’ whose paths converge.”

“It’s all different people playing the same roles. I’m playing a role someone else played in one of those movies.”

Woah, now I’m suddenly interested. But the question is, what Solondz character would Reubens play? I’m guessing that Reubens will portray Bill Maplewood, the father, psychiatrist and pedophile played by Dylan Baker in the original 1998 film. But who knows if this movie will even get made. It’s been sitting around on the shelf for two years.

“If it gets made, I’m doing it – but I’m not sure. It’s gotten pushed three times,” Reubens told MTV News. “He’s had problems with the financing on it.”

But if you think about it, how do you find financing for a quasi sequel to two films which combined didn’t even gross $10 million at the box office. As much as I’d like to see Wartime, Solondz is probably better off trying to get a more original project off the ground.

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