Faceboyz Follies at Bowery Poetry Club, Don Cornelius Tribute at subMercer, Goodbye to Ben Barna

It turned out to be a birth week instead of a birthday. There were two planned events and two surprises and I have had more pieces of cake and Beau Joie Champagne than I can count on my fingers, toes, and other body parts. Tomorrow I will take a rare venture out of town – a car trip to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. MASS MoCA (as it is known) is genius. I will not be watching the Super Bowl this weekend since I don’t care a lick, but if I was I would surely go to Brooklyn Bowl or maybe The Brooklyn Star. The word "Brooklyn" is key. Manhattan will not see me again until Monday. You see, I legitimately got a little older yesterday and I am feeling it.

This attitude will prevent me from attending some wonderful events. First on my list of "I wish I coulds" is this Sunday’s (10pm) fabulous Faceboyz Follies at the Bowery Poetry Club. It stars St.Rev.Jen Miller, Velocity Chyaldd, Stormy Leather, Amanda Whip, and Payje Flash. Special guests include Ammo O’Day and Zoe Hanson. While many of the others provide a "voluptuous new variety show" featuring "Bold Bawdy Burlesque, Live Chanteurs, Freaky Flickers, and Top Bananas," Zoe will be… "reading/ performing’ my first play of sorts. It’s a short true story about two junkies – one who robbed a bank in the most bungling heist ever and gets away with it. It’s a story that’s soon to be published in an anthology, yet is unnamed. Due to the growing success of it, I’m actually performing with the hilariously brilliant St. Rev. Jen, who’s got such a vast resume it would take forever to list her accomplishments. She has a couple of successful books under her belt and we’ve become fast friends. With her acting as my rather challenged junkie boyfriend at this event full of downtown celebs, this night promises to entertain those wanting a raunchy burlesque comedy night.

Zoe is a star, and everything she does is worth your time. Big recommendation here for the non-football types.

If I was going out, I would absolutely attend The Hot Music Soul Train tribute at subMercer. The recent passing of legendary Don Cornelius should be noted and respected, and his life celebrated. Tonight the wonderous DJ Jennifly will join DJ MOma and ROK1 for a basement bash that will be sexier than I can handle. I’m old.

I am a little bummed by the departure of one of my favorite Blackbook editors, Ben Barna, who will be moving his considerable talents to greener pasture, a desk at another publication. A proper send-off will occur which I, alas, will be unable to attend. I’ll use this space to say my goodbye and good luck and break a leg or whatever he would have prompted me to say if he were still my editor. Some great man said something like every cloud has a silver lining, and as hard as I try, I can’t come up with one…Oh, I guess I won’t have to exchange small talk with his annoying twin brother until I realize it isn’t Ben anymore at Blackbook events. That’s a LOL or whatever you young people say.

Jason Segel and Ed Helms: Notes From an Epic Jam

Had they not become two of Hollywood’s alpha comedy stars, were they not starring in Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the latest comedy from the brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, had their lives not assured each a place in the pantheon of funny man heroes—one for bringing heart to The Office, the other for ensuring that a small felt frog named Kermit and his slightly overbearing fiancée would never be forgotten—Ed Helms and Jason Segel probably would have been this generation’s Hall & Oates. Instead, they might be this generation’s Odd Couple.

In Jeff, Who Lives At Home, Segel plays Jeff, a weed-obsessed, emotionally drifting man-child. The film begins with him perched on a toilet, recording a voice memo to himself on the merits of Signs, M. Night Shyamalan’s paean to fate. Later, Jeff sets out on a Shyamalanian quest for purpose across Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he encounters his blowhard brother Pat (Helms), who is struggling with his own ontological and marital unease. Epiphanies ensue. One such revelation: It would be an abomination if Helms and Segel, both passionate musicians, never jammed together. And so, with a garage, a Gretsch and a prayer, we made it happen. Here now the evidence from the greatest band that never was.

Photos by Dan Monick

The Black List: Adam Pally Can’t Stand Sarah McLachlan or Cats

As the smart-aleck couch potato Max on ABC’s hit relationship sitcom Happy Endings, Adam Pally says all the wrong things at all the right times. Here, the UCB veteran goes unscripted about what ticks him off, and poor Sarah McLachlan suffers the fatal blow.

1. Let’s knock out four things I hate right now: everyone in The Black Eyed Peas. Well, three things. I feel bad for that mute ninja guy because you know the other three Peas are making fun of him behind his back, and that’s a little “pot calling the kettle,” right?

2. I hate adult cats. I’m sorry, I know they need a home, and Sarah McLachlan’s head just exploded, but grown-ass sassy cats scare me.

3. I hate people who bitch about the iPhone when they don’t have one. It’s like a virgin telling you sex is overrated.

4. I hate clerks at guitar stores. I know just by walking in here you can shred some tasty licks, but let’s face it: You’re not scoring that much poon if you work at Guitar Center, so just pass me that middle-of-the-road acoustic and let me kill some time between auditions.

5. I hate the sound of my son crying. Kidding. My wife deals with that noise.

6. I hate all 9/11 movies except One for the Money.

7. I hate capri pants on either gender. Wear longer pants or pull your shoes up.

8. I hate boyfriend jeans. I don’t care what kind of “fat day” you think you’re having. Trust me, the boyfriend jeans are making it worse.

9. I hate when my dog licks herself to the point that an open sore forms. I mean, come on dog, you’re so dumb.

10. I hate adults who love Disney World. This is the clearest sign of pedophilia or serial killerphilia.

11. I hate two-door luxury coupes. Way to show your friends how rich you are and get out of giving them a ride home, dick.

12. I hate talking to people in the lobby of yoga class. It’s taking a lot for me to be here; I don’t need to hear about that yoga summit on the top of Mt. Healthylife. Now leave me alone so I can pretend to exercise.

Movie Madness: Reviews of March’s Cinematic Picks

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
This unexpected little comedy begins with the title character, played by a predictably schleppy Jason Segel, monologuing about his religious devotion to M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, a movie that preaches that fate lies in coincidences. It’s a mantra that dictate’s Jeff ‘s daily routine: zone out in mom’s basement and wait for something cosmic to happen. That something turns out to be a phone call—a wrong number, no less— that sets Jeff on a quest for higher purpose. But before any catharsis can be had, Jeff runs into his blowhard brother (Ed Helms) at the local Hooters, and gets tangled up in his marital woes. (This, of course, is all meant to be.) Together, they embark on an odyssey of mutual self-discovery, while in a parallel story, their mother (Susan Sarandon) chases epiphanies of her own in what feels like a separate movie. Directors Mark and Jay Duplass (Cyrus), who once worked within the boundaries of nanobudget filmmaking, are now being bankrolled by Paramount, and they’ve got the dramatic and uplifting climax to justify it. Tears will be shed in the audience and on the screen, but in less than 90 minutes, they’re admirably earned.Ben Barna

The Deep Blue Sea
After a decade stuck in financial gridlock, Terence Davies, the embattled hero of British art cinema, returns with this adaptation of the 1952 Terence Rattigan play, a story of repressed passions in a postwar England where even kisses must be rationed. Rachel Weisz gives a luminous performance as Hester, a tortured housewife who leaves her paternalistic husband (played by the portly Simon Russell Beale) for a hot-headed RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston) still struggling to re-enter a society that no longer needs him. But Hester needs him, and Davies artfully studies the complexities she faces, trading in a life of comfort for transcendent sex (and a tiny room in a boarding house). Nods to melodramas from the ’40s and ’50s adorn the film, as do Davies’ own signature touches: pub sing-alongs, lyrical tracking shots, and of course, that shockingly floral wallpaper. For the director who won admiration through authentic portrayals of postwar Liverpool, it’s a triumphant return to form. But while his earlier films were as personal—and structurally free—as a family album, the tale of doomed passion at the bottom of The Deep Blue Sea risks becoming a touch too hoary, even as self-conscious homage, to be fully satisfying.Josh Sperling

Casa de Mi Padre
They say you aren’t fluent in a foreign language until you can tell a joke in it, so you’ve got to admire Will Ferrell for having the guts to try. The concept behind Casa de mi Padre—and no, not just the title is in Spanish—has the potential for brilliance: export the actor’s trademark deadpan to a Mexico of rancheros, drug traffickers, and telenovela romance. Ferrell plays the dim-witted Armando Alvarez. When his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with a curvy new fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez) and shady schemes to save the family hacienda, the brothers find themselves at war with a vicious kingpin (Gael García Bernal), and with each other, over a woman’s heart. Ferrell has made a career parachuting straight-faced into quotidian scenes and mopping up the laughs. But Casa mines its humor from a new and risky place: the world of the subtitle. There is a reason foreign films are so serious—jokes don’t translate to that sullen font on the bottom of the screen. It’s no surprise then that the best gags in the film rely purely on physical slapstick. What is surprising is how hilarious Bernal and Luna can be hamming it up as narcotraficantes in alligator boots. But when Ferrell tells a DEA agent, “not all Mexicans are drugtraffickers,” you realize that the only one who isn’t a drug trafficker is, well, a gringo.JS

Despite its charms, French filmmakers David and Stéphane Foenkinos’ debut effort is undermined by a rote script, which relies too much on Audrey Tautou’s star power to prop it up. Adapted from David’s novel of the same name, Delicacy has bursts of whimsy in an otherwise familiar tale. Nathalie (Tatou) and François (Pio Marmaï) meet and fall irreversibly in love, until he is suddenly (but somehow not) rubbed out in a freak accident. The rest of the film traces Nathalie’s recovery efforts as it hops three years into the future, and we rediscover her as a grim careerist. Soon, she clumsily falls for a relatively unattractive Swede (François Damiens), who, let’s be honest, is a few leagues beneath her. (She’s damaged yes, but she’s also Audrey Tatou.) There’s a strange lack of passion for a movie about it, and its two leads never seem to fully connect. We hate to get down on a film with a core that is hopeful, sweet, and easy to swallow, but after digesting it, we’re still left feeling hungry.Hillary Weston

Being Flynn
Nick Flynn’s book Another Bullshit Night in Suck City was, as its title (sort of) implies, a gritty, honest look at homelessness and addiction in America, as seen through the eyes of the author and his father—eventually. They reconnect when the elder Flynn checks into the Boston shelter where his son is employed. Paul Weitz’s film adaptation has a sanitized title and is ultimately a sterile biopic, filled with a predicable story arc and done-to-death voiceover from both Nick and Jonathan Flynn (played by Paul Dano and Robert De Niro, respectively). Neither Nick nor Jonathan are portrayed as being completely moral or despicable, and their equal footing keeps the film from veering into sanctimonious territory. Being Flynn boasts an impressive supporting cast that includes Julianne Moore as Nick’s mother and Olivia Thirlby as his co-worker and girlfriend. Both shine as underused characters who serve primarily as feminine inspirations for Nick’s ultimate maturation. While the film doesn’t add much to the canon of movies chronicling troubled father-son relationships, it does feature a surprisingly lighthearted soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy, who famously wrote music for Weitz’s About a Boy.Tyler Coates

Tragic in tone and scattered in execution, Tony Kaye’s latest film feels more like you’re being emotionally gutted than mentally stimulated. With an ensemble cast of Hollywood vets, from Blythe Danner to James Caan, it’s the actors’ commitment to the work and their brief but dynamic performances that supersede the lackluster script. Detachment tells the story of Henry Barthes (brilliantly played by a weary-eyed Adrien Brody), a downtrodden substitute teacher who takes a temporary position at a failing high school. Barthes, a somber man plagued by flashbacks of his mother’s suicide, is an empathetic and gifted teacher, desperately trying to connect to his students while dealing with his dying grandfather and the teenage prostitute he’s taken in. Shot by Kaye himself, the film cuts between the narrative, interviews with Barthes, and morose animated blackboard drawings used to illustrate darker urges. Ultimately, the film doesn’t know whether to be a scathing critique of the public school system or the story of one man’s struggle to find meaning. Kaye has a lot to say but never fully realizes his point, creating a passionately bleak drama that throws it all in your face, one painful blow at a time.HW

The Raid
Not only does The Raid push the body count of Asian action cinema to new heights, but it also moves the genre south, leaving the skyscrapers of the usual tiger economies behind in favor of a rundown, crime-infested tenement deep in the Jakarta slums. With its main course of unadulterated violence, this is Die Hard for the gaming generation, with just enough of a premise—a SWAT mission gone awry, a fresh-faced rookie, brothers on opposite sides of the law—to take us from one scene of carnage to the next. And like any first-person shooter, the hero literally levels up from floor to floor, boss to boss, moving from guns to serrated knives to machetes, and finally, to some proper hand-to-hand combat. Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda provides an amped-up soundtrack, while the Welsh-born, Indonesia-based director Gareth Evans strikes a thrilling balance between masterful martial-arts choreography and the more helter-skelter rawness at the adrenalized heart of the film. And despite our hero’s assured survival, Evans builds a claustrophobic dread so powerful that when the tension suddenly snaps, it’s about as visceral as movies get.JS

The Lady
Aung San Suu Kyi has given up her family and freedom to advocate on behalf of the people of Burma, who have languished under the rule of a military dictatorship for half a century. While under house arrest, Suu Kyi ignited a fervent democratic movement that may finally be producing meaningful reforms in the country, making this a perfect time for French filmmaker Luc Besson to unveil his powerful and moving biopic of the Nobel laureate. The Lady follows her from her childhood in Rangoon, which is rent by the murder of her highly respected father, to her life as a wife and mother of two boys in England, to her return to Burma in 1988, where she immediately becomes the brightest hope for a people who have known nothing but poverty, fear, and isolation under the junta. Filled with gorgeously shot scenes of the Rangoon skyline and the lilting palms and shimmering waters of her dilapidated lake house, the film is a deft take through Suu Kyi᾽s inspiring life. Michelle Yeoh’s remarkable embodiment of the opposition leader is uncanny, and the depiction of her relationship with her English husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis) is heartbreaking, as he suffers and dies of cancer while being denied a visa to visit his wife one last time. The Lady gives viewers a deep appreciation of a long, relentless, and agonizingly slow struggle that may well be on the brink of success. Its message is simple: If your cause is just, never, ever give up.Victor Ozols

Lynn Collins is Ready to Blast-Off in the Epic ‘John Carter’

All it took for Lynn Collins to give up her two-pack-a-day smoking habit was six weeks of acupuncture and a man named Kerry Gaynor. “He’s amazing,” says Collins of the certified hypnotist, who’s talked the likes of Matt Damon, Aaron Eckhart, and Charlize Theron into butting out once and for all. Collins got Gaynor’s phone number from her friend Rashida Jones, who got it from Paul Rudd. Three sessions later, she was nicotine-free. “I haven’t had a cigarette since,” says Collins, “and that was three years ago.” Yet for all the credit due to the Gaynor method, Collins herself was well-prepared for the battle against cigarettes, having recently cast a much fiercer demon from her life.

In the winter of 2008, Collins was shooting the Marvel spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine in Australia opposite Hugh Jackman. Every morning, she came to set hungover after a night of heavy partying and binge drinking. “It was just a party everywhere because I met a lot of Australians and they’re so much fun,” says Collins, who is sitting in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel in Manhatttan, cradling a glass of sparkling water in her right hand. I ask how her punishing nightlife routine affected her demanding role as Kayla Silverfox, the telepathic mutant and love interest to Jackman’s Wolverine. “When you’re a functioning alcoholic, you can hide it,” she says. “And I was young enough that it didn’t show in my face. But it got to a point where somebody was like, it’s not cute anymore, and I was like, Oh God.”

Lynn Collins is not yet a household name, but that might change when Disney’s gargantuan sci-fi tentpole John Carter, in which Collins plays a martian princess, is released on March 9. For now, her struggles with alcoholism remain generally undocumented by the press. She is, however, remarkably candid for an actor whose last check was signed by The House That Mickey Built. “If I picked up one drink right now it would mean I’d be gone by the end of the night,” says Collins, who’s been sober for almost four years. “I never understood people who can have just one. I’m like, Don’t you want to get bombed?”

In 2008, Collins married the actor Steven Strait after a four-year relationship. Strait, who stars on the upcoming Starz series Magic City, was with her during her darkest hours, although in the beginning they were just a young couple having fun. “Until I took it all to hell,” says Collins, with surprising nonchalance. “Steven is incredibly smart and incredibly powerful, and he knows what he wants. Whatever I was doing, he was the rock, and now there’s two rocks. It’s a more equal relationship, but it wasn’t always like that.”

lynn collins

In person, Collins is bubbly and effervescent (In a moment of keen self-awareness, she tells me, “I don’t need bubbles to be effervescent”). She speaks as though she’s constantly sharing a secret, leaning in close across the table, and often lowers her voice to a whisper like she’s confessing to her best friend. She describes her newfound clarity as addictive and calls herself a workaholic. Between her two blockbusters, Collins shot the independent dramas Angels Crest, Unconditional, and Ten Year, but she seems frustrated that none had seen a theatrical release yet. Just before we meet, she was glued to her iPad, tweeting obsessively about her new business, a webzine devoted to spirituality and fashion called InnerChic.org. Collins, who is launching the site with a close friend, is a hardcore fanatic of all things New Age.

She studies numerology, the I Ching, and tarot. When she left AA, she supplemented it with transcendental meditation, which she still practices twice a day. On the set of John Carter, a movie she calls “mind-expanding,” Collins gave her costar Taylor Kitsch an astrology reading. “My mom told me astrology came from the devil,” she says, explaining the origins of her fascination with the Zodiac. “And I was like, Really? You think this is from the devil? That is so interesting! I think there’s a part of my mother that will always wonder if I’m going to hell.”

Collins was born in Texas to Christian parents, but spent much of her childhood in Singapore after her father, an employee at Exxon, was transferred there. Her eclectic, international upbringing set her up for serious culture shock when she returned to the U.S. at the age of 10. “I had been around all these different faces, different styles of worship, dress, and eating. Then I get back to Texas, which is all Dooney & Bourke bags,” she says. At 17, Collins moved to New York City and enrolled in the prestigious Julliard drama school, where she devised a list of career goals. The first was to perform at the Public Theater, which she accomplished in 2000 after being cast as Ophelia in a production of Hamlet, starring Liev Schrieber. In 2005, she ticked off another goal: becoming the lead in a Shakespeare in the Park production, gracing the Delacorte stage as Rosalind in As You Like It. Her break in Hollywood came when she guest–starred on HBO’s True Blood as the vampy (but not vampiric) waitress Dawn Green. After the character was killed off during the show’s first season, Collins turned her attention to movies, landing a part in the underrated thriller Uncertainty, opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But it was her role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which grossed $373 million worldwide, that gave Collins the clout to audition for John Carter.

Adapted from the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom serial, John Carter marks Pixar genius Andrew Stanton’s live–action debut—and one of the largest gambles in Disney’s history. If the story of a former Confederate captain (played by Kitsch) who gets transported to Mars and involved in the planet’s civil war does not connect with audiences, it won’t come close to recouping its reported $250 million budget. Collins is confident the film will find a large audience, not because of its special effects (of which there are many) but because Stanton set out to make a movie with a poignant message. “Anything Andrew Stanton does is just so big,” Collins says. “Look at Wall-E. I don’t want to speak for him, but from witnessing his work and witnessing him as a person, he truly cares about human life, the planet, and our existence.”

For her role as the extraterrestrial warrior Dejah Thoris, the head of Science and Letters in the martian city of Helium, the five hours a day she spent getting bronzer and fake tribal prints applied to her body was the least rigorous part of Collins’ physical transformation. The actor endured weeks of sword training and brutal workout routines—because Burroughs’ martians have a famous aversion to clothes. “The costumes for John Carter were like blue booty shorts that go up my ass,” says Collins. “At one point I had to wear this chainmail belt and it was horrible. But I don’t see Dejah as someone who cares if her body is exposed, because she doesn’t see herself as an object.” But Collins gained more from her training than abs of steel. “Working out gave me a great high,” she says. “And I’m a connoisseur of highs.”

lynn collins

Tim & Eric Go to Sundance!

At one point in Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, one of the protagonists endures a penis piercing so visceral that it’s almost unwatchable— and that’s the point. The penis is, of course, very fake. But when the graphic scene unfolded at a screening during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the screams in the audience were very, very real. By the end of the movie, according to one report only two-thirds of the once-packed house remained in their seats. After the credits rolled, the film’s co-directors and stars, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, took the stage to answer for what they had done.

The crowd was a mix of unsuspecting moviegoers and diehard fans of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the wonderfully disconcerting sketch comedy show that aired for five seasons on Adult Swim. When members of the audience asked questions like “Who got wood first?” and “What the fuck?” the two comedians hurled insults into the crowd, who lapped it up. “I don’t think anybody really takes it seriously,” Wareheim says of their aggressive post-screening shtick. “If you goof on somebody or yell at them, usually the audience laughs, so I think they understand that we’re not actually upset or anything.”

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie represents the culmination of a dream that began when Heidecker, 36, met Wareheim, 35, when they were film students at Temple University in the mid ’90s. A feature film was always their goal, but they never imagined the twisty—and twisted— road they’d travel to get there. “We fell into TV as a sideways move,” Wareheim admits. After one of their heroes, Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show fame, responded favorably to some cheaply made shorts they sent him, Heidecker and Wareheim got the confidence they needed to pursue their brand of comedy, which was a fresh blend of the awkward and the macabre, usually involving a public-access aesthetic and characters culled from the bowels of hell. As their cult following grew, famous admirers like Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Zach Galifiankis, and Will Forte, all of whom make appearances in their feature debut—became frequent collaborators.

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is partly an indictment of Hollywood’s autopilot moviemaking, but also a self-aware attempt to adhere to the very tropes it lampoons. (After ninety minutes, the heroes will learn an important lesson.) It follows two friends, also named Tim and Eric—“Those guys are a lot dumber than we are,” says Heidecker—who were given one billion dollars by the Schlaang corporation to make a movie. Instead, they blow their budget on diamond suits and makeovers, and turn in a three- minute film starring a Johnny Depp impersonator. To pay back the angry investors, they take up an offer by a deranged mall manager (Ferrell) to revive his decaying shopping center for a billion-dollar fee. “We didn’t want to make an experimental art film,” says Heidecker of the more traditional— by their standards—storytelling in Billion Dollar Movie. “We wanted it to be more watchable and entertaining, not just a nightmare. It’s still pretty wild, it’s just not a ‘fuck you’ to the audience.”

But some audiences at Sundance didn’t see it that way. “I think we pissed off a lot of people,” Heidecker says, referring to the walkouts. “It’s understandable,” adds Wareheim. “Sundance audiences are not exactly our key demo, but it’s fun to see the walkouts. There are a couple scenes in the movie that are whoppers.” Those include a go–for–broke sex scene involving a blow-up doll and strap-ons, which is intercut with an unsettling episode involving character actor Ray Wise, a coterie of cherubic boys, and a bathtub. Wareheim calls it “our ultimate brown joke.”

For Heidecker and Wareheim, who normally reside on comedy’s lunatic fringe, Sundance was a mainstream debut of sorts. Their distributor, Magnolia Pictures, threw them a lavish dinner at a mountaintop hotel, which they were chauffeured to in an RV that doubled as a karaoke bar. “It was very scary,” says Wareheim, recalling the treacherous journey. “The driver would take his hands off the steering wheel and dance to the music while we’re trying to traverse these insane mountains.” Once inside, they were astonished that all the swank was in their honor. “It was really ridiculous and over-the-top,” says Heidecker. “I think there might have been some confusion that maybe Will Ferrell was going to show because—not that he wants this—there was a jeweler named Roberto Coin who had a display in the dining room, and everybody got a gift card for a Roberto Coin necklace. We just looked around at all our friends, and were like, What the fuck is going on?”

Later that night, following their premiere, Heidecker and Wareheim got a dose of Sundance’s infamous, zoo-like party circuit when they attended their after–party at the Blue Iguana on Main Street. “These parties are generally for people who haven’t seen each other in a while to have a drink and talk,” says Heidecker, “but these DJs have turned it into a rave, where nobody can hear each other and if you want to communicate, you have to scream and everybody wakes up the next morning with no voice.” Wareheim adds: “It’s the kind of L.A. thing you want to escape. When you’re in Park City, you want to focus on this positive, independent film vibe, and then you go to a party and you see lines around the block with douchebags. At our after–party I knew, like, four people, and that was in our roped-off VIP section.”

But despite its growing reputation as a ten-day excuse for people named Paris to get plastered, the Sundance Film Festival is still a place where filmmakers go to have their films seen and voices heard. That means an endless parade of interviews. Heidecker and Wareheim surprised many reporters who expected to question their onscreen characters, only to find two normal dudes. “If an interviewer treated us like our characters, Tim and I usually shut it down right away because we don’t like engaging in that kind of thing,” says Wareheim. “It depends on our energy level,” adds Heidecker, “but it’s too much work to keep up some kind of Andy Kaufman routine.”

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie debuted on video on demand shortly after its Sundance premiere, but it finally hits theaters this month. Heidecker and Wareheim already know their fan base will remain faithful, but if they can shock and awe a virgin audience, they’ll be okay with that. “Hopefully it’s not going to be like Bucky Larson, or one of those movies where everybody can agree that it was a disaster,” says Heidecker. “It’s going to be a matter of personal preference, but it’ll be a relief to know that it’s not just a universal repudiation of us.”

Illustration by Amy Steinhauser

Viva Bianca on ‘Spartacus: Vengeance,’ Andy Whitfield’s Passing, & Nude Scenes

In early 2011, the producers of Starz’s bloody gladiator series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, made the difficult decision of recasting the title role after their star, Andy Whitfield, waged an offscreen battle with cancer. Whitfield eventually succumbed to the disease last September, and this Friday, Spartacus will return to television for its second season, with a new title and a new lead. Actress Viva Bianca recalls the first few days of shooting Spartacus: Vengeance with a tinge of sadness in her voice, as she remembers her fallen costar and sings the praises of her new one, Liam McIntyre.

Bianca, a native Australian, stars as Ilithyia, a conniving and ambitious daughter of a senator, and the wife of Gaius Claudius Glaber, the man responsible for Spartacus’ enslavement. As its title implies, Spartacus is a bloody and violent show, and, with enough skin to rival Game of Thrones, it’s one of the more risque series on television. We recently caught up with Bianca and spoke about regrouping after Whitfield’s death, where her character is headed this season, and why undressing in front of the camera is no fun at all.

Do you see this as a make it or break it season?
I think there was more pressure on Season One, because the show was coming out of nowhere, but from what I understand, this is Starz’s biggest hit original series, so it’s already kind of proven itself in that way. It got really good ratings and developed a big following. But of course, what happened is our former Spartacus, Andy Whitfield, passed away, so that was a great tragedy and an incredible loss for all of us. But as a consequence, I think because the show really was so successful and had this momentum, the network decided to continue with the series and recast the role. So now we have an actor called Liam McIntyre playing Spartacus, and he’s a very charming, talented young man. And I think that’s really what people are going to be focusing on: How does he compare to the great Andy Whitfield? So the pressure’s more on him than anyone, poor guy.

When Andy passed away did it put the show in jeopardy?
Well the truth is we were shooting Season Two by the time he passed, and that’s because he had ben in treatment for cancer for 18 months, so the decision had to be made a while back. And it was just so hard for everyone.

Was it an incredibly sensitive time on set when Liam started? I would imagine everyone was very supportive of him.
Yeah,  you only have to spend five minutes with the guy to feel so relaxed in his company and wish him well. He’s a genuinely good guy, and he deserves this opportunity, and he brought so much integrity and wisdom and a sense of innocence to the role. And of course he can’t try and emulate Andy and what Andy did with the role, because that would be fruitless, but what he can do is bring his own history to the role and his own imagination and impulse. I think that we all really respect him because he has done that. I’m not flagging him.

Can you tease the second season for all the show’s fans?
The exciting thing about Spartacus: Vengeance is that on every possible level, with every possible character, the heat is on.  As far as my character goes, there is a huge revelation of information that will be revealed around halfway through he season, and it’s big and exciting I can’t talk about it now, but it’s a real kind of driving force for my character throughout the season.

How did you discover this revelation?
I was told the revelation by the producers and the writers, and then as an actor, I carried the secret throughout Season Two until it was revealed in the script. And that’s one of the best things as an actor. Because I trained in Stanislavski, it’s such a pleasure if your character has a secret.

Talk to me about your character’s evolution.
In Season One, the character began as quite young, naïve, and spoiled and bratty, and kind of was corrupted by her relationships with some of the other characters, and very much revealed herself to be a villain. However, the great thing about now is that the writers have really invested in creating many dimensions to my character. And yes, there will continue to be that kind of scheming, plotting, and conniving, there’s also going to be a nice revelation of vulnerability and humility as well.

Are you happy with where she ends the season?
Yes, it’s such an awesome character wrap, I could never have dreamt it up. But it was exhausting. It’s all high stakes, it’s all epic, like Greek tragedy meets Dangerous Liaisons. You’re fighting for your life one day, and you’re trying to seduce some teenage boy the next.

You appear nude at several points throughout the show. Is that something you’ll do, as long as it’s not gratuitous?
Nudity and sex scenes have to serve the story. They have to drive the story forward. That’s always the case, and I don’t know any single actor that enjoys doing it. It’s very uncomfortable and it has to be dealt with in the most clinical, sensitive, protected manner. And on this show, that’s always been the case. It might seem kind of outlandish and sort of wild and free but at the same time it’s actually not in reality. Sometimes it’s hilarious, actually. It’s so not sexy when you’re doing it. It’s hilarious.

Ed Burns, Busier Than Ever, Reflects on His Career & Making Movies With No Money

Ever since 1995, when Ed Burns broke into the movie industry with his surprise Sundance hit, The Brothers McMullen, the Long Island-born filmmaker has been a ubiquitous presence in front of and behind the camera. When he’s not, in his words, "busting balls" on camera as a gruff New Yorker, like he did in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, Burns is writing and directing highly personal, nano-budget romances and dramas. 2012 looks to be a banner year for the 43 year old (who lives with his wife, model Christy Turlington, and two children in Tribeca), with no less than five projects hitting screens of all sizes.

First up for Burns is Newlyweds, his latest directorial effort that was made on a shoestring budget of less than $25,000. After that, Burns costars in two thrillers: As a pushy cop opposite Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks in Man on a Ledge, and opposite Tyler Perry in the James Patterson adaptation, I, Alex Cross. Burns also costars opposite Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm in Jennifer Westfeldt’s buzzy romantic comedy, Friends with Kids, and to top it all off, he recently wrapped 40, a pilot for HBO about midlife malaise, from Entourage svengali Doug Ellin. We know, it’s a lot, but speaking to Mr. Burns, you get the sense that he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

This year has been busier than normal for you.
You know it’s funny, I have these years where the phone doesn’t ring, and you’re like what the fuck? I’ve been put in jail inexplicably, and then suddenly I’m going from gig to gig to gig, so this was one of those years. We shot Newlyweds for like 12 days over the course of 8 months, and then in those 8 months, I shot Man on a Ledge. And then we had to take about five weeks off shooting Newlyweds, because my DP shot Friends with Kids which I also acted in. And then I just did a pilot for HBO.

What can you tell me about Man on a Ledge?
I’ll tell you that was unbelievable, the ledge work that they did. They were up on the 24th floor of the Roosevelt Hotel, they built a set in the penthouse suite. When Sam Worthington steps out onto that ledge, he’s actually stepping out onto the roof, but they did it so that they could build this enormous crane and pulley system so that he is harnessed in and completely safe. He’s not only walking on that ledge, he’s running. My character is the first on the scene to negotiate with him. He doesn’t want to talk to me, he wants to talk to Elizabeth Banks, so my job is sort of to break Elizabeth’s balls over the course of 90 minutes.

Tell me about Newlyweds, this came together how?
The story came about at a tenth wedding anniversary dinner, and somebody makes a toast that after ten years, in this day in age, if it ended today, you’d call it a success. And there’s a bunch of married couples, and we all kind of laughed and said yeah, you kind of could. And after that, I went home and thought that was an interesting idea for a movie, to examine what makes for a successful marriage. For a while, I’d been trying to find a script that I could do as a companion piece to this film I made years ago called Sidewalks of New York, which was a pseudo-documentary, and the great thing about making a pseudo-doc is that it lends itself to micro-budget production. It can look a little crappy, your boom can get in the shot, you can play with jump cuts, you’re not dealing with real continuity. On that film, we didn’t hire a production designer; we were like, whatever the apartment is that we get, that’s a real environment. So I’d been looking to do something like that again since I went back to Nice Guy Johnny and made a movie for $25,000. I wanted to try more bare bones, like a two-man crew. The actors did their own hair and make-up, and wore their own clothes. When we go into a restaurant, let’s not close down the restaurant like we did on Sidewalks, let’s go into a live environment and let’s try no lights. And now shooting digitally, we didn’t even use a sound person because we wanted to be as unobtrusive as we could, so we just used a recording device with a wire mic hidden there. I live in Tribeca, and one of the things was I wanted the movie to be a love letter to Tribeca.

Your first film was a big hit at Sundance, and for a lot of filmmakers, that means the scale of their films will only get bigger and bigger. You seem to have gone in the opposite direction.
There’s no comparison between the amount of fun that I have on doing these micro-budget film versus when I have three million dollars.

What was your biggest?
Five million.

For what?
No Looking BackShe’s the One was three. I love Woody Allen, and that’s all I want to do. I want to make small, talky movies. I never aspired to be Scorsese, let alone Peter Jackson or George Lucas. I like those movies, but that’s not what I’m passionate about. I’ve always wanted to stay here. I’ve acted in enough bigger movies to know, as a filmmaker, I don’t like the process that the guys I’m working with have to go through. Even on a five million dollar movie, the minute someone gives you cash—

It’s their movie too.
Yeah, and the things that have happened to me over the years—you can’t cast your first choice, you have your title of your movie changed. No Looking Back was changed by the studio.

What was it originally?
It was called Long Time Nothing New. I got to a point in my career where the best movie—not my favorite but the movie I’ve made that was the most successful, The Brothers McMullen—I made for 25 grand with a five-man crew. I had nobody talking over my shoulder, and since then, I’ve always had somebody talking over my shoulder. So on Nice Guy Johnny, the idea was to go back to the McMullen model as an experiment, to see if we can unlearn all the habits of what it’s like to have a couple million bucks in your pocket when you’re making a movie. Filmmaking is always about compromise. I’m sure Peter Jackson is making compromises because he doesn’t have time or enough money or the tech isn’t there, or the actor’s not coming out of the trailer. One advantage you get is absolute total creative control. You get to make the movie you want to make, and if it turns out great or if it sucks, it’s all on you. There’s nothing worse. No Looking Back got shitty reviews and the movie tanked at the box office, and now it lives on DVD or on Netflix. And I’m the only one who gives a shit. The executive that made me change that, he doesn’t even remember the title now.

Do you ever rewatch it?
I do. I think enough time has passed where some people seem to dig it. But I’m the only one who still cares, and I can’t go through that again, because at the end of the day, my name is on it.

Why do you continue to act, when your passion is obviously in filmmaking?
It’s a couple of things. You’re guaranteed to make a nice six-figure number, so it’s like a couple hundred thousand dollars that I’m real okay with. For big shots in Hollywood, that’s peanuts, but I’m down with that program. But the acting, to be perfectly honest, it affords me a certain financial freedom to be able to do this, especially in those years where it feels like you’re in director’s jail, and you can’t get anything made. When I look at my resume, I can tell by the quality of my acting work what was going on in my filmmaking career. It’s like, You couldn’t get this film made, and then I look at the acting and see I acted in that and that, and clearly those were money gigs and not a passion project. So it really depends. Sometimes you do it for the money, sometimes you do it even if you know it’s not a great project, but friends of yours are making the film.

Why did you do Saving Private Ryan?
That was a no-brainer. When I made McMullen I didn’t even want to act, I didn’t think I was going to be an actor, except for small parts in my ensemble movies. But when that movie came out, all of a sudden I got a couple of real offers for real movies.

Which were?
I can’t say because I passed on them. McMullen was a 12 day shoot and I acted in six of them. I had acted six days in my life, so I wasn’t going to show up on some guy’s set and not know how to do it. I knew what a fraud I was, essentially, so I was like, let me do a few more of my films and I can control the performance, I can manipulate it in the editing room, and cut around the dog shit. So after three films like that, finally my agents were like, “Offers keep coming in, you should consider if you’re going to put yourself in your movies, because if you become more of a star then it’s just that much easier to get money for your films,” which made a lot of sense. So one of the first scripts I get then was Saving Private Ryan. So I said, throw my hat into the ring and see what happens. I guess Spielberg watched McMullen and was like, he’s got the part.

So you didn’t even have to audition?
We were told two days before we started shooting, and as an actor it was like, Okay, I get to do real work here, but I really prepared, and asked Hanks about the project. It was an enormous learning experience for me as an actor, but more, it was like graduate film school. No other filmmakers get to hang out on someone else’s set, so to be able to sit back and watch a guy like that do his thing blew me away. That movie, we shot almost all available light, handheld outside and he was rockin’ and rollin’, two takes and moving on. And I’m watching him and I’m like, wait a second—handheld, available light? That’s how you make a low-budget movie. I’m looking at how fast he’s going. So while I’m on the set is when I start writing the script for Sidewalks of New York as a pseudo-doc.

What can you tell me about 40?
It’s a little bit like Entourage in New York, because you got these four best friends. I play a guy who worked at Bear Stearns, lost my gig, and a year and change later, I’m not back to work. I live up in Westchester, three kids, my wife is like, “You seem miserable, go get a job.” And then I’ve got my best friends. Michael Rapaport plays a guy who’s a contractor, he’s having his fourth kid, they’re having some financial troubles. So you got the two married guys with kids, and then you got Michael Imperioli, who’s the twice-divorced guy going through an ugly custody battle who lives in Manhattan, and is now going to have to deal with being single for the first time. And then you got Nathan Pasdar, who’s like too old to be out in the club picking up young girls, but he is. It’s less New York City and more like Tri-State, in that it’s about Manhattan, but it’s also about the commute and the ‘burbs and that sort of thing. It works the whole experience. It’s a 28 minute show and the script is like 45 pages long because it’s all just like short, terse lines of dialogue. I’m the first to admit, I’m not the most versatile actor. I’m good at playing Irish guys from Long Island who like to break your balls.

You admit to being typecast.
I’m totally fine with it. So I was like, I’m in, let’s do this. I have to admit, I’ve never had that much fun acting in anything I’ve ever done. It’s probably the closest to some version of myself that I’ve played that I didn’t write.

Do you play the same kind of character in I, Alex Cross?
I play Tyler Perry’s partner, his childhood best friend. He’s sort of the pain in the ass. Tyler is more the brains of the operation.

I’m surprised to see him in that kind of a role.
He’s going to shock the hell out of people. I was blown away. I didn’t realize how big he is, he’s a huge formable dude who’s obviously very very bright, because he’s built an empire. Everybody on set was like, “That’s not Madia.”

Are you happy where you are in your career?
I have to admit, never been happier. I finally figured it out. When I was a kid coming out of film school, I wrote seven screenplays before McMullen, and I used to just sit there. I couldn’t get them read. You send them out to Hollywood, and you can’t get them read unless you have an agent. I remember being so fucking pissed off at the world. I just wanted someone to read what I’ve written, I didn’t even need to get paid. Then you get into the business and your dreams change, and your expectations change, but the thing that never went away was how hard it was to get any movie made. You know, She’s the One was easy because you’re coming off the heat of McMullen, but after that every one was a painful process—never easy, never fun. And now, I’m happiest. I stumbled upon this approach where if I’m willing to continue to tell smaller stories, then I can always make a movie. Let’s say you’re a musician. If you’re cool with just picking up your acoustic guitar and recording in your basement on your Garage Band, you can always make an album. If you need to have the full recording studio and all the bells and whistles and the giant band, well shit, you might be sitting around for ten years waiting for that record deal. There’s plenty of stuff that’s recorded with just a guitar that’s blows you away just as much as the biggest production. So I’m okay in this space, you know, I don’t have the desire to compete on that level.

Moment Factory’s Creative Director Sakchin Bessette Teases Madonna’s Superbowl Halftime Show

On February 5, at the Lucas Oil stadium in Indianapolis, Madonna will take the stage as part of the halftime show for Super Bowl XLVI. No one knows what to expect (although Nicki Minaj showing up is basically a done deal), but with Cirque Du Soleil’s involvment already confirmed, it’s safe to say the show will be visually spectacular.

Helping to realize those visuals is the Montreal-based multimedia design firm, Moment Factory. Responsible for some of the most recognizeable and cutting edge installations around the world (including Arcade Fire’s now legendary LED ball drop at last year’s Coachella), Moment Factory is working closely with Madonna to create something unforgettable for the world’s biggest stage. We recently spoke to Moment Factory’s founder and Creative Director, Sakchin Bessette, about his company and his work, and did our best to pry out secrets about February’s big show.

What phase of development are you in for Madonna’s Superbowl show?
Well, we’re still developing the whole project. This is the first time we’ve worked with her, so we’re getting to know each other, creating trust and an inspirational and creative relationship, which is a lot of fun. She really gets into the details, and she’s really focused on a lot of different levels, which not a lot of the artists are. Working with Nine Inch Nails for example, Trent was very involved in the details, but in a different way. With Arcade Fire it was different. It depends on the artist.

Did this partnership come about through Cirque du Soleil?
Yeah. basically Madonna’s management called Cirque to help out with the Superbowl project, and Cirque gave us a call and thought we would be a good fit.

Performing during the halftime show presents a lot of constraints. How will you deal with those?
We need to work within the perimeters. The box we’re working in is different. We have to find solutions that give us that theatrical effect that Madonna likes and wants, and we need to make it on par with her level of quality and detail—in the dance, the video, the choreography, the music. But at the same time, the short length of the show and the realities of working in a stadium are very different than a normal touring show for example. So it really requires different creative solutions.

Do you find it limiting?
Well, all the projects are limiting in one way or another and the solution that we find…so we think we’re finding interesting solutions and we’re moving along with all that.

How many employees does Moment Factory have?
We have about 55 to 60 employees.

How many of them are involved in the Madonna project?
We have about 12 people involved in the project right now—animators, designers, stuff like that.

Do you have any idea of what the show is going to be like, in terms of who else is performing and other details?
I can’t really talk about it. I’ll leave that up to her to talk about those kinds of details. I can’t talk about all those details besides that it’s a very exciting project.

Should we take your company’s name literally? Are you in the business of creating moments?
Yeah, we’re really focused on touching people and creating these memorable experiences. We define ourselves as a new media arts and entertainment studio, so we design multimedia experiences. We don’t necessarily work for TV or for the web. For us, it’s important to focus on the public experience, so it’s bringing people together in the public medium. I compare it to ten thousand years ago, when people would gather around the campfire and tell stories at night. Now people are gathering in different environments, and our expectations as far as entertainment have changed. So we need to bring all of those elements into the public, whether it be in a park with a rock show, whether it be in a museum, it’s just about creating more engaging entertainment.

How was the company born?
We really grew organically. It actually started ten years ago, when we basically started VJing in nightclubs,  when digital video came out. So before then, I was basically doing slideshows. And then gradually, when digital came out, we could edit on computers and basically the technology evolved, and we started doing special events, working a lot with Cirque, and doing permanent instillations in bar, clubs, and different kinds of venues. At the beginning, we financed the company with like a $10,000 credit card and we had like ten people working here.

When you look back, are you amazed at how much the company has grown?
It’s surprising, but my mind is made more to look at the future than the past.

How would you describe your exact role in the company?
I started it, and now I just take vacations all the time. No, I wish. Basically, I’m the Creative Director. I take care of the creative team—the designers, the animators, the storytelling. I kind of help these people do the craziest things that we can.

The Arcade Fire ball drop at Coachella got a lot of attention. How did that idea come about?
Actually, this project came from Chris Milk in Radical Media. He approached us to help him design it and make it all come together. So we were more of a collaborator on this, and we kind of just made his vision happen. Creator’s Project financed it, and made it all happen, so it’s really a collaborative effort which we like a lot, to be able to collaborate with different artists and different people—whether it be architecture, artists, or Madonna.