Archive for New Films

Mark and Jay Duplass Score With "Jeff Who Lives At Home"

In 2002, Mark and Jay Duplass, writer/director brothers from New Orleans, were ready to pack it in. They hadn’t been having much success, until they decided to make one last try where Mark improvised a character having a breakdown while trying to record a message on an answering machine. This short film called ” This Is John” made it into Sundance, and got them representation, leading to two feature films.

(L-R) Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, brother writer/directors at the press junket for Cyrus starring Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, and Marisa Tomei!

Isn’t that the greatest story of synchronicity you ever heard? ( Well at least one of them??? LOL)

Just when you’re ready to give up, The Universe steps in and brings you the inspiration you need. They went on to make “The Puffy Chair” in 2005, followed by “Baghead” a horror/comedy which they made in 2008.

I met them at a press junket for their award winning film Cyrus which they made in 2010, with a fantastic cast, starring Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, and Marisa Tomei, and got a really fun interview. Cyrus was the official selection at the SXSW Film Festival that year.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei!

A short time later, I ran into Mark and his beautiful actress wife Katie Aselton on the red carpet of the Comedy Central First Annual Comedy Awards, where Cyrus was up for four awards, Jonah Hill for Best Actor, Mark and Jay for Best Comedy Director, Best Comedy Film, and Best Writer.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton on the red carpet of Comedy Central’s Comedy Awards!

Katie Aselton with husband Mark Duplass showing Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV how many awards Cyrus was up for!

During the interview which you can see below, they told me about their next film called “Jeff Who Lives At Home”, which I thought was going to be about me! At least Katie said it was! It also has a fantastic cast, starring Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, and Jason Segal, as the “Jeff” character, a 30 year old stoner who still lives at home with his Mom, and obsesses on the concept that our lives are controlled by fate. It’s a black comedy!

Mark assured me that even though it was wrapped and edited, he was still going to find a place for me in it! Maybe he meant in the audience! (LOL) You watch and see for yourselves!

Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton laughing assuring Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV that they would get him a part in “Jeff Who Lives At Home” despite the fact that the film was finished! (LOL)

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Internet Star Lauren Francesca Parodies Paris Hilton’s Drunk Text with Guest Appearance By Jeffrey Gurian

Lauren Francesca is an internet sensation who often plays Lady Gaga in the Key of Awesome videos that tend to get upwards of 25 million hits! Lauren and I have been working together for a while and one of our most fun projects was one that I wrote for her, creating the character of Besame Mucho, a “hot” Latina, (as if there’s any other kind! LOL) who is acknowledged by “at least two major men’s magazines” as the best kisser in the world.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with internet star Lauren Francesca, as Besame Mucho on the set of “The Academy of Oral Skills!”

It’s on Funny or Die, and on a million other comedy sites:

We also did one last year for the Oscars where she parodied every movie that was up for an award, and I was in the one about The King’s Speech!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV sitting on Lauren Francesca re-enacting the scene from “The King’s Speech” for Lauren’s parody of The Oscars in 2011!

Now she’s doing one parodying Paris Hilton’s newest video,”Drunk Text” and if you’ll pardon the phrase, it’s “hot”!!!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with internet star Lauren Francesca as Paris Hilton on the set of her new parody film “Drunk Text”!

She had new words written and she wears a long blonde wig, and it’s really funny, and you’ll be seeing it very soon! I was one of the guys in the dark glasses who sit beside her texting and not paying her much attention during the video. The other guy, my “partner in crime”, was Mark Mangold, who’s a successful music business guy.

Jeffrey Gurian and Mark Mangold as “the guys in black” who sit on either side of Lauren/Paris as the whole drunk texting thing goes down!

There was one scene where Lauren/Paris takes a cell phone snapshot up another girl’s dress and sends it to someone as if it was her.

The girl finds out and attacks Paris and pulls her hair. To save Lauren/Paris, I shoot at the girl with a futuristic ray gun!

Jeffrey Gurian with his super powerful futuristic ray gun, protecting Lauren/Paris during her Drunk Text ordeal!

The girl who was to play the part had to leave so because actors are very inventive, actor/producer Walter Masterson who works with Lauren all the time stepped up, put on a skirt, eye make-up, and wig, and pulled it off. The funniest part was he has better legs than most girls!

Hero actor/producer Walter Masterson coming to the rescue by donning women’s clothing and makeup, before the wig went on!

Lauren Francesca fitting the blonde Paris wig on actor Walter Masterson!

Lauren/Paris proceeds to get drunker and drunker until she gets thrown out of the club by the bouncer, in this case played by Joey Boots, but not before she throws up on the club floor, which was a very funny scene to shoot!

Lauren/Paris losing her cookies on the dance floor!

Lauren Francesca/Paris with Joey Boots the bouncer who’s getting ready to throw her out!

Lauren/Paris kicking and screaming as she is thrown out of the club for being too drunk!

Lauren/Paris being dragged out of the club by the bouncer!

Now that I built up the excitement and anticipation, here’s the video! It totally rocks, and I’m all over it!

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Mike Birbiglia Tapes For Sundance Film At The Comic Strip

Mike Birbiglia Tapes For Sundance Film At The Comic Strip

Monday nights are usually kind of slow wherever you go. This Monday night The Comic Strip was sold out! Completely packed! People found out that Mike Birbiglia would be doing a 90 minute performance there and within no time the place was filled!

(L-R) Richie Tienken, owner of The Comic Strip, Mike Birbiglia, and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at The Comic Strip for a special taping for Mike’s film at Sundance!

Back in 2008, Mike had a hit show with “Sleepwalk With Me” at the Bleecker Street Theatre. I was there for the opening and knew it would be a hit right away! Mike is an accomplished story-teller, which of course is an art form in itself! Very different from stand-up. I can’t picture Mike doing a five minute set. I’m sure he could do it, but his material lends itself to longer pieces, so he can build his story in layers!

Mike is doing a film version of “Sleepwalk” that will be in Sundance in January, and he had the idea to film a sequence of him onstage to be played during the credits. He takes the stage name of Matt Pentamiglio, which may be the wrong spelling, but it’s the right sound! (LOL)

Mike Birbiglia as Matt Pentamiglio onstage at The Comic Strip!

I caught up with Mike, … or Matt, … backstage at The Strip and did a little exclusive video interview for Comedy Matters! You can see that right here!

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Tracy Morgan In A Serious Role – The Son Of No One

Most people in entertainment acknowledge that it’s harder to do comedy than drama. But when you’re used to being funny, sometimes it’s hard to be serious, or to be taken seriously. Richard Belzer crossed over successfully in his work on TV as Det. John Munch, a role he first brought to life on Tom Fontana’s “Homicide: Life On The Street”, and then carried over to Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, where he recently did his 300th episode.

Tracy Morgan does it in this Dito Montiel film, “The Son Of No One”, an exciting police drama with an all-star cast including Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, and Juliette Binoche, that opened this past Friday, November 4th.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Tracy Morgan on the set of 30 Rock!

Channing Tatum plays a cop named Jon White, with a secret in his past that’s threatening to ruin his life. As a young kid of maybe 10 or 12 years old, he accidentally killed two low-life drug dealers in separate incidents. One incident was to save his own life, and the other looked to be just an accident in trying to save the life of his dog Charlie. But someone knew and waited all these years to expose him.

Now he gets transferred to a precinct in Staten Island to re-open this long closed “double murder” case, basically investigating his own crime. Someone is writing letters to a newspaper threatening to expose the killer. The columnist of the local paper who’s printing the letters is played by French actress Juliet Binoche.

Jon suspects his emotionally and mentally challenged childhood friend from the projects in which he lived, Vincent Carter, played as an adult by Tracy Morgan. Vincent had made a solemn promise never to tell what he had seen. The dynamic between the two old friends is very powerful, as is what transpires, leading to the ending of the film.

I obviously do not think like a critic since this movie was not reviewed well by Lou Lumenick of the NY Post. I don’t claim to be a critic, but I can say I thought the movie was riveting, and one that I enjoyed, if you can call being “nervous” for 90 minutes, enjoyable. I empathized with the lead character for having had such a rough childhood, and then having to face this ordeal. But that’s what a movie like this is meant to do. It’s meant to make you feel something, and I did. It’s also meant to be entertaining, and it is.

I often wonder if most critics have ever set foot on a stage or tried to entertain anyone. As a writer and entertainer myself, I give HUGE props to anyone who has the courage to create a piece of work, or put their “lives” on the line by stepping on to a stage to perform. (Especially with stand-up comedy which I consider to be the hardest thing to do in the world of entertainment, and which Tracy Morgan has mastered!)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with his buddy Tracy Morgan at Anthony Anderson’s Mixtape Show at Gotham Comedy Club!

That being said, it doesn’t mean that I think that every performance is good, or entertaining. I’ve seen performances where I had to walk out because I just couldn’t take it anymore. But the way some critics pick apart a film, makes me wonder what credentials you have to have to be a critic??? It’s very easy to find fault with everything, and everyone, but I think you have to look at the overall effect of the project! I really enjoyed this film, and Tracy’s work in it, and I can’t wait to see him so I can tell him.
(He even got one of the few positive comments from Lou Lumenick in the NY Post!)

So go and see this film and decide for yourself! I think you’ll like it!

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Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist With Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy Opens Today

The long awaited Tower Heist movie starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick is opening today. In shades of the Madoff scandal, when a group of hard working guys led by building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), find out they’ve fallen victim to a wealthy business man Arthur Shaw’s Ponzi scheme, played by Alan Alda, they conspire to rob his high-rise penthouse apartment with the aid of street hustler Slide played by Eddie Murphy.

Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist opens today with Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda!

People are anxious to see Eddie in a funny action character again, and this could be the movie that puts him back on top. Eddie’s been making the rounds of the TV talk shows, like Letterman, Leno and Ellen Degeneres, and on each show he mentions The Comic Strip, the legendary comedy club that brought him to prominence. This year is the 35th anniversary of the club which is going strong. I know because I’m doing the book on the club, with owner/founder Richie Tienken, and have interviewed most of the big stars that came out of there including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Lewis Black, Susie Essman and many others!

Richie Tienken along with his partner Bob Wachs managed Eddie for about 11 years all the way from his SNL days through Beverly Hills Cop II. That included Raw and Delirious!

Eddie discovered Chris Rock there in 1986. And now that Eddie is gearing up to host The Academy Awards he’s gonna have to get back to his stand-up career which a lot of people feel he’s been wanting to do for a while now. I happen to know that Eddie has an open invitation from Richie Tienken to come and work out at The Strip any time he wants to. It would be like coming home for Eddie and we really hope he comes around.

In the meantime go and check out the film. Brett Ratner was recently honored at another legendary club, The Friars Club in NYC, where he is a proud member, and where he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by Russell Simmons. Also present were Richard Belzer, Ron Perelman, and Aisha Tyler. I have exclusive video on that right here! It’s not as funny as Tower Heist, but I think you’ll find it entertaining!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with director Brett Ratner at The Friars Club in NYC!

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Award-Winning Sketch Troupe "The Charlies" in Halloween Video "Racist Zombies"

The Charlies is a group of 9 UCB-trained sketch comedians who serve as both writers and performers. The members are Carlin Adelson, my personal assistant Tristan Griffin who brought them to my attention, Cameron Fleming, David Hill (not the famous one, the other one), Alene Latimer (the famous one, not the other one), Madina Papadopoulos, Jeremy Rayburn, Siobhan Thompson, and Jennifer Treuting. The Charlies are the winners of the 2011 Arena Sketch League Tournament the finals of which were held at The Creek and The Cave.

Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/meetthecharlies?sk=info.

I happened to see them perform at a great little theatre called The Red Door on East 4th Street in NYC, and so many people showed up they had to sit on the floor!( Not the group, the audience! LOL ) They are very talented and entertaining!

Tristan Griffin plays the first victim of the racist zombies, in a role he was literally born to play, since he was born Black, which comes in very handy in the little film you are about to see! Perfect for Halloween, on the Funny or Die website!

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Brett Ratner Receives Lifetime Achievement Award At Friars Club

Last night Brett Ratner was honored at The Friars Club during the third annual Friars Club Comedy Film Festival produced by powerhouse Exec. Director Charlie Prince, and his team some of which are Senior Programmer Susannah Gora, Social Media Director Sue Constantine, Programming Director Eric Johnson, Managing Director Jor Law, and Director of Communications, Jaime Marsanico, who did a fantastic job coordinating last night’s event.

The festival screened over 60 films over the five days that it ran and they were from an international pool of films. It was a HUGE amount of work and they are to be commended!

Brett Ratner is one of the most accomplished and respected film, and music video directors in all of Hollywood, and he’s only 42. He’s known for the Rush Hour series starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, as well as The Family Man, Red Dragon, and X-Men, The Last Stand. He was also a producer on the Fox drama Prison Break and will be producing the 84th Academy Awards next year, on Feb. 26th, 2012, with co-producer Don Mischer, and with Eddie Murphy as the host. What a team that should be!

Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV with Brett Ratner after he received his Lifetime Achievement Award from The Friars Club, during the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival!

Eddie recently received the Comedy Icon Award from Comedy Central at the First Annual Comedy Central Awards and was presented that award by Tracy Morgan!

Tracy Morgan presenting Eddie Murphy with the Comedy Icon Award at the First Annual Comedy Central Awards!

But in 1990, Brett was still a film student at NYU. How he got in is an example of his determination. He was initially rejected due to his poor grades, but he got in to see the Dean himself and after literally begging him to watch one of his films, impressed him enough that he let him in as a student.

Brett’s student film was ” What Ever Happened to Mason Reese?” It starred Rebecca Gayheart, Anthony Michael Hall, and of course Mason Reese, an actor who became famous as a child in the 1970’s for a TV commercial he did for Underwood Devil Ham that swept the country, in which he mis-pronounced the word Schmorgasbord as “Borgashmord”. People loved it and he was an instant star.

Jeffrey Gurian with Mason Reese at Mason’s birthday party! He served a Borgashmord of course!

As an aside, for anyone who’s wondering about where Mason is now, he’s right here in NYC and doing great! He currently owns two restaurants in NYC. One is Paladar, a Pan-Latino restaurant located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and the other is “Destination Bar and Grille” located on Avenue A in the East Village. He’s an old friend and I see him a few times a year!

Brett found himself short on funds to finish his film, so he made another spectacular life-changing choice, and sent out “plea letters” to 20 different producers in Hollywood asking for monetary assistance to finish his film. He got only one response, but that was all he needed. Of all people, Steven Spielberg, of Amblin Entertainment sent him a check for $5,000, without ever meeting him.

Brett brought that same film to the attention of Russell Simmons, who was impressed enough that he got Brett into directing music videos, for the likes of Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, and Madonna! Not bad credits for anyone’s resume! (LOL) Russell has since been a close friend and was asked to present Brett with his Lifetime Achievement Award.

Brett once said he wouldn’t attempt to direct a feature film until he had directed 100 music videos. In 1996, the director of a film called ” Money Talks”, starring Charlie Sheen and Chris Tucker, dropped out and Russell suggested Brett Ratner to take over, which he did. That launched his career and led to his multiple big-screen successes.

Russell Simmons himself is not only known as a music impresario, but also throughout the comedy world for creating Def Jam Comedy. I recently attended some tapings he did for Comedy Central that were hosted by JB Smoove, with DJ Cassidy on the ones and twos, that starred comics like Tony Rock, Capone, Tifffany Haddish, Wil Sylvince, Earthquake, Owen Smith and tons more!

Russell Simmons with Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV on the step-and-repeat for Brett Ratner, at The Friars Club!

JB Smoove host of Russell Simmons Comedy Central Stand-Up NY specials with Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at the Edison Ballroom!

DJ Cassidy, super hot DJ for Russell Simmons’ Comedy Central special with Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV!

Russell Simmons came to present Brett Ratner with the award, and even billionaire Ron Perelman dropped by to say a few words and pay his respects to his good friend Brett.

Russell Simmons making his opening remarks before presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to his pal Brett Ratner!

Ron Perelman paying his respects to director Brett Ratner at The Friars Club in NYC!

Everybody is anxiously awaiting Brett’s new film “Tower Heist” starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and Matthew Broderick, which is set to open November 4th 2011, and should be a big hit!

(L-R) David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Ben Stiller at Fez, circa 2000!

The Tower Heist poster, showing the incredible cast for the film opening November 4th, 2011.

Video of this fantastic Friars Club event can be seen right here, showing not only an interview with Brett, but also with other celeb guests such as Richard Belzer, and Aisha Tyler!

Russell Simmons chatting up the gorgeous comic/actress Aisha Tyler!

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Weinstein Company’s Dirty Girl Should Be A Big Hit-Opens Oct. 7th

One of the perks of doing what I do is that I get to see films before they come out, and often get to interview the stars. Yesterday I was lucky to see the new Weinstein Company film “Dirty Girl”, opening in theatres October 7th, starring two newcomers who won’t be newcomers for long.

The lovely and talented Juno Temple as Danielle in the Weinstein Company’s Dirty Girl!

As seen on today’s Page 6 in the New York Post, the “Dirty Girl” is played by Juno Temple an English actress, who does a fantastic job, as well as a fantastic American accent in this film. She actually has seven more films waiting to be released. This girl is going to be a big star! Weinstein Company seems to have good “star-radar”, and in this film they’re right on the money!

Juno plays Danielle, a very promiscuous high school teenager, “the dirty girl” of Norman High,in Norman, Oklahoma, circa 1987. She’s like the proverbial “hooker with a heart of gold”, who carries an underlying sadness due to the fact that she never knew her Dad. She didn’t even know his name!

Jeremy Dozier as Clarke, Juno Temple’s co-star in the Weinstein Company’s Dirty Girl!

When her overtly sexual, rebellious behavior lands her in a remedial class with a bunch of other “losers”, she reluctantly becomes friends with Clarke,( Jeremy Dozier, in his first major role), an over-weight closeted gay kid, who is also leading a sad, lonely existence. He is constantly abused by his father, Joseph, played by Dwight Yoakam, who is horrified that he’s gay, and not protected at all by his mother, a quiet, mousey woman, played perfectly by Mary Steenburgen!

Danielle and Clarke each rebelling in their own way in class in the new sure-to-be Weinstein hit “Dirty Girl”!

Mary Steenburgen as Peggy, and Dwight Yoakam as Joseph in the Weinstein Company’s guaranteed hit, “Dirty Girl”!

When the teacher pairs them up for an assignment, the two loners, lonely for different reasons, become unlikely friends. They wind up in an exciting road trip to find her birth father, Danny, who she never knew, and which is a source of great pain to her.

Danny is played by Tim McGraw, who gave a heartfelt performance as a guy who suddenly and shockingly finds out he has a grown daughter, in front of his wife and his own little daughter. The scene where Danielle sees him being affectionate to his little girl, knowing she was wishing her entire life for just one moment like that, was so powerful, it brought tears to my eyes. Having had two little girls of my own, I know what that means!

After yet one more abusive incident, Clarke steals his father’s car, and he and Danielle take off for California together, in the kind of touching, heart-felt alliance that only two desperate “misfits” could have. They are determined to track down the guy who impregnated her mother, and who it turns out never even knew she was born.

Danielle’s Mom, Sue-Ann, is played by the equally talented Milla Jovovich. Sue-Ann herself was a “reformed slut” gone straight, set on marrying a straight-laced,no-nonsense Mormon, Ray, who Danielle can’t stand the sight of. And Ray is played by the great, and wonderfully talented Bill Macy.

Milla Jovovich, who plays Sue-Ann, Danielle’s ex-slut Mom, in the Weinstein Company’s “Dirty Girl”!

This film was cast so well. Each person was just perfect in their part. I find many things interesting about this film. First of all, that three of it’s stars were stars in other fields besides acting.

Milla Jovovich is a Ukrainian-born supermodel and fashion designer as well as a singer, Dwight Yoakam is a singer-songwriter most famous for his work in country music, who has sold more than 25 million records, and Tim McGraw is also a country-western singer,who has sold more than 40 million albums. I love when people step out of themselves to become yet something else. Some people have a dream, and it’s nice when they pursue it successfully. Even more-so when they have already been successful doing something else!

What I think I like most about this film, is the underlying story of overcoming obstacles in your life. You get what you get, and then it’s up to you to do something with it. The Spiritual approach is that we’re born into the families that we’re born into, to learn lessons we didn’t get a chance to learn in a previous life.

In simpler terms, who didn’t feel like an outcast in high school? There was always an “in-crowd” but it was small and super exclusive, and most of those people lived in fear that they would someday be excluded from it. It’s interesting to see those same people many years later! I have had that experience. Let’s just say that if high school was the best time of your life, I feel very sorry for you!

I read the production notes from writer/director Abe Sylvia, who started out as that overweight closeted kid in Oklahoma and turned into a handsome, accomplished Broadway dancer, and now successful screenwriter. I had to laugh when reading the Producer Statement from Rob Paris of Paris Films. It took five years until this film got made, but in the beginning he didn’t even want to take a meeting with Abe Sylvia. Just the name Abe Sylvia conjured up the vision of two elderly Jewish people ” arguing over sunsets in Boca.” He was fully prepared not to like the script by an unknown writer, whose manager, fortunately for us, would not stop badgering him to read it.

Turns out he finally gave in for the meeting and like so many execs, didn’t bother reading the script until the night before the meeting. Instead of tossing it in the garbage after the first twenty pages as he had expected to do, he found himself ” devouring page after page, … laughing and crying in equal measure as he arrived at the triumphant finish!”

To top it off, he pictured an unstylish, nebbishy guy, and in walked this ” tall, handsome, actor-looking type” who turned out to be Abe Sylvia, and who exuded so much confidence that Paris decided to let him direct right then and there!

According to Paris, it took “five years, four different financiers, twelve different budgets, twenty different actors, and twenty-five disparate locations”, to make this film, which is a lesson to all perspective filmmakers out there, ( including myself! ) to never give up, and to always believe in yourself when you know in your heart you have something special to say!

I was also happy to see that my childhood camp friend, super-star Melissa Manchester wrote and performed some of the music,especially one song “Rainbird” that she wrote with Mary Steenburgen!

Go see “Dirty Girl”! You’ll love it!

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