The Death of Stalin and three other picks from the Vancouver Just For Laughs Film Festival

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      TOO FUNNY TO FAIL (USA)  Hulu should have a monster hit on its hands with this doc about Dana Carvey’s ill-fated, 1996 network TV show, given a plum spot following Home Improvement but driven into oblivion after seven episodes thanks to its total commitment to the perverse and self-destructive vision of head writers Robert Smigel and Louis C.K. (who refused to hire Jimmy Fallon because he was too good-looking). One of those guys is conspicuously absent as a talking head, but almost everyone else shows up—including two young improv hopefuls shipped in from Chicago for their first network gig: Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. There are plenty of clips to make you feel sick over what we all missed—including Germans Who Say Nice Things, the Ambiguously Gay Duo (later, of course, nabbed by SNL), and an eight-nippled breastfeeding Bill Clinton. But with some of the funniest people on Earth enthusiastically discussing their greatest failure, it’s the interviews that really sell this insanely entertaining film. Screening at Vancity Theatre on Saturday (March 3) > ADRIAN MACK

      THE DEATH OF STALIN (U.K./France)  I enjoyed this so much that I screened it twice, back-to-back. British comedy vet Armando Ianucci (Veep, The Thick of It) directs an astounding cast of comic actors, Michael Palin and Jeffrey Tambor among them, in this adaptation of the graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, bringing the darkest of farces to the paranoid, internecine power struggles inside the Kremlin in the wake of dear leader’s death. (And his brief resurrection, followed by his death again.) Adrian McLoughlin plays Uncle Joe as a vicious cockney wide boy, but the film belongs to Steve Buscemi’s needled reformist Nikita Khrushchev and his most dangerous rival, head of secret police, Lavrentiy Beria—invested by the great Simon Russell Beale with a Penguin-like physicality and a genius for instilling fear alongside the more everyday regimen of murder, torture, and rape. Amazingly, given the talent surrounding him, Rupert Friend’s drunken lunatic cad Vasily Stalin almost walks off with the picture. Screening at the Vancity Theatre on Tuesday (March 6) > ADRIAN MACK

      SELFIE (Spain)  Victor García León's aptly titled 2017 mockumentary poses as an improvised vanity project in order to explore the pains of a blinkered ego. Bosco (Santiago Alverú), a fatuous, smugly cheerful rich kid in Madrid, wants to show us how shiny his home, girlfriend, cars, and business college are, all while tossing in attempts at woke that are brilliantly dorky. ("Sexism is terrible," he intones, getting serious for a moment. "It's worse than slavery.") But news soon arrives that his father, a government minister, has been arrested on corruption charges, forcing Bosco to shelter with a group of socialists and immigrants, including a luminous young blind woman (Macarena Sanz). As with many parody documentaries, you'll wonder why anyone would allow a camera crew to roll through all sorts of intimacies and humiliations—not to mention why Bosco’s new friends would stick with him despite his tendency to act like a gormless shit. But as an image of the fog of wealth and the stupefying effects of privilege, it has a smart, unsettling cogency. Screening at Annex on Wednesday (March 7) > BRIAN LYNCH

      ROOM FOR RENT (Canada)  In writer-director Matthew Atkinson’s second feature, perpetual man-child Mitch is still famous in his hometown for being the guy who won the lottery in high school and then squandered his millions on doomed business ventures, including an attempt to market a seriously squick-inducing talking doll in his own likeness. Mitch still lives at home, but when his breadwinner dad is forced into retirement, threatening the whole cozy arrangement, the overgrown adolescent takes matters into his own hands. He rents out a spare room to Carl, a stranger who turns out to have sinister motivations for moving in. Mark Little is almost too-perfectly cast as the semi-lovable loser Mitch, and he is well-matched by Brett Gelman, who makes Carl just the right mix of ingratiating and creepy. The rest of the cast—which includes Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney and Judd Apatow regular Carla Gallo—is equally great, but there is too little real tension and not quite enough laughs to make Room for Rent the effective black comedy it seems to want to be. Screening at Annex on Thursday (March 8) > JOHN LUCAS