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“The Marine” vs. “Flags of Our Fathers”

“The Marine” vs. “Flags of Our Fathers” (photo)

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That there could be two movies in theaters simultaneously of such similar bases and such divergent content is a testament to cinema’s enduring versatility, and its capacity for both brilliance and stupidity. “Flags of our Fathers” and “The Marine” are so perfect in their symmetry, they seem designed to inform each other.

Both present dueling views of life as a member of the United States Marine Corps. Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of our Fathers,” about the impact of Joe Rosenthal’s photograph “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” on the war effort, contrasts the individual heroism of the men in the corps with the propaganda machine of the armed forces brass. It shows us the real men behind the carefully controlled images presented to the men and women on the home front in 1944. “The Marine,” on the other hand, is all image, of the sort of red-blooded, blue-eyed American machismo that hasn’t existed in action films since Reagan left office. Ironically, the film set in the past feels far more contemporary than the one set in the modern day.

It’s hard to even believe the real men portrayed by Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, and Jesse Bradford belong to the same species as John Cena, let alone the same organization. Cena, a popular professional wrestler is all beefy hands and tree-trunk neck; as WWE-icons-turned-movie-stars go, he fares a little better than Hulk Hogan but pales next to the versatility, wit and natural charisma of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. After receiving a discharge from the Marines for disobeying a direct order in order to single-handedly rescue P.O.W.s from an al-Qaeda stronghold in Iraq, Cena’s John Triton struggles to adapt to a life that doesn’t involve assault weaponry. Though he lives for nothing but the Marine life, he’s married to a Barbie doll made flesh (Kelly Carlson). “You married a Marine, Kate,” he tells her by way of apologizing for his behavior. Fortunately, Triton’s job search is interrupted by a gang of jewel robbers (led by Robert Patrick) who kidnap his wife at a gas station, and — at last! — Cena is thrust into action.

John Triton returns home from war and wants nothing more than to get back on the front lines. The soldiers of “Flags of our Fathers” get a free ticket back to the States for their appearance in Rosenthal’s photo, but find themselves trapped on the blackened beaches of Iwo Jima, if only in their minds. As they travel through the U.S. to encourage war bonds sales, Eastwood returns repeatedly to the hell in the Pacific. Surrounded by imagined images of triumph, they flashback to real moments of terror.

The movies don’t just come from different genres, they come from different worlds. In one explosion shells spread shrapnel and death. In another, they create super-cool explosions that present little danger to our nigh-impervious hero. Every time Triton took a gorgeous, slo-mo swan dive out of the teach of yet another fireball, I kept thinking of Phillippe’s Doc Bradley, a Navy Corpsman who survives a Japanese shell with shrapnel in his legs. Unable to walk, ordered to stay down until a stretcher can arrive, he crawls over to another injured serviceman, medicating him even while he himself continues to bleed.

As Eastwood’s narrator observes, we need heroes. But what kind of heroes do we need; ones imagined by screenwriters and PR men or ones lived by ordinary, selfless men and women? The WWE has one idea, Eastwood has another. Curiously, Eastwood’s studio, DreamWorks (now part of Paramount) sides with the wrestlers; their marketing campaign for “Flags,” replete with war drums and action shots while title cards hype the Battle of Iwo Jima’s Medal of Honor winners, essentially sells the movie as the sort of patriotic spectacle Eastwood spends two hours critiquing and “The Marine” spends 90 minutes being.

“Flags” is unquestionably the better film but “The Marine” may be, perversely, the more watchable. It’s an unabashed throwback to the elegantly dumb action movies of my youth; the knowing homages begin with a prologue straight out of “Rambo” and a storyline not far removed from Schwarzenegger’s symphony of cartoon violence, “Commando” (both share a villain named Bennett, too). It could have been a great guilty pleasure, if only Cena looked like he was having a bit more fun — granted, he’s trying to rescue his wife, but that never stopped Schwarzenegger from cracking lines like “Don’t wake my friend, he’s dead tired,” after snapping a dude’s neck. Even without the requisite jokes, the movie is utterly ridiculous (not to mention highly flammable). Wrestling is known as sports entertainment — not genuine sport, but rather a simulation. “The Marine” may be the first “movies entertainment” — false to its core, but damn fun to watch.

Eastwood doesn’t hit a false note, and he’s made a real movie. “The Marine” is required viewing too, for at least one reason: it makes Eastwood’s point for him.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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