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The week’s critic wrangle: “Fido,” “Eagle Vs. Shark,” “Lights in the Dusk.”

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"My father tried to eat me. I don't remember trying to eat Timmy."
+ "Fido": Andrew Currie‘s film, the latest zombie reevaluation to hit theaters, is intended more to provoke laughs and poke fun at "Lassie" then to carry a message of social import. That just fine by David Edelstein at New York, who describes the film as "[a] shotgun wedding of George Romero and SCTV" and call it "madly funny—a treat for moviegoers who don’t mind gnawed-off limbs with their high jinks." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times concurs, deeming "Fido" a "ticklishly amusing satire" that doesn’t push what could be seen as a slavery allegory: "Unlike Mr. Romero or the zombie comedy ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ where the living are so zombie-like they don’t initially notice the undead, the filmmakers remain content to graze and to nibble, skimming the surface rather than sinking in deep." Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE, on the other hand, does find underlying social commentary in the film: "It’s an alternate history in which the by-now classic metaphor for the unspoken fear lurking beneath the repressed behavior of Fifties mainstream society exists very much out in the open."

Rob Nelson at the Village Voice is less amused: "Within 20 minutes, Vancouver-based writer-director Andrew Currie leads us to stop expecting actual jokes while squandering the talents of an overqualified cast." Nick Schager at Slant finds the film’s inability to define its central allegory dissatisfying:

Consumer products who perform menial labor and household chores, the zombies are sorta like slaves, though the fact that they were defeated in a world war means they’re sorta like integrated Nazis, while their insidious, subversive assimilation into the ’50s nuclear family unit means they’re sorta like communists, and their willingness to have sex with Tim Blake Nelson (as a neighborhood perv) means they’re sorta like undiscerning whores.


Kiwi nerdcore.
+ "Eagle Vs. Shark": It’s seems safe to say that we are over quirk, or so the occasionally virulent reviews of New Zealand director Taika Cohen‘s feature debut "Eagle Vs. Shark," about a romance between, yes, nerdy outcasts, would indicate. On the positive side, Andrew O’Hehir at Salon describes it as "the latest contender for the Napoleon Sunshine cuddly-awkward award," but is still somewhat fond, calling it "a perfectly cheerful time at the movies, without any hint of drama or surprise." A little less keen is A.O. Scott at the New York Times, who writes that the film is "a small, intermittently charming, sometimes tiresome celebration of quirkiness."

From there we go to Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club, who cites the film’s clear influences and dubs it "a nerdcore clip show, a sort of straight-faced Epic Movie for fans of discomfort comedy." Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly complains that "[i]t’s a tale that reduces angst, not to mention love, to a generational tic." "You can’t see the forest for the twee in writer-director Taika
Waititi’s thicket of cutesy conceits, from the stunted supporting
characters to the precious animated interludes," notes Jim Ridley at the Village Voice.

At Slant, Nick Schager suggests that "Waititi cares less about the selflessness of Lily’s devotion or the intricacies of an amorous relationship than he does pitiful, photocopied Napoleon Dynamite-style gags, of which there are so many that the film’s imitativeness becomes out-and-out embarrassing." And Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE delivers a screed against the film and the "recent trend of offbeat, adorable stillbirths about families of barely lovable misfits learning valuable life lessons in a world of kitschy crap" that we can only suggest you read in its entirety.


Finnish Gothic.
+ "Lights in the Dusk": No one looks to the films of Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki for over-the-top excitement, but what the critics are seeing in his latest deadpan feature is just as lacking in noticeable highs or lows. "Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s deadpan style isn’t always enjoyable," shrugs Armond White at the New York Press, who actually quite likes the film: "While rejecting the specious optimism Hollywood sells, he distills the world to its unadorned truth: work, anomie and frustration." Nathan Lee at the Village Voice is on the other side of the fence: "Delectation of cinematography aside—the picture carefully realizes the visual idea of its title—Kaurismäki has given us no special reason to revisit his coy, claustrophobic universe."

Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club thinks the film represents a step back for the director: "Coming after the much more expansive Man Without A Past, which warmly considered a whole community of Helsinki outcasts, this relentlessly pared-down film feels a little arid and rote, too much like Kaurismäki going through the motions. It’s as if the director, having spent his career trying new variations on a theme, had just decided to go back to square one." No, Kaurismäki’s exactly the same, according to Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE, who lauds the fact that "’Lights in the Dusk’ is nothing more nor less than exactly the kind
film he’s always made. On a handful of occasions throughout his career
he’s plumbed this material better than almost anyone, and even if ‘Dusk’ may not come close to scaling those heights, it’s easy enjoyment
while we wait for the next attempt."

Ed Gonzalez at Slant hilariously asides that the film "suggests what it might be like to stare at Bill Murray in a coma for 75 minutes," but also finds that it is "bound to alienate the filmmaker’s coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking
base with a tone that’s almost holier-than-thou, always teetering on
the edge of self-parody." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon notes the story is "unrelentingly grim," but that "there are sumptuous visual rewards to be found, plus the faintest emotional uptick right at the end," while Stephen Holden at the New York Times also calls out the "exquisite cinematography."

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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…


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.


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).


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.


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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GIFs via Giphy

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.


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.



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 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….


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.


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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