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DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: September 14th, 2007

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By Christopher Bonet

IFC News

[Photo: Keira Knightley in “Silk,” Picturehouse, 2007]

A round-up of the best (or worst) $10 you’ll spend this week.

“Across the Universe”

“Frida” director Julie Taymor follows up her Oscar-nominated biopic with a musical that, as is Taymor’s fashion, is anything but typical. The film follows a group of college students coming of age in the turbulent 1960s, as a boy named Jude and a girl named Lucy fall in love against a, yes, Beatles-heavy soundtrack. The film generated some ink earlier this year when Revolution Studios began test screening a cut of the film against the wishes of Taymor, who threatened to take her name off the project if the studio cut was released. Love is all we need, indeed.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Brave One”

Jodie Foster plays a woman in distress (yet again…) who seeks revenge on the thugs who brutally beat her and left her fiancé for dead. As she knocks off her attackers one by one, her anonymous exploits begin to grab the attention of the media and a detective (Terrence Howard) getting closer to catching her. While we feel like we’ve seen Jodie Foster play this role about a million times by now, can anybody play it better? “The Crying Game”‘s Neil Jordan directs.

Opens wide (official site).

“Darkon”

This doc from co-directors Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel follows the ongoing struggle in the land of Darkon, a fantasy live action role-playing club set in the outskirts of Baltimore, MD, where members and LARP enthusiasts use wooden swords, foam axes and rubber arrows to fight for glory. We prefer to restrain ourselves to table-top gaming, but there’s no denying that LARP enthusiasts prove a great source for entertainment — check out this short video of LARPing, if you’re unfamiliar. Lightning bolt!

Opens in limited release (official site).

“December Boys”

Daniel Radcliffe centers a collection of otherwise unknowns in this film about four orphans taking a reprieve from their group home on the South Australian coast. We’re certain they’ll be weeping in the aisles as the “Harry Potter” star, rumor has it, loses his on-screen virginity for the first time. And we thought riding naked on on-stage horses was bad enough…

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Dragon Wars (D-War)”

This film probably won’t be winning over any critics the way fellow Korean monster movie “The Host” did earlier this year, but “D-War” broke all kinds of records in its native country, so who’s to say? Korean-financed, but shot in SoCal with English-speaking actors, the film focuses on two warring dragon armies who tear apart downtown Los Angeles. Director Hyung-rae Shim reportedly spent years working on this project, reportedly spending the past three on the film’s CGI alone (principal photography wrapped in late 2004). It remains to be seen how many the film’s much ballyhooed computer graphics will actually impress, but we’re guessing “D-War” already has a solid following among B-movie enthusiasts the world over.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Eastern Promises”

Cult filmmaker David Cronenberg’s last feature, “A History of Violence,” remains one of our favorite films of 2005, so we’re sure that “The Fly” director will not disappoint with his latest thriller, in which a hospital midwife (Naomi Watts) encounters a Russian mob enforcer (a snaky Viggo Mortensen) who leads her on a path to discovering the identity of a dead prostitute. The film has already generated plenty of buzz both at film festivals and on the web, leading to fan speculation (and hope) of a third Viggo-Cronenberg collaboration.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Great World of Sound”

Director Craig Zobel’s first feature is a harsh look at the music business in which a newbie record producer gets excited by the prospect of signing undiscovered artists, only to realize that his new job isn’t what he expected it to be. Most of the performers shown auditioning did not know the auditions were fake ahead of time. The film premiered earlier this year at Sundance.

Opens in New York (official site).

“In the Valley of Elah”

The beginning of the “Hollywood Gets Political!” season kicks off with this Paul Haggis-directed war drama about a career officer (Tommy Lee Jones) who investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of his son during his tour of duty in Iraq. While we don’t expect Haggis’s latest to be as polarizing as his Oscar-winning “Crash,” we’re certainly elated by the reportedly brilliantly muted performance from Jones, who, with this and “No Country for Old Men,” is prepared for one heck of an Oscar season.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Ira & Abby”

“Kissing Jessica Stein” writer Jessica Westfeldt scripted and starred in her latest New York-based romantic comedy about a hastily married couple (Westfeldt and “Six Feet Under”‘s Chris Messina) whose marriage quickly devolves into a string of affairs, meddling parents and therapy. The film’s got an ace supporting cast that includes Fred Willard and Frances Conroy as unconventional parents and Jason Alexander and Chris Parnell as couples therapists. The film won the Best Narrative Feature prize last year at the LA Film Festival.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“King of California”

Michael Douglas gets all zany on us in a role that we’re so glad Robin Williams passed on. Douglas plays an unstable father recently released from a mental institution who tries to convince his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) that there’s Spanish gold buried somewhere under a Costco. Newcomer Mike Cahill wrote and directed this comedy.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Moondance Alexander”

Young girl gets a pony and realizes that it can be a champion. We believe we’ve already seen this, and not so long ago; it’s called “Flicka” (or “Dreamer”). “Nancy Drew”‘s Kay Panabaker stars as the titular girl, with Olympic medalist Sasha Cohen and “Miami Vice”‘s Don Johnson filling in supporting roles.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Moving McAllister”

Television director Andrew Black helms this independent comedy about a law intern (Ben Gourley) who passes on taking his bar exam in hopes of scoring points with his boss (Rutger Hauer) by moving all of the hot-shot lawyer’s possessions, including his daughter (Mila Kunis) and her pet pig, across the country. Jon Heder, in a supporting role, was briefly rumored to have died in a car accident following “Moving McAllister”‘s cast party.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Mr. Woodcock”

Seann William Scott returns for his first film since 2005 (not that we’ve been counting the days…) in this comedy about a motivational speaker and self-help author who returns home to prevent his mom (Susan Sarandon) from marrying his old high school gym teacher (Billy Bob Thornton), a man who made school hell for Scott and numerous other generations of students. Reports that the film tested poorly led to the studio enlisting “The Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkins for reshoots. Quite frankly, even with Dobkins’ help, we’re still not expecting much.

Opens wide (official site).

“Pete Seeger: The Power of Song”

Documentarian Jim Brown’s film chronicles the social history of folk artist Pete Seeger through the use of interviews, archival footage and home movies. The film premiered earlier this year at Tribeca.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Rape of Europa”

This documentary from filmmakers Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen and Nicole Newnham documents how a collection of young art historians and curators from America and across Europe scours the globe in search of lost and stolen art works displaced by the Nazi regime after WWII. Joan Allen narrates.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Silk”

“The Red Violin” director François Girard returns with his first film since 1998, about a 19th century silkworm smuggler who refocuses his business interests from Africa to Japan and starts an affair with the concubine of a local baron. Michael Pitt plays the trader while Keira Knightly pouts her way through this period piece — her second, “Atonement,” is due later this fall.

Opens in limited release (official site).

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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