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Opening This Week: Children, romance

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By Neil Pedley

It’s Valentine’s Day week, so there’s a preponderance of three kinds of films coming out: romantic dramas, date movies and flicks for the kids (so the adults can sneak into the first two while their children text message each other and throw chocolate raisins around in the theater next door).

“Definitely, Maybe”
It must be Valentine’s Day if there’s a romantic comedy to reaffirm theaters full of late thirtysomethings that even if they’re divorced, it’s not too late for second chances. This year’s entry from “Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason” scribe Adam Brooks sees Ryan Reynolds starring as Will Hayes, a fast-talking political consultant with an answer for everything, until he’s stumped as to how to explain his impending divorce to his 10-year-old daughter, Maya (played by pint-sized Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin). As Will recounts his romantic history to Maya, she attempts to piece together the mystery and guess which woman eventually became her mother. Along the way, she realizes that matters of the heart are much more complicated than she first thought — if it sounds familiar, we’re pretty sure this at least has more laughs than “Atonement.”
Opens wide (official site).

“Dolphins and Whales: Tribes of The Ocean 3D”
Director Jean-Michel Cousteau takes a stunning journey beneath the waves, from the Bahamas to the Kingdom of Tonga, showcasing the ocean’s most enigmatic creatures in crystal clear 3D imagery. If it does well, expect a DreamWorks animated version by the end of the year. Daryl Hannah narrates.

Opens in IMAX in limited release (official site).

Loosely based on “A Long Way Gone,” a memoir of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, this Nigerian film highlights the plight of Africa’s forgotten children through Ezra, one of the countless children rounded up and recruited by anti-government militias that rampage across the war-torn continent. Once captured, the children are politically indoctrinated, brainwashed and schooled in the ways of violence and hatred. “Ezra” won the grand prize at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou and made its U.S. debut at Sundance last year. In many ways, this is the film “Blood Diamond” aspired to be — an unflinching and uncompromising story about one of the most urgent and least talked about problems facing a very troubled region.
Opens in New York (official site).

“George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead”
The godfather of the zombie film, a subgenre that just refuses to stay dead, is back in a big way with this flick that centers on a group of students making a horror film in the woods of Pennsylvania when the dead rise once more from the grave to wreak havoc. On the upside, the reboot of the zombie franchise is being helmed by Romero, so we know it couldn’t be in safer hands. On the downside, many of the film’s core ideas — an ensemble of lost and unprepared twentysomethings, handheld camera work, etc. — are so three weeks ago as a result of the hype-riding juggernaut that was “Cloverfield.”

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Jodhaa Akbar”
From the director of the Oscar-nominated Bollywood spectacle “Lagaan,” “Jodhaa Akbar” is part historical drama and part complex political thriller, set in the 16th century and telling of the Mughal empire and its leader, Akbar, whose empire stretched from the southern tip of India to the northern border of Afghanistan. In an attempt to solidify his latest political alliance, Akbar marries Jodhaa, a rebellious Rajput princess. Little did he know that this marriage of convenience would lead to a battle of a very different kind — one to win her love. In Hindi with subtitles.

Opens in limited release (official site).

Director Doug Liman, the man behind the camera for “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” brings us another well-polished, highly stylized fantasy action number. Hayden Christensen stars as David Rice, a man who can teleport anywhere on the planet instantly thanks to a genetic anomaly. Hot on his trail is Jamie Bell’s Griffin, another teleporter looking to warn David that he and others like them are fighting a war. “Batman Begins” writer David S. Goyer has the pedigree to make this potentially something quite special, and the film looks to be a visceral assault on the senses that’s slick, dark and very, very pretty.

Opens wide (official site).

“The Spiderwick Chronicles”
With “Harry Potter” fever winding down, the race is on to launch that next multi-million dollar children’s fantasy franchise. This story is based on a series of children’s books set in New England, where a family of four move to the decrepit former home of Arthur Spiderwick, the now-institutionalized author of a field guide that explains how to enter the realm of the Faeries. Twins Simon and Jared (Freddie Highmore of “Finding Neverland” fame) are charged with revealing this effects-laden world to us, as they try desperately to keep the book safe from an evil brownie who seeks to destroy it.

Opens wide (official site).

“Step Up 2 the Streets”
Instead of a sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit, think of this as a distant cousin of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” where instead of Jim Carrey, we journey into the mind of an MTV marketing executive who keeps costs down by not bringing back any of the original cast or crew (save for a Channing Tatum cameo) and populates a film about urban dance with Gap models who also seem to be the most expensively attired poor people in existence and live in the most immaculate ghetto neighborhoods where disputes between rival crews are settled by dance competitions. Thus, “Step Up 2 the Streets,” which finds Briana Evigan playing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who must join forces with Robert Hoffman’s elite dancer from the Maryland School of the Arts to compete in a Baltimore underground dance contest called “The Streets.”

Opens wide (official site).

“Watching The Detectives”
Writer/director Paul Soter, co-author of the underrated “Super Troopers” and… er…”Beerfest,” brings every film student’s wet dream to life — a spectacularly hot and charming girl who wants nothing more than to hear you talk about all those great old movies that you love. Lucy Liu is that girl, Violet, who strolls into an indie video store run by Neil (Cillian Murphy) and strolls out with his heart. Joining the meta-cinema mini-revival of mind-bending flicks such as “Adaptation,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and “Be Kind Rewind,” “Detectives” sees Neil’s life begin to resemble those great film noirs he has always loved as Violet’s real-life femme fatale starts to turn it upside down.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation”
Set in Brazil over the course of a few weeks in June 1970, this quietly disarming drama focuses on Mauro, a 12-year-old boy left in the care of his grandfather whilst his political activist parents are forced to flee from government forces. When his grandfather dies on the day he arrives, Mauro is placed within the collective care of the neighborhood and its colorful characters. Despite the politically charged big picture, this film is an intimate portrait of a working class community that lives and works together in understanding and harmony, a microcosm that transcends ethnic and political differences, helped along by the nation’s spectacular domination of that summer’s World Cup.

Opens in New York (official site).

[Photo: “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation,” City Lights Pictures, 2007]

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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.


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…


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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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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