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Opening This Week

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03102008_blindmountain.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week, our cup runneth over with a “Karate Kid” knockoff, a shot-for-shot remake and more documentaries than Michael Moore can shake an overpriced hot dog at.

“Blind Mountain”
The recipient of plenty of acclaim at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, director Li Yang has a casual yet immediate style that’s been touted as something of a Chinese answer to Ken Loach. “Blind Mountain” offers an uncomfortable but powerful indictment of China’s one child policy and the sex trade that has flourished under it. The film follows the desperate struggle of a young woman who accepts a job in a remote mountain village, only to discover that she has unwittingly been sold into marriage as a slave.
Opens in New York.

Before anyone had heard of Angelina Jolie, model-turned-actress Rhona Mitra was the original face of “Tomb Raider”‘s Lara Croft. Ten years later, she’s traded in pixels for pictures as the lead in director Neil Marshall’s post-apocalyptic fusion of “Mad Max” and “Escape From New York,” playing the head of an elite commando unit tasked with finding a cure for a deadly virus plaguing Scotland.
Opens wide.

“Flash Point”
Director Wilson Yip teams up with Donnie Yen to retool the tried and tested Hong Kong cop thriller formula with the “Iron Monkey” star playing an undercover cop looking to bring down a deadly Vietnamese crime syndicate headed by three dangerous brothers. In addition to his acting duties, Yen choreographed the film’s innovative fight sequences, which combine six different fighting disciplines into what the action veteran hopes is the dawn of a new breed of martial arts film.
Opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Dr Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who”
After the very adult “The Number 23,” Jim Carrey puts his quest to be taken seriously on hold to voice Horton the Elephant, who protects the tiny Who civilization from the predators of the jungle. Steve Carell and Carol Burnett also lent their voices to this playful animated adventure based on the Dr. Seuss book from Blue Sky Animation, the team behind the “Ice Age” series and “Robots.”
Opens wide.

“Funny Games”
Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke remakes his own 1997 German-language film of the same name, which tells of a vacationing family at a lake house who become the victims of a home invasion by two malevolent teenagers bent on a series of cruel and torturous games. Tim Roth and Naomi Watts face off against Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt in this darkly comic thriller. Despite being a shot-for-shot remake of the original, the U.S. incarnation earned an R rating while the 1997 “Funny Games” was never granted an MPAA rating. Apparently, everything really does sound that much scarier in German.
Opens in limited release.

“Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise”
An official selection of the Montreal Film Festival, this all-access documentary takes us into the private world of one of rock’s most enduring stars as he takes to the road for his 2007 “Seize the Night” world tour. Director Bruce David Klein captures a frank portrait of the musician’s frequent battle with depression, exhaustion, personal demons and declining health as he’s faced with the prospect of calling time on a 35-year career and countless millions in record sales. In other words, it’s your typical rock doc.
Opens in New York.

“Never Back Down”
With the massive explosion in mainstream popularity being enjoyed by the UFC and mixed martial arts, it’s amazing this movie took so long to arrive. “Never Back Down” seems a Pat Morita cameo away from being “Karate Kid V: The Octagon”: Sean Faris stars as Jake Tyler, the new teen in town who gets his head handed to him by the local badass when he tries to chat up a girl. Tired of the endless beat downs, Jake seeks the sage advice of a retired fighter (Djimon Honsou) who trains Jake to get his revenge at the upcoming local tournament.
Opens wide.

“On Broadway”
Premiering at the Independent Film Festival of Boston to rave reviews before working its way down the New England coastline, “On Broadway” is writer Dave McLaughlin’s directorial debut. The film follows Boston carpenter Jack O’Toole (Joey McIntyre) as he attempts to reach out to his estranged father by writing a play inspired by the death of his beloved uncle. “On Broadway” boasts a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Eliza Dushku, Robert Wahlberg (brother of Mark & Donnie) and “Saturday Night Live”‘s Amy Poehler.
Opens in Boston.

Visual effects wrangler Bill Maher (“Mars Attacks,” “Batman & Robin”) makes his directorial bow with this drama about a family struggling to reconnect. Nick Stahl stars as James, a man forced to confront his long-buried demons regarding his father (Dennis Hopper) after his older sister, Joleen (Charlize Theron), abandons her 12-year-old daughter (Anna Sophia Robb), leaving her in his care.
Opens in limited release.

“Sputnik Mania”
On the heels of the well-received “In the Shadow of the Moon” comes another doc about the space race, this time about the American reaction to the launch of Sputnik, the former USSR’s first Earth orbiting satellite. Liev Schreiber narrates David Hoffman’s elegant, detailed story of how new technology inevitably leads to new terror and how that technological innovation impacted our entire way of life, then and for the 50 years that have followed. “Sputnik Mania” was the recipient of an International Documentary Association Award for best use of news footage in a documentary.
Opens in New York.

“Towards Darkness”
A slick and intricate abduction thriller, “Towards Darkness” is a non-linear chronicle of the events of 90 minutes in the life of a kidnap victim from a multitude of different perspectives. Roberto Urbina stars as Jose, the terrified victim who contemplates his life and seemingly imminent death while his father Carlos (Tony Plana) tries to secure his release with the aide of some covert American mercenaries. Director José Antonio Negret draws on the numerous personal tragedies of his own family for his directorial debut, which also stars and was executive produced by “Ugly Betty” herself, America Ferrera.
Opens in New York.

“War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death”
Filmmaker Jeremy Earp joins forces with Loretta Alper to continue his exploration of the media’s symbiotic relationship to politics and their complicit role in selling war to the American people. Sean Penn narrates what is Earp’s third film on the subject, which employs archival news footage spanning 50 years of American foreign policy, illustrating the parallels between Vietnam and the Iraq war as they argue that the more things change…
Opens in New York.

“Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Nightclub”
For over 12 years, the Tribeca-based Wetlands Preserve Rock Club provided a venue for a unique fusion of music, environmentalism and political activism that brought people together in celebration of free spirit and independence. The club helped birth such classic acts as the Dave Mathews Band, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and many more, all the while funneling their profits into environmental and humanitarian causes all over the world. Filmmaker Dean Budnick makes his debut bringing us the untold inside story of this legendary establishment and the people who helped to make it so.
Opens in New York; Opens in Los Angeles on March 28th.

[Photo: “Blind Mountain,” Kino, 2007]

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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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