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Opening This Week

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03312008_flightoftheredballoon.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week is something of a nostalgia trip with a period comedy, Freddie Prinze Jr. and a concert documentary about a group of men who, by all the laws of man and nature, should not still be alive and walking around.

“The Flight of the Red Balloon”
After being nominated for the Palme d’Or an incredible five times at Cannes, it’s no wonder that director Hou Hsiao-hsien has become a Francophile. In his first film outside of Asia, the “Three Times” auteur directs the country’s first lady of cinema, Juliette Binoche, in a story about an overburdened mother who receives a much-needed lift from her son’s Chinese nanny (Song Fang) as they turn the City of Lights into a magical playground for the 7-year-old Simon — a tribute to Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 short. In French with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Jack and Jill vs. the World”
“Kiss the Bride” director Vanessa Parise corrals a cast of familiar faces to fill out what’s been dubbed by the film’s distributor as “a love story for cynics.” If penning a relationship manifesto together is the new foreplay, then Freddie Prinze Jr. and Taryn Manning are well on their way as a couple who demand complete honesty from each other, only to have one keep a grievous secret with the potential to destroy what they’ve built. Ah, wasn’t life easier when Prinze Jr. only had Matthew Lillard to contend with?
Opens in Los Angeles.

Nominated for every category imaginable at the Awards of the Israeli Film Academy and the winner of a Golden Camera at Cannes, this poetic and reflective tale of three Tel Aviv women attending a wedding is the directorial debut of Israeli actress Shira Geffen and her husband Etgar Keret. The multi-stranded film about chance intersection and the struggle to find affection in an increasingly transient world recently played at the New Directors/New Films festival.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on April 25

George Clooney takes a vacation from politics and global affairs to produce, direct and star in this screwball comedy about the growing pains of professional football in the 1920s. Clooney plays Dodge Connolly, the rogue captain of the Duluth Bulldogs, who drafts in college-star-turned-war-hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to bolster his team’s chances, though his plan backfires when Rutherford steals the spotlight and the affections of Renée Zellweger’s impetuous sports reporter, Lexie Littleton. There should be some authenticity here since “Leatherheads” was written by Sports Illustrated scribes Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly.
Opens wide.

“Meet Bill”
Longtime producer Bernie Goldmann makes his directorial debut, along with co-director and writer Melisa Wallack, on this comedy, which stars Aaron Eckhart as a perpetual doormat who signs up to be a high school mentor but finds himself being given a crash course in self-esteem building by a mischievous schoolboy (Logan Lerman). Though casting of Eckhart as a loser goes against type, finding female leads was even harder as Amanda Peet and Lindsey Lohan left the project over “creative differences” before being replaced by the infinitely easier on the eyes Elizabeth Banks and Jessica Alba, respectively.
Opens in limited release.

“My Blueberry Nights”
This bittersweet tale of a group of strangers whose lives intersect and touch another across the length and breadth of the country opened last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where some critics found it to be middle of the road. Yet the first English language film from Wong Kar-Wai features an all-star ensemble boasting the likes of Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachael Weisz, David Strathairn and Grammy-winner Norah Jones as a woman who attempts to find herself after a break-up. Ironically, Darius Khondji’s dreamlike take on the American landscape has been cited as the film’s biggest star, though Kar-Wai originally envisioned shooting “Blueberry” entirely in New York.
Opens in limited release.

“Nim’s Island”
Seemingly typecast for years as Hollywood’s female answer to the action hero, Jodie Foster takes great delight in lampooning her image as the capable woman who’s cool under pressure in this endearing fantasy adventure directed by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, the husband-and-wife team behind “Little Manhattan.” Foster stars as the reclusive and agoraphobic author behind a series of adventure novels who must help her biggest fan (Abigail Breslin) find her missing father (Gerard Butler) in real life.
Opens wide.

“The Ruins”
From the guys behind “Blades of Glory” and “Dodgeball” comes… this bleak adaptation of the acclaimed horror novel by Scott B. Smith, the Oscar nominated writer behind “The Simple Plan”? While this might sound like another cheap spin on the torture porn riff that has all but killed the American horror film, Sundance alum Carter Smith (no relation) directs indie darlings Jonathan Tucker and Jena Malone from their idyllic Mexican vacation to scout out an ancient Mayan temple, unaware of the evil and malevolent spirits that exist there. Yes, Ben Stiller produces, but this still should be scarier than seeing Derek Zoolander in spandex.
Opens wide.

“Sex and Death 101”
The once stable, then crazy, now stable again Winona Ryder reunites with “Heathers” writer Daniel Waters on this dark comedy, which Waters also directed. Simon Baker fills in as Roderick Blank, a man who receives an email detailing every sexual encounter he will ever have. While he weighs the potential fun to be had with the advance knowledge of his conquests, his confusion is compounded when he encounters a mysterious femme fatale (Ryder) who punishes men guilty of crimes against women. Despite this reunion, there remains no official word on the much-touted “Heathers” sequel.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Shine a Light”
Two of the biggest icons in film and music combine as Martin Scorsese catalogues an unforgettable performance by The Rolling Stones at the Beacon Theater in New York in 2006. Besides having seven of the world’s best cinematographers on hand to capture the riveting musical spectacle by one of the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands, Scorsese also pulls back the curtain to reveal the logistical difficulties, the clash of egos and the staggering amount of planning and forethought that goes into creating such an event. However, as excited as we are to see the Stones, we might suggest that our pal Matt Singer sit this one out.
Opens wide and in IMAX.

“Tuya’s Marriage”
Taking home the Golden Bear at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, this slow-moving, scrupulously detailed portrait of nomadic Mongolian life is the latest film by Chinese director Wang Quanan. Frequent Quanan collaborator Yu Nan stars as the willful young Tuya, who takes it upon herself to search for a new husband who’ll care for her and her current husband, who lost his legs and can no longer support his family. Quanan was so keen on casting his longtime leading lady Nan that even though the film is set in Mongolia, the entire film is in Chinese, Nan’s native tongue.
Opens in limited release.

“Water Lilies”
Writer/director Céline Sciamma gently guides us through the hazy fog of female adolescence in the sensuous coming-of-age story of Anne, Marie and Floriane, three girls who endure a summer in the French suburb of Cergy during the 1960s by sticking close to the municipal swimming pool. Floriane is the attractive star of the synchronized swimming team who lures the awkward Marie in as her confidante, much to the chagrin of Marie’s friend, Anne. The film first premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival where it was part of the Un Certain Regard section. In French with Subtitles.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Flight of the Red Balloon,” IFC Films, 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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