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Opening This Week

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04072008_bodyofwar.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Prom queens and street kings hold court this week at the multiplexes while the college professors of “Smart People” and “The Visitor” preside at the art houses.

“Body of War”
Talk show legend Phil Donahue hands over the mic to Iraqi war veteran Tomas Young in this hard-hitting documentary that contrasts Young’s struggle to re-enter civilian life as a paraplegic and anti-war activist with archival footage of an overeager U.S. Congress and what the filmmakers view as their hasty decision to greenlight the invasion. Although the film, co-directed by Donahue and Ellen Spiro, was named best documentary of 2007 by the National Board of Review, “Body of War” has earned equal attention for its soundtrack led by two tracks from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, with all proceeds going to the non-profit organization Iraq Veterans Against The War. (Check out our interview with Spiro and Donahue.)
Opens in New York.

“Chaos Theory”
Van Wilder continues to grow up, as Ryan Reynolds plays a neurotic control freak at the center of this colorful comedy from Marcos Siega, the man who brought us the provocative “Pretty Persuasion.” When his compulsive organizing only succeeds in bringing his carefully ordered world crashing down around him, an efficiency expert (Reynolds) decides to live his life entirely in the moment by transforming his much-prized index cards that outline his daily routine into a random deck of chance. Stuart Townsend and Emily Mortimer co-star.
Opens in limited release.

“Dark Matter”
Premiering at the 2007 Sundance Festival where it picked up the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, “Dark Matter” follows Liu Xing (Liu Ye), an exceptionally gifted cosmology student from China who takes the U.S. scientific community by storm with his origins of the universe theories, but encounters unexpected resistance in the form of his jealous professor (Aidan Quinn), leading to events eerily reminiscent of the tragedies at the University of Iowa (which provided the inspiration for the film) and Virginia Tech. The controversial subject matter has led to more than a few changes for the film’s opening date, but its pedigree is undeniable with Chinese opera and theater director Chen Shi-Zheng at the helm and Meryl Streep in a supporting role.
Opens in limited release.

“The Dhamma Brothers”
Filmmakers Jenny Phillips, Andrew Kukura and Anne Marie Stein head down to an Alabama maximum security prison to follow the “Dhamma Brothers,” a group of inmates who undertake a 10-day Vipassana retreat involving silent meditation, introspection and self-discovery. While the effects of “dhamma” (the Pali term for “Dharma,” or enlightenment) work to startling effect on the prisoners, the film also documents the valiant efforts to keep the program running in the heart of America’s bible belt.
Opens in New York.

“Prom Night”
Nestled somewhere between non-alcoholic beer and solar-powered flashlights on God’s desk, one might find this equally unnecessary PG-13 semi-remake of the 1980 slasher cult classic. Brittany Snow fills in for Jamie Lee Curtis as the platinum angel whose dreams of limos and corsages are hacked to pieces by a recently escaped sadist from her past who shows up looking for a little romance. Veteran television director Nelson McCormick helms from a script by J.S. Cardone, who last brought us “The Craft” for dudes with 2005’s “Covenant.”
Opens wide.

“Smart People”
After wisely dropping out of the less than impressive “Ring Two,” acclaimed commercial director Noam Murro made this oddball comedy his feature directorial debut. Dennis Quaid stars as a pompous English professor who receives an extended visit from his estranged brother (Thomas Haden Church) that spurs him to try to rebuild his dysfunctional family, which includes a pre-“Juno” Ellen Page as Quaid’s preppy, genius daughter and Sarah Jessica Parker as a fragile former student who finds her way back into her old professor’s life.
Opens wide.

Financial journalist turned documentary filmmaker Ari Libsker explores one of Israel’s dirty little secrets and the 50-year-old misconceptions surrounding it with this investigation of “Stalags,” a notorious series of 1960s dime novels (named after the German P.O.W. camps) that depicted pornographic S&M stories centering around the abuse of allied soldiers at the hands of luscious female Nazi officers. Libsker’s film explores the origins of the books and their cultural impact on a generation of adolescents growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust.
Opens in New York.

“Street Kings”
With everyone from Oliver Stone to Spike Lee attached to the project at one point or another, it finally fell to “Training Day” scribe David Ayer to follow up his directorial debut, “Harsh Times,” with another stylish tale of gangland Los Angeles, sprinkled with a dash of noir mystery. Keanu Reeves stars as Tom Ludlow, a cop devastated by his wife’s death who is forced to turn to the criminal world for help when he is framed for the murder of a fellow officer. Reeves is front and center of a strong ensemble boasting the likes of Forest Whitaker, The Game, Common, and, er, Hugh Laurie.
Opens wide.

“The Take”
Reportedly shot guerrilla-style with no sets in the Latino neighborhoods of Los Angeles for a mere $800,000, “The Take” follows Felix De La Pena (John Leguizamo), an affable armored car driver shot in the head during a heist. Waking up brain-damaged and more than a little unhappy that he’s apparently the robbery’s chief suspect, De La Pena vows to track down those responsible. Josh and Jonas Pate, who first hit the indie scene in 1997 with “Deceiver,” collaborated on the script for the film, which is directed by first-timer Brad Furman.
Opens in Los Angeles and New York.

“The Visitor”
Thomas McCarthy, the acclaimed writer/director of the 2003 indie smash “The Station Agent” returns for his second feature with this tender tale of Walter Vale, an isolated, aging academic from Connecticut whose weekend trip to New York becomes a life-changing experience when he discovers an illegal immigrant couple that has taken up residence in his apartment. Coen brothers regular Richard Jenkins takes the lead as Vale in a film that manages to both serve as an intimate character study and questions America’s priorities in a post-9/11 world. (Check out our interview with Jenkins.)
Opens in limited release; expands on April 18th.

Everyone at some point or another has dreams of being a pop star on the world stage. Stephen Walker’s curious documentary shows that some of us harbor that dream a little longer than others. “Young@Heart” takes us inside the singular world of a New England chorale populated entirely by senior citizens who regularly rock out hits from the likes of The Rolling Stones, James Brown and Sonic Youth, to name but a few. Walker tags along on for the final weeks of rehearsal before this truly inspirational group and their musical director, Bob Cilman, hold a concert in their hometown of Northampton, MA.
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “Body of War,” Film Sales Company, 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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