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DID YOU READ

Opening This Week

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04212008_babymama.jpgBy Neil Pedley

While we pace the carpet back and forth in anticipation of the fast-approaching Tribeca Film Festival (kicking off on Wednesday), we can bide our time with a puppet kidnapping, some Bollywood royalty and an Ewan McGregor sighting.

“Baby Mama”
If the fad of pregnancy movies began with last year’s “Knocked Up,” it reaches its second trimester with “Baby Mama,” which stars comedy goddess Tina Fey as a wannabe mom who’s fast approaching 40 and Fey’s one-time Weekend Update deskmate Amy Poehler as the uncouth oddball who offers up the use of her womb in exchange for a bit of cash. Appropriately enough, former “SNL” scribe Michael McCullers makes his directorial debut with the offbeat comedy, which could serve as “Juno” for people deemed too fuddy-duddy to find the term “home skillet” amusing. “Baby Mama”‘s also serving as Tribeca’s opening night film.
Opens wide.

“Deal”
Gil Cates Jr. follows in the shaky footsteps of Curtis Hanson (“Lucky You”) and John Dahl (“Rounders”) with this tale of a young cardshark (“Reaper” star Bret Harrison) and his mentor (Burt Reynolds) who seek an upset at the World Series of Poker. Real life part-time poker mavens Jennifer Tilly and Shannon Elizabeth round out the cast, and we have to give credit where it’s due — this is the first film we’ve ever seen that used pullquotes from poker champions in its marketing campaign.
Opens in limited release.

“Deception”
Ewan McGregor stars as an awkward accountant inducted by Hugh Jackman’s smooth talking lawyer into a secretive world of anonymous sexual encounters in this debut feature from director Marcel Langenegger that’s part erotic thriller and part elaborate heist. Michelle Williams further complicates matters for McGregor’s character, who quickly realizes that his new friends might not be all that they appear when he becomes chief suspect in the disappearance of a woman (Maggie Q) he knows only as S.
Opens wide.

“Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay”
Following their 2004 sleeper comedy hit, Kal Penn and John Cho reprise their roles as the Cheech & Chong of the MySpace generation in another absurd and surreal stoner escapade. After a mix-up on a flight to Amsterdam, the pair are mistaken for terrorists and shipped off to Cuba, where they duly escape. “Daily Show” vets Rob Corddry and Ed Helms are hot on their trail, along with the returning Neil Patrick Harris, who is officially as camp as a row of tents, reprising his role as himself in a way that just begs for an action figure, complete with unicorn accessory.
Opens wide.

“A Plumm Summer”
Caroline Zelder makes filmmaking debut with a family adventure laden with an eclectic cast that appears so wholesome it should by rights only exist in a pastry dish cooling on some old lady’s open window ledge. Based on an actual event that occurred in Montana in 1968, this idyllic vision of Americana stars Billy Baldwin, Henry Winkler, Clint Howard and former Fox Sports announcer Lisa Guerrero as residents of a small town that’s rocked when their beloved local kids TV star — a puppet, Froggy Doo — is kidnapped and held for ransom. Jeff Daniels narrates.
Opens in limited release.

“Rogue”
Following up his gruesome and disturbing debut serial killer thriller “Wolf Creek,” writer-director Greg McLean returns to the vast, untamed wilderness of the Australian outback. Radha Mitchell stars as a feisty tour guide who leads an embittered travel writer (Michael Vartan) and a boat full of tourists into forbidden waters where they are stalked by a gigantic, ancient man-eating crocodile. Perhaps because of the lukewarm reception the film received at the Aussie box office, “Rogue” is getting a smaller release than its predecessor in America, which can only be good news for Australia’s tourism industry.
Opens in limited release.

“Roman de Gare”
This multi-stranded tale of friendship, fate and murder was self-financed and shot under a pseudonym, only revealed to be the work of acclaimed French director Claude Lelouch upon its release at Cannes. In fact, identity is a theme of the 70-year-old filmmaker’s latest film, which tells the story of a mystery writer (Fanny Ardant) who is a bit mysterious herself, since her books are ghost written by Louis (Dominique Pinon), an enigmatic ex-teacher who may or may not be a real life serial killer called “The Magician.” In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Standard Operating Procedure”
The nonstop slew of films examining the Iraq war continues, this time courtesy of Oscar-nominated filmmaker and self-proclaimed “detective director” Errol Morris. “Standard Operating Procedure” takes us inside the notorious Abu Ghraib POW camp via reenactments, seeking to uncover the truth behind one of America’s most shameful military scandals. With testimony from witnesses, those implicated by evidence of prisoner abuse, and those who tried to speak out, Morris explores the psychology of such an institution and asks how such activities could go unchecked for so long.
Opens in limited release.

“Stuff and Dough”
After the international success of his 2005 film, “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” Romanian writer/director Cristi Puiu’s darkly comic debut is riding the Romanian New Wave to a limited U.S. run, seven years after its initial release. A low-budget road movie that racked up awards on the European film festival circuit, “Stuff and Dough” follows an ambitious young hustler and his two friends in their beat-up van and listen in as they travel to Bucharest to deliver a strange package to a local gangster. In Romanian with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Tashan”
One of the most eagerly anticipated films in its native India, “Tashan” pairs Bollywood royalty Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor on screen together for the first time since they became a couple in real life. The celebrated couple stars alongside Akshay Kumar as three strangers taking a journey across India together under the watchful eye of Anil Kapoor’s sadistic gangster. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Then She Found Me”
Helen Hunt told the audience at this year’s SXSW that everything that was important to her could be found in her big screen adaptation of Elinor Lipman’s novel about a school teacher who yearns for a child of her own when she is reunited with the mother she never knew (Bette Midler), a woman determined to get to know her daughter, whether she wants to or not. In addition to starring in the film, Hunt also gets behind the camera for the first time to direct. Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo from Salman Rushdie.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Without The King”
Documentary filmmaker Michael Skolnik travels to Swaziland, a country that has earned the dubious designation of having the lowest life expectancy of any place on Earth, thanks to an out of control HIV epidemic. The African nation is also home to the world’s last remaining absolute monarchy where King Mswati III lives in ignominious luxury while his people struggle in abject poverty. With access granted by both the king and his subjects (who are plotting his ouster), Skolnick juxtaposes the struggle of the people and the increasingly volatile political climate with a monarch who is out of touch with reality. The film earned a Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs 2007.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Baby Mama,” Universal Pictures, 2008]

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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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