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Opening This Week

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05052008_thebabysitters.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week sees the return of the Wachowski brothers, Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”) and Henry Bean (“The Believer”) to the big screen, not to mention new films from documentarians Nick Broomfield (“Tupac and Biggie”) and Doug Pray (“Scratch”). On the other hand, after running around Tribeca, we still need to catch up on last week’s releases.

“The Babysitters”
The idea of the spunky teenage boy succumbing to the allure of an experienced older woman is the kind of Hollywood golden goose that launches major careers (think Dustin Hoffman). But when the roles are reversed, the result is the directorial debut of David Ross that sees an entrepreneurial high schooler (Katherine Waterston, daughter of Sam) and her friends turn their babysitting ring into a call girl service, realizing there are alternative ways to pay for college besides waiting tables. It stars when one local dad (John Leguizamo) goes a little too far one night, and Waterston’s Shirley sees the opportunity for a full scholarship (and a phone call to Chris Hansen).
Opens in New York.

“Battle For Haditha”
UK documentarian and provocateur Nick Broomfield, perhaps best known for his controversial music doc, “Kurt and Courtney,” once again takes a factual event and offers to fill in the blanks in “Battle For Haditha,” a fictional dramatization of the events surrounding the 2005 death of a U.S. Marine in Haditha, Iraq and the subsequent killing of 24 Iraqi noncombatants, reportedly in retaliation. In keeping with the speculative nature of the project. the film was shot without a script with actors being given a detailed scene outline and then left to improvise their roles within it.
Opens in New York.

“The Fall”
Tarsem Singh’s debut, the psychological mindbender “The Cell,” was much like its leading lady, Jennifer Lopez — extremely beautiful and more than a little excruciating to watch on screen. His sophomore effort, which arrives in theaters after six years in production and the aegis of “presenters” David Fincher and Spike Jonze, is certainly at least one of those things. Using the gloriously ripe cinematography of classic Bollywood to paint a visceral steampunk adventure story, Singh lets “Pushing Daisies” star Lee Pace impart a grand, epic tale of warriors and tyrants to the little girl in the hospital bed next to him (Catinca Untaru) in an effort to enlist her in a bid to end his life.
Opens in limited release.

That this film was originally deemed too gruesome to premiere at even the 2007 Horrorfest festival and had to be toned down for an NC-17 rating should tell you everything you need to know. The demonic lovechild of Eli Roth and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this nasty survival story stars Karina Testa and Aurélien Wiik as young thieves on the run who take refuge at an inn where they are made to earn their freedom by running the gauntlet of a vast underground labyrinth filled with neo-Nazi torturers and sub-human cannibals. The film was directed by Xavier Gens, who went Hollywood with “Hitman” last year.
Opens in limited release.

Based on the real life exploits of writer/director Henry Bean, “Noise” finds Tim Robbins as a white collar vigilante who harbors a deep-seated hatred of that pre-dawn terror, the faulty car alarm. Driven to distraction by their perceived incessant interruptions of his otherwise serene inner city existence, Robbins dons a mask, grabs a tire iron, and fights back under the guise of his preposterous alter ego, “The Rectifier.” Following his credited screenplay work on “Basic Instinct 2,” Bean attempts to rectify his own cred with this black comedy.
Opens in New York.

“OSS 117: Cario, Nest of Spies”
The espionage novels of Jean Bruce were the inspiration for this gloriously silly riff on Cold War spy fiction. Though the film isn’t the first adaptation of — are you ready? — the series of 265 stories, it’s certainly a jab in the eye for the Bond films of Sean Connery, especially since the story’s hero, the impossibly named Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, actually predates Ian Fleming’s character by several years. Arming our man in Egypt with the wardrobe of Harry Palmer and the brains of Inspector Clouseau, director Michel Hazanavicius takes the customary innuendo, thinly veiled misogyny and spectacularly oversimplified geopolitics, mixes them with classic French farce, and shakes them like a vodka martini.
Opens in limited release.

“A Previous Engagement”
Perhaps best known for her BAFTA-nominated performance in the late Anthony Minghella’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” Juliet Stevenson stars as Julia, a bitter and aging librarian who decides on a whim to drag her family to Malta where she can wallow at the site where she promised to hook up with the real love of her life (Tchéky Karyo) 25 years ago. When she finds he’s actually there, along with his young, attractive new girlfriend, she is completely unprepared to deal with her former lover and her foppish husband (Daniel Stern), who sets about making himself a new man she’ll be unable to resist after discovering the trip’s true purpose.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Speed Racer”
Lounging around development hell since as far back as 1992, with everyone from Johnny Depp and Julien Temple (cheer) to Vince Vaughn (shudder) attached at one point or another, it took the resolve of Joel Silver and clout of the Wachowski brothers to get “Speed Racer” up and running. After his acclaimed turn in “Into the Wild,” Emile Hirsch feels the need to be Speed, the prodigal driver who must be taken out after he refuses to play ball with the racing industry’s corporate stooges, who’re looking to fix races for profit. Perhaps the single prettiest thing ever committed to celluloid, the film received its world premiere as the closing night film of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.
Opens wide and in IMAX in select theaters.

“Scratch” documentarian Doug Pray chronicles the life of bohemian surfing legend Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, who’s credited as being the man who introduced surfing to Israel. Pray charts Doc’s amazing transformation from successful, middle-class doctor in Hawaii into a wandering, nomadic beatnik, living in a camper van on the California coast with his wife and nine children. Blending archival footage, interviews with former surfing students, his now-grown children and the aging guru himself, “Surfwise” tells the incredible story of a man who decided to wave goodbye to society and never looked back.
Opens in limited release.

“The Tracey Fragments”
Using an abstract fusion of mosaic and montage imagery, cult Canadian auteur Bruce McDonald directs a pre-“Juno” Ellen Page in an adaptation of Maureen Medved’s novel about the titular Tracey, a traumatized girl found naked on a bus who reveals through a series of vignettes her story and her search for missing little brother, Sonny. In preparation for its domestic release, the film’s footage was made available to users online who were encouraged to assemble and submit their own version of the story, with the best entries then featured on the official website.
Opens in New York.

“Turn The River”
Another week, another card film, this time starring Famke Janssen as Kailey Sullivan, a down-on-her-luck mom who hustles at the poker table and the local poolhall to raise the cash to take her son (Jaymie Dornan) away from her ex-husband (Matt Ross). Praised by some critics as an authentic character study and for its gutsy gender reversal, the film was written and directed by Chris Eigeman, who picked up a screenplay award at last year’s Hamptons Film Festival, which also bestowed a jury prize to Janssen for her gritty performance. Rip Torn and Lois Smith also star.
Opens in limited release.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Slamdance Festival for best documentary, Adam Hootnick’s intimate film follows the Israeli withdrawal of the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the varied impact it has on the lives of a group of young people made to leave their homes. Some support the withdrawal, while others vehemently oppose it, and others still are indifferent yet equally powerless against a mandate for them to leave peacefully, or be evacuated by force.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on May 16th.

Ah, so this is what Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah do in between Tarantino movies. With a commendation from no less than Dennis Hopper, who’s quoted as saying “Vice” “is one of the best cop movies I’ve ever seen,” this low budget pulp noir stars Madsen and Hannah as members of a narco squad who have to stay alive long enough to hunt down an inside man responsible for jacking a bust’s worth of heroin. Mykelti Williamson co-stars in this “Max Payne”-lite crime caper.
Opens in limited release.

“What Happens in Vegas…”
Ashton Kutcher is certainly no stranger to walking down the aisle with good-looking older women, but Demi Moore’s other half gets more than he bargained for in this anarchic rom-com from “Starter for 10” director Tom Vaughan. Hard as it is to believe anyone wouldn’t be overjoyed to wake up and discover he’s hitched to Cameron Diaz, both parties are decidedly unhappy when a one night stand turns into a battle of will when it comes to divvying up the $3 million they won together on the slots, and the only way to get the money is to drive the other so crazy that he or she leaves voluntarily. Rob Corddry, Queen Latifah and “Saturday Night Live”‘s Jason Sudeikis round out an eclectic support cast.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “The Babysitters,” Peace Arch Releasing, 2008]

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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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