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Opening This Week

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06022008_dreamswithsharpteeth.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Among this week’s offerings: The pregnancy comedy goes pre-natal, the fate of all the jungle rests in the hands of the world’s most lethargic endangered species, and Dario Argento has a new film, rendering the rest of this list mostly unnecessary.

“Dreams With Sharp Teeth”
Author Harlan Ellison is widely regarded as one of the finest writers of the 20th century. He is also, as this documentary readily highlights, abrasive, petulant, egotistical and prone to fits of belligerent rage. Collecting together more than two decades worth of footage and interviews, “Grizzly Man” producer Erik Nelson lifts the dust jacket off one of literature’s genuinely larger than life characters and a man who has filed more lawsuits than the ACLU, proving that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, even Ellison’s sci-fi tales.
Opens in New York.

“The Go-Getter”
On paper, it sounds like the dictionary definition of a Sundance Film (coming of age story, acoustic-indie soundtrack, quirky characters), so it’s no surprise this whimsical road movie played the festival in 2007. Lou Taylor Pucci stars as a disaffected teen who steals a car and rediscovers his estranged brother by proxy as he tracks him across the country to tell him of their mother’s death. Zooey Deschanel is the sympathetic owner of the stolen vehicle who aids his journey, and though she might have lost a car, Deschanel gained a singer-songwriter partner offscreen in M. Ward, who scored the film and joined her to form the musical duo She & Him following the shoot.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Kung Fu Panda”
Movie theater patrons have already been acquainted with Po the Panda as the bear who bursts onto the screen just before the feature and threatens to kick your ass if you don’t quit texting your buddy sitting two seats away. Looking to bolster DreamWorks’s bottom line in the absence of a certain big green ogre this summer, the studio’s first animated film in Cinemascope tells the epic story of Po (Jack Black), a slacker chosen by prophecy to be trained to be a warrior to battle against an evil snow leopard (Ian McShane). Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan help to round out an eclectic, all-star voice cast.
Opens wide and in IMAX.

“Miss Conception”
It appears that Hollywood has birthed yet another pregnancy comedy, though this one takes place across the pond. Desperate to be a mum, a flighty London professional (Heather Graham) has one month to get herself pregnant, since her family has a history of early menopause. Providing ample opportunities to mock the British for pre-conceived notions of their repressed attitudes towards sex, the film has supplied Graham’s Georgina with a best friend, played by Mia Kirshner, who arranges for her to pounce on an ever more terrified selection of unsuspecting men.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Kahn”
Don’t let the fact that this was the official Kazakhstan [insert obligatory “Borat” gag here] entry into the best foreign film category at this year’s Oscars fool you — this Eurasian epic is about as international as they come. Boasting a Russian director and Chinese and Japanese leads, this sweeping melodrama chronicles the legendary warlord’s childhood, his struggle to survive in the wake of his father’s assassination and his subsequent ascension to overlord of an empire stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, two hours can’t cover such an epic life, but fret not, a second installment chronicling the final years of his life is currently in development.
Opens in limited release.

“The Mother of Tears”
Also known as “The Third Mother,” this elegant supernatural thriller is the concluding installment of Italian director Dario Argento’s “The Three Mothers” trilogy, which arrives a mere 28 years after the last installment, “Inferno.” The final chapter of this gothic horror trifecta sees an American art restoration student, played by Dario’s daughter, Asia, disturb an ancient urn containing cursed relics, the release of which heralds the return of the beautiful yet malevolent sorceress Mater Lachrymarum (Moran Atias). As frequent readers of the site may know, we’ll see just about anything with Asia Argento, but don’t take our word for it — non-horror fans might recall none other than Juno MacGuff prefers Dario Argento to Herschell Gordon Lewis. In English and Italian with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“On The Rumba River”
Out of one of the most war-torn countries on Earth comes the truly remarkable and inspirational story of Wendo Kolosoy, a man credited with pioneering the Congolese Rumba and one of the godfathers of African music. Against the backdrop of a 2004 reunion concert for Papa Wendo and his band, French filmmaker Jacques Sarasin charts Wendo’s humble beginnings as a boat mechanic, his battles with the Belgian colonials who considered him subversive, his fall from grace and time spent as a beggar on the streets and his dramatic comeback under a new regime in the late ’90s. In Lingala with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Operation Filmmaker”
The issue of media responsibility as it relates to the war in Iraq takes on a whole new meaning in this documentary from Nina Davenport about a young Iraqi filmmaker named Muthana Mohmed, who’s taken under the wing of Liev Schreiber after the actor/director hears that his Baghdad school has been bombed. However, Mohmed finds that his job as a production assistant on Schreiber’s film, “Everything is Illuminated,” isn’t what he had hoped for, and Schreiber and company are displeased to find their charity case is fond of partying and George Bush. As the reality of Mohmed’s temporary status looms ever closer, Davenport documents how, much like the larger situation in Iraq, sometimes even the best of intentions can go seriously awry.
Opens in New York.

“The Promotion”
Writer/director Steve Conrad, the screenwriter behind “The Weather Man” and “The Pursuit of Happyness” once again goes to the well of somewhat failed men and their questionable professional accomplishments, this time adding a more comedic edge. John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott star as two competing grocery store employees, each vying for the job of manager of the new store opening in town while trying to conceal vast chasms of incapability. Debuting at this year’s SXSW Festival, the film pulled sharply divided early reviews, with SpoutBlog calling it “one of the best comedies in years” and The Hollywood Reporter calling it “one of the unfunniest comedies ever.”
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy”
With a release set to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the New York senator’s tragic assassination, Shane O’Sullivan’s investigative documentary explores the controversies surrounding the shooting and the conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Expanding on his reports for the BBC, O’Sullivan uncovers fresh forensic analysis and inconsistencies in the official account of the murder, and speaks to convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan’s only surviving relative in an effort to discover the true sequence of events that took place. O’Sullivan is also going the Errol Morris route and publishing an accompanying book, “Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?” to reach shelves to tie in with the release of the film.
Opens in New York.

“Sarkar Raj”
Ram Gopal Varma’s highly anticipated sequel to the acclaimed Bollywood hit “Sarkar,” finally arrives, but while that film was a re-imagining of Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather,” Varma has loosely built this follow-up around the shady goings-on in the build up to the Enron scandal. Yet “Raj” is still a family affair, with Varma directing Amitabh Bachchan, Bachchan’s son Abhishek and Abhishek’s real-life wife Aishwarya Rai, who plays an ambitious CEO outside the family who gets in cahoots with Abhishek’s clan leader to navigate the various factions populating a corrupt political minefield as they seek to establish a power plant in the local province. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Take Out”
One of the creative forces behind the inimitable “Greg The Bunny,” writer/director Sean Baker teams with fellow NYU grad Shi-Ching Tsou for this contemporary, neorealist slice of life. Ming Ding (Charles Jang), a Chinese immigrant who makes his living as a takeout deliveryman, gets in over his head in debt to the loan sharks who helped smuggle him into the U.S. and is given 24 hours to make good on the cash. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Nashville Film Festival, the film drew much praise on the festival circuit for its commitment to a documentary-style aesthetic and its aversion to overt, clichéd sentimentality.
Opens in New York.

“When Did You Last See Your Father?”
After flirting with helming “The Golden Compass,” director Anand Tucker adapts the far more intimate autobiography of poet Blake Morrison — think “Big Fish” minus Tim Burton’s fairytale gallery of the grotesque and you have some idea. Colin Firth stars as the conflicted son who looks back on a lifelong struggle to reconcile his feelings for his distant father (Jim Broadbent) during his dad’s final weeks battling terminal cancer. Matthew Beard co-stars as the young Blake and Juliet Stevenson as his mother.
Opens in limited release.

“You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”
For comedy fans, only “Tropic Thunder” has more stars aligned this summer than the writers of “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” which teams former NYU roommates Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow with “Saturday Night Live” stalwart Robert Smigel, in the latter’s feature writing debut. “Zohan” provides perhaps the most definitive answer for those who wondered what might have occurred had Derek Zoolander opted for a career in the Israeli Mossad as opposed to strutting it on the catwalk. Sandler stars as a metrosexual Jack Bauer who fakes his own death so that he can escape to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a hair stylist, but becomes the target of a bungling sleeper cell. Sandler regulars Rob Schneider, John Turturro, and Kevin Nealon all show up to lend their support.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Dreams With Sharp Teeth,” Creative Differences, 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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