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Opening This Week

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06092008_beautyintrouble.jpgBy Neil Pedley

On offer this week is a veritable gallery of the eclectic and the eccentric as M. Night Shyamalan goes R-rated, Edward Norton goes green, Werner Herzog goes to the Antarctic, and two of Herzog’s fellow countrymen go to California to climb a big rock very, very quickly.

“Beauty in Trouble”
Czech director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovský continue their longtime collaborative partnership with this dense ensemble drama loosely inspired by Robert Graves’s poem of the same name. This time, the duo who balanced humor with drama in the Oscar-nominated Holocaust-set “Divided We Fall,” turn to the devastating series of floods that swept Prague in 2002, and tell the story of Marcela (Anna Geislerová), an overworked mother of two living in squalor. When her ne’er do well husband is taken in by the police, she’s courted by a well-to-do businessman (Josef Abrhám) and Marcela is forced to choose between family and the stability he offers.
Opens in New York.

“Chris & Don: A Love Story”
This intimate documentary from filmmakers Tina Mascara and Guido Santi chronicles the 33-year romance between novelist Christopher Isherwood and portrait artist Don Bachardy, who was 30 years younger than the “Berlin Stories” author. Employing a blend of archival footage, home movies, reenactments and animation narrated by a reminiscing Bachardy, the film celebrates their enduring and bittersweet tale of love and commitment.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on July 4th.

“Encounters at the End of the World”
Billed as “not another penguin movie,” this documentary finds Werner Herzog continuing his fascinating, career-long exploration of man’s relationship to the great untamed wilderness, venturing out into earth’s final frontier, and in doing so becoming the first director to have shot on all seven continents. As part of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, Herzog travels to McMurdo Station, the NSF’s base of operations in Antarctica, where he meets the 1,100 people who choose to call it home and prove to be every bit as breathtaking and enigmatic as the land they live on.
Opens in limited release.

“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”
Originally a novel first published in 1965, Yasutaka Tsutsui’s high-concept meditation on fate and causality has survived more incarnations and adaptations than Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Now an animated film, this update tells of Makoto Konno, a high school girl who discovers the power to go back in time and re-do events in her life. Realizing she can only do this a finite number of times, she attempts to make things right for everyone in her life with chaotic and unexpected results. Despite a modest showing at the Japanese box office, the film was a hit on the festival circuit, picking up a multitude of nominations and awards for animation.
Opens in limited release.

“The Grocer’s Son”
French filmmaker Eric Guirado feeds off his previous experience as a documentarian for his sophomore narrative feature, which captures the stalwart bucolic lifestyle of the French rural countryside. Nicolas Cazalé stars as Antoine, a city-dweller who reluctantly returns to the sleepy village from which he fled in order to run the family grocery business after his father is hospitalized. Joined by his big city friend Claire (Clotilde Hesme), Antoine is slowly charmed and disarmed by the serenity of the small community and the gentle and colorful nature of its people. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Happening”
After a tell-all book aired out the dirty laundry of his messy divorce from Disney and his last film (“Lady in the Water”) hung him out to dry, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is back and hopes to scare more than studio chieftains with his latest. Armed with the first R rating of his career, Shyamalan has penned a paranoid apocalyptic thriller starring Mark Wahlberg as a high school science teacher who flees with his family in a bid to outrun a mysterious and deadly phenomenon.
Opens wide.

“The Hulk”
Back in 2003, Eric Bana told audiences that they wouldn’t like him when he was angry, and the relatively poor showing of the Ang Lee-directed “Hulk” proved he wasn’t wrong. Marvel has since explained it away as a dry run, insisting that the real Hulk franchise starts here and handing the reins over to another NYU alum in “The Transporter”‘s Louis Leterrier, who directs while Edward Norton stars as the not-so-jolly green giant who must abandon his quest for a cure to his condition in order to save mankind from Abomination (Tim Roth), a devastating creature born from Hulk’s own DNA. Liv Tyler co-stars as Hulk alter ego Bruce Banner’s girlfriend Betty Ross.
Opens wide.

“My Winnipeg”
Canadian auteur Guy Maddin once again indulges in his love affair with German expressionism and the avant garde by applying it to his own life in this quasi-autobiography (or whatever you call it when you cast B-movie icon Ann Savage as your mother). Using a whimsical, stream-of-consciousness narrative technique that’s as outlandish as it is beguiling, Maddin’s self-described “docu-fantasia” takes the audience on a tour of Maddin’s formative years in Winnipeg. Blending fact with fiction, the historical with the imagined, “My Winnipeg” is both a serenade and an exorcism directed at Maddin’s childhood and the city that has been his home since his birth in 1956.
Opens in New York.

“Quid Pro Quo”
Following Jodie Foster’s “The Brave One,” working in public radio has never been so much in vogue, as Carlos Brooks demonstrates in his directorial debut starring Nick Stahl as a budding NPR muckraker who’s paralyzed from the waist down and becomes curious when he hears of a man who actually wants to be a paraplegic. Having premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film may draw unwanted comparisons to David Cronenberg’s autoeroticism (in the most literal sense) drama “Crash,” as Stahl enters the deviant subculture that covets and fetishizes human pain and suffering, including a “wannabe” amputee played by Vera Farmiga.
Opens in limited release.

“To The Limit”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Pepe Danquart chronicles the escapades of German speed climbing brothers Thomas and Alexander Huber, two men of boundless energy, audacious courage and somewhat questionable sanity. No stranger to sibling rivalry himself as the twin of another filmmaker, Danquart uncovers a fierce professional rivalry behind this pair of extreme sports icons as they prepare to mount a record breaking assault on the 3,000-foot high “Nose” of the El Capitan Summit in Yosemite National Park, where the duo looks to put the three-day climb to bed in a leisurely two hours and 45 minutes. In English and German with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Beauty in Trouble,” Menemsha Films, 2006]

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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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