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Opening This Week

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06162008_bricklane.jpgBy Neil Pedley

While Steve Carell and Mike Myers face off at the multiplexes this week, indie theaters fight back with a wide range of quirk, including a meter maid romance, a doc on balloon animals and a horror flick about killer hair extensions.

“Brick Lane”
“Brick Lane” in London’s East End might be just a relatively short jaunt down the M1 from Salford, but it’s still a million miles (and a decade) away from the careful multi-ethnic empathy of another film that dealt with south Asian refugees in England, the 1970s-set “East is East.” This story follows 18-year-old Nazneem (Tannishtha Chatterjee), who steps off a plane from Bangladesh and into an arranged marriage with middle-aged Chanu (Satish Kaushik). Bored and lonely, she’s forced to question her beliefs when the charismatic and secular Karim (Christopher Simpson) knocks on her door. Director Sarah Gavron landed herself a BAFTA nomination for this adaptation of Monica Ali’s somewhat controversial novel, which enraged local Bangladeshi residents with what they considered to be an unsophisticated portrayal of their culture, so much so that when production came to town, the locals forced the film’s producers to relocate.
Opens in limited release.

Parking attendants are the target of a very special kind of hatred, the type normally reserved for child murderers or people who gloat about their tofu consumption. Yet writer/director Cecilia Miniucchi’s debut feature bravely contradicts the widely accepted notion that meter maids are incapable of any human emotion beyond malevolence — that they need love, too. Kind but lonely Claire (Samantha Morton) enters into a darkly sardonic relationship with Jay (Jason Patric), who uses parking tickets as a way to vent his anger issues, and the two begin a caustic dance of courtship on the road to mutual redemption.
Opens in limited release.

“Exte – Hair Extensions”
While the idea of murderous hair extensions might sound like every emo kid’s wet dream, the realization that their fake locks target the head they sit upon might dampen enthusiasm somewhat. Acclaimed Japanese director Sion Sono (“Suicide Club”) nabbed the Horror Jury Prize at the last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin for this dark and creepy tale of beauty-gone-bad that braids empowerment, pastiche and parody. Ren Osugi stars as the misogynist morgue attendant with a hair fetish who leaves work one night with a desecrated corpse that sprouts a never-ending possessed mane that he peddles to the local salon.
Opens in limited release.

“Get Smart”
With the likes of Austin Powers, and more recently, “O.S.S. 117” spy Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath trying to assault the box office as if it were a volcanic island fortress lair, the cold war spy spoof is veering dangerously close to cookie-cutter territory. Yet Maxwell Smart has returned in this update of the 1960s TV series with Steve Carell filling in for the late Don Adams as the overeager, painfully inept data CONTROL analyst who is teamed with Anne Hathaway’s Agent 99 to battle the crime ring KAOS after every other agent is compromised. The exclusion of the show’s original creators, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, have ruffled the feathers of a few purists, but Warner Bros. is trying to entice the faithful and the fresh with an eight-minute clip freely available on iTunes.
Opens wide.

“Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Having served as executive producer on the three preceding made-for-television movies, Julia Roberts and her Red Om Films Company once again give their stamp of approval to the first big screen adventure based on the popular doll series. None other than “Little Miss Sunshine”‘s Abigail Breslin stars in the title role as a resourceful 10-year-old growing up during the Depression who longs to be a big time news reporter. Joan Cusack, Chris O’Donnell and Julia Ormond fill out the supporting cast for the film, which was directed by “Mansfield Park” helmer Patricia Rozema and written by Ann Peacock, of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
Opens in limited release; opens wide on July 2nd.

“The Love Guru”
Before he gave a national audience their first glimpse of relationship guru Pitka on the season finale of “American Idol,” Mike Myers had been fairly secretive about his plans other than workshopping his latest creation in New York. With his first original live action character since “Austin Powers,” Myers stars as a shaman of the heart who’s hired to reconcile hockey star Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) and his wife before it interferes with Roanoke and the Maple Leaves’ shot at the Stanley Cup. Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake and naturally, Myers’ Mini-Me Verne Troyer all show up to help Myers do for marriage counselors what fellow “SNL” alum Adam Sandler recently did for Mossad-agents-turned-hair-stylists.
Opens wide.

“Twisted: A Balloonamentary”
Naomi Greenfield and Sara Taksler met in 2003 at St. Louis’ Washington University and bonded over balloon animals. Four years later, they premiered their first documentary at the SXSW Film Festival, which takes a look at that staple of preschool parties, the balloon artist. Toting their camera to the annual Twist and Shout balloon artist convention, they discover helium-filled art that’s not necessarily for the whole family and meet a few really unfortunately named people along the way (trailer park escapee Vera Stalker, John Holmes — oh dear, oh dear).
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Brick Lane,” Sony Pictures Classics, 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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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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