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Opening This Week

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06232008_elsaandfred.jpgBy Neil Pedley

As the temperature rises, romance blooms amongst the geriatric set, “Mary Poppins” goes Bollywood, and parents will get their first chance to lay eyes on that which will likely have them driving to Toys “R” Us all summer long.

“Elsa and Fred”
Seeing anyone under 30 fall in love on screen is elusive these days, and so director Marcos Carnevale’s gentle and endearing tale of romance between a couple with a real-life combined age of 176 is quite the breath of fresh air. In a role that nabbed several awards in his native Spain, Manuel Alexandre stars as Fred, an embittered widower whose chance encounter with Elsa (China Zorilla), a mischievous Fellini fanatic, leads the pair to Italy to fulfill her dream of reenacting the famous Trevi Fountain scene from Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” In Spanish with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Finding Amanda”
Fans of the small screen will likely already be familiar with the singular, sarcastic wit of Peter Tolan as the co-creator and chief writer on television’s best soap opera for men, “Rescue Me.” This acidic semi-autobiographical comedy is his first feature, starring Matthew Broderick as — what else? — a TV writer/producer who’s put some of his old vices behind him, but still hasn’t quite managed to kick his addiction to betting on the horses. When his gambling problem leads to trouble with his wife (Maura Tierney), he unwisely decides to head to Vegas to redeem himself by attempting to persuade her niece (Brittany Snow) to leave her profession (the world’s oldest) and enter rehab, if he can only manage to stay out of the casino long enough. Unfortunately, a scene-stealing Steve Coogan shows up as a seedy casino manager who once again proves that if you run a casino in a Hollywood film, you’re contractually obliged to be a smarmy bastard.
Opens in limited release.

“Full Grown Men”
It’s been a long trip for David Munro’s road movie, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006 and secured a distribution deal by nabbing indieWIRE and Sundance Channel‘s 2007 Undiscovered Gems Audience Award. Matt McGrath stars as Alby, a 35-year old Peter Pan living a long way from Neverland as a husband and father who finds his young son’s Christmas gifts more appealing than his own. Evicted from the house by his exasperated wife, he sets out on a trip to the Diggityland theme park, hoping to recapture the glory days of his youth with Elias, his best friend from childhood (Judah Friedlander) in tow. But Elias’ recollections of their childhood are not quite as rose-tinted as Alby remembers. Alan Cumming, Amy Sedaris and Deborah Harry make sure the film is one wild ride.
Opens in limited release.

“Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot”
Following the ingenious “Awesome; I F**kin’ Shot That!,” which incorporated the footage from 50 camcorders handed out to fans at a 2004 Beastie Boys concert into a rock doc, Beasties founder Adam Yauch is taking his act from Madison Square Garden to Rucker Park, where he turns the cameras on his other great love, basketball. The erstwhile Nathanial Hornblower takes us back to his hometown of Brooklyn to the first annual Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic and follows some of the best prep players in the country, including future first round picks Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, as they go head to head with each other on the street ball court, looking to put themselves in the shop window for the NBA and the sneaker companies alike.
Opens in New York.

“The Last Mistress”
Less than a month after studying art in “Mother of Tears,” IFC fave Asia Argento is back to delight us in provocative French director Catherine Breillat’s tale of aristocracy and desire, lavishly furnished with copious amounts of gorgeously shot sex. Loosely based on Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly’s steamy 19th-century novel, the film breaks in first-timer Fa’ud Ait Aattou as a libertine looking to put his debauchery behind him by marrying Breillat regular Roxane Mesquida’s empty powdered wig, but is unable to resist the siren song of his former lover, played by Argento. By now, you know who we’d go with. In French with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Red Roses and Petrol”
Joseph O’Connor’s caustic play puts the two things the Irish are better at than anyone else in the world front and center — drinking and longstanding family conflict. Malcolm McDowell gets top billing as the patriarch whose sudden and unexpected death forces his hopelessly fractured family to gather in Dublin for the wake. Trapped together for the first time in years, they have little option but to get hammered and uncover the true source of their lingering trauma. Director Tamar Simon Hoffs gets behind the camera for the first time since 1987’s teen party flick “The Allnighter,” once again enlisting the help of her daughter and former Bangles lead singer Susanna to provide the music, along with Flogging Molly.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic”
After a small string of badly received flops, Bollywood production outfit Yash Raj Films brings back the tried and tested combo of Rani Mukerji and Saif Ali Kahn for this light but spirited family musical drama. The film features a lively ensemble of child stars as four orphans who are forced into the reluctant custody of a wealthy industrialist (Kahn) and find themselves about as welcome as a new round of trade tariffs. After praying for help, the children are duly obliged with the presence of the angel Geeta (Mukerji) to watch over them as a nanny and deliver the requisite spoonful of sugar to bring harmony to this makeshift family. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

Nobody related to the world of film is fond of Joseph McCarthy, the paranoid bullyboy senator from Wisconsin who led the communist witch hunt of the 1950s, but few are likely to dislike him with quite the vitriolic intensity of Dalton Trumbo. One of Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriters of that era, Trumbo’s career was shattered when he was thrown into prison for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee and became a part of the blacklisted “Hollywood 10.” Based on his son Christopher’s play, director Peter Askin’s documentary charts the scribe’s rise and subsequent fall from grace, his time in Mexico and resurgence culminating in restored credit for his work during exile, as well as performances of Trumbo’s work and correspondence by the likes of Joan Allen, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti and Nathan Lane.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“WALL – E”
“Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton has apparently had this little fellow shuffling around inside his head since before Pixar made their name with “Toy Story” over a decade ago. An instantly adorable fusion of Johnny 5, Herbie and Droopy Dog with a cuteness factor turned up to eleven, WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class) is left alone to pick up after us after we humans leave Earth looking like a freshman student’s shared kitchen. Though likely irresistible to the tots in the audience, WALL-E faces a challenge when he meets the search robot EVE, a clinical creation who is charged with reporting the planet’s status who WALL-E instantly falls for, but who has no feelings of her own.
Opens wide.

With his dark and gritty adaptation of Sergey Lukyanenko’s “Night Watch”, story director Timur Bekmambetov outperformed the likes of American imports “Return of the King,” Harry Potter and that film about the boat that sank to engineer the highest gross ever recorded at the Russian box office for a single movie. Now, he is setting his sights on Hollywood domination with another visceral assault on the senses, an adaptation of Mark Millar’s graphic — and we mean graphic — novel that shows that assassins really do have more fun. James McAvoy (complete with a stunningly bad imitation of an American accent) is the listless cubicle dweller offered a career change by Angelina Jolie’s mysterious Fox, one of the world’s deadliest assassins, who’s charged with training him to replace his murdered, estranged father in the ranks of a secret death and justice squad known as the Fraternity, led by Morgan Freeman. Curving bullets and Jolie’s curves aim to win over that oh-so-underserved niche demographic of 18-35 year old men.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Elsa and Fred,” Mitropoulos Films, 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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