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Opening This Week: British gangsters, mock doormen, Lou Reed

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07142008_averybritishgangster.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week sees the opening of “The Dark Knight.” Advance marketing and coverage might have you believe that that, apparently, is all, but there are other films coming out this week well worth your time. (Besides, “The Dark Knight” is totally going to be sold out.)

“A Very British Gangster”
With Britain in the midst of a youth crime epidemic, Irish investigative reporter Donald McIntyre takes an unflinching look at Dominic Noonan, a granddad of the English gangland who’s spent over half his life behind bars. Having legally changed his name to Lattlay Fottfoy (an acronym of the Noonan motto — “Look After Those That Look After You; Fuck Off Those That Fuck Off You”), the openly gay head of Manchester’s most notorious crime family shows off his gentler side as a man who uses his reputation to position himself as a “problem solver” more concerned with the state of his local community than his own image.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Before I Forget”
Jacques Nolot concludes his loosely strung together sexually charged trilogy (preceeded by “L’Arrière pays” and “Porn Theater”) with a practical consideration of homosexual life in this frank and unabashed tale of an aging gigolo. Shot in long takes to capture the passage of time, “Before I Forget” features Nolot both behind and in front of the camera as Pierre, a man who’s been HIV-positive for 24 years and finds himself nearing destitution as he contests his sugar daddy’s inheritance and wastes away his days in the company of friends who can afford more imaginative and expensive ways to indulge their pleasures.
Opens in New York.

“The Dark Knight”
The days of Joel Schumacher’s garish batastrophe, with its pantomime villains and nippled batsuit, now seem like just a bad dream. Continuing to lead the phoenix-like resurrection of a franchise once dead and buried, “Memento”‘s Christopher Nolan once again orchestrates the chaos in Gotham City as Batman (Christian Bale) joins forces with D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to battle the twisted Joker (Heath Ledger) while both Dent and Batman’s alter ego battle each other for the heart of Bruce Wayne’s childhood sweetheart, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). With some theaters reporting to have sold out their opening night as far back as two weeks ago, Warner Brothers knows they’ll have a captive audience for trailers to the new Ridley Scott thriller “Body of Lies,” next summer’s “Watchmen” and “Terminator Salvation,” which also happens to star Bale.
Opens wide and in limited release in IMAX.

After penning scripts for Hollywood films such as “Fracture” and “Mad Money,” Glenn Gers uses his sophomore feature to explore some real world women’s issues in this tender dramedy about friendship and self-image. Overweight sales clerk Lydia (Deidra Edwards) meets with a support group once a week, not looking to get thin, but seeking acceptance for being fat. After the group rejects an application from Darcy (Staci Lawrence), a recovering anorexic, because she’s not actually fat, the two women strike up a friendship and discover a happy medium in the process.
Opens in New York.

“The Doorman”
Filmmakers Wayne Price and Lucas Akoskin claim they were inspired by the underrated Belgian serial killer satire “Man Bites Dog,” yet their debut feature is more likely to inspire comparisons with “Borat.” This mock doc focuses on Trevor, a bungling, English-impaired gatekeeper to New York’s most exclusive clubs and events. Akoskin stars as the little Hitler on a power trip who pulls back the velvet rope to a documentary film crew chronicling his evenings as guardian of the Manhattan party scene, all the while struggling to avoid telling them he’s in fact been fired. Peter Bogdanovich, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” personality Thom Filicia are among those who find themselves on the wrong side of the rope.
Opens in New York.

Former Batman Val Kilmer has a summer movie to call his own, albeit by way of a supporting role. Former Hollywood stuntman Ric Roman Waugh directs this violent prison drama that stars Stephen Dorff as a man convicted of manslaughter while attempting to protect his family. Behind bars, he must cozy up to Kilmer’s psychopathic cellmate to protect himself from a brutal prison guard (“Oz” alum Harold Perriineau). One can only imagine that it was the former “Real Genius” star’s name in the credits that pushed this by-the-numbers genre movie towards a brief detour into a handful of theaters on its way to an August 12th debut on DVD. Then again, Waugh must be proud of it — he used the “Alan Smithee” pseudonym on his first film, “Exit.”
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Lou Reed’s Berlin”
Lou Reed originally planned a stage version of his 1973 concept album back when it was first released, but poor critical reception saw those plans shelved. Almost 33 years later, the album is considered by many to be a bona fide classic and Reed’s vision could finally be realized. Director and fan Julian Schnabel filmed “Berlin” over five nights at St. Ann’s warehouse in Brooklyn in 2006, adding a series of video installations that chronicle Reed’s musical journey of a couple’s romance doomed by drugs and depression. The former Velvet Underground singer also enlists the help of a 30-piece band, the New London Children’s Choir, Sharon Jones and Antony of Antony and the Johnsons.
Opens in limited release.

“Mad Detective”
Director Johnnie To and writer/director Wai Ka-Fai collaborate once again on this hard-boiled psychological police drama. (Apparently, To wouldn’t have it any other way, as he told IFC’s own R. Emmet Sweeney.) After being unceremoniously forced into retirement, intuitive Inspector Bun (Lau Ching-Wan) takes on one last case when he learns his ex-partner Chi-Wai is possessed of many spirits, each embodying one of the seven deadly sins.
Opens in New York.

“Mamma Mia!”
The four members of ABBA reunited at the Swedish premiere for “Mamma Mia!” last week, but reiterated their resolve to not reunite on stage, meaning fans of the iconic ’70s pop sensation will have to be content with this screen adaptation of the hit musical. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” producer Tom Hanks returns to the Grecian theme with the stage production’s original writer (Catherine Johnson) and director (Phyllida Lloyd) in tow. Although Meryl Streep is required to sing, it isn’t exactly “Waterloo” near the Acropolis when her soon-to-be-married daughter in the film (Amanda Seyfried) invites a trio (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd) of her mother’s ex-lovers to the wedding to try to discover which one of them is her father.
Opens wide.

“Space Chimps”
Watching a bunch of juvenile chimps lark about like frat boys as they train to be (reluctantly) sent into space, it’s difficult to discern if this is a children’s adventure story or just a collection of animated deleted scenes from Michael Bay’s “Armageddon.” “Shrek” producer John H. Williams is certainly hoping for the former as he looks to blast his Vanguard animation company into orbit with the medium’s big boys after the studio’s maiden voyage, “Valiant,” was a misfire. Sent in search of a missing NASA probe, former circus chimp Ham III (Andy Samberg) joins the courageous Lt. Luna (Cheryl Hines) and the tightly wound Titan (Patrick Warburton) to face off against the evil cosmic dictator Zartog (Jeff Daniels).
Opens wide.

Shifting back and forth from past to present, writer/director Charles Oliver’s debut feature offers a heady and cerebral meditation on justice, revenge and the death penalty. As Ana (Minnie Driver) makes the difficult drive to a prison in the desert to witness an execution, she recollects the day that she and her son met Saul (Jeremy Renner), a hounded and desperate man forced to accept a deadly proposition in exchange for wiping away a gambling debt.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on July 25th.

Now that the likes of “Wolf Creek” and “Turistas” have engrained into moviegoers the idea that stepping outside our borders invariably leads to a gory and painful death, the notion of vacationing somewhere exotic and only being targeted by ruthless drug smugglers actually sounds quite appealing. So it is with genre-jumping helmer Brad Anderson’s slow-burning thriller centered around a naïve American couple (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) who hop aboard a train from Beijing to Moscow and strike up a friendship with fellow travelers, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), who are not all that they appear to be. Matters are complicated when Sir Ben Kingsley’s Russian narcotics officers comes on board.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “A Very British Gangster,” Anywhere Road Entertainment, 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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