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Opening This Week: Nic Cage’s new hairpiece, Billy Elliot’s dark side

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09012008_augustevening.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week’s trip to the multiplex offers a jaunt around the globe where, amongst other things, there’s a case of mistaken ethnicity in Boston, Nic Cage gets another wig fitted in Thailand, there’s whimsy and surrealism in Scotland and Matthew McConaughey is right at home in Malibu, where he might finally have found something he does well, maybe.

“August Evening”
Strained emotional bonds and the transitory nature of the life of an illegal immigrant provide the backdrop for Chris Eska’s quietly affecting family drama that stars Pedro Castaneda as an aging farmhand who loses his job at a chicken farm in a sleepy Texas town, forcing he and his devoted daughter-in-law (Veronica Loren) to relocate to San Antonio to stay with his older children and the grandchildren he never knew he had. As Alison Willmore pointed out in last week’s Lunchbox, Castaneda is a first-time actor who turned heads at this year’s Spirit Awards where he was nominated for best male lead and the film went on to win the John Cassavetes Award for a film under $500,000.
Opens in New York.

“Bangkok Dangerous”
Nicolas Cage continues his career-long quest for the perfect hairpiece in this tale of a deadly assassin caught between his contract and his conscience in this slick, dark, flash-bang actioner from twin Hong Kong helmers Danny and Oxide Pang. Delivering an Americanized remake of their 1999 hit of the same name that launched their career, the Pang brothers give us Joe (Cage), an enigmatic hitman whose refusal to carry out a political assassination puts him on the run from his former bosses who want him eliminated. Considering some of the dialogue Cage recently had to deal with in “The Wicker Man” and “Next,” the fact that Cage won’t play Joe as a deaf-mute as the character was in the original is all the more disappointing.
Opens wide.

“Everybody Wants to Be Italian”
As those behind the previous few summers’ superhero smash hits will attest to, the movie business is all about finding a formula that works and then replicating it. With that in mind, indie filmmakers are still searching in vain for a way to conjure just a little bit of that “Big Fat Greek” box office magic. Writer/director Jason Todd Ipson throws a little twist of mistaken ethnicity into the tried and true tale of Jake (Jay Jablonski) and Marisa (Cerina Vincent), two perennially unlucky-in-love Bostonians who are set up on a blind date, each having been incorrectly informed the other is Italian, and then feeling pressured to pass themselves off as such in order to impress.
Opens in limited release.

“Mister Foe”
David Mackenzie, the Scottish director who brought us “The Last Great Wilderness” and the undervalued “Young Adam,” once again explores the existential depths of damaged youth turning to misguided acts of joyless sex as a sub par emotional bandage, but elevates his mood to a lighter, more whimsical tone. Rising star Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”) is the titular Hallam Foe, an eccentric teen runaway fleeing the traumatic death of his mother for which he remains convinced his sultry stepmother was responsible. Roughing it on the streets of Edinburgh, he lands a menial job in a hotel kitchen and develops an unhealthy, morbid fixation on a girl in human resources (Sophia Myles). Claire Forlani, Ciarán Hinds and Ewen Bremner co-star.
Opens in New York.

“Ping Pong Playa”
After enjoying 37 years of ping-pong diplomacy with our nation, the Chinese proved once again at the recent Olympic Games that they are simply the last word in belting a tiny, gas-filled plastic pellet over a six-inch net at lightning velocity. But try telling that to Christopher “C-Dub” Wang (Jimmy Tsai), a hip-hopping wannabe pro-ball player who cringes at the thought of his ping-pong obsessed parents and his champion older brother, Michael (Roger Fan). But when Michael is injured just days before the big national tournament, C-Dub has to step it up and defend the family title from a rival player threatening his parents’ table tennis academy. Oscar winning documentarian Jessica Yu (“Protagonist, ” “In The Realms of the Unreal”) takes a break from her more serious fare to have a laugh with her narrative feature debut.
Opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

“The Pool”
Speaking of those making their narrative debut, Chris Smith shifts gears to fiction nearly 10 years after he introduced the world to Mark Borchardt, a defiantly ambitious man whose dreams are continually thwarted by circumstance and a lack of financial means in “American Movie.” Despite a change of scenery from Milwaukee to India, Smith still seems intrigued by the same themes as he follows the young and impoverished Ventatesh, a teenager who toils in Goa selling plastic bags on the street while dreaming of the crystal clear water of an affluent family’s swimming pool. When he becomes the family’s gardener, he must come to terms with reality. In English and Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Save Me”
Writer/director Robert Cary highlights the gulf that still exists between homosexuals and the conservative right in America in this first feature from the fledgling gay cinema production outfit Mythgarden. Chad Allen, one of Mythgarden’s founders, stars as Mark, a suicidal drug addict who’s shunned by his religious family and, at the behest of his brother, enters a Christian-run re-orientation facility where, despite his best efforts to receive Christ and renounce his lifestyle, he is irresistibly drawn to fellow resident Scott (Robert Grant).
Opens in New York.

“A Secret”
Veteran French director Claude Miller helms this adaptation of Philippe Grimbert’s dark and surrealist autobiographical novel of repressed trauma and Jewish family secrecy played out in the wake of Nazi-occupied Paris. With his parents content to wall off the past forever, a curious young François (Valentin Vigourt) retreats into his own mind and conjures an entire idyllic history for his family and an imaginary brother who’s far from the disappointment to his parents that he’s always been. Meanwhile, a 37-year-old François (Mathieu Amalric) is about to discover the truth his parents fought so hard to bury that will challenge everything he thought he knew. Cécile De France, Ludivine Sagnier and Julie Depardieu play the women in his life. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Surfer, Dude”
In spite of the rather unfortunate truth that no matter what role he is playing, Matthew McConaughey invariably manages to come off as a moderately bewildered surfer who has somehow wandered onto the set, so it’s somewhat surprising that he has never actually been cast as one until now. McConaughey plays Steve Addington, an old school surfing purist who returns to his hometown of Malibu for the summer only to find corporate sponsorship lobbying to turn his lifelong passion into a virtual reality brand. Electing to opt out, he heads straight for the beach where, to his agonizing frustration, the sea falls inexplicably calm with not a wave to be found. Woody Harrelson, Scott Glenn, Alexie Gilmore and Willie Nelson round out the eclectic support cast in the narrative debut from McConaughey buddy S.R. Bindler, best known for the documentary “Hands on a Hard Body.”
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “August Evening,” Maya Entertainment, 2007]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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