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Opening This Week: Mumbai fairytales, Harry Potter fandom and Bond, James Bond

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11102008_bohica.jpgBy Neil Pedley

There is plenty of (semi)lighthearted fare at the art house this week with Danny Boyle tracking a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” whiz kid in Mumbai, Arnaud Desplechin looking at a family reunion in France and a Bollywood musical playing out in Miami, followed by films that are distinctively more “hardcore,” whether that refers to Harry Potter fans or elderly curmudgeons. Oh, and there’s also some globetrotting carnage with our man Craig — Daniel Craig.

If this debut effort from “Melvin Goes To Dinner” producer turned writer/director D.J. Paul is to be believed, the best way to support our brave boys serving overseas is to send them some sunscreen and a truckload of Sudoku books. Marooned in the middle of the Afghan desert guarding a radio tower, four army reservists (Adam Rodriguez, Nicholas Gonzalez, Kevin Weisman, Brendan Sexton III) do battle with the boredom and the baking heat until a crate of beer is mistakenly air-dropped onto their position. An impromptu kegger commences, but the harsh reality of war crashes the party.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“A Christmas Tale”
A lively but melancholic tale of an eccentric family reunited around a dying parental figure decorated with go-nowhere squabbles and deadpan introspection sounds oddly familiar, but French helmer Arnaud Desplechin must feel his take of Jean-Pierre Jouet’s rather downbeat novel is more than just “The Royal Vuillards.” (For starters, the Vulliards “don’t have time for melancholy,” according to Desplechin.) Catherine Deneuve stars as the cancer-stricken matriarch Junon, whose three children (Mathieu Amalric, Anne Cosigny and Melvil Poupaud) reunite for one last Christmas and navigate the various tensions and corridors of familial guilt that have plagued them their whole lives. In French with subtitles.
Open in New York and Los Angeles.

“Dostana (Friendship)”
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” with a few song and dance numbers? Not quite, but Indian audiences will see something they have never seen before with this $10 million Bollywood production with gay themes. Far from New Delhi, Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham star as two playboys in Miami who adopt the façade that they’re lovers (as one does) in order to obtain a lease from an overprotective landlord, who wants to safeguard his niece Neha (Priyanka Chopra). Yet the charade becomes increasingly difficult to maintain when Neha moves in with the two men, who find themselves falling for their blissfully unaware roommate. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“The Dukes”
After a long and dedicated career serving up a veritable buffet of “hey, it’s that guy!” moments, veteran character actor Robert Davi shows there are more sides to him than just the hardass and the badass with this good humored directorial debut. Co-written with fellow character actor James Andronica, this crime comedy features Davi alongside Chazz Palminteri as two aging crooners looking to escape the indignity of working in their demanding aunt’s Italian restaurant. Desperate for one last crack at the big time, they hatch a harebrained scheme to rip off a dental clinic so they might finally be able to finance their lifelong dream of opening their own jazz lounge.
Opens in New York; opens in limited release on November 21st.

The humiliating collapse of one couple’s marriage in the days leading up to their ten-year anniversary is the focus of this feature debut from Irish TV director Declan Recks, with a script by Eugene O’Brien adapted from his own stage play. Eileen Walsh stars as Brenda Farrell, an increasingly ignored plain-Jane who diligently holds onto the last vestiges of hope for rekindling the romance as the big day approaches. Aidan Kelly co-stars as her caddish husband Billy, a man whose own anniversary plans seem to extend no further than the shameless pursuit of some teenage skirt on the dance floor of the local pub. Walsh’s Brenda may be losing her man, but Walsh herself received a best actress prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Fest.
Opens in limited release.

“House of the Sleeping Beauties”
Twelve years on from Hiroto Yokoyama’s “Nemureru Bijo,” German jack-of-all-trades Vadim Glowna offers his own take on Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata’s macabre tale of loneliness and erotic obsession. Working both sides of the camera, Glowna takes the lead as Edmond, a lonely widower whose friend (Maximilian Schell) tells him of a mysterious secret establishment offering a one-of-a-kind form of female companionship. As curiosity gives way to addiction, Edmond ponders his own mortality, laying in the company of beautiful women who seemingly never wake from their angelic slumber. In German with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“How About You”
Just as Halloween has its ghouls and goblins, the Thanksgiving season brings its own equally familiar cinematic archetype — the cantankerous old relative — that dutifully gets a brief moment of autumnal affection before being discarded like a past-due pumpkin. With that in mind, director Anthony Byrne makes Maeve Binchy’s short story into something approaching a “One Flew Over the Nursing Home” with Hayley Atwell’s spirited mischief-maker descending upon her sister’s failing resident’s home during the holiday season and sets about rehabilitating the home’s four “hardcore” curmudgeons (Vanessa Redgrave, Imelda Staunton, Brenda Fricker and Joss Ackland).
Opens in limited release.

“Quantum of Solace”
After the meaty reintroduction of James Bond in “Casino Royale,” producer Barbara Broccoli and first-time Bond director Marc Forster continue the process of refining cinema’s longest running franchise into an efficient, energized beast that can compete on the post-“Bourne” era. As the briefest of any of Bond’s outings, “Quantum of Solace” could be considered a feature-length footnote to “Royale,” with Daniel Craig once again buttoning up a tux to take on the shadowy organization, fronted by Mathieu Amalric’s scheming industrialist, that he holds responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd, his lady in waiting in “Royale.” Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini all make return appearances, though Bond’s classic “shaken not stirred” martinis apparently do not.
Opens wide.

“Slumdog Millionaire”
With its episodic structure, underclass hero and wry commentary on poverty and stuffy social stratification, Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s bestselling novel “Q & A,” has invited comparisons to the works of Charles Dickens, if only the great man alive to partake in the dizzying opiate that is 24/7 cable TV. Simon Beaufoy, who knows a little something about wish fulfillment, having penned “The Full Monty,” adapts the whimsical story of Jamal (Dev Patel), an Indian guttersnipe who rises to become a champion on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” before raising the suspicions of a local policeman (Irfan Khan). Flashing back and forth through time, we witness Jamal’s bid for victory of national TV, his heated interrogation, and the harsh lessons he learned on the street that could ultimately serve as his path to victory.
Opens in limited release.

“We Are Wizards”
Fans of the boy wizard who are depressed that, for the first time since Harry rocked our world almost a decade ago, neither a book nor a movie will be coming out this year, can instead look to Josh Koury’s affectionate, oddball documentary on Potter fever to satiate their cravings. In search of the essence of the Potter appeal that has helped earn a fortune for J.K. Rowling that rivals the GDP of a small country, Koury tours the underground Wizard Rock scene, surveying the galaxy of freaks and geeks that rock in the name of Dumbledore, and celebrates the many ways this remarkable phenomenon has brought people together in spirit and common bonds.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “B.O.H.I.C.A.,” Wabi Pictures, 2008 – credit: Siddhartha Abbazi]

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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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