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Opening This Week: Soderbergh’s four-hour biopic, Eastwood’s other movie

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12082008_adamresurrected.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Things really shift into high gear this week when a bumper crop of award season heavy-hitters and indies stream into theaters, as well as a cadre of movie stars doing what they do best – whether that’s Keanu Reeves acting alien, Clint Eastwood brandishing his trademark scowl, or Benicio Del Toro doing his own brand of mumblecore while waging war against fascists.

“Adam Resurrected”
It’s been a long, strange directorial career for Paul Schrader, who followed his work as
the unsung hero of some of Martin Scorsese’s most celebrated masterpieces with successes like “American Gigolo” and oddities like “Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist.” Yet the always daring Schrader is taking on the Holocaust in his latest film, an adaptation of Yoram Kaniuk’s story about Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum), a former circus entertainer who grudgingly succumbs to the role of grim court jester to a concentration camp commandant in order to escape the gas chambers. 15 years later, the now-institutionalized Adam finds redemption in teaching an abused boy how to live his life again.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

Perhaps after being quietly informed that from 1990 onwards any film approaching this length was obliged to morph into a Kevin Costner vanity project, director Steven Soderbergh has elected to divide his butt-numbing biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara into two separate chapters. In “Part One: The Argentine,” Soderbergh charts Guevara’s fledgling beginnings as a doctor in Cuba, fighting alongside Fidel Castro, and his rise through within the guerrilla movement to the rank of commander and the position of hero, while “Part Two: Guerrilla” focuses on Che’s unsuccessful campaign to sow revolutionary seeds in Bolivia and how the man who ultimately failed to achieve his ideals became a legend in the eyes of a generation. For one week in New York and Los Angeles, one can catch all 257 minutes of Benicio del Toro as the world’s most famous revolutionary in a “roadshow” presentation of the epic where the audience is advised to bring both a pillow and a hearty packed lunch.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles for one week; re-opens in New York and Los Angeles in separate parts on January 9th.

“Dark Streets”
Taking her cues from 1930s dance hall classics, director Rachel Samuels adaptation of Glenn Stewart’s stage play plunges the viewer into a neo-noir netherworld of gangsters and molls, feather boas and pencil mustaches, all jiving along to a lively blues soundtrack from composer George Acogny. Gabriel Mann stars as the requisite clueless schmuck Chaz, a nightclub owner deep in the hole to gangsters. When his wealthy industrialist father turns up dead, Chaz is left singing the blues and only sultry femme fatale Madelaine (Izabella Miko) can help. Elias Koteas and Bijou Phillips put on their dancing shoes to help move things along.
Opens in limited release.

“The Day The Earth Stood Still”
Robert Wise’s seminal, cautionary tale of a benevolent alien sent to warn us of impending doom becomes the latest classic to receive a big-budget digital makeover — this time at the hands of “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” director Scott Derrickson. Ironically, Keanu Reeves’ perceived inability to act beyond that trademark aloof detachment will likely come across as inspired casting for the role of austere interstellar messenger Klaatu. Jennifer Connelly co-stars as Dr. Helen Benson, a government scientist assigned to study him. With malevolent robot Gort coming over in the trailer like Megatron’s less pleasant cousin, it is unclear how Reeves will implement the immortal line “Klaatu barada nikto” (or if indeed he can even spell it).
Opens wide and in IMAX.

Taking the indie filmmaking mantra of D.I.Y. to a quite ridiculous extreme, Atlanta-based tech industry entrepreneur Marc Adler has poured seven years and $40 million of his fortune into this debut feature from his fledgling animation house, Fathom Studios. With Freddie Prinze Jr. voicing the title role, “Delgo” tells of an alien world at war in which the rebellious young prince Delgo joins forces with Kyla (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the daughter of his father’s enemy to end the hostilities and bring about peace. An impressive voice cast brimming with latter day icons and present day C-listers, including the late Anne Bancroft, Chris Kattan, Val Kilmer, Malcolm McDowell, Louis Gossett Jr, Burt Reynolds and Eric Idle, lend their voices to supporting roles.
Opens wide.

This screen adaptation of John Patrick Shanley’s Tony Award-winning play marks the first foray behind the camera for the accomplished scribe since the 1990 oddball Tom Hanks comedy “Joe Versus The Volcano,” but this one’s a little more serious. Set against the backdrop of the culturally turbulent 1960s, a fiercely traditionalist Sister Aloysius (statue magnet Meryl Streep) feuds with progressive priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) over what she perceives to be an inappropriate relationship with an alter boy. Amy Adams co-stars as the timid Sister James, brave enough to suspect the priest of wrongdoing, but too terrified to believe him capable.
Opens in limited release; expands December 19th.

“Gran Torino”
The death of the legendary Paul Newman highlighted the sad fact that bonafide screen icons in this country are disappearing faster than the average 401(k) plan. So the fact that Clint Eastwood chose to follow up the beautiful if vacuous “Changeling” with the story of a man so cantankerous, so stoic in his masculinity, that Clint felt he had no option but to step back in front of the camera himself is cause for great merriment. In what’s being billed (tongue in cheek) by some as “Dirty Harry for pensioners,” the old master takes the role of a grizzled Korean War vet who battles his prejudices (and then some) when his immigrant neighbors become the target of a local gang of vicious thugs.
Opens in limited release; opens wide on January 9th.

“Nothing Like The Holidays”
Mexican writer/director Alfredo De Villa follows last year’s impressive “Adrift in Manhattan” with a story confirming that the awkward domestic atmosphere of a family visit during the yuletide season is just as applicable to Hispanics as it is to Vince Vaughn and his buddies. Teaming up with “Soul Food” producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr., De Villa unwraps a traditional Christmas tale full of repressed guilt and traumatic revelation as a Puerto Rican clan gathers together in Chicago for the annual festivities. Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña, Freddy Rodríguez, John Leguizamo and Vanessa Ferlito fill out the Rodriguez family, though don’t ask us how a score from techno star Paul Oakenfold fits into the mix.
Opens wide.

“Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi”
The absolutely inexhaustible Bollywood dream factory Yash Raj Films brings another trademark surrealist musical affair to American shores, making this the studio’s sixth pilgrimage this year. Written and directed by Aditya Chopra, the son of the studio’s founder, the film tells the tale of a spirited dancer Taani (Anushka Sharma) who longs to take part in the reality television sensation “Dancing Jodi,” though she needs a partner to compete. Enter Shahrukh Kahn as her nerdy husband Surinder who, determined to please his wife, transforms himself from a geeky anorak into a flamboyant dance floor showman. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“The Reader”
Given that Brit helmer Stephen Daldry is part of an ultra-exclusive club of seven directors (including Orson Welles and Mike Nichols) to earn an Oscar nomination for best director for his first two films (“Billy Elliot” and “The Hours”), it’s surprising he let six years lapse before having another crack at it. Still, if you’re looking to get the Academy’s attention, you can’t go wrong dangling Kate Winslet in front of them at the center of a holocaust drama. From Bernhard Schlink’s Oprah-approved page-turner, Winslet stars as Hanna, a woman who begins a brief but passionate affair with a much younger man, only to be reunited with him a decade later on opposite sides of a war crimes trial. David Kross and Ralph Fiennes play the older and younger Michael, the one-time object of Hanna’s affections.
Opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; expands on December 25th.

“Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes)”
The feature debut of Oscar nominated shorts director Nacho Vigalondo, this suspenseful thriller wowed audiences at Fantastic Fest in 2007, where it took home the top prize for best feature. While it would be impossible to describe properly without ruining it, “Timecrimes” centers on a man (Karra Elejalde) who accidentally travels back in time one hour and sets off a chain reaction of disasters. Since we don’t want to spoil it, can we rely on the trust we have built to this point and just say it’s really good? Tom Cruise and Steven Zaillian think so, too. In Spanish with subtitles.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Wendy and Lucy”
Having picked up the John Cassavetes prize at the Spirit Awards in 2006 for her second feature “Old Joy,” Kelly Reichardt has impressed voters again, earning both a best picture nomination and a best actress nomination for Michelle Williams for Reichardt’s latest rumination played out in the expansive void of the Oregon skyline. (Not to mention the critics at Cannes.) With writing partner Jonathan Raymond, Reichardt has crafted another no-frills drama that sees a down-on-her-luck Wendy (Williams) frantically searching for her beloved lost dog and a little human kindness.
Opens in limited release.

“What Doesn’t Kill You”
Boston-bred character actors Brian Goodman, Paul T. Murray and Donnie Wahlberg pool their collective talents and ideas, with Goodman clutching the megaphone for this slice of street life from Beantown. Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke add their marquee value to the film as the not-so-subtly named Brian and Paulie, life-long friends and cohorts in crime who begin to drift apart when Brian tries his hand at being a family man and Paulie sees the opportunity for one last score. Although casting Ruffalo and Hawke is certainly an impressive coup for this untested team, asking the audience to buy the slight and scrawny pair as a couple of Southie thugs might be a slightly harder sell. Indie stalwart Amanda Peet co-stars.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Where God Left His Shoes”
After a 10-year hiatus from the big screen, writer/director Salvatore Stabile returns with this unsentimental Gotham-set drama about a washed up prizefighter trying to save his family from the cold indifference of the city streets. The infinitely watchable John Leguizamo — a title that will be put to the test this week with the double bill of this and “Nothing Like the Holidays” — plays the fallen boxer who spends Christmas Eve wandering New York in search of employment to meet the qualification for low-income housing so that his wife and their two young children don’t find themselves preparing to exchange gifts in a homeless shelter
Opens in New York.

“While She Was Out”
Those of us grateful that the whole “torture porn” fad had seemingly gone away will be disappointed to know that based on the likes of the recent “Eden Lake” and this debut from Susan Montford, it’s merely undergone a subtle evolution. However, it does take place on Christmas Eve, so what better time than the present to see Kim Basinger run through the woods while being pursued by a sadistic gang of malevolent minors, led by Lukas Haas? Guillermo Del Toro serves as the executive producer on the thriller.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

[Photo: “Adam Resurrected,” Bleiberg Entertainment, 2008]

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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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