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Opening This Week: Brad Pitt ages backward, Dustin Hoffman loses his job

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12222008_bedtimestories.jpgBy Neil Pedley

After a December in which big name stars have been mostly MIA, this holiday week finds Dustin Hoffman getting fired, Brad Pitt getting old and Tom Cruise trying to explain why you really should spend Christmas Day with your family reliving one of the most bloody chapters in recent history. Merry Christmas everyone!

“Bedtime Stories”
A simple glance at the one-sheet for this anarchic family friendly crowd-pleaser from the Mouse House tells you everything you need to know. Searching for a new cash cow post-“Pirates,” the folks at Disney took one look at the numbers for “Night at the Museum” and decided they fancied a bit of that, so here comes Adam Sandler fending off aliens, cowboys and Romans when his world is transformed (literally) by the outlandish bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew to sleep with each night, only to discover the stories to come true the next morning. Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Jonathan Pryce and Courteney Cox round out the eclectic supporting cast.
Opens wide.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
As the credits roll on this gentle, life-affirming saga, it will be little surprise to anyone watching that the screenwriter behind David Fincher’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story is Eric Roth, the Oscar-winning scribe of “Forrest Gump”, whose sticky fingerprints are all over this like a melted box of chocolates. Instead of a handicap of the mind, Brad Pitt is forced to deal with a handicap of the body as Benjamin Button, a man who is born old and ages backwards, returning time and again to his home in New Orleans and his one true love, Daisy (Cate Blanchett).
Opens wide.

“Last Chance Harvey”
Given the pervasive air of economic doom and gloom that’s threatening to, quite frankly, ruin Christmas, it seems both inevitable and wholly appropriate that we come to this simple story about how much it sucks to lose your job, done Hollywood-style, of course. After teasing us with that unmistakable warble in “Kung Fu Panda” and “The Tale of Despereaux,” Dustin Hoffman puts in a shift as Harvey Shine, a fired jingle writer cooling his heels across the pond at his daughter’s wedding in London when his spirits are lifted by the charming Kate (Emma Thompson). The film marks the return of “Jump Tomorrow” writer/director Joel Hopkins and the reappearance of the amazingly now less famous Brolin, James.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles; expands on January 9th.

“Marley and Me”
In a world of digital pandas and hyperactive CG zebras, it seems as though the dog movie — that cinematic mainstay of so many wet Sunday afternoon marathons on TCM — is making a comeback. With “Wendy and Lucy” charming critics, this cheery adaptation of journalist John Grogan’s autobiographical tearjerker is set to become tissue fodder for the masses as the mischievous man’s best friend stars alongside Owen Wilson as John and his new bride Jenny (Jennifer Aniston), employing those big brown eyes to reflect the couple’s changing lives over the course of his own.
Opens wide.

“Revolutionary Road”
This screen adaptation of Richard Yates’ celebrated indictment of the American dream reunites the “Titanic” dream duo of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, this time under the direction of Winslet’s spouse Sam Mendes, as a desperately unhappy couple whose seemingly blissful suburban marriage masks a reservoir of resentment and quiet rage at their mutually unfulfilled lives. Critics are already flying the flag for Winslet, the perennial Oscar bridesmaid, claiming she’s a shoo-in for a statue at last, citing her primary competition this year as that chick from “The Reader.” Kathy Bates, who already has her Oscar, and the always excellent Michael Shannon co-star.
Opens wide.

“The Secret of the Grain”
Tunisian-born writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche becomes the latest in a long line of immigrant filmmakers to employ the medium to mourn the diminishing role of the patriarch in contemporary Western society. Habib Boufares stars as Slimane Beiji, a family man crippled by feelings by feelings of inadequacy when he loses his job at the shipyard. Determined to restore his sense of pride and dignity, Slimane sets out to open a restaurant on the strength of his ex-wife’s couscous recipe to serve as his legacy, though his plans are met with stiff opposition from the French bureaucracy and collective apathy from his grown children. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Spirit”
Frank Miller makes a pit stop on the road to “Sin City 2” to sharpen his skills with his solo directorial debut, a dry run that attempts to lure the comic book crowd drumming their collective fingers in anticipation of the upcoming “Watchmen.” Adapted from Will Eisner’s noirish 1940s serial, the film finds longtime supporting player Gabriel Macht transitions into leading man status as Denny Colt, a rookie cop who moonlights by night as masked crime fighter The Spirit, protecting Central City from the evil machinations of the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Jaime King and Sarah Paulson purse their lips in supporting roles.
Opens wide.

“Theater of War”
Having documented the underground artist Ray Johnson in his last film, “How to Draw a Bunny,” John Walter goes above ground to chronicle this behind-the-scenes peek at The Public Theater’s production of “Mother Courage and Her Children” and explores the modern parallels to the Bertolt Brecht classic. Employing the 2006 Central Park performance starring Meryl Streep and interpreted by Tony Kushner as a jumping-off point, Walter talks to the cast and crew, examining how Brecht’s life and views on Communism, the shadow of the Nazi rule, and his theories on emotional distance as a vital part of artistic interpretation have helped to influence a generation of artists.
Opens in New York.

Despite a dodgy PR saga almost as bloody as World War II, Tom Cruise returns just in time to get in on a year that’s been all about comebacks. Playing that rarest of cinematic commodities, a sympathetic Nazi, Cruise somewhat stacks the deck as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the German officer who masterminded an audacious plot to assassinate Hitler and bring down the Third Reich. Although the reunion of “The Usual Suspects” director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie sounds promising, when Cruise appears in TV spots explaining why you should go see his movie, it makes one wonder whether there’s a larger conspiracy to bring down Cruise’s studio, United Artists.
Opens wide.

“Waltz with Bashir”
A quest sparked by the recurring nightmares he suffered in the years following his military service, Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman’s animated docudrama takes the accepted mantra of “war is hell” and transforms it into an innovative psychological detective story that probes some uncomfortable truths about his country’s role in the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese war. Debilitated by recurring visions of snarling dogs but possessing no actual memory of the conflict in which he served, Folman tracks down his former comrades to hear their account but trades out talking heads in favor of a vivid digital depiction of the trauma of war as he pieces together his own fractured psyche.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

[Photo: “Bedtime Stories,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 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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