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High Kicks From Both a Chorus Line and Jason Statham

High Kicks From Both a Chorus Line and Jason Statham (photo)

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This week brings a bumper crop of indie and arthouse releases with something to suit all tastes, even if their added box office is outdone by “Crank: High Voltage.”

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“American Violet”
In our politically expedient, hyper-ADD times, director Tim Disney reminds us African-Americans had it tough in the post-civil rights era long before Katrina with this Texas-set drama based on true story. As much a legal thriller as anything else, “American Violet” stars Alfre Woodward as the steely mother of Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie), a woman wrongly scooped up from the projects amidst a mass drug raid and harassed into a plea bargain. With the help of an ACLU attorney (Tim Blake Nelson) and an ex-cop (Will Patton), she must go up against a callous district attorney (Michael O’Keefe), who’s playing a numbers game in pursuit of federal money, seemingly indifferent to the human cost of his action.
Opens in limited release.

“Ante Up”
Part wish fulfillment fantasy and part meditation on the new millennium’s male insecurities, Jonathan Salemi’s no-budget debut illustrates that concept is still king with a story as simple as it is preposterous. While watching his friends bag the babes as he whiles away the evenings with his chaste girlfriend Julie (Angela de Malignon), Frank (Scott Harris) compensates by regaling his circle with a series of tall tales. Having cried wolf one time too many, he finds his friends don’t believe him when he claims to have discovered a magical light switch in his apartment — one that’ll turn anyone in the room into his willing love slave.
Opens in limited release.

“The Butterfly Tattoo”
Rolled out on the back of the shiny digital fireworks show that was “The Golden Compass,” this big screen adaptation of “The White Mercedes,” Philip Pullman’s first book for young adults, may not have that same Blu-ray demo disc wow factor to it, but keeps to similar dark revenge themesm minus the fantasy elements. Brit helmer Phil Hawkins oversees the perplexing romance of sweet-natured Chris (Duncan Stuart) and cute Manchester cupcake Jenny (Jessica Blake), who hook up at an Oxford ball unaware that each has a dark past that’s about to come back to haunt them.
Opens in limited release.

“Chasing The Green”
After holding almost every job imaginable on a film set, Russ Emanuel gets his second session in the director’s chair for this cautionary rags-to-riches-to-rags tale about two tech industry entrepreneurs in the early ’90s who are singled out by bigger rivals that use their political clout to put the brakes on their flourishing company. Jeremy London leads a cast of veteran small screen players, including Ryan Hurst, Heather McComb and William Devane.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Crank: High Voltage”
You’ve really got to hand it to Jason Statham; he’s nothing if not a good sport. It’s hard to imagine anyone, even Sly circa “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot,” getting the script for a film with the eventual tagline “He was dead…but he got better” and not speed-dialing their agent in a desperate search for contractual wiggle room. Under the watchful eye of returning co-writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, Statham reprises his role of scowling, ultra-violent hit man Chev Chelios for another relentlessly silly stunt reel that sees Chev in hot pursuit of the baddie who stole his heart and replaced it with an artificial one that requires constant jolts of electricity to continue functioning.
Opens wide.

“Desert Dream”
On the desolate Mongolian steppes, Chinese helmer Zhang Lu finds a strange poetry to the breathtakingly slow pace of life, transcending subject and geography to showcase the universal language of compassion. Planting trees to hold off the encroaching sands from his farm, Hungai (Bat-ulzii) is abandoned by his wife, who leaves with their hearing-impaired daughter in search of a doctor. A North Korean political refugee arrives with her son, seeking sanctuary, and slowly bonds with Hungai and his rural way of life despite the constant and unassailable language barrier that exists between them. In Korean and Mongolian with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Every Little Step”
There’s a deliciously Ouroboros irony to this documentary that follows the hopes and dreams of wide-eyed hopefuls desperate to be plucked from background obscurity by landing a role in the Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line” — the classic tale of wide-eyed hopefuls desperate to be plucked from background obscurity by… In 2006, James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo were on hand to capture the casting of the revival of the late Michael Bennett’s famed musical, which whittled down nearly 3000 would-be stars to two dozen slots in the spotlight. The grueling process is intercut with archival footage of the origins of this celebrated story.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“The Golden Boys”
Writer/director Daniel Adams returns with his first film in 12 years, an adaptation of Joseph Lincoln’s 1915 page-turner “Cap’n Eri” that demonstrates that while the body may whither, the heart remains ageless. Bruce Dern, Rip Torn and David Carradine star as a trio of salty seadogs-turned-cantankerous crusty barnacles on Cape Cod who deem the only way to keep their house in order is for one of their number to get married. A quick ad in the paper leads to the arrival of a mail order bride (Mariel Hemingway) whose presence upsets their plans when the wrong captain falls in love.
Opens in limited release.

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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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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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