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Space, Balls

Space, Balls (photo)

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You walk out of “Star Trek” feeling giddy, airborne and cleansed, if only for a few minutes, of all mundane worries. This is what summer Hollywood movies are expected to do — or at least what’s been expected of them since 1975, when “Jaws”‘s cavalcade of jolly jolts altered the movies’ economic landscape, for better and worse. “Giddy” and “airborne” aren’t what you recall feeling after, say, last year’s “The Dark Knight” or last week’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” But producer/director J.J. Abrams’ cheeky reboot — or, for those who dare to think long-term, resuscitation — of the 43-year-old science fiction franchise reminds audiences why they fell in love with pop mythology in the first place, while sidestepping the overcooked solemnity that not even the earlier “Star Trek” movies could avoid.

That last kicker aside, I nonetheless pledge abiding allegiance to what’s now officially marketed as “Star Trek: The Original Series,” whose harrowing storylines of intergalactic peace-keeping fed my waking post-adolescent fantasies and sneaked into my nightly dreams as well. But whatever enthusiasm I have toward this newest spin on TOS should be viewed within the following context: I have attended precisely no “Trek” fan conventions; not even on a newspaper’s dime. I do not and have never owned a Klingon-English dictionary. Nor have I worn or been remotely inclined to wear any manner of Starfleet uniform to work — most especially those burgundy, glorified-hotel-doormen get-ups cobbled together for the later “original series” movie spinoffs. Such disclaimers are meant to separate my perspective from those lifelong devotees to all things “Trek,” whose occasionally skewed outlook on life is nonetheless so infused with belief in human possibility that I refuse to diminish their faith with the hoary label of “Trekkies.”

The more fanatical elements of this tribe viewed with advance alarm the prospect of their grail being taken up, if not totally re-invented, by Abrams, who’s got his own phantasmagorical myths simmering as producer of TV’s “Lost” and “Fringe,” as well as last spring’s icky urban nightmare “Cloverfield.” Their qualms will not likely be mollified by the liberties Abrams and his co-writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have taken with Trek’s canonical back-story. (One hint: Watch the skies, Planet Vulcan!) But giving the extremist fans something to complain about seems to be part of Abrams’ merry scheme to damn the (photon) torpedoes and ram home his re-imagined version of “Trek” with the velocity of a professional’s tennis serve.

05062009_startrek2.jpgAnd the volleys come at you, high and hard, from the birth of future Enterprise captain James Tiberius Kirk while his newly-widowed mom barely escapes a dying starship to the growth of young Kirk (Chris Pine) into a thrill-seeking delinquent challenged by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to fulfill his martyred father’s legacy by enlisting in Starfleet Academy. Meanwhile, young Spock (Zachary Quinto) makes his own rebellious way into Starfleet as a gesture of defiance to his planet’s elders, who’d rather he stayed home and taught science. The crossing of their paths is depicted here as a rocky one, with Spock 2.0 openly, even fiercely disdainful towards the brash Kirk 2.0.

Along the way, other familiar personages forming the core of TOS slide into view, including prodigal linguist Uhura (Zoe Saldana), who also hates Kirk on sight (but, unaccountably, knows her way into Spock’s heretofore impenetrable heart). Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) is even more the callow savant with a thicker accent, while Karl Urban is allowed to show only glimmers of “Bones” McCoy’s spiky humanism and John Cho from the “Harold and Kumar” series literally flips, flops and flies as the new Sulu. The most promising spin on the old personnel comes from Simon Pegg, whose master engineer Scotty is more flamboyantly Puckish than the original.

All these characters’ fates are orchestrated, in typical Trek fashion, by a rip in time’s fabric through which Nero (Eric Bana), an embittered Romulan miner, flies from the future to ruin the past — especially for the man who became Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy), whom he blames for destroying his planet. Nero’s vendetta, as with much else in Abrams’ film, seems rented wholesale from 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” but you barely have time to notice the resemblances, thanks to Abrams’ pedal-to-the-metal narrative drive.

Nimoy seems as happy to be on screen as we are to see him blessing this revised edition. But whether you’re a committed fan or not, what you really want to know is how the rebooted Kirk and Spock perform. Pine’s Kirk, a source of some pre-release skepticism, proves to be a welcome surprise, evoking both the peacock swagger and glowering gravitas of William Shatner’s template version. Quinto’s Spock, on the other hand, may take some getting used to. Lots of things come to mind when thinking of the Enterprise’s first First Officer, but petulance and arrogance aren’t the most immediate. Still, as with every other qualm and quirk in this “Star Trek,” things are moving too fast for you to dwell overmuch on them. And as noted earlier, the sheer momentum throws in its wake an invigorating breeze.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

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