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On the Road With Mariah, Maya Rudolph and Zach Galifianakis

On the Road With Mariah, Maya Rudolph and Zach Galifianakis  (photo)

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If you’re a fan of road movies, then you better call in sick with a case of swine flu, as this weeks sees a lot of them arriving in theaters. For everyone else, there are docs on art and music, some European sunshine and a little smattering of domestic darkness.

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“24 City”
Festival favorite Jia Zhang-ke (“Still Life”) delivers a portrait of a culture in flux and a meditation on the ethereal nature of history with yet another of his patented hybrids of documentary aesthetic and name actors. Once a virtually self-contained community with its own accommodations and amenities, the massive 50-year-old munitions factory in Chengdu is undergoing demolition to make way for high-rise apartments. Through the testimony of former inhabitants both real and fictional, Jia offers a take on the growing pains of a society transitioning to a market system and the haves and have-nots trying to make their way within it. In Chinese with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Art of Being Straight”
On the back of another blow for those fighting to overturn California’s Proposition 8, this feature debut for actor/writer/director Jesse Rosen is an observational account of a young guy struggling with issues of sexuality against the backdrop of a gay community still struggling for acceptance. Taking an extended break from his girlfriend, Jon (Rosen) travels across the country to Los Angeles to move in with his college buddy Andy (Jared Grey). He’s surprised to discover that his ex (Rachel Castillo) is now in a lesbian relationship, prompting much life reevaluation as the trio work bottom-rung jobs, shoot the shit and try to find their way.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Autumn Ball”
Following his not quite feature-length 2006 debut “Empty,” Estonian director Veiko Õunpuu confirms his status as a miserablist’s best friend, delivering a relentlessly bleak quartet of tales anchored around a looming, Soviet-era tower block in the wake of the Communist collapse. Õunpuu’s twisting narrative hacks off any hint of happiness at the knees, as the lives of a self-medicating writer, an apathetic lothario, a self-deluded architect and a domestically dissatisfied single mother briefly intermingle in the face of an uncertain future. In Estonian with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Away We Go”
Lacking the star power of last year’s re-teaming of Kate and Leo for the Oscar picture that never was (“Revolutionary Road”), this new offering from director Sam Mendes arrives largely unheralded, despite having quite a pedigree of its own. Scripted by real-life husband/wife team Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, this colorful road comedy stars John Krasinski of “The Office” and “SNL” alum Maya Rudolph as Burt and Verona, an expectant couple who embark on a cross-country tour of their old stomping grounds as they search for a suitable place to put down roots. Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara provide support (or not) as Burt’s Belgium-bound parents.
Opens in limited release.

“The Country Teacher”
His first outing since 2005’s well-received “Something Like Happiness,” Czech helmer Bohdan Sláma’s latest drama is the bittersweet odyssey of a good-natured closet case struggling to reconcile his role as a kindergarten natural science teacher with his personal status as a self-hating homosexual. Fleeing yet another loveless relationship, Petr (Pavel Liska) abandons the city for a rural posting where a local farm becomes the site of an uncomfortable three-way love triangle between himself, the clearly interested Marie (Zuzana Bydzovská) and her hunky but oblivious 14-year-old son (Ladislav Sedivý). In Czech with subtitles.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Downloading Nancy”
If the anti-“Antichrist” brouhaha at Cannes proved anything, it’s that when it comes to provocative psychosexual drama and arty sadomasochism, the Europeans are simply the last word. Here making his big screen debut, Swedish music vid helmer Johan Renck does his part with the ice-cold tale of a disaffected Maryland housewife (Maria Bello) who decides to disappear, for reasons she can’t articulate, so that she can be mistreated, degraded and ultimately killed by an online suitor (Jason Patric) of her choosing. Rufus Sewell co-stars as the frantic husband trying to track her down.
Opens in limited release.

“The Hangover”
With everything from demonic curses to the post-apocalyptic battle for our very survival watering itself down in pursuit of the teenage dollar, it’s nice to see a film rated R for “Right around the corner and down the hall for ‘Dance Flick,’ you text-happy little buggers.” Of course, it won’t be surprising if some teens sneak into “Old School” director Todd Phillips’ return to middle-aged maledom for this comedy about a quartet of eager Peter Pans who head out to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. The morning after finds them hazily head-scratching over shotgun weddings, escaped circus animals and an air-drumming Mike Tyson. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha star.
Opens wide.

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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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