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DID YOU READ

Did You Hear About “Avatar”?

Did You Hear About “Avatar”? (photo)

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This week we can immerse ourselves in tales of American sentiment, French fantasy, English history, Italian romance and alien invasion.

“Avatar”
After more than a decade on hiatus, James Cameron returns from his days as “King of the World” with a mind on conquering a few new ones in this sci-fi epic that the director maintains will alter the face of moviemaking forever. (Early reviews seem to agree.) A galaxy away from Cameron’s days as a miniature maker on Roger Corman’s “Battle Beyond the Stars,” “Avatar” blends performance capture technology with real world photography to create Pandora, where a troubled U.S. marine (Sam Worthington) is tasked with infiltrating the Na’vi, a tribe of primitive but proud aliens, via a genetically created body, though he finds his loyalties torn when he falls in love with one of their own (Zoe Saldana). The film’s reported $300 million price tag is surely the stuff of Hollywood accountant’s nightmares, especially since some have been quick to jump all over the oddly familiar premise as merely “Dances With Smurfs.” But hey, it’s James Cameron, so if he wants to film Julian Sands reading from a take-out menu inside a darkened cupboard, we’d still line up around the block to go and see it.
Opens wide and in 3D and IMAX.

“Crazy Heart”
Having scooped up a trio of nominations at the forthcoming Spirit Awards, writer/director Scott Cooper’s adaptation of Thomas Cobb’s novel finds Jeff Bridges stepping into the worn boots of Bad Blake, an over-the-hill country crooner subsisting on a steady diet of tips and regrets as he travels the Midwest bowling alley circuit for low-paying gigs. While in Santa Fe, he meets a curious feature writer (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who inspires him to face the humbling prospect of opening for his former protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) and getting his life back on track. The film’s country bonafides are affirmed by the producing presence of “O Brother Where Art Thou”‘s music supervisor T Bone Burnett and Robert Duvall, whose supporting role in “Crazy Heart” will remind many of his Oscar-winning performance at the center of the similarly themed “Tender Mercies.”
Opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 16th.

“Did You Hear About The Morgans?”
The holiday season is upon us, and that means peace on Earth and goodwill to all men — unless, of course, they’re insufferable yuppies, in which case they must be abused, tormented and ultimately shamed into repentance. For his first film since 2007’s “Music and Lyrics,” Hugh Grant reunites with writer/director Marc Lawrence for something of a reverse country-bumpkin riff on “The Out-of-Towners,” the 1970 Neil Simon comedy that Lawrence coincidentally remade once already in 1999. Also reuniting with Grant is his “Extreme Measures” co-star Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Grant’s better half in a loveless Manhattan couple that is relocated to Wyoming after witnessing a mob murder and find their disintegrating marriage reinvigorated by small-town charm and the disarmingly slow pace of life.
Opens wide.

“Nine”
Were someone sophisticated (read: nerdy) enough to devise a Fantasy Football-type game based on the movies, you’d be hard pressed to pick a stronger starting lineup than director Rob Marshall has cobbled together for this likely statuette magnet. For starters, Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella penned the adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical inspired by Federico Fellini’s beloved autobiographical opus “8 1/2,” with Daniel Day-Lewis taking on the part of filmmaker and mercurial lothario Guido Contini. Delivering a raucous serenade to the enchanting enigma of women in all their guises, Contini, in desperate need of a hit, sweats out a script while dodging irate producers and curious journalists as his mind and memory drifts between thoughts of his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penélope Cruz), his confidante (Judi Dench), his mother (Sophia Loren), his muse (Nicole Kidman), a reporter (Kate Hudson) and a whore from his old neighborhood (Fergie).
Opens in limited release; opens wide on December 25th.

“The Other Side of Paradise”
Husband-and-wife team of director Justin D. Hilliard and co-writer/star Arianne Martin offer up a semi-autobiographical interpretation of their courtship in the form of a meandering road trip that sees two longtime friends dance around their deeper feelings and are periodically distracted by American indie staples like unwanted familial obligation and kooky backwater folk. Martin stars as Rose Hewitt, a free-spirited photographer who invites her recently dumped BFF Alex (John Elliott) to join her on a drive to a gallery opening in Austin, stopping en route to pick up her recently paroled brother Jamie (Frank Mosley) and drop him off with their dad (Jodie Moore).
Opens in New York.

12122009_Ricky.jpg“Ricky”
It’s a brave director (or merely a French one) that will play parental anxiety over infant mortality for chuckles, but that’s exactly what festival darling François Ozon does with this perplexing mixture of working class worry and far out fantasy about a diapered protag who literally wants to fly the nest. Born out of a bizarre short story by English author Rose Tremain, this surrealist portrait of primal fear stars Alexandra Lamy as Katie, a factory worker who conceives a child with her co-worker (Sergi López) that wreaks havoc on the couple’s simple domestic life as Katie begins to notice something strange about her new baby and her older daughter becomes jealous. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York on December 16th and available on VOD.

“A Town Called Panic”
Originally a stop-motion series of whimsical tales about a trio of Plastiscine figurines in their remote prairie town, this Belgian animated feature could be best described as a less vulgar “Robot Chicken,” although Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier’s puppetoon in fact predates Seth Green’s Cartoon Network hit by several years. This bigscreen adventure centers on the Cowboy (voiced by Aubier) and Indian’s (Bruce Ellison) search for the perfect gift for their friend Horse (Patar) that lets loose a world of trouble for all three when an internet shopping mishap results in the unfortunate delivery of 50 million bricks that wind up crushing the gang’s house.
Opens in New York on December 16th; opens in Los Angeles on January 29th.

“The Young Victoria”
Reflective of the, shall we say, “selectively” multicultural nature of the European monarchies, this lush slice of squabbling aristocracy is produced by an American (Martin Scorsese no less), an Englishman (Graham King), and a former member of the British Royal Family (Sarah Ferguson), directed by a French-Canadian (Jean-Marc Vallée), and tells how Queen Victoria came to marry a Saxon Duke of German ancestry dispatched from Luxembourg at the behest of a scheming Belgian. (Phew!) As much a love story as a history lesson, the film follows Victoria (Emily Blunt) from her melancholic childhood prior to ascension to her many battles with her devious comptroller Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), her dangerous alliance with elitist Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), and her singular relationship with the future Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), whose letters back-and-forth from Buckingham were the 19th century equivalent of going steady.
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…

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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.

via GIPHY

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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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….

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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.

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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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