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Running Amunk for the Holidays

Running Amunk for the Holidays (photo)

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Happy holidays, everyone! Those willing and able to drag themselves away from the huge pile of swag under the tree can enjoy the late Heath Ledger’s final performance, a Jude Law double bill and a drolly comic Romanian police procedural underneath among other holiday presents that await at the multiplex.

“Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel”
With the tagline “Munk Yourself” sounding more like a threat than a come-on, the high-pitched trio of singing rodents return just in time for exhausted moms to plunk the rugrats down at the multiplex after the presents are unwrapped while they snore quietly in the back row. Betty Thomas, who has some kid-themed kid-themed hijinks with on her CV, steps in for the first film’s helmer Tim Hill and trades out her experience with real critters on “Dr. Dolittle” for these much less messy (not to mention non-union) digital substitutes. Jason Lee reprises his role as Dave, the caretaker of the furry three (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney) as Alvin and gang lose their musical supremacy and their hearts to the all-girl outfit, The Chipettes (voiced by Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate)
Opens wide on December 23rd.

“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
A director who seems only happy when it rains, Terry Gilliam has matched his wits against studios (as on “Brazil”) and tornadoes on the set of his first crack at “Don Quixote” (as seen in “Lost in La Mancha”). But surely nothing could have prepared him for the tragic death of his lead Heath Ledger in the midst of shooting his latest film, which has become a memorial of sorts for the late star. Ever the pragmatist, Gilliam called on Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law to play the refracted versions of Ledger’s character Tony, a rascally amnesiac who, after being rescued from a botched execution, becomes the wild card in a final round of betting between the 1000-year old Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and a rasping Devil (Tom Waits) over the perfectly innocent soul of the doctor’s daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole).
Opens in New York and Los Angeles before expanding wide on January 8th.

“It’s Complicated”
After “Something’s Gotta Give” and “The Holiday,” Nancy Meyers returns to give the flagging rom-com genre a much needed shot of life and fly the flag for the under-sexed, underrepresented 50-plus crowd with a saucy story of second chances that goes to show you simply can’t put a clock on passion. Oscar magnet Meryl Streep stars alongside Emmy hog Alec Baldwin as Jane and Jake, a once-married couple who give each other a second look when Jake’s marriage to a much younger woman starts to fall apart. The venerable Steve Martin (being generous here Steve, don’t let us down) co-stars as the other other man, so to speak, in what is likely to be yet another dagger in the heart of Meyers’ real-life ex, director Charles Shyer.
Opens wide.

12212009_PoliceAdjective1.jpg“Police, Adjective”
Romanian writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu is fast becoming something of a Cannes darling, with this his sophomore feature matching the feat of his melancholic ensemble debut “12:08 East of Bucharest” in scooping a pair of prizes (FIPRESCI, Un Certain Regard) at the prestigious festival. This comically tinged police procedural also picked up the Transylvania Trophy in its native country, which we only mention here because it has a cool sounding name. Characterized by periods of silent observation punctuated by random arguments over semantics, Porumboiu’s morality play details the drudgery of police work as a young cop (Dragos Bucur) reluctantly stakes out a petty pot dealer, secretly hoping that the boy will lead him to a bigger fish. In Romanian with subtitles.
Opens in limited release on December 23rd.

“Sherlock Holmes”
Given his career-long fascination with swaggering, cockney wide-boys, it’s really not all that surprising that director Guy Ritchie gravitated to the character of Sherlock Holmes — arguably London’s first “geezer” problem solver — as merely a natural extension of his existing body of work. Cherry-picking some of the more cinematic (and less well known) character traits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s renowned detective, Ritchie gives us a swashbuckling Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) who is as much a lover and a brawler as he is a master of deduction. Ably accompanied by his long-suffering stalwart, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), Holmes races around Victorian-era London in pursuit of the wily Lord Blackwood (the ever-more-impressive Mark Strong), a scheming occultist who fakes his own death to avoid Scotland Yard’s unwanted attention and take control of Parliament.
Opens wide.

[Additional photo: Dragos Bucur in “Police, Adjective,” IFC Films, 2009]

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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.

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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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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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