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DID YOU READ

“Kick-Ass”: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a superhero.

“Kick-Ass”: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a superhero.  (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” has one complicated relationship with fanboy culture — specifically the comic book superhero-loving variety. On one hand, it’s a kinetic, funny, violent and righteously entertaining flick that’s bound to please anyone with a soft spot for stories in which someone costumes up and fights crime, which, these days, is almost everybody. On the other, it’s a critique of that very fascination, suggesting that if you really want your life to be less ordinary, you should consider actually getting a life — escaping the escapism, bounding off the couch and, if you’re lucky, maybe even finding a way to get laid. Ready or not, here comes the meta-fanboy movie the world deserves, one that manages to have its cake and eat it too.

New York high schooler Dave Lizewski is unexceptional in every way except that he’s played by Aaron Johnson (also someday to be seen playing young John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy”), who’s so clearly going to be a big movie star that the idea of him being ignored by his female classmates requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than the events that unfold. Neither popular nor terminal nerds, Dave and his two best friends have been coasting through their teenage years, entertaining themselves with the aforementioned comic books, surfing the web and jerking off to thoughts of their English teacher’s considerable endowments.

03122010_kickass3.jpgIt’s frustration with that passivity and the fact that the majority of those around him seem to be living life as a spectator sport — like the man who sees the trio getting mugged in a parking lot from his apartment window and just shuts his curtains — that prompts Dave to make himself a costume out of a green scuba suit, yellow gloves and hiking boots (it never looks anything but ridiculous) and come up with an alter-ego: Kick-Ass. “Like every serial killer already knew, eventually fantasizing just doesn’t do it anymore” he observes in the running voice-over, and soon he’s trying to stop the two thugs who stole his wallet earlier from jacking a car. And, like anyone whose practical fighting experience is limited to air punches in front of a mirror, he’s woefully underprepared, and almost gets killed.

To use the treasured film critic term, scopophilia is what’s weighing on “Kick-Ass”‘s universe. Everyone is so steeped in media intake, from movies to television to graphic novels, that it’s warping their behavior — even the bad guys, a crime syndicate presided over by Mark Strong’s sadistic Frank D’Amico, seem to be styling themselves after people they’ve seen on screen. “I’ve always wanted to say this,” one smirks as he picks up some especially heavy weaponry. “Say hello to my little friend!” When Kick-Ass tries the superhero stunt again, attempting to save a man from a gang beating, he becomes an internet celebrity because the guy he asked to call 911 gathers a crowd who record the fight on their cell phones instead. And when he meets some “real” superheroes, a father and daughter pair who go by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, doing enjoyably weird as opposed to “er, what’s going on here?” weird) and Hit Girl (13-year-old Chloe Moretz), they’re even deeper into comic book land than he is, with Cage’s character, otherwise known as Damon Macready, documenting their tale of tragedy and vengeance out panel by unhinged panel.

03122010_kickass2.jpgThe relationship between Macready and his child, real name Mindy, is a psychedelic swirl of aw-shucks, “Leave It To Beaver”-style nurturing and splatter-filled annihilation. (The one between Frank and his neglected son, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, is its own mix of regulation daddy issues — “Eat your oatmeal!” — and operatic villainy.) Mindy, a foul-mouthed four-and-a-half-foot dynamo who wears a mask and a purple wig when slicing through thugs as Hit Girl, of course walks away with the movie. Any urgings to stop gawping and start doing fall by the wayside in the face of a meticulously choreographed sequence in which a transgressively little girl destroys a dozen mobsters, reloading, slow-mo, in mid-air — why else do we while away beautiful summer afternoons in dark theaters if not to gape at ludicrous, glorious schlock spectacle like that? And though it muddies its message, “Kick-Ass” has to tip its hat to its own inner fanboy in those moments, or when the bloodied but triumphant Dave tells the kid with a camera the name he’s invented for himself, or in a euphoric finale enabled by a bit of earlier online shopping. We could all do with a little more engagement. That doesn’t mean we can’t still acknowledge when something’s totally sweet.

“Kick-Ass” will be released by Lionsgate on April 16th.

[Photos: “Kick-Ass,” Lionsgate, 2010]

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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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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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