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“Predators” attack SXSW.

“Predators” attack SXSW. (photo)

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During Friday night’s SXSW presentation for “Predators,” Robert Rodriguez explained the initial idea of the trailer, which would’ve shown the title in blood red letters as they fell away one by one until all that was left was an “R.” The idea was nixed by the MPAA, but the trailer that was shown instead (and will be attached to prints of “Repo Men” next week) was equally intriguing for fans of the franchise who have been waiting for a true sequel to the original film.

Rodriguez has been waiting nearly as long and before showing the first footage that anyone has seen of the film, he explained how he had worked on a script for “Predators” back in 1996 while waiting out a delay on “Desperado.” “Sony said they weren’t making any movies for a year after ‘Last Action Hero,'” said Rodriguez, who ironically turned the failure of one Arnold Schwarzenegger film into an opportunity to make another when then Fox film exec Peter Rice requested his take on the story. Soon after, Rodriguez found himself at Schwarzenegger’s Santa Monica restaurant Schatzi, sitting at a table with future Governator as John Milius and “From Dusk Till Dawn” stars George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino looked on.

“Any cool idea I had, I’ll jam it into the script,” Rodriguez thought, including the return of Schwarzenegger as Dutch and possibly making Jean-Claude Van Damme the bad guy. Rodriguez quoted Schwarzenegger as saying of a sequel, “We have to go back to the jungle. Not like that bullshit ‘Predator 2.'” (When asked for his own thoughts on the Danny Glover-led sequel during the audience Q & A, Rodriguez politely said, “next question.”) Schwarzenegger ultimately passed on the project, which Rodriguez believed was because the actor had had a falling out with the producers, but over a decade later, a new regime at Fox dusted off the script and gave the greenlight to his idea.

That idea, as has already been reported on elsewhere, involves a group of eight trained vigilantes of various affiliations (Black Ops, Yakuza, etc.) who have been brought to a safari planet by several different species of predators (there are flying ones, wildebeest-esque ones, one the filmmakers called a “predhound” in addition to a return of the original one) — in director Nimród Antal’s words, they pluck the best human hunters from around the world to refine their abilities as killers. Or as Adrien Brody’s Royce sums up concisely in the trailer, “This planet is a game preserve… And we’re the game.” If that sounds like it could rival Arnie’s famed one-liner “if it bleeds, we can kill it,” then you’ll just have to hear Laurence Fishburne, who came off as the film’s primary quote machine as the group’s wise elder. During the only full-length scene that was shown, depicting how Fishburne joins the rest of the ragtag group in the jungle, he’s asked “Who are you?” by Alice Braga’s Isabelle, and responds, “The one that got away. The one you don’t fuck with.”

For lack of a better word, Rodriguez and his hand-picked director Antal (“Armored,” “Kontroll”) felt the same about the original 1987 film and not wanting to fuck with what made it work. Antal talked about how both he and Rodriguez were fond of the 1932 classic adventure “The Most Dangerous Game” and “just wanted to [the franchise] back to the hunt,” adding that “we wanted [the predators] to be iconic, but not comic bookish.” Rodriguez told Antal when he first came aboard the film that “the classic predator is the 8-track version and the new predators are the iPod version.” (They said Fishburne also gave a good description when he described the different tribes as wolves versus dogs.) And yet much of Friday’s presentation was about the original predator, since makeup maestro Greg Nicotero was in the house as well as the head of the original predator, which was set on the corner of the Alamo Ritz stage where people could walk up and take a closer look, and as Rodriguez insisted, whisper, “You’re one ugly motherfucker.” (Rodriguez also took the opportunity to confirm the long held rumor that James Cameron helped Stan Winston with the idea for the predator’s mandibles.)

Early in the presentation, Antal admitted that he was under the weather and ceded much of the Q & A to Rodriguez, but was adamant about his devotion to the series, saying, “I lived in Budapest [where] I had a barber with a ‘Predator’ tattoo. When you hear Yoda speak in Hungarian, you know it’s gone around the world. ‘Predator’ is the same.” Nicotero backed this up with an anecdote about how Antal pocketed a broken predator blade after shooting a battle sequence and when Nicotero said he would’ve gladly given him one, Antal replied, “But [this one] is still dirty.” Antal also shared how he much he admired Rodriguez and said he was “a little nervous” during their first meeting, but “I tried to put my geek emotions aside and tried to enhance what [Rodriguez] put forward” with his script. That’s when Antal pitched the idea of incorporating the killing techniques of the various tribes of predators like flushing and driving into a way of expressing their different personalities. It was a short time later he found himself traveling to Hawaii for the production on a fast track to a summer 2010 release. Rodriguez compared the experience to “Sin City,” saying “everybody sees a train rolling, they want to get on board. This is one of those magic rides.”

The film’s first one-sheet, as seen above, was given out to the crowd, as well as T-shirts spotted with the predators’ three red-dot targets (just as they appear on Adrien Brody’s armor in the trailer), though the footage was more than enough for most, accomplishing what Antal said he was striving for in terms of a blend of mystery and horror, revealing relatively little other than the dangerous world the humans must survive in and establishing a motley crew of seasoned actors like Walton Goggins and Danny Trejo to root for. As SXSW Film chief Janet Pierson said when she introduced Rodriguez and Antal, this was intended to “wet your whistle” — and so it did.

UPDATE: While we were inside, Fox premiered a behind-the-scenes video online that splices in some of the footage we saw this evening:

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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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