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“Prince of Persia” Rules Two Worlds

“Prince of Persia” Rules Two Worlds (photo)

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Movies and video games. Video games and movies. Over the last half-decade, the two have linked to each other in an awkward conceptual waltz, like something out of a junior high school mixer. As game developers and film studios twirl each other around, dreams about attaining cinema’s Aesthetic Legitimacy fill the head of the former. Aesthetic Legitimacy was granted to movies in some shadowy rite long ago and, ever since, no one ever questions whether celluloid creations are art anymore.

Often trumpeted as the future of storytelling, the video game medium pines away for and ofttimes thinks it deserves Aesthetic Legitimacy. Meanwhile, movie producers just want to rub up against video games’ Earning Potential. Feature films have found themselves beset by diminishing box-office returns and look longingly at the blockbuster numbers that games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and “Grand Theft Auto IV” have racked up.

Both mediums rely on visual tropes and camera work to entertain, so why shouldn’t they dance? Alas, nearly every time games and movies have tried to cut a rug, the result’s been embarrassed flailing that might be initially tantalizing but ultimately fails to turn anybody on.

Games have interactivity as their north pole, where movies operate on delivering spectacle, and there’s been much debate about why concepts that start in one medium have such rough fortunes in the other. For every excellent Chronicles of Riddick game that lets players roam those movies’ bleak sci-fi corridors, there’s been the “Doom” movie or any Uwe Boll endeavor. No formula for success really exists.

05282010_pop2.jpgSo it’s a rare thing that “Prince of Persia” arrives rather successfully on both the movie and game fronts. Disney’s unleashing “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” on multiplexes nationwide after a deafening wave of hype. At a recent screening, more than a few audience members were heard to remark how they’ve played one iteration or another of the swashbuckling action games. And, this comes after last week’s release of “Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands,” a new game clearly meant to capitalize on the film’s big-budget marketing.

The “Prince of Persia” phenomenon started with a 1989 Apple II game singlehandedly written and programmed by Jordan Mechner, then 24 years old. The ingenious game design and smooth, lifelike animation immediately captivated players. The game’s plot concerns a vizier who takes control of ancient Persia while its king is away at war and gives the realm’s princess an hour to marry him or lose her life. With an hourglass progressing in the background, the player controls a visiting prince from a faraway land who’d been locked up by the vizier and must brave deathtraps and swordsmen to rescue the princess.

05282010_pop4.jpgIn an era where the motivations of most games was simply to rack up a high score or get from one end of a room to another, the original “Prince of Persia” won accolades for even having a story. In 2003, Mechner and publisher Ubisoft rebooted the game as “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” The much more powerful technology of the PS2, Xbox and GameCube didn’t change the story-centric approach. The characters were more fleshed out, and the plot was tweaked to introduce mystical elements like the titular sands, which allowed players to rewind or freeze time. “Sands of Time” — which blossomed into a trilogy — combined an “Arabian Nights” influence with Errol Flynn acrobatics, great voicework and a narrative that unfolded itself cleverly.

The film version of “Sands of Time” doesn’t have any of the crippling self-loathing possessed by so many game-adapted movies. In adapting genre source material, it’s a honeyed trap to be slavishly faithful (see Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” as exhibit A). Instead, director Mike Newell takes a game that already had a strong voice and cleverly extrapolates its themes, world and central character.

05282010_pop5.jpgIn the games, the Prince has long been nameless, but the movie dubs him Dastan. He’s a street urchin adopted by the king, who sees the spark of greatness in the orphan. When Dastan — played by a beefed-up Jake Gyllenhaal — and his two brothers grow up, rumors of warmongering send them and an army to the land of Alamut to suss out the supposed weapons massing there.

During the film’s first big action sequence, Dastan acquires the dagger that will later let him turn back time. Betrayals lead to the King’s death, and Dastan gets blamed, whereafter he goes on the run with Tamina (Gemma Atherton), Alamut’s captured princess. As he tries to figure out who framed him, Dastan learns from Tamina that a massive elemental time machine lies beneath Alamut; his uncle Nizam — a vizier stand-in portrayed with restraint and relish by Ben Kingsley — wants control of the Sands of Time to rewrite history and make himself king. Kingsley shines as the movie’s big bad, playing the Iago-like Nizam as simmering and later spiky. The former Gandhi deserves mad props for picking up a sword and going for broke with the much younger Gyllenhaal, too.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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