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Comic-Con Day Two: Cage, “Skyline” and “Super” Bring a Touch of Indie Spirit

Comic-Con Day Two: Cage, “Skyline” and “Super” Bring a Touch of Indie Spirit (photo)

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As you’ve perhaps read elsewhere, to go to Comic-Con is to be in a perpetual state of disappointment.

The long lines are no exaggeration and regardless of where you are, you will likely be in the wrong place. On Friday afternoon, a panel for “The Goon” brought out David Fincher and Paul Giamatti, who are working on an animated film version of the character, in one of the convention center’s smallest rooms — it was one of the rare panels not to have a line. Later that evening, “Jackass 3D” footage played to wild applause at an offsite event on Friday night and if you weren’t invited, you likely were none the wiser. While I sadly was not in the know for either, I left an all-day stay in Hall H more satisfied than bitter.

Much of that had to do with the fact that contrary to some opinion, there are some very real and potentially very important developments going on at Comic-Con that have interesting ramifications for independent film. Since Friday was devoted to such productions, it wasn’t one of the most glittery days for the big hall, but surely one of the most interesting as it broke from the big studio presentations that now feel more like marketing presentations to potential shareholders than the slightly more wild free-for-all that Comic-Con was as recently as two or three years back.

The fun started in the morning with “Drive Angry 3D,” the carsploitation follow-up from “My Bloody Valentine 3D” director Patrick Lussier that appeared to prove some of Summit’s “Twilight” money is going to a good cause. It stars a stringy haired Nicolas Cage as a drifter whose daughter has been killed and his sole purpose in life has become tracking down and retrieving her baby from a Satan-worshipping Billy Burke.

07232010_DriveAngryHeard.jpgAlthough that might not sound exciting as a logline, “Drive Angry 3D” actually looks like a blast, in the vein of the antihero ’70s action films Lussier later said he was drawn to “Vanishing Point,” “Race With the Devil” and “High Plains Drifter,” mixed with Cage’s desire to show off “what moves I could do that could go into the fourth row of the audience.” (Yes, Cage looks particularly deranged with a sawed-off six-shooter reaching far beyond the screen, and Amber Heard jumping onto the hood of his car “and in your face” shouldn’t hurt its prospects.)

In a nice touch, Lussier said the film’s simple, evocative title came from “Groundhog Day,” since work on “Drive Angry” started around the holiday and Lussier couldn’t stop thinking about the Bill Murray comedy and the scene where Murray warns the groundhog, “Don’t drive angry!” But the panel’s most interesting insight came from one of the audience’s silliest questions. When a fan asked Cage whether he had an obsession with “beating the devil,” given films like this and “Ghost Rider,” Cage gave a rather spellbinding reply that partially explains his increasingly strange career choices, which I’ll run in full:

I am eclectic and I’m always looking to push the boundaries with film acting and at this point in my career, I think I stumbled on the concept that if I can play characters that have a bit of a supernatural element to them, it opens up my options.

It’s infinite the things I can do in terms of behavior and performance. It’s limitless, so there’s only very few ways you can do that where you can think of film acting as other artforms that are perhaps abstract like jazz music or abstract painting.

One of the ways to do it is play a character who’s really high on drugs like in “Bad Lieutenant” and another way is to play characters that are from somewhere else and that it’s all bets are off like “Drive Angry” and then another way is to just play somebody completely insane. And that’s next. [laughs]

With a straight face, Cage would explain how his character in “Drive Angry” is “driven, but it’s not so easy to just say he’s angry. There’s other levels going on.” Between that and co-star William Fichtner’s promise that he drives a hydrogen tanker, I was sold. The film is coming out February 11th next year.

07232010_Skyline.jpgArriving sooner is “Skyline,” a sci-fi invasion flick that most people probably had no idea existed before arriving at Comic-Con. It’s been an 11-month production from start to finish, which is unusual for any film, let alone a CG-heavy spectacle. Directors Colin and Greg Strause wouldn’t be anyone’s preconceived idea of independent filmmakers, as the brothers who made their directorial debut on “Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem” and run the preeminent Hollywood effects house Hydraulics, responsible for work on films like “Avatar” and “Iron Man 2.”

Yet when “Paranormal Activity” came out last year, the Strause brothers realized that since they already owned all their own equipment — “the lighting, the cameras, the FX shop” — Greg decided to offer up his house as a main location, spend $25,000 for a day riding around in a helicopter for establishing shots, and making a go of it with a small crew and no studio interference.

To say “Skyline” was a great surprise like “District 9” a year ago would be overhyping it, but the fascinating thing wasn’t necessarily the footage they showed, but the idea that more and more filmmakers from inside the Hollywood system, frustrated with the process, may break free of its constraints, given the right circumstances. (Interestingly enough, later in the day, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay not only announced their secret project “The Virginity Hit,” a “Losin’ It”-style teen comedy directed by “Last Exorcism” scribes Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko, but showed the finished film at the Gaslamp at night.)

As Colin Strause said, “We’ve worked on so many movies and we’ve seen where there’s been horrific inefficiencies the way films are done,” and referring to embracing new technology, he added, “The only way we’re going to make movies now is the new RED cameras that [David] Fincher is using on his movie. [“Skyline”] will be shot on this requires a fraction of the lighting. When you have a fraction of the lighting, that means you don’t have big crews, which means you can do things way more efficiently.”

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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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.

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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…

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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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