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Alexandre Aja Sinks His Teeth Into “Piranha 3D”

Alexandre Aja Sinks His Teeth Into “Piranha 3D” (photo)

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August has been a month of guilty delights laden with 3D dance movies, ’80s-style actionfests and this week’s “Piranha 3D,” which should prove to be the perfect capper to the summer, since no one will want to go to the beach after seeing it. Director Alexandre Aja may not be so easily convinced to do so, either, having endured 120 degree days on Arizona’s Lake Havasu and the strenuous demands of filming on and underwater. (One of his next films, “Cobra,” will be set in space.)

But rarely does this much pain result in such pleasure, a recreation of the cheap thrills that Aja experienced growing up in the ’80s with lighthearted genre fare where the laughs were as plentiful as the shocks. It may be surprising, but when the director of “High Tension” references a Joe Dante film for “Piranha 3D,” he brings up “Gremlins” as a touchstone, not the Corman-produced 1978 tangle with the fanged fish, which shares only half a title and a predilection for boobs and blood, and though a cast that includes Adam Scott and Paul Scheer alongside Elisabeth Shue and Ving Rhames ensures a considerable amount of irony, there is no denying Aja’s intentions are sincere. In the midst of campaigning for eventual Oscar gold, Aja took the time to talk about growing up without spring break, convincing Richard Dreyfuss to rejuvenate his sea legs and how one goes about cleaning up 80,000 gallons of blood.

At Comic-Con, you said you had already received an R from the MPAA for the 2D version, but hadn’t yet submitted for the 3D. Did you have to make any changes?

No, there is no difference at the end. The MPAA was great and they gave us the R rating, even with the 3D version. I was scared that they might say 3D was more graphic because it’s more in your face and finally, no…I think they had a great time. I heard [from] people close to that screening that they were laughing and having fun as well.

08202010_EliRothPiranha3D.jpgYou’ve talked about not having spring break in France. What appealed to you as a setting for a horror film?

I’ve always had that attraction/repulsion for a lot of things in American culture and definitely spring break is one of those for me where on the one hand, you have the most crazy, excessive week you can imagine — I’m not against excess, the opposite. But I also feel for such a repressed society, such a conservative society to have the use for one week doing everything they want in the most [reckless] way and then just pretend that nothing happened for the rest of your life, it’s such a very bizarre way of living.

And I always have that questioning and fascination in a sense, because even if I put myself sometime on the side of the piranha and I have some fun to see them as a row stock of meat more than people — I’m talking about the spring breakers here — I kind of can’t help myself to think that oh, that’s fun. They really enjoy the party and for some people, they really have a good time. And it’s a mix between attraction and repulsion that interests me and that really brought me to that subject.

I thought it was a great storyline. I wanted to make a big fun movie, like an adventure ride and when I received that script with that very simple storyline like an earthquake released prehistoric piranha during spring break on a lake in Arizona, I thought it was just like the best set-up possible.

08202010_RichardDreyfussPiranha3D.jpgYou’ve got such an eclectic cast, many of whom play on their iconic status like Richard Dreyfuss or Christopher Lloyd. Was it difficult to convince anyone to come onboard?

I think Richard Dreyfuss was definitely very hard to convince because it was like going back to his character from “Jaws” and it was not easy for him to understand the joke and finally do it and I’m very happy he agreed because I cannot imagine the movie without him now.

It’s always very difficult when you get to that kind of genre to convince actors because they’re always very scared about getting in the movie and looking bad or bad directors. Elisabeth Shue had a very bad experience on “Hollow Man” and she didn’t want to go back in the genre and I spent time talking to her and explaining that it will be an adventure that won’t be easy, but we’ll have a lot of fun and that she’ll be very proud of at the end and that’s what happened.

When you do that kind of movie where you have to challenge of so many elements, like the desert, the heat, the water and everything, it creates very solid bonds and as you saw at Comic-Con, we love each other and it’s a big family. I think the script really helped and also I think my previous movie [showed] them I knew that I was doing something when I had a vision, I could defend that vision. So they trust me and I’m very thankful to them for giving me that chance because the movie without them would be just another monster movie with no soul. They are bringing the soul to “Piranha.”

08202010_rhames.jpgDoes the way you approach building the suspense or horror different knowing it’s in a less serious context than other films you’ve made?

I didn’t really try to make it scary. I was not focusing on the scary because the first draft I received was a comedy, was not an R movie and I tried to make it more darkly humorous. I tried to develop the characters, the situations and lots of suspense in my writing, but I was aiming for like a disaster movie more than a scary movie. I was more aiming [for] setting up a lot of characters from different backgrounds and seeing them reacting to the most awful thing that can happen to them and creating fear and tension wherever, but the most important [thing] was to allow space for the fun.

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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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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.


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.



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 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….


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.


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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