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Disc Covering: “Wrong Side of Town,” A Match Made in DTV Heaven

Disc Covering: “Wrong Side of Town,” A Match Made in DTV Heaven (photo)

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Wrestlers and DTV movies are made for each other (I’ve covered one such pairing in this column before). Most of these straight-to-DVD movies are just schlock action soap operas, and what is wrestling if not schlock action soap operas in front of a live studio audience? Even if they don’t have much acting experience, wrestlers already have all the other necessary prereqs: lots of practice in front of the camera, the ability to do their own stunts, and built-in believability as ass kickers. Take a guy like Dave Bautista, former WWE Heavyweight Champion and the top-billed actor in “Wrong Side of Town.” Do I want to see him in “Death of a Salesman?” No. Can he handle a story about two former Navy SEALS trying to survive after a bounty is placed on their heads? Absolutely.

Now that I think about it, I kind of do want to see Bautista’s “Death of a Salesman.” John Cena can play Biff.

Wrong Side of Town
Directed by David DeFalco

10052010_disccovering2.jpg Tagline:“Who Wants to Die First” (NOTE: That’s not a typo; the tagline is a question that doesn’t include a question mark. Which I guess makes it a statement. This movie wants to die. Or maybe the cast does. Let’s call it all of the above.)

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: A current professional wrestler plays a former Navy SEAL on the run on the “wrong side of town” after a gangster puts a bounty on his head.

Biggest Success: Want to see how to show a character’s a scumbag in the shortest amount of time possible? Check out how “Wrong Side of Town” introduces Ethan (Ross Britz). After reading a porno mag, he takes out some coke and uses his oversized crucifix bling to shovel it into his nose. It takes maybe six seconds and zero lines of dialogue. Porno mag. Cross coke spoon. Snort. Done. This guy is bad news. Now that’s narrative economy.

10052010_disccovering3.jpgBiggest Failure: Once again we see that in the world of straight-to-DVD, there is very little truth in advertising. The “Wrong Side of Town” box art promises a lot of Dave Bautista, who gets top billing and central placement. But Bautista is “Wrong Side of Town”‘s Billy Zane — he’s got a brief scene with the film’s real star, wrestler Rob Van Dam, where they allude to a shared past as Navy SEALS, another where he sells RVD out to some thugs and then changes his mind (by announcing “I’ve changed my mind!”), and another at the climax where he randomly knife fights a guy who also only appears in like three scenes. Oh, don’t expect to see Ja Rule very much, either; he’s in this even less.

Aren’t there laws against this sort of thing? And if there aren’t, isn’t it just bad business practice? Maybe in the short-term it nets you a few extra rentals from curious browsers. In the long-run, you’ve killed the actor’s brand, by teaching the audience to be wary of their name on a DVD box. It just doesn’t seem smart.

10052010_disccovering4.jpgBest Moment: Any moment Dave Bautista appears on screen with his teeny tiny gun. Bautista, according to his Wikipedia page, is 6 foot 6 inches and weighs 290 pounds. His neck is thicker than my torso. So why in the world did they give him that tiny little gun? He can barely hold it in his enormous hands! It looks like a teenager trying to shoot his baby brother’s water pistol. He’s giant Dave Bautista! They couldn’t find this guy a rifle?

Sharpest Dialogue: “Wrong Side of Town”‘s screenplay, by director David DeFalco, is loaded with dialogue of the kind you only find in weird DTV: stuff that’s so divorced from the way people speak that it borders on the unintentionally poetic. Plus it’s given an even more mesmerizing quality by the leaden, affectless, am-I-bored-or-did-I-take-too-much-Nyquil delivery of star Van Dam. Some highlights:

“I would love to stay and chat, but my empire calls.”

“I’m not a meathead, I went to community college!”

“I love you too, Daddy. Go kick their asses!”

“He wasn’t my brother. He was my son! He was my SON!”

You hear that Robert Towne? You just got served.

I Question: Rob Van Dam’s near-instinctual ability to know that his wife is in trouble. Let me post a hypothetical situation to you: let’s say you’re out on a double date. The two women go to the restroom together, the men stay at the table. A few minutes later, one woman comes back and says that the other left the restroom before her, but hasn’t turned up. What would you do? Probably assume she had to make a phone call or bumped into someone she knew in the club or just got lost. You’d wait a couple minutes, and if she didn’t show up then, you’d go look for her.

Not Rob Van Dam. The instant his neighbor comes back from the bathroom without his wife, he leaps into acting, running around this club, banging down doors looking for her. And, of course, he’s right! His wife is getting attacked by Ethan, the sleazy cross-coke gangster. But how did he know she wasn’t just dawdling? Is his wife a stickler for promptness? Does he have a supernatural “RVD sense” that alerts him to danger?

Worthy of a Theatrical Release? No. But this is a perfect agreeable home viewing option with dopey, charming actors and dopey, charming action. Yet another fine combination of wrestlers and straight-to-DVD (the film is also available on Netflix Watch Instantly).

For Further Viewing: watch Dave Bautista on the set of “Wrong Side of Town.” My favorite line: “It’s really cool being behind-the-scenes, watching how things are shot, seeing all the stunts. A lot of it’s actually really dangerous. We’re not really using stuntmen.” Watch your back Dave! And if anyone gives you any guff, just come at them with your itty bitty machine gun.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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!

via GIPHY

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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