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“Your Highness,” Reviewed

“Your Highness,” Reviewed (photo)

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The target audience for “Your Highness” is at least four years too young to legally watch it. The film is part spoof, part celebration of the schlocky fantasy films of the ’70s and ’80s which hastened a generation of boys into puberty when their copious servings of blood and nudity appeared on late night cable. “Your Highness,” a sort of fantasy of fantasy, was made by two alumni of that generation: director David Gordon Green and co-writer and star Danny McBride. What they’ve done is pay it forward, cinematically speaking: they loved these sorts of movies as kids and now they’ve made this sort of movie for kids today, only it’s even more violent and booblicious and way more vulgar than any of the ones that inspired them. I’m sure it will delight those young, impressionable horny minds, though I’m not sure “Your Highness” will strike as deep a resonant chord with anyone else.

McBride plays Thadeous, a medieval prince living in the shadow of his cooler, braver brother Fabious (James Franco). I want to call Thadeous a classic McBride hero in the mold of his characters from “The Foot Fist Way” and “Eastbound and Down” but he’s missing a key ingredient. Thadeous bears McBride’s standard narcissism, laziness, and foul mouth, but he lacks the sinister core of sexism, cruelty, and hardness that makes Fred Simmons and Kenny Powers more complicated than buffoons. In other words, Thadeous is a buffoon, albeit an occasionally amusing one.

Fabious’ bride-to-be Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped by an evil, horny wizard named Leezar (Justin Theroux) so it’s up to the two brothers to quest for the magical weapons they’ll need to rescue her. Along the way there are wizards to smoke “herbs” with, bare-breasted Amazon hordes to ogle, and many MANY dick jokes to crack, some so visually prolonged and — well “ballsy” isn’t quite the right word given the context, but whatever you want to call them they’re so insane and in your face that you can’t believe the movie managed to sneak through the ratings board with an R.

Someone who enjoyed “Your Highness” more than I did will probably argue that it’s a filthy-minded, potty-mouthed parody of the immaturity of those old school fantasy films and there is definitely some evidence to support that argument. Pettiness in a world of chivalry is pretty funny, and there is some real pettiness on display here: one villain turns to the dark side because he was passed over for the position of Best Man at a wedding. It is sort of charming to watch the bloated self-importance of period films get deflated by an avalanche of profanity. But you can only pop a balloon so many times until you’re just poking a pin into a flabby, shriveled piece of rubber. Green and McBride take the stuffing out of these movies, but they don’t put a whole lot back in except a lot of variations on the eff word.

Though I’m typically a huge McBride fan, stripped of his dark side because of what may have been this multimillion dollar production about minotaur penises’ one concession to a mainstream audience, he isn’t quite the same. So I found myself more drawn to his supporting cast, particularly the hysterical Theroux as the sexually frustrated sorcerer. When you get right down to it, Leezar isn’t all that different than Thadeous: powerful but impotent with women, jealous of James Franco’s awesome hair, and pitifully lonely. If he wasn’t so hellbent on raping Belladonna to impregnate her with a dragon fetus, he wouldn’t be such a bad guy, and that’s how Theroux plays him: sinister but also kind of pathetic (sample Leezar pickup line: “I’m rich, I live in a castle, and I do fucking magic!”).

Natalie Portman’s good too as the first Best Actress Oscar winner to immediately follow her award winning performance with a medieval stoner flick where she makes jokes about her vagina. She plays Isabel, a lone warrior questing across the countryside in search of revenge for the slaughter of her family. To appease that 13-year-old boy audience she also has a scene where she bathes in a thong, and if any thong bathing scene ever deserved to be discussed in the same paragraph as the words “Oscar winner,” it is this one. The biggest waste of a cast member is Deschanel, who has a really great comedic setup for a character — Belladonna has spent her entire life locked up in a tower which has made her incredibly stupid — but almost zero opportunities to pay it off.

I have to admit, as an admirer of its filmmakers, “Your Highness” disappointed me. I laughed, even laughed hard a few times, but I also sat quietly for long stretches. The extreme to which Green, McBride, and co-writer Ben Best went to send-up these sword and sorcery films of their youth is kind of incredible. McBride’s character aside, they made very few concessions to whitebread moviegoer tastes. But maybe they went a little too far pleasing their inner 12-year-olds. My inner 12-year-old was amused. My outer 30-year-old wanted a little bit more.

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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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