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Five classic chick (action) flicks


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The term “chick flick” calls certain images to mind: moonlit kisses in the rain; awkward yet adorable first meetings between lovers; Katherine Heigl. If you’re calling something a “chick flick,” odds are you’re doing it dismissively, as in “My wife is dragging me to that new chick flick.” (NOTE: No one tell my wife I wrote that.) But “chick flick” is such a nice turn of phrase — it’s short, it’s memorable, it rhymes — that I think we ought to take it back. It should apply to all kinds of movies starring women, not just the ones featuring makeover montages or sassy best friends (or Katherine Heigl).

A perfect example is Steven Soderbergh‘s new movie, which opens in theaters this Friday. It’s called “Haywire,” but a more accurate title would be “MMA Fighter Gina Carano Beats the Shit Out of All of Hollywood’s Hottest Young Male Stars.” Carano (official MMA record: 7-1) plays Mallory, a secret agent for hire on a quest for revenge against her former employers. Getting that revenge means wiping the floor with Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, and Michael Fassbender, among others. It’s not a “chick flick” as we’ve come to know it — it’s closer to a Chuck Norris vehicle than a Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle — but maybe it should be. We could call it something like a “chick (action) flick.”

Whatever you want to call it, “Haywire” belongs to a fine tradition of action films centered around strong, sexy women. Here are five of our favorites.

“Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (1965)
Directed by Russ Meyer

Russ Meyer’s camp classic features a trio of busty, deadly woman on a go-go dancing, hot-rod racing rampage through the American Southwest. Meyer’s vixens — Haji, Lori Williams, and especially the voluptuous, karate-chopping Tura Santana — square off against a male cast that is clearly outmatched, both mentally and physically, by their female counterparts. The film’s opening narration, which accompanies images of bouncing sound waves (followed immediately by images of bouncing breasts) sets the tone as well as the connection between the pussycats’ power and their sexuality (“Ladies and gentlemen: welcome to violence!”). No wonder John Waters called it the best movie ever made and “possibly better than any movie that will ever be made.” Forty-five years later, I’m not sure any filmmaker has conclusively proven him wrong.

“Coffy” (1973)
Directed by Jack Hill

Male superheroes have utility belts. Coffy has an afro. She uses it to hide all sorts of useful things, mostly famously razor blades, which come quite in handy — no pun intended — when she finds herself in the middle of a catfight with some grabby prostitutes. Coffy, as played by the charming and stunningly gorgeous Pam Grier, is like the prototype of the woman Gina Carano plays in “Haywire” — beautiful, deadly, kicked around by men, and on a righteous quest for revenge. Though Grier spends a fair amount of the film nude and/or in bed with an assortment of male co-stars, director Jack Hill is actually using the framework of an exploitation film to tell a story of feminine empowerment, of a woman who uses her sexuality to her advantage, and whose enemies are all symbols of patriarchal power: pimps, cops, and, politicians.

“La Femme Nikita” (1990)
Directed by Luc Besson

A secret government agency trains a junkie and convicted cop killer (Anne Parillaud) how to be an assassin — and how to be a lady. Their classes include marksmanship, computer hacking, and grooming. “There are two things that are infinite,” Nikita’s etiquette teacher instructs her. “Femininity and means to take advantage of it.” After her training is complete, Nikita tries to balance her secret life as a deadly spy and her domestic life with a simple grocery clerk with mixed results, a nifty metaphor for the dilemma facing modern working women everywhere. Keeping the personal and the professional apart proves just as difficult as kidnapping an ambassador and stealing his secret files. The film is episodic and almost feels like the pilot of an ongoing television series, so it’s no surprise that there have already been two different “Nikita” television series.

“The Heroic Trio” (1993)
Directed by Johnnie To

This Hong Kong superhero flick gets major demerits for dodgy wirework and a laughable plot (the version available on Netflix Watch Instantly also sports some absolutely horrendous English language dubbing). But that doesn’t change the fact that it also boasts one of the greatest assemblages of woman warriors in movie history. Super-powered Shadow Fox (Anita Mui), and shotgun-toting biker chick Mercy (Maggie Cheung) team up to rescue a bunch of kidnapped babies from the hands of an evil sorcerer who wants to use them to bring about the resurrection of who the hell knows. Eventually, Shadow Fox and Mercy combine forces with the sorcerer’s right hand lady, The Invisible Woman (Michelle Yeoh) and then all three have some absolutely spectacular fight scenes with the movie’s heavy, a flying guillotine toting nutjob played by Anthony Wong. The Trio represent both beauty and brawn; after they win their climactic battle, they grab some flowing robes and do a slow-motion catwalk strut into the closing credits.

“Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2” (2003 and 2004)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

The movie with so much asskickery it had to be split in two parts, first released in the fall of 2003 and the spring of 2004, respectively. Uma Thurman’s The Bride is betrayed and left to die on her wedding day by the rest of her squad of professional assassins; over the course of Quentin Tarantino’s two-part revenge saga, she ferociously repays the favor. “Kill Bill” is, in some ways, the apotheosis of Tarantino’s film quotation aesthetic — the movie’s IMDb movie connections page is almost as long as its screenplay. It combines themes, visuals, and motifs from all these other wonderful female action films — including “Thriller: A Cruel Picture,” “Switchblade Sisters,” and “The Doll Squad” — to create an experience that is arguably more fun than all of its influences combined.

What’s your favorite chick (action) flick? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.


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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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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