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Cillian Murphy examines the spiritual debates of “Red Lights”

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When fans go to see “Red Lights” — the latest movie from “Buried” director Rodrigo Cortes — it’s not going to be what they expect. In fact, the less you know about the movie, the better. That being said, the film deals with the continual debate between believers and skeptics and the journey to discover whether special abilities like supernatural presences, psychic powers and super hero skills actually exist.

But the real draw to the film for lead actor Cillian Murphy was the chance to explore a character like his Tom Buckley and to go on a surprisingly surprising journey with him. IFC caught up with Murphy at the press day for “Red Lights” last month, and he talked about why he knew he wanted to join “Red Lights.”

“It was just a great piece of writing. It was a great script,” he said of Cortes’ story. “You read a lot of scripts and it’s always refreshing and encouraging when you can’t predict where they’re going to go. It was always surprising, the story was, the script and the character, and he goes on a really, really big journey, this character, and the challenge of trying to convey that in an honest way and in such a way that the audience would invest in him and go with him on the journey, that was the challenge really for me.”

It only helped that he was taking this cinematic trip with a group of actors who he describes as “legends.” Sigourney Weaver plays Margaret Matheson, a doctor who investigates and refutes supposed paranormal happenings, while Robert De Niro portrays Simon Silver, a psychic/evangelist who is the one man she was never able to prove was a fake. Elizabeth Olsen and Toby Jones round out the cast as one of Matheson’s students and a fellow professor at her school, respectively, though Jones’s professor is one whose goal is prove that special abilities really do exist.

Murphy appears in just about every frame of “Red Lights,” so he got a chance to work opposite these actors as they played roles we don’t typically see them in. De Niro in particular was as terrifying as we’ve seen him in recent years, and Murphy gushed that just getting to shoot the same scene with him and Weaver helped him in his own career.

“You get a chance to actually work with them and to observe them and to watch them act was, for me, I’ll never ever forget that,” he said. “You can’t sort of underestimate the influence those guys have had on my career and their movies, so it was huge for me.”

Of course, Murphy is an esteemed actor in his own right. Best known for his roles in “28 Days Later,” “Batman Begins” and “Sunshine,” Murphy has been in many movies that examine the constant struggle between people who are skeptics and those who are believers. That is a conflict that is at the center of “Red Lights,” and we asked him why he thinks this is something people are so invested in.

“It is sort of an endless debate, isn’t it? They seem to be kind of exclusive, I guess, to each other,” he said. “I did another movie that was kind of similar in theme to that before, so I had read a lot about it.”

But that debate is not what he thinks the movie is about. “For me, even though [the movie is] in that world of like skeptics and believers and scientists and people who claim to have paranormal abilities, for me it was really a character study and self-acceptance and obsession,” Murphy said. “Those were the main sort of driving forces psychologically for me that I wanted to explore with the character because they are universal. This other world is interesting and exciting, but the human story of it, which is Tom’s story, is the one that I really concentrated on.”

So what does he want people to know about the movie going in, when we argue that people should know as little about it as possible?

“I think it’s unexpected, it’s original, it seems to have gotten a lot of people talking, and people seem to have very personal, very subjective interpretations of it,” he said carefully. “I think each one is valid, and people are really trying to figure out. And some people look at it in a very sort of logical way and some people look at it in a very abstract way, some people look at in a very spiritual way, and that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t prescribe answers, it asks you to ask questions.”

“Red Lights” hits theaters on July 13 in limited release.

Are you intrigued by movies that you shouldn’t know much about going in? Are you planning on checking out “Red Lights”? Tell us in the comments section below or 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.

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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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