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Opening This Week: Long-awaited films from Baz Luhrmann and Gus Van Sant

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11242008_australia.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Families heading to the multiplexes post-turkey this Thanksgiving can unbutton those tight belts in the dark after choosing from an eclectic mix of hard-hitting action, sweeping epics and prickly romance.

Never one to be rushed, director Baz Luhrmann has taken seven years since putting his so-called “red curtain trilogy” to bed before delivering this, the first installment in his announced trilogy of epics. Once more showcasing his fascination with great melodrama, old-school villainy and larger-than-life love stories, Luhrmann has reinvented himself without really reinventing himself with this grandiose romance set against the backdrop of a transforming nation. Returning muse Nicole Kidman stars as Sarah Ashley, a freshly widowed cattlewoman who falls in love with a rugged ranch hand named Drover (Hugh Jackman), as the two drive 1500 head of cattle to Darwin. Unfortunately, they arrive just in time to see the Japanese bombers appear on the horizon.
Opens wide.

“Four Christmases”
What better way to start ringing in the holiday season with your family and friends than a treacly romantic comedy about divorce where a self-absorbed yuppie couple pays lip service to parents and other family members they can’t stand the sight of. Looking to reassert herself after a brief stint wandering post-Oscar career wilderness, Reese Witherspoon joins Vince Vaughn to play the young couple pleased as punch to be avoiding the seasonal family get-togethers before a fogbank at the airport scuppers their plans. “King of Kong” director Seth Gordon looks after an all-star supporting cast boasting the likes of Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek and Jon Favreau, who fill out the roles within the extended and estranged family.
Opens wide.

Director Gus Van Sant flirted with making a biopic of the late Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office, with Sean Penn as the lead all the way back to 1993 when Oliver Stone was looking to produce, but passed, citing script problems. Now, the inimitably divisive auteur returns with a script from “Big Love” scribe Dustin Lance Black that stars Penn as the shy, aging New Yorker who relocates to San Francisco and became a champion of the national gay rights movement. Wall-to-wall with indie darlings, the film stars James Franco, Alison Pill, Emile Hirsch and Joseph Cross, who round out Milk’s entourage, while Josh Brolin provides some political opposition.
Opens in limited release; expands on Dec. 5th.

“Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!”
Bollywood helmer Dibakar Banerjee’s sophomore feature sends up the story of Lucky, a scrawny 15-year-old street hoodlum who rises from the West Delhi ghetto to transform into a modern day Robin Hood. The film is said to have been inspired by the real-life exploits of Devender “Bunty” Singh, whose estimated 500 burglaries (stealing everything from classic cars to family pets), aided by his suave demeanor and remarkable ability to divert suspicion, made him something of a folk hero in his native India. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Rome & Jewel”
While non-English majors the world over may perish the thought of reading brick-like Shakespeare anthologies on a daily basis, the Bard has perhaps done more to offer struggling catalogue models a bridge to screen stardom than any man in history. So here come the impossibly good-looking duo of Nate Parker and Lindsey Haun as star-crossed lovers, with Parker playing the son of an African-American minister in Compton and Haun the Caucasian daughter of the mayor of Los Angeles. This hip-hop infused “Romeo & Juliet” update is the brainchild of writer/director Charles T. Kanganis, whose last theatrical feature, 1996’s non-entity “Race the Sun,” starred the similarly attractive up-and-comers Eliza Dushku, Casey Affleck and Halle Berry.
Opens in limited release.

“The Secrets”
With this latest stirring melodrama, accomplished director Avi Nasher joins a growing list of Israeli filmmakers quietly raging against the ultra-orthodox practitioners of Judaism that continue to cast off women to a lifetime of domestic inconsequence. Fleeing this stiflingly conservative climate is Naomi (Ania Bokstein), a young girl who enrolls in a seminary to escape an unwanted marriage. At the seminary, she finds a kindred spirit in her roommate Sheine (Talli Oren), and the newfound allies hatch a plan to expunge the sins of a sickly French outcast (Fanny Ardant) with the aide of an ancient, mystical and fiercely forbidden Kabbalah ritual. In English, French and Hebrew with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Transporter 3”
It remains an unfathomable mystery how Luc Besson, director of such existential twaddle as “The Big Blue,” and Robert Mark Kamen, a guy with a Ph.D. in anthropology, became the guys who quietly transformed leading man Jason Statham into the closest thing we have these days to an Arnie or a Sly. Yet Besson and Kamen have teamed once more, with French director Olivier Megaton holding the megaphone, so that Statham can once again suit up as Frank Martin, the most reliable (read: hardest to kill) courier in all the underworld. This time, Frank’s task is to deliver Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), the kidnapped daughter of a Ukrainian official, while evading and dispatching the customary assortment of disposable goons that pop up along the way.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Australia,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2008]

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

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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