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Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming…

Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming… (photo)

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“‘Ninja Assassin 2’ will be in 3D with Sprayarama,” director James McTeigue joked before the premiere of the first and so far only “Ninja Assassin” at the Alamo Drafthouse on Tuesday. And there were copious amounts of blood sputtered in the film that followed, a gory but too often creatively bloodless affair that stars Korean pop star Rain as Raizo, a warrior trained from birth in the ninja way before turning against his clan after the death of a female colleague.

How you’ll feel about “Ninja Assassin” will depend on your inherent interest in the masked men (and in this equal opportunity film, women) — throwing stars and bone-crushing punches can atone for cheesy dialogue, but McTeigue makes the curious decision to shoot most of the action in the dark, and the performances are half-hearted. (While a physical marvel, Rain is hamstrung by having to speak in English, though fans of the genre will be thrilled to see ’80s icon Sho Kosugi come out of semi-retirement to play his mentor.)

Not surprisingly, most of the post-screening Q&A, conducted by Ain’t It Cool’s Harry Knowles, revolved around the red stuff — McTeigue took delight in telling the crowd that he thought “maybe I got [the MPAA] on happy hour Friday.” While he viewed his last film “V for Vendetta” as “150 minutes of talking with three set pieces,” McTeigue aimed to make a straightforward action movie with “Ninja” and consulted heavily on a style where the blood would spurt in “a cross between anime and gameplay,” allowing Raizo to pass through the bloodshed after executing one of his victims.

While the Wachowski brothers are once again on board as producers, it’s clear that McTeigue is his own man with “Ninja.” He said his next film will likely be a thriller about the “fictionalized last five days of Edgar Allen Poe,” with a serial killer inspired by the horror author’s short stories in a way the director compared to “Se7en.” “So more killing,” McTeigue surmised, which satisfied the crowd.

09302009_Mandrill.jpgIt’d be interesting to see what “Mandrill” director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and star Marko Zaror would do if they had half the budget of “Ninja Assassin,” but even with limited resources, their latest film is crammed with the kind of thrills that even the best CG can’t provide. “Mandrill” marked a triumphant return for the Chilean duo, who took Fantastic Fest by storm in 2007 with “Mirageman,” the tale of an everyday crimefighter. “Mirageman” has the unfortunate burden of being currently remade into a 3D English film called “Defender,” which coincides with the Woody Harrelson film “Defendor” about…you guessed it. (Fest attendees got a glimpse of a show reel.) It may at least prove an auspicious English-language debut for Zaror, who’s reprising his role for the American version and is an international action star waiting to happen.

Espinoza packs as much creativity into his action sequences as the square-jawed Zaror packs power into his punches — their latest film together, about a suave secret agent, tirelessly aims to please. Although the duo make no secret of their influences — the closing credits list every actor and director involved in the James Bond franchise in the special thanks section — “Mandrill” is a one-of-a-kind spy tale, skipping the backstory of how its title character became a trained killer in favor of showing how he became a ladykiller, taking full advantage of Zaror’s matinee idol looks for considerable comic effect by flashing back to the days when an unsure young Mandrill took lessons from his uncle in the ways of love. Not surprisingly, Zaror received lots of love from the Fantastic Fest jury, who gave him the best actor prize on Monday.

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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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