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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: “The War Tapes,” “The Cult of the Suicide Bomber,” “District 13.”

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Specialist Mike Moriarty.
"The War Tapes": Deborah Scranton‘s guardsmen-shot documentary, which won the Best Documentary prize at Tribeca, provokes reactions ranging from impressed to frustrated. At the New York Times, A.O. Scott‘s in the first camp, writing that

Whatever your opinion of the war — and however it has changed over the years — this movie is sure to challenge your thinking and disturb your composure. It provides no reassurance, no euphemism, no closure. Given the subject and the circumstances, how could it?

Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice is startlingly dismissive: "[As] a piece of sociopolitical culture with context and ramifications of its own, it’s a worthless ration of war propaganda—ethnocentric, redneck, and enabling." He crowns the film "the cinematic equivalent to a ribbon magnet," and bemoans the fact that it is gathering awards and attention while what he sees as other, better docs on the subject are being ignored. The Reverse Shot three at indieWIRE are mixed: Michael Joshua Rowin finds the film has s "simple premise yielding revelatory results"; he doesn’t think it’s fair to call it more objective than others simply because it’s shot by the soldiers themselves, but does think it’s "powerful reportage." Chris Wisniewski writes that it’s "not as groundbreaking in practice as it is in principle," Nicolas Rapold is won over by the way the film "courageously spans terrific highs and lows of wartime experience."

And at New York, David Edelstein urges "See ‘The War Tapes.’ Maybe this picture can be worth a thousand lives."

 

"It was a good path for him to take. So why would we stop him?"
+ "The Cult of the Suicide Bomber": It’s a fun week for film.

This documentary from David Batty and Kevin Toolis, made for Britain’s Channel 4 and written and narrated by Robert Baer, the real-life basis for George Clooney‘s "Syriana" character, gets a small theatrical release here from The Disinformation Company. In the New Yorker, David Denby describes the film as "a pageant of fanaticism, sacrifice, and death," and is most intrigued (and frustrated) by Baer’s interview with the families of bombers:

The families utterly reject the word "suicide." The appropriate word is "martyr," a bomber’s sister firmly tells Baer. Suicide, it seems, implies the possibility of unhappiness or compulsion, an emotional need that has not been met, whereas martyrdom, as the families present it, is always rationally chosen, and a gift to everyone.

At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis finds the film "engrossing if intellectually thin," and bemoans the fact that

Like so many political films of this type made for British television, this documentary contains more information than analysis, not to mention predictably spooky music. Despite its title, this is not a film about the cult of suicide bombings in general; rather, it is about a specific cult that has developed in the Middle East over the last few decades.

[It’s certainly too much ground for a single feature, but it’d be infinitely more interesting to see a study of suicide attacks across history and culture: Dargis writes that these angles are ignored or brushed over.]

Michael Atkinson at the Voice calls the film "rough-hewn," but adds that "Forgive the ’60 Minutes’–style cutaways to Baer, and the experience of Muslim life knotted by destruction—not a TV pundits’ opinions of such—can be eye-opening."

 

"It's undemocratic, but it works."
+ "District B13": It’s dumb, it’s fun, and you don’t want to see "The Break-up," do you? — of Pierre Morel‘s French futuristic action flick, Jim Ridley at the (New Times) Voice heralds the film as "the most (maybe the only) fun action movie of the summer"; Nathan Lee at the New York Times writes that the film’s extreme sport-hook, parkour, is "a gorgeously choreographed gymnastics of pain that elevates ‘District B13’ over the impossible missions and last stands of the season."

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

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…