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Opening This Week: February 23, 2007

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By Christopher Bonet
IFC News

[Photo: “Amazing Grace,” Roadside Atttractions, 2007]

A round-up of the best (or worst) $10 you’ll spend this week.

“The Abandoned”

Horror films set across international waters seem to be all the rage these days (“The Grudge” and “Hostel” series hint that wherever you may go in this world, someone will want to kill you), and “Aftermath” director Nacho Cerda (best name ever) doesn’t seem to want to reinvent the wheel with this story of an American of Russian descent who returns to her homeland to uncover some family secrets. During her trip, she discovers that the farmland her family owns may very well be “…DAMNED” (emphasis added in the film’s press release), and if the studio tells you it’s scary, then it’s sure to be. Now please stop rolling your eyes.

Opens wide (official site).

“Amazing Grace”

“Seven Up!” series helmer Michael Apted directs a strong cast of English thespians — including Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell and “Infamous”‘s Toby Jones — in this historical epic about the life of antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce. Early reviews have been pretty mixed, as critics hail Apted’s depiction of a difficult subject matter (slavery’s past) but feel that the film struggles to find a contemporary connection.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Astronaut Farmer”

Astronaut movies seem to bleed altogether, as it’s usually a small group of believers firmly set against a disapproving greater society (“October Sky”, “Space Cowboys” and, hell, “Armageddon” come to mind), so we’re not expecting too much, just judging by the plot of the film. But with “Northfork” director Michael Polish at the helm, well…you never really know what to expect.

Opens wide (official site).


For those who don’t know, the Glastonbury Festival is one of the longest running music festivals in the world, dating back to 1970 and regularly housing performances by wildly diverse bands such as David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, the Beat, the Pogues and Coldplay. Director Julien Temple has a history in music and film (he directed “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle,” dozens of music videos and “Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten,” which premiered at Sundance this year), but reviews of “Glastonbury” have been mixed so far, as critics feel that it focuses too much on the performances and not on the festival’s overall impact on the musicians, the fans and the residents of the town of Glastonbury.

Opens in Los Angeles (official site).

“Gray Matters”

“Gray Matters” is set in that indie film-dom romanticized New York (see “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Sidewalks of New York”) that we just can’t seem to take the urine-soaked subway to here in reality. But first time director Sue Farmer’s Woody Allen-lite romantic comedy comes with a twist, as a brother and sister (Tom Cavanagh and Heather Graham, respectively) both fall in love with the same woman (Bridget Moynahan). We’re excited by the prospect of some hot Graham-on-Moynahan action, but five bucks says the film’s more dinner party than bedroom.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Number 23”

We certainly miss the manic, slapstick Jim Carrey of yesteryear (“Dumb & Dumber” especially), and we’re guessing Carrey’s got another non-comedic miss on his hands with this one. The film’s been saddled with both a silly plotline and the direction of Joel Schumacher, which is never a good thing. We do like the subtle “Twin Peaks” thing going on with Virginia Madsen, so…there is that.

Opens wide (official site).


African American filmmaker Pete Chatmon received serious attention from the film industry after his short film “3D” screened at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, as he now prepares for the release of his debut feature. “Premium” tells the story of a struggling black actor whose life is turned upside down when his ex-fiance returns into his life only 36 hours before she is to be married. Early reviews state that the film’s melding of satire and romantic comedy (think “Hollywood Shuffle” meets any Julia Roberts film) work mostly due to the film’s strong writing and acting. Chatmon may be a director to watch out for.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Reno 911!: Miami”

We love us some Deputy Dangle, and with all that “Borat” frenzy behind us, we’re hoping more movie studios greenlight projects from talented television comedy writers. “Reno 911!: Miami” follows the members of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department as they attend a law enforcement convention in Miami Beach shortly before a bioterrorist attack. And even more exciting, “Reno 911!: Miami” marks a reunion of the now-defunct mid-90s comedy group “The State,” as all of the members will appear in the film.

Opens wide (official site).

“Starter for 10”

“The Last King of Scotland”‘s James McAvoy seems to be everywhere these days — his latest project is an 80s-set British rom-com about a working-class student who aims to appear on the British Quiz Show and win the heart of his beautiful teammate.

Opens in New York and Los Angeles (official site).

“The Taste of Tea”

“Party 7” director Katsuhito Ishii returns with another film blending traditional live-action and animation in this story about an odd and quirky suburban family. An ordinary housewife develops a second life as a homemade animator, while the family’s young daughter begins to worry when she realizes she is being followed everywhere by a giant version of herself. Wackiness may very possibly ensue.

Opens in New York (official site).

“The Wayward Cloud”

Tsai Ming-liang’s latest film re-connects his lead characters from 2001’s “What Time Is It There?”, returning them back to Taipei from Paris during a water crisis affecting the entire city. Minimalist plots and long shots are Tsai’s strong points, but the director also incorporates signature lively and imaginative musical sequences are interspersed throughout the narrative.

Opens in New York (IMDb Page).


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.