DID YOU READ

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).

“Glastonbury”

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).

“Premium”

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).

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.