DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: September 14th, 2007

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By Christopher Bonet

IFC News

[Photo: Keira Knightley in “Silk,” Picturehouse, 2007]

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

“Across the Universe”

“Frida” director Julie Taymor follows up her Oscar-nominated biopic with a musical that, as is Taymor’s fashion, is anything but typical. The film follows a group of college students coming of age in the turbulent 1960s, as a boy named Jude and a girl named Lucy fall in love against a, yes, Beatles-heavy soundtrack. The film generated some ink earlier this year when Revolution Studios began test screening a cut of the film against the wishes of Taymor, who threatened to take her name off the project if the studio cut was released. Love is all we need, indeed.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Brave One”

Jodie Foster plays a woman in distress (yet again…) who seeks revenge on the thugs who brutally beat her and left her fiancé for dead. As she knocks off her attackers one by one, her anonymous exploits begin to grab the attention of the media and a detective (Terrence Howard) getting closer to catching her. While we feel like we’ve seen Jodie Foster play this role about a million times by now, can anybody play it better? “The Crying Game”‘s Neil Jordan directs.

Opens wide (official site).

“Darkon”

This doc from co-directors Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel follows the ongoing struggle in the land of Darkon, a fantasy live action role-playing club set in the outskirts of Baltimore, MD, where members and LARP enthusiasts use wooden swords, foam axes and rubber arrows to fight for glory. We prefer to restrain ourselves to table-top gaming, but there’s no denying that LARP enthusiasts prove a great source for entertainment — check out this short video of LARPing, if you’re unfamiliar. Lightning bolt!

Opens in limited release (official site).

“December Boys”

Daniel Radcliffe centers a collection of otherwise unknowns in this film about four orphans taking a reprieve from their group home on the South Australian coast. We’re certain they’ll be weeping in the aisles as the “Harry Potter” star, rumor has it, loses his on-screen virginity for the first time. And we thought riding naked on on-stage horses was bad enough…

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Dragon Wars (D-War)”

This film probably won’t be winning over any critics the way fellow Korean monster movie “The Host” did earlier this year, but “D-War” broke all kinds of records in its native country, so who’s to say? Korean-financed, but shot in SoCal with English-speaking actors, the film focuses on two warring dragon armies who tear apart downtown Los Angeles. Director Hyung-rae Shim reportedly spent years working on this project, reportedly spending the past three on the film’s CGI alone (principal photography wrapped in late 2004). It remains to be seen how many the film’s much ballyhooed computer graphics will actually impress, but we’re guessing “D-War” already has a solid following among B-movie enthusiasts the world over.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Eastern Promises”

Cult filmmaker David Cronenberg’s last feature, “A History of Violence,” remains one of our favorite films of 2005, so we’re sure that “The Fly” director will not disappoint with his latest thriller, in which a hospital midwife (Naomi Watts) encounters a Russian mob enforcer (a snaky Viggo Mortensen) who leads her on a path to discovering the identity of a dead prostitute. The film has already generated plenty of buzz both at film festivals and on the web, leading to fan speculation (and hope) of a third Viggo-Cronenberg collaboration.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Great World of Sound”

Director Craig Zobel’s first feature is a harsh look at the music business in which a newbie record producer gets excited by the prospect of signing undiscovered artists, only to realize that his new job isn’t what he expected it to be. Most of the performers shown auditioning did not know the auditions were fake ahead of time. The film premiered earlier this year at Sundance.

Opens in New York (official site).

“In the Valley of Elah”

The beginning of the “Hollywood Gets Political!” season kicks off with this Paul Haggis-directed war drama about a career officer (Tommy Lee Jones) who investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of his son during his tour of duty in Iraq. While we don’t expect Haggis’s latest to be as polarizing as his Oscar-winning “Crash,” we’re certainly elated by the reportedly brilliantly muted performance from Jones, who, with this and “No Country for Old Men,” is prepared for one heck of an Oscar season.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Ira & Abby”

“Kissing Jessica Stein” writer Jessica Westfeldt scripted and starred in her latest New York-based romantic comedy about a hastily married couple (Westfeldt and “Six Feet Under”‘s Chris Messina) whose marriage quickly devolves into a string of affairs, meddling parents and therapy. The film’s got an ace supporting cast that includes Fred Willard and Frances Conroy as unconventional parents and Jason Alexander and Chris Parnell as couples therapists. The film won the Best Narrative Feature prize last year at the LA Film Festival.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“King of California”

Michael Douglas gets all zany on us in a role that we’re so glad Robin Williams passed on. Douglas plays an unstable father recently released from a mental institution who tries to convince his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) that there’s Spanish gold buried somewhere under a Costco. Newcomer Mike Cahill wrote and directed this comedy.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Moondance Alexander”

Young girl gets a pony and realizes that it can be a champion. We believe we’ve already seen this, and not so long ago; it’s called “Flicka” (or “Dreamer”). “Nancy Drew”‘s Kay Panabaker stars as the titular girl, with Olympic medalist Sasha Cohen and “Miami Vice”‘s Don Johnson filling in supporting roles.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Moving McAllister”

Television director Andrew Black helms this independent comedy about a law intern (Ben Gourley) who passes on taking his bar exam in hopes of scoring points with his boss (Rutger Hauer) by moving all of the hot-shot lawyer’s possessions, including his daughter (Mila Kunis) and her pet pig, across the country. Jon Heder, in a supporting role, was briefly rumored to have died in a car accident following “Moving McAllister”‘s cast party.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Mr. Woodcock”

Seann William Scott returns for his first film since 2005 (not that we’ve been counting the days…) in this comedy about a motivational speaker and self-help author who returns home to prevent his mom (Susan Sarandon) from marrying his old high school gym teacher (Billy Bob Thornton), a man who made school hell for Scott and numerous other generations of students. Reports that the film tested poorly led to the studio enlisting “The Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkins for reshoots. Quite frankly, even with Dobkins’ help, we’re still not expecting much.

Opens wide (official site).

“Pete Seeger: The Power of Song”

Documentarian Jim Brown’s film chronicles the social history of folk artist Pete Seeger through the use of interviews, archival footage and home movies. The film premiered earlier this year at Tribeca.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Rape of Europa”

This documentary from filmmakers Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen and Nicole Newnham documents how a collection of young art historians and curators from America and across Europe scours the globe in search of lost and stolen art works displaced by the Nazi regime after WWII. Joan Allen narrates.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Silk”

“The Red Violin” director François Girard returns with his first film since 1998, about a 19th century silkworm smuggler who refocuses his business interests from Africa to Japan and starts an affair with the concubine of a local baron. Michael Pitt plays the trader while Keira Knightly pouts her way through this period piece — her second, “Atonement,” is due later this fall.

Opens in limited release (official site).

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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.