DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: December 14th, 2007

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By Christopher Bonet

IFC News

[Photo: “Nanking,” THINKFilm, 2007]

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

“Alvin and the Chipmunks”

Here we have yet another major motion picture studio’s attempt to destroy our collective childhoods with this cinematic update of the classic 1980s children television series it’s likely we all hated anyway. What looks to be a celluloid crime against parents and hipster doofuses everywhere comes courtesy of Tim Hill, director of the sequel “Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.” “My Name is Earl”‘s Jason Lee gets enlisted as the human Dave who watches over the mischievous musical chipmunk trio, who if the trailer is to be believed, like to eat their own feces.

Opens wide (official site).

“Goodbye Bafana”

Danish director Bille August helms this true story about an white South African prison guard (Joseph Fiennes) whose life was profoundly changed by a black inmate he guarded for 20 years whose name was (wait for it) Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert). The film was awarded the Peace Film Award at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Half Moon”
Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi wrote and directed his latest drama about an old musician’s plans to give one final concert in Iraqi Kurdistan. The film won a bevy of awards at the 2006 San Sebastian International Film Festival, including a prize for best cinematography and the Golden Seashell Award for best film.

Opens in New York (official site).

“I Am Legend”

While we’d line up to watch Will Smith beat the crap out of anything — this latest film finds the Fresh Prince kicking both vampire AND zombie ass! — we’re not so crazy about the direction of Francis Lawrence, whose previous credits include the ho-hum Keanu Reeves vehicle “Constantine” and a host of Jennifer Lopez music videos. Regardless of whether the film is any good, however, it’s safe to expect any Will Smith actioner to dominate the holiday box office. Smith stars as Robert Neville, a man who finds himself to be the lone survivor of a biological attack that leaves New York with a swarm of zombies during the day and vampires at night. “I Am Legend” is the third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel, following 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth” and the 1971 Charlton Heston sci-fi flick “The Omega Man,” and is the first to use Matheson’s original title.

Opens wide (official site).

“The Kite Runner”

Khaled Hosseini’s wildly popular 2003 novel finally hits theaters courtesy of “Finding Neverland” director Marc Forster. The film follows Amir, an Afghani who returns to his homeland after spending two decades in the United States following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to investigate the disappearance of his childhood friend Hassan. Kudos to the filmmakers for sticking with mostly local Afghani actors, though the studio is now in a bit of a PR mess after threats made to three of the child actors forced a delay in the film’s release. Regardless, we expect the film’s Afghani flavor meshed with Forster’s gentle direction to at least be better than a bloated lecture from a ham-fisted Tom Cruise.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Look”

“Detroit Rock City” writer/director Adam Rifkin helms this drama pieced together from surveillance cameras, creating the illusion that no matter where you are in the United States, you’re being watched. The film premiered earlier this year at the CineVegas International Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Award.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Nanking”

Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman’s documentary tells the story of The Rape of Nanking, the tragedy that occurred during the 1937-1938 Japanese occupation and resulted in the deaths of 200,000 Chinese men and women and the rape of tens of thousands more before a small group of Westerners formed a safety refuge to save the lives of 250,000. The film won the Documentary Film Editing Award earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

Opens in New York (official site).

“The Perfect Holiday”

All a young girl wants for Christmas is a new husband for her harried mother (Gabrielle Union) in this holiday comedy from director Lance Rivera. Rivera is best known for 2004’s “The Cookout,” though we barely remember it.

Opens wide (official site).

“Youth Without Youth”

Francis Ford Coppola’s long anticipated return to filmmaking finds the “Godfather” director returning to his film school roots… sort of. Coppola’s latest is a deeply personal adaptation of a Mircea Eliade novel about a professor (Tim Roth) who’s targeted by Nazi agents after he presumably discovers a formula for immortality in World War II-era Europe. Now if only Coppola could start working on the long-rumored “Megalopolis”…

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

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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.