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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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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.