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Opening This Week

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By Neil Pedley

The Oscars have passed, the Spirits have been lifted, and the end is nigh for the godawful release graveyard that is the month of February — a cinematic black hole where the discarded and unwanted trudge their way onto a big screen somewhere near you in hopes you might glance at their poster as you make a mad last dash to see that Oscar-saddled show pony before it’s pulled on Monday after it fails to win in any of the categories in which it’s been nominated. Meanwhile, there are 11 other films opening this week to quench that post-awards season thirst, including some with an Oscar pedigree.

Quality roles for aging actresses that accurately reflect the middle-aged female demographic have become the veritable unicorn in Hollywood of late. Director Christopher N. Rowley goes back to the tried and tested formula of the road movie in an attempt to change some of that with the mourning after tale of Arvilla (Jessica Lange), a woman who sets off on a pilgrimage with her two best friends (Kathy Bates and Joan Allen) after she loses her husband of 20 years. Ordinarily, cramming three gal pals in headscarves and sunglasses into a vintage convertible and pointing them west would set off some serious alarm bells, but this decorated veteran cast of Oscar baiters is loaded with enough talent to elevate the premise well above the redundant.
Opens in limited release; expands March 21st.

“Chicago 10”
The opening night film of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Chicago 10” is an audacious new brand of history lesson from the mind of writer/director Brett Morgen that chronicles the heated controversy surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and the subsequent trial of a group of protesters with conspiracy to riot charges. Morgen blends archival footage and interviews with an animated dramatization of the courtroom saga based on the actual transcripts, similar to Morgen’s last film, the Robert Evans biopic “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” A stellar voice cast, including Hank Azaria, Nick Nolte and the late Roy Scheider, lend their weight to the trial proceedings.
Opens in limited release.

“Chop Shop”
Writer/director Ramin Bahrani looks past the bright lights of the big city to bring us another side of New York via an auto body shop, run off a junkyard in Queens, where a young Latino street orphan named Ale (Alejandro Polanco) lives and works. As in his debut, “Man Push Cart,” Bahrani uses non-professional actors in this gritty urban drama about one young boy’s ambitious pursuit of a warped American dream, one hustle at a time. Fortunately, it looks like Bahrani won’t have to hustle to make his next film, since he won a grant as a result of being anointed as “Someone to Watch” at last weekend’s Spirit Awards.
Opens in New York.

“City of Men”
Not so much a sequel to “City of God” as a spin off, “City of Men” was a Brazilian television series that followed childhood friends Acerola and Laranjinha for four years as they struggled to navigate their adolescence in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas. Directed by Paulo Morelli, this full-length feature picks up where the series left off, with the two boys entering into adulthood and once again dealing with a life of drugs, violence and the grinding poverty faced by a forgotten people trying to survive any way they can.
Opens in limited release.

“Jar City”
Based on the acclaimed crime novel of the same name by Arnaldur Indriðason, “Jar City” is a gristly murder mystery from Icelandic actor turned director Baltasar Kormákur. When an old man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat, the world-weary Inspector Erlendur follows clues left by the killer that will lead him to the grave of a young girl killed many years ago and into the web of conspiracy that surrounds it. Just don’t talk to any Icelandic natives before seeing it – it was the highest grossing film of all time in the country and we wouldn’t want them spoiling the mystery. In Icelandic with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Other Boleyn Girl”
Peter Morgan, the Oscar-nominated writer of “The Queen,” adapts Philippa Gregory’s award-winning novel for the screen with help from an all-star cast in their prime. Set in a time where nothing is too sacred to be sacrificed in pursuit of power and influence, the film stars Eric Bana as England’s most famous monarch who takes 14-year-old Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) as his mistress in desperate pursuit of a male heir. Natalie Portman is Mary’s scheming older sister Anne, who plots to steal the king away from Mary and anoint herself queen, no matter the cost.
Opens wide.

When their ancestors manage to piss off the local witch, stuffy British socialites Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. Grant have to bear a curse — their firstborn daughter will sport the nose of a piggy. Christina Ricci stars as the family’s dirty little secret, doomed to look like Babe’s little sister until she finds someone to love her the way she is – perhaps in the form of a debt-saddled gambler played by James McAvoy. Also taking a gamble is Reese Witherspoon, who produced the modern day fairy tale in addition to taking a small part in it.
Opens wide.

“Romulus, My Father”
An Eric Bana double bill this week – let joy be unconfined (seriously, I think the guy is terrific). Veteran actor Richard Roxburgh steps behind the camera for the first time to helm this adaptation of Raimond Gaita’s critically acclaimed memoir about an immigrant couple’s turbulent marriage as witnessed through the eyes of their young and impressionable son in 1960s Australia. “Romulus, My Father” co-stars Franka Potente (of “Run Lola Run” fame) and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the young Gaita, whose indubitable love for his father is put to the test.
Open in Cambridge, MA.

Like clockwork, the Will Ferrell sports comedy is becoming an annual tradition. This time, the former “SNL”-er works his petulant man-child schtick and dons short shorts and an afro as he leads an ABA basketball team of no hopers who need to pull it together and make a run at the playoffs or miss out on a lucrative league merger with the NBA. Joining Ferrell for the fast break are usual suspects: David Koechner, Will Arnett and Andy Richter as well as Maura Tierney and Woody Harrelson.
Opens wide.

“The Unforeseen”
Fresh off its Truer Than Fiction win at the Spirit Awards, “The Unforeseen” finds environmentalist director Laura Dunn taking an in-depth look at the development surrounding Barton Springs in Texas, and the deeper issues that underlie the struggle between developers looking to shape the future and conservationists who oppose man’s meddling in Nature’s paradise. Terrence Malick and Robert Redford, who also narrates the doc, are executive producers on the film.
Opens in New York.

Told in the non-linear style of “Amores Perros,” “Vivere” relates the intersecting stories of three women on Christmas day in Rotterdam, beginning with Francesca and her pursuit of runaway sister Antonietta. Along the way she picks up Gerlinde, a melancholic middle-aged woman with a broken heart, and begins a journey entangled in fate and self-realization. German filmmaker Angela Maccarone helms this quietly affecting tale of three women struggling to trust their hearts and live for their dreams. In German and Dutch with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “Bonneville,” SenArt Films, 2007]



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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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