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Opening This Week: Children, romance

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By Neil Pedley

It’s Valentine’s Day week, so there’s a preponderance of three kinds of films coming out: romantic dramas, date movies and flicks for the kids (so the adults can sneak into the first two while their children text message each other and throw chocolate raisins around in the theater next door).

“Definitely, Maybe”
It must be Valentine’s Day if there’s a romantic comedy to reaffirm theaters full of late thirtysomethings that even if they’re divorced, it’s not too late for second chances. This year’s entry from “Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason” scribe Adam Brooks sees Ryan Reynolds starring as Will Hayes, a fast-talking political consultant with an answer for everything, until he’s stumped as to how to explain his impending divorce to his 10-year-old daughter, Maya (played by pint-sized Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin). As Will recounts his romantic history to Maya, she attempts to piece together the mystery and guess which woman eventually became her mother. Along the way, she realizes that matters of the heart are much more complicated than she first thought — if it sounds familiar, we’re pretty sure this at least has more laughs than “Atonement.”
Opens wide (official site).

“Dolphins and Whales: Tribes of The Ocean 3D”
Director Jean-Michel Cousteau takes a stunning journey beneath the waves, from the Bahamas to the Kingdom of Tonga, showcasing the ocean’s most enigmatic creatures in crystal clear 3D imagery. If it does well, expect a DreamWorks animated version by the end of the year. Daryl Hannah narrates.

Opens in IMAX in limited release (official site).

Loosely based on “A Long Way Gone,” a memoir of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, this Nigerian film highlights the plight of Africa’s forgotten children through Ezra, one of the countless children rounded up and recruited by anti-government militias that rampage across the war-torn continent. Once captured, the children are politically indoctrinated, brainwashed and schooled in the ways of violence and hatred. “Ezra” won the grand prize at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou and made its U.S. debut at Sundance last year. In many ways, this is the film “Blood Diamond” aspired to be — an unflinching and uncompromising story about one of the most urgent and least talked about problems facing a very troubled region.
Opens in New York (official site).

“George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead”
The godfather of the zombie film, a subgenre that just refuses to stay dead, is back in a big way with this flick that centers on a group of students making a horror film in the woods of Pennsylvania when the dead rise once more from the grave to wreak havoc. On the upside, the reboot of the zombie franchise is being helmed by Romero, so we know it couldn’t be in safer hands. On the downside, many of the film’s core ideas — an ensemble of lost and unprepared twentysomethings, handheld camera work, etc. — are so three weeks ago as a result of the hype-riding juggernaut that was “Cloverfield.”

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Jodhaa Akbar”
From the director of the Oscar-nominated Bollywood spectacle “Lagaan,” “Jodhaa Akbar” is part historical drama and part complex political thriller, set in the 16th century and telling of the Mughal empire and its leader, Akbar, whose empire stretched from the southern tip of India to the northern border of Afghanistan. In an attempt to solidify his latest political alliance, Akbar marries Jodhaa, a rebellious Rajput princess. Little did he know that this marriage of convenience would lead to a battle of a very different kind — one to win her love. In Hindi with subtitles.

Opens in limited release (official site).

Director Doug Liman, the man behind the camera for “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” brings us another well-polished, highly stylized fantasy action number. Hayden Christensen stars as David Rice, a man who can teleport anywhere on the planet instantly thanks to a genetic anomaly. Hot on his trail is Jamie Bell’s Griffin, another teleporter looking to warn David that he and others like them are fighting a war. “Batman Begins” writer David S. Goyer has the pedigree to make this potentially something quite special, and the film looks to be a visceral assault on the senses that’s slick, dark and very, very pretty.

Opens wide (official site).

“The Spiderwick Chronicles”
With “Harry Potter” fever winding down, the race is on to launch that next multi-million dollar children’s fantasy franchise. This story is based on a series of children’s books set in New England, where a family of four move to the decrepit former home of Arthur Spiderwick, the now-institutionalized author of a field guide that explains how to enter the realm of the Faeries. Twins Simon and Jared (Freddie Highmore of “Finding Neverland” fame) are charged with revealing this effects-laden world to us, as they try desperately to keep the book safe from an evil brownie who seeks to destroy it.

Opens wide (official site).

“Step Up 2 the Streets”
Instead of a sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit, think of this as a distant cousin of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” where instead of Jim Carrey, we journey into the mind of an MTV marketing executive who keeps costs down by not bringing back any of the original cast or crew (save for a Channing Tatum cameo) and populates a film about urban dance with Gap models who also seem to be the most expensively attired poor people in existence and live in the most immaculate ghetto neighborhoods where disputes between rival crews are settled by dance competitions. Thus, “Step Up 2 the Streets,” which finds Briana Evigan playing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who must join forces with Robert Hoffman’s elite dancer from the Maryland School of the Arts to compete in a Baltimore underground dance contest called “The Streets.”

Opens wide (official site).

“Watching The Detectives”
Writer/director Paul Soter, co-author of the underrated “Super Troopers” and… er…”Beerfest,” brings every film student’s wet dream to life — a spectacularly hot and charming girl who wants nothing more than to hear you talk about all those great old movies that you love. Lucy Liu is that girl, Violet, who strolls into an indie video store run by Neil (Cillian Murphy) and strolls out with his heart. Joining the meta-cinema mini-revival of mind-bending flicks such as “Adaptation,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and “Be Kind Rewind,” “Detectives” sees Neil’s life begin to resemble those great film noirs he has always loved as Violet’s real-life femme fatale starts to turn it upside down.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation”
Set in Brazil over the course of a few weeks in June 1970, this quietly disarming drama focuses on Mauro, a 12-year-old boy left in the care of his grandfather whilst his political activist parents are forced to flee from government forces. When his grandfather dies on the day he arrives, Mauro is placed within the collective care of the neighborhood and its colorful characters. Despite the politically charged big picture, this film is an intimate portrait of a working class community that lives and works together in understanding and harmony, a microcosm that transcends ethnic and political differences, helped along by the nation’s spectacular domination of that summer’s World Cup.

Opens in New York (official site).

[Photo: “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation,” City Lights Pictures, 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.