Opening This Week

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03102008_blindmountain.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week, our cup runneth over with a “Karate Kid” knockoff, a shot-for-shot remake and more documentaries than Michael Moore can shake an overpriced hot dog at.

“Blind Mountain”
The recipient of plenty of acclaim at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, director Li Yang has a casual yet immediate style that’s been touted as something of a Chinese answer to Ken Loach. “Blind Mountain” offers an uncomfortable but powerful indictment of China’s one child policy and the sex trade that has flourished under it. The film follows the desperate struggle of a young woman who accepts a job in a remote mountain village, only to discover that she has unwittingly been sold into marriage as a slave.
Opens in New York.

Before anyone had heard of Angelina Jolie, model-turned-actress Rhona Mitra was the original face of “Tomb Raider”‘s Lara Croft. Ten years later, she’s traded in pixels for pictures as the lead in director Neil Marshall’s post-apocalyptic fusion of “Mad Max” and “Escape From New York,” playing the head of an elite commando unit tasked with finding a cure for a deadly virus plaguing Scotland.
Opens wide.

“Flash Point”
Director Wilson Yip teams up with Donnie Yen to retool the tried and tested Hong Kong cop thriller formula with the “Iron Monkey” star playing an undercover cop looking to bring down a deadly Vietnamese crime syndicate headed by three dangerous brothers. In addition to his acting duties, Yen choreographed the film’s innovative fight sequences, which combine six different fighting disciplines into what the action veteran hopes is the dawn of a new breed of martial arts film.
Opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Dr Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who”
After the very adult “The Number 23,” Jim Carrey puts his quest to be taken seriously on hold to voice Horton the Elephant, who protects the tiny Who civilization from the predators of the jungle. Steve Carell and Carol Burnett also lent their voices to this playful animated adventure based on the Dr. Seuss book from Blue Sky Animation, the team behind the “Ice Age” series and “Robots.”
Opens wide.

“Funny Games”
Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke remakes his own 1997 German-language film of the same name, which tells of a vacationing family at a lake house who become the victims of a home invasion by two malevolent teenagers bent on a series of cruel and torturous games. Tim Roth and Naomi Watts face off against Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt in this darkly comic thriller. Despite being a shot-for-shot remake of the original, the U.S. incarnation earned an R rating while the 1997 “Funny Games” was never granted an MPAA rating. Apparently, everything really does sound that much scarier in German.
Opens in limited release.

“Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise”
An official selection of the Montreal Film Festival, this all-access documentary takes us into the private world of one of rock’s most enduring stars as he takes to the road for his 2007 “Seize the Night” world tour. Director Bruce David Klein captures a frank portrait of the musician’s frequent battle with depression, exhaustion, personal demons and declining health as he’s faced with the prospect of calling time on a 35-year career and countless millions in record sales. In other words, it’s your typical rock doc.
Opens in New York.

“Never Back Down”
With the massive explosion in mainstream popularity being enjoyed by the UFC and mixed martial arts, it’s amazing this movie took so long to arrive. “Never Back Down” seems a Pat Morita cameo away from being “Karate Kid V: The Octagon”: Sean Faris stars as Jake Tyler, the new teen in town who gets his head handed to him by the local badass when he tries to chat up a girl. Tired of the endless beat downs, Jake seeks the sage advice of a retired fighter (Djimon Honsou) who trains Jake to get his revenge at the upcoming local tournament.
Opens wide.

“On Broadway”
Premiering at the Independent Film Festival of Boston to rave reviews before working its way down the New England coastline, “On Broadway” is writer Dave McLaughlin’s directorial debut. The film follows Boston carpenter Jack O’Toole (Joey McIntyre) as he attempts to reach out to his estranged father by writing a play inspired by the death of his beloved uncle. “On Broadway” boasts a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Eliza Dushku, Robert Wahlberg (brother of Mark & Donnie) and “Saturday Night Live”‘s Amy Poehler.
Opens in Boston.

Visual effects wrangler Bill Maher (“Mars Attacks,” “Batman & Robin”) makes his directorial bow with this drama about a family struggling to reconnect. Nick Stahl stars as James, a man forced to confront his long-buried demons regarding his father (Dennis Hopper) after his older sister, Joleen (Charlize Theron), abandons her 12-year-old daughter (Anna Sophia Robb), leaving her in his care.
Opens in limited release.

“Sputnik Mania”
On the heels of the well-received “In the Shadow of the Moon” comes another doc about the space race, this time about the American reaction to the launch of Sputnik, the former USSR’s first Earth orbiting satellite. Liev Schreiber narrates David Hoffman’s elegant, detailed story of how new technology inevitably leads to new terror and how that technological innovation impacted our entire way of life, then and for the 50 years that have followed. “Sputnik Mania” was the recipient of an International Documentary Association Award for best use of news footage in a documentary.
Opens in New York.

“Towards Darkness”
A slick and intricate abduction thriller, “Towards Darkness” is a non-linear chronicle of the events of 90 minutes in the life of a kidnap victim from a multitude of different perspectives. Roberto Urbina stars as Jose, the terrified victim who contemplates his life and seemingly imminent death while his father Carlos (Tony Plana) tries to secure his release with the aide of some covert American mercenaries. Director José Antonio Negret draws on the numerous personal tragedies of his own family for his directorial debut, which also stars and was executive produced by “Ugly Betty” herself, America Ferrera.
Opens in New York.

“War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death”
Filmmaker Jeremy Earp joins forces with Loretta Alper to continue his exploration of the media’s symbiotic relationship to politics and their complicit role in selling war to the American people. Sean Penn narrates what is Earp’s third film on the subject, which employs archival news footage spanning 50 years of American foreign policy, illustrating the parallels between Vietnam and the Iraq war as they argue that the more things change…
Opens in New York.

“Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Nightclub”
For over 12 years, the Tribeca-based Wetlands Preserve Rock Club provided a venue for a unique fusion of music, environmentalism and political activism that brought people together in celebration of free spirit and independence. The club helped birth such classic acts as the Dave Mathews Band, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and many more, all the while funneling their profits into environmental and humanitarian causes all over the world. Filmmaker Dean Budnick makes his debut bringing us the untold inside story of this legendary establishment and the people who helped to make it so.
Opens in New York; Opens in Los Angeles on March 28th.

[Photo: “Blind Mountain,” Kino, 2007]


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.