DID YOU READ

Opening This Week

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03312008_flightoftheredballoon.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week is something of a nostalgia trip with a period comedy, Freddie Prinze Jr. and a concert documentary about a group of men who, by all the laws of man and nature, should not still be alive and walking around.

“The Flight of the Red Balloon”
After being nominated for the Palme d’Or an incredible five times at Cannes, it’s no wonder that director Hou Hsiao-hsien has become a Francophile. In his first film outside of Asia, the “Three Times” auteur directs the country’s first lady of cinema, Juliette Binoche, in a story about an overburdened mother who receives a much-needed lift from her son’s Chinese nanny (Song Fang) as they turn the City of Lights into a magical playground for the 7-year-old Simon — a tribute to Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 short. In French with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Jack and Jill vs. the World”
“Kiss the Bride” director Vanessa Parise corrals a cast of familiar faces to fill out what’s been dubbed by the film’s distributor as “a love story for cynics.” If penning a relationship manifesto together is the new foreplay, then Freddie Prinze Jr. and Taryn Manning are well on their way as a couple who demand complete honesty from each other, only to have one keep a grievous secret with the potential to destroy what they’ve built. Ah, wasn’t life easier when Prinze Jr. only had Matthew Lillard to contend with?
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Jellyfish”
Nominated for every category imaginable at the Awards of the Israeli Film Academy and the winner of a Golden Camera at Cannes, this poetic and reflective tale of three Tel Aviv women attending a wedding is the directorial debut of Israeli actress Shira Geffen and her husband Etgar Keret. The multi-stranded film about chance intersection and the struggle to find affection in an increasingly transient world recently played at the New Directors/New Films festival.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on April 25

“Leatherheads”
George Clooney takes a vacation from politics and global affairs to produce, direct and star in this screwball comedy about the growing pains of professional football in the 1920s. Clooney plays Dodge Connolly, the rogue captain of the Duluth Bulldogs, who drafts in college-star-turned-war-hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to bolster his team’s chances, though his plan backfires when Rutherford steals the spotlight and the affections of Renée Zellweger’s impetuous sports reporter, Lexie Littleton. There should be some authenticity here since “Leatherheads” was written by Sports Illustrated scribes Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly.
Opens wide.

“Meet Bill”
Longtime producer Bernie Goldmann makes his directorial debut, along with co-director and writer Melisa Wallack, on this comedy, which stars Aaron Eckhart as a perpetual doormat who signs up to be a high school mentor but finds himself being given a crash course in self-esteem building by a mischievous schoolboy (Logan Lerman). Though casting of Eckhart as a loser goes against type, finding female leads was even harder as Amanda Peet and Lindsey Lohan left the project over “creative differences” before being replaced by the infinitely easier on the eyes Elizabeth Banks and Jessica Alba, respectively.
Opens in limited release.

“My Blueberry Nights”
This bittersweet tale of a group of strangers whose lives intersect and touch another across the length and breadth of the country opened last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where some critics found it to be middle of the road. Yet the first English language film from Wong Kar-Wai features an all-star ensemble boasting the likes of Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachael Weisz, David Strathairn and Grammy-winner Norah Jones as a woman who attempts to find herself after a break-up. Ironically, Darius Khondji’s dreamlike take on the American landscape has been cited as the film’s biggest star, though Kar-Wai originally envisioned shooting “Blueberry” entirely in New York.
Opens in limited release.

“Nim’s Island”
Seemingly typecast for years as Hollywood’s female answer to the action hero, Jodie Foster takes great delight in lampooning her image as the capable woman who’s cool under pressure in this endearing fantasy adventure directed by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, the husband-and-wife team behind “Little Manhattan.” Foster stars as the reclusive and agoraphobic author behind a series of adventure novels who must help her biggest fan (Abigail Breslin) find her missing father (Gerard Butler) in real life.
Opens wide.

“The Ruins”
From the guys behind “Blades of Glory” and “Dodgeball” comes… this bleak adaptation of the acclaimed horror novel by Scott B. Smith, the Oscar nominated writer behind “The Simple Plan”? While this might sound like another cheap spin on the torture porn riff that has all but killed the American horror film, Sundance alum Carter Smith (no relation) directs indie darlings Jonathan Tucker and Jena Malone from their idyllic Mexican vacation to scout out an ancient Mayan temple, unaware of the evil and malevolent spirits that exist there. Yes, Ben Stiller produces, but this still should be scarier than seeing Derek Zoolander in spandex.
Opens wide.

“Sex and Death 101”
The once stable, then crazy, now stable again Winona Ryder reunites with “Heathers” writer Daniel Waters on this dark comedy, which Waters also directed. Simon Baker fills in as Roderick Blank, a man who receives an email detailing every sexual encounter he will ever have. While he weighs the potential fun to be had with the advance knowledge of his conquests, his confusion is compounded when he encounters a mysterious femme fatale (Ryder) who punishes men guilty of crimes against women. Despite this reunion, there remains no official word on the much-touted “Heathers” sequel.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Shine a Light”
Two of the biggest icons in film and music combine as Martin Scorsese catalogues an unforgettable performance by The Rolling Stones at the Beacon Theater in New York in 2006. Besides having seven of the world’s best cinematographers on hand to capture the riveting musical spectacle by one of the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands, Scorsese also pulls back the curtain to reveal the logistical difficulties, the clash of egos and the staggering amount of planning and forethought that goes into creating such an event. However, as excited as we are to see the Stones, we might suggest that our pal Matt Singer sit this one out.
Opens wide and in IMAX.

“Tuya’s Marriage”
Taking home the Golden Bear at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, this slow-moving, scrupulously detailed portrait of nomadic Mongolian life is the latest film by Chinese director Wang Quanan. Frequent Quanan collaborator Yu Nan stars as the willful young Tuya, who takes it upon herself to search for a new husband who’ll care for her and her current husband, who lost his legs and can no longer support his family. Quanan was so keen on casting his longtime leading lady Nan that even though the film is set in Mongolia, the entire film is in Chinese, Nan’s native tongue.
Opens in limited release.

“Water Lilies”
Writer/director Céline Sciamma gently guides us through the hazy fog of female adolescence in the sensuous coming-of-age story of Anne, Marie and Floriane, three girls who endure a summer in the French suburb of Cergy during the 1960s by sticking close to the municipal swimming pool. Floriane is the attractive star of the synchronized swimming team who lures the awkward Marie in as her confidante, much to the chagrin of Marie’s friend, Anne. The film first premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival where it was part of the Un Certain Regard section. In French with Subtitles.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Flight of the Red Balloon,” IFC Films, 2007]

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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.