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Opening This Week

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04282008_thefavor.jpgBy Neil Pedley

The Tribeca Film Festival is in full swing, but if you don’t live in New York, there’s no need to fret. No less than three films (“From Within,” “Mister Lonely” and “Redbelt”) on this list of coming attractions have played the festival in recent days. Then again, if you are in New York and want to catch something outside the fest, there’s always that intimate character drama starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and a red and gold metal suit of armor.

“The Favor”
Writer/director Eva J. Aridjis brings us a quiet tale of angst and alienation starring former New York subway busker Ryan Donowho as Johnny, a high school loner who’s taken in by Lawrence (Frank Wood), a quiet pet photographer, after his mother (Paige Turco) is killed in an accident. In order to be the father he needs, Lawrence must fight through Johnny’s rebellious behavior and enlist the help of the one person he responds to — Marianna (Isidra Vega), a gentle neighborhood girl.
Opens in limited release.

“Fugitive Pieces”
Premiering at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, this adaptation of Anne Michaels’s novel was written and directed by Jeremy Podeswa, who last made a splash with the Mary-Louise Parker drama “The Five Senses.” Robbie Kay stars as the young Jakob, a boy rescued and smuggled out of occupied Poland after his parents die at the hands of a Greek archeologist (Rade Serbedzija). Jakob is played later in life by Stephen Dillane as a man still haunted by his memories and hiding behind his writing as he struggles to reconnect with his humanity and the woman who loves him (Ayelet Zurer).
Opens in limited release.

“Iron Man”
It just wouldn’t be summer without superheroesm and “Iron Man” is turning on his jet pack and taking the maiden voyage of this year’s blockbuster season. Robert Downey Jr. stars as the other man of steel by night and by day, rogue billionaire and military industrialist Tony Stark, a man who constructs an armored suit for himself after realizing the potential devastation his weapons could cause in the wrong hands. Director Jon Favreau, whose own alter ego was the host of IFC’s “Dinner for Five,” was entrusted to make sure this flagship Marvel franchise turns out more like “Spider-Man” than “Ghost Rider.”
Opens wide.

“Made of Honor”
Brit Paul Weiland, who directed more made-for-TV “Mr. Bean” movies than is probably healthy, helms this big screen adventure that continues the current fad of romantic comedies told from the male perspective. Patrick Dempsey fills in for Rowan Atkinson as a confirmed bachelor who feels he will never find a woman as good as his best friend Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), but when he finally realizes that she’s indeed the one, he has a small problem — she’s gotten engaged to someone else. We don’t want to give spoilers, but we think we know how this ends if the former “Can’t Buy Me Love” star pulls out that seductive riding lawn mower of his.
Opens wide.

“Mister Lonely”
Harmony Korine, who rose to prominence with shockingly provocative films like “Julien Donkey-Boy” and “Gummo,” shows his softer side in this whimsical story of love and identity, co-scripted by his brother Avi. Diego Luna stars as a Michael Jackson impersonator who meets a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton) while in Paris and leaves with her for a self-contained commune in Scotland populated exclusively by look-a-likes. Denis Lavant and Werner Herzog are also part of the film’s eclectic supporting cast.
Opens in limited release.

As surprised as we were to see a David Mamet film without William H. Macy, we might have been a little bit more shocking to see UFC titans Randy Couture and Enson Ionue in one. Regardless, the acclaimed playwright once again makes the world safe for the F-word while classing-up what would otherwise a lowbrow martial arts vehicle starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as a self-defense instructor forced to approach the world of pay-per-view fighting after his training regimen is stolen and employed as a gimmick by an unscrupulous promoter. But Mamet’s mixed martial arts film is no joke — the writer/director holds a purple belt in jujitsu and is said to be an ardent fan of MMA.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Son of Rambow”
Hammer & Tongs (a.k.a. director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith) revisit their intended first production, which was put on hold while they brought us the brave but flawed adaptation of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.” Pint-sized debutants Bill Milner and Will Poulter star as two boys — one raised in a puritanical community, the other spawned from the local black sheep — who form an unlikely friendship as they decide to make their own version of “Rambo: First Blood.” Already a hit with critics in the U.K., it remains to be seen if ’80s nostalgia and the unmistakable backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain will translate as well for an American audience.
Opens in limited release.

A hit on the international festival circuit last year, this offbeat drama tells of a family’s struggle to cope with their child’s intersexuality once she turns 15. Inés Efron stars as Alex, the young hermaphrodite who is trying to reconcile an identity in the face of a turbulent sexual awakening due to a family friend, Alvaro (Martín Piroyanski), and their families’ mutual fears and prejudices. At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, the film secured a Critic’s Week prize for its director, Lucía Puenzo.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “The Favor,” Seventh Art Releasing, 2006]



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.