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Opening This Week

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04142008_anamorph.jpgBy Neil Pedley

With such variety this week, we could be tempted to go nuts and combine them into one super movie. Osama Bin Laden would have 88 minutes to paint an anamorphic picture that disproved Darwinism while riding the winner of the Kentucky Derby through ancient China with his gay lover who is also an Oscar nominated composer moonlighting as a zombie stripper…we smell a Golden Globe!

Utilizing the painting technique of anamorphosis, whereby the nature of an image changes depending on the viewer’s vantage point, filmmaker Henry Miller marks his directorial debut with this intricate and cerebral thriller that reads like “Saw” by way of “The Da Vinci Code.” Willem Dafoe stars as the dogged but haunted Detective Aubray, on the trail of carefully placed clues and elaborate puzzles, trying to catch a serial killer whose crimes bare a striking resemblance to an old case he is desperate to forget.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on May 2nd.

“88 Minutes”
Producer and occasional director Jon Avnet helms his first feature for 10 years — a ticking-clock thriller starring Mr. Shouty himself, Al Pacino, as a forensic psychiatrist with a checkered past who’s targeted by a copycat serial killer and told he has just 88 minutes to live. Though Pacino’s character may not have long to live, the film itself has actually sat on the shelf since 2005, but after pirate copies of the international release found their way into the U.S., Sony, along with the film’s — are you ready? — 19 producers, had to rethink the release date and spare Al the indignity of going straight to DVD.
Opens wide.

“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”
Veteran character actor (“Bueller? Bueller?”) and recently christened New York Times op-ed columnist Ben Stein is turning his outspoken advocacy for intelligent design theory into the backbone of this controversial documentary. Stein, who co-scripted along with Kevin Miller and Walt Ruloff, highlight what they believe to be a relentless campaign of persecution within the scientific community directed against anyone who attempts to contradict Darwinist theory. While they build a case that their claim is far from baseless, the film has already sparked a backlash from some participants and interviewees who claim that they were misled as to the film’s intentions.
Opens wide.

“The First Saturday in May”
Filmmakers Brad and John Hennigan capture the inside track of horse racing’s most prestigious annual event, the Kentucky Derby, through the eyes of six trainers, and document what it takes to breed, train and maintain a thoroughbred that has a chance to win this most coveted prize. The film also explores the colorful galaxy of people that populate the racing world, complete with sporting hats that cost more than most people’s rent.
Opens in limited release.

“The Forbidden Kingdom”
Rob Minkoff, the man behind “The Lion King” and “Stuart Little”, is going PG-13 with this highly anticipated clash between two of martial arts’ greatest icons, which pits the elegant finesse of Jet Li against the circus acrobatics of Jackie Chan as the two rival fighters must escort an American teenager transported back in time to ancient China by a mystical weapon that must be returned to its owner. The film is (very loosely) based on “Journey to the West,” one of the most cherished works of Chinese literature, which makes one wonder even more why it took an American production to finally bring Li and Chan together.
Opens wide.

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”
Sarah Marshalls around the country won’t soon forget the guerrilla marketing campaign for the latest Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy, involving posters blaring “You suck, Sarah Marshall.” But even they might need to check out their namesake, played by Kristen Bell, as she ditches her boyfriend for a pop singer, only to discover that her ex is staying at the same hotel in Hawaii. Jason Segel, who stars as the jilted party, wrote the film’s script and based it on real life experiences.
Opens wide.

“Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts”
Scott Hicks, who received an Oscar nomination for “Shine,” returns to music to follow a hectic and eventful year in the life of composer Philip Glass. Shot to commemorate Glass’ 70th birthday, the film looks back at his life and illustrious 40-year career and divides his story into twelve separate chapters, slowly building to a pulsating crescendo that celebrates the work of one of the great composers of our time — but in a way that doesn’t overdo it, of course.
Opens in New York.

“Kiss the Bride”
Tori Spelling rarely makes the pilgrimage from the small screen to the big screen, so imagine our excitement when we saw that the star of “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger” shows off her comedy chops in this low-budget gender reversal rom-com from the pen of first time writer-director Tyler Lieberman. Philip Karner stars as Matt, a man who sets out to crash the wedding of his high school buddy and secret sweetheart, Ryan (James O’Shae) and his bride-to-be Alex (Spelling). Joanna Cassidy and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”‘s Amber Benson are there for the nuptials, even if Spelling finds herself the odd woman out.
Opens in limited release.

“The Life Before Her Eyes”
After his no-frills adaptation of “House of Sand and Fog,” director Vadim Perelman is turning his lens towards Laura Kasischke’s eerie novel, with Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood splitting the lead role as Diana, a once capricious and restless teenager who’s haunted later in life by an event from her past. As the anniversary of the tragedy approaches, Diana’s adult life begins to fall apart and the line between perception and reality becomes more and more illusory.
Opens in limited release.

“Heroes” own Peter Petrelli, Milo Ventimiglia, takes center stage as a promising med student who enters into one of the country’s top pathology programs, and by extension, a competition in which each student proves their expertise by committing the perfect, untraceable crime. Of course, Ventimiglia discovers his fellow classmates, led by Michael Weston and Alyssa Milano, might be one scalpel short of a full operating table in this dark and moody gothic thriller from German director Marc Schoelermann and the producers of “Crank.”
Opens in wide release.

“The Tiger’s Tail”
It’s fitting that this enigmatic tale of guilt and capitalism in the height of Ireland’s economic booms snuck up on us, because otherwise we would have spent weeks obsessing about the reunion of Brendan Gleeson with “The General” director John Boorman. Gleeson stars as Liam O’Leary, a successful Dublin businessman who begins to believe he’s being stalked by a malicious doppelganger with dark intentions in Boorman’s darkly comic portrait of Ireland’s princes and paupers at a time when rich and poor were deeply divided. We expect co-star Kim Cattrall to look fabulous, even if her “Oirish” accent isn’t pitch perfect.
Opens in limited release.

“Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden”
After taking on the evils of McDonald’s, the public education system and…er..Christmas, Morgan Spurlock, goes after his most high profile target yet, Osama Bin Laden. Traveling through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel and Pakistan, Spurlock uses his unpretentious approach and trademark humor to hunt for the world’s most wanted man while gaging the climate and engaging the people. Though the film’s cinematographer Daniel Marracino told Variety “we’ve definitely got the Holy Grail,” we may just have to settle for seeing Spurlock rock a full-on chin curtain.
Opens in limited release.

“Zombie Strippers”
Robert Englund (a.k.a. Freddy Krueger) slaps the scenery between two pieces of bread and takes a huge bite in this tongue-in-cheek (at least we certainly hope so) horror comedy that, much like peanut butter cups, combines two of the average twenty-something male’s favorite things. When a secret government virus is accidentally released onto the sleepy town of Satre, Nebraska, the resulting zombie stripper becomes the town’s new sensation, which leaves co-star Jenna Jameson and her cadre of living dead ladies of loose morals to run wild.
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “Anamorph,” IFC Films, 2008]



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.