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Opening This Week

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04212008_babymama.jpgBy Neil Pedley

While we pace the carpet back and forth in anticipation of the fast-approaching Tribeca Film Festival (kicking off on Wednesday), we can bide our time with a puppet kidnapping, some Bollywood royalty and an Ewan McGregor sighting.

“Baby Mama”
If the fad of pregnancy movies began with last year’s “Knocked Up,” it reaches its second trimester with “Baby Mama,” which stars comedy goddess Tina Fey as a wannabe mom who’s fast approaching 40 and Fey’s one-time Weekend Update deskmate Amy Poehler as the uncouth oddball who offers up the use of her womb in exchange for a bit of cash. Appropriately enough, former “SNL” scribe Michael McCullers makes his directorial debut with the offbeat comedy, which could serve as “Juno” for people deemed too fuddy-duddy to find the term “home skillet” amusing. “Baby Mama”‘s also serving as Tribeca’s opening night film.
Opens wide.

Gil Cates Jr. follows in the shaky footsteps of Curtis Hanson (“Lucky You”) and John Dahl (“Rounders”) with this tale of a young cardshark (“Reaper” star Bret Harrison) and his mentor (Burt Reynolds) who seek an upset at the World Series of Poker. Real life part-time poker mavens Jennifer Tilly and Shannon Elizabeth round out the cast, and we have to give credit where it’s due — this is the first film we’ve ever seen that used pullquotes from poker champions in its marketing campaign.
Opens in limited release.

Ewan McGregor stars as an awkward accountant inducted by Hugh Jackman’s smooth talking lawyer into a secretive world of anonymous sexual encounters in this debut feature from director Marcel Langenegger that’s part erotic thriller and part elaborate heist. Michelle Williams further complicates matters for McGregor’s character, who quickly realizes that his new friends might not be all that they appear when he becomes chief suspect in the disappearance of a woman (Maggie Q) he knows only as S.
Opens wide.

“Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay”
Following their 2004 sleeper comedy hit, Kal Penn and John Cho reprise their roles as the Cheech & Chong of the MySpace generation in another absurd and surreal stoner escapade. After a mix-up on a flight to Amsterdam, the pair are mistaken for terrorists and shipped off to Cuba, where they duly escape. “Daily Show” vets Rob Corddry and Ed Helms are hot on their trail, along with the returning Neil Patrick Harris, who is officially as camp as a row of tents, reprising his role as himself in a way that just begs for an action figure, complete with unicorn accessory.
Opens wide.

“A Plumm Summer”
Caroline Zelder makes filmmaking debut with a family adventure laden with an eclectic cast that appears so wholesome it should by rights only exist in a pastry dish cooling on some old lady’s open window ledge. Based on an actual event that occurred in Montana in 1968, this idyllic vision of Americana stars Billy Baldwin, Henry Winkler, Clint Howard and former Fox Sports announcer Lisa Guerrero as residents of a small town that’s rocked when their beloved local kids TV star — a puppet, Froggy Doo — is kidnapped and held for ransom. Jeff Daniels narrates.
Opens in limited release.

Following up his gruesome and disturbing debut serial killer thriller “Wolf Creek,” writer-director Greg McLean returns to the vast, untamed wilderness of the Australian outback. Radha Mitchell stars as a feisty tour guide who leads an embittered travel writer (Michael Vartan) and a boat full of tourists into forbidden waters where they are stalked by a gigantic, ancient man-eating crocodile. Perhaps because of the lukewarm reception the film received at the Aussie box office, “Rogue” is getting a smaller release than its predecessor in America, which can only be good news for Australia’s tourism industry.
Opens in limited release.

“Roman de Gare”
This multi-stranded tale of friendship, fate and murder was self-financed and shot under a pseudonym, only revealed to be the work of acclaimed French director Claude Lelouch upon its release at Cannes. In fact, identity is a theme of the 70-year-old filmmaker’s latest film, which tells the story of a mystery writer (Fanny Ardant) who is a bit mysterious herself, since her books are ghost written by Louis (Dominique Pinon), an enigmatic ex-teacher who may or may not be a real life serial killer called “The Magician.” In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Standard Operating Procedure”
The nonstop slew of films examining the Iraq war continues, this time courtesy of Oscar-nominated filmmaker and self-proclaimed “detective director” Errol Morris. “Standard Operating Procedure” takes us inside the notorious Abu Ghraib POW camp via reenactments, seeking to uncover the truth behind one of America’s most shameful military scandals. With testimony from witnesses, those implicated by evidence of prisoner abuse, and those who tried to speak out, Morris explores the psychology of such an institution and asks how such activities could go unchecked for so long.
Opens in limited release.

“Stuff and Dough”
After the international success of his 2005 film, “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” Romanian writer/director Cristi Puiu’s darkly comic debut is riding the Romanian New Wave to a limited U.S. run, seven years after its initial release. A low-budget road movie that racked up awards on the European film festival circuit, “Stuff and Dough” follows an ambitious young hustler and his two friends in their beat-up van and listen in as they travel to Bucharest to deliver a strange package to a local gangster. In Romanian with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

One of the most eagerly anticipated films in its native India, “Tashan” pairs Bollywood royalty Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor on screen together for the first time since they became a couple in real life. The celebrated couple stars alongside Akshay Kumar as three strangers taking a journey across India together under the watchful eye of Anil Kapoor’s sadistic gangster. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Then She Found Me”
Helen Hunt told the audience at this year’s SXSW that everything that was important to her could be found in her big screen adaptation of Elinor Lipman’s novel about a school teacher who yearns for a child of her own when she is reunited with the mother she never knew (Bette Midler), a woman determined to get to know her daughter, whether she wants to or not. In addition to starring in the film, Hunt also gets behind the camera for the first time to direct. Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo from Salman Rushdie.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Without The King”
Documentary filmmaker Michael Skolnik travels to Swaziland, a country that has earned the dubious designation of having the lowest life expectancy of any place on Earth, thanks to an out of control HIV epidemic. The African nation is also home to the world’s last remaining absolute monarchy where King Mswati III lives in ignominious luxury while his people struggle in abject poverty. With access granted by both the king and his subjects (who are plotting his ouster), Skolnick juxtaposes the struggle of the people and the increasingly volatile political climate with a monarch who is out of touch with reality. The film earned a Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs 2007.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Baby Mama,” Universal Pictures, 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.