DID YOU READ

Opening This Week

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05052008_thebabysitters.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week sees the return of the Wachowski brothers, Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”) and Henry Bean (“The Believer”) to the big screen, not to mention new films from documentarians Nick Broomfield (“Tupac and Biggie”) and Doug Pray (“Scratch”). On the other hand, after running around Tribeca, we still need to catch up on last week’s releases.

“The Babysitters”
The idea of the spunky teenage boy succumbing to the allure of an experienced older woman is the kind of Hollywood golden goose that launches major careers (think Dustin Hoffman). But when the roles are reversed, the result is the directorial debut of David Ross that sees an entrepreneurial high schooler (Katherine Waterston, daughter of Sam) and her friends turn their babysitting ring into a call girl service, realizing there are alternative ways to pay for college besides waiting tables. It stars when one local dad (John Leguizamo) goes a little too far one night, and Waterston’s Shirley sees the opportunity for a full scholarship (and a phone call to Chris Hansen).
Opens in New York.

“Battle For Haditha”
UK documentarian and provocateur Nick Broomfield, perhaps best known for his controversial music doc, “Kurt and Courtney,” once again takes a factual event and offers to fill in the blanks in “Battle For Haditha,” a fictional dramatization of the events surrounding the 2005 death of a U.S. Marine in Haditha, Iraq and the subsequent killing of 24 Iraqi noncombatants, reportedly in retaliation. In keeping with the speculative nature of the project. the film was shot without a script with actors being given a detailed scene outline and then left to improvise their roles within it.
Opens in New York.

“The Fall”
Tarsem Singh’s debut, the psychological mindbender “The Cell,” was much like its leading lady, Jennifer Lopez — extremely beautiful and more than a little excruciating to watch on screen. His sophomore effort, which arrives in theaters after six years in production and the aegis of “presenters” David Fincher and Spike Jonze, is certainly at least one of those things. Using the gloriously ripe cinematography of classic Bollywood to paint a visceral steampunk adventure story, Singh lets “Pushing Daisies” star Lee Pace impart a grand, epic tale of warriors and tyrants to the little girl in the hospital bed next to him (Catinca Untaru) in an effort to enlist her in a bid to end his life.
Opens in limited release.

“Frontière(s)”
That this film was originally deemed too gruesome to premiere at even the 2007 Horrorfest festival and had to be toned down for an NC-17 rating should tell you everything you need to know. The demonic lovechild of Eli Roth and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this nasty survival story stars Karina Testa and Aurélien Wiik as young thieves on the run who take refuge at an inn where they are made to earn their freedom by running the gauntlet of a vast underground labyrinth filled with neo-Nazi torturers and sub-human cannibals. The film was directed by Xavier Gens, who went Hollywood with “Hitman” last year.
Opens in limited release.

“Noise”
Based on the real life exploits of writer/director Henry Bean, “Noise” finds Tim Robbins as a white collar vigilante who harbors a deep-seated hatred of that pre-dawn terror, the faulty car alarm. Driven to distraction by their perceived incessant interruptions of his otherwise serene inner city existence, Robbins dons a mask, grabs a tire iron, and fights back under the guise of his preposterous alter ego, “The Rectifier.” Following his credited screenplay work on “Basic Instinct 2,” Bean attempts to rectify his own cred with this black comedy.
Opens in New York.

“OSS 117: Cario, Nest of Spies”
The espionage novels of Jean Bruce were the inspiration for this gloriously silly riff on Cold War spy fiction. Though the film isn’t the first adaptation of — are you ready? — the series of 265 stories, it’s certainly a jab in the eye for the Bond films of Sean Connery, especially since the story’s hero, the impossibly named Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, actually predates Ian Fleming’s character by several years. Arming our man in Egypt with the wardrobe of Harry Palmer and the brains of Inspector Clouseau, director Michel Hazanavicius takes the customary innuendo, thinly veiled misogyny and spectacularly oversimplified geopolitics, mixes them with classic French farce, and shakes them like a vodka martini.
Opens in limited release.

“A Previous Engagement”
Perhaps best known for her BAFTA-nominated performance in the late Anthony Minghella’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” Juliet Stevenson stars as Julia, a bitter and aging librarian who decides on a whim to drag her family to Malta where she can wallow at the site where she promised to hook up with the real love of her life (Tchéky Karyo) 25 years ago. When she finds he’s actually there, along with his young, attractive new girlfriend, she is completely unprepared to deal with her former lover and her foppish husband (Daniel Stern), who sets about making himself a new man she’ll be unable to resist after discovering the trip’s true purpose.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Speed Racer”
Lounging around development hell since as far back as 1992, with everyone from Johnny Depp and Julien Temple (cheer) to Vince Vaughn (shudder) attached at one point or another, it took the resolve of Joel Silver and clout of the Wachowski brothers to get “Speed Racer” up and running. After his acclaimed turn in “Into the Wild,” Emile Hirsch feels the need to be Speed, the prodigal driver who must be taken out after he refuses to play ball with the racing industry’s corporate stooges, who’re looking to fix races for profit. Perhaps the single prettiest thing ever committed to celluloid, the film received its world premiere as the closing night film of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.
Opens wide and in IMAX in select theaters.

“Surfwise”
“Scratch” documentarian Doug Pray chronicles the life of bohemian surfing legend Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, who’s credited as being the man who introduced surfing to Israel. Pray charts Doc’s amazing transformation from successful, middle-class doctor in Hawaii into a wandering, nomadic beatnik, living in a camper van on the California coast with his wife and nine children. Blending archival footage, interviews with former surfing students, his now-grown children and the aging guru himself, “Surfwise” tells the incredible story of a man who decided to wave goodbye to society and never looked back.
Opens in limited release.

“The Tracey Fragments”
Using an abstract fusion of mosaic and montage imagery, cult Canadian auteur Bruce McDonald directs a pre-“Juno” Ellen Page in an adaptation of Maureen Medved’s novel about the titular Tracey, a traumatized girl found naked on a bus who reveals through a series of vignettes her story and her search for missing little brother, Sonny. In preparation for its domestic release, the film’s footage was made available to users online who were encouraged to assemble and submit their own version of the story, with the best entries then featured on the official website.
Opens in New York.

“Turn The River”
Another week, another card film, this time starring Famke Janssen as Kailey Sullivan, a down-on-her-luck mom who hustles at the poker table and the local poolhall to raise the cash to take her son (Jaymie Dornan) away from her ex-husband (Matt Ross). Praised by some critics as an authentic character study and for its gutsy gender reversal, the film was written and directed by Chris Eigeman, who picked up a screenplay award at last year’s Hamptons Film Festival, which also bestowed a jury prize to Janssen for her gritty performance. Rip Torn and Lois Smith also star.
Opens in limited release.

“Unsettled”
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Slamdance Festival for best documentary, Adam Hootnick’s intimate film follows the Israeli withdrawal of the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the varied impact it has on the lives of a group of young people made to leave their homes. Some support the withdrawal, while others vehemently oppose it, and others still are indifferent yet equally powerless against a mandate for them to leave peacefully, or be evacuated by force.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on May 16th.

“Vice”
Ah, so this is what Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah do in between Tarantino movies. With a commendation from no less than Dennis Hopper, who’s quoted as saying “Vice” “is one of the best cop movies I’ve ever seen,” this low budget pulp noir stars Madsen and Hannah as members of a narco squad who have to stay alive long enough to hunt down an inside man responsible for jacking a bust’s worth of heroin. Mykelti Williamson co-stars in this “Max Payne”-lite crime caper.
Opens in limited release.

“What Happens in Vegas…”
Ashton Kutcher is certainly no stranger to walking down the aisle with good-looking older women, but Demi Moore’s other half gets more than he bargained for in this anarchic rom-com from “Starter for 10” director Tom Vaughan. Hard as it is to believe anyone wouldn’t be overjoyed to wake up and discover he’s hitched to Cameron Diaz, both parties are decidedly unhappy when a one night stand turns into a battle of will when it comes to divvying up the $3 million they won together on the slots, and the only way to get the money is to drive the other so crazy that he or she leaves voluntarily. Rob Corddry, Queen Latifah and “Saturday Night Live”‘s Jason Sudeikis round out an eclectic support cast.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “The Babysitters,” Peace Arch Releasing, 2008]

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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.