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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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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]


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.