Opening This Week

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05192008_childrenofhuangshi.jpgBy Neil Pedley

It’s a battle of filmmaking titans this week, the kind of event that comes around once in a lifetime — Steven Spielberg and Uwe Boll will duke it out at the multiplexes. (Forgive us, but that might’ve been our only opportunity to ever get to put those two names in the same sentence.)

“The Children of Huang Shi”
Set during the Japanese occupation of China during the 1930s, this sweeping historical epic comes from Roger Spottiswoode, the director behind both “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” and the narrative remake of “Shake Hands with the Devil.” The first official co-production between Australia and China, the film tells the true story of Australian nurse (Radha Mitchell), who with the aid of a British journalist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), escorts 60 orphaned children 700 miles through the Liu Pan Shan Mountains to evade Japanese secret police. “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” co-stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat reunite onscreen to lend their support as sympathizers to the cause.
Opens in limited release.

“The Edge of Heaven”
A year removed from its win for best screenplay at Cannes and a subsequent bid as German’s official entry for the Oscars, “The Edge of Heaven” is writer/director Fatih Akin’s three-chapter tale that links two divergent cultures through companionship, love and tragedy. When an unlikely relationship between Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), an elderly widower in Hamburg, and Yeter (Nursel Köse), a jaded prostitute, ends in a fatal accident, Ali’s son Nejet (Baki Davrak) travels to Istanbul in search of Yeter’s daughter, unaware that she’s already in Hamburg searching for her mother. In English, German and Turkish with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull”
Harrison Ford dusts off his fedora for the return of the world’s most athletic archaeologist. Although there’ve been fears that Indy’s whip might have lot some of its snap in the intervening years (not to mention co-creator George Lucas’ regrettable track record with revisiting past works), there are plenty of other indications that Dr. Jones needn’t be retirement-bound just yet. 19 years have passed since the events of the “Last Crusade,” and the Nazis have faded into history, leaving Indy to battle the Soviet Union across the jungles of South America in a race to capture an ancient and powerful Mayan relic. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” veteran Karen Allen is joined by Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf and Ray Winstone, who’ll hopefully breathe life into the franchise and give way to new fears for Indy such as, ‘Stairs, why did it have to be stairs?’
Opens wide.

A young New York filmmaker falls in and falls out with the mob in this debut movie written and directed by Jerry Schram.
Opens in New York.

“A Jihad For Love”
At a time when Islamic culture is increasingly scrutinized, gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma lifts the veil on a dark underbelly of the faith and challenges a society where homosexuality is not only illegal but also punishable by death. Filmed in 12 different Muslim countries, “A Jihad For Love” explores homosexuality in relation to the Muslim faith and shows the daily struggle of those who live in fear for their lives. Despite premiering at Toronto Film Festival to great acclaim, the film has sparked controversy and was banned from screening at the Singapore Film Festival due to its taboo subject matter.
Opens in limited release.

“The Machine Girl”
Long-suffering schoolgirl Ami has been taking care of her brother since their parents killed themselves after being falsely accused of homicide. When he’s murdered by yakuza-fathered bullies who also take her arm, she snaps on a prosthetic machine-gun limb and before you can say “Holy Cherry Darling!” she… oh, just watch the trailer. In Japanese with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

Statistically speaking, Uwe Boll should have accidentally made a good film by now, given the sheer number of cracks he has been given, but given what our own Alison Willmore said in last week’s podcast, we’re inclined to think “Postal” won’t improve Boll’s batting average. Partially based on an ultra-violent video game that began life as one game developer’s April Fool’s joke before popular demand made it a reality, “Postal” stars Zack Ward as a slacker who enlists the help of his uncle Dave (Dave Foley) and his cult to rip off a local amusement park where he unexpectedly winds up doing battle with the Taliban. Recently, the “world’s most hated director” claimed that exhibitors have reduced the number of screens “Postal” will play from 1500 to four because of the film’s political content — all we know is there’s a nation of grateful cats who didn’t want to be used as gun silencers.
Opens in limited release.

“War, Inc”
Loosely inspired by the work of political lefty Naomi Klein, this John Cusack pet project envisions the world’s first totally outsourced war. Set in the not-too-distant future in the fictional country of Turaqistan, the film finds Cusack once again plays a troubled assassin sent by the U.S. vice president (Dan Aykroyd) to off a rival war profiteer named Omar Sharif. This scathing satire directed at companies who make a killing from foreign wars is the narrative feature directorial debut of documentarian Joshua Seftel, but Cusack co-scripted, produces and stars along the likes of Ben Kingsley, Joan Cusack, Marisa Tomei and Hilary Duff, who manages to send up both foreign policy and Britney Spears as a Russian pop star. And in case you’re wondering, Cusack crony Tim Robbins didn’t make the cast, but the film was scored by his brother, David.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

[Photos: “The Children of Huang Shi,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2008]


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.