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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]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



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.