DID YOU READ

Opening This Week

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06022008_dreamswithsharpteeth.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Among this week’s offerings: The pregnancy comedy goes pre-natal, the fate of all the jungle rests in the hands of the world’s most lethargic endangered species, and Dario Argento has a new film, rendering the rest of this list mostly unnecessary.

“Dreams With Sharp Teeth”
Author Harlan Ellison is widely regarded as one of the finest writers of the 20th century. He is also, as this documentary readily highlights, abrasive, petulant, egotistical and prone to fits of belligerent rage. Collecting together more than two decades worth of footage and interviews, “Grizzly Man” producer Erik Nelson lifts the dust jacket off one of literature’s genuinely larger than life characters and a man who has filed more lawsuits than the ACLU, proving that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, even Ellison’s sci-fi tales.
Opens in New York.

“The Go-Getter”
On paper, it sounds like the dictionary definition of a Sundance Film (coming of age story, acoustic-indie soundtrack, quirky characters), so it’s no surprise this whimsical road movie played the festival in 2007. Lou Taylor Pucci stars as a disaffected teen who steals a car and rediscovers his estranged brother by proxy as he tracks him across the country to tell him of their mother’s death. Zooey Deschanel is the sympathetic owner of the stolen vehicle who aids his journey, and though she might have lost a car, Deschanel gained a singer-songwriter partner offscreen in M. Ward, who scored the film and joined her to form the musical duo She & Him following the shoot.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Kung Fu Panda”
Movie theater patrons have already been acquainted with Po the Panda as the bear who bursts onto the screen just before the feature and threatens to kick your ass if you don’t quit texting your buddy sitting two seats away. Looking to bolster DreamWorks’s bottom line in the absence of a certain big green ogre this summer, the studio’s first animated film in Cinemascope tells the epic story of Po (Jack Black), a slacker chosen by prophecy to be trained to be a warrior to battle against an evil snow leopard (Ian McShane). Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan help to round out an eclectic, all-star voice cast.
Opens wide and in IMAX.

“Miss Conception”
It appears that Hollywood has birthed yet another pregnancy comedy, though this one takes place across the pond. Desperate to be a mum, a flighty London professional (Heather Graham) has one month to get herself pregnant, since her family has a history of early menopause. Providing ample opportunities to mock the British for pre-conceived notions of their repressed attitudes towards sex, the film has supplied Graham’s Georgina with a best friend, played by Mia Kirshner, who arranges for her to pounce on an ever more terrified selection of unsuspecting men.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Kahn”
Don’t let the fact that this was the official Kazakhstan [insert obligatory “Borat” gag here] entry into the best foreign film category at this year’s Oscars fool you — this Eurasian epic is about as international as they come. Boasting a Russian director and Chinese and Japanese leads, this sweeping melodrama chronicles the legendary warlord’s childhood, his struggle to survive in the wake of his father’s assassination and his subsequent ascension to overlord of an empire stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, two hours can’t cover such an epic life, but fret not, a second installment chronicling the final years of his life is currently in development.
Opens in limited release.

“The Mother of Tears”
Also known as “The Third Mother,” this elegant supernatural thriller is the concluding installment of Italian director Dario Argento’s “The Three Mothers” trilogy, which arrives a mere 28 years after the last installment, “Inferno.” The final chapter of this gothic horror trifecta sees an American art restoration student, played by Dario’s daughter, Asia, disturb an ancient urn containing cursed relics, the release of which heralds the return of the beautiful yet malevolent sorceress Mater Lachrymarum (Moran Atias). As frequent readers of the site may know, we’ll see just about anything with Asia Argento, but don’t take our word for it — non-horror fans might recall none other than Juno MacGuff prefers Dario Argento to Herschell Gordon Lewis. In English and Italian with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“On The Rumba River”
Out of one of the most war-torn countries on Earth comes the truly remarkable and inspirational story of Wendo Kolosoy, a man credited with pioneering the Congolese Rumba and one of the godfathers of African music. Against the backdrop of a 2004 reunion concert for Papa Wendo and his band, French filmmaker Jacques Sarasin charts Wendo’s humble beginnings as a boat mechanic, his battles with the Belgian colonials who considered him subversive, his fall from grace and time spent as a beggar on the streets and his dramatic comeback under a new regime in the late ’90s. In Lingala with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Operation Filmmaker”
The issue of media responsibility as it relates to the war in Iraq takes on a whole new meaning in this documentary from Nina Davenport about a young Iraqi filmmaker named Muthana Mohmed, who’s taken under the wing of Liev Schreiber after the actor/director hears that his Baghdad school has been bombed. However, Mohmed finds that his job as a production assistant on Schreiber’s film, “Everything is Illuminated,” isn’t what he had hoped for, and Schreiber and company are displeased to find their charity case is fond of partying and George Bush. As the reality of Mohmed’s temporary status looms ever closer, Davenport documents how, much like the larger situation in Iraq, sometimes even the best of intentions can go seriously awry.
Opens in New York.

“The Promotion”
Writer/director Steve Conrad, the screenwriter behind “The Weather Man” and “The Pursuit of Happyness” once again goes to the well of somewhat failed men and their questionable professional accomplishments, this time adding a more comedic edge. John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott star as two competing grocery store employees, each vying for the job of manager of the new store opening in town while trying to conceal vast chasms of incapability. Debuting at this year’s SXSW Festival, the film pulled sharply divided early reviews, with SpoutBlog calling it “one of the best comedies in years” and The Hollywood Reporter calling it “one of the unfunniest comedies ever.”
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy”
With a release set to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the New York senator’s tragic assassination, Shane O’Sullivan’s investigative documentary explores the controversies surrounding the shooting and the conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Expanding on his reports for the BBC, O’Sullivan uncovers fresh forensic analysis and inconsistencies in the official account of the murder, and speaks to convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan’s only surviving relative in an effort to discover the true sequence of events that took place. O’Sullivan is also going the Errol Morris route and publishing an accompanying book, “Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?” to reach shelves to tie in with the release of the film.
Opens in New York.

“Sarkar Raj”
Ram Gopal Varma’s highly anticipated sequel to the acclaimed Bollywood hit “Sarkar,” finally arrives, but while that film was a re-imagining of Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather,” Varma has loosely built this follow-up around the shady goings-on in the build up to the Enron scandal. Yet “Raj” is still a family affair, with Varma directing Amitabh Bachchan, Bachchan’s son Abhishek and Abhishek’s real-life wife Aishwarya Rai, who plays an ambitious CEO outside the family who gets in cahoots with Abhishek’s clan leader to navigate the various factions populating a corrupt political minefield as they seek to establish a power plant in the local province. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Take Out”
One of the creative forces behind the inimitable “Greg The Bunny,” writer/director Sean Baker teams with fellow NYU grad Shi-Ching Tsou for this contemporary, neorealist slice of life. Ming Ding (Charles Jang), a Chinese immigrant who makes his living as a takeout deliveryman, gets in over his head in debt to the loan sharks who helped smuggle him into the U.S. and is given 24 hours to make good on the cash. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Nashville Film Festival, the film drew much praise on the festival circuit for its commitment to a documentary-style aesthetic and its aversion to overt, clichéd sentimentality.
Opens in New York.

“When Did You Last See Your Father?”
After flirting with helming “The Golden Compass,” director Anand Tucker adapts the far more intimate autobiography of poet Blake Morrison — think “Big Fish” minus Tim Burton’s fairytale gallery of the grotesque and you have some idea. Colin Firth stars as the conflicted son who looks back on a lifelong struggle to reconcile his feelings for his distant father (Jim Broadbent) during his dad’s final weeks battling terminal cancer. Matthew Beard co-stars as the young Blake and Juliet Stevenson as his mother.
Opens in limited release.

“You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”
For comedy fans, only “Tropic Thunder” has more stars aligned this summer than the writers of “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” which teams former NYU roommates Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow with “Saturday Night Live” stalwart Robert Smigel, in the latter’s feature writing debut. “Zohan” provides perhaps the most definitive answer for those who wondered what might have occurred had Derek Zoolander opted for a career in the Israeli Mossad as opposed to strutting it on the catwalk. Sandler stars as a metrosexual Jack Bauer who fakes his own death so that he can escape to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a hair stylist, but becomes the target of a bungling sleeper cell. Sandler regulars Rob Schneider, John Turturro, and Kevin Nealon all show up to lend their support.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Dreams With Sharp Teeth,” Creative Differences, 2007]

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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.