Opening This Week

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06092008_beautyintrouble.jpgBy Neil Pedley

On offer this week is a veritable gallery of the eclectic and the eccentric as M. Night Shyamalan goes R-rated, Edward Norton goes green, Werner Herzog goes to the Antarctic, and two of Herzog’s fellow countrymen go to California to climb a big rock very, very quickly.

“Beauty in Trouble”
Czech director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovský continue their longtime collaborative partnership with this dense ensemble drama loosely inspired by Robert Graves’s poem of the same name. This time, the duo who balanced humor with drama in the Oscar-nominated Holocaust-set “Divided We Fall,” turn to the devastating series of floods that swept Prague in 2002, and tell the story of Marcela (Anna Geislerová), an overworked mother of two living in squalor. When her ne’er do well husband is taken in by the police, she’s courted by a well-to-do businessman (Josef Abrhám) and Marcela is forced to choose between family and the stability he offers.
Opens in New York.

“Chris & Don: A Love Story”
This intimate documentary from filmmakers Tina Mascara and Guido Santi chronicles the 33-year romance between novelist Christopher Isherwood and portrait artist Don Bachardy, who was 30 years younger than the “Berlin Stories” author. Employing a blend of archival footage, home movies, reenactments and animation narrated by a reminiscing Bachardy, the film celebrates their enduring and bittersweet tale of love and commitment.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on July 4th.

“Encounters at the End of the World”
Billed as “not another penguin movie,” this documentary finds Werner Herzog continuing his fascinating, career-long exploration of man’s relationship to the great untamed wilderness, venturing out into earth’s final frontier, and in doing so becoming the first director to have shot on all seven continents. As part of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, Herzog travels to McMurdo Station, the NSF’s base of operations in Antarctica, where he meets the 1,100 people who choose to call it home and prove to be every bit as breathtaking and enigmatic as the land they live on.
Opens in limited release.

“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”
Originally a novel first published in 1965, Yasutaka Tsutsui’s high-concept meditation on fate and causality has survived more incarnations and adaptations than Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Now an animated film, this update tells of Makoto Konno, a high school girl who discovers the power to go back in time and re-do events in her life. Realizing she can only do this a finite number of times, she attempts to make things right for everyone in her life with chaotic and unexpected results. Despite a modest showing at the Japanese box office, the film was a hit on the festival circuit, picking up a multitude of nominations and awards for animation.
Opens in limited release.

“The Grocer’s Son”
French filmmaker Eric Guirado feeds off his previous experience as a documentarian for his sophomore narrative feature, which captures the stalwart bucolic lifestyle of the French rural countryside. Nicolas Cazalé stars as Antoine, a city-dweller who reluctantly returns to the sleepy village from which he fled in order to run the family grocery business after his father is hospitalized. Joined by his big city friend Claire (Clotilde Hesme), Antoine is slowly charmed and disarmed by the serenity of the small community and the gentle and colorful nature of its people. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Happening”
After a tell-all book aired out the dirty laundry of his messy divorce from Disney and his last film (“Lady in the Water”) hung him out to dry, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is back and hopes to scare more than studio chieftains with his latest. Armed with the first R rating of his career, Shyamalan has penned a paranoid apocalyptic thriller starring Mark Wahlberg as a high school science teacher who flees with his family in a bid to outrun a mysterious and deadly phenomenon.
Opens wide.

“The Hulk”
Back in 2003, Eric Bana told audiences that they wouldn’t like him when he was angry, and the relatively poor showing of the Ang Lee-directed “Hulk” proved he wasn’t wrong. Marvel has since explained it away as a dry run, insisting that the real Hulk franchise starts here and handing the reins over to another NYU alum in “The Transporter”‘s Louis Leterrier, who directs while Edward Norton stars as the not-so-jolly green giant who must abandon his quest for a cure to his condition in order to save mankind from Abomination (Tim Roth), a devastating creature born from Hulk’s own DNA. Liv Tyler co-stars as Hulk alter ego Bruce Banner’s girlfriend Betty Ross.
Opens wide.

“My Winnipeg”
Canadian auteur Guy Maddin once again indulges in his love affair with German expressionism and the avant garde by applying it to his own life in this quasi-autobiography (or whatever you call it when you cast B-movie icon Ann Savage as your mother). Using a whimsical, stream-of-consciousness narrative technique that’s as outlandish as it is beguiling, Maddin’s self-described “docu-fantasia” takes the audience on a tour of Maddin’s formative years in Winnipeg. Blending fact with fiction, the historical with the imagined, “My Winnipeg” is both a serenade and an exorcism directed at Maddin’s childhood and the city that has been his home since his birth in 1956.
Opens in New York.

“Quid Pro Quo”
Following Jodie Foster’s “The Brave One,” working in public radio has never been so much in vogue, as Carlos Brooks demonstrates in his directorial debut starring Nick Stahl as a budding NPR muckraker who’s paralyzed from the waist down and becomes curious when he hears of a man who actually wants to be a paraplegic. Having premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film may draw unwanted comparisons to David Cronenberg’s autoeroticism (in the most literal sense) drama “Crash,” as Stahl enters the deviant subculture that covets and fetishizes human pain and suffering, including a “wannabe” amputee played by Vera Farmiga.
Opens in limited release.

“To The Limit”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Pepe Danquart chronicles the escapades of German speed climbing brothers Thomas and Alexander Huber, two men of boundless energy, audacious courage and somewhat questionable sanity. No stranger to sibling rivalry himself as the twin of another filmmaker, Danquart uncovers a fierce professional rivalry behind this pair of extreme sports icons as they prepare to mount a record breaking assault on the 3,000-foot high “Nose” of the El Capitan Summit in Yosemite National Park, where the duo looks to put the three-day climb to bed in a leisurely two hours and 45 minutes. In English and German with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Beauty in Trouble,” Menemsha Films, 2006]


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.