DID YOU READ

Opening This Week

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06162008_bricklane.jpgBy Neil Pedley

While Steve Carell and Mike Myers face off at the multiplexes this week, indie theaters fight back with a wide range of quirk, including a meter maid romance, a doc on balloon animals and a horror flick about killer hair extensions.

“Brick Lane”
“Brick Lane” in London’s East End might be just a relatively short jaunt down the M1 from Salford, but it’s still a million miles (and a decade) away from the careful multi-ethnic empathy of another film that dealt with south Asian refugees in England, the 1970s-set “East is East.” This story follows 18-year-old Nazneem (Tannishtha Chatterjee), who steps off a plane from Bangladesh and into an arranged marriage with middle-aged Chanu (Satish Kaushik). Bored and lonely, she’s forced to question her beliefs when the charismatic and secular Karim (Christopher Simpson) knocks on her door. Director Sarah Gavron landed herself a BAFTA nomination for this adaptation of Monica Ali’s somewhat controversial novel, which enraged local Bangladeshi residents with what they considered to be an unsophisticated portrayal of their culture, so much so that when production came to town, the locals forced the film’s producers to relocate.
Opens in limited release.

“Expired”
Parking attendants are the target of a very special kind of hatred, the type normally reserved for child murderers or people who gloat about their tofu consumption. Yet writer/director Cecilia Miniucchi’s debut feature bravely contradicts the widely accepted notion that meter maids are incapable of any human emotion beyond malevolence — that they need love, too. Kind but lonely Claire (Samantha Morton) enters into a darkly sardonic relationship with Jay (Jason Patric), who uses parking tickets as a way to vent his anger issues, and the two begin a caustic dance of courtship on the road to mutual redemption.
Opens in limited release.

“Exte – Hair Extensions”
While the idea of murderous hair extensions might sound like every emo kid’s wet dream, the realization that their fake locks target the head they sit upon might dampen enthusiasm somewhat. Acclaimed Japanese director Sion Sono (“Suicide Club”) nabbed the Horror Jury Prize at the last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin for this dark and creepy tale of beauty-gone-bad that braids empowerment, pastiche and parody. Ren Osugi stars as the misogynist morgue attendant with a hair fetish who leaves work one night with a desecrated corpse that sprouts a never-ending possessed mane that he peddles to the local salon.
Opens in limited release.

“Get Smart”
With the likes of Austin Powers, and more recently, “O.S.S. 117” spy Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath trying to assault the box office as if it were a volcanic island fortress lair, the cold war spy spoof is veering dangerously close to cookie-cutter territory. Yet Maxwell Smart has returned in this update of the 1960s TV series with Steve Carell filling in for the late Don Adams as the overeager, painfully inept data CONTROL analyst who is teamed with Anne Hathaway’s Agent 99 to battle the crime ring KAOS after every other agent is compromised. The exclusion of the show’s original creators, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, have ruffled the feathers of a few purists, but Warner Bros. is trying to entice the faithful and the fresh with an eight-minute clip freely available on iTunes.
Opens wide.

“Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Having served as executive producer on the three preceding made-for-television movies, Julia Roberts and her Red Om Films Company once again give their stamp of approval to the first big screen adventure based on the popular doll series. None other than “Little Miss Sunshine”‘s Abigail Breslin stars in the title role as a resourceful 10-year-old growing up during the Depression who longs to be a big time news reporter. Joan Cusack, Chris O’Donnell and Julia Ormond fill out the supporting cast for the film, which was directed by “Mansfield Park” helmer Patricia Rozema and written by Ann Peacock, of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
Opens in limited release; opens wide on July 2nd.

“The Love Guru”
Before he gave a national audience their first glimpse of relationship guru Pitka on the season finale of “American Idol,” Mike Myers had been fairly secretive about his plans other than workshopping his latest creation in New York. With his first original live action character since “Austin Powers,” Myers stars as a shaman of the heart who’s hired to reconcile hockey star Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) and his wife before it interferes with Roanoke and the Maple Leaves’ shot at the Stanley Cup. Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake and naturally, Myers’ Mini-Me Verne Troyer all show up to help Myers do for marriage counselors what fellow “SNL” alum Adam Sandler recently did for Mossad-agents-turned-hair-stylists.
Opens wide.

“Twisted: A Balloonamentary”
Naomi Greenfield and Sara Taksler met in 2003 at St. Louis’ Washington University and bonded over balloon animals. Four years later, they premiered their first documentary at the SXSW Film Festival, which takes a look at that staple of preschool parties, the balloon artist. Toting their camera to the annual Twist and Shout balloon artist convention, they discover helium-filled art that’s not necessarily for the whole family and meet a few really unfortunately named people along the way (trailer park escapee Vera Stalker, John Holmes — oh dear, oh dear).
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Brick Lane,” Sony Pictures Classics, 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.