DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: British gangsters, mock doormen, Lou Reed

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07142008_averybritishgangster.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week sees the opening of “The Dark Knight.” Advance marketing and coverage might have you believe that that, apparently, is all, but there are other films coming out this week well worth your time. (Besides, “The Dark Knight” is totally going to be sold out.)

“A Very British Gangster”
With Britain in the midst of a youth crime epidemic, Irish investigative reporter Donald McIntyre takes an unflinching look at Dominic Noonan, a granddad of the English gangland who’s spent over half his life behind bars. Having legally changed his name to Lattlay Fottfoy (an acronym of the Noonan motto — “Look After Those That Look After You; Fuck Off Those That Fuck Off You”), the openly gay head of Manchester’s most notorious crime family shows off his gentler side as a man who uses his reputation to position himself as a “problem solver” more concerned with the state of his local community than his own image.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Before I Forget”
Jacques Nolot concludes his loosely strung together sexually charged trilogy (preceeded by “L’Arrière pays” and “Porn Theater”) with a practical consideration of homosexual life in this frank and unabashed tale of an aging gigolo. Shot in long takes to capture the passage of time, “Before I Forget” features Nolot both behind and in front of the camera as Pierre, a man who’s been HIV-positive for 24 years and finds himself nearing destitution as he contests his sugar daddy’s inheritance and wastes away his days in the company of friends who can afford more imaginative and expensive ways to indulge their pleasures.
Opens in New York.

“The Dark Knight”
The days of Joel Schumacher’s garish batastrophe, with its pantomime villains and nippled batsuit, now seem like just a bad dream. Continuing to lead the phoenix-like resurrection of a franchise once dead and buried, “Memento”‘s Christopher Nolan once again orchestrates the chaos in Gotham City as Batman (Christian Bale) joins forces with D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to battle the twisted Joker (Heath Ledger) while both Dent and Batman’s alter ego battle each other for the heart of Bruce Wayne’s childhood sweetheart, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). With some theaters reporting to have sold out their opening night as far back as two weeks ago, Warner Brothers knows they’ll have a captive audience for trailers to the new Ridley Scott thriller “Body of Lies,” next summer’s “Watchmen” and “Terminator Salvation,” which also happens to star Bale.
Opens wide and in limited release in IMAX.

“Disfigured”
After penning scripts for Hollywood films such as “Fracture” and “Mad Money,” Glenn Gers uses his sophomore feature to explore some real world women’s issues in this tender dramedy about friendship and self-image. Overweight sales clerk Lydia (Deidra Edwards) meets with a support group once a week, not looking to get thin, but seeking acceptance for being fat. After the group rejects an application from Darcy (Staci Lawrence), a recovering anorexic, because she’s not actually fat, the two women strike up a friendship and discover a happy medium in the process.
Opens in New York.

“The Doorman”
Filmmakers Wayne Price and Lucas Akoskin claim they were inspired by the underrated Belgian serial killer satire “Man Bites Dog,” yet their debut feature is more likely to inspire comparisons with “Borat.” This mock doc focuses on Trevor, a bungling, English-impaired gatekeeper to New York’s most exclusive clubs and events. Akoskin stars as the little Hitler on a power trip who pulls back the velvet rope to a documentary film crew chronicling his evenings as guardian of the Manhattan party scene, all the while struggling to avoid telling them he’s in fact been fired. Peter Bogdanovich, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” personality Thom Filicia are among those who find themselves on the wrong side of the rope.
Opens in New York.

“Felon”
Former Batman Val Kilmer has a summer movie to call his own, albeit by way of a supporting role. Former Hollywood stuntman Ric Roman Waugh directs this violent prison drama that stars Stephen Dorff as a man convicted of manslaughter while attempting to protect his family. Behind bars, he must cozy up to Kilmer’s psychopathic cellmate to protect himself from a brutal prison guard (“Oz” alum Harold Perriineau). One can only imagine that it was the former “Real Genius” star’s name in the credits that pushed this by-the-numbers genre movie towards a brief detour into a handful of theaters on its way to an August 12th debut on DVD. Then again, Waugh must be proud of it — he used the “Alan Smithee” pseudonym on his first film, “Exit.”
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Lou Reed’s Berlin”
Lou Reed originally planned a stage version of his 1973 concept album back when it was first released, but poor critical reception saw those plans shelved. Almost 33 years later, the album is considered by many to be a bona fide classic and Reed’s vision could finally be realized. Director and fan Julian Schnabel filmed “Berlin” over five nights at St. Ann’s warehouse in Brooklyn in 2006, adding a series of video installations that chronicle Reed’s musical journey of a couple’s romance doomed by drugs and depression. The former Velvet Underground singer also enlists the help of a 30-piece band, the New London Children’s Choir, Sharon Jones and Antony of Antony and the Johnsons.
Opens in limited release.

“Mad Detective”
Director Johnnie To and writer/director Wai Ka-Fai collaborate once again on this hard-boiled psychological police drama. (Apparently, To wouldn’t have it any other way, as he told IFC’s own R. Emmet Sweeney.) After being unceremoniously forced into retirement, intuitive Inspector Bun (Lau Ching-Wan) takes on one last case when he learns his ex-partner Chi-Wai is possessed of many spirits, each embodying one of the seven deadly sins.
Opens in New York.

“Mamma Mia!”
The four members of ABBA reunited at the Swedish premiere for “Mamma Mia!” last week, but reiterated their resolve to not reunite on stage, meaning fans of the iconic ’70s pop sensation will have to be content with this screen adaptation of the hit musical. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” producer Tom Hanks returns to the Grecian theme with the stage production’s original writer (Catherine Johnson) and director (Phyllida Lloyd) in tow. Although Meryl Streep is required to sing, it isn’t exactly “Waterloo” near the Acropolis when her soon-to-be-married daughter in the film (Amanda Seyfried) invites a trio (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd) of her mother’s ex-lovers to the wedding to try to discover which one of them is her father.
Opens wide.

“Space Chimps”
Watching a bunch of juvenile chimps lark about like frat boys as they train to be (reluctantly) sent into space, it’s difficult to discern if this is a children’s adventure story or just a collection of animated deleted scenes from Michael Bay’s “Armageddon.” “Shrek” producer John H. Williams is certainly hoping for the former as he looks to blast his Vanguard animation company into orbit with the medium’s big boys after the studio’s maiden voyage, “Valiant,” was a misfire. Sent in search of a missing NASA probe, former circus chimp Ham III (Andy Samberg) joins the courageous Lt. Luna (Cheryl Hines) and the tightly wound Titan (Patrick Warburton) to face off against the evil cosmic dictator Zartog (Jeff Daniels).
Opens wide.

“Take”
Shifting back and forth from past to present, writer/director Charles Oliver’s debut feature offers a heady and cerebral meditation on justice, revenge and the death penalty. As Ana (Minnie Driver) makes the difficult drive to a prison in the desert to witness an execution, she recollects the day that she and her son met Saul (Jeremy Renner), a hounded and desperate man forced to accept a deadly proposition in exchange for wiping away a gambling debt.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on July 25th.

“Transsiberian”
Now that the likes of “Wolf Creek” and “Turistas” have engrained into moviegoers the idea that stepping outside our borders invariably leads to a gory and painful death, the notion of vacationing somewhere exotic and only being targeted by ruthless drug smugglers actually sounds quite appealing. So it is with genre-jumping helmer Brad Anderson’s slow-burning thriller centered around a naïve American couple (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) who hop aboard a train from Beijing to Moscow and strike up a friendship with fellow travelers, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), who are not all that they appear to be. Matters are complicated when Sir Ben Kingsley’s Russian narcotics officers comes on board.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “A Very British Gangster,” Anywhere Road Entertainment, 2008]

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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.