Opening This Week: Docs on teens, tightropes and tradition

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07212008_americanteen.jpgBy Neil Pedley

With blockbusters taking a week off after “The Dark Knight” so thoroughly conquered the box office and its core audience descends upon Comic-Con in San Diego, an outstanding array from the indie scene offers plenty of alternative viewing.

“American Teen”
Her longtime collaborator Brett Morgen may be out of the picture, but “The Kid Stays in the Picture” co-director Nanette Burstein infiltrated the cliques, classrooms and hallways of an Indiana high school for her first solo doc, which netted her a directing award at Sundance earlier this year. Burstein follows a cross section of Warsaw High’s senior class for 10 months in pursuit of their respective ambitions and priorities, and discovers that bonding at the library during Saturday detention is no way to communicate when text messaging and IM can be just as intimate.
Opens in limited release.

Mumblecore alumni Jay and Mark Duplass celebrate their favorite genre (and others) by destroying it, taking aim at film festival darlings, amateur actors unafraid of nudity and the ever-so-hip fad of ultra-low budget minimalist horror. This time around, “The Puffy Chair” co-writing and directing team keep the action mostly confined to a cabin in the woods, where a group of wannabe actors and filmmakers (Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller) channel their inner Heather Donahue and set about writing a hit script, only to be stalked by a malevolent stranger who wears a paper bag on his head. Inspiration never came without such perspiration first.
Opens in limited release.

“Boy A”
“Intermission” director John Crowley adapts Jonathan Trigell’s bleak and downbeat tale of unending purgatory, which itself was loosely inspired by a number of infamous child-on-child murders in Britain over the last 20 years. The story follows Jack (Andrew Garfield), a young man freshly released from prison after serving a sentence for murdering a fellow child, and his attempts to rehabilitate himself into society under an assumed identity and lead something approaching a normal life. A critical hit in its native Britain, the film already earned Crowley a BAFTA award for best director.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Brideshead Revisited”
The only thing braver than adapting a revered period novel that has grown into a veritable British institution for the big screen is doing so and not immediately telephoning Kate Winslet, Colin Firth and Keira Knightley. Here director Julian Jarrold does both with Evelyn Waugh’s masterwork, ably enlisting BAFTA award-winning writers Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies to give this tragic love story a suspenseful shot in the arm. Matthew Goode and Hayley Atwell take the roles of doomed lovers Charles Ryder and Lady Julia Flyte, whose fledgling romance is thwarted at every turn by family, religious obligation and the class system.
Opens in limited release.

“Bustin’ Down The Door”
Writer/director Jeremy Gosch, whose debut feature centered on two best friends taking a snowboarding trip together, once again indulges his passion for extreme sports, but trades fiction for reality. Set against the backdrop of the explosive Hawaii surf scene, Gosch looks back at the mass migration of Australians and South Africans to the North Shore of Oahu leading to the emergence of several future world champion surfers, all of whom set out on a mission to transform surfing into a respectable professional sport.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“CSNY: Déjà Vu”
Bernard Shakey (a.k.a. Neil Young) steps behind the camera once again to document the reunion of his longtime rock ‘n’ roll family of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash for their 2006 “Freedom of Speech” tour across North America. Riding the wave of anti-war sentiment, the quartet performs to raise awareness against perceived injustice in America to an audience that needs their voice now as much as they did 30 years ago.
Opens in limited release.

With the state of Japan’s youth firmly on his mind, writer/director Akihiko Shiota uses the backdrop of the devastating 1995 sarin gas subway attacks to ask some uncomfortable questions of a society he views as decadent, infirm and out of touch. Hoshi Ishida and Mitsuki Tanimura co-star as Koichi, a disillusioned member of the cult responsible for the attack now on the run, and Yuki, a streetwise runaway who recognizes him from the news and helps him pick up the pieces, respectively. In Japanese with subtitles.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on August 8th.

“Late Bloomer”
A portrait of the unending frustration and loneliness of a man trapped inside his own body is the subject of writer/director Go Shibata’s debut feature. All the kindness, support, and goodwill in the world are no comfort for Sumida, a severely disabled man who finds a reservoir of rage and resentment slowly fill inside of him as he watches life happen all around him in maddeningly simple ways he will never experience himself.
Opens in New York.

07212008_manonwire.jpg“Man on Wire”
One of the major revelations of the festival circuit this year, this retrospective documentary is a inside look at French daredevil Philippe Petit’s audacious and infamous 1974 stroll across tightrope at 1300 feet between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Described by director James Marsh as something of a “heist movie,” the film inserts freshly staged recreations into a wealth of archival footage shot by Petit and his guerrilla crew that details the exhaustive planning and skillful execution of this unprecedented feat, while at the same time chronicling Petit’s own personal history, his obsession with the towers and the genesis of the so-called “artistic crime of the century.”
Opens in limited release.

“No Regret”
Julian Jarrold might be brave for messing with “Brideshead Revisited,” but Leeson Hee-Il is positively fearless in his directorial debut, the first film to feature gay subject matter from an openly gay filmmaker to come out of the doggedly conservative South Korea. Having been forced to leave the orphanage that was his home and subsequently laid-off from his dreary factory job, the film follows Lee Su-min (Lee Yeong-hun) a young man forced to take work as a male lap dancer at a local gay club, where he catches the eye of Song Jae-min (Lee Han), the closeted son of the factory’s CEO whose arranged marriage is quickly approaching. In Korean with subtitles.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“The Order of Myths”
Mobile, Alabama was the site of the very first Mardi Gras celebration way back in 1703 and although over 300 years have passed, little has changed when it comes to the segregated celebrations in the southern city. Opting to ditch the documentary staple of voiceover narration and let her subjects try to explain the situation themselves, filmmaker Margaret Brown charts the almost identical parallel process of planning and executing the two segregated Mardi Gras parades and pageants, tolerated by both blacks and whites, under the guise of “tradition.” Brown’s look at the division in her hometown has had an opposite effect on the festival circuit, where it picked up a Cinematic Vision Award at SilverDocs and praise from our own Alison Willmore.
Opens in New York.

“Red 71”
Mixing the cool of neo-noir with the heat of the desert, this stylish mystery centers on Shane (Nathan Ginn), a gumshoe who becomes smitten with a woman that coaxes him into investing in her husband’s club. When her husband and a few of her other past conquests turn up dead, it’s left up to Shane to figure out who’s on the level in the small desert town.
Opens in New York.

“Step Brothers”
Will Ferrell has built his entire career around playing grown men behaving like immature children, so even if this appears to be a rather on-the-nose retooling of “Grumpy Old Men,” don’t expect Ferrell and co-star John C. Reilly to act their age. “Talladega Nights” director Adam McKay once again directs the duo as Brennan and Dale, a pair of 40-year-old losers, still unemployed and living at home. When their single parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) get hitched, the petulant Peter Pans are forced to share a bedroom where they quickly break out the duvet-and-two-kitchen-chair-forts and wage a territorial battle.
Opens wide.

“Two Tickets to Paradise”
Veteran actor D.B. Sweeney gathers together an impressive ensemble to aide him in his directorial debut about a trio of overgrown juveniles looking to recapture the glory days during an anarchic road trip to the college football championship game in Florida. John C. McGinley, who already played second fiddle in the like-minded “Wild Hogs” a year ago, appears here as a former football pro and Sweeney plays a failed rock star. In a shrewd casting coup that will remind many of the actor’s own glory days, Sweeney’s “Cutting Edge” co-star Moira Kelly plays his wife in the film. M.C. Gainey and Ed Harris round out the eclectic support cast.
Opens in limited release.

“The X-Files: I Want to Believe”
With the sharp decline in quality that quickly followed the departure of Glen Morgan and James Wong from “The X-Files” writing staff and the train wreck of the final two seasons that occurred with David Duchovny’s exit, it’s easy to forget what a masterful blend of intelligent drama, supernatural suspense and conspiracy theory the show used to be. With six years having passed since the series ended and the plot a closely guarded secret, it remains to be seen if the reemergence of Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully will make fans believe again, even with creator Chris Carter at the helm and the addition of Billy Connolly as psychic priest.
Opens wide.

[Photos: “American Teen,” Paramount Vantage, 2008; “Man on Wire,” Magnolia Pictures, 2008]


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.