DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: Nic Cage’s new hairpiece, Billy Elliot’s dark side

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09012008_augustevening.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week’s trip to the multiplex offers a jaunt around the globe where, amongst other things, there’s a case of mistaken ethnicity in Boston, Nic Cage gets another wig fitted in Thailand, there’s whimsy and surrealism in Scotland and Matthew McConaughey is right at home in Malibu, where he might finally have found something he does well, maybe.

“August Evening”
Strained emotional bonds and the transitory nature of the life of an illegal immigrant provide the backdrop for Chris Eska’s quietly affecting family drama that stars Pedro Castaneda as an aging farmhand who loses his job at a chicken farm in a sleepy Texas town, forcing he and his devoted daughter-in-law (Veronica Loren) to relocate to San Antonio to stay with his older children and the grandchildren he never knew he had. As Alison Willmore pointed out in last week’s Lunchbox, Castaneda is a first-time actor who turned heads at this year’s Spirit Awards where he was nominated for best male lead and the film went on to win the John Cassavetes Award for a film under $500,000.
Opens in New York.

“Bangkok Dangerous”
Nicolas Cage continues his career-long quest for the perfect hairpiece in this tale of a deadly assassin caught between his contract and his conscience in this slick, dark, flash-bang actioner from twin Hong Kong helmers Danny and Oxide Pang. Delivering an Americanized remake of their 1999 hit of the same name that launched their career, the Pang brothers give us Joe (Cage), an enigmatic hitman whose refusal to carry out a political assassination puts him on the run from his former bosses who want him eliminated. Considering some of the dialogue Cage recently had to deal with in “The Wicker Man” and “Next,” the fact that Cage won’t play Joe as a deaf-mute as the character was in the original is all the more disappointing.
Opens wide.

“Everybody Wants to Be Italian”
As those behind the previous few summers’ superhero smash hits will attest to, the movie business is all about finding a formula that works and then replicating it. With that in mind, indie filmmakers are still searching in vain for a way to conjure just a little bit of that “Big Fat Greek” box office magic. Writer/director Jason Todd Ipson throws a little twist of mistaken ethnicity into the tried and true tale of Jake (Jay Jablonski) and Marisa (Cerina Vincent), two perennially unlucky-in-love Bostonians who are set up on a blind date, each having been incorrectly informed the other is Italian, and then feeling pressured to pass themselves off as such in order to impress.
Opens in limited release.

“Mister Foe”
David Mackenzie, the Scottish director who brought us “The Last Great Wilderness” and the undervalued “Young Adam,” once again explores the existential depths of damaged youth turning to misguided acts of joyless sex as a sub par emotional bandage, but elevates his mood to a lighter, more whimsical tone. Rising star Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”) is the titular Hallam Foe, an eccentric teen runaway fleeing the traumatic death of his mother for which he remains convinced his sultry stepmother was responsible. Roughing it on the streets of Edinburgh, he lands a menial job in a hotel kitchen and develops an unhealthy, morbid fixation on a girl in human resources (Sophia Myles). Claire Forlani, Ciarán Hinds and Ewen Bremner co-star.
Opens in New York.

“Ping Pong Playa”
After enjoying 37 years of ping-pong diplomacy with our nation, the Chinese proved once again at the recent Olympic Games that they are simply the last word in belting a tiny, gas-filled plastic pellet over a six-inch net at lightning velocity. But try telling that to Christopher “C-Dub” Wang (Jimmy Tsai), a hip-hopping wannabe pro-ball player who cringes at the thought of his ping-pong obsessed parents and his champion older brother, Michael (Roger Fan). But when Michael is injured just days before the big national tournament, C-Dub has to step it up and defend the family title from a rival player threatening his parents’ table tennis academy. Oscar winning documentarian Jessica Yu (“Protagonist, ” “In The Realms of the Unreal”) takes a break from her more serious fare to have a laugh with her narrative feature debut.
Opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

“The Pool”
Speaking of those making their narrative debut, Chris Smith shifts gears to fiction nearly 10 years after he introduced the world to Mark Borchardt, a defiantly ambitious man whose dreams are continually thwarted by circumstance and a lack of financial means in “American Movie.” Despite a change of scenery from Milwaukee to India, Smith still seems intrigued by the same themes as he follows the young and impoverished Ventatesh, a teenager who toils in Goa selling plastic bags on the street while dreaming of the crystal clear water of an affluent family’s swimming pool. When he becomes the family’s gardener, he must come to terms with reality. In English and Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Save Me”
Writer/director Robert Cary highlights the gulf that still exists between homosexuals and the conservative right in America in this first feature from the fledgling gay cinema production outfit Mythgarden. Chad Allen, one of Mythgarden’s founders, stars as Mark, a suicidal drug addict who’s shunned by his religious family and, at the behest of his brother, enters a Christian-run re-orientation facility where, despite his best efforts to receive Christ and renounce his lifestyle, he is irresistibly drawn to fellow resident Scott (Robert Grant).
Opens in New York.

“A Secret”
Veteran French director Claude Miller helms this adaptation of Philippe Grimbert’s dark and surrealist autobiographical novel of repressed trauma and Jewish family secrecy played out in the wake of Nazi-occupied Paris. With his parents content to wall off the past forever, a curious young François (Valentin Vigourt) retreats into his own mind and conjures an entire idyllic history for his family and an imaginary brother who’s far from the disappointment to his parents that he’s always been. Meanwhile, a 37-year-old François (Mathieu Amalric) is about to discover the truth his parents fought so hard to bury that will challenge everything he thought he knew. Cécile De France, Ludivine Sagnier and Julie Depardieu play the women in his life. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Surfer, Dude”
In spite of the rather unfortunate truth that no matter what role he is playing, Matthew McConaughey invariably manages to come off as a moderately bewildered surfer who has somehow wandered onto the set, so it’s somewhat surprising that he has never actually been cast as one until now. McConaughey plays Steve Addington, an old school surfing purist who returns to his hometown of Malibu for the summer only to find corporate sponsorship lobbying to turn his lifelong passion into a virtual reality brand. Electing to opt out, he heads straight for the beach where, to his agonizing frustration, the sea falls inexplicably calm with not a wave to be found. Woody Harrelson, Scott Glenn, Alexie Gilmore and Willie Nelson round out the eclectic support cast in the narrative debut from McConaughey buddy S.R. Bindler, best known for the documentary “Hands on a Hard Body.”
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “August Evening,” Maya Entertainment, 2007]

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.