Opening This Week: Ed Harris goes Western, Keira Knightley goes corseted (again)

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09152008_allofus.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen put their signature on an oater, but they’re not the only ones to head west this week — an all-star cast led by Charlize Theron charge into Seattle, Wayne Wang follows the travels of a Chinese scientist visiting his daughter in Spokane, Neil LaBute tries vilifying the L.A.P.D. and Ricky Gervais heads across the pond to bring his schtick to an American comedy.

“All of Us”
In this documentary, filmmaker Emily Abt follows Dr. Mehret Mandefro, a young, Ethiopian-born, Harvard-educated physician working in the South Bronx, and her efforts to both treat and bring awareness to the plight of African-American women affected by the HIV virus. Through her research with two of her patients and their own candid stories and circumstances, Dr. Mandefro highlights some of the key factors that have led to a steep increase in the number of women who have become victims of this terrible disease and ultimately arrives at some intriguing conclusions for women as a whole.
Opens in New York.

The last time Ed Harris worked both sides of the camera with the 2000 release of “Pollock,” he quietly directed himself to an Oscar nomination for best actor and his co-star Marcia Gay Harden to a win for best supporting actress. Here Harris adds a co-writing notch to his belt with this adaptation of Robert Parker’s classical tale of stoic masculinity in the Old West, starring alongside Viggo Mortensen as a pair of career gunslingers hired to bring order to a lawless town ravaged by Jeremy Irons’ murderous cattle baron while trying to prevent Renee Zellweger’s alluring widow from coming between them.
Opens in limited release; opens wide on October 3rd.

“Battle in Seattle”
While the idea of a film about the Seattle riots that overshadowed the annual World Trade Organization conferences held there in 1999 might scream “documentary!”, it comes as no real surprise that as an actor, first-time writer/director Stuart Townsend figured, hey, why not make it a dramatization? Placed front and center amidst the chaos of those five days, we find a mischievous but nonviolent group of protesters (Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Andre Benjamin) clashing with law enforcement (Woody Harrelson, Channing Tatum) as their peaceful demonstration is hijacked by a group of anarchists who have their own agenda.
Opens in limited release.

“The Duchess”
Way back when the word Paris referred to the capitol of France and nothing more, Georgiana Spencer was the “It Girl” of her day. The talk of the town, she drank hard, partied harder, gambled and (prone to the odd public meltdown) did a flame-assisted job on her hair that made Björk’s swan dress seem like a well-considered fashion statement by comparison. Keira Knightley tightens her corset once again to play the 18th-century celebutante whose public life was one of constant turmoil and whose private life was one of abject misery when she failed to produce a male heir for Ralph Fiennes’ cruel Duke of Devonshire. Word from Blighty suggests the story parallels between Spencer and future relative Princess Diana may get lost amongst the bonnets, yet some critics are applauding the creation of an entirely new subgenre — “Frock Porn.”
Opens in limited release.

“Elite Squad” (“Tropa de Elite”)
“City of God” scripter Bráulio Mantovani teams up with “Bus 174” director José Padilha for the latter’s narrative debut that once again plunges us deep into the violent drug-infested favelas of Rio de Janeiro, this time from the point of view of so-called law enforcement. We ride shotgun with a special unit of military police that try to quell the violence in preparation for a visit from the Pope. At the center of the operation is the a world-weary Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura), who is charged with breaking in two idealistic recruits, Neto and Matias (Caio Junqueira and André Ramiro), to eventually replace him.
Opens in limited release.

“Ghost Town”
Fans of Ricky Gervais will have to wait until next year for the first film penned by the “Extras” and “The Office” co-creator (“This Side of Truth”), but frequent Spielberg collaborator David Koepp wrote and directed this comedy, which marks the first stateside starring role for the former David Brent. Gervais’ misanthropic dentist Bertram Pincus is definitely cut from the same cloth as Brent, and when he suffers a near-death experience, he is allowed to see the dead — and coaxed into helping Greg Kinnear’s very dead philanderer into halting his widow’s (Téa Leoni) impending marriage. Seeing as though films involving the supernatural often result in being the sleeper hit of the season or an unmitigated box office disaster, here’s hoping it’s more “Ghost” than “Ghost Dad.”
Opens wide.

Better known to most as the “Dakota Fanning Rape Movie,” the sophomore feature from former NYU professor Deborah Kampmeier is a lesson in the true meaning of a passion project, after having survived the bad buzz generated by a displeased former investor, who embellished some already tall tales to the media and stirred up a tirade of “ban this sick film” brouhaha that followed it all the way to Sundance ’07. Reportedly based on her own personal past, Kampmeier’s grim Southern gothic takes place in a backwater Alabama town circa the 1950s where a spirited young Lewellen (Fanning) tends to her deadbeat father (David Morse) and finds escape through the music of Elvis until a vicious assault by a local boy robs her of her innocence.
Opens in limited release.

It might be a little early for Halloween, but thanks to Tim Burton, the kooky goth-themed animated film has become as much a staple of the fall calendar as the Oscar-baiting biopic and the latest “Saw” sequel. French animation outfit Sparx* handles the pixels for this tale of an ambitious, put-upon, hunchbacked assistant (voiced by John Cusack) tired of suffering the abuse of his master. When said master croaks it a week before the big science fair, Igor enlists the aid of a talking brain in a jar (Sean Hayes) and Scamper (Steve Buscemi), an ill-tempered lab rabbit and prepares for his big chance to shine.
Opens wide.

“Lakeview Terrace”
Despite a few tacky, tabloid-esque “ripped straight from the headlines” undertones, this psycho next-door story boasts on paper the makings of a solid genre picture. Produced by Will Smith and directed by Neil LaBute, this “Unlawful Entry” redo with a twist stars Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington as a happily married interracial couple who think they’ve hit the jackpot when they move into their dream suburban home, but the situation isn’t so dreamy to their neighbor, a racist cop played by Samuel L. “Motherfuckin'” Jackson. Forgive us for cursing, but we felt we had to compensate for the fact that Jackson’s trademark won’t be part of this PG-13 affair.
Opens wide.

“My Best Friend’s Girl”
As Tank, a professional jerk-off for hire whose job it is to basically irritate people as much as possible and get paid for it, Dane Cook might just have lucked into the least challenging role of his career in this rom-com that tackles the age old conundrum; do women really prefer it when you treat them like crap? When Tank’s witless buddy Dustin (Jason Biggs) is given the elbow by his new girlfriend (Kate Hudson), he turns to Tank who promises to give her a night so terrible she’ll be back with him by morning — if he can only keep from falling head over heels for her himself. Alec Baldwin co-stars as a mentor to Cook, and no stranger himself to getting on people’s nerves.
Opens wide.

“Playing With Fire”
Making a brief cameo in theaters on its way to its likely late night slot on Skinemax, this softcore thriller comes courtesy of the very prolific, if slightly lowbrow, 15-year partnership between writer Matthew Jason Walsh and director David DeCoteau, whose collaboration has yielded the likes of “Final Stab” and “Bikini Goddesses.” Kelly Albanese stars as manipulative rich bitch Daphne, who uses and discards naive young men like martini glasses. When Nick (Kyle Jordan) rebuffs her advances, she targets his girlfriend Heather (Candace Moon) and so begins “a dangerous game,” according to the film’s web site — well, maybe just mildly threatening since former “Baywatch” stud Michael Bergin is the film’s biggest name.

“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers”
Wayne Wang continues his long, strange career by following the Queen Latifah comedy “Last Holiday” with something closer to his heart — an adaptation of Yiyun Li’s short story that stars Henry Q as Mr. Shi, an elderly Chinese widower who travels to Spokane to visit his adult daughter, Yilan (Faye Yu) in the wake of her recent divorce, but finds himself a stranger in a strange land. With this gentle story of cultural isolation and the often arduous father/daughter dynamic, Wang examines the plight of people cut off by the generation gap and left stranded on the far side of the global village’s many bridges. And like Wang’s “Smoke,” which inspired a second film, “Blue in the Face,” “A Thousand Years” gave way to a companion film, “Princess of Nebraska,” that will be available online in October.
Opens in New York.

“Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived”
With the most important U.S. presidential election of our time fast approaching, Japanese director Koji Masutani, in conjunction with the Brown University’s Global Media Project, examines original politic maverick John F. Kennedy and how history might have looked had he lived to continue his presidency and how that would affect the policies of today. Centering on political decisions made during key events prior to his death, “Virtual Kennedy” constructs a behavior model and applies it to the here and now to determine just how the former President would deal with the many challenges that face the contemporary world.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “All of Us,” Pureland 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.