Opening This Week: Gay zombies, the literal Sundance kid and the Muscles From Brussels

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11032008_alphabetkiller.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Those nursing a Halloween hangover can enjoy a little hair of the dog with some amusing takes on terror, a double bill featuring the greatly missed Bernie Mac and a trio of Fantastic Fest titles coming their way.

“The Alphabet Killer”
Eliza Dushku reunites with “Wrong Turn” director Rob Schmidt for this supernatural riff on the infamous Alphabet murders that took place in Rochester, NY in the early ’70s. Dushku stars as the lead investigator in a series of brutal child killings who’s struck down by a severe mental breakdown. Two years later, her career as a detective is ostensibly over, yet when the killings inexplicably start up again, so do her crippling hallucinations and she must find a way to track down the serial killer with or without the help of her former colleagues at the police department. Timothy Hutton, Cary Elwes and Michael Ironside dutifully fill their positions of obligatory veteran C-list actors in supporting roles.
Opens in Rochester; opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 14th.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”
Having delivered such inoffensive melodrama as “Little Voice,” Brit helmer Mark Herman certainly knows how to tug a heartstring or two, although given the somber subject matter contained within author John Boyne’s source novel, he really doesn’t have to try very hard. Against the backdrop of World War II, Herman crafts a tale of forbidden friendship between Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the blissfully unaware son of a concentration camp commandant, and Leon (Zac Mattoon O’Brien), a young Jewish boy on the other side of the barbed wire fence. David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga play Bruno’s parents, who have a far less innocent point of view.
Opens in limited release.

“Gardens of the Night”
“Labor of love” is perhaps the wrong term to apply to a portrait of abused kidnap victims and their slow descent into emotionally damaged, drug-addled squalor, but writer/director Damian Harris has been neck deep in exhaustive research for his script since the late ’80s, conducting interviews with both victims and perpetrators. Gillian Jacobs and Evan Ross co-star as Leslie and Donnie, respectively, two teens who find themselves living on the streets of San Diego after they were abducted as eight-year-olds by a pedophile (Tom Arnold) and his partner (Kevin Zegers). Now, the discarded pair attempt to resolve their differing reactions to what happened in their childhood. John Malkovich co-stars.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on December 5th.

“The Guitar”
The miraculous role that shopping plays in rejuvenating the human spirit is well-documented, having ably soothed career woes, broken hearts and everything in between on screen for decades. Marking a directorial debut for the literal Sundance kid, Amy Redford, and scripted by New York indie icon Amos Poe, this bittersweet dramedy stops short of suggesting shopping can cure cancer — but implies it certainly doesn’t hurt. Saffron Burrows stars as Melody, a recipient of some truly deflating news from the doctor that inspires her to trust what time remains to the care of retail therapy, starting with that 1963 red Fender Stratocaster she’s always dreamed of.
Opens in New York.

The idea of an slasher film set to a score of Christian heavy metal music might sound more like a trick than a treat for hardcore horror fans still recovering from Halloween. But director Robby Henson seems to have employed all the genre hallmarks (it’s nasty!) to satisfy a suitably broad audience with the Christian-influenced tale of a bickering couple trapped inside a remote motel besieged by the mythical Tin Man, a maniac killer who targets unrepentant sinners. If that piques your interest, just try and avoid IMDb, as the film’s list of credits gives away something of the mystery.
Opens in limited release.

For a fallen action star whose last few direct-to-video dramas have been more like comedies, leave it up to Jean-Claude Van Damme to take a ludicrous premise seriously. The Muscles From Brussels finds himself embroiled in something of a Van Damme Day Afternoon in this surrealist meta-movie from French director Mabrouk El Mechri. Playing a loose version of himself telling a loose version of his story, the dejected “Kickboxer” star returns home after losing a bitter custody battle and getting tagged with a gigantic legal bill he can’t pay. Things go from bad to worse when the bank he goes into gets held up and the local authorities conclude that he masterminded the robbery.
Opens in New York.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer reunite behind the microphone for this sequel that picks up where the 2005 animated safari left off. After the animal quartet left the comfy confines of the New York Zoo for Madagascar, our institutionalized band of colorfully neurotic critters head to Africa, putting Marty the Zebra (Rock), Alex the Lion (Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Pinkett Smith) and Melman the Giraffe amongst their native species. Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter and the late Bernie Mac are among the funny faces who lend their voices to the cause.
Opens wide.

“Otto; or Up With Dead People”
As a spirited champion of low-budget, pulp ham-horror celebrated by a small army of adoring fans for his shoddy production values and characteristically haphazard techniques (including some at Sundance and Berlin, where “Otto” premiered), Canadian queer cinema icon Bruce LaBruce has become something of a heir to Ed Wood minus the penchant for angora sweaters. His latest opus sees Jey Crisfar as Otto, a zombie who rises from the grave to search for his former lover, only to be railroaded into a gay zombie porno by a pompous underground filmmaker (Katharina Klewinghaus). You know, just another one of those kind of movies. In English and German with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Pray The Devil Back to Hell”
Against the backdrop of Liberia’s second devastating civil war, ending in 2003 with more than 250,000 dead, Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker Gini Reticker highlights the ferocious courage of a group of everyday Liberian women and their role in ending the bloody conflict. Mixing archival footage with international media coverage, Reticker charts the formation of parallel anti-war movements (one Christian and one Muslim) who put aside their longstanding differences to come together as one in an effort to bring about peace in their war-torn country.
Opens in New York.

“Repo! The Genetic Opera”
Give him any vaguely plausible excuse to cut people open and throw their insides around and director Darren Lynn Bousman (three “Saw” sequels”) and his queasy color palate are there like a bear to honey — although to be fair, this gloriously daft musical gorefest is a more imaginative excuse than most. After a global epidemic of organ failures gives rise to an all-powerful biotech company that specializes in cloning replacements, Nathan Wallace (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”‘s Anthony Head) tends to his sick daughter (Alexa Vega) and struggles with his job as the repo man who visits those recipients who fall behind on their payments. Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino and Paris Hilton all star in the film that Bousman told Matt Singer back at Fantastic Fest was a unique mix of “Puccini meets Nine Inch Nails.”
Opens in limited release.

“Role Models”
The preposterous idea that anyone would ever wake up one morning and decide they want to be like Stifler from “American Pie” is not lost on Paul Rudd, David Wain and Ken Marino. In fact, the trio behind “The Ten” even recruited the man who played Stifler (Seann William Scott) to star alongside Rudd as a pair of misanthropic energy drink reps that get high on their own supply and wind up learning life lessons when their exploits earn them a community service mandate as youth counselors in a Big Brother program. Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and one of Elizabeth Banks’ many clones (because really, how can she be in so many films at once?) co-star.
Opens wide.

“Soul Men”
The titular leads might not be on a mission from God, but this soulfully retuned effort from Malcolm D. Lee wears the influence of John Landis’ 1980 cult classic like a black-banded fedora. Samuel L. Jackson and late great Bernie Mac star as a pair of former backup singers reunited after a decades-long spat to pay tribute to their former frontman. Setting out on a cross-country road trip, the duo must hash out their differences in time to take the stage at the legendary Apollo Theatre. The equally late, equally great Isaac Hayes has a cameo as himself.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “The Alphabet Killer,” Anchor Bay Entertainment, 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.