Opening This Week: Mumbai fairytales, Harry Potter fandom and Bond, James Bond

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11102008_bohica.jpgBy Neil Pedley

There is plenty of (semi)lighthearted fare at the art house this week with Danny Boyle tracking a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” whiz kid in Mumbai, Arnaud Desplechin looking at a family reunion in France and a Bollywood musical playing out in Miami, followed by films that are distinctively more “hardcore,” whether that refers to Harry Potter fans or elderly curmudgeons. Oh, and there’s also some globetrotting carnage with our man Craig — Daniel Craig.

If this debut effort from “Melvin Goes To Dinner” producer turned writer/director D.J. Paul is to be believed, the best way to support our brave boys serving overseas is to send them some sunscreen and a truckload of Sudoku books. Marooned in the middle of the Afghan desert guarding a radio tower, four army reservists (Adam Rodriguez, Nicholas Gonzalez, Kevin Weisman, Brendan Sexton III) do battle with the boredom and the baking heat until a crate of beer is mistakenly air-dropped onto their position. An impromptu kegger commences, but the harsh reality of war crashes the party.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“A Christmas Tale”
A lively but melancholic tale of an eccentric family reunited around a dying parental figure decorated with go-nowhere squabbles and deadpan introspection sounds oddly familiar, but French helmer Arnaud Desplechin must feel his take of Jean-Pierre Jouet’s rather downbeat novel is more than just “The Royal Vuillards.” (For starters, the Vulliards “don’t have time for melancholy,” according to Desplechin.) Catherine Deneuve stars as the cancer-stricken matriarch Junon, whose three children (Mathieu Amalric, Anne Cosigny and Melvil Poupaud) reunite for one last Christmas and navigate the various tensions and corridors of familial guilt that have plagued them their whole lives. In French with subtitles.
Open in New York and Los Angeles.

“Dostana (Friendship)”
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” with a few song and dance numbers? Not quite, but Indian audiences will see something they have never seen before with this $10 million Bollywood production with gay themes. Far from New Delhi, Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham star as two playboys in Miami who adopt the façade that they’re lovers (as one does) in order to obtain a lease from an overprotective landlord, who wants to safeguard his niece Neha (Priyanka Chopra). Yet the charade becomes increasingly difficult to maintain when Neha moves in with the two men, who find themselves falling for their blissfully unaware roommate. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“The Dukes”
After a long and dedicated career serving up a veritable buffet of “hey, it’s that guy!” moments, veteran character actor Robert Davi shows there are more sides to him than just the hardass and the badass with this good humored directorial debut. Co-written with fellow character actor James Andronica, this crime comedy features Davi alongside Chazz Palminteri as two aging crooners looking to escape the indignity of working in their demanding aunt’s Italian restaurant. Desperate for one last crack at the big time, they hatch a harebrained scheme to rip off a dental clinic so they might finally be able to finance their lifelong dream of opening their own jazz lounge.
Opens in New York; opens in limited release on November 21st.

The humiliating collapse of one couple’s marriage in the days leading up to their ten-year anniversary is the focus of this feature debut from Irish TV director Declan Recks, with a script by Eugene O’Brien adapted from his own stage play. Eileen Walsh stars as Brenda Farrell, an increasingly ignored plain-Jane who diligently holds onto the last vestiges of hope for rekindling the romance as the big day approaches. Aidan Kelly co-stars as her caddish husband Billy, a man whose own anniversary plans seem to extend no further than the shameless pursuit of some teenage skirt on the dance floor of the local pub. Walsh’s Brenda may be losing her man, but Walsh herself received a best actress prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Fest.
Opens in limited release.

“House of the Sleeping Beauties”
Twelve years on from Hiroto Yokoyama’s “Nemureru Bijo,” German jack-of-all-trades Vadim Glowna offers his own take on Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata’s macabre tale of loneliness and erotic obsession. Working both sides of the camera, Glowna takes the lead as Edmond, a lonely widower whose friend (Maximilian Schell) tells him of a mysterious secret establishment offering a one-of-a-kind form of female companionship. As curiosity gives way to addiction, Edmond ponders his own mortality, laying in the company of beautiful women who seemingly never wake from their angelic slumber. In German with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“How About You”
Just as Halloween has its ghouls and goblins, the Thanksgiving season brings its own equally familiar cinematic archetype — the cantankerous old relative — that dutifully gets a brief moment of autumnal affection before being discarded like a past-due pumpkin. With that in mind, director Anthony Byrne makes Maeve Binchy’s short story into something approaching a “One Flew Over the Nursing Home” with Hayley Atwell’s spirited mischief-maker descending upon her sister’s failing resident’s home during the holiday season and sets about rehabilitating the home’s four “hardcore” curmudgeons (Vanessa Redgrave, Imelda Staunton, Brenda Fricker and Joss Ackland).
Opens in limited release.

“Quantum of Solace”
After the meaty reintroduction of James Bond in “Casino Royale,” producer Barbara Broccoli and first-time Bond director Marc Forster continue the process of refining cinema’s longest running franchise into an efficient, energized beast that can compete on the post-“Bourne” era. As the briefest of any of Bond’s outings, “Quantum of Solace” could be considered a feature-length footnote to “Royale,” with Daniel Craig once again buttoning up a tux to take on the shadowy organization, fronted by Mathieu Amalric’s scheming industrialist, that he holds responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd, his lady in waiting in “Royale.” Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini all make return appearances, though Bond’s classic “shaken not stirred” martinis apparently do not.
Opens wide.

“Slumdog Millionaire”
With its episodic structure, underclass hero and wry commentary on poverty and stuffy social stratification, Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s bestselling novel “Q & A,” has invited comparisons to the works of Charles Dickens, if only the great man alive to partake in the dizzying opiate that is 24/7 cable TV. Simon Beaufoy, who knows a little something about wish fulfillment, having penned “The Full Monty,” adapts the whimsical story of Jamal (Dev Patel), an Indian guttersnipe who rises to become a champion on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” before raising the suspicions of a local policeman (Irfan Khan). Flashing back and forth through time, we witness Jamal’s bid for victory of national TV, his heated interrogation, and the harsh lessons he learned on the street that could ultimately serve as his path to victory.
Opens in limited release.

“We Are Wizards”
Fans of the boy wizard who are depressed that, for the first time since Harry rocked our world almost a decade ago, neither a book nor a movie will be coming out this year, can instead look to Josh Koury’s affectionate, oddball documentary on Potter fever to satiate their cravings. In search of the essence of the Potter appeal that has helped earn a fortune for J.K. Rowling that rivals the GDP of a small country, Koury tours the underground Wizard Rock scene, surveying the galaxy of freaks and geeks that rock in the name of Dumbledore, and celebrates the many ways this remarkable phenomenon has brought people together in spirit and common bonds.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “B.O.H.I.C.A.,” Wabi Pictures, 2008 – credit: Siddhartha Abbazi]



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.”


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. 


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.


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.