Opening This Week: Long-awaited films from Baz Luhrmann and Gus Van Sant

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11242008_australia.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Families heading to the multiplexes post-turkey this Thanksgiving can unbutton those tight belts in the dark after choosing from an eclectic mix of hard-hitting action, sweeping epics and prickly romance.

Never one to be rushed, director Baz Luhrmann has taken seven years since putting his so-called “red curtain trilogy” to bed before delivering this, the first installment in his announced trilogy of epics. Once more showcasing his fascination with great melodrama, old-school villainy and larger-than-life love stories, Luhrmann has reinvented himself without really reinventing himself with this grandiose romance set against the backdrop of a transforming nation. Returning muse Nicole Kidman stars as Sarah Ashley, a freshly widowed cattlewoman who falls in love with a rugged ranch hand named Drover (Hugh Jackman), as the two drive 1500 head of cattle to Darwin. Unfortunately, they arrive just in time to see the Japanese bombers appear on the horizon.
Opens wide.

“Four Christmases”
What better way to start ringing in the holiday season with your family and friends than a treacly romantic comedy about divorce where a self-absorbed yuppie couple pays lip service to parents and other family members they can’t stand the sight of. Looking to reassert herself after a brief stint wandering post-Oscar career wilderness, Reese Witherspoon joins Vince Vaughn to play the young couple pleased as punch to be avoiding the seasonal family get-togethers before a fogbank at the airport scuppers their plans. “King of Kong” director Seth Gordon looks after an all-star supporting cast boasting the likes of Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek and Jon Favreau, who fill out the roles within the extended and estranged family.
Opens wide.

Director Gus Van Sant flirted with making a biopic of the late Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office, with Sean Penn as the lead all the way back to 1993 when Oliver Stone was looking to produce, but passed, citing script problems. Now, the inimitably divisive auteur returns with a script from “Big Love” scribe Dustin Lance Black that stars Penn as the shy, aging New Yorker who relocates to San Francisco and became a champion of the national gay rights movement. Wall-to-wall with indie darlings, the film stars James Franco, Alison Pill, Emile Hirsch and Joseph Cross, who round out Milk’s entourage, while Josh Brolin provides some political opposition.
Opens in limited release; expands on Dec. 5th.

“Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!”
Bollywood helmer Dibakar Banerjee’s sophomore feature sends up the story of Lucky, a scrawny 15-year-old street hoodlum who rises from the West Delhi ghetto to transform into a modern day Robin Hood. The film is said to have been inspired by the real-life exploits of Devender “Bunty” Singh, whose estimated 500 burglaries (stealing everything from classic cars to family pets), aided by his suave demeanor and remarkable ability to divert suspicion, made him something of a folk hero in his native India. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Rome & Jewel”
While non-English majors the world over may perish the thought of reading brick-like Shakespeare anthologies on a daily basis, the Bard has perhaps done more to offer struggling catalogue models a bridge to screen stardom than any man in history. So here come the impossibly good-looking duo of Nate Parker and Lindsey Haun as star-crossed lovers, with Parker playing the son of an African-American minister in Compton and Haun the Caucasian daughter of the mayor of Los Angeles. This hip-hop infused “Romeo & Juliet” update is the brainchild of writer/director Charles T. Kanganis, whose last theatrical feature, 1996’s non-entity “Race the Sun,” starred the similarly attractive up-and-comers Eliza Dushku, Casey Affleck and Halle Berry.
Opens in limited release.

“The Secrets”
With this latest stirring melodrama, accomplished director Avi Nasher joins a growing list of Israeli filmmakers quietly raging against the ultra-orthodox practitioners of Judaism that continue to cast off women to a lifetime of domestic inconsequence. Fleeing this stiflingly conservative climate is Naomi (Ania Bokstein), a young girl who enrolls in a seminary to escape an unwanted marriage. At the seminary, she finds a kindred spirit in her roommate Sheine (Talli Oren), and the newfound allies hatch a plan to expunge the sins of a sickly French outcast (Fanny Ardant) with the aide of an ancient, mystical and fiercely forbidden Kabbalah ritual. In English, French and Hebrew with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Transporter 3”
It remains an unfathomable mystery how Luc Besson, director of such existential twaddle as “The Big Blue,” and Robert Mark Kamen, a guy with a Ph.D. in anthropology, became the guys who quietly transformed leading man Jason Statham into the closest thing we have these days to an Arnie or a Sly. Yet Besson and Kamen have teamed once more, with French director Olivier Megaton holding the megaphone, so that Statham can once again suit up as Frank Martin, the most reliable (read: hardest to kill) courier in all the underworld. This time, Frank’s task is to deliver Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), the kidnapped daughter of a Ukrainian official, while evading and dispatching the customary assortment of disposable goons that pop up along the way.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Australia,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 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.