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Opening This Week: Soderbergh’s four-hour biopic, Eastwood’s other movie

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12082008_adamresurrected.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Things really shift into high gear this week when a bumper crop of award season heavy-hitters and indies stream into theaters, as well as a cadre of movie stars doing what they do best – whether that’s Keanu Reeves acting alien, Clint Eastwood brandishing his trademark scowl, or Benicio Del Toro doing his own brand of mumblecore while waging war against fascists.

“Adam Resurrected”
It’s been a long, strange directorial career for Paul Schrader, who followed his work as
the unsung hero of some of Martin Scorsese’s most celebrated masterpieces with successes like “American Gigolo” and oddities like “Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist.” Yet the always daring Schrader is taking on the Holocaust in his latest film, an adaptation of Yoram Kaniuk’s story about Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum), a former circus entertainer who grudgingly succumbs to the role of grim court jester to a concentration camp commandant in order to escape the gas chambers. 15 years later, the now-institutionalized Adam finds redemption in teaching an abused boy how to live his life again.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

Perhaps after being quietly informed that from 1990 onwards any film approaching this length was obliged to morph into a Kevin Costner vanity project, director Steven Soderbergh has elected to divide his butt-numbing biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara into two separate chapters. In “Part One: The Argentine,” Soderbergh charts Guevara’s fledgling beginnings as a doctor in Cuba, fighting alongside Fidel Castro, and his rise through within the guerrilla movement to the rank of commander and the position of hero, while “Part Two: Guerrilla” focuses on Che’s unsuccessful campaign to sow revolutionary seeds in Bolivia and how the man who ultimately failed to achieve his ideals became a legend in the eyes of a generation. For one week in New York and Los Angeles, one can catch all 257 minutes of Benicio del Toro as the world’s most famous revolutionary in a “roadshow” presentation of the epic where the audience is advised to bring both a pillow and a hearty packed lunch.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles for one week; re-opens in New York and Los Angeles in separate parts on January 9th.

“Dark Streets”
Taking her cues from 1930s dance hall classics, director Rachel Samuels adaptation of Glenn Stewart’s stage play plunges the viewer into a neo-noir netherworld of gangsters and molls, feather boas and pencil mustaches, all jiving along to a lively blues soundtrack from composer George Acogny. Gabriel Mann stars as the requisite clueless schmuck Chaz, a nightclub owner deep in the hole to gangsters. When his wealthy industrialist father turns up dead, Chaz is left singing the blues and only sultry femme fatale Madelaine (Izabella Miko) can help. Elias Koteas and Bijou Phillips put on their dancing shoes to help move things along.
Opens in limited release.

“The Day The Earth Stood Still”
Robert Wise’s seminal, cautionary tale of a benevolent alien sent to warn us of impending doom becomes the latest classic to receive a big-budget digital makeover — this time at the hands of “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” director Scott Derrickson. Ironically, Keanu Reeves’ perceived inability to act beyond that trademark aloof detachment will likely come across as inspired casting for the role of austere interstellar messenger Klaatu. Jennifer Connelly co-stars as Dr. Helen Benson, a government scientist assigned to study him. With malevolent robot Gort coming over in the trailer like Megatron’s less pleasant cousin, it is unclear how Reeves will implement the immortal line “Klaatu barada nikto” (or if indeed he can even spell it).
Opens wide and in IMAX.

Taking the indie filmmaking mantra of D.I.Y. to a quite ridiculous extreme, Atlanta-based tech industry entrepreneur Marc Adler has poured seven years and $40 million of his fortune into this debut feature from his fledgling animation house, Fathom Studios. With Freddie Prinze Jr. voicing the title role, “Delgo” tells of an alien world at war in which the rebellious young prince Delgo joins forces with Kyla (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the daughter of his father’s enemy to end the hostilities and bring about peace. An impressive voice cast brimming with latter day icons and present day C-listers, including the late Anne Bancroft, Chris Kattan, Val Kilmer, Malcolm McDowell, Louis Gossett Jr, Burt Reynolds and Eric Idle, lend their voices to supporting roles.
Opens wide.

This screen adaptation of John Patrick Shanley’s Tony Award-winning play marks the first foray behind the camera for the accomplished scribe since the 1990 oddball Tom Hanks comedy “Joe Versus The Volcano,” but this one’s a little more serious. Set against the backdrop of the culturally turbulent 1960s, a fiercely traditionalist Sister Aloysius (statue magnet Meryl Streep) feuds with progressive priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) over what she perceives to be an inappropriate relationship with an alter boy. Amy Adams co-stars as the timid Sister James, brave enough to suspect the priest of wrongdoing, but too terrified to believe him capable.
Opens in limited release; expands December 19th.

“Gran Torino”
The death of the legendary Paul Newman highlighted the sad fact that bonafide screen icons in this country are disappearing faster than the average 401(k) plan. So the fact that Clint Eastwood chose to follow up the beautiful if vacuous “Changeling” with the story of a man so cantankerous, so stoic in his masculinity, that Clint felt he had no option but to step back in front of the camera himself is cause for great merriment. In what’s being billed (tongue in cheek) by some as “Dirty Harry for pensioners,” the old master takes the role of a grizzled Korean War vet who battles his prejudices (and then some) when his immigrant neighbors become the target of a local gang of vicious thugs.
Opens in limited release; opens wide on January 9th.

“Nothing Like The Holidays”
Mexican writer/director Alfredo De Villa follows last year’s impressive “Adrift in Manhattan” with a story confirming that the awkward domestic atmosphere of a family visit during the yuletide season is just as applicable to Hispanics as it is to Vince Vaughn and his buddies. Teaming up with “Soul Food” producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr., De Villa unwraps a traditional Christmas tale full of repressed guilt and traumatic revelation as a Puerto Rican clan gathers together in Chicago for the annual festivities. Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña, Freddy Rodríguez, John Leguizamo and Vanessa Ferlito fill out the Rodriguez family, though don’t ask us how a score from techno star Paul Oakenfold fits into the mix.
Opens wide.

“Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi”
The absolutely inexhaustible Bollywood dream factory Yash Raj Films brings another trademark surrealist musical affair to American shores, making this the studio’s sixth pilgrimage this year. Written and directed by Aditya Chopra, the son of the studio’s founder, the film tells the tale of a spirited dancer Taani (Anushka Sharma) who longs to take part in the reality television sensation “Dancing Jodi,” though she needs a partner to compete. Enter Shahrukh Kahn as her nerdy husband Surinder who, determined to please his wife, transforms himself from a geeky anorak into a flamboyant dance floor showman. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“The Reader”
Given that Brit helmer Stephen Daldry is part of an ultra-exclusive club of seven directors (including Orson Welles and Mike Nichols) to earn an Oscar nomination for best director for his first two films (“Billy Elliot” and “The Hours”), it’s surprising he let six years lapse before having another crack at it. Still, if you’re looking to get the Academy’s attention, you can’t go wrong dangling Kate Winslet in front of them at the center of a holocaust drama. From Bernhard Schlink’s Oprah-approved page-turner, Winslet stars as Hanna, a woman who begins a brief but passionate affair with a much younger man, only to be reunited with him a decade later on opposite sides of a war crimes trial. David Kross and Ralph Fiennes play the older and younger Michael, the one-time object of Hanna’s affections.
Opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; expands on December 25th.

“Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes)”
The feature debut of Oscar nominated shorts director Nacho Vigalondo, this suspenseful thriller wowed audiences at Fantastic Fest in 2007, where it took home the top prize for best feature. While it would be impossible to describe properly without ruining it, “Timecrimes” centers on a man (Karra Elejalde) who accidentally travels back in time one hour and sets off a chain reaction of disasters. Since we don’t want to spoil it, can we rely on the trust we have built to this point and just say it’s really good? Tom Cruise and Steven Zaillian think so, too. In Spanish with subtitles.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Wendy and Lucy”
Having picked up the John Cassavetes prize at the Spirit Awards in 2006 for her second feature “Old Joy,” Kelly Reichardt has impressed voters again, earning both a best picture nomination and a best actress nomination for Michelle Williams for Reichardt’s latest rumination played out in the expansive void of the Oregon skyline. (Not to mention the critics at Cannes.) With writing partner Jonathan Raymond, Reichardt has crafted another no-frills drama that sees a down-on-her-luck Wendy (Williams) frantically searching for her beloved lost dog and a little human kindness.
Opens in limited release.

“What Doesn’t Kill You”
Boston-bred character actors Brian Goodman, Paul T. Murray and Donnie Wahlberg pool their collective talents and ideas, with Goodman clutching the megaphone for this slice of street life from Beantown. Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke add their marquee value to the film as the not-so-subtly named Brian and Paulie, life-long friends and cohorts in crime who begin to drift apart when Brian tries his hand at being a family man and Paulie sees the opportunity for one last score. Although casting Ruffalo and Hawke is certainly an impressive coup for this untested team, asking the audience to buy the slight and scrawny pair as a couple of Southie thugs might be a slightly harder sell. Indie stalwart Amanda Peet co-stars.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Where God Left His Shoes”
After a 10-year hiatus from the big screen, writer/director Salvatore Stabile returns with this unsentimental Gotham-set drama about a washed up prizefighter trying to save his family from the cold indifference of the city streets. The infinitely watchable John Leguizamo — a title that will be put to the test this week with the double bill of this and “Nothing Like the Holidays” — plays the fallen boxer who spends Christmas Eve wandering New York in search of employment to meet the qualification for low-income housing so that his wife and their two young children don’t find themselves preparing to exchange gifts in a homeless shelter
Opens in New York.

“While She Was Out”
Those of us grateful that the whole “torture porn” fad had seemingly gone away will be disappointed to know that based on the likes of the recent “Eden Lake” and this debut from Susan Montford, it’s merely undergone a subtle evolution. However, it does take place on Christmas Eve, so what better time than the present to see Kim Basinger run through the woods while being pursued by a sadistic gang of malevolent minors, led by Lukas Haas? Guillermo Del Toro serves as the executive producer on the thriller.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

[Photo: “Adam Resurrected,” Bleiberg Entertainment, 2008]



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.