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Opening This Week: Horrorfest, a bridal comedy and the best damn Mexican Mennonite drama ever made

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01052009_thebroken.jpgBy Neil Pedley

There’s a welcome change of pace this week, with nary a Nazi in sight. Character actors go to work both in front of and behind the camera, there’s a white wedding, a black comedy and a bizarre love triangle in Plautdietsch just over the Mexican border.

“8 Films to Die For: After Dark Horrorfest 2009”
For one week only, nasty niche distributor After Dark Films terrorizes 300 screens across the country with their third annual “Horrorfest” showcase featuring a selection of eight indie horror films. This year’s selection comprises of: “Autopsy,” the Lena Headey-Richard Jenkins’ thriller “The Broken,” “The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations,” “Dying Breed,” “Perkins’ 14,” “Slaughter,” the Korean frightfest “Voices,” and “From Within,” which Alison Willmore noted during its Tribeca premiere wasn’t exactly for God-fearing types. Eight films to die for is what they say — we’ll settle for being made to perhaps feel a bit sick afterwards. Check your local listings.
Opens in limited release.

“Bride Wars”
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a Richard Gere or a Hugh Grant on board, but quite honestly, what’s a wedding comedy minus the men? Much like actual weddings, this one is all about the bride. Anne Hathaway, who between this and the universally applauded “Rachel Getting Married” must be developing a taste for prop wedding cake, co-stars with Kate Hudson as a porcelain pair of lifelong friends who crack up when they discover only one of them will be able to have their wedding at their dream venue. “Tadpole” director Gary Winick helms this battle of the bridezillas.
Opens wide.

“Just Another Love Story”
Despite a somewhat innocuous title and a plot that bears more than a passing resemblance to Sandra Bullock’s dreadfully vanilla rom-com, “While You Were Sleeping,” Danish helmer Ole Bornedal has darkened the mood with something of a lurid farce littered with betrayal and dead bodies. Anders W. Berthelsen stars as Jonas, a crime scene photographer who visits the hospital room of Julia (Rebecka Hemse), a woman left comatose from a flaming car wreck that he was involved in. With Julia’s family convinced that Jonas is her longtime boyfriend Sebastian, Jonas pretends to be him even after Julia awakes until her violent past reemerges and some unpleasant people looking for the real Sebastian (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) come knocking. In Danish with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Not Easily Broken”
Perhaps best remembered as a former Schwarzenegger cohort from “Predator” and “Commando,” Bill Duke has enjoyed a long and distinguished career filling out roles that typically come with phrases like “dogged” and “hard-nosed” attached. Lesser known as a director, he’s been honing his skills on films like “A Rage in Harlem” for almost thirty years, and shows a softer side to his game with this uplifting adaptation of T.D Jakes’ novel. Morris Chestnut stars as Dave Johnson, a former baseball star whose marriage woes are exacerbated when his wife (“Benjamin Button”‘s Taraji P. Henson) is hurt in a car accident and Dave befriends her physical therapist (Maeve Quinlan).
Opens wide.

“Silent Light”
This latest offering from provocative Mexican writer/director Carlos Reygadas has positively cleaned up during its two-year festival run, nabbing most notably a Jury Prize at Cannes en route to a nod for best foreign film at the upcoming Independent Spirit Awards in February. Set in a Mennonite colony in Mexico, this elegant, ecumenical drama tells of Johan (Cornelio Wall), his wife Esther (Miriam Toews), and their crisis of faith as they persist with their marriage in the face of Johan’s full and frank disclosure of his ongoing affair with Marianne (Maria Pankratz). In English, French, Spanish, and Plautdietsch with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Unborn”
From the underappreciated “The Crow: City of Angels” to the “Blade Trilogy” with a cult classic like “Dark City” in between, if it’s a grungy, gothic sci-fi flick or a comic book film that’s actually any good, chances are you’ll find David S. Goyer’s name somewhere on the screenplay. Clearly more comfortable banging away at a typewriter, Goyer’s more likely counting money from “The Dark Knight” than recovering from the reviews for previous directorial outings such as “The Invisible” and “Blade: Trinity,” and while this psychological horror yarn is unlikely to raise his profile as a director, it should be good for a scare or two. The film stars Odette Yustman as a girl who’s slowly being taken over by the malevolent spirit of her twin, who died while still in the womb. It also has Gary Oldman as the girl’s spiritual adviser, which automatically makes it 13% better.
Opens wide.

“Yonkers Joe”
With a dash of “Ocean’s 11” and a smidge of “Rain Man,” Robert Celestino’s life-affirming story of familial reconciliation bubbling underneath the “one last big score” pizzazz of a casino scam might strike a chord with viewers looking for something, well, a little less Holocausty. Chazz Palminteri plays the titular Joe, a “mechanic with dice and cards” who must find enough cash to send his son with down syndrome (Tom Guiry) to a special school after he’s kicked out of his old one and into Joe’s care. Christine Lahti, Michael Lerner, and Linus Roache fill out Celestino’s underworld.
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “The Broken,” After Dark Films, 2008]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



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.