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Opening This Week: Bollywood kung fu, Biggie Smalls and 3-D slashers

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01122009_chandnichowk.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Anyone not waiting on a ski lift (or screening) with bated breath in Utah can spend their time picking through a hodgepodge of some of the finest examples of genre excess you’re likely to find. Bollywood goes to China, the slasher film goes 3D and the people behind “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” make zero effort not to telegraph what will likely end up the lamest rhyming gag ever.

“Chandni Chowk to China”
Warner Bros looks to establish a foothold in Bollywood with this action comedy, the first of a three-picture deal with Indian outfit People Tree Films. Directed by Nikhil Advani, “Chandni Chowk to China” is billed as the first Bollywood kung-fu comedy, a marriage of the traditional song-and-dance set-pieces with the underdog saga of a short order cook-turned-kung-fu master that owes that owes more than a nod to Stephen Chow. Akshay Kumar stars as Sidhu, a lowly chef in Chandni Chowk in Delhi who sets off to Shanghai after a pair of tourists convince him he’s the reincarnation of a legendary war hero. But rather than being treated like royalty when he arrives in China, Sidhu unwittingly finds himself facing off with a vicious local smuggler (Gordon Liu). In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Cherry Blossoms”
German novelist-turned-writer/director Doris Dörrie continues her career-long fascination with Japan, which has yielded “Enlightenment Guaranteed” and “The Fisherman and His Wife,” with this somber tale of generational disconnect, loosely inspired by Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece “Tokyo Story.” With their grown children in Berlin too busy to welcome them, Rudi (Elmar Wepper) and his wife Trudi (Hannelore Eisner) tiptoe around Germany to visit their to visit their other son, Karl (Maximilian Brückner) in Japan. However, when Trudi’s health takes a turn for the worse, the trip becomes a period of mourning and introspection for
Rudi, who journeys to her beloved Mount Fuji to find peace of mind. In English, German, and Japanese with subtitles.
Opens in New York and San Francisco.

“Hotel for Dogs”
Last year’s impressive resurgence of the protagonist pooch brought the dog movie out of the Hollywood pound and back as kibble for the pre-teen pack. Director Thor Freudenthal’s family-friendly canine caper drafts Nickelodeon alumnus Emma Roberts along with Jake T. Austin, Troy Gentile and Kyla Pratt as a group of wily kids getting one over on mean-spirited guardians Lois (a Cruella-esque Lisa Kudrow) and Carl (a Grinch-like Kevin Dillon) by turning an abandoned hotel into a penthouse paradise for local strays. Cue the hijinks, “Home Alone”-style slapstick, and enough improvised gizmos and gadgets to embarrass MacGyver and expect a sequel somewhere exotic this time next year — “Hotel for Dogs 2: Kahlua Beach Kennels” or the like. You’re welcome, Hollywood.
Opens wide.

“My Bloody Valentine 3-D”
Helmer Patrick Lussier learned his trade dutifully cutting together the bumps and jumps for Wes Craven on the likes of the “Scream” franchise. Here he retools this ’80s cult classic with Jensen Ackles (of TV’s “Supernatural”) starring as Tom Hanniger, a former coal miner returning to his hometown to lay some ghosts to rest on the anniversary of a tragic accident, only to find himself the chief suspect in a series of gruesome slayings. Though it’s hardly James Cameron’s “Avatar,” those curious as to what this Real D Cinema fuss is all about could do worse than pop along. All the terrible acting, appalling plot contrivance and hokey dialogue will feel like it’s mere inches from your face.
Opens wide.

We all know the Academy likes a music biopic like little kids like ice cream and George Lucas likes money, but the story of a character as, well, notorious as the late Biggie Smalls (played here by Brooklyn rapper Jamal Woolard) was unlikely to ever really feature in their plans — hence, this long-touted movie version of his life land amidst the January dead zone. “Soul Food” director George Tillman Jr. details Biggie’s rise from small-time hustler to one of the most prominent rap artists of all time, pioneering a style that weaved street life into a compelling lyrical narrative. Angela Bassett co-stars as Smalls’ mother, Derek Luke shows up as Sean “Puffy” Combs and Anthony Mackie does his best as Biggie’s rival and former friend Tupac Shakur.
Opens wide.

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”
If the painfully unfunny viral video — which features the titular Blart hassling skateboarders making, get this, a viral video — is anything to go by, the best thing this latest offering from “Daddy Day Care” director Steve Carr and the guys at Happy Madison has going for it is that it doesn’t star Larry the Cable Guy. Instead, we get Kevin James (star of TV’s hit comedy “Fat Guy Married to Hot Chick Who Catches Him in a Lie Every Single Week — a.k.a. “The King of Queens”) as a police academy washout doing the little Hitler routine at a strip mall who suddenly finds himself the last line of defense against a gang of teenage criminals who holds everyone inside hostage.
Opens wide.

“The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema”
Written by Slavoj Žižek, “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” is a guide through 43 films via the filter of the famed philosopher and cultural critic, who narrates from amidst the recreated sets of “Psycho” and “Blue Velvet,” or actual adjoining rooms in what was once the Jack Tar Hotel, setting of key scenes in “The Conversation.” Sophie Fiennes, sister of Ralph and Joseph, directs.
Opens in New York.

“The Sublet”
Urban loneliness may be a myth, according to certain New York magazine features, but that doesn’t mean it can’t fuel an indie comedy. “The Sublet” focuses on Walter, a solitary 71-year-old man who decides the easiest path to meeting new people is to place a fake ad to sublet his apartment, but the applicants he gets — a hit man and a teenage runaway — offer him more adventure than he could have planned.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Chandni Chowk to China,” Warner Bros, 2009]


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.