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On the Road With Mariah, Maya Rudolph and Zach Galifianakis

On the Road With Mariah, Maya Rudolph and Zach Galifianakis  (photo)

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If you’re a fan of road movies, then you better call in sick with a case of swine flu, as this weeks sees a lot of them arriving in theaters. For everyone else, there are docs on art and music, some European sunshine and a little smattering of domestic darkness.

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“24 City”
Festival favorite Jia Zhang-ke (“Still Life”) delivers a portrait of a culture in flux and a meditation on the ethereal nature of history with yet another of his patented hybrids of documentary aesthetic and name actors. Once a virtually self-contained community with its own accommodations and amenities, the massive 50-year-old munitions factory in Chengdu is undergoing demolition to make way for high-rise apartments. Through the testimony of former inhabitants both real and fictional, Jia offers a take on the growing pains of a society transitioning to a market system and the haves and have-nots trying to make their way within it. In Chinese with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Art of Being Straight”
On the back of another blow for those fighting to overturn California’s Proposition 8, this feature debut for actor/writer/director Jesse Rosen is an observational account of a young guy struggling with issues of sexuality against the backdrop of a gay community still struggling for acceptance. Taking an extended break from his girlfriend, Jon (Rosen) travels across the country to Los Angeles to move in with his college buddy Andy (Jared Grey). He’s surprised to discover that his ex (Rachel Castillo) is now in a lesbian relationship, prompting much life reevaluation as the trio work bottom-rung jobs, shoot the shit and try to find their way.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Autumn Ball”
Following his not quite feature-length 2006 debut “Empty,” Estonian director Veiko Õunpuu confirms his status as a miserablist’s best friend, delivering a relentlessly bleak quartet of tales anchored around a looming, Soviet-era tower block in the wake of the Communist collapse. Õunpuu’s twisting narrative hacks off any hint of happiness at the knees, as the lives of a self-medicating writer, an apathetic lothario, a self-deluded architect and a domestically dissatisfied single mother briefly intermingle in the face of an uncertain future. In Estonian with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Away We Go”
Lacking the star power of last year’s re-teaming of Kate and Leo for the Oscar picture that never was (“Revolutionary Road”), this new offering from director Sam Mendes arrives largely unheralded, despite having quite a pedigree of its own. Scripted by real-life husband/wife team Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, this colorful road comedy stars John Krasinski of “The Office” and “SNL” alum Maya Rudolph as Burt and Verona, an expectant couple who embark on a cross-country tour of their old stomping grounds as they search for a suitable place to put down roots. Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara provide support (or not) as Burt’s Belgium-bound parents.
Opens in limited release.

“The Country Teacher”
His first outing since 2005’s well-received “Something Like Happiness,” Czech helmer Bohdan Sláma’s latest drama is the bittersweet odyssey of a good-natured closet case struggling to reconcile his role as a kindergarten natural science teacher with his personal status as a self-hating homosexual. Fleeing yet another loveless relationship, Petr (Pavel Liska) abandons the city for a rural posting where a local farm becomes the site of an uncomfortable three-way love triangle between himself, the clearly interested Marie (Zuzana Bydzovská) and her hunky but oblivious 14-year-old son (Ladislav Sedivý). In Czech with subtitles.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Downloading Nancy”
If the anti-“Antichrist” brouhaha at Cannes proved anything, it’s that when it comes to provocative psychosexual drama and arty sadomasochism, the Europeans are simply the last word. Here making his big screen debut, Swedish music vid helmer Johan Renck does his part with the ice-cold tale of a disaffected Maryland housewife (Maria Bello) who decides to disappear, for reasons she can’t articulate, so that she can be mistreated, degraded and ultimately killed by an online suitor (Jason Patric) of her choosing. Rufus Sewell co-stars as the frantic husband trying to track her down.
Opens in limited release.

“The Hangover”
With everything from demonic curses to the post-apocalyptic battle for our very survival watering itself down in pursuit of the teenage dollar, it’s nice to see a film rated R for “Right around the corner and down the hall for ‘Dance Flick,’ you text-happy little buggers.” Of course, it won’t be surprising if some teens sneak into “Old School” director Todd Phillips’ return to middle-aged maledom for this comedy about a quartet of eager Peter Pans who head out to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. The morning after finds them hazily head-scratching over shotgun weddings, escaped circus animals and an air-drumming Mike Tyson. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha star.
Opens wide.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.