Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming…

Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming… (photo)

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“‘Ninja Assassin 2’ will be in 3D with Sprayarama,” director James McTeigue joked before the premiere of the first and so far only “Ninja Assassin” at the Alamo Drafthouse on Tuesday. And there were copious amounts of blood sputtered in the film that followed, a gory but too often creatively bloodless affair that stars Korean pop star Rain as Raizo, a warrior trained from birth in the ninja way before turning against his clan after the death of a female colleague.

How you’ll feel about “Ninja Assassin” will depend on your inherent interest in the masked men (and in this equal opportunity film, women) — throwing stars and bone-crushing punches can atone for cheesy dialogue, but McTeigue makes the curious decision to shoot most of the action in the dark, and the performances are half-hearted. (While a physical marvel, Rain is hamstrung by having to speak in English, though fans of the genre will be thrilled to see ’80s icon Sho Kosugi come out of semi-retirement to play his mentor.)

Not surprisingly, most of the post-screening Q&A, conducted by Ain’t It Cool’s Harry Knowles, revolved around the red stuff — McTeigue took delight in telling the crowd that he thought “maybe I got [the MPAA] on happy hour Friday.” While he viewed his last film “V for Vendetta” as “150 minutes of talking with three set pieces,” McTeigue aimed to make a straightforward action movie with “Ninja” and consulted heavily on a style where the blood would spurt in “a cross between anime and gameplay,” allowing Raizo to pass through the bloodshed after executing one of his victims.

While the Wachowski brothers are once again on board as producers, it’s clear that McTeigue is his own man with “Ninja.” He said his next film will likely be a thriller about the “fictionalized last five days of Edgar Allen Poe,” with a serial killer inspired by the horror author’s short stories in a way the director compared to “Se7en.” “So more killing,” McTeigue surmised, which satisfied the crowd.

09302009_Mandrill.jpgIt’d be interesting to see what “Mandrill” director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and star Marko Zaror would do if they had half the budget of “Ninja Assassin,” but even with limited resources, their latest film is crammed with the kind of thrills that even the best CG can’t provide. “Mandrill” marked a triumphant return for the Chilean duo, who took Fantastic Fest by storm in 2007 with “Mirageman,” the tale of an everyday crimefighter. “Mirageman” has the unfortunate burden of being currently remade into a 3D English film called “Defender,” which coincides with the Woody Harrelson film “Defendor” about…you guessed it. (Fest attendees got a glimpse of a show reel.) It may at least prove an auspicious English-language debut for Zaror, who’s reprising his role for the American version and is an international action star waiting to happen.

Espinoza packs as much creativity into his action sequences as the square-jawed Zaror packs power into his punches — their latest film together, about a suave secret agent, tirelessly aims to please. Although the duo make no secret of their influences — the closing credits list every actor and director involved in the James Bond franchise in the special thanks section — “Mandrill” is a one-of-a-kind spy tale, skipping the backstory of how its title character became a trained killer in favor of showing how he became a ladykiller, taking full advantage of Zaror’s matinee idol looks for considerable comic effect by flashing back to the days when an unsure young Mandrill took lessons from his uncle in the ways of love. Not surprisingly, Zaror received lots of love from the Fantastic Fest jury, who gave him the best actor prize on Monday.


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.