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No Country For Foreign Blockbusters

No Country For Foreign Blockbusters (photo)

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Even though it’s made $100 million in the rest of the world and is based on a global bestseller, it took months for Swedish murder mystery “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” to find a U.S. distributor. The film was finally picked up earlier this month by Music Box Films, known for previously saving the French crowdpleaser “Tell No One” after other distributors passed in fear of poor returns.

In America, with few exceptions, the fact that a film is subtitled means it’s destined for the arthouse. Populist entertainment — action, romantic comedies, thrillers — has struggled to find a place and an audience. Like most blockbusters, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is guaranteed a sequel — it’s adapted from the first installment of the “Millenium” trilogy, written before author Stieg Larsson passed away in 2004. As Anne Thompson reported, the only reason an American remake hasn’t been set into motion already is because Larsson had no will, leaving his family in a legal tussle with his common-law wife.

Still, the massive international success of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and the upcoming release of a truncated version of John Woo’s epic “Red Cliff,” which has been doing gangbusters overseas in its original two-film incarnation, got us to thinking about some of the biggest blockbusters that haven’t washed up on our shores (unless you have a region-free DVD player). Here are a few, including their trailers:

Japan
Hayao Miyazaki still rules the roost in Japan, where the legendary animator’s “Spirited Away” remains the biggest box office hit of all time with $285 million. But the biggest non-animated hit of recent years has been “Bayside Shakedown 2,” the second in a series of spinoffs from a popular cop show that aired on Fuji Television during the late ’90s. In 2003, “Shakedown 2” shook down willing audiences to the tune of approximately $160 million, not to mention the countless yen taken in by tie-in deals with instant noodle companies and Toshiba. “Bayside Shakedown 3” is in the works.

France
American audiences got their first real taste of loose-limbed and quick-witted comedian Dany Boon in the 2006 double dose of Patrice Leconte’s “My Best Friend” and Francis Veber’s “The Valet.” But there’s still no way to see Boon’s own effort as a writer/director, 2008’s “Welcome to the Sticks,” a comedy about a postal worker whose attempts at lobbying to relocate to more desirable Cote D’Azur outpost results in being dispatched to the rural town of Bergues. Despite its $192 million in domestic ticket sales, distributors here have balked at the French film’s distinctly Gallic sense of humor. That hasn’t stopped Will Smith’s production company from buying the rights to produce an American remake for Warner Bros. Meanwhile, Boon might raise his international profile with a winning turn in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Micmacs.”

Germany
The tough Teuonic actor Til Schweiger has flirted with international stardom, with roles in American action films like “King Arthur” and of course, as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz in “Inglourious Basterds,” between gigs in Deutschland. But his biggest success came when he directed himself in the 2007 romantic comedy “Keinohrhasen” (“Rabbit Without Ears”), a surprise smash that took in nearly $74 million locally and has already prompted a sequel scheduled to be released later this year. Schweiger plays Ludo Decker, a tabloid reporter whose exploits at a wedding party land him 300 hours of community service, which he spends in the service of a daycare center that’s run by a woman (Nora Tschirner) he once tormented as a youth. Although the film won over audiences, not to mention several awards, the fact remains that American audiences are still less familiar with Schweiger than the guest of honor at the film’s inciting incident, heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko.

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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.