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This week sees an impressive list of heavy-hitters make a late December showing as Clint Eastwood and Peter Jackson deliver their latest, Werner Herzog assembles the unlikely pairing of Udo Kier and Verne Troyer, and Tom Ford unveils his directorial debut.

“According to Greta”
Hilary Duff adds the title of executive producer to her résumé by backing the feature debut of veteran music video director Nancy Bardawil. After demonstrating a dark side on “Gossip Girl” this season, Duff continues to shed her good girl image as a rebellious 17-year-old who proves to be too much of a handful for her mother (Melissa Leo) and is sent off to spend the summer on Jersey Shore with her grandparents (Ellen Burstyn and Michael Murphy), to whom she promises she will kill herself by her 18th birthday. In the midst of plotting her suicide, she begins a romance with a troubled short-order cook (Evan Ross) who leads her to rethink things.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Invictus”
Oscar season just wouldn’t be complete without a Clint Eastwood drama, and the Old Master shows no signs of slowing down despite being just a few months shy of his 80th birthday. He confounds expectations once more by trading the despair and tragedy of “Changeling” and “Mystic River” for hope and triumph with a drama cooked up from such unpalatable ingredients as racial politics, funny accents and unfathomable foreign sports. Having tried in vain for many years to bring Mandela biography “Long Walk to Freedom” to the screen, Morgan Freeman finally realizes his dream of playing the iconic leader in this adaptation of John Carlin’s account of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, during which time Mandela made the audacious gamble of uniting his fractured nation behind their underdog team, led by captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), on the unlikely chance that they could go all the way.
Opens wide.

“The Lovely Bones”
If any director is capable of infiltrating a big studio Oscar-baiter born out of weighty literature and smuggling out an art film brimming with ideas, then surely Peter Jackson is that man. Marrying the grisly subject matter that first garnered him acclaim with the ethereal, other-worldly spectacle that has come to define his recent work, Jackson, along with co-writers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, bring to life Alice Sebold’s somber bestseller about a sadly all-too-literal heavenly creature, embodied here by the young “Atonement” star Saoirse Ronan. The unfortunate victim of a terrible murder, Ronan’s Susie Salmon peers down at her family from a celestial purgatory as her grieving mother and father (Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg) struggle to move on, and her inconspicuous killer (Stanley Tucci) prepares to murder again.
Opens in limited release.

“My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?”
Not waiting around for a distribution deal after it puzzled some audiences in Toronto, Werner Herzog’s second film of ’09 and his first collaboration with David Lynch (who’s an executive producer) stars Willem Dafoe as a detective who treads lightly onto the murder scene of the matriarch of the McCullum family (Grace Zabriskie). After being implicated in her death, her son (Michael Shannon) locks the doors to his own home across the street and takes hostages, all the while Herzog lingers on supporting players ranging from Udo Kier to Chloe Sevigny to Verne Troyer. Lynch is self-distributing through his Absurda label.
Opens in New York.

“Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year”
Given India’s status as the call-center capitol of the world, it’s somewhat surprising that the workplace comedy isn’t a more prevalent genre in Bollywood cinema, though the gray, soul-sucking cubicle isn’t perhaps the first stop on the quest for escapism. Still, Bollywood powerhouse Yash Raj Films wistfully blends office doldrums with a swaggering, hip-hop sensibility, courtesy of “Chak De! India” director Shimit Amin. Ranbir Kapoor stars as the eponymous desk jockey whose disillusionment with the suit and tie brigade leads him to brainstorm an idea to make the fast-exploding Indian economy work for him for a change (and no doubt sing about it). In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“A Single Man”
Colin Firth gives what’s being touted as a career best performance as the linchpin of Gucci guru-turned-first-time director Tom Ford’s adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s seminal gay novel where the Hampshire fuddy-duddy portrays a crushingly lonely fellow on the verge of suicide after the loss of his longtime companion (Matthew Goode) in a car accident. In the foreign sands of Santa Monica, Firth’s British ex-pat George quietly goes about putting his affairs in order on what he plans to be his final day, set to culminate with a dinner at the home of his old flame and confidant Charley (Julianne Moore), but before he can execute his carefully laid out plan, his head is abruptly turned by a sultry student (Nicholas Hoult).
Opens in limited release.

12072009_ViciousKind.jpg“The Vicious Kind”
The sophomore effort from Lee Toland Krieger shares executive producer Neil LaBute’s questioning of the delicate dance between genders with a blackly comic tale of Caleb, a construction worker (Adam Scott) who chaperones his brother (Alex Frost) and his brother’s new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) to Thanksgiving eight years after their mother’s death. Things get complicated when Caleb attempts to dissuade his brother from seeing Emma, first because of his distrust of women following a recent break-up and then because he starts to feel attracted to Emma as the holiday wears on. Scott and Krieger recently picked up Spirit Award nominations for best actor and best screenplay, respectively.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“Yesterday Was a Lie”
Metaphysical sci-fi noirs don’t come down the pike too often, but James Kerwin’s has been in the works since 2006 and premiering first at the Park City Film Music Fest in 2008 before a two-year festival run. Kipleigh Brown stars as Hoyle, the enigmatic gumshoe who is as much of a mystery to herself as the case she’s trying to crack when we’re first introduced to her, but begins to find an identity as she investigates the death of a diplomat and finds that her latest job has literally universal implications. Sharp-eared NPR listeners might want to pay attention for the voice of Robert Siegel, who has a small cameo.
Opens in Los Angeles.

[Additional photo: Adam Scott in “The Vicious Kind,” 72nd Street Productions, 2009]

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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.