DID YOU READ

Did You Hear About “Avatar”?

Did You Hear About “Avatar”? (photo)

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This week we can immerse ourselves in tales of American sentiment, French fantasy, English history, Italian romance and alien invasion.

“Avatar”
After more than a decade on hiatus, James Cameron returns from his days as “King of the World” with a mind on conquering a few new ones in this sci-fi epic that the director maintains will alter the face of moviemaking forever. (Early reviews seem to agree.) A galaxy away from Cameron’s days as a miniature maker on Roger Corman’s “Battle Beyond the Stars,” “Avatar” blends performance capture technology with real world photography to create Pandora, where a troubled U.S. marine (Sam Worthington) is tasked with infiltrating the Na’vi, a tribe of primitive but proud aliens, via a genetically created body, though he finds his loyalties torn when he falls in love with one of their own (Zoe Saldana). The film’s reported $300 million price tag is surely the stuff of Hollywood accountant’s nightmares, especially since some have been quick to jump all over the oddly familiar premise as merely “Dances With Smurfs.” But hey, it’s James Cameron, so if he wants to film Julian Sands reading from a take-out menu inside a darkened cupboard, we’d still line up around the block to go and see it.
Opens wide and in 3D and IMAX.

“Crazy Heart”
Having scooped up a trio of nominations at the forthcoming Spirit Awards, writer/director Scott Cooper’s adaptation of Thomas Cobb’s novel finds Jeff Bridges stepping into the worn boots of Bad Blake, an over-the-hill country crooner subsisting on a steady diet of tips and regrets as he travels the Midwest bowling alley circuit for low-paying gigs. While in Santa Fe, he meets a curious feature writer (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who inspires him to face the humbling prospect of opening for his former protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) and getting his life back on track. The film’s country bonafides are affirmed by the producing presence of “O Brother Where Art Thou”‘s music supervisor T Bone Burnett and Robert Duvall, whose supporting role in “Crazy Heart” will remind many of his Oscar-winning performance at the center of the similarly themed “Tender Mercies.”
Opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 16th.

“Did You Hear About The Morgans?”
The holiday season is upon us, and that means peace on Earth and goodwill to all men — unless, of course, they’re insufferable yuppies, in which case they must be abused, tormented and ultimately shamed into repentance. For his first film since 2007’s “Music and Lyrics,” Hugh Grant reunites with writer/director Marc Lawrence for something of a reverse country-bumpkin riff on “The Out-of-Towners,” the 1970 Neil Simon comedy that Lawrence coincidentally remade once already in 1999. Also reuniting with Grant is his “Extreme Measures” co-star Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Grant’s better half in a loveless Manhattan couple that is relocated to Wyoming after witnessing a mob murder and find their disintegrating marriage reinvigorated by small-town charm and the disarmingly slow pace of life.
Opens wide.

“Nine”
Were someone sophisticated (read: nerdy) enough to devise a Fantasy Football-type game based on the movies, you’d be hard pressed to pick a stronger starting lineup than director Rob Marshall has cobbled together for this likely statuette magnet. For starters, Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella penned the adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical inspired by Federico Fellini’s beloved autobiographical opus “8 1/2,” with Daniel Day-Lewis taking on the part of filmmaker and mercurial lothario Guido Contini. Delivering a raucous serenade to the enchanting enigma of women in all their guises, Contini, in desperate need of a hit, sweats out a script while dodging irate producers and curious journalists as his mind and memory drifts between thoughts of his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penélope Cruz), his confidante (Judi Dench), his mother (Sophia Loren), his muse (Nicole Kidman), a reporter (Kate Hudson) and a whore from his old neighborhood (Fergie).
Opens in limited release; opens wide on December 25th.

“The Other Side of Paradise”
Husband-and-wife team of director Justin D. Hilliard and co-writer/star Arianne Martin offer up a semi-autobiographical interpretation of their courtship in the form of a meandering road trip that sees two longtime friends dance around their deeper feelings and are periodically distracted by American indie staples like unwanted familial obligation and kooky backwater folk. Martin stars as Rose Hewitt, a free-spirited photographer who invites her recently dumped BFF Alex (John Elliott) to join her on a drive to a gallery opening in Austin, stopping en route to pick up her recently paroled brother Jamie (Frank Mosley) and drop him off with their dad (Jodie Moore).
Opens in New York.

12122009_Ricky.jpg“Ricky”
It’s a brave director (or merely a French one) that will play parental anxiety over infant mortality for chuckles, but that’s exactly what festival darling François Ozon does with this perplexing mixture of working class worry and far out fantasy about a diapered protag who literally wants to fly the nest. Born out of a bizarre short story by English author Rose Tremain, this surrealist portrait of primal fear stars Alexandra Lamy as Katie, a factory worker who conceives a child with her co-worker (Sergi López) that wreaks havoc on the couple’s simple domestic life as Katie begins to notice something strange about her new baby and her older daughter becomes jealous. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York on December 16th and available on VOD.

“A Town Called Panic”
Originally a stop-motion series of whimsical tales about a trio of Plastiscine figurines in their remote prairie town, this Belgian animated feature could be best described as a less vulgar “Robot Chicken,” although Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier’s puppetoon in fact predates Seth Green’s Cartoon Network hit by several years. This bigscreen adventure centers on the Cowboy (voiced by Aubier) and Indian’s (Bruce Ellison) search for the perfect gift for their friend Horse (Patar) that lets loose a world of trouble for all three when an internet shopping mishap results in the unfortunate delivery of 50 million bricks that wind up crushing the gang’s house.
Opens in New York on December 16th; opens in Los Angeles on January 29th.

“The Young Victoria”
Reflective of the, shall we say, “selectively” multicultural nature of the European monarchies, this lush slice of squabbling aristocracy is produced by an American (Martin Scorsese no less), an Englishman (Graham King), and a former member of the British Royal Family (Sarah Ferguson), directed by a French-Canadian (Jean-Marc Vallée), and tells how Queen Victoria came to marry a Saxon Duke of German ancestry dispatched from Luxembourg at the behest of a scheming Belgian. (Phew!) As much a love story as a history lesson, the film follows Victoria (Emily Blunt) from her melancholic childhood prior to ascension to her many battles with her devious comptroller Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), her dangerous alliance with elitist Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), and her singular relationship with the future Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), whose letters back-and-forth from Buckingham were the 19th century equivalent of going steady.
Opens in limited release.

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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.