What do Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton see in each other?

What do Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton see in each other? (photo)

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Judging by the early word-of-mouth on “Alice In Wonderland,” maybe I’m not the only one to find post-millennial Tim Burton unwatchable. Next up, Burton’s sitting on top of the unpromisingly titled “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” which he’ll produce in partnership with “Wanted”‘s Timur Bekmambetov. The book is from the author of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” of course.

This will be the second time Burton and Bekmambetov have collaborated — they were both producers on last year’s heinous “9,” but that’s a rant for another time. You have to wonder what they admire in each other. It’s not like, individually, there’s not a lot to dig: Burton’s first run of work is impeccable (I’d place his hot streak from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” to “Sleepy Hollow,” but your mileage may vary) and Bekmambetov’s no slouch himself. “Wanted” is one of the most batshit blockbusters I’ve seen of late, a gleeful middle finger to physics and a chance to finally, finally see Morgan Freeman stop playing God. The Russian films that made him a hot commodity — “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” — are heavy on dour, Putin-esque oppression and fear of oil oligarchy, but they still bring the violent absurdity.

Why Burton and Bekmambetov are so psyched to work together (they bought the rights to the novel with their own money). Superficially, they’re both fantasy guys, but their films are totally tonally different. Burton’s more playful (or used to be, anyway), while Bekmambetov couldn’t be more assaultive. Another key difference: Burton’s work is about powerlessness, while Bekmambetov makes movies about power and what it means to achieve it.

As we all know, Burton was a weird kid, unmoored in suburbia, a misfit, an outsider. It shows in his work — every one of his protagonists is ultimately a failure outside of their own head. (Even Michael Keaton’s Batman wasn’t kicking that much ass when push came to shove; he seemed much happier as Bruce Wayne.)

03042010_wanted.jpgBekmambetov’s movies, meanwhile, do not take lip from anyone — violence is how you get respect, and that’s totally fine. Think of James McAvoy’s memorable final line in “Wanted” (“What the fuck have you done lately?”) — it’s entirely symptomatic of the atmosphere surrounding “Night Watch” and “Day Watch,” where daily combat is a way of life. I suspect this has something to do with Bekmambetov’s background both as a Kazakhstani and as an Ashkenazi Jew (his father and mother, respectively) in a notoriously xenophobic and racist country. Bekmambetov’s rise to the top of advertising and film probably required tremendous self-assertion, patience and very thick skin. And you see it in his movies.

So what do these guys see in each other? It’s not a marriage of business convenience brokered by a bigger studio; Burton hardly ever works as a producer for others (he hasn’t really franchised himself). Maybe they’re funhouse versions of each other: for all the violence whirring around in Bekmambetov’s universe, it’s worth remembering that he, at one point (maybe still, who knows), was attached to an update of “Moby Dick,” the ultimate in violent futility. So it goes: sometimes violence and cute alienation are the same thing.

[Photos: “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney, 2010; “Wanted,” Universal, 2008]


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.