For a truly immersive movie experience, you might need an iPhone.

For a truly immersive movie experience, you might need an iPhone. (photo)

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The ’50s saw the introduction of Cinerama, which synced up three simultaneous projectors aimed at a giant curved screen. “You are there!,” the advertising promised, because of course it would take the biggest, most immersive screens to ever hope to fool you into think you were something else.

So there’s something fitting about “Murder on Beacon Hill,” a movie (sort of) that really can mean you are there, involving the tiny screen of your iPhone. It’s an app from Untravel Media that you download and then, ideally, wander around Boston with, tramping through historical landmarks with your guide, local girl Alexandra McDougall. The story is that of the 1849-50 Parkman-Webster case, and the scenes illuminate what happened — though you can watch and visit the sites in any order.

The whole thing will be shown in a 43-minute block Sunday at the Boston International Film Festival. This is, as the Guardian‘s Ryan Gilbey notes, “not quite the Lumière brothers at the Grand Café in 1895,” but it’s something different anyway.

Unfortunately, the app doesn’t seem all that compelling; you can watch it here. “I like the idea of history as jazz,” announces McDougall at the start, before informing us that a while ago she began obsessively rewatching a PBS documentary called “Murder at Harvard,” and which, with evidence and letters read out by overacting voices in that uniquely PBS-y style, seems to have influenced “Murder on Beacon Hill” stylistically a little too much. But hey, you can hold up your phone and look at something twice over, once as revealingly contrasting image and once in real size. That’s cool.

04152010_gaudi.jpgThe most exciting aspect of this is the promise of how much more could be done in this direction. At the very least, some movies — judiciously clipped for iPhone or whatever — could make useful compare-and-contrasts for the tourist/visitor. It’d be great to walk through Barcelona armed with a copy of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s documentary “Antonio Gaudi” (nothing more than reverential shots of the buildings, with music and no narration) for suggestions on which of his buildings to visit and angles to look at it from. Or perhaps the herds of tourists who come to New York for “Sex and the City” tours can break off from loud groups and become inconspicuous individuals and pairs wandering at their leisure. Even better might be montages of public places as they appeared in the past, to hold up and see how they’ve changed while standing on the spot; rare is the place completely identical to even thirty years ago.

The applications so far look mild, but I’m pretty sure the first person that combines an iPhone narrative that lures you from one dark corner to another in an intense haunted house, only to be attacked by some kind of ghoul or serial killer, will make a killing whatever Halloween they come up with it.

[Photos: “Murder on Beacon Hill,” Untravel Media, 2010; “Antonio Gaudi,” Criterion Collection, 1984]


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.