Three Must-See Movies at the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival

Three Must-See Movies at the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival (photo)

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Get ready New Yorkers: the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival, two weeks of amazing (and sometimes amazingly weird) cinema, starts today at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. This year’s lineup is massive, so here are a few recommendations to get you started. There are lots of other good films at the fest, but you absolutely cannot miss these three.

“Sell Out!”
Directed by Yeo Joon Han, 2008

If “Dr. Strangelove” and “Office Space” had a baby, and then that baby was raised in a karaoke bar, it might look something like “Sell Out!” a hilarious, demented, and wildly creative comic musical from Malaysia. The film opens with TV host Rafflesia Pong (Jerrica Lai) interviewing a totally nude man named “Yeo Joon Han” — a.k.a. the director of the movie we’re watching — in honor of his being named the Kryzhindangzhongbushaus Village Far Easter Film Festival’s Young Oversea-Chinese Women New Director’s Honorary Mention Award in the category of Films Suitable for Audiences Age 70 and Above. After pretentious Asian art films get brutally and brilliantly parodied (“Why are your movies so slow?” “…”), “Sell Out!” moves on to skewer even bigger targets: braindead corporate culture, shitty customer service, and lowest common denominator reality television. Unfairly buried for three years by its Malaysian distributors, “Sell Out!” might be the most perfect satire of our cynical, celebrity- and money-obsessed times ever made. And it has musical numbers!

Playing Friday July 1 and Monday July 4 at Walter Reade.

Directed by Kwok Hyeok-Jae, 2010

This movie is somewhat mislabeled as part of NYAFF 2011’s sidebar of Korean revenge thrillers. Only half right: there’s not much revenge going in “Troubleshooter” but there are plenty of thrills in the mold of Hitchcockian wrong man adventures like “The 39 Steps.” Sol Kyung-gu stars as Tae-sik, a private investigator who makes his living catching adulterers in the act. He cockily shows up at his latest gig, happily snapping away with his automatic camera, until he realizes he’s been set up: there’s a dead body where a couple of lovebirds should be and blood all over the floor. With the police hot on his trail, Tae-sik’s got to prove his innocence and figure out who’s framed him, all while also performing the tasks his mysterious blackmailer keeps sending him via cell phone in exchange for the only proof of his innocence. Luckily Tae-sik is a bad ass private eye, a master of technology and disguises who’s also not bad at kicking the crap out of bad guys either. From start to finish, this is just an immensely satisfying chase movie. Winner of the NYAFF 2011 award for the film most likely to get remade as a Jason Statham vehicle.

Playing Tuesday July 12 and Thursday July 14 at Walter Reade.

BKO: Bangkok Knockout
Directed by Panna Rittikrai, 2010

From the title alone, you might want to confuse this one with a crummy Nicolas Cage flick. But once the movie starts there will be no confusion: “BKO: Bangkok Knockout” is the apogee of the Thai martial arts flick, an exploitation extravaganza against which all future Thai martial arts flicks will be measured. From Panna Rittikrai, mentor and frequent collaborator of “Ong Bak”‘s Tony Jaa, comes the endearingly dopey story of a movie stunt team convinced they’ve been hired by big-time movie producer Mr. Sneed (!!!) to make a movie in Hollywood. They celebrate their new job with a big fancy dinner, too confident in their impending success to notice the caterers are acting a wee bit funny. Cut to the next day, and the whole stunt team finds themselves in a martial arts remake of “The Hangover,” drugged, confused, and lost in a giant abandoned construction site where they’re forced to battle an army of kung-fu caterers while evil millionaires wager on their lives with the mighty Mr. Sneed (!!!!!!!). There’s a lot of exposition to wade through in the early going, but from about the half-hour mark on “BKO” becomes an onslaught of amazing action sequences piled one on top of the other. There are fights in cages, fights in the air, fights on dirt bikes, even fights between dudes hanging underneath speeding tractor trailers. The good news here is this movie has already been picked up for U.S. distribution by Magnet Releasing, so even if you can’t make it to the New York Asian Film Festival, you’ll still be able to see this one in a few months. Lucky you.

Playing Saturday July 2 and Saturday July 9 at Walter Reade.

Also recommended at NYAFF 2011: “Bedevilled” (bleak and beautiful Korean revenge thriller); “Machete Maidens Unleashed!” (Poppy documentary on the history of Filipino exploitation cinema); “Horny House of Horror” (Troma-style horror/comedy set in brutal Japanese brothel); “Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky” (cartoonishly bloody future kung-fu campfest).

What do you want to see at NYAFF 2011? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


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.