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Fantastic Fest 2011: “Let the Bullets Fly,” reviewed

Fantastic Fest 2011: “Let the Bullets Fly,” reviewed (photo)

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“Let the Bullets Fly” is funny, exciting, and at 132 minutes, a half an hour too long. It’s like that guy you knew in college who told told really great stories but got so wrapped up in his own awesomeness as a storyteller that he never knew when to shut up. “Let the Bullets Fly” is a great little movie inside a weaker bigger movie.

It’s still a lot of fun. Almost every character in the film has more than one identity and there are multiple layers of deception going in every scene. Writer/director Jiang Wen stars as “Pocky” Zhang a legendary bandit in 1920s China pretending to be the Governor in order to rob from the rich and give to the guy pretending to be the Governor. He’s assisted by Tang (Ge You), the actual Governor whose train is hijacked and wrecked by Pocky in the film’s pre-credits sequence. When he’s found in the wreckage, Tang pretends to be the Governor’s assistant so Pocky won’t kill him. They both arrive in Goose Town, where they get into a turf war with local crime boss Master Huang (Chow Yun Fat), who uses body doubles to to confuse his enemies (Chow is clearly having the time of his life playing the two Huangs, one deadly serious the other a goofy bastard). Pocky and Huang both want control of Goose Town. That sparks an epic battle of wills and artillery. Lots and lots of artillery.

Wen does a nice job of balancing comedy, drama, and action, but the comic scenes are the best. Tang’s wife survives the train crash as well, but she doesn’t hide her identity like her husband. That means she has to keep playing the Governor’s wife for Pocky, even sleeping with him in order to keep up appearances. Tang, as you might imagine, is not pleased. Later, after Pocky and Tang have started to bond, the two share a heart-to-heart on a hillside. Pocky opens up and tells Tang about his past, and how he came to be such a notorious thief. Moved by his honesty, Tang begins to share his own history. “Stop talking,” Pocky interrupts. “I don’t care.” The film has some big emotional beats, but it never takes its tongue out of its proverbial cheek.

True to its title, “Let the Bullets Fly” is all about speed. Pocky and Tang banter back and forth like Russell and Grant in “His Girl Friday.” In the shootouts, the gangsters fire their guns so fast you’d swear they were shooting machine guns. Maybe that’s why “Bullets”‘ length feels so overbearing. Individual scenes chug along at a rat-a-tat pace but the movie as a whole runs out of steam around the 90 minute mark. There’s only so many gotcha plot twists a movie needs or an audience can take. Let the bullets fly, then at some point, let the bullets land.

“Let the Bullets Fly” is tentatively scheduled for an early 2012 release from Well Go USA. If you see it at Fantastic Fest, let us know what you think. Leave us a message in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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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.