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The week’s critic wrangle: Proof that the Corpse Thumbsucker is HellBent for Illumination.

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So. Many. Releases! If this is terse, don’t take it personally.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins+ "Proof": It’s possible this stodgy-looking Miramax play-adaptation was made just for Anthony Lane to review. He utterly enjoys himself with all kinds of silliness (he calls Anthony Hopkins‘ character "a math wizard of Dumbledore
proportions"). A particularly worthy selection:

Claire [Hope Davis] flies in from New York, where, unlike
Catherine [Gwyneth Paltrow], she has (boo!) a job, and (hiss!) a fiancé, and (avaunt
thee, Satan!) nice clothes. She despairs of her lank-haired, wonky
sibling, and they soon lock antlers over the vexed question of jojoba
conditioner. Claire can’t even get the patient to eat. "Have a banana,"
she says, becoming the first person to utter that line since Louis
said it to Mowgli in "The Jungle Book." Unlike King Louie,
however, Claire does not follow up her offer with a sprightly rendition
of "I Wanna Be Like You," although you can’t help praying that she
would. This movie needs all the swingers it can get.

Stephanie Zacharek and Dennis Lim both compare the film’s subject matter (math) to it’s creakily mechanical structure and plotting. Manohla Dargis takes issues with the main character: "A martyr to her own choices, Catherine…demands our pity, our attention, our indulgence, our love, while giving little in return but her narcissism."

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (sort of)+ "Corpse Bride": The clear critical hit of the week, Tim Burton‘s return to stop-motion animation is beloved by all. Stephanie Zacharek, Manohla Dargis and Michael Atkinson all find it variations of "exuberant" and "warm": Zacharek particularly gets teary-eyed over the film’s old-school craftsmanship and loveliness, while Dargis is pleased to see Burton’s return to gothy form ("it suggests, despite some recent evidence, that he is not yet ready to abandon his own dark kingdom") and Atkinson points out that, culturally, it’s an unexpected "humble slice of Old World folklore." Matt Zoller Seitz is also fond of the film, though less giddy: "I can’t hold up the movie as an example of Burton’s best."

Lou Pucci + "Thumbsucker": Jessica Winter:

Exiting a press screening a while back, however, I overheard an
otherwise mild-mannered audience member growl, "Another fucking
American suburban teen-angst film." Snip off the expletive and you’ve
got a perfectly fair nutshell of the endearing and well-acted "Thumbsucker," and you can throw in much of whatever’s left of the
Sundance-Amerindie project too ("The Chumscrubber" and "Me and You and
Everyone We Know"
also premiered this year at Park City).

Despite its overt Sundanciness, she’s fond of Mike Mills‘ debut, as is A. O. Scott, who finds it well acted and nicely restrained, a film that "manages to show how calamitous and out of control (and also how thrilling) growing up odd and ordinary can be, without wallowing in its hero’s occasional self-pity or condescending to him." David Edelstein, on the other hand, feels that Mills, despite drawing great performances out of his actors, kills most of the jokes that were in the novel the film’s based on.

Dylan Fergus+ "HellBent": This low-budget horror film about a group of young, hot, gay men who are stalked and slayed (preferably shirtless) by a menacing killer on the streets of West Hollywood claims to be "The first ever GAY Slasher film!!!", a point that we, while no experts, would debate, on the dubious merits of last year’s "Make a Wish," which seemed to play at every LGBT festival in the country, and centered around a woman who invites all of her exes (female) out for a camping trip, provoking much bickering, making out, and mysterious dying. Does that one not count? And is this such a debate-worthy claim to begin with? At this week’s Reverse Shot review trinity at indieWIRE, Michael Koresky points out that "serial killer films have been chockablock with homosexual psychotics from day one," but that "HellBent" is rare in its gay-friendliness, and ultimately good-natured fun. His fellow reviewers Brad Westcott and Suzanne Scott dub it "derivative, predictable, and well, just bad" and "disappointing," respectively. Laura Kern at the New York Times sees it more as a cultural artifact: it "widens the scope a bit by bringing gay cinema one step closer to the mainstream." Jorge Morales at the Village Voice is far from impressed: "I’ve seen spookier reruns of Paul Lynde as center square."

Elijah Wood and Eugene Hutz+ "Everything is Illuminated": One thing everyone can agree on: the music gets way old way fast. David Edelstein (who otherwise thinks the film shows some promise, but is too cutesy and falters at the end): "That lusty klezmer soundtrack made me smile for about half an hour—until I realized that it was ironing out the dissonances, killing the unease we ought to feel in this deceptively verdant landscape. Then I began to wish it were hunting season on klezmer bands." Michael Atkinson (who finds the film "serviceable"): [Director Liev] Schreiber relies
on relentless soundtrack oompah-pah to make the jokes seem like
jokes—until the sniffly climax." Stephanie Zacharek (who thinks that "Schreiber leaves the whimsy faucet dripping for far too long," but likes the last third of the film): "Schreiber overuses some particularly annoying Eastern European oompah music to signal us to the allegedly hilarious absurdity of certain narrative twists, not trusting us to find the humor in this story without musical signposts." A. O. Scott thinks the film spins its wheels a lot but never gets further than announcing its themes, and, less charitably, says that it "suggests that even the darkest page of history can be bathed in a glow of consoling, self-congratulatory sentiment." Hah! And Ella Taylor loved the book, loves the film.

Our own review is here: we actually walked out feeling relatively benign about the film, and disliked it more and more as we thought about it. Eugene Hutz is fabulous, though (there’s a little Q & A with him here on IFC News).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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