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The week’s critic wrangle: The weatherman goes to three extremes, and “Paradise Now.”

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Michael Caine and Nicolas Cage.+ "The Weather Man": We know this isn’t kosher, but we loved/feared Gore Verbinski‘s "The Ring," more so than the Japanese original. We dunno if it was his intent, but Verbinski managed to make a horror movie so sparse and strange it was almost expressionist. Kept us up for days. He’s a very interesting, if scattered, commercial director (Remember when he sprayed fake tanner on Gene Hackman and had him pretend to be ethnic in "The Mexican"? What the hell was that?), one who jumped right in to the mainstream (see "Mousehunt") without splashing around in the indie…pond (it’s too early in the day to extend metaphors) first. Our point is, clearly he’s gotten the urge for an indie moment, and here we are. Nicolas Cage faces stylish mid-life angst.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Roger Ebert argues:

One of the trade papers calls it "one of the biggest downers to emerge from a major studio in recent memory — an overbearingly glum look at a Chicago celebrity combing through the emotional wreckage of his life." But surely that is a description of the movie, not a criticism of it. Must movies not be depressing? Must major studios not release them if they are? Another trade paper faults the movie for being released by Paramount, when it "probably should have been made by Paramount Classics. For this is a Sundance film gussied up with studio production values and big stars."

I find this reasoning baffling. Are major stars not allowed to appear in offbeat character studies? Is it wrong for a "Sundance film" to have "studio production values?"

He likes the film. Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek does too — to an extent. As she puts it: "[Y]ou don’t have to be a middle-aged man (or even just middle-aged, or a man) to sympathize with [Cage’s David] Spritz — although even just writing that phrase somehow, inexplicably, makes me want to kick him." She finds that the Spritz’s mid-life sad sackeries, while well done, get wearying very quickly. And both Slate‘s David Edelstein and the New York TimesManohla Dargis point out that "The Weather Man" is one in a long line of male existential crisis movies. It works for Edelstein (who calls it "a fine movie, beautifully acted, but it isn’t easy to love — or to watch") far more than it does for La Manohla, who bemoans that "the film’s most promising idea, which glimmers faintly only to be pusillanimously extinguished, is that David’s pursuit of the beautiful house and beautiful wife, to invoke an old Talking Heads song, has left him wondering how he got here."


Miriam Yeung.+ "Three…Extremes": The hipper and slightly more international of your two Halloween gorefest options opening today, both of which, as J.R. Jones at the Chicago Reader points out, fall solidly under the banner of the nouveau exploitation film (our favorite "Saw II" quote goes to the LA Weekly‘s Christopher Orr, who muses that "’Saw II’ distinguishes itself from its forebear chiefly in the depth of its unpleasantness: It contains enough slashing, screaming, mutilating, bludgeoning, burning and bleeding to make the earlier film seem, in retrospect, like a drawing-room comedy. If there’s a ‘Saw III,’ it will doubtless feature nuns and orphans being slowly pushed through a hand-cranked meat grinder."). "Three…Extremes" is an anthology film, featuring a trinity of 30-40 minute shorts from two of the current big names in edgy Asian film (Japan’s Takashi Miike and Korea’s Park Chan-wook) and the less well-known, artier Hong Kong director Fruit Chan. As with all anthology films, the result is, by critical consensus, an uneven thing. Jones likes the Park segment, "Cut" (which, he points out, does have almost the same premise as "Saw II") so much he doesn’t even address the other two. Roger Ebert, who sees the film as horror for grown ups (finally), declares Miike’s "Box" the "most complex of all," though he also seems to like Chan’s "Dumplings," for all that he ponders how many people will walk out of the theater when the figure out the premise. Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice also hearts "Dumplings," which he says "may be the most viciously conceived piece of social satire the continent’s seen since ‘Tetsuo’"; he’s pleased with the film as a testament to the renewed strength of the short form film. And Dana Stevens at the New York Times, in a short review, sums the film up as a relatively tame sampler of Asian extreme cinema: she also prefers "Dumplings."

Our old NYAFF review is here; we’d advise you to see the film if only for "Dumplings," which also happens to have Chris Doyle as DP, making it something equally lovely and horrific, as well as dark, dark, dark. Here’s hoping Chan’s full-length version of "Dumplings" finds a US distributor soon, if it hasn’t already.


Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman.+ "Paradise Now": Hany Abu-Assad‘s suicide bomber opus is only opening in New York and L.A. today, so reviews are limited thus far (we’re painfully curious as to how the film will play). Good things as yet: J. Hoberman at the Village Voice calls it "[c]ontrived but chilling," liking it overall while acknowledging:

A Palestinian-Dutch-German- French co-pro, "Paradise Now" was also
workshopped at Sundance, and as has been pointed out, it has certain
Amerindie characteristics — including a carefully worked-out backstory
and a number of didactic scenes in which the action grinds to a halt to
allow for the expression of varied points of view.

It all works for the New York TimesStephen Holden, who says that "[p]olitics aside, the movie is a superior thriller whose shrewdly inserted plot twists and emotional wrinkles are calculated to put your heart in your throat and keep it there."

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Armond White at the New York Press adores the film, calling it an emotional rich, complex, humanist work that is also intensely cinematic (he points out a segment in which the characters try to discuss their lives in terms of movie genres: "Is there a genre as boring as life?" asks the unhappy main character).

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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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