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“Night Watch”‘s New World Order

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What does a Russian blockbuster look like? It turns out, a lot like an American blockbuster…mainly “The Matrix,” with plenty of MTV2 mixed in and a sporadic sprinkling of Eisenstein. Timur Bekmambetov’s “Night Watch,” made for an outrageous (in Russia) $4 million, may have been an unexpected and record-breaking hit in its home country, but the dark urban fantasy is more interesting as a cultural artifact than as a techno-heavy, flashy, forgettable bit of entertainment.

As is de rigeur these days, “Night Watch” (which is the first installment of a trilogy) rests on a convoluted, po-faced mythology — there are Others living among us, vampires, sorcerers, witches, seers, shapeshifters, who’ve chosen to be on the side of Light or Dark. They exist in an uneasy truce in which the Light side patrols the Dark’s activities (the titular Night Watch), and vice versa. There’s an A-plot involving some überOther who will tip the balance between the two forces, and a B-plot that concerns your run-of-the-mill impending apocalypse. Trenchcoats are worn. There are occasions of soulful, sci-fi angst.

It’s impossible to convey Bekmambetov’s fearless slathering-on of visual effects in words. No one walks across a room when they can stutter over in a series of digitally enhanced jump cuts. It’s at turns impressive and headache-inducing — for every extraordinary image (a utility truck somersaults over a pedestrian and lands seamlessly back on the street; a man shatters like ceramic) there are at least a dozen that are excessive or silly (in a climactic fight, one character pulls a sword out of his spine, while another wields a fluorescent bulb, which illuminates like a lightsaber). But it’s the film’s night-shrouded Moscow that’s its most impressive visual accoutrement — the action leaps through dingy streets, crowded subways and dozens of apparently windowless Soviet-era apartment buildings, an urban hell out of a Wachowski brothers wet dream.

A lingering sense of old ways crumbling gives “Night Watch” an odd soulfulness it might not deserve — though it’s probably not an accident that the somewhat bureaucratic Light Others operate out of a grimy municipal building (the “City Light Company”) while the Dark Others are all new money, gleaming cars and designer track suits. In the end, the differences between Dark and Light aren’t heated or personal after all — they’re just ideological.

“Night Watch” opens in New York, L.A. and San Francisco on February 17. For more on the film, see the official site.

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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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