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Opening This Week: December 22, 2006

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By Christopher Bonet

IFC News

[Photo: “The Good Shepherd,” Universal Pictures, 2006]

A round-up of the best (or worst) $10 you’ll spend this week.

“The Case of the Grinning Cat”

Everyone’s favorite French documentarian Chris Marker is still making films at the ripe old age of 85, and his latest is as politically concerned as any of his groundbreaking films from the New Wave years. Shortly following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, portraits of grinning yellow cats began popping up throughout Paris. In this exposé on the nature of art, politics and freedom of expression in this post-9/11 world, Marker remains as sharp and witty as ever as he hopes to find an answer to the mysterious grinning cat.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Curse of the Golden Flower”

Zhang Yimou follows up his earlier 2006 film “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” with another wuxia film that is noted as being the most expensive production from mainland China to date. As with “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers,” Yimou’s latest is visually stunning while suffering in the story department. Be warned: the film is a lot more interested in plot than action, so if you’re expecting lots of fight scenes ala “Hero,” you’ll be disappointed.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Good Shepherd”

We can probably all agree that Robert De Niro is one of the greatest American film actors ever, though his roles over the past decade may have made us forget that (“Analyze This” franchise, anyone?), so we’re excited that his latest film will also feature him directing for the first time since “A Bronx Tale,” a film that we’re fond of. Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie join the cast alongside De Niro in this story of the formation of the CIA, but we’re most excited to see Joe Pesci’s first screen appearance in eight years for. Joe, it’s about damn time.

Opens wide (official site).

“Letters from Iwo Jima”

Clint Eastwood’s companion piece to this fall’s “Flags of Our Fathers” came out of nowhere to snag the National Board of Review’s film of the year and has been praised by numerous critics’ circles, putting it at the forefront of the awards season race. Simply put, we’re excited to see this following the disappointing “Flags,” and Eastwood’s decision to film the characters completely in Japanese rather than the forced English of last year’s “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Night at the Museum”

Director Shawn Levy directs this family-friendly action adventure film based on Milan Trenc’s popular children’s book about a bored museum security guard who accidentally releases an ancient curse that causes the animals and insects to come back to life. Ben Stiller goes everyman in his role as the security guard and Robin Williams plays a president for a second time this year, this time diminishing the good name of our favorite rough rider Teddy Roosevelt.

Opens wide (official site).

“No Restraint”

Alison Chernick’s documentary chronicles the latest project from performance artist Matthew Barney, the film “Drawing Restraint 9,” which included the use of 45,000 pounds of petroleum jelly, a factory whaling vessel and traditional Japanese rituals and which came out in theaters earlier this year. The weird gets a whole lot weirder when “Dancer in the Dark” actress, world-renowned Icelander and Barney-SO Björk enters the project.

Opens in New York (official site).

“The Painted Veil”

Naomi Watts reteams with her “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” director John Curran in this 1920s period film that tells the story of an adulterous married woman whose life undergoes drastic changes when her husband moves them to a remote village in China undergoing a health epidemic. The film’s already nabbed screenwriter Ron Nyswaner the Best Adapted Screenplay award from the National Board of Review and Edward Norton an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Early reviews say it’s a spectacular production, but to us, it looks a bit like your average Merchant/Ivory film.

Opens in New York and Los Angeles (official site).

“Rocky Balboa”

Cinephiles everywhere muttered a resounding “What the fuck?!” when news broke last year that Sylvester Stallone was reviving his “Rocky’ and “Rambo” franchises. We here at IFC News are in love with all things retro, and nothing spells “so bad it’s good” better than a throwback 80s film for the VH1 generation. Repeat after us: “‘Rocky V’ plus ‘Rocky II’ equals ‘Rocky VII: Adrian’s Revenge!'”

Opens wide (official site).


Remember a couple of years ago when Peter O’Toole reluctantly accepted that honorary acting Oscar after saying he still had a chance at earning his first after eight nominations? Well, it seems like O’Toole may have another shot this year, as he’s been getting heaps of praise for his latest film in which he plays an aging, forgotten actor who develops an obsessive friendship with a teenager. A bit creepy, maybe, but here’s hoping that this will finally lead to an O’Toole Oscar win.

Opens in New York and Los Angeles (official site).

“We Are Marshall”

Personally, we’ve reached out limit on uplifting sports movies. We tolerated this summer’s “Invincible,” but “We Are Marshall” has a lot more adversity to overcome. First off, it’s directed by McG, best-known for the painful-to-watch “Charlie’s Angels” franchise, and here making his bid for Seriousness. Second, its tragic premise and inspirational story about fortitude and courage are marred by tired football movie clichés. Third, Matthew McConaughey. ‘Nuff said.

Opens wide (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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