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Opening This Week

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By Neil Pedley

The Oscars have passed, the Spirits have been lifted, and the end is nigh for the godawful release graveyard that is the month of February — a cinematic black hole where the discarded and unwanted trudge their way onto a big screen somewhere near you in hopes you might glance at their poster as you make a mad last dash to see that Oscar-saddled show pony before it’s pulled on Monday after it fails to win in any of the categories in which it’s been nominated. Meanwhile, there are 11 other films opening this week to quench that post-awards season thirst, including some with an Oscar pedigree.

Quality roles for aging actresses that accurately reflect the middle-aged female demographic have become the veritable unicorn in Hollywood of late. Director Christopher N. Rowley goes back to the tried and tested formula of the road movie in an attempt to change some of that with the mourning after tale of Arvilla (Jessica Lange), a woman who sets off on a pilgrimage with her two best friends (Kathy Bates and Joan Allen) after she loses her husband of 20 years. Ordinarily, cramming three gal pals in headscarves and sunglasses into a vintage convertible and pointing them west would set off some serious alarm bells, but this decorated veteran cast of Oscar baiters is loaded with enough talent to elevate the premise well above the redundant.
Opens in limited release; expands March 21st.

“Chicago 10”
The opening night film of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Chicago 10” is an audacious new brand of history lesson from the mind of writer/director Brett Morgen that chronicles the heated controversy surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and the subsequent trial of a group of protesters with conspiracy to riot charges. Morgen blends archival footage and interviews with an animated dramatization of the courtroom saga based on the actual transcripts, similar to Morgen’s last film, the Robert Evans biopic “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” A stellar voice cast, including Hank Azaria, Nick Nolte and the late Roy Scheider, lend their weight to the trial proceedings.
Opens in limited release.

“Chop Shop”
Writer/director Ramin Bahrani looks past the bright lights of the big city to bring us another side of New York via an auto body shop, run off a junkyard in Queens, where a young Latino street orphan named Ale (Alejandro Polanco) lives and works. As in his debut, “Man Push Cart,” Bahrani uses non-professional actors in this gritty urban drama about one young boy’s ambitious pursuit of a warped American dream, one hustle at a time. Fortunately, it looks like Bahrani won’t have to hustle to make his next film, since he won a grant as a result of being anointed as “Someone to Watch” at last weekend’s Spirit Awards.
Opens in New York.

“City of Men”
Not so much a sequel to “City of God” as a spin off, “City of Men” was a Brazilian television series that followed childhood friends Acerola and Laranjinha for four years as they struggled to navigate their adolescence in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas. Directed by Paulo Morelli, this full-length feature picks up where the series left off, with the two boys entering into adulthood and once again dealing with a life of drugs, violence and the grinding poverty faced by a forgotten people trying to survive any way they can.
Opens in limited release.

“Jar City”
Based on the acclaimed crime novel of the same name by Arnaldur Indriðason, “Jar City” is a gristly murder mystery from Icelandic actor turned director Baltasar Kormákur. When an old man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat, the world-weary Inspector Erlendur follows clues left by the killer that will lead him to the grave of a young girl killed many years ago and into the web of conspiracy that surrounds it. Just don’t talk to any Icelandic natives before seeing it – it was the highest grossing film of all time in the country and we wouldn’t want them spoiling the mystery. In Icelandic with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Other Boleyn Girl”
Peter Morgan, the Oscar-nominated writer of “The Queen,” adapts Philippa Gregory’s award-winning novel for the screen with help from an all-star cast in their prime. Set in a time where nothing is too sacred to be sacrificed in pursuit of power and influence, the film stars Eric Bana as England’s most famous monarch who takes 14-year-old Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) as his mistress in desperate pursuit of a male heir. Natalie Portman is Mary’s scheming older sister Anne, who plots to steal the king away from Mary and anoint herself queen, no matter the cost.
Opens wide.

When their ancestors manage to piss off the local witch, stuffy British socialites Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. Grant have to bear a curse — their firstborn daughter will sport the nose of a piggy. Christina Ricci stars as the family’s dirty little secret, doomed to look like Babe’s little sister until she finds someone to love her the way she is – perhaps in the form of a debt-saddled gambler played by James McAvoy. Also taking a gamble is Reese Witherspoon, who produced the modern day fairy tale in addition to taking a small part in it.
Opens wide.

“Romulus, My Father”
An Eric Bana double bill this week – let joy be unconfined (seriously, I think the guy is terrific). Veteran actor Richard Roxburgh steps behind the camera for the first time to helm this adaptation of Raimond Gaita’s critically acclaimed memoir about an immigrant couple’s turbulent marriage as witnessed through the eyes of their young and impressionable son in 1960s Australia. “Romulus, My Father” co-stars Franka Potente (of “Run Lola Run” fame) and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the young Gaita, whose indubitable love for his father is put to the test.
Open in Cambridge, MA.

Like clockwork, the Will Ferrell sports comedy is becoming an annual tradition. This time, the former “SNL”-er works his petulant man-child schtick and dons short shorts and an afro as he leads an ABA basketball team of no hopers who need to pull it together and make a run at the playoffs or miss out on a lucrative league merger with the NBA. Joining Ferrell for the fast break are usual suspects: David Koechner, Will Arnett and Andy Richter as well as Maura Tierney and Woody Harrelson.
Opens wide.

“The Unforeseen”
Fresh off its Truer Than Fiction win at the Spirit Awards, “The Unforeseen” finds environmentalist director Laura Dunn taking an in-depth look at the development surrounding Barton Springs in Texas, and the deeper issues that underlie the struggle between developers looking to shape the future and conservationists who oppose man’s meddling in Nature’s paradise. Terrence Malick and Robert Redford, who also narrates the doc, are executive producers on the film.
Opens in New York.

Told in the non-linear style of “Amores Perros,” “Vivere” relates the intersecting stories of three women on Christmas day in Rotterdam, beginning with Francesca and her pursuit of runaway sister Antonietta. Along the way she picks up Gerlinde, a melancholic middle-aged woman with a broken heart, and begins a journey entangled in fate and self-realization. German filmmaker Angela Maccarone helms this quietly affecting tale of three women struggling to trust their hearts and live for their dreams. In German and Dutch with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “Bonneville,” SenArt Films, 2007]

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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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