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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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Give Back

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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