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Opening This Week: Children, romance

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By Neil Pedley

It’s Valentine’s Day week, so there’s a preponderance of three kinds of films coming out: romantic dramas, date movies and flicks for the kids (so the adults can sneak into the first two while their children text message each other and throw chocolate raisins around in the theater next door).

“Definitely, Maybe”
It must be Valentine’s Day if there’s a romantic comedy to reaffirm theaters full of late thirtysomethings that even if they’re divorced, it’s not too late for second chances. This year’s entry from “Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason” scribe Adam Brooks sees Ryan Reynolds starring as Will Hayes, a fast-talking political consultant with an answer for everything, until he’s stumped as to how to explain his impending divorce to his 10-year-old daughter, Maya (played by pint-sized Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin). As Will recounts his romantic history to Maya, she attempts to piece together the mystery and guess which woman eventually became her mother. Along the way, she realizes that matters of the heart are much more complicated than she first thought — if it sounds familiar, we’re pretty sure this at least has more laughs than “Atonement.”
Opens wide (official site).

“Dolphins and Whales: Tribes of The Ocean 3D”
Director Jean-Michel Cousteau takes a stunning journey beneath the waves, from the Bahamas to the Kingdom of Tonga, showcasing the ocean’s most enigmatic creatures in crystal clear 3D imagery. If it does well, expect a DreamWorks animated version by the end of the year. Daryl Hannah narrates.

Opens in IMAX in limited release (official site).

Loosely based on “A Long Way Gone,” a memoir of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, this Nigerian film highlights the plight of Africa’s forgotten children through Ezra, one of the countless children rounded up and recruited by anti-government militias that rampage across the war-torn continent. Once captured, the children are politically indoctrinated, brainwashed and schooled in the ways of violence and hatred. “Ezra” won the grand prize at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou and made its U.S. debut at Sundance last year. In many ways, this is the film “Blood Diamond” aspired to be — an unflinching and uncompromising story about one of the most urgent and least talked about problems facing a very troubled region.
Opens in New York (official site).

“George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead”
The godfather of the zombie film, a subgenre that just refuses to stay dead, is back in a big way with this flick that centers on a group of students making a horror film in the woods of Pennsylvania when the dead rise once more from the grave to wreak havoc. On the upside, the reboot of the zombie franchise is being helmed by Romero, so we know it couldn’t be in safer hands. On the downside, many of the film’s core ideas — an ensemble of lost and unprepared twentysomethings, handheld camera work, etc. — are so three weeks ago as a result of the hype-riding juggernaut that was “Cloverfield.”

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Jodhaa Akbar”
From the director of the Oscar-nominated Bollywood spectacle “Lagaan,” “Jodhaa Akbar” is part historical drama and part complex political thriller, set in the 16th century and telling of the Mughal empire and its leader, Akbar, whose empire stretched from the southern tip of India to the northern border of Afghanistan. In an attempt to solidify his latest political alliance, Akbar marries Jodhaa, a rebellious Rajput princess. Little did he know that this marriage of convenience would lead to a battle of a very different kind — one to win her love. In Hindi with subtitles.

Opens in limited release (official site).

Director Doug Liman, the man behind the camera for “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” brings us another well-polished, highly stylized fantasy action number. Hayden Christensen stars as David Rice, a man who can teleport anywhere on the planet instantly thanks to a genetic anomaly. Hot on his trail is Jamie Bell’s Griffin, another teleporter looking to warn David that he and others like them are fighting a war. “Batman Begins” writer David S. Goyer has the pedigree to make this potentially something quite special, and the film looks to be a visceral assault on the senses that’s slick, dark and very, very pretty.

Opens wide (official site).

“The Spiderwick Chronicles”
With “Harry Potter” fever winding down, the race is on to launch that next multi-million dollar children’s fantasy franchise. This story is based on a series of children’s books set in New England, where a family of four move to the decrepit former home of Arthur Spiderwick, the now-institutionalized author of a field guide that explains how to enter the realm of the Faeries. Twins Simon and Jared (Freddie Highmore of “Finding Neverland” fame) are charged with revealing this effects-laden world to us, as they try desperately to keep the book safe from an evil brownie who seeks to destroy it.

Opens wide (official site).

“Step Up 2 the Streets”
Instead of a sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit, think of this as a distant cousin of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” where instead of Jim Carrey, we journey into the mind of an MTV marketing executive who keeps costs down by not bringing back any of the original cast or crew (save for a Channing Tatum cameo) and populates a film about urban dance with Gap models who also seem to be the most expensively attired poor people in existence and live in the most immaculate ghetto neighborhoods where disputes between rival crews are settled by dance competitions. Thus, “Step Up 2 the Streets,” which finds Briana Evigan playing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who must join forces with Robert Hoffman’s elite dancer from the Maryland School of the Arts to compete in a Baltimore underground dance contest called “The Streets.”

Opens wide (official site).

“Watching The Detectives”
Writer/director Paul Soter, co-author of the underrated “Super Troopers” and… er…”Beerfest,” brings every film student’s wet dream to life — a spectacularly hot and charming girl who wants nothing more than to hear you talk about all those great old movies that you love. Lucy Liu is that girl, Violet, who strolls into an indie video store run by Neil (Cillian Murphy) and strolls out with his heart. Joining the meta-cinema mini-revival of mind-bending flicks such as “Adaptation,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and “Be Kind Rewind,” “Detectives” sees Neil’s life begin to resemble those great film noirs he has always loved as Violet’s real-life femme fatale starts to turn it upside down.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation”
Set in Brazil over the course of a few weeks in June 1970, this quietly disarming drama focuses on Mauro, a 12-year-old boy left in the care of his grandfather whilst his political activist parents are forced to flee from government forces. When his grandfather dies on the day he arrives, Mauro is placed within the collective care of the neighborhood and its colorful characters. Despite the politically charged big picture, this film is an intimate portrait of a working class community that lives and works together in understanding and harmony, a microcosm that transcends ethnic and political differences, helped along by the nation’s spectacular domination of that summer’s World Cup.

Opens in New York (official site).

[Photo: “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation,” City Lights Pictures, 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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