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Opening This Week

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03242008_alexandra.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Apparently, less is more this week, as “Flawless” and “Priceless” both head to the big screen and work from minimalist Alexander Sokurov balances out over-the-top offerings like “Superhero Movie” and “21.”

Russian avant-garde director Alexander Sokurov’s melancholic drama landed itself a Palme D’Or nomination last year at Cannes. Set in a nameless, war-torn place that bares more than a passing resemblance to Chechnya, “Alexandra” has for its star veteran opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya, who plays an elderly woman who sets off to visit her grandson, a soldier stationed at the edge of a wasteland. In Russian with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

Labeled by some a “Sideways” for twenty-somethings, “Backseat” features Rob Bogue and Josh Alexander, who also wrote the film’s script, as a pair of directionless friends who take to the open road in a bid to outrun the incoming juggernaut of adult responsibility and maybe meet Donald Sutherland. “Backseat”‘s journey to distribution has taken nearly as many turns, considering the film spent two years kicking around the festival circuit. One of its pit stops was at the Austin Film Festival, where it picked up an audience award.
Opens in limited release.

“The Cool School”
Grammy nominated filmmaker Morgan Neville charts the struggle of late ’40’s Los Angeles to transform itself from a poor man’s New York into a city with a thriving and legitimate art scene lead by the likes of Ed Ruscha and Ed Kienholz. Neville lends an artist’s eye to the archival footage, kinetic music and talking heads as he explores the creation of a singularly American art scene that was the first to showcase the likes of Andy Warhol and his soup cans at the innovative Ferus Gallery. Jeff Bridges narrates.
Opens in New York.

“Chapter 27”
After premiering at last year’s Sundance festival, J. P. Schaefer’s debut film about John Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman began a run of misfortune that makes one wonder how it managed to survive. Aside from the unwanted publicity of co-star Lindsay Lohan’s public meltdown and a competing project, “The Killing of John Lennon,” negative reactions to the very idea of a film about Chapman led Lennon fans to establish a boycott website that claimed the film was glorifying a killer. On top of this, reviews out of Sundance weren’t kind. That Peach Arch Entertainment is giving the film a limited run must be of some cold comfort, but “Chapter 27” star Jared Leto has already had his just desserts for the project — the star reportedly bulked up 62 pounds on pints of microwaved ice cream to play the inimitably creepy Chapman.
Opens in limited release.

Following years of more serious fare like “Dancing at the Blue Iguana” and “The Merchant of Venice,” Michael Radford returns to the lighter touch he brought to the Oscar-nominated “Il Postino” with this playful period heist drama. Demi Moore brings her best scowl to the part of Laura Quinn, a disgruntled banking executive who is approached by Michael Caine’s soon-to-retire janitor to trade her glass ceiling in for something a little more valuable. Though her character may protest, Moore herself could be easily swayed — after all, she played Caine’s teenage daughter in a pre-Brat Pack role in the underrated 1984 comedy “Blame it on Rio.”
Opens in limited release

“Hats Off”
A remarkable account of sheer triumph of will, “Hats Off” chronicles 10 years in the life of the bubbly and vivacious Mimi Wendell, a 93-year-old working actress who regularly puts in 14-hour days in New York. Documentary filmmaker Jyll Johnstone does her best to keep pace with the sprightly Mimi as she darts from ballet class to film shoots, to dance class, to auditions, seemingly carried along by nothing more than her can-do attitude, her free spirit and her love of life.
Opens in New York.

“My Brother is an Only Child”
From the co-writers of “The Best of Youth” comes another sprawling Italian epic of brothers divided by political ideals but united by the love of the same woman. Set at the time of the so-called historical compromise, when the extreme ends of the political spectrum tried unsuccessfully to form a working government, the film stars Riccardo Scarmaccio and Elio Germano as the conflicted brothers struggling to reconcile with one another against the backdrop of a troubled country struggling to reconcile with itself and forge a new national identity. Palme D’Or nominee Daniele Luchetti (for 1991’s “The Yes Man”) directs. In Italian with subtitles.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on April 4th.

Writer/director Pierre Salvadori injects a notable dose of French farce into his elegant 2006 re-imagining of the Audrey Hepburn classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” choosing the Hepburn-esque Audrey Tatou to play a flighty socialite who preys upon the wealthy playboys that populate the fashionable French Riviera. “The Valet”‘s Gad Elmaleh is the shy, befuddled waiter who tries to get closer to her heart by beating her at her own game. Just, please, don’t import a version of Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi. In French with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Run, Fat Boy, Run”
Originally set for release last November, this directorial effort from David Schwimmer was postponed — rarely a good sign. In the comedy, Pegg plays Dennis, a directionless loser who decides to turn his life around by running a marathon to win back Libby (Thandie Newton), the girl he jilted at the altar. “Hot Fuzz” fans may be disappointed to see Pegg without his usual sidekick Nick Frost, but Pegg and Schwimmer have teamed up before as well, in HBO’s “Band of Brothers” and the little-seen 2006 comedy “Big Nothing.”
Opens wide.

“Shotgun Stories”
Nominated for a John Cassavetes Award at this year’s Spirit Awards, Jeff Nichols’s distinctly American debut examines two sets of half-brothers who have nothing to cling to except their pride and each other. Michael Shannon, Barlow Jacobs and Douglas Ligon play the estranged fraternity in the film produced by “Snow Angels” director and Nichols’s North Carolina School of the Arts schoolmate David Gordon Green.
Opens in limited release.

After garnering a wealth of critical acclaim and launching the career of Hilary Swank with her highly provocative debut, “Boys Don’t Cry,” writer/director Kimberly Pierce shocked us all a second time by performing one of Hollywood’s great disappearing acts. Nearly ten years later, she returns with a politically charged drama about families realizing the cost of the Iraq War through the perspective of a young soldier (Ryan Phillippe) who is forcibly recalled to active duty by the army at the end of his tour.
Opens wide.

“Superhero Movie”
Dimension Films, the studio that bought us the admittedly funny original “Scary Movie” and then the countless unfunny sequels that followed, proudly hoists aloft the now putrid and rotten corpse of the dead horse so that it may be beaten one more time. “Scary Movie 3” and “4” scribe Craig Mazin rises to the directing ranks for this send-up of superhero films, featuring shameless cameos from the likes of Robert Hays, Brent Spiner and Leslie Nielsen as well as the usual onslaught of dick jokes and potty humor and, one hopes, a reminder of the days when spoof films were funny.
Opens wide.

“Who’s Your Monkey”
Any movie whose IMDb plot keywords are “Dead Body / Vibrator / Monkey” must surely be worth the price of admission. Jason London and “ER”‘s Scott Grimes play childhood friends who accidentally murder a drug dealer while attempting to free his homemade zoo of animals, which have been exploited for amateur porn. Apparently, they appreciate that sort of thing in Florida and at CineVegas, where the film won a grand jury award and an audience award, respectively. Early reviews have said “it’s heartwarming.” “Seinfeld”‘s Wayne Knight and David DeLuise also star.
Opens in limited release.

Inspired by the real life events depicted in the bestselling book “Bringing Down The House,” this marriage of “Good Will Hunting” and “Ocean’s 11” sees a group of MIT math prodigies teaming up to beat the Vegas blackjack tables under the watchful eye of Kevin Spacey’s scheming professor. Australian director Robert Luketic helms this high stakes ride, which may be short on accuracy (since the real story centered around an Asian student played in the film by a very Caucasian Jim Sturgess), but long on the appeal of longshots. Just don’t assume that in real life, Sturgess is a risktaker at the table.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Alexandra,” Cinema Guild, 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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