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Opening This Week

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04072008_bodyofwar.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Prom queens and street kings hold court this week at the multiplexes while the college professors of “Smart People” and “The Visitor” preside at the art houses.

“Body of War”
Talk show legend Phil Donahue hands over the mic to Iraqi war veteran Tomas Young in this hard-hitting documentary that contrasts Young’s struggle to re-enter civilian life as a paraplegic and anti-war activist with archival footage of an overeager U.S. Congress and what the filmmakers view as their hasty decision to greenlight the invasion. Although the film, co-directed by Donahue and Ellen Spiro, was named best documentary of 2007 by the National Board of Review, “Body of War” has earned equal attention for its soundtrack led by two tracks from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, with all proceeds going to the non-profit organization Iraq Veterans Against The War. (Check out our interview with Spiro and Donahue.)
Opens in New York.

“Chaos Theory”
Van Wilder continues to grow up, as Ryan Reynolds plays a neurotic control freak at the center of this colorful comedy from Marcos Siega, the man who brought us the provocative “Pretty Persuasion.” When his compulsive organizing only succeeds in bringing his carefully ordered world crashing down around him, an efficiency expert (Reynolds) decides to live his life entirely in the moment by transforming his much-prized index cards that outline his daily routine into a random deck of chance. Stuart Townsend and Emily Mortimer co-star.
Opens in limited release.

“Dark Matter”
Premiering at the 2007 Sundance Festival where it picked up the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, “Dark Matter” follows Liu Xing (Liu Ye), an exceptionally gifted cosmology student from China who takes the U.S. scientific community by storm with his origins of the universe theories, but encounters unexpected resistance in the form of his jealous professor (Aidan Quinn), leading to events eerily reminiscent of the tragedies at the University of Iowa (which provided the inspiration for the film) and Virginia Tech. The controversial subject matter has led to more than a few changes for the film’s opening date, but its pedigree is undeniable with Chinese opera and theater director Chen Shi-Zheng at the helm and Meryl Streep in a supporting role.
Opens in limited release.

“The Dhamma Brothers”
Filmmakers Jenny Phillips, Andrew Kukura and Anne Marie Stein head down to an Alabama maximum security prison to follow the “Dhamma Brothers,” a group of inmates who undertake a 10-day Vipassana retreat involving silent meditation, introspection and self-discovery. While the effects of “dhamma” (the Pali term for “Dharma,” or enlightenment) work to startling effect on the prisoners, the film also documents the valiant efforts to keep the program running in the heart of America’s bible belt.
Opens in New York.

“Prom Night”
Nestled somewhere between non-alcoholic beer and solar-powered flashlights on God’s desk, one might find this equally unnecessary PG-13 semi-remake of the 1980 slasher cult classic. Brittany Snow fills in for Jamie Lee Curtis as the platinum angel whose dreams of limos and corsages are hacked to pieces by a recently escaped sadist from her past who shows up looking for a little romance. Veteran television director Nelson McCormick helms from a script by J.S. Cardone, who last brought us “The Craft” for dudes with 2005’s “Covenant.”
Opens wide.

“Smart People”
After wisely dropping out of the less than impressive “Ring Two,” acclaimed commercial director Noam Murro made this oddball comedy his feature directorial debut. Dennis Quaid stars as a pompous English professor who receives an extended visit from his estranged brother (Thomas Haden Church) that spurs him to try to rebuild his dysfunctional family, which includes a pre-“Juno” Ellen Page as Quaid’s preppy, genius daughter and Sarah Jessica Parker as a fragile former student who finds her way back into her old professor’s life.
Opens wide.

Financial journalist turned documentary filmmaker Ari Libsker explores one of Israel’s dirty little secrets and the 50-year-old misconceptions surrounding it with this investigation of “Stalags,” a notorious series of 1960s dime novels (named after the German P.O.W. camps) that depicted pornographic S&M stories centering around the abuse of allied soldiers at the hands of luscious female Nazi officers. Libsker’s film explores the origins of the books and their cultural impact on a generation of adolescents growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust.
Opens in New York.

“Street Kings”
With everyone from Oliver Stone to Spike Lee attached to the project at one point or another, it finally fell to “Training Day” scribe David Ayer to follow up his directorial debut, “Harsh Times,” with another stylish tale of gangland Los Angeles, sprinkled with a dash of noir mystery. Keanu Reeves stars as Tom Ludlow, a cop devastated by his wife’s death who is forced to turn to the criminal world for help when he is framed for the murder of a fellow officer. Reeves is front and center of a strong ensemble boasting the likes of Forest Whitaker, The Game, Common, and, er, Hugh Laurie.
Opens wide.

“The Take”
Reportedly shot guerrilla-style with no sets in the Latino neighborhoods of Los Angeles for a mere $800,000, “The Take” follows Felix De La Pena (John Leguizamo), an affable armored car driver shot in the head during a heist. Waking up brain-damaged and more than a little unhappy that he’s apparently the robbery’s chief suspect, De La Pena vows to track down those responsible. Josh and Jonas Pate, who first hit the indie scene in 1997 with “Deceiver,” collaborated on the script for the film, which is directed by first-timer Brad Furman.
Opens in Los Angeles and New York.

“The Visitor”
Thomas McCarthy, the acclaimed writer/director of the 2003 indie smash “The Station Agent” returns for his second feature with this tender tale of Walter Vale, an isolated, aging academic from Connecticut whose weekend trip to New York becomes a life-changing experience when he discovers an illegal immigrant couple that has taken up residence in his apartment. Coen brothers regular Richard Jenkins takes the lead as Vale in a film that manages to both serve as an intimate character study and questions America’s priorities in a post-9/11 world. (Check out our interview with Jenkins.)
Opens in limited release; expands on April 18th.

Everyone at some point or another has dreams of being a pop star on the world stage. Stephen Walker’s curious documentary shows that some of us harbor that dream a little longer than others. “Young@Heart” takes us inside the singular world of a New England chorale populated entirely by senior citizens who regularly rock out hits from the likes of The Rolling Stones, James Brown and Sonic Youth, to name but a few. Walker tags along on for the final weeks of rehearsal before this truly inspirational group and their musical director, Bob Cilman, hold a concert in their hometown of Northampton, MA.
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “Body of War,” Film Sales Company, 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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