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Opening This Week

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06162008_bricklane.jpgBy Neil Pedley

While Steve Carell and Mike Myers face off at the multiplexes this week, indie theaters fight back with a wide range of quirk, including a meter maid romance, a doc on balloon animals and a horror flick about killer hair extensions.

“Brick Lane”
“Brick Lane” in London’s East End might be just a relatively short jaunt down the M1 from Salford, but it’s still a million miles (and a decade) away from the careful multi-ethnic empathy of another film that dealt with south Asian refugees in England, the 1970s-set “East is East.” This story follows 18-year-old Nazneem (Tannishtha Chatterjee), who steps off a plane from Bangladesh and into an arranged marriage with middle-aged Chanu (Satish Kaushik). Bored and lonely, she’s forced to question her beliefs when the charismatic and secular Karim (Christopher Simpson) knocks on her door. Director Sarah Gavron landed herself a BAFTA nomination for this adaptation of Monica Ali’s somewhat controversial novel, which enraged local Bangladeshi residents with what they considered to be an unsophisticated portrayal of their culture, so much so that when production came to town, the locals forced the film’s producers to relocate.
Opens in limited release.

Parking attendants are the target of a very special kind of hatred, the type normally reserved for child murderers or people who gloat about their tofu consumption. Yet writer/director Cecilia Miniucchi’s debut feature bravely contradicts the widely accepted notion that meter maids are incapable of any human emotion beyond malevolence — that they need love, too. Kind but lonely Claire (Samantha Morton) enters into a darkly sardonic relationship with Jay (Jason Patric), who uses parking tickets as a way to vent his anger issues, and the two begin a caustic dance of courtship on the road to mutual redemption.
Opens in limited release.

“Exte – Hair Extensions”
While the idea of murderous hair extensions might sound like every emo kid’s wet dream, the realization that their fake locks target the head they sit upon might dampen enthusiasm somewhat. Acclaimed Japanese director Sion Sono (“Suicide Club”) nabbed the Horror Jury Prize at the last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin for this dark and creepy tale of beauty-gone-bad that braids empowerment, pastiche and parody. Ren Osugi stars as the misogynist morgue attendant with a hair fetish who leaves work one night with a desecrated corpse that sprouts a never-ending possessed mane that he peddles to the local salon.
Opens in limited release.

“Get Smart”
With the likes of Austin Powers, and more recently, “O.S.S. 117” spy Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath trying to assault the box office as if it were a volcanic island fortress lair, the cold war spy spoof is veering dangerously close to cookie-cutter territory. Yet Maxwell Smart has returned in this update of the 1960s TV series with Steve Carell filling in for the late Don Adams as the overeager, painfully inept data CONTROL analyst who is teamed with Anne Hathaway’s Agent 99 to battle the crime ring KAOS after every other agent is compromised. The exclusion of the show’s original creators, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, have ruffled the feathers of a few purists, but Warner Bros. is trying to entice the faithful and the fresh with an eight-minute clip freely available on iTunes.
Opens wide.

“Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Having served as executive producer on the three preceding made-for-television movies, Julia Roberts and her Red Om Films Company once again give their stamp of approval to the first big screen adventure based on the popular doll series. None other than “Little Miss Sunshine”‘s Abigail Breslin stars in the title role as a resourceful 10-year-old growing up during the Depression who longs to be a big time news reporter. Joan Cusack, Chris O’Donnell and Julia Ormond fill out the supporting cast for the film, which was directed by “Mansfield Park” helmer Patricia Rozema and written by Ann Peacock, of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
Opens in limited release; opens wide on July 2nd.

“The Love Guru”
Before he gave a national audience their first glimpse of relationship guru Pitka on the season finale of “American Idol,” Mike Myers had been fairly secretive about his plans other than workshopping his latest creation in New York. With his first original live action character since “Austin Powers,” Myers stars as a shaman of the heart who’s hired to reconcile hockey star Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) and his wife before it interferes with Roanoke and the Maple Leaves’ shot at the Stanley Cup. Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake and naturally, Myers’ Mini-Me Verne Troyer all show up to help Myers do for marriage counselors what fellow “SNL” alum Adam Sandler recently did for Mossad-agents-turned-hair-stylists.
Opens wide.

“Twisted: A Balloonamentary”
Naomi Greenfield and Sara Taksler met in 2003 at St. Louis’ Washington University and bonded over balloon animals. Four years later, they premiered their first documentary at the SXSW Film Festival, which takes a look at that staple of preschool parties, the balloon artist. Toting their camera to the annual Twist and Shout balloon artist convention, they discover helium-filled art that’s not necessarily for the whole family and meet a few really unfortunately named people along the way (trailer park escapee Vera Stalker, John Holmes — oh dear, oh dear).
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “Brick Lane,” Sony Pictures Classics, 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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