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Critic wrangle: “Full Battle Rattle.”

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07112008_fullbattlerattle.jpgNo critic would argue that Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss haven’t found themselves a fascinating subject in their doc “Full Battle Rattle,” which opened Wednesday and which focuses on Medina Wasl, a fake Iraqi village filled with real Iraqi exiles that’s the final stop for soldiers heading for all-too-real Iraq deployment — a massive, Army-run simulation. Whether “Full Battle Rattle” succeeds as a film is a point of debate for some, though again, reviews are mostly positive.

“Full Battle Rattle is an indelible vision of modern war, a not-so-fun fun-house mirror of the Iraq occupation,” writes David Edelstein at New York. “The film is freaky, amusing, and sickening in equal measures–part fly-on-the-wall vérité, part multiple-perspective Altmanesque tragicomedy.” “Full Battle Rattle works just fine as a two-fisted combat story, with unexpected bursts of violence peppering that old universal message that war is hell,” adds Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club. “But the added layer of pretense pushes the movie to another level.”

Andrew O’Hehir at Salon finds that “If ‘Full Battle Rattle’ begins as surreal, almost goofball farce, with a bunch of beefy guys playing a fancy-dress version of laser tag in the desert — aided by a bunch of rented Iraqis who’d rather be watching TV in suburbia — it ends on an ambiguous and haunting note, much closer to tragedy.” Observes a more non-committal A.O. Scott at the New York Times: “Military personnel rotate through Medina Wasl en route to and from tours of duty in Iraq. Iraqis who have fled their country recreate fragments of it in the California desert, and the surreal encounters between them seem like a fact of life, or an episode of reality television.”

Others express discontent with the film. “The movie arouses, without gratifying, a desire to see the camera–not to mention the hidden command center where the scenarios are devised,” writes J. Hoberman at the Village Voice. “It’s somewhat too seamless, even if the filmmakers do break the illusion to interview American soldiers and Iraqi role-players.” “Other than delivering an initial dose of ‘Can you believe this exists?’ strangeness, the film contributes little to the discussion about the war’s preparation and execution,” sighs Nick Schager at Slant. And for Vadim Rizov at the House Next Door, “it’s yet another documentary where filmmakers are fearless about getting great footage but clueless about the form it should take.”

[Photo: “Full Battle Rattle,” Film Sales Company, 2008]

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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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