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Opening This Week: Nic Cage’s new hairpiece, Billy Elliot’s dark side

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09012008_augustevening.jpgBy Neil Pedley

This week’s trip to the multiplex offers a jaunt around the globe where, amongst other things, there’s a case of mistaken ethnicity in Boston, Nic Cage gets another wig fitted in Thailand, there’s whimsy and surrealism in Scotland and Matthew McConaughey is right at home in Malibu, where he might finally have found something he does well, maybe.

“August Evening”
Strained emotional bonds and the transitory nature of the life of an illegal immigrant provide the backdrop for Chris Eska’s quietly affecting family drama that stars Pedro Castaneda as an aging farmhand who loses his job at a chicken farm in a sleepy Texas town, forcing he and his devoted daughter-in-law (Veronica Loren) to relocate to San Antonio to stay with his older children and the grandchildren he never knew he had. As Alison Willmore pointed out in last week’s Lunchbox, Castaneda is a first-time actor who turned heads at this year’s Spirit Awards where he was nominated for best male lead and the film went on to win the John Cassavetes Award for a film under $500,000.
Opens in New York.

“Bangkok Dangerous”
Nicolas Cage continues his career-long quest for the perfect hairpiece in this tale of a deadly assassin caught between his contract and his conscience in this slick, dark, flash-bang actioner from twin Hong Kong helmers Danny and Oxide Pang. Delivering an Americanized remake of their 1999 hit of the same name that launched their career, the Pang brothers give us Joe (Cage), an enigmatic hitman whose refusal to carry out a political assassination puts him on the run from his former bosses who want him eliminated. Considering some of the dialogue Cage recently had to deal with in “The Wicker Man” and “Next,” the fact that Cage won’t play Joe as a deaf-mute as the character was in the original is all the more disappointing.
Opens wide.

“Everybody Wants to Be Italian”
As those behind the previous few summers’ superhero smash hits will attest to, the movie business is all about finding a formula that works and then replicating it. With that in mind, indie filmmakers are still searching in vain for a way to conjure just a little bit of that “Big Fat Greek” box office magic. Writer/director Jason Todd Ipson throws a little twist of mistaken ethnicity into the tried and true tale of Jake (Jay Jablonski) and Marisa (Cerina Vincent), two perennially unlucky-in-love Bostonians who are set up on a blind date, each having been incorrectly informed the other is Italian, and then feeling pressured to pass themselves off as such in order to impress.
Opens in limited release.

“Mister Foe”
David Mackenzie, the Scottish director who brought us “The Last Great Wilderness” and the undervalued “Young Adam,” once again explores the existential depths of damaged youth turning to misguided acts of joyless sex as a sub par emotional bandage, but elevates his mood to a lighter, more whimsical tone. Rising star Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”) is the titular Hallam Foe, an eccentric teen runaway fleeing the traumatic death of his mother for which he remains convinced his sultry stepmother was responsible. Roughing it on the streets of Edinburgh, he lands a menial job in a hotel kitchen and develops an unhealthy, morbid fixation on a girl in human resources (Sophia Myles). Claire Forlani, Ciarán Hinds and Ewen Bremner co-star.
Opens in New York.

“Ping Pong Playa”
After enjoying 37 years of ping-pong diplomacy with our nation, the Chinese proved once again at the recent Olympic Games that they are simply the last word in belting a tiny, gas-filled plastic pellet over a six-inch net at lightning velocity. But try telling that to Christopher “C-Dub” Wang (Jimmy Tsai), a hip-hopping wannabe pro-ball player who cringes at the thought of his ping-pong obsessed parents and his champion older brother, Michael (Roger Fan). But when Michael is injured just days before the big national tournament, C-Dub has to step it up and defend the family title from a rival player threatening his parents’ table tennis academy. Oscar winning documentarian Jessica Yu (“Protagonist, ” “In The Realms of the Unreal”) takes a break from her more serious fare to have a laugh with her narrative feature debut.
Opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

“The Pool”
Speaking of those making their narrative debut, Chris Smith shifts gears to fiction nearly 10 years after he introduced the world to Mark Borchardt, a defiantly ambitious man whose dreams are continually thwarted by circumstance and a lack of financial means in “American Movie.” Despite a change of scenery from Milwaukee to India, Smith still seems intrigued by the same themes as he follows the young and impoverished Ventatesh, a teenager who toils in Goa selling plastic bags on the street while dreaming of the crystal clear water of an affluent family’s swimming pool. When he becomes the family’s gardener, he must come to terms with reality. In English and Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Save Me”
Writer/director Robert Cary highlights the gulf that still exists between homosexuals and the conservative right in America in this first feature from the fledgling gay cinema production outfit Mythgarden. Chad Allen, one of Mythgarden’s founders, stars as Mark, a suicidal drug addict who’s shunned by his religious family and, at the behest of his brother, enters a Christian-run re-orientation facility where, despite his best efforts to receive Christ and renounce his lifestyle, he is irresistibly drawn to fellow resident Scott (Robert Grant).
Opens in New York.

“A Secret”
Veteran French director Claude Miller helms this adaptation of Philippe Grimbert’s dark and surrealist autobiographical novel of repressed trauma and Jewish family secrecy played out in the wake of Nazi-occupied Paris. With his parents content to wall off the past forever, a curious young François (Valentin Vigourt) retreats into his own mind and conjures an entire idyllic history for his family and an imaginary brother who’s far from the disappointment to his parents that he’s always been. Meanwhile, a 37-year-old François (Mathieu Amalric) is about to discover the truth his parents fought so hard to bury that will challenge everything he thought he knew. Cécile De France, Ludivine Sagnier and Julie Depardieu play the women in his life. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Surfer, Dude”
In spite of the rather unfortunate truth that no matter what role he is playing, Matthew McConaughey invariably manages to come off as a moderately bewildered surfer who has somehow wandered onto the set, so it’s somewhat surprising that he has never actually been cast as one until now. McConaughey plays Steve Addington, an old school surfing purist who returns to his hometown of Malibu for the summer only to find corporate sponsorship lobbying to turn his lifelong passion into a virtual reality brand. Electing to opt out, he heads straight for the beach where, to his agonizing frustration, the sea falls inexplicably calm with not a wave to be found. Woody Harrelson, Scott Glenn, Alexie Gilmore and Willie Nelson round out the eclectic support cast in the narrative debut from McConaughey buddy S.R. Bindler, best known for the documentary “Hands on a Hard Body.”
Opens in limited release.

[Photo: “August Evening,” Maya Entertainment, 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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