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Opening This Week: Ed Harris goes Western, Keira Knightley goes corseted (again)

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09152008_allofus.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen put their signature on an oater, but they’re not the only ones to head west this week — an all-star cast led by Charlize Theron charge into Seattle, Wayne Wang follows the travels of a Chinese scientist visiting his daughter in Spokane, Neil LaBute tries vilifying the L.A.P.D. and Ricky Gervais heads across the pond to bring his schtick to an American comedy.

“All of Us”
In this documentary, filmmaker Emily Abt follows Dr. Mehret Mandefro, a young, Ethiopian-born, Harvard-educated physician working in the South Bronx, and her efforts to both treat and bring awareness to the plight of African-American women affected by the HIV virus. Through her research with two of her patients and their own candid stories and circumstances, Dr. Mandefro highlights some of the key factors that have led to a steep increase in the number of women who have become victims of this terrible disease and ultimately arrives at some intriguing conclusions for women as a whole.
Opens in New York.

The last time Ed Harris worked both sides of the camera with the 2000 release of “Pollock,” he quietly directed himself to an Oscar nomination for best actor and his co-star Marcia Gay Harden to a win for best supporting actress. Here Harris adds a co-writing notch to his belt with this adaptation of Robert Parker’s classical tale of stoic masculinity in the Old West, starring alongside Viggo Mortensen as a pair of career gunslingers hired to bring order to a lawless town ravaged by Jeremy Irons’ murderous cattle baron while trying to prevent Renee Zellweger’s alluring widow from coming between them.
Opens in limited release; opens wide on October 3rd.

“Battle in Seattle”
While the idea of a film about the Seattle riots that overshadowed the annual World Trade Organization conferences held there in 1999 might scream “documentary!”, it comes as no real surprise that as an actor, first-time writer/director Stuart Townsend figured, hey, why not make it a dramatization? Placed front and center amidst the chaos of those five days, we find a mischievous but nonviolent group of protesters (Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Andre Benjamin) clashing with law enforcement (Woody Harrelson, Channing Tatum) as their peaceful demonstration is hijacked by a group of anarchists who have their own agenda.
Opens in limited release.

“The Duchess”
Way back when the word Paris referred to the capitol of France and nothing more, Georgiana Spencer was the “It Girl” of her day. The talk of the town, she drank hard, partied harder, gambled and (prone to the odd public meltdown) did a flame-assisted job on her hair that made Björk’s swan dress seem like a well-considered fashion statement by comparison. Keira Knightley tightens her corset once again to play the 18th-century celebutante whose public life was one of constant turmoil and whose private life was one of abject misery when she failed to produce a male heir for Ralph Fiennes’ cruel Duke of Devonshire. Word from Blighty suggests the story parallels between Spencer and future relative Princess Diana may get lost amongst the bonnets, yet some critics are applauding the creation of an entirely new subgenre — “Frock Porn.”
Opens in limited release.

“Elite Squad” (“Tropa de Elite”)
“City of God” scripter Bráulio Mantovani teams up with “Bus 174” director José Padilha for the latter’s narrative debut that once again plunges us deep into the violent drug-infested favelas of Rio de Janeiro, this time from the point of view of so-called law enforcement. We ride shotgun with a special unit of military police that try to quell the violence in preparation for a visit from the Pope. At the center of the operation is the a world-weary Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura), who is charged with breaking in two idealistic recruits, Neto and Matias (Caio Junqueira and André Ramiro), to eventually replace him.
Opens in limited release.

“Ghost Town”
Fans of Ricky Gervais will have to wait until next year for the first film penned by the “Extras” and “The Office” co-creator (“This Side of Truth”), but frequent Spielberg collaborator David Koepp wrote and directed this comedy, which marks the first stateside starring role for the former David Brent. Gervais’ misanthropic dentist Bertram Pincus is definitely cut from the same cloth as Brent, and when he suffers a near-death experience, he is allowed to see the dead — and coaxed into helping Greg Kinnear’s very dead philanderer into halting his widow’s (Téa Leoni) impending marriage. Seeing as though films involving the supernatural often result in being the sleeper hit of the season or an unmitigated box office disaster, here’s hoping it’s more “Ghost” than “Ghost Dad.”
Opens wide.

Better known to most as the “Dakota Fanning Rape Movie,” the sophomore feature from former NYU professor Deborah Kampmeier is a lesson in the true meaning of a passion project, after having survived the bad buzz generated by a displeased former investor, who embellished some already tall tales to the media and stirred up a tirade of “ban this sick film” brouhaha that followed it all the way to Sundance ’07. Reportedly based on her own personal past, Kampmeier’s grim Southern gothic takes place in a backwater Alabama town circa the 1950s where a spirited young Lewellen (Fanning) tends to her deadbeat father (David Morse) and finds escape through the music of Elvis until a vicious assault by a local boy robs her of her innocence.
Opens in limited release.

It might be a little early for Halloween, but thanks to Tim Burton, the kooky goth-themed animated film has become as much a staple of the fall calendar as the Oscar-baiting biopic and the latest “Saw” sequel. French animation outfit Sparx* handles the pixels for this tale of an ambitious, put-upon, hunchbacked assistant (voiced by John Cusack) tired of suffering the abuse of his master. When said master croaks it a week before the big science fair, Igor enlists the aid of a talking brain in a jar (Sean Hayes) and Scamper (Steve Buscemi), an ill-tempered lab rabbit and prepares for his big chance to shine.
Opens wide.

“Lakeview Terrace”
Despite a few tacky, tabloid-esque “ripped straight from the headlines” undertones, this psycho next-door story boasts on paper the makings of a solid genre picture. Produced by Will Smith and directed by Neil LaBute, this “Unlawful Entry” redo with a twist stars Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington as a happily married interracial couple who think they’ve hit the jackpot when they move into their dream suburban home, but the situation isn’t so dreamy to their neighbor, a racist cop played by Samuel L. “Motherfuckin'” Jackson. Forgive us for cursing, but we felt we had to compensate for the fact that Jackson’s trademark won’t be part of this PG-13 affair.
Opens wide.

“My Best Friend’s Girl”
As Tank, a professional jerk-off for hire whose job it is to basically irritate people as much as possible and get paid for it, Dane Cook might just have lucked into the least challenging role of his career in this rom-com that tackles the age old conundrum; do women really prefer it when you treat them like crap? When Tank’s witless buddy Dustin (Jason Biggs) is given the elbow by his new girlfriend (Kate Hudson), he turns to Tank who promises to give her a night so terrible she’ll be back with him by morning — if he can only keep from falling head over heels for her himself. Alec Baldwin co-stars as a mentor to Cook, and no stranger himself to getting on people’s nerves.
Opens wide.

“Playing With Fire”
Making a brief cameo in theaters on its way to its likely late night slot on Skinemax, this softcore thriller comes courtesy of the very prolific, if slightly lowbrow, 15-year partnership between writer Matthew Jason Walsh and director David DeCoteau, whose collaboration has yielded the likes of “Final Stab” and “Bikini Goddesses.” Kelly Albanese stars as manipulative rich bitch Daphne, who uses and discards naive young men like martini glasses. When Nick (Kyle Jordan) rebuffs her advances, she targets his girlfriend Heather (Candace Moon) and so begins “a dangerous game,” according to the film’s web site — well, maybe just mildly threatening since former “Baywatch” stud Michael Bergin is the film’s biggest name.

“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers”
Wayne Wang continues his long, strange career by following the Queen Latifah comedy “Last Holiday” with something closer to his heart — an adaptation of Yiyun Li’s short story that stars Henry Q as Mr. Shi, an elderly Chinese widower who travels to Spokane to visit his adult daughter, Yilan (Faye Yu) in the wake of her recent divorce, but finds himself a stranger in a strange land. With this gentle story of cultural isolation and the often arduous father/daughter dynamic, Wang examines the plight of people cut off by the generation gap and left stranded on the far side of the global village’s many bridges. And like Wang’s “Smoke,” which inspired a second film, “Blue in the Face,” “A Thousand Years” gave way to a companion film, “Princess of Nebraska,” that will be available online in October.
Opens in New York.

“Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived”
With the most important U.S. presidential election of our time fast approaching, Japanese director Koji Masutani, in conjunction with the Brown University’s Global Media Project, examines original politic maverick John F. Kennedy and how history might have looked had he lived to continue his presidency and how that would affect the policies of today. Centering on political decisions made during key events prior to his death, “Virtual Kennedy” constructs a behavior model and applies it to the here and now to determine just how the former President would deal with the many challenges that face the contemporary world.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “All of Us,” Pureland Pictures, 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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