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Opening This Week: Brit horror, high school horror and Kevin Smith

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10272008_dearzachary.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Halloween week offsets some of the recent nice with a little bit of nasty that duly chucks the blood around. Kevin Smith’s also back, along with a culture clash rom-com and an eclectic mix of docs.

“Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father”
As anyone who’s seen this documentary as it’s collected audience awards on the festival circuit can attest, the less one knows, the better — but if we must, composer and filmmaker Kurt Kuenne channels his grief over the murder of his best friend Andrew Bagby into a cinematic celebration of Bagby’s life so that his son might have something of the father he will never know. Inviting loved ones to share memories and experiences, Kuenne assembles this memorial to his friend’s memory while Andrew’s parents enter into a bitter custody dispute with their son’s murderer, who’s out on bail in Canada awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on November 7th.

“Eden Lake”
Inspired by any one of a hundred nauseating Daily Mail headlines that have recently shaken Britain’s stuffy image to its very foundations, writer/director James Watkins trades in the traditionally American terror of backwoods-dwelling hillbillies for the more prevalent English menace of teenage tearaways. Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly star as a suburban couple on an idyllic weekend getaway where they are inexplicably tormented by a vicious gang of malevolent minors (including Shane Meadows’s regular Thomas Turgoose) in a savage game of cat and mouse.
Opens in limited release.

“The First Basket”
Although nearly a decade has passed since a Jewish basketball player last competed in the NBA, debut filmmaker David Vyorst’s comprehensive documentary details the pivotal role Jewish immigrants played in the early years of professional basketball. Blending archival footage with insider anecdotes from surviving former all-stars, Vyorst charts the impact Jewish players had on the league that would eventually become the NBA and how much the game affected the lives of second-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe who viewed it as a cornerstone of their identities as Americans.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on November 14th.

“The Haunting of Molly Hartley”
Cinema has a proud tradition of reflecting the myriad of hallway horrors contained within the seventh level of Hell that is high school — the awkwardness of puberty, the awakening of sexuality, the cruelty of parents and peers — though you’re unlikely to find a more quite outrageous metaphor for teen angst than the one purported by this debut from TV producer-turned-director Mickey Liddell. “The Riches”‘s Shannon Marie Woodward makes her big screen debut as the new girl on campus fleeing a satanic cult determined to celebrate her upcoming 18th birthday in style by offering up her soul as sacrifice to the Dark Lord. It’s expected that co-star Chace Crawford (“Gossip Girl”) will help her, having picked up a thing or two from starring in “The Covenant.”
Opens wide.

“The Matador”
As the centerpiece in a ritual dating back thousands of years, the torero, or the bullfighter, is an iconic figure in Spanish society, celebrated as both an exceptional athlete and an accomplished performer. Though times have changed, as this documentary from Stephen Higgins and Nina Gilden Seavey duly notes, there still are those who pursue perfection in the sport, including David Fandila, a matador nicknamed “El Fandi,” who steps up his bid to secure the top spot in the world rankings at a time when more and more Spaniards view the sport as an exercise in cruelty and question its role in modern Spanish society.
Opens in New York.

“The Other End of the Line”
Produced by one of the American film industry’s most prominent Indians (Ashok Amritraj) and penned by Tracey Jackson, whose last film was the similarly cross-cultural satire “The Guru,” this intercontinental romantic comedy continues Bollywood’s inroads into Hollywood. Shriya Saran stars as Priya, a lonely credit card call center worker in Bangalore who travels to San Francisco to hook up with a stranger (Jesse Metcalfe) whose complaints about fraudulent charges blossoms into a more amorous connection. The Internet age might make the idea of a telephone romance seem positively quaint, but DTV director James Dodson is hoping this culture clash will be his ticket to the party.
Opens in limited release.

British visual effects artist Toby Wilkins makes the jump to director with this minimalist, single location shocker that cleaned up recently at this year’s L.A. Screamfest, spiking no less than six awards including best picture. Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner star as Seth and Poppy, a young couple carjacked by an ex-con and his junkie girlfriend (Shea Whigham and Rachel Kerbs, respectively). Fleeing along a deserted highway, the unfortunate foursome find themselves marooned inside a remote gas station and must work together to survive as a bloodthirsty parasitic creature lurks in the shadows and lays siege to the building. Hard to believe there was once a time when being carjacked at gunpoint would have been more than enough.
Opens in limited release.

“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”
The last time Kevin Smith tried anything beyond recycling the same old shtick with “Jersey Girl,” the now-defunct Bennifer factor sank the film like an anchor chained to a rubber duck. Out of New Jersey (and his comfort zone) and into Pittsburgh, Smith drafts the quite busy Elizabeth Banks and comedy’s man of the hour Seth Rogen to play the titular lifelong best friends on the verge of bankruptcy who slowly fall for one another while trying to figure the best way to bump uglies for practical, financial considerations, without falling for one another. The film’s eclectic supporting cast has Smith regulars Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson mingling with real porn stars, past and present, Traci Lords and Katie Morgan, in a film that played like gangbusters at last month’s Fantastic Fest in Austin.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father,” Oscilloscope 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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