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Opening This Week: Gay zombies, the literal Sundance kid and the Muscles From Brussels

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11032008_alphabetkiller.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Those nursing a Halloween hangover can enjoy a little hair of the dog with some amusing takes on terror, a double bill featuring the greatly missed Bernie Mac and a trio of Fantastic Fest titles coming their way.

“The Alphabet Killer”
Eliza Dushku reunites with “Wrong Turn” director Rob Schmidt for this supernatural riff on the infamous Alphabet murders that took place in Rochester, NY in the early ’70s. Dushku stars as the lead investigator in a series of brutal child killings who’s struck down by a severe mental breakdown. Two years later, her career as a detective is ostensibly over, yet when the killings inexplicably start up again, so do her crippling hallucinations and she must find a way to track down the serial killer with or without the help of her former colleagues at the police department. Timothy Hutton, Cary Elwes and Michael Ironside dutifully fill their positions of obligatory veteran C-list actors in supporting roles.
Opens in Rochester; opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 14th.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”
Having delivered such inoffensive melodrama as “Little Voice,” Brit helmer Mark Herman certainly knows how to tug a heartstring or two, although given the somber subject matter contained within author John Boyne’s source novel, he really doesn’t have to try very hard. Against the backdrop of World War II, Herman crafts a tale of forbidden friendship between Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the blissfully unaware son of a concentration camp commandant, and Leon (Zac Mattoon O’Brien), a young Jewish boy on the other side of the barbed wire fence. David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga play Bruno’s parents, who have a far less innocent point of view.
Opens in limited release.

“Gardens of the Night”
“Labor of love” is perhaps the wrong term to apply to a portrait of abused kidnap victims and their slow descent into emotionally damaged, drug-addled squalor, but writer/director Damian Harris has been neck deep in exhaustive research for his script since the late ’80s, conducting interviews with both victims and perpetrators. Gillian Jacobs and Evan Ross co-star as Leslie and Donnie, respectively, two teens who find themselves living on the streets of San Diego after they were abducted as eight-year-olds by a pedophile (Tom Arnold) and his partner (Kevin Zegers). Now, the discarded pair attempt to resolve their differing reactions to what happened in their childhood. John Malkovich co-stars.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on December 5th.

“The Guitar”
The miraculous role that shopping plays in rejuvenating the human spirit is well-documented, having ably soothed career woes, broken hearts and everything in between on screen for decades. Marking a directorial debut for the literal Sundance kid, Amy Redford, and scripted by New York indie icon Amos Poe, this bittersweet dramedy stops short of suggesting shopping can cure cancer — but implies it certainly doesn’t hurt. Saffron Burrows stars as Melody, a recipient of some truly deflating news from the doctor that inspires her to trust what time remains to the care of retail therapy, starting with that 1963 red Fender Stratocaster she’s always dreamed of.
Opens in New York.

The idea of an slasher film set to a score of Christian heavy metal music might sound more like a trick than a treat for hardcore horror fans still recovering from Halloween. But director Robby Henson seems to have employed all the genre hallmarks (it’s nasty!) to satisfy a suitably broad audience with the Christian-influenced tale of a bickering couple trapped inside a remote motel besieged by the mythical Tin Man, a maniac killer who targets unrepentant sinners. If that piques your interest, just try and avoid IMDb, as the film’s list of credits gives away something of the mystery.
Opens in limited release.

For a fallen action star whose last few direct-to-video dramas have been more like comedies, leave it up to Jean-Claude Van Damme to take a ludicrous premise seriously. The Muscles From Brussels finds himself embroiled in something of a Van Damme Day Afternoon in this surrealist meta-movie from French director Mabrouk El Mechri. Playing a loose version of himself telling a loose version of his story, the dejected “Kickboxer” star returns home after losing a bitter custody battle and getting tagged with a gigantic legal bill he can’t pay. Things go from bad to worse when the bank he goes into gets held up and the local authorities conclude that he masterminded the robbery.
Opens in New York.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer reunite behind the microphone for this sequel that picks up where the 2005 animated safari left off. After the animal quartet left the comfy confines of the New York Zoo for Madagascar, our institutionalized band of colorfully neurotic critters head to Africa, putting Marty the Zebra (Rock), Alex the Lion (Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Pinkett Smith) and Melman the Giraffe amongst their native species. Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter and the late Bernie Mac are among the funny faces who lend their voices to the cause.
Opens wide.

“Otto; or Up With Dead People”
As a spirited champion of low-budget, pulp ham-horror celebrated by a small army of adoring fans for his shoddy production values and characteristically haphazard techniques (including some at Sundance and Berlin, where “Otto” premiered), Canadian queer cinema icon Bruce LaBruce has become something of a heir to Ed Wood minus the penchant for angora sweaters. His latest opus sees Jey Crisfar as Otto, a zombie who rises from the grave to search for his former lover, only to be railroaded into a gay zombie porno by a pompous underground filmmaker (Katharina Klewinghaus). You know, just another one of those kind of movies. In English and German with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Pray The Devil Back to Hell”
Against the backdrop of Liberia’s second devastating civil war, ending in 2003 with more than 250,000 dead, Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker Gini Reticker highlights the ferocious courage of a group of everyday Liberian women and their role in ending the bloody conflict. Mixing archival footage with international media coverage, Reticker charts the formation of parallel anti-war movements (one Christian and one Muslim) who put aside their longstanding differences to come together as one in an effort to bring about peace in their war-torn country.
Opens in New York.

“Repo! The Genetic Opera”
Give him any vaguely plausible excuse to cut people open and throw their insides around and director Darren Lynn Bousman (three “Saw” sequels”) and his queasy color palate are there like a bear to honey — although to be fair, this gloriously daft musical gorefest is a more imaginative excuse than most. After a global epidemic of organ failures gives rise to an all-powerful biotech company that specializes in cloning replacements, Nathan Wallace (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”‘s Anthony Head) tends to his sick daughter (Alexa Vega) and struggles with his job as the repo man who visits those recipients who fall behind on their payments. Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino and Paris Hilton all star in the film that Bousman told Matt Singer back at Fantastic Fest was a unique mix of “Puccini meets Nine Inch Nails.”
Opens in limited release.

“Role Models”
The preposterous idea that anyone would ever wake up one morning and decide they want to be like Stifler from “American Pie” is not lost on Paul Rudd, David Wain and Ken Marino. In fact, the trio behind “The Ten” even recruited the man who played Stifler (Seann William Scott) to star alongside Rudd as a pair of misanthropic energy drink reps that get high on their own supply and wind up learning life lessons when their exploits earn them a community service mandate as youth counselors in a Big Brother program. Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and one of Elizabeth Banks’ many clones (because really, how can she be in so many films at once?) co-star.
Opens wide.

“Soul Men”
The titular leads might not be on a mission from God, but this soulfully retuned effort from Malcolm D. Lee wears the influence of John Landis’ 1980 cult classic like a black-banded fedora. Samuel L. Jackson and late great Bernie Mac star as a pair of former backup singers reunited after a decades-long spat to pay tribute to their former frontman. Setting out on a cross-country road trip, the duo must hash out their differences in time to take the stage at the legendary Apollo Theatre. The equally late, equally great Isaac Hayes has a cameo as himself.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “The Alphabet Killer,” Anchor Bay Entertainment, 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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