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Opening This Week: Mumbai fairytales, Harry Potter fandom and Bond, James Bond

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11102008_bohica.jpgBy Neil Pedley

There is plenty of (semi)lighthearted fare at the art house this week with Danny Boyle tracking a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” whiz kid in Mumbai, Arnaud Desplechin looking at a family reunion in France and a Bollywood musical playing out in Miami, followed by films that are distinctively more “hardcore,” whether that refers to Harry Potter fans or elderly curmudgeons. Oh, and there’s also some globetrotting carnage with our man Craig — Daniel Craig.

If this debut effort from “Melvin Goes To Dinner” producer turned writer/director D.J. Paul is to be believed, the best way to support our brave boys serving overseas is to send them some sunscreen and a truckload of Sudoku books. Marooned in the middle of the Afghan desert guarding a radio tower, four army reservists (Adam Rodriguez, Nicholas Gonzalez, Kevin Weisman, Brendan Sexton III) do battle with the boredom and the baking heat until a crate of beer is mistakenly air-dropped onto their position. An impromptu kegger commences, but the harsh reality of war crashes the party.
Opens in Los Angeles.

“A Christmas Tale”
A lively but melancholic tale of an eccentric family reunited around a dying parental figure decorated with go-nowhere squabbles and deadpan introspection sounds oddly familiar, but French helmer Arnaud Desplechin must feel his take of Jean-Pierre Jouet’s rather downbeat novel is more than just “The Royal Vuillards.” (For starters, the Vulliards “don’t have time for melancholy,” according to Desplechin.) Catherine Deneuve stars as the cancer-stricken matriarch Junon, whose three children (Mathieu Amalric, Anne Cosigny and Melvil Poupaud) reunite for one last Christmas and navigate the various tensions and corridors of familial guilt that have plagued them their whole lives. In French with subtitles.
Open in New York and Los Angeles.

“Dostana (Friendship)”
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” with a few song and dance numbers? Not quite, but Indian audiences will see something they have never seen before with this $10 million Bollywood production with gay themes. Far from New Delhi, Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham star as two playboys in Miami who adopt the façade that they’re lovers (as one does) in order to obtain a lease from an overprotective landlord, who wants to safeguard his niece Neha (Priyanka Chopra). Yet the charade becomes increasingly difficult to maintain when Neha moves in with the two men, who find themselves falling for their blissfully unaware roommate. In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“The Dukes”
After a long and dedicated career serving up a veritable buffet of “hey, it’s that guy!” moments, veteran character actor Robert Davi shows there are more sides to him than just the hardass and the badass with this good humored directorial debut. Co-written with fellow character actor James Andronica, this crime comedy features Davi alongside Chazz Palminteri as two aging crooners looking to escape the indignity of working in their demanding aunt’s Italian restaurant. Desperate for one last crack at the big time, they hatch a harebrained scheme to rip off a dental clinic so they might finally be able to finance their lifelong dream of opening their own jazz lounge.
Opens in New York; opens in limited release on November 21st.

The humiliating collapse of one couple’s marriage in the days leading up to their ten-year anniversary is the focus of this feature debut from Irish TV director Declan Recks, with a script by Eugene O’Brien adapted from his own stage play. Eileen Walsh stars as Brenda Farrell, an increasingly ignored plain-Jane who diligently holds onto the last vestiges of hope for rekindling the romance as the big day approaches. Aidan Kelly co-stars as her caddish husband Billy, a man whose own anniversary plans seem to extend no further than the shameless pursuit of some teenage skirt on the dance floor of the local pub. Walsh’s Brenda may be losing her man, but Walsh herself received a best actress prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Fest.
Opens in limited release.

“House of the Sleeping Beauties”
Twelve years on from Hiroto Yokoyama’s “Nemureru Bijo,” German jack-of-all-trades Vadim Glowna offers his own take on Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata’s macabre tale of loneliness and erotic obsession. Working both sides of the camera, Glowna takes the lead as Edmond, a lonely widower whose friend (Maximilian Schell) tells him of a mysterious secret establishment offering a one-of-a-kind form of female companionship. As curiosity gives way to addiction, Edmond ponders his own mortality, laying in the company of beautiful women who seemingly never wake from their angelic slumber. In German with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“How About You”
Just as Halloween has its ghouls and goblins, the Thanksgiving season brings its own equally familiar cinematic archetype — the cantankerous old relative — that dutifully gets a brief moment of autumnal affection before being discarded like a past-due pumpkin. With that in mind, director Anthony Byrne makes Maeve Binchy’s short story into something approaching a “One Flew Over the Nursing Home” with Hayley Atwell’s spirited mischief-maker descending upon her sister’s failing resident’s home during the holiday season and sets about rehabilitating the home’s four “hardcore” curmudgeons (Vanessa Redgrave, Imelda Staunton, Brenda Fricker and Joss Ackland).
Opens in limited release.

“Quantum of Solace”
After the meaty reintroduction of James Bond in “Casino Royale,” producer Barbara Broccoli and first-time Bond director Marc Forster continue the process of refining cinema’s longest running franchise into an efficient, energized beast that can compete on the post-“Bourne” era. As the briefest of any of Bond’s outings, “Quantum of Solace” could be considered a feature-length footnote to “Royale,” with Daniel Craig once again buttoning up a tux to take on the shadowy organization, fronted by Mathieu Amalric’s scheming industrialist, that he holds responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd, his lady in waiting in “Royale.” Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini all make return appearances, though Bond’s classic “shaken not stirred” martinis apparently do not.
Opens wide.

“Slumdog Millionaire”
With its episodic structure, underclass hero and wry commentary on poverty and stuffy social stratification, Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s bestselling novel “Q & A,” has invited comparisons to the works of Charles Dickens, if only the great man alive to partake in the dizzying opiate that is 24/7 cable TV. Simon Beaufoy, who knows a little something about wish fulfillment, having penned “The Full Monty,” adapts the whimsical story of Jamal (Dev Patel), an Indian guttersnipe who rises to become a champion on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” before raising the suspicions of a local policeman (Irfan Khan). Flashing back and forth through time, we witness Jamal’s bid for victory of national TV, his heated interrogation, and the harsh lessons he learned on the street that could ultimately serve as his path to victory.
Opens in limited release.

“We Are Wizards”
Fans of the boy wizard who are depressed that, for the first time since Harry rocked our world almost a decade ago, neither a book nor a movie will be coming out this year, can instead look to Josh Koury’s affectionate, oddball documentary on Potter fever to satiate their cravings. In search of the essence of the Potter appeal that has helped earn a fortune for J.K. Rowling that rivals the GDP of a small country, Koury tours the underground Wizard Rock scene, surveying the galaxy of freaks and geeks that rock in the name of Dumbledore, and celebrates the many ways this remarkable phenomenon has brought people together in spirit and common bonds.
Opens in New York.

[Photo: “B.O.H.I.C.A.,” Wabi Pictures, 2008 – credit: Siddhartha Abbazi]

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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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