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Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming…

Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming… (photo)

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“‘Ninja Assassin 2’ will be in 3D with Sprayarama,” director James McTeigue joked before the premiere of the first and so far only “Ninja Assassin” at the Alamo Drafthouse on Tuesday. And there were copious amounts of blood sputtered in the film that followed, a gory but too often creatively bloodless affair that stars Korean pop star Rain as Raizo, a warrior trained from birth in the ninja way before turning against his clan after the death of a female colleague.

How you’ll feel about “Ninja Assassin” will depend on your inherent interest in the masked men (and in this equal opportunity film, women) — throwing stars and bone-crushing punches can atone for cheesy dialogue, but McTeigue makes the curious decision to shoot most of the action in the dark, and the performances are half-hearted. (While a physical marvel, Rain is hamstrung by having to speak in English, though fans of the genre will be thrilled to see ’80s icon Sho Kosugi come out of semi-retirement to play his mentor.)

Not surprisingly, most of the post-screening Q&A, conducted by Ain’t It Cool’s Harry Knowles, revolved around the red stuff — McTeigue took delight in telling the crowd that he thought “maybe I got [the MPAA] on happy hour Friday.” While he viewed his last film “V for Vendetta” as “150 minutes of talking with three set pieces,” McTeigue aimed to make a straightforward action movie with “Ninja” and consulted heavily on a style where the blood would spurt in “a cross between anime and gameplay,” allowing Raizo to pass through the bloodshed after executing one of his victims.

While the Wachowski brothers are once again on board as producers, it’s clear that McTeigue is his own man with “Ninja.” He said his next film will likely be a thriller about the “fictionalized last five days of Edgar Allen Poe,” with a serial killer inspired by the horror author’s short stories in a way the director compared to “Se7en.” “So more killing,” McTeigue surmised, which satisfied the crowd.

09302009_Mandrill.jpgIt’d be interesting to see what “Mandrill” director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and star Marko Zaror would do if they had half the budget of “Ninja Assassin,” but even with limited resources, their latest film is crammed with the kind of thrills that even the best CG can’t provide. “Mandrill” marked a triumphant return for the Chilean duo, who took Fantastic Fest by storm in 2007 with “Mirageman,” the tale of an everyday crimefighter. “Mirageman” has the unfortunate burden of being currently remade into a 3D English film called “Defender,” which coincides with the Woody Harrelson film “Defendor” about…you guessed it. (Fest attendees got a glimpse of a show reel.) It may at least prove an auspicious English-language debut for Zaror, who’s reprising his role for the American version and is an international action star waiting to happen.

Espinoza packs as much creativity into his action sequences as the square-jawed Zaror packs power into his punches — their latest film together, about a suave secret agent, tirelessly aims to please. Although the duo make no secret of their influences — the closing credits list every actor and director involved in the James Bond franchise in the special thanks section — “Mandrill” is a one-of-a-kind spy tale, skipping the backstory of how its title character became a trained killer in favor of showing how he became a ladykiller, taking full advantage of Zaror’s matinee idol looks for considerable comic effect by flashing back to the days when an unsure young Mandrill took lessons from his uncle in the ways of love. Not surprisingly, Zaror received lots of love from the Fantastic Fest jury, who gave him the best actor prize on Monday.

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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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