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District 9-1-1

District 9-1-1 (photo)

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The original “District 13” was made in 2004 and set in Paris of the year 2010, which means if the French are going to fulfill producer/writer Luc Besson’s vision of walled up ghettos, racial and class warfare, and shirtless dudes leaping from rooftop to rooftop, they’d better get their butts in gear. “District 13” was entirely, utterly of its moment; even if problems in the real French banlieues haven’t eased, that moment has largely passed. “District 13″‘s parkour chase scenes and customized hot rod cars would look dated even if its sweeping social changes weren’t scheduled to occur two weeks ago. Yet here is a sequel, “District 13: Ultimatum,” which faithfully continues the first film’s aesthetics and story, a vision of futures past.

Surprisingly, the out-of-time quality wears well on the series. Divorcing the film from its timeliness also divorces it from its inflated sense of self-importance, freeing “Ultimatum” to have more fun with its premise than its predecessor. The sequel is only 100 minutes long, and the first 20 minutes don’t contain even a hint of a plot; Besson and director Patrick Alessandrin (replacing “Taken” filmmaker Pierre Morel) take that time leisurely reintroducing the series’ protagonists — banlieue revolutionary Leito (David Belle) and idealistic supercop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) — in separate action sequences.

02032010_District13-3.jpgBesson and Alessandrin show off this installment’s improved sense of humor immediately in a scene that shows Damien going undercover (in drag!) to arrest a powerful mob boss. No one would ever confuse the muscular Raffaelli for a stripper, so the filmmakers cut back and forth between wide shots of a feminine body double and close-ups of the definitively masculine action hero. The effect, like something out of a Zucker brothers’ film, is hilarious. Once discovered, Damien is forced into a fight involving the rescue and protection of a priceless work of art that’s better than any of the martial arts sequences in the original film.

Morel brought a choppy editing style to the first “District 13″‘s action; he even went so far as to remove frames from impact shots to enhance the intensity of the blows. But stylish editing doesn’t necessarily equate to satisfying fight sequences. In martial arts movies, every cut is a cheat; the fewer the cuts, the more skillful the director, the performers and the choreographers. Alessandrin lets the action sequences breathe, and enables us to fully appreciate the talent of Raffaelli, who serves as his own fight choreographer.

Eventually, a sliver of a story appears, as Leito and Damien are once again put up against a ticking clock and the impending destruction of District 13. This time around, shady government officials try to wrest control of the banlieue away from its rightful occupants in order to turn the area into gentrified high-rise housing. The company that’s been hired for the construction job? Who else but Halliburton (or “Harriburton” as it’s called here). “It’s just like in Iraq!” one character remarks with righteous indignation. “Exactly,” another replies, “except they’re French.”

02032010_District13-1.jpgObviously, this is a film that does not take itself too seriously. Which is good, because no film that takes itself seriously could get away with the things that “District 13: Ultimatum” gets away with, including a stunt set-piece where a car drives up the single most conveniently placed ramp in the history of cinema in order to drive through the upper floors of a police station. That one shot sums up the movie nicely: totally implausible, totally excessive, and yet — totally satisfying.

Parkour, the discipline of leaping, jumping, spinning and diving through one’s environment, doesn’t have nearly the cultural cache as it did in 2004, but it still provides “District 13: Ultimatum” with an endless stream of setups for impressive stunts. Our heroes get into one inescapable predicament after another — like, say, breaking into prison with no discernible plan for how to break back out — then lets them use their parkour skills to do the impossible. It’s a feat almost as impressive as making a movie about parkour seem cutting edge in the year 2010.

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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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