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What do Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton see in each other?

What do Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton see in each other? (photo)

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Judging by the early word-of-mouth on “Alice In Wonderland,” maybe I’m not the only one to find post-millennial Tim Burton unwatchable. Next up, Burton’s sitting on top of the unpromisingly titled “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” which he’ll produce in partnership with “Wanted”‘s Timur Bekmambetov. The book is from the author of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” of course.

This will be the second time Burton and Bekmambetov have collaborated — they were both producers on last year’s heinous “9,” but that’s a rant for another time. You have to wonder what they admire in each other. It’s not like, individually, there’s not a lot to dig: Burton’s first run of work is impeccable (I’d place his hot streak from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” to “Sleepy Hollow,” but your mileage may vary) and Bekmambetov’s no slouch himself. “Wanted” is one of the most batshit blockbusters I’ve seen of late, a gleeful middle finger to physics and a chance to finally, finally see Morgan Freeman stop playing God. The Russian films that made him a hot commodity — “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” — are heavy on dour, Putin-esque oppression and fear of oil oligarchy, but they still bring the violent absurdity.

Why Burton and Bekmambetov are so psyched to work together (they bought the rights to the novel with their own money). Superficially, they’re both fantasy guys, but their films are totally tonally different. Burton’s more playful (or used to be, anyway), while Bekmambetov couldn’t be more assaultive. Another key difference: Burton’s work is about powerlessness, while Bekmambetov makes movies about power and what it means to achieve it.

As we all know, Burton was a weird kid, unmoored in suburbia, a misfit, an outsider. It shows in his work — every one of his protagonists is ultimately a failure outside of their own head. (Even Michael Keaton’s Batman wasn’t kicking that much ass when push came to shove; he seemed much happier as Bruce Wayne.)

03042010_wanted.jpgBekmambetov’s movies, meanwhile, do not take lip from anyone — violence is how you get respect, and that’s totally fine. Think of James McAvoy’s memorable final line in “Wanted” (“What the fuck have you done lately?”) — it’s entirely symptomatic of the atmosphere surrounding “Night Watch” and “Day Watch,” where daily combat is a way of life. I suspect this has something to do with Bekmambetov’s background both as a Kazakhstani and as an Ashkenazi Jew (his father and mother, respectively) in a notoriously xenophobic and racist country. Bekmambetov’s rise to the top of advertising and film probably required tremendous self-assertion, patience and very thick skin. And you see it in his movies.

So what do these guys see in each other? It’s not a marriage of business convenience brokered by a bigger studio; Burton hardly ever works as a producer for others (he hasn’t really franchised himself). Maybe they’re funhouse versions of each other: for all the violence whirring around in Bekmambetov’s universe, it’s worth remembering that he, at one point (maybe still, who knows), was attached to an update of “Moby Dick,” the ultimate in violent futility. So it goes: sometimes violence and cute alienation are the same thing.

[Photos: “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney, 2010; “Wanted,” Universal, 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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