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“Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov starts a film festival.

“Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov starts a film festival. (photo)

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Timur Bekmambetov, of “Night Watch” and “Wanted,” has started a film festival in Kazakhstan, which is awesome. According to the Telegraph, this is Kazakhstan making peace with Hollywood after the humiliation of “Borat”:

Four years after the Central Asian nation banned the film which portrayed its people as backward, anti-semitic misogynists, it is flying in top names from the US movie industry for the first Astana International Action Film festival.

Harvey Weinstein, the US producer; Mike Tyson, the US boxer; and Dolph Lundgren, the Swedish actor and martial arts expert, have all confirmed their attendance, festival director Iren Vanidovskaya announced on Thursday in Astana, the Kazakh capital.

They’re sort of joking, but not really: Kazakhstan wants to convey to the outside world that they aren’t a backwards republic of goat-herders, and they sometimes take it out on their own filmmakers.

Screening sheepherding epic “Tulpan” at the New York Film Festival three years ago, director Sergey Dvortsevoy noted that the official government reaction was appalled: “This is worse than ‘Borat,'” they said in his telling. “Why do you show this steppe? Please present Kazakhstan as a modern country. We have a lot of cities, we have a lot of buildings.”

06142010_nightwatch1.jpgThree cheers, then, for Bekmambetov, the most globally successful Kazakhstani director in film history. Now sitting on an infinite variety of projects to which he may or may not actually be attached, like “Wanted 2” and a “Wizard of Oz” reboot, he’s in a position to organize the first ever “Astana International Action Film Festival.” This means that Asheville’s just-debuted Actionfest is no longer the only festival devoted exclusively to the art of kicking ass.

Unlike Actionfest, Bekmambetov’s event seems shamelessly devoted to the art of the big-budget, big-resource film. The line-up stretches the “action” parameters by including “Twilight: Eclipse” and “Despicable Me” (not to mention James Toback’s “Tyson”).

There’s also a mini Tarantino retrospective — only the “Kill Bill” movies, “Sin City” and “Death Proof,” which constitutes an intriguing way to think about how he may have changed. (Is “Pulp Fiction” even remotely an action film? Has Tarantino mastered the art of the large-scale action sequence in a way he couldn’t a decade ago?)

There’s a new version of “Iron Monkey,” a smattering of Asian work, Uwe Boll’s new film (“Max Schmelling”), and — in an indication of the kind of movie long banished from the American multiplex but still welcome and profitable abroad — Dolph Lundgren’s latest triumph as his own director, “Command Performance,” the trailer for which is here:

I’m not being snarky — this will be good for the region economically, and it helps the Kazakh government in (sigh) “rebranding” itself for the outside world. It also speaks well of Bekmambetov (whose work I like) that he’s willing to use his new-found clout to help his homeland out, and it’s all round a good thing. I just wish the movies were a little better.

[Photos: “Tulpan,” Zeitgeist Films, 2008; “Night Watch,” Fox Searchlight Pictures 2005]

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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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