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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: The Unfinished Emily Rose.

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Ms. Lo and Mr. Redford go west(ish).+ "An Unfinished Life": Roger Ebert gets all meta while reviewing Lasse Hallström‘s latest:

The typical review of "An Unfinished Life" will mention that it was
kept on the shelf at Miramax for two years, and is now being released
as part of the farewell flood of leftover product produced by the
Weinstein brothers. It will say that Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman
are trying to be Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. It will have no
respect for Jennifer Lopez, because she is going through a period right
now when nobody is satisfied with anything she does. These reviews will
be more about showbiz than about the movie itself.

Yes, yes, yes. We’re thinking you’re wrong about the Eastwood thing, though, Roger — we haven’t seen that comparison anywhere, probably because, as everyone does point out, Freeman’s been doing the wise sidekick thing long before he was given grizzled codgers to play off of. Ebert perversely likes the film, simply because he finds it works for him — Stephanie Zacharek expresses similar sentiments, though she’s admits there something of a novelty factor to its appeal: "The picture is outrageously
predictable and somewhat poky, but there’s also something admirably
bold about the way it so adamantly demands we swallow its hokum." Armond White, who we’d half expected to declare the film a masterpiece, tosses in an inexplicable comment in at the end of a column he devotes largely to other films, saying that he was going to give "An Unfinished Life" an A for effort until he watched the new Criterion release of 1950’s "The Flowers of St. Francis" and remembered what a real quality film was like. Mark Holcomb at the Village Voice is also almost impressed with the film’s resolutely by-the-book Hallmark plot developments. Stephen Holden‘s totally our boy with this one though:

High on the list of the year’s corniest symbolic acts in a Hollywood movie is the freeing of a grizzly bear from its cage in the contemporary western "An Unfinished Life." And what exactly does the liberation of the beast from a makeshift rural zoo signify? In this solemn, sentimental bore of a movie that suffocates in its own predictability and watered-down psychobabble, it presages Oprah-worthy healing and imminent family togetherness after years of strife.

All in all, an uninterested bunch, and for good reason — "An Unfinished Life" is getting such a half-hearted release that no one’s going to find it until it becomes a standard of weekend afternoon cable TV, at which point all can admire the way that J.Lo’s fetching sundress/cowboy boots combinations (gritty! homespun!) are exactly what the hipster chicks are wearing in Brooklyn as we speak. Oh, and as we pointed out before, our review of the film is here.

Surprisingly more interesting, at least review-wise, is…

Jennifer Carpenter apparently impressed all with her screaming abilities.+ "The Exorcism of Emily Rose": It’s marketed as your typical late-summer supernatural schlock, but apparently there’s more at work in Scott Derrickson‘s semi-directorial debut about a priest (Tom Wilkinson) being prosecuted for attempting an exorcism on a 19-year-old girl (Jennifer Carpenter) who may or may not have been possessed, and who died as a result. A. O. Scott calls it both "a fascinating
cultural document in the age of intelligent design" and "propaganda disguised as entertainment," a film that supposedly gives fair weight to both possibilities but really sides with faith over science.  David Edelstein seems both amused and a little angered by everything the film suggests:

Derrickson claims in interviews that "Rashômon" is one of his favorite movies and that "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" gives both sides of the court battle their due. If you believe that, I have a grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary that you might want to buy. We do get flashes—almost subliminal ones—of the prosecutor’s version of events, but he’s a close-minded prig whose mere facts are far outweighed by extended sequences that leave no doubt whatsoever of Emily Rose’s demonic possession.

("Rashomon" is also the most fucking over-cited film out there, and we’ll hazard a guess that half the people who toss it out haven’t actually seen it, it’s just become a shorthand term for presenting more than one point of view. We direct you to low culture for examples.)

Roger Ebert‘s impressed by the film’s attempt at complexity, and shares his own theories: "You didn’t ask, but in my opinion she had
psychotic epileptic disorder, but it could have been successfully
treated by the psychosomatic effect of exorcism if those drugs hadn’t
blocked the process." And we’ll give the last work to Michael Atkinson, who gets a little bodily functions-obsessed in his review:

The screenplay, in which contemporary characters use phrases like "forces of darkness!" is another type of spoor altogether. (M. Night Shyamalan could’ve squeezed it out after a chili dinner.)…If you can manage a dozen or more piss breaks during the ecumenical wrangling, you’ll come out ahead.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.