The week’s critic wrangle: “Clerks II.” And there’s a lady. In the water. Also, “Shadowboxer.”

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It’s been quite an inane week here at The IFC Blog; we blame it on this week’s releases, as it is, after all, the week of the Crazy. We’d planned to catch "Shadowboxer" (because Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. is the most awesomely strange romantic pairing we’re ever come across) but couldn’t make the screening, so no reviews from us either. Well, we’d advise you to skip "Azumi" — even with Jo Odagiri in makeup twirling a rose, it’s not that fun.


"Did you know Jesus was a Jew?"
+ "Clerks II": Kevin Smith‘s follow-up to the 1994 film that made him famous is apparently surprisingly melancholy or at least touching; A.O. Scott, who notes the "buried spring of pathos that bubbles ever closer to the surface as the movie wanders toward its end," writes that "what makes ‘Clerks II’ both winning and (somewhat unexpectedly) moving is its fidelity to the original ‘Clerks’ ethic of hanging out, talking trash and refusing all worldly ambition. If anything, the sequel is more defiant in its disdain for the rat race, elevating the white-guy-doing-nothing prerogative from a lifestyle choice to a moral principle." At the Village Voice, Dennis Lim says much the same: "hanging over the proceedings are the melancholy musings of a filmmaker
revisiting old haunts while trying to leave them behind for the promise
of something different, if not better." Of course, he’s less forgiving:

This is the kind of movie one expected from Smith after the middlebrow sitcom "Jersey Girl," in which he found himself smacked down by the fans who wanted nothing to do with his move toward domestication. He had little choice but to go back to the Quick Stop; that’s what viewers wanted—another prolonged dick joke sprinkled with comic-shop small talk. Smith’s heart is in it, but it’s sort of a broken heart now; "Clerks II" feels as though it was made by a man who needs a change but isn’t permitted to make one.

Scott Foundas, in the review/open letter we’ve cited before, wishes Smith would venture further than the comfortable, fan-buttressed universe he’s created for himself, but still likes the film a lot.

[T]his is the umpteenth movie I’ve seen this year about guys in their 30s who aren’t quite sure what they want to do with their lives, and it’s the only one that strikes a real chord, because it’s neither an exaltation nor a condemnation of slackerdom, but rather just a sweet little fable about how sometimes the life that you think could be so much better is actually pretty damn good already. That’s a sentiment, I’d wager, as coveted by you, Kevin, as it is by Dante and Randal, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.


+ "Lady in the Water": Ah, yes. Here we go, mean-spirited quote style.

Dana Stevens at Slate (and officially the film critic now?): "I don’t hold it against Shyamalan that his plot is completely preposterous, that his characters (except for Heep) are cardboard constructions in service of the story, or even that his ending traffics in glutinous New-Age clichés about owning your demons and embracing your inner child. I will hold against him that Lady in the Water isn’t scary, that its own inner logic breaks down at countless points along the way, and that its ending is disappointingly literal and just plain stupid."

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon: "’Lady in the Water’ challenges us to believe in the power of myth. But the big challenge here is surviving the tedium of Shyamalan’s meandering inventiveness. What’s supposed to be fanciful storytelling is really just audience punishment."

David Edelstein at New York: "His new movie is like ‘Splash’ reworked by a grandiose Sunday-school teacher."

Scott Foundas at LA Weekly: "’Lady in the Water’ isn’t awful, mind you, but it is a failure, and one that carries itself with such chest-puffing pomposity that many will take pleasure in shooting it down for sport. Conceived as a movie about the power of storytelling, it is a far more revealing (if unintended) study in the power of ego — the work of a filmmaker who has become convinced that his every whim should be abided, and who believes sinister forces are conspiring against him."

Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice, in what’s probably the harshest review of the film: "Nothing will prepare you—not his previous films, not any reviews you may read, not even a lifetime spent watching Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoons—for the rampant foolishness of Lady in the Water. The Village, his last, distended elegy for Rod Serling, is, well, Rod Serling by comparison. It’s as if on some semiconscious level, Shyamalan, who I do not doubt is a serious and self-serious pop-creative original, is calling his own success into question and daring his audience to gulp down larger and spikier clusters of manure, just to see if they will. Or he’s lost his mind."

And Manohla Dargis at the New York Times: "’Lady in the Water’ is one of the more watchable films of the summer. A folly, true, but watchable."


+ "Shadowboxer": We couldn’t stand "Monster’s Ball" or "The Woodsman," but producer-turned-director Lee Daniels earned our love with the following quote from his interview with Lola Ogunnaike in the New York Times the other day:

His decision to cast Mo’Nique, the proudly plus-size comedian, was met with raised eyebrows all around. Her character, a crack addict, was originally written for an anorexic white woman in her early 20’s who dates a handsome young doctor. Casting Mo’Nique, he said, prompted the film’s writer to remove his name from the credits.

Mr. Daniels remained unrepentant. “My sister was an obese crack addict,” he said. “She had a chicken wing in one hand and crack pipe in the other, and she had the finest white men lined up waiting for her. This is a real person to me.”

Hee! Also, apparently, Mo’Nique plays the love interest of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which earns a double hee: Hee! Anyway, the film seems to have left critics a bit bewildered. Stephen Holden in the New York Times writes that "As it gleefully smashes boundaries and blurs the line between comedy and melodrama, it dares you to collapse into laughter." He goes on to ruminate that:

The intensity of Rose and Mikey’s passion goes way beyond conventional Hollywood sex, and the fact that it is interracial and intergenerational (Ms. Mirren is 22 years older than Mr. Gooding) lends it an extra transgressive kick. I haven’t seen a black man and a white woman make love like this in an American movie since Ellen Barkin and Laurence Fishburne tore at each other in “Bad Company” in 1995.

Dennis Lim has this to add:

"Shadowboxer" appears to have been willed into existence through a potent intermingling of ego and checkbook. To watch it is to ponder how—not to mention why—one even begins to get seasoned, ostensibly self-aware professional actors to perform certain acts onscreen. This is a movie in which at least two people are fucked to death—one with a pool cue, the other by Cuba Gooding Jr.


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?”


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).



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.


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


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.



Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Photo Credit: Erin Resnick, GIFs via Giphy

Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.