NYFF: “The Host.”

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"You grabbed the wrong hand!"Yeah, it’s pretty damn good. (We’re on our last festival legs here — our next review may not even be in complete sentences: Movie good! Acting so-so. Hey look, mise en scène.) But we’re a bit concerned that Bong Joon-ho‘s "The Host" has been burdened with enough breathless praise off the festival circuit that it’s going to disappoint some: it is first and foremost a monster movie, after all, and an enthusiastically shabby one that’s not pushy with its startlingly dark political and social subtext. If "Gojira" offered a nation’s trauma and terror of nuclear testing made (reptilian) flesh, "The Host" suggests a present in which people are the helpless victims of various inept, unreasonable, impersonal and uncaring systems — the monster, frightening as it is, has nothing on the military doctors, who might accidentally lobotomize you while looking for a virus they’ve already acknowledged amongst themselves probably doesn’t exist.

The monster is a mutated form of Han River life that springs up after someone at the US military base has dozens of jars of formaldehyde poured down the drain (and thus into the water supply) because they’re…dusty. Several years later, it’s uncoiling from the supports of a bridge and galloping along the shoreline devouring people in a sequence both brutal and disturbingly funny. A kind of lurching cross between a bus-sized tadpole, a T-Rex and the creatures in "Alien," the monster is a great creation, a CG character that feels decidedly substantial and that’s both grotesque and, like the rest of the film, sometimes goofy.

Our unheroic hero is Park Kang-du ("Memories of Murder"‘s Song Kang-du), a lazy lifelong fuck-up working at his father’s food stand by the water and making well-meaning but incompetent gestures toward being a father to his self-possessed tween-aged daughter Hyun-seo. Hyun-seo is plucked up by the monster in front of his eyes; luckily (perhaps), she survives being regurgitated and dumped in a pit for later consumption, and manages to make a cell phone call to her father. Unluckily, the entire ragtag Park family (Kang-du, his father, his professional archer sister and his unemployed, alcoholic brother) has been quarantined by the government, which fears that the monster is carrying a virus that may have infected everyone who’s come in contact with it. No one believes Kang-du; the Parks must escape and rescue Hyun-seo themselves.

As in his previous film "Memories of Murder," Bong shifts fluidly between genres: "The Host" is at once a drama, a horror flick, a comedy, a social satire and a saga of wacky family bonding. The underlying tone, however, is astonishingly disheartened — there’s little uplift to the end, and plenty of scenes play as comedy so black we did a double-take. If the Parks prevail, it’s at great personal cost, and the ending is more a wistful reminder of the kindness of some than a scene of hope. There’s a reoccurring mention of seori, of children stealing food from farms either out of mischievous fun or genuine hunger. As one scrounging teenager tells his younger brother, it’s about the right of the hungry to have food, and there’s something briefly reassuring about the idea, that if you need something to survive, society will bend the rules to allow you to have it — other people will help you in your time of need. Of course, then the monster swoops down and swallows him whole.

No more festival screenings — opens in theaters January 29.

+ "The Host" (NYFF)
+ "The Host" (Magnolia Pictures)


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…


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. 


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 ’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.