DID YOU READ

“The Marine” vs. “Flags of Our Fathers”

“The Marine” vs. “Flags of Our Fathers” (photo)

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That there could be two movies in theaters simultaneously of such similar bases and such divergent content is a testament to cinema’s enduring versatility, and its capacity for both brilliance and stupidity. “Flags of our Fathers” and “The Marine” are so perfect in their symmetry, they seem designed to inform each other.

Both present dueling views of life as a member of the United States Marine Corps. Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of our Fathers,” about the impact of Joe Rosenthal’s photograph “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” on the war effort, contrasts the individual heroism of the men in the corps with the propaganda machine of the armed forces brass. It shows us the real men behind the carefully controlled images presented to the men and women on the home front in 1944. “The Marine,” on the other hand, is all image, of the sort of red-blooded, blue-eyed American machismo that hasn’t existed in action films since Reagan left office. Ironically, the film set in the past feels far more contemporary than the one set in the modern day.

It’s hard to even believe the real men portrayed by Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, and Jesse Bradford belong to the same species as John Cena, let alone the same organization. Cena, a popular professional wrestler is all beefy hands and tree-trunk neck; as WWE-icons-turned-movie-stars go, he fares a little better than Hulk Hogan but pales next to the versatility, wit and natural charisma of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. After receiving a discharge from the Marines for disobeying a direct order in order to single-handedly rescue P.O.W.s from an al-Qaeda stronghold in Iraq, Cena’s John Triton struggles to adapt to a life that doesn’t involve assault weaponry. Though he lives for nothing but the Marine life, he’s married to a Barbie doll made flesh (Kelly Carlson). “You married a Marine, Kate,” he tells her by way of apologizing for his behavior. Fortunately, Triton’s job search is interrupted by a gang of jewel robbers (led by Robert Patrick) who kidnap his wife at a gas station, and — at last! — Cena is thrust into action.

John Triton returns home from war and wants nothing more than to get back on the front lines. The soldiers of “Flags of our Fathers” get a free ticket back to the States for their appearance in Rosenthal’s photo, but find themselves trapped on the blackened beaches of Iwo Jima, if only in their minds. As they travel through the U.S. to encourage war bonds sales, Eastwood returns repeatedly to the hell in the Pacific. Surrounded by imagined images of triumph, they flashback to real moments of terror.

The movies don’t just come from different genres, they come from different worlds. In one explosion shells spread shrapnel and death. In another, they create super-cool explosions that present little danger to our nigh-impervious hero. Every time Triton took a gorgeous, slo-mo swan dive out of the teach of yet another fireball, I kept thinking of Phillippe’s Doc Bradley, a Navy Corpsman who survives a Japanese shell with shrapnel in his legs. Unable to walk, ordered to stay down until a stretcher can arrive, he crawls over to another injured serviceman, medicating him even while he himself continues to bleed.

As Eastwood’s narrator observes, we need heroes. But what kind of heroes do we need; ones imagined by screenwriters and PR men or ones lived by ordinary, selfless men and women? The WWE has one idea, Eastwood has another. Curiously, Eastwood’s studio, DreamWorks (now part of Paramount) sides with the wrestlers; their marketing campaign for “Flags,” replete with war drums and action shots while title cards hype the Battle of Iwo Jima’s Medal of Honor winners, essentially sells the movie as the sort of patriotic spectacle Eastwood spends two hours critiquing and “The Marine” spends 90 minutes being.

“Flags” is unquestionably the better film but “The Marine” may be, perversely, the more watchable. It’s an unabashed throwback to the elegantly dumb action movies of my youth; the knowing homages begin with a prologue straight out of “Rambo” and a storyline not far removed from Schwarzenegger’s symphony of cartoon violence, “Commando” (both share a villain named Bennett, too). It could have been a great guilty pleasure, if only Cena looked like he was having a bit more fun — granted, he’s trying to rescue his wife, but that never stopped Schwarzenegger from cracking lines like “Don’t wake my friend, he’s dead tired,” after snapping a dude’s neck. Even without the requisite jokes, the movie is utterly ridiculous (not to mention highly flammable). Wrestling is known as sports entertainment — not genuine sport, but rather a simulation. “The Marine” may be the first “movies entertainment” — false to its core, but damn fun to watch.

Eastwood doesn’t hit a false note, and he’s made a real movie. “The Marine” is required viewing too, for at least one reason: it makes Eastwood’s point for him.

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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

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

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

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

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