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DID YOU READ

Critic wrangle: “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.”

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"It's not fair!"
Sidney Lumet‘s last film, "Find Me Guilty," trickled in and back out of theaters last year before most had a chance to even notice that it starred Vin Diesel… with hair! A box office flop, the affable mafia courtroom comedy did have its critical defenders, though others greeted it with a shrug — fine, but nothing on Lumet’s ’70s glory days. But Lumet’s latest, the bleak thriller "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead," has no such indifference to overcome; amidst the overwhelming acclaim (the strength of which we’re a bit surprised by — our own review from NYFF is here) are mentions of it being one of the year’s highlights and one of Lumet’s best in years. At the Village Voice, J. Hoberman deems it "less Sidney Lumet’s comeback than his resurrection…a violent family melodrama that is his strongest movie in at least two decades." "[I]n the context of the glitzy, ADD-edited, steroidally pumped spirit of the modern megaplex thriller, that no-frills Lumet style, revived — triumphantly — in his mesmerizing new crime drama, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, looks like poetry after all" writes Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. A.O. Scott at the New York Times calls out the acting, particularly the greatness that is Philip Seymour Hoffman: "while never for a moment soliciting our empathy, Mr. Hoffman makes us care about this man, the scale of whose ethical failures gives him a kind of negative grandeur." He "is huge but mesmerizing" adds David Edelstein at New York. "[A]s Hoffman comes to a boil under Lumet’s sympathetic gaze, the movie transcends melodrama. The horror seems rooted in an ancient woe."

At Slate, Dana Stevens ties "Devil" back to Lumet’s authoritative heist-gone-wrong work "Dog Day Afternoon": "it revisits that movie’s claustrophobic suspense and deep compassion for its characters—abject, grasping everymen who truly believe they’re only one act of violence away from everything they’ve ever wanted." David Denby at the New Yorker, on the other hand, is entertained but unmoved by the heightened performances: "We can enjoy the mayhem without feeling sorry for any of them." "Ultimately, the film is just a smart caper picture with some good performances," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club, "but at times it’s very smart, and Hoffman’s performance in particular is one of the most natural and unexpectedly affecting that he’s given in years."

Dissenters: Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer is put off by "Devil"’s nihilism: "nihilism has never been my strong suit in the cinema, though I imagine younger cultists of a certain type can never get enough of it." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon writes:

For me at least, the evident strengths and laudable intentions of "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead" (and even the appeal of Marisa Tomei in her undies) are overwhelmed by an implausible plot verging on unintentional comedy and a panoply of Noo Yawk dirt-bag supporting characters who might’ve seemed awkward on a 1993 episode of "NYPD Blue." In an era that’s brought us the dense dialogue and ambiguous characterizations of "The Wire" and "The Sopranos," this movie (like almost all Lumet films, truth be told) has the subtlety and moral complexity of a demolition derby.

And for Armond White at the New York Press: "Lumet and Masterson make it so easy to be judgmental about sub-mental characters. This moral failure goes past condescension into obnoxious, cynical bemusement… Before the Devil is pathetic, a Hollywood tragedy."

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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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.