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Critic wrangle: “Gone Baby Gone.”

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"I always believed it was the things you don't choose that make you what you are."
After failing to find a satisfactory place for himself in Hollywood as an actor, Ben Affleck has moved behind the camera to helm "Gone Baby Gone," a film which would seem to have all the right elements for his directorial debut: It’s set in Affleck’s native Boston, the city that housed "Good Will Hunting," the film that won him a screenwriting Oscar; it’s an adaptation of a novel from Dennis Lehane, whose "Mystic River" was the basis of Clint Eastwood‘s (over)lauded 2003 film; it stars brother Casey, who happens to be having a pretty good year. And, to our mild surprise, it seems to have all come together, and the critics are fond. David Edelstein at New York, who does note that director Affleck’s "hand is often heavier than it needs to be," declares that the "actors are amazing" and that "Casey Affleck has never had a pedestal like the one his brother provides him, and he earns it." Roger Ebert deems the film "a superior police procedural, and something more — a study in devious human nature," particularly impressed by the way secrets are unfolded, "the way that certain clues are planted in plain view. We can see or hear them just fine. It’s that we don’t know they’re clues." "Affleck gets near-perfect performances from his actors," writes Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club. "Though its procedural goes a little soft in the middle, Gone Baby Gone quietly accumulates in power, leading to one of the more subtly devastating final shots in recent memory."

Nick Schager at Slant finds the supporting character line-up overstuffed with A-list actors, but still likes the way "Affleck’s film eventually laces its routine police procedural plot machinations with a taut and terrifying atmosphere of enveloping confusion, one in which the solutions to the hazards posed by such a world are insufficient, and in fact are often just as problematic as the threats themselves." "If Mr. Affleck hasn’t raised his material to that rarefied level [of "Mystic River"]," writes Manohla Dargis at the New York Times, "he has taken a satisfyingly tough look into conscience, to those dark places where some men also go astray." "As a filmmaker, Affleck is in a coltish stage; his characters veer toward speechiness, and in mixing in so many shots of real Boston faces and places, he leans on found authenticity as a crutch to support what he can’t yet shape on his own," notes an otherwise positive Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly.

Over at the Village Voice, Jim Ridley writes that "In his strikingly downbeat directorial debut, Affleck has created something of a blue-moon rarity: an American movie of genuine moral complexity." Counters Stephanie Zacharek at Salon:

The picture ends on an unsettling, unresolved note. The problem is, you walk away wondering why certain characters take action in a way they think is right, and then just step back lazily and allow the obvious terrible things — the things the rest of us can see coming — to happen. I believe this is supposed to be what passes for "moral complexity," but it doesn’t quite wash.

And our beloved Armond White, who’s on a real tear this week, awesomely condemns the film as "some unholy combination of The Departed and Mystic River" (are there harsher words?) and then rags on Casey Affleck:

I had hoped never to see Casey Affleck in another movie after his whiny turn in Jesse James/Robert Ford, now he’s back—no longer a retard but still whining, still sulky. And this time, he’s morally superior to everyone else. This awful performance confirms the film’s pandering concept.


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.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.