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DID YOU READ

Critic wrangle: “American Gangster.”

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We’re going to attempt to do this short and sweet from the plus side down, as there’s plenty of praise out there for Ridley Scott‘s "American Gangster" (it’s also somehow already hit #148 on the IMDb top 250) though our usual round of critics are more mixed. (As we mentioned before, we didn’t like the film, through not enough to feel motivated to write much up… seriously, it’s kind of dull. And vaguely morally distasteful — Scott softballs the Lucas character, which is understandable in that he’s played by the eminently likable Denzel Washington, but there’s never acknowledgment from Lucas of what he’s doing, and it comes off as a bit ick when the film finally decides who its bad guys are. But we digress…)

"One must applaud American Gangster as the kind of socko [socko!] entertainment many people thought Hollywood filmmakers had become incapable of. It is not to be missed," writes Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer in what must count as a rave, if one filled with many incredulities. Roger Ebert gives the film four stars and adds a few accolades for Russell Crowe: "This is an engrossing story, told smoothly and well, and Russell Crowe’s contribution is enormous." J. Hoberman at the Village Voice adds that "Ambitious as American Gangster is, it’s well suited to Denzel Washington’s particular star quality — “the circumspect badass." "Normally, Scott loves his flash-bang setpieces," writes Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club, "but he proves equally adept at low-key verisimilitude and long-form storytelling, the kind that sprawls out over years of incidents that only gradually add up to a powerful whole."Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly finds that the film "is meticulous and detailed, a drug-world epic that holds you from moment to moment, immersing you in the intricate and sleazy logistics of crime. Yet the movie isn’t quite enthralling; it’s more like the ghost version of a ’70s classic." He puts some of that blame on Washington’s shoulders, as does David Edelstein at New York, who suggests that the filmmakers’ "ambition is out there. But for all the sprawl, American Gangster feels secondhand. It’s like Scarface drained of blood, at arm’s length from the culture that spawned it." Seconds Slate‘s Dana Stevens (who still notes that the film is "unassailably well-crafted"), "American Gangster… never reconciles its desire to be the black Scarface — a bloody, balls-out fantasy of crime as a form of ethnic empowerment — with its aspiration to be something weightier: a grittily realistic treatise on race, capitalism, and social mobility in America."

David Denby at the New Yorker deems the film "a febrile cops-and-robbers picture that has been scaled as an epic," but adds that "But none of this devastation alters the approving portrayal of Frank. After a while, the shallowness of his characterization and the movie’s glib impassivity become a little unnerving." Glenn Kenny at Premiere adds that "the new perspective Scott and [screenwriter Steven] Zaillian want to bring to this material never gels convincingly, and despite some effective set pieces, a cast of memorable faces and attitudes, and evocative cinematography by Harris Savides, this would-be epic feels tired and rote."  Stephanie Zacharek at Salon bemoans that way the film "offers only the stingiest platform for its actors, and as a piece of
storytelling — built on the foundation of a great story — it’s an
epic that’s been sliced and diced into so many little morsels that
almost nothing in it has any weight." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times
calls both of the leading men "irresistible," though for her that is
"as much part of the movie’s allure as its problem… [Scott] distracts
and entertains until the divide between his seriousness of purpose and
the false glamour that wafts around American gangsters, and invariably
trivializes their brutality, becomes too wide to breach."

Armond White at the New York Press declares Scott an "ultrahack." (We don’t dislike Scott, but we can’t help ourselves: Heh.) He goes on to writes of the film’s "innumerable gangster movie cliches" that it’s "dubious historicism is as fanciful as Gladiator but the relation to modern social crisis makes it far more insulting. It ‘verifies’ those crime stories through which pop media redefined American moral and social issues — and the Western lost its primacy." And we’ll let Nick Schager at Slant have the last word: "Not only is American Gangster dumb as a rock, but it’s also far too convinced of its import to be any fun. Except, that is, in unintentional ways, and there are quite a few of those to be found."

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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.