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DID YOU READ

Critic wrangle: “Lions for Lambs.”

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"Never have I seen such lions led by such lambs."
There seems to be something admirable about how pugilisticly didactic Robert Redford’s "Lions for Lambs" is, with its spoonful of high-octane star Splenda to make the liberal guilt go down. And the film does have its unanticipated fans: Stephanie Zacharek at Salon acknowledges that it’s "self-righteous, didactic, dramatically and visually static and, in places, extremely boring," yet also finds it works:

Redford and [screenwriter Michael Matthew] Carnahan clearly intend it as a call to arms, which explains why the movie sometimes feels like a civics lesson, albeit one given by a moderately entertaining instructor. Still — like a good civics lesson — the picture adamantly spins out questions rather than answers.

Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman writes that "Lions for Lambs is so square it’s like something out of the gray twilight glow of the golden age of television…Yet Carnahan’s writing ignites familiar issues with vigor and snap; there’s audacity in its attempt to seize us with nothing but a war of rhetoric." Ella Taylor at the LA Weekly allows that "The movie is awful — and also oddly touching, even
adorable in its dogged sense of responsibility, its stubborn refusal of
style." "Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs is the clunkiest, windiest, and roughest of the [new antiwar pictures]," writes David Edelstein at New York. "Most of it is dead on the screen. But its earnestness is so naked that it exerts a strange pull. You have to admire a director who works so diligently to help us rise above all the bad karma."

And surprise defender Armond White at the New York Press declares that "As you think along with the film’s presentation of ideas and watch characters caught in moments of moral and political tension, Lions for Lambs starts to articulate the stress of this political era." "Cruise, Streep and Redford do what movie star-artists are supposed to do," he adds. (No "smug"? No "condescending"?)

Elsewhere, a lukewarm Roger Ebert sighs "Useful new things to be said about the debacle in Iraq are in very short supply. I’m not sure that’s what ‘Lions for Lambs’ intends to demonstrate, but it does, exhaustingly." Adds Anthony Lane at the New Yorker, "It winces with liberal self-chastisement: Redford is surely smart enough to realize, as the professor turns his ire on those who merely chatter while Rome burns, that his movie is itself no better, or more morally effective, than high-concept Hollywood fiddling." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times writes that the film "tells us everything most of us know already, including the fact that politicians lie, journalists fail and youth flounders."

"For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the point of all this onscreen palaver is supposed to be," writes Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer. "Of course, we should all be better human beings. So what else is new? And is a time-coded movie talkfest the best way to persuade us?" Dana Stevens at Slate suggests that "Lions for Lambs appears to have been created by someone who’s never seen one of these newfangled contraptions called ‘movies,’ or for that matter, witnessed that phenomenon known as ‘speech.’" Slant‘s Nick Schager adds that "it runs a brisk 88 minutes in large part because it doggedly, frustratingly refuses to truly delve into the issues it brings up, mistaking newspaper headline-based speeches full of tired talking points for thrilling, incisive debate." And we’ll give the last word to Nathan Rabin at the Onion AV Club, who concludes that "All talk and zero characterization, it doesn’t even feel like a real movie. Just because a film’s premise is ripped from the headlines doesn’t mean it needs to feel like an op-ed piece."

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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.