2007: The Awesomest Action Scenes

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By R. Emmet Sweeney

IFC News

[Photo: “Eastern Promises,” Focus Features, 2007]

With as many mindless explosions and shootouts that the film industry churns out every year, there are almost more mindless condemnations of them. So we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the technical expertise and genuine imagination that are needed to create these so-called empty-headed exercises in bloodsport.

“Eastern Promises,” directed by David Cronenberg

Scene: Bathhouse Knife Fight

Courtesy of Viggo Mortensen (clad only in his tattoos) and the visual imagination of David Cronenberg comes this animalistic brawl in a steam room. Mortensen is Nikolai, a stoic bodyguard just inducted into the higher ranks of the Russian mob, whose boss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) doubts his loyalty and sets him up to be disposed of. Once Nikolai is isolated in a bathhouse, two machete-wielding men corner him in the steam. As Paul Newman learned in “Torn Curtain,” it’s difficult to kill a man, even a naked one. Almost the exact opposite of the “Bourne” trilogy’s fleet-footed edits, this scene is deliberately slow — paced so every chest heave, blood spurt and eye poke is documented — squeezing every last breath out of its thugs and asking us to enjoy it.

“Exiled,” directed by Johnnie To

Scene: Apartment Complex Shootout

Led by the stone-faced Blaze (Anthony Wong), the hunted exiles recuperate at the local backdoor doctor’s place, only to find that their mobster foes have come to get sewn up at the same joint. Blaze and his pals hide behind the makeshift hospital curtains as foe Boss Fay (Simon Yam) gets a bullet plucked out of his groin. Then, in a feast of slow motion operatics, the fabric is tossed aside, the lead flies, the shooters pirouette and the good guys rush outside in time to see their colleague Wo sacrificed mid-courtyard on a blood stained tarp, which the group tears down in a brilliant piece of tragic choreography.

“Live Free or Die Hard,” directed by Len Wiseman

Scene: F-35 Fighter Jet vs. 18-Wheeler

Plot doesn’t matter! In a spectacularly insane scene that could only be conceived during a sugar-fueled childhood argument, tough guy John McClane (Bruce Willis) battles an F-35 fighter jet with his own beat-up 18-wheeler. Grunting as if he’s passing a stone, McClane maneuvers his steel chariot up an elevated freeway as the F-35 turns the big rig into a convertible with an army’s worth of ammunition. McClane’s bald head shimmers with the top down until the freeway collapses … and he leaps on the plane which is headed for destruction! Werner Herzog is fond of using the term “ecstatic truth” when describing his films — this scene embodies what could be called ecstatic untruth.

“The Bourne Ultimatum,” directed by Paul Greengrass

Scene: Rooftop Chase

It’s a balmy day in Tangiers, and Mr. Bourne (Matt Damon) has to save the life of Nicky (Julia Stiles), who’s in the path of one of those robotic psychopathic killers the CIA likes to churn out. Instead of a starter’s gun, the race starts with a car bomb and follows the two agents’ sprint through twisting city streets, brittle apartment windows and closely packed rooftops with bristling intensity until they meet in a cramped bathroom, utilizing whatever household appliances can inflict the most damage. Greengrass’ controversial editing style, which cuts shots to impressionistic shreds, works wonderfully here to create a sequence of nigh unbearable tension.

“Hot Fuzz,” directed by Edgar Wright

Scene: Village Shootout

Combining every action movie cliché into one epic shootout, Capt. Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) trots into the town of Sandford to dole out bloody justice to its quaintly evil inhabitants. Both parody and homage, director Edgar Wright utilizes pointless whip pans, lens flares and quick cutting to ape every blockbuster in recent memory, with “Bad Boys 2” being the major touchstone. A gun totin’ spinster is taken down by a car door, the venom-spitting priest screams “Jesus Christ!” upon taking a slug in the shoulder and after shooting his dad in the foot (scored to a slo-mo groan), doughy deputy Butterman (Nick Frost) enacts his action flick-fueled fantasies with a tart “yeah, motherfucker!”


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

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



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.


Self Defense

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


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