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DID YOU READ

“Sweeney Todd.”

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"These are desperate times. And desperate measures are called for."
"There’s no place like London!" trills young sailor Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower) at the outset of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." And maybe there isn’t, but it does have its cinematic predecessors. Pile the dankest, dreariest sections of Gotham City, Sleepy Hollow and the town that houses the Wonka chocolate factory together, strip away any colors and scatter lowlifes, prostitutes and beggars on the street corners, and you have what the title character of Stephen Sondheim’s musical describes as "a hole in the world like a great black pit," and the setting of director Tim Burton’s goth apotheosis. His able adaptation of "Sweeney Todd" isn’t just dark — it is black on black (with, okay,
generous splashes of red), in look and in spirit, to the extent that
it’s not so much a return to form for Burton as a step beyond what was
once his usual. In the film, the sky never gets lighter than a chill grey, uniformly hideous
aging wallpaper recoils from the corners of ill-lit rooms, people are arrayed
in pallors ranging from chalky to bluish — and the things they do to each other! Orphan abuse, rape, murder, cannibalism — the wicked are punished, and the wronged are punished, and it’s just what they deserve for being around.

It’s all in line with Sondheim’s gloriously Grand Guignol musical, which Burton and writer John Logan have done a workable job of abbreviating for screen (the most notable excision is the prologue, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd"). The barber Todd, born Benjamin Barker and played by Johnny Depp, returns to London after years of exile for a crime he didn’t commit, bent on finding his wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) and now grown child (Jayne Wisener) and taking his revenge on Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man responsible for framing him. When this doesn’t work out, he instead sets himself up above Mrs. Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) pie shop, shaving throats or slitting them to provide his partner with filling for her pastries. "Sweeney Todd" is very much a musical, with songs bridged by dialogue that’s often also sung, and it’s unapologetic about the fact save that its leads aren’t really singers. Depp acquits himself fine, with a bit of the 80s rock star to his voice, but Bonham Carter has to speak sing her way through. Alan Rickman is good as the licentious Judge Turpin, but child actor Ed Sanders, playing the urchin Toby, is so much noticeably better than the rest of the cast that the contrast can be jarring. Mostly it doesn’t matter, because "Sweeney Todd" isn’t shot like a musical — it doesn’t stop and pull back for its big numbers; the singing, varied as it is, is folded matter-of-factly in with the rest of the action.

"Sweeney Todd" manages to hum devilishly along, skimming through the side story of the earnest lovers (who are, in their whey-faced way, creepier than anyone else in the universe of the film) and slipping in some nasty visual jokes involving the assisted sharpening of a razor and another a group of women in an asylum. The slaughter, when it begins, is unflinchingly disgusting, gouts of blood spurting through the air, the tenth throat slit given no less attention than the first. (Between this, "Eastern Promises" and "We Own The Night," it’s been a big year for the carotid artery on screen.)

Still, strange as it seems for what should be a heaven-made match of director and material, there’s a note of discomfort to the film that grows as the ghoulish humor finally drops away. Burton’s always been one for the outcast exterior and the cuddly interior — as his films have become more mainstream, more stylistically impressive and less emotionally engaged, his continued attachment to the sentimental has seemed ever more forced, which is why plenty of people, ourselves included, rebelled at the gooeyness of "Big Fish" and the explanatory unhappy childhood invented for Willie Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." There’s no space at all for softness in the latter part of "Sweeney Todd," and as a result the film seems a little lost, uncertain in what, to avoid spoilers, we’ll leave as a very unhappy ending. In the same vein, the film flubs what might have been its most twistedly poignant segment for an easy joke. As Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett sings "By the Sea," imagining a blissful retirement with her violent love in a coast town somewhere, we’re treated to a serious of "Scissorhands"-bright scenarios in which, to reinforce their unlikelihood, Depp’s Todd glowers and pays her no mind as she leads them on a picnic, a walk along the pier and a day on the beach. It’s funny, but it takes away from the fact that Mrs. Lovett, who, in her terrifying practicality is really more of a monster than Todd, is also expressing the most relatable and sadly deluded human yearnings you get in the whole film. Now that — that is really fucked up.

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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.