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DID YOU READ

“Burn After Reading”: The trades say yes! And no!

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08272008_burnafterreading.jpgThe early reviews of the Coens’ “Burn After Reading,” which opens the Venice Film Festival tonight, are out, and they’re up, down and all over the place.

Todd McCarthy at Variety thinks the film finds the brothers C retreating “to sophomoric snarky mode,” bemoaning the fact that the “seriously talented cast has been asked to act like cartoon characters.”

The Coens’ script, which feels immature but was evidently written around the same time as that for “No Country,” is just too fundamentally silly, without the grounding of a serious substructure that would make the sudden turn to violence catch the viewer up short. Nothing about the project’s execution inspires the feeling that this was ever intended as anything more than a lark, which would be fine if it were a good one. As it is, audience teeth-grinding sets in early and never lets up.

Kirk Honeycutt at the Hollywood Reporter is far more positive, though he does caution that “Those who relish this movie might treat this as the second coming of ‘The Big Lebowski’; those who don’t might wonder at a story in which no character has a level head.”

The key thing is that every actor is riffing on his or her screen persona. The guys who pulled off all those casino heists, the smart-cookie South Dakota police officer, the stars of many Sundance films — yep, they’re all idiots. One of the film’s funniest lines comes when a CIA officer listens to a report of everyone’s behavior, including murder and an attempt to leak the memoirs to the Russian embassy — rather prescient that last plot point! He shakes his head and asks an agent, “Report back to me” — he frowns and pauses — “when it makes sense.”

Lee Marshall at Screen International loves the film, though he doesn’t believe much should be expected from it:

A beautifully produced mix of spy story, US zeitgeist satire and relationship drama, Burn After Reading cons the audience into seeing depths – and Fargo parallels – that don’t really exist. The consumate, near-throwaway ending sets the record straight: it’s a feelgood comedy so enjoy the ride and don’t take it all so seriously.

Andrew Pulver at the Guardian writes that, compared to its star presence at the festival, “[t]he film itself may be a bit of an afterthought,” and that compared to “No Country,” it’s a “bit of a bantamweight: fast moving, lots of attitude, and uncorking a killer punch when it can.”

And for Shane Danielsen at indieWIRE, it’s just fine, and perhaps doomed to be so:

It’s a decent movie, undeniably entertaining to watch, but afterwards you struggle to remember much about it beyond a general sense of fun being had — most of it onscreen. Yet even if it were better, even if it were very good indeed, it would still have its work cut out for it. It will inevitably be compared to the Oscar-winning, life-and-death-weighing masterpiece that preceded it, and found wanting.

[Photo: “Burn After Reading,” Focus Features, 2008]

+ Burn After Reading (Variety)
+ Film Review: Burn After Reading (Hollywood Reporter)
+ Burn After Reading (Screen Daily)
+ A tightly wound triumph (Guardian)
+ Personalities Aside, Venice Follows up on a Masterpiece (indieWIRE)

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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.