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On the Notorious B.I.G. Screen

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Just had a chance to see it for the first time yesterday, here’s my official mooovie review:

Considering we’re not too far removed from critically acclaimed biopics about Ray Charles (Ray) and Johnny Cash (Walk The Line), Notorious, a film about Christopher Wallace (aka Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls) might seem premature. Keep in mind though that the world has been without the Notorious B.I.G. longer than it has Charles and Cash, so maybe the time was just right?

(left: How does Notorious stack up against other music movies? Well…)

Like Ray, Walk The Line, La Bamba, or even Walk Hard–the film that parodies these movies–Notorious falls into the normal trappings of a music movie: subject gets picked on, turns his struggle into art, and has a definitive breakthrough moment, in this case, it’s Biggie (Jamal Woolard) reigning supreme in a sidewalk freestyle battle in Brooklyn. From there we also get the run-of-the-mill “first” concert scene, where Wallace is hissed and heckled, only to be adored seconds later as he rips into “Party and Bullshit.” And a music movie wouldn’t be complete without a scene in a recording studio where (insert artist’s name here) performs their signature hit for a smiley-faced producer nodding with approval through the control room window.

Notorious–as most motion pictures about music do–attempts to sum up an entire body of work in just two hours. Because of that, every scene seems to mark a profound moment in Biggie’s life, giving the film–what I call–the “Cold Stone Creamery Effect” (one scoop of the densely rich ice cream is delicious, but by the third bite you want to throw it all up cause it’s just too sweet). With an over abundance of profundity we hear Puff Daddy (Derek Luke) speaking only in motivational quotes and Mrs.Wallace (Angela Bassett) delivering over-the-top dramatic dialogue every chance she gets.

Because I’m familiar with the era of hip-hop in which Biggie rose to fame, I could easily read between the lines, but someone not familiar with his career may have a hard time following (and understanding) certain events, especially how the East Coast vs. West Coast feud got so out of hand–which Notorious needed to develop a lot more than it did.

Without question, the highlight of Notorious is Jamal Woolard’s spot-on performance. If you close your eyes, he is the Notorious B.I.G.–delivery, swagger, lisp and all. Besides Angela Basset, Notorious is also free of any big-name actors, who do a fine job of keeping the focus on the story. I’m sure it would have been easy to enlist a well-known, hip-hop artist/actor to star in the film, but the rags-to-riches tale is tough to tell with someone who has already made it to the top in real life (you think Rocky would have been Rocky if Burt Reynolds starred in it?).

Not surprisingly, the only time I felt a little twinge in my tear ducts was when Notorious used real-life video clips. The biggest downfall of any movie about a music legend is that it’s damn near impossible to duplicate someone who was one in a million. Why would I pay to see a movie about Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, or Christopher Wallace’s life story when I could just put on a pair of headphones and hear them tell it to me?


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.


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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.”


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. 


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.