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MUSIC FLICKS:  The Rocker (photo)

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I meant to see The Rocker when it hit the big screen last year, but a couple weeks after its release, I couldn’t find a theater (in freakin’ New York City) that was playing it. Um, that’s not a good sign.

Because I’m still waiting for The Wrestler-equivalent of a music movie (sometimes you have to sit through your No Holds Barred and Ready To Rumbles to finally get that gem), I try to catch every music movie I can. So, this weekend I decided to make it a microwave-pop-corn, buy-a-movie-On-Demand Saturday night.

The main feature–The Rocker.

When the film came out, I know many had doubts about The Office’s, Rainn Wilson, being able to carry an entire film on his own. Could the man that plays Dwight Schrute–one of TV’s favorite supporting characters–be leading man material?

Unfortunately, we never find out. Mere minutes into The Rocker, Wilson–in classic Terminator-style–chases down a speeding van of ex-bandmates and proceeds to stab the vehicle’s roof with his drum sticks, before being tossed off into the street. This is just the first of many physical comedy bits forced on us by the film.

For the remainder of the movie Wilson falls, trips, bumps his head, makes wacky facial gestures, and–surprise–even gets hit with the gratuitous groin shot. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

In the few scenes that Wilson is allowed to act, he actually comes off quite sincere, especially in his scenes with Christina Applegate, who plays the mother of the lead singer in his band (we’ll get to that in a second). But all too often, Wilson’s character plays it way over-the-top. In a half-hour Nickelodeon show it would work, in an hour-and-a-half movie, it doesn’t.

In The Rocker, Wilson’s character, Robert Fishman, gets kicked out of the 80’s hair rock band, Vesuvius, right before they sign their first record deal and become international rock superheroes.

Twenty years later, Fishman bounces around from job to job, and flips out anytime he hears the word Vesuvius. After getting fired from another job–because he tackled a co-worker for making him listen to (take a guess) Vesuvius’ new album–Fishman moves in with his sister’s family.

The week before his nephew’s band, A.D.D., is supposed to play a gig at the prom, the drummer bails, and the band is left with no other option than to ask Fishman to step behind the kit for them.

In full 80’s attire, Fishman takes the stage and ruins what seems like a good gig after playing a big-rock drum solo in the middle of a ballad. The band later forgives him and asks him to be their full-time drummer. When Fishman is kicked out of his sister’s house for attempting to take A.D.D. to a gig, the band is forced to practice via web cam, where Fishman plays drums naked. His niece then takes the video clip, posts it on YouTube, and presto A.D.D. gets a major label record deal through the popularity of “The Naked Drummer.”

I’m sure you can guess what happens from here: A.D.D. go out on tour, get their name on marquees, ride around in a tour bus, deal with a sleazy manager, make a music video, and land a supporting gig for guess who?

Ironically, for a film about a rocker trying to escape his hair-rock past, the movie feels like it was made in the middle of the 1980’s. Besides the YouTube clip, the notion of a young band getting a tour bus, a blurb on MTV News, and shooting a music video on a soundstage, all while being controlled by a cliché-ridden manager seems 10-20 years past its prime. If The Rocker was legit, A.D.D. would be riding in a van and selling their own merch.

I could forgive all of The Rocker’s transgressions if, at least, the music scenes were believable. They weren’t. I can’t tell you how much it irks me in movies when someone sounds like their singing through a million-dollar microphone when they’re playing live. Most bands, especially ones that only have a prom gig under their belt, don’t sound studio-crisp while performing live. I also didn’t buy the chemistry of the band–floppy haired-frontman (played by singer/songwriter, Teddy Geiger), good-looking outcast chick (Emma Stone), chubby/awkward optimist (Josh Gad), and of course, ex-drummer from 80’s hair-rock band. It felt just a little more authentic than a band on the Disney roster.

(Spoiler alert)

The logistics of the final scene also frustrated the music lover in me. After Vesuvius is caught lip-synching (speaking of plots from the 80’s) they walk off the stage in shame. The packed arena then screams for the return of A.D.D. who take the stage moments later, unexplainably, playing on their own equipment. Not even the Rolling Stones stage crew could work this kind of magic. (C’mon, just have the band play on Vesuvius’ set-up and call it a night).

Another indicator that The Rocker–more in the league of Airheads than Spinal Tap–wasn’t going to be The Wrestler of music movies was when Rainn Wilson’s character would longingly stare at Cleveland’s Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. (He did this several times throughout the film.) Any rocker worth his weight in Zildijan cymbals wouldn’t dare dream about getting their plaque in a museum until they’ve seen a million faces–and rocked them all.


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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GIFs via Giphy

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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GIFs via Giphy

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.