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DID YOU READ

Ten Performances We Can’t Wait to Watch This Spring

Ten Performances We Can’t Wait to Watch This Spring (photo)

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Ziyi Zhang in “Horsemen”
Directed by Jonas Akerlund
Opens March 6

The trailer and the premise — a detective on the trail of a killer (or killers) murdering people in homage to each of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — make this look like one JASK-y movie (that’s “Just Another ‘Se7en’ Knockoff”). But then there is the against-type casting of Ziyi Zhang (or Zhang Ziyi; there’s so much continued confusion over how this poor woman prefers to be credited that even the “Horsemen” trailer and poster disagree about it) as a suspect in the case. Western audiences are mostly familiar with Zhang in martial arts epics (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hero”) playing unquestionably moral characters. There’s something quite unsettling — and thus quite interesting — about seeing her cast in a darker role, acting sexily demure while gruff Dennis Quaid tries to interrogate her, or in some kind of weird snuff film, whispering in the victim’s ear, “Do you feel expendable yet?” This movie might have been without her. Thanks to Zhang, it’s one to keep on the radar.

02182009_Watchmen_billycrud.jpgBilly Crudup in “Watchmen”
Directed by Zack Snyder
Opens March 6

It may have been a struggle for Billy Crudup to create the near-omnipotent, often totally naked Dr. Manhattan — performing his scenes in a white mocap suit covered in blue lights had to be so precise that Crudup told Entertainment Weekly that if he “caught the slightest glimpse of [himself] in any reflecting surface, the illusion was crushed” — but the results look remarkable, if the trailer’s anything to go by. Not only does the finished character look exactly like the Dr. Manhattan of the “Watchmen” comic books, it still bears an eerie resemblance to Crudup himself.

Writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’ conception of Dr. Manhattan was a man given the gift of god-like powers at the cost of his humanity. “Why would I save a world I no longer have any stake in?” he asks dispassionately. Crudup and director Zack Snyder’s interpretation appears to remain faithful to its source — that important line appears in the film’s latest trailer — but in seeing the early glimpses of their work, there could be potential here for additional metaphors Moore and Gibbons never intended about the nature of computer generated imagery, which can give movie directors god-like powers in crafting digital performances that are technically flawless and utterly inhuman.

02182009_Hunger_michaelfass.jpgMichael Fassbender in “Hunger”
Directed by Steve McQueen
Opens March 20

Steve McQueen’s Camera D’Or-winning picture from last year’s Cannes Film Festival about the true story of a hunger strike in a Belfast prison earned sterling notices across the board, but everyone I spoke to about the film in the South of France only wanted to talk about one thing: the performance of Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the leader of the strike and the first of ten prisoners who died during it. The performance required an enormous amount of both physical and mental preparation. To approximate Sands’ starvation, Fassbender pulled a reverse “Raging Bull,” dropping more than 50 pounds over the course of a ten-week diet of nuts and berries. For a scene between Sands and a priest (played by Liam Cunningham) that McQueen wanted to shoot in an unbroken 20-minute take, the actors rehearsed 15 to 20 times a day during the week leading up to the shoot. “When we arrived on set we just went straight into it,” Fassbender told the Belfast Telegraph. “Take one, 23 minutes, right through. We did four takes, and they used the fourth.” Judging from the critical response so far, it was well worth the effort.

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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.