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Monsters vs. John Cena vs. Cindy Sherman

Monsters vs. John Cena vs. Cindy Sherman (photo)

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A barrage of quality indie fare this week compliments a couple of seriously intriguing docs as well as some less than stellar genre fare as the blockbuster season of summer quietly inches ever closer.

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“12 Rounds”
It’s something of an irony that Renny Harlin, the man who made grown men cry with the abominable “Die Hard 2,” should scratch out a paycheck at the helm of this derivative WWE Studios thriller with a plot that borrows so heavily from the infinitely superior “Die Hard With a Vengeance.” Sporting the customary condom-full-of-bowling-balls physique, WWE grappler John Cena stars as New Orleans detective Danny Fisher, the target of much ham-fisted ire from international terrorist Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen), who blames Fisher for the death of his girlfriend. With his own girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott) now held hostage by Jackson, Fisher becomes the pawn in a Machiavellian scheme of vengeance comprising 12 elaborate games, each more deadly than the last.
Opens wide.

“American Swing”
As demonstrated by the current economic downturn gifting the movie industry its first billion dollar January in history, troubled times send common folk scurrying for escapist fare, which in the hedonistic wake of the sexual revolution (circa late ’70s New York) more often than not meant sex and drugs. (Rock ‘n’ roll had gotten lost somewhere along the way.) The feature doc debut for co-directors Jon Hart and Mathew Kaufman uses never-before-seen footage to take us inside the infamous Manhattan swingers club Plato’s Retreat, run by self-anointed “King of Swing” Larry Levenson. Splicing together unearthed archive footage with candid testimony from former staff and patrons, “American Swing” is a snapshot of a unique time and place, where simple people came to enjoy simple pleasures, checking their inhibitions (and frequently their clothing) at the door.
Opens in New York.


“The Education of Charlie Banks”
Having debuted last year with what was technically his sophomore feature “The Longshots”, the enigmatic Fred Durst — a man no one could possibly confuse as being warm and fuzzy (though sweaty and hairy, perhaps) — continues to confound expectations with this ’80s-set character-driven morality tale. Jesse Eisenberg, who rivals Michael Cera as the master of the awkward pause, stars as the titular high schooler whose anonymous tip off lands his one-time playground nemesis Mick (Jason Ritter) behind bars for a vicious assault. Fast forward to college and Charlie and his best friend Danny (Chris Marquette) find their perfect world interrupted as Mick inexplicably resurfaces to embed himself into their lives, much to Charlie’s dismay.
Opens in limited release.

“Guest of Cindy Sherman”
The ’80s art boom in New York was both a hunting ground and an unexpected place of acceptance for gonzo public access reporter Paul H-O (short for Hasegawa-Overacker), an art-world commentator who was as quick to point out a no-clothes-emperor as he was to praise genuine artistic triumph. Cutting together several years worth of footage from his constantly running camcorder, H-O’s cathartic documentary debut is a charming, if occasionally creepy, chronicle of his longtime romantic involvement with reclusive art scene titan Cindy Sherman and his (ultimately futile) bid to reconcile his role as an unequal partner (read: less famous) in the relationship.
Opens in limited release.

“The Haunting of Connecticut”
For too long now, the term “based on actual events” has been employed as a bandage for filmmakers who realize “we haven’t really thought this through” and while not limited to the horror genre (hello “Changeling!”), the trend is more prevalent here than anywhere else. In fact, the only thing more perplexing than why we continue to cough up money just to see a film trot out the old Jonsey-the-cat scare is the question of when the clearly quite talented Kyle Gallner is going to land himself a breakout role? Here Gallner wastes away (literally) as the cancer-stricken Matt Campbell at the center of director Peter Cornwell’s debut about a family beset with all manner of spooky goings-on in their storied suburban pad. Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas and Martin Donovan co-star.
Opens wide.


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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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.