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MUSIC FLICKS: Cadillac Records

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I remember hearing a lot about Beyonce Knowles gaining a few extra pounds for her portrayal of Etta James in the film Cadillac Records, and then of course, I remember her singing James’ signature tune, “At Last,” at President Obama’s Inauguration Ball–and who could forget the quasi feud that followed (James said that Knowles was going to get her ass whipped for singing her song, but later reneged, claiming she was just joking around)? I didn’t hear much about the movie–released last December–that brought about all these juicy headlines, so this weekend I decided to Netflix Cadillac Records.

The film is about Chess Records, the Chicago-based label that brought us the names of Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Etta James, and the songwriting prowess of Willie Dixon. If you’re wondering why the film is called Cadillac Records, its founder Leonard Chess (played by Adrien Brody), would buy his artists a Cadillac after they earned their first hit record.

Chess Records’ first success story is the rise to fame of former sharecropper, Muddy Waters (played by Jeffrey Wright)–considered one of the greatest bluesman of all time. He teams up with the meanest harmonica player in Chicago (both figuratively and literally), Little Walter (Columbus Short), and forms the take-no-prisoners band, appropriately titled the Headhunters.

Chess first meets Waters’ crew when they set up their amps in his nightclub, all while another band is performing on stage. A melee ensues, but once Chess hears the sounds of Muddy Waters, he’s hooked for life. Chess takes Waters under his wings, records him in his studio, hits the road, and you can probably guess what happens from here.

As an educational tool Cadillac Records is an excellent look–albeit through the eyes of a big-budget Hollywood movie–at the history of blues and rock-and-roll. Muddy Waters’ soulful blues sound gives way to Chuck Berry’s rock-and-roll stylings, which the Beach Boys end up stealing. Later in the film, we also discover, that Waters inspired a group of English kids to form a band who named themselves after one of his songs–The Rolling Stones (you’ve heard of them, right?).

Unfortunately, Cadillac Records wasn’t able to avoid the pitfall of just about every other music biopic ever made, which is: cram as much as you can into a two-hour movie. The interesting look into Chess and Waters’ relationship starts losing focus once subplots about Chuck Berry (Mos Def) and Etta James (Beyonce Knowles) enter into the equation. Sure, both were part of the Chess Records family, and both are legendary names–portrayed by some current big names in the biz–but Cadillac Records starts feeling like an NBC mini-series halfway through the film.

All in all, the musical performances were enjoyable to watch (although the perfectionist in me did get a little agitated when a performer would stray from their microphone and still sound studio-crisp), and I thought each actor did well representing their respective Chess Records artist. I could have used a little less Etta in the storyline and some more Muddy, especially the can’t-take-your-eyes-off tension between him and fellow bluesman Howlin’ Wolf (Eamonn Walker).

As far as music movies go, Cadillac Records doesn’t stray from the blueprint we’ve seen a hundred times, but it does give us a glimpse into the lives of some unheralded recording artists who inspired the household names that Hollywood usually makes movies about.


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.