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Dead Alive: Bringing Popular Characters Back to Life in Sequels

Dead Alive: Bringing Popular Characters Back to Life in Sequels (photo)

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Fans of the gleefully excessive Jason Statham action film “Crank” know that it concluded with an impressively ballsy ending: Statham’s Chev Chelios gets his revenge but — SPOILER ALERT! — falls out of a helicopter in the process. In “Crank”‘s final shot, he falls into a car, bounces on to the pavement, twitches and… dies.

It was certainly a surprise — a pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless — when the IFC.com staff first got word of a sequel, this week’s “Crank: High Voltage.” Statham was pretty clearly not alive at the end of that first movie, but, as the sequel’s poster puts it: “He Was Dead… But He Got Better.”

Chelios is not the first. Hollywood has a long history of bringing back popular dead characters in sequels. Here’s a look at five commonly used techniques:

04132009_CitySlickers2.jpg“He’s My Twin!”
Jack Palance in “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold”

As grizzled cattle driver Curly in “City Slickers,” Jack Palance had a signature monologue about the meaning of life. He tells Billy Crystal’s character Mitch that the secret to happiness is to find “just one thing” you truly care about and to pursue that with every fiber of your being. When Crystal asks what that thing is, Palance replies, “That’s what you have to find out.”

In the sequel, playing Curly’s heretofore unmentioned twin brother Duke, he imparts a less poetic but far more insightful glimpse into an actor’s motivations. As Duke in “City Slickers II,” Palance reveals that “just one thing” isn’t nearly as important as one other thing: gold. It’s a pretty materialistic message, but look at it this way: Palance is just being honest about why he returned to play Curly’s ghost, watch Billy Crystal have sex with his wife and generally crap all over the career-capping performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Palance is fine as Duke, still grizzled, still full of gravitas, if a bit less invested than he was in the original. But who could blame him? There’s no doubt he — and really, everybody in the cast — was just searching for a nice fat paycheck.

See also: Chow Yun-Fat as his twin brother in “A Better Tomorrow II.”

04132009_AlienResurrection.jpg“She’s My Clone!”
Sigourney Weaver in “Alien: Resurrection”

Let’s give credit where credit’s due: bringing a dead character back to life as a clone is maybe the cheapest ploy in the risen-from-the-grave playbook, but at least “Alien: Resurrection” writer Joss Whedon used the gimmick to interesting effect — the only interesting effect, really, in a movie full of uninspiring computer-generated ones. Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley killed herself at the end of “Alien3” to destroy those nasty facehuggers once and for all, but we all know that when there’s more money to be made, there’s no such thing as once and for all. So for the fourth “Alien,” the real Ripley stayed dead while military scientists cloned her out of a drop of blood in order to harvest the alien embryo she was smuggling inside her intestines for most of the previous film.

Somehow, the procedure mixes the clone’s DNA with the alien’s, creating a Ripley vastly different from the one we knew in the rest of the series. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet doesn’t make much time for soul-searching amidst all the extra-terrestrial vivisections, but Weaver’s performance is still suitably alien: speaking in a eerie monotone and occasionally pausing in the middle of chase scenes to writhe on the ground and note “I hear them. It’s the queen! And she’s in pain.” No kidding, she’s in pain; she’s trapped in a dreadful sequel. But there’s something about that weird Ripley/Alien hybrid that strikes a nerve, one that Whedon continued to tickle in similar storylines about twisted versions of beloved characters on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

See also: Temuera Morrison as Commander Cody and an entire army of Jango Fett clones in “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

“He’s Dead! But We Can Bring Him Back To Life!”
Leonard Nimoy in “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock”

If you’re really going to kill a popular character, it helps to have a loophole. That way, if you do decide to make another movie, you’ve already built in a plausible way to bring said character back. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” killed off Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, but it kind of did it with its fingers crossed. He dies of radiation poisoning in the Enterprise’s engineering section, but before he does, he gives Dr. McCoy some kind of Vulcan mind meld and gravely intones the word “remember.” And after he does, Admiral Kirk sticks his body inside a photon torpedo tube and deposits it on the newly formed Genesis planet with its remarkable regenerative powers.

It all sets up the plot of “The Search For Spock,” where Kirk needs to take Spock’s Vulcan katra (or “living spirit”) out of a befuddled McCoy and reunite it with his revived but rapidly aging body, which is stranded on Genesis. Once they recover Spock and return him to the Vulcan homeworld, he can undergo something called fal-tor-pan (loosely translated, it means “convenient alien ritual”) to merge his body and mind. A highly illogical turn of events to be sure, but you can’t deny that “Wrath of Khan” at least sowed the seeds for Spock’s return. Plus, it sets up that great finale, where an alive-but-confused Spock struggles to remember Kirk and to comprehend the sacrifice his friends made to save him. Spock’s moment of recognition (“Jim. Your name is Jim.”) is so powerful, you’re left awfully glad the pointy-eared guy was good to his word on the whole “live long and prosper” thing.

See also: Jennifer Garner, dead in “Daredevil” and brought back to life in the spin-off “Elektra.”

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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