Maul Cop

Maul Cop (photo)

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Even if the early buzz around Jody Hill’s “Observe and Report” weren’t grouping it with “The Cable Guy,” the comparison would be obvious. Like that film, “Observe and Report” is said to be a “dark” comedy. In this case that means that calculated outrageousness, brutalism presented for laughs and easy cynicism passes for daring. When “Observe and Report” fails with audiences — as it will, and as “The Cable Guy” did — the myth will start about it being rejected because it disturbed its detractors. What disturbed me about “Observe and Report” was that the people around me who were laughing could let themselves be suckered by such a lunkheaded, crummy piece of moviemaking.

Seth Rogen’s Ronnie, the mall cop hero, is a paranoid schizophrenic who sees himself as the only man capable of keeping order in the retail jungle. Ronnie seems meant to be a cross between Travis Bickle and Ralph Kramden. He’s all bluster and delusions of sociopathic grandeur. When a flasher stalks the mall parking lot, Ronnie treats the incident as if Jack the Ripper were loose. And he plays it as a chance to make time with Brandi (Anna Faris), the make-up counter girl he’s got the hots for.

“Observe and Report” might have worked if Hill, whose last picture was “The Foot Fist Way,” had presented the film as Ronnie’s paranoid fantasy — which would be the only way to account for the lapses in logic. We’re asked to believe Ronnie would continue to be employed after one of the mall employees has had to take out a restraining order against him. Or that the cop (Ray Liotta) investigating the flasher would put up with Ronnie’s meddling for a minute. Or that somebody who causes the mayhem he does would last five minutes on the job.

But to be able to stylize a movie, you have to demonstrate that you have some notion of style, and Hill has none. Aesthetically, “Observe and Report” is an insult. For 90 minutes, we’re stuck staring at flat fluorescent lighting, drably painted walls and functional furniture. Hill and cinematographer Tim Orr shoot most of the movie in unrelenting close-up, so that the actors are turned into grotesques. This picture doesn’t have a technique — it has boundary issues. It doesn’t matter much with Celia Weston, who plays Ronnie’s drunken mom and who’s an overbearing actress from any distance. But to see a gifted caricaturist like the wonderful Anna Faris turned into a bleary mask of tears and snot, or a palette of cheap make-up, is to feel the director’s willingness to trash his actors. The only cast member who escapes is sweet, toothy Collette Wolfe as a born-again counter girl in the mall food court. She’s a little ray of unaffected sunshine whenever she appears.

04092009_Observeandreport2.jpgRogen may think his commitment to Ronnie’s violence and delusions of courage show his willingness to go all the way. He should be careful. A comic who occupies as much space as Rogen does here can easily come off as a threat. When Jackie Gleason used to shake his fist at Audrey Meadows and declare “to the moon, Alice!,” he always made it clear that his voice was the only thing he was going to raise to her. And in “Knocked Up,” when Rogen left a threatening phone message for the obstetrician who wasn’t around when Katharine Heigl went into labor, the scene worked because it came out of his solicitude for his pregnant girlfriend, and contrasted with the schlubby sweetness he showed elsewhere.

Nearly everything Rogen does in “Observe and Report” is threatening, annoying, taunting, cloddish. Hill shoves his camera in the actor’s face so his double chin wobbles in rage, and generally brings out the worst in his lead. Hill’s notion of pushing the comic envelope is to be obnoxious. But the calculation is pathetically obvious. When Ronnie is pounding away on top of a blitzed Brandi, a puddle of puke on the pillow next to her, Hill is very careful to give Faris a line to indicate Brandi is conscious. But why? What’s a date rape joke in a movie that flaunts how outrageous it is? It’s no surprise Hill views his characters with snotty superiority. If he didn’t, the boob behind the cameras would be indistinguishable from the boobs in front of it.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.