When Missing Actors Return to the Franchise Fold

When Missing Actors Return to the Franchise Fold (photo)

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This week’s “Fast & the Furious” is the fourth film in an eight-year-long franchise, but only the first to reunite all four stars from the original cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. (Walker alone starred in 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious,” while Diesel made an uncredited cameo in 2006’s otherwise unrelated “Tokyo Drift.”) Speaking about the film this week with the New York Times, Diesel said “It’s kind of tricky to revisit a character so long after the fact. But it’s very cool on a lot of levels to be able to go back to high school and do it all over again.”

Returning to a long-running franchise after being missing in action isn’t just difficult; it’s also unusual. Even if a film series lasts long enough to permit a star to leave and then return, it only happens with the right alchemical mix of fan interest, career desperation, big paychecks and ego-stroking. Here are five memorable examples:

03302009_HalloweenH202.jpgActor: Jamie Lee Curtis
Film: “Halloween: H20” (1998)
Period Between Franchise Appearances: 17 years, four films

Jamie Lee Curtis starred in the first “Halloween” sequel — which picked up the action just seconds after the original film — but was absent from the third installment (which had nothing to do with any of the others) as well as the three that followed. Like many moviegoers, “H20” pretended those non-Curtis films never happened (“You mean Michael Myers isn’t really the pawn of an ancient Druid cult?!?”) and picked up Laurie’s story two decades later.

Now living with her son (Josh Hartnett) and his terrible haircut as the headmistress of a private school, Laurie remains haunted by the memories of Halloweens past. Everyone tells her to get over herself, and she’s almost ready to move on when — wouldn’t you know it — Michael begins to introduce her students to his knife collection.

Though the early slasher sequences are as stale as the air inside Michael’s William Shatner mask, the screenplay by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg does a nice job exploring Laurie’s mental anguish, and Curtis never phones her performance in. Plus, the finale, in which she gets fed up and decides to kick the shit out of Michael, is totally badass. Too bad the next film, 2002’s “Halloween: Resurrection,” negated the whole thing and turned Laurie back into a victim. At least they didn’t turn her into a Druid.

03302009_UniversalSoldier2.jpgActor: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Film: “Universal Soldier: The Return” (1999)
Period Between Franchise Appearances: Seven years, two films

In “Universal Soldier: The Return,” dead soldiers are reanimated in something called a “Rejuvo-Booth.” By the time this fourth “Universal Soldier” rolled around, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career needed some time in there as well. Van Damme avoided the series’ two TV movie spin-offs, but after a slew of flops, things weren’t looking rosy for JCVD by the turn of the millennium. But if Van Damme’s return to one of his more popular roles made sense, the movie he chose to do it in did not.

In the original film, he plays Luc Deveraux, a soldier killed in Vietnam and brought back to life by a secret government program that turns him into a perfect killing machine called a “UniSol.” A couple years later, Deveraux is miraculously and inexplicably cured and is a normal guy; or at least as normal as a guy who does spin kicks and splits in tight jeans can be. Plus, he’s working for the same group that makes the UniSols, with no apparent moral qualms about helping to create the next generation of corpsey super soldiers.

It’s hard to believe the guy who delivered that heartfelt performance in last year’s “JCVD” is the same meathead who here exchanges flat-as-a-pancake banter with his romantic love interest (“I…uh…saw it on ’60 Minutes!’ “) and gets into overly heated arguments with an evil computer (“You left me no choice! YOU KILLED DYLAN!”). Still, ceaseless stupidity and all, there’s something prophetic about the tone of “The Return.” When the stodgy general comes and shuts down the UniSols, he tells Van Damme’s boss “The big spending of the Cold War era is over,” and he may as well be talking about the budgets of Van Damme’s movies.


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.