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DID YOU READ

Space, Balls

Space, Balls (photo)

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You walk out of “Star Trek” feeling giddy, airborne and cleansed, if only for a few minutes, of all mundane worries. This is what summer Hollywood movies are expected to do — or at least what’s been expected of them since 1975, when “Jaws”‘s cavalcade of jolly jolts altered the movies’ economic landscape, for better and worse. “Giddy” and “airborne” aren’t what you recall feeling after, say, last year’s “The Dark Knight” or last week’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” But producer/director J.J. Abrams’ cheeky reboot — or, for those who dare to think long-term, resuscitation — of the 43-year-old science fiction franchise reminds audiences why they fell in love with pop mythology in the first place, while sidestepping the overcooked solemnity that not even the earlier “Star Trek” movies could avoid.

That last kicker aside, I nonetheless pledge abiding allegiance to what’s now officially marketed as “Star Trek: The Original Series,” whose harrowing storylines of intergalactic peace-keeping fed my waking post-adolescent fantasies and sneaked into my nightly dreams as well. But whatever enthusiasm I have toward this newest spin on TOS should be viewed within the following context: I have attended precisely no “Trek” fan conventions; not even on a newspaper’s dime. I do not and have never owned a Klingon-English dictionary. Nor have I worn or been remotely inclined to wear any manner of Starfleet uniform to work — most especially those burgundy, glorified-hotel-doormen get-ups cobbled together for the later “original series” movie spinoffs. Such disclaimers are meant to separate my perspective from those lifelong devotees to all things “Trek,” whose occasionally skewed outlook on life is nonetheless so infused with belief in human possibility that I refuse to diminish their faith with the hoary label of “Trekkies.”

The more fanatical elements of this tribe viewed with advance alarm the prospect of their grail being taken up, if not totally re-invented, by Abrams, who’s got his own phantasmagorical myths simmering as producer of TV’s “Lost” and “Fringe,” as well as last spring’s icky urban nightmare “Cloverfield.” Their qualms will not likely be mollified by the liberties Abrams and his co-writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have taken with Trek’s canonical back-story. (One hint: Watch the skies, Planet Vulcan!) But giving the extremist fans something to complain about seems to be part of Abrams’ merry scheme to damn the (photon) torpedoes and ram home his re-imagined version of “Trek” with the velocity of a professional’s tennis serve.

05062009_startrek2.jpgAnd the volleys come at you, high and hard, from the birth of future Enterprise captain James Tiberius Kirk while his newly-widowed mom barely escapes a dying starship to the growth of young Kirk (Chris Pine) into a thrill-seeking delinquent challenged by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to fulfill his martyred father’s legacy by enlisting in Starfleet Academy. Meanwhile, young Spock (Zachary Quinto) makes his own rebellious way into Starfleet as a gesture of defiance to his planet’s elders, who’d rather he stayed home and taught science. The crossing of their paths is depicted here as a rocky one, with Spock 2.0 openly, even fiercely disdainful towards the brash Kirk 2.0.

Along the way, other familiar personages forming the core of TOS slide into view, including prodigal linguist Uhura (Zoe Saldana), who also hates Kirk on sight (but, unaccountably, knows her way into Spock’s heretofore impenetrable heart). Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) is even more the callow savant with a thicker accent, while Karl Urban is allowed to show only glimmers of “Bones” McCoy’s spiky humanism and John Cho from the “Harold and Kumar” series literally flips, flops and flies as the new Sulu. The most promising spin on the old personnel comes from Simon Pegg, whose master engineer Scotty is more flamboyantly Puckish than the original.

All these characters’ fates are orchestrated, in typical Trek fashion, by a rip in time’s fabric through which Nero (Eric Bana), an embittered Romulan miner, flies from the future to ruin the past — especially for the man who became Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy), whom he blames for destroying his planet. Nero’s vendetta, as with much else in Abrams’ film, seems rented wholesale from 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” but you barely have time to notice the resemblances, thanks to Abrams’ pedal-to-the-metal narrative drive.

Nimoy seems as happy to be on screen as we are to see him blessing this revised edition. But whether you’re a committed fan or not, what you really want to know is how the rebooted Kirk and Spock perform. Pine’s Kirk, a source of some pre-release skepticism, proves to be a welcome surprise, evoking both the peacock swagger and glowering gravitas of William Shatner’s template version. Quinto’s Spock, on the other hand, may take some getting used to. Lots of things come to mind when thinking of the Enterprise’s first First Officer, but petulance and arrogance aren’t the most immediate. Still, as with every other qualm and quirk in this “Star Trek,” things are moving too fast for you to dwell overmuch on them. And as noted earlier, the sheer momentum throws in its wake an invigorating breeze.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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