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The Timing of “Pelham 1 2 3”

The Timing of “Pelham 1 2 3” (photo)

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I first saw Joseph Sargent’s original “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” at Film Forum less than a month before September 11th. The theater’s later revival of the classic 1974 heist movie unspooled two weeks after the blackout of 2003. The coincidental timing of both engagements reinforced what makes Sargent’s film (with a script by Peter Stone, based on John Godey’s 1973 novel) one of the best movies about New York City: a group of disparate Gotham cranks, weirdoes and hotheads come together in the face of disaster. The original “Pelham” may have been made during the era when President Ford told the city, reeling from crime and near-bankruptcy, to “drop dead,” but the passengers aboard that hijacked subway car and the team of negotiators led by Walter Matthau’s grumpy Transit Authority cop proved they weren’t going down without a few up-yours to the quartet of hoods who messed with them.

Tony Scott’s remake, with the slightly altered title “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” completely deracinates the city, turning it into a garishly sleek soundstage where, in typical Scott fashion, cars are chased and blown up, men are pulverized in the middle of Park Avenue in a hail of bullets and the Manhattan skyline is depicted in tedious, tricked-out edits. The moxie of the original characters, major and minor, has been replaced by the sluggish battle between “Pelham”‘s two bloated leads: Scott regular Denzel Washington in the Matthau role and John Travolta as the villain originated by Robert Shaw, whose suave Mr. Blue did crossword puzzles in between negotiating with Matthau on the squawkbox. Travolta’s psychopathic Ryder, who once managed a private-equity fund, checks the price of gold on his laptop in the motorman’s cab of the hijacked southbound 6 train. This broad, toothless vilification of Wall Streeters is scriptwriter Brian Helgeland’s wan attempt to make the “Pelham” update seem timely — a task repeatedly undone by Travolta’s inability to play a convincing bad dude, his enunciation of “motherfucker” sounding more Edna Turnblad than Vinnie Barbarino.

In an article in the New York Times last month, Scott admitted to having never ridden the subway before starting work on “Pelham.” It shows. The passengers — the hippie, the Jew, the pimp, the gay — in the original “Pelham” may occasionally tip over into stereotype, but they are true, recognizable New Yorkers: a tough, irascible, kvetchy group, unlike the cowed, nearly mute bunch in Scott’s film. The Straphangers Campaign — or anyone with a MetroCard — may want to sue for defamation of character.

06102009_FoodInc.jpgAt the end of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” Denzel Washington’s humble transit cop takes the 7 train home, purchasing, as his wife requested, a gallon of milk. No jacked-up-with-growth-hormones leche for Washington and his wife: Inside his shopping bag is Stonyfield organic 2% milk, a purchase that would surely delight many of the talking heads in “Food, Inc.” (especially Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield Farms). Robert Kenner’s documentary forcefully indicts big agribusiness and horrendously lax FDA standards. Our food is, quite literally, killing us, whether through E. coli-contaminated hamburger meat or the high-fructose corn syrup that’s the main ingredient in extremely cheap products stocked on grocery shelves and found in fast food restaurants, leading to sky-high rates of morbid obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Kenner believes people have the power, exhorting us to shop at farmers’ markets — certainly a wise suggestion, but one that may prove difficult for families on extremely tight budgets, like the one profiled all too fleetingly (and never named) that has difficulty affording fresh broccoli after Dad’s diabetes medicine has been paid for. And though a cheery self-sustaining farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley boasts of how well his pigs and chickens are treated before they’re slaughtered for human consumption, meat, for many, is still murder (and is killing, not so softly, Mother Earth); why Kenner didn’t talk to any advocates of vegetarianism is puzzling.


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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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.