This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Darkness Rising

Darkness Rising (photo)

Posted by on

From Bambi’s mother’s death to the destruction of Alderaan, every modern generation is cursed and blessed with its very own big-screen traumas. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth film in the series based on J.K. Rowling’s fantasy novels, contains a doozy; that millions of readers know it’s coming won’t dim its power in the least. Screenwriter Steve Kloves, director David Yates and the familiar, still-sturdy cast play the grim moment and its aftermath for incredulous shock rather than raw sentiment, knowing viewers will supply the latter in spades.

As devotees know, this entry finds Hogwarts in a funk, its faculty and students still reeling from the death of Harry’s godfather and the “I am your father, Luke”-level revelation that the hero is, in fact, The Chosen One. Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) interrupts Harry’s holiday-among-the-common folks (even wand-blocking his flirtation with a star-struck coffee shop waitress) to whisk him across England and introduce him to a soon-to-be faculty member, potions professor Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent, a master of scatterbrained enthusiasm and matter-of-fact venality who gives both modes a workout here). Slughorn once mentored a student named Tom Riddle, who would one day evolve into the dreaded Voldemort; then he tinkered with his (and the school’s) memories of that time, depriving our heroes of opposition research required to vanquish evil.

Dumbledore aims to place Harry under Slughorn’s wing — a double-agent scenario. Harry is game even though the plan’s a lot to ask of anybody, especially a depressive, hormone-addled teenager. The hero’s peers are as dazed and confused as he is; as the central plot unfurls through the movie like an immense, poisonous snake, revealed tail-first, the filmmakers set up and pay off secondary stories: the love troubles of Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), the jealous scheming of Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton, who increasingly looks like he could be David Hemmings’ long-lost rotter of a son). Understandably, some characters get short shrift. Evanna Lynch’s kooky Luna Lovegood, who stole all her scenes in the last movie, gets only a couple of choice moments in this one, and I would have liked to have seen more from Alan Rickman’s Snape, who’s as cranky and droll as he is malignant and tortured. (Savor how this great actor delivers the simple line, “You just….know.” You could bake a pie in that ellipsis!)

But thanks to Kloves’ and Yates’ knack for compression and their frequently deft cross-cutting, this dense and deliberately slow film never feels overstuffed, and it never settles for being a parade of lavish bits. It coheres and hardens as it goes along; it’s a popcorn fugue. The remarkable opening image — the most unexpected creative choice in the movie — is a slow-motion shot of Harry facing an emblematic, expectant crowd, trying not to flinch against a volley of Scorsese-style assaultive flashbulbs. The remainder of “The Half-Blood Prince” never rises to that glorious, near-pulp level. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (“A Very Long Engagement”) favors muted colors, borderline-Rembrandt lighting and extremely shallow planes of focus (a faddish choice that sometimes seems cell-phone-commercial slick rather than dramatically defensible; I’m not convinced, for instance, that close-ups of important documents should be photographed with most of their words blurred out).

07152009_harrypotter3.jpgBut the movie never quite falters, either; it settles into an appropriately gloomy vibe early, then sinks deeper and deeper into it. The heroes are so spiritually battered that they struggle to muster the energy necessary to carry on a simple conversation; in circumstances this dire, every exchange, no matter how fleeting, requires heroic concentration. Like “The Order of the Phoenix,” only more so, this one strives for gravitas, aiming to be “The Godfather” with wands and broomsticks. Muted conversations unfold slowly, with foggy line deliveries and tactically vague expressions intended to misdirect the viewer or conceal true motives — the better to put us in the position of Harry and his allies, goodhearted characters so exhausted by treachery that they don’t know what to believe or whom to trust. “The Half-Blood Prince” isn’t a note-perfect, deep-shallow blockbuster like “The Prisoner of Azkaban” or “The Order of the Phoenix” (both of which struck me as the only entries in the franchise that could succeed as movies on their own terms, without the viewer having seen the other films or read the novels). But it’s the most wrenching of the six films — the stuff nightmares are made of.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

Posted by on


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.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.

Posted by on
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.