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The Tough Guy Romantic Comedy

The Tough Guy Romantic Comedy (photo)

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There’s something a little strange about the poster for “The Ugly Truth,” and the sight of the stubbly, gruff face of Gerard Butler, affecting a sly grin and brandishing a heart at groin-level. This is the guy who carried “300” on his back (and maybe his washboard stomach) and, through sheer badness of his assness, inspired as many teenage boy quotations as any movie since “Austin Powers.” In the interim, he’s starred in Guy Ritchie’s crime caper “RocknRolla,” and he’ll next appear in “Gamer,” a film about a super soldier who becomes part of a dystopic video game. But for the moment, here he is in a romantic comedy. King Leonidas probably would have stabbed this dude right through his heart-crotch.

Butler’s a veteran of movie musicals (“The Phantom of the Opera”) and romances (“P.S. I Love You”) but he’s at his best — and certainly best known — as a man of action, and his appearance in a screwball romantic comedy is interesting (if not, shall we say, promising looking) against-type casting. Of course, Butler isn’t Hollywood’s first manful stud unafraid to showcase a softer side. Here are five other noteworthy examples:

What Women Want (2000)
Directed by Nancy Meyers

Nick Marshall is what “What Women Wants” calls a “man’s man.” A chauvinistic, philandering cad, he’d much rather grope a woman’s feminine side than get in touch with his own. So, naturally, that’s exactly what Nick is forced to do when he’s electrocuted and discovers he’s been given the magical ability to read women’s thoughts. Nick is played by Mel Gibson, and the movie milks the incongruity of the macho actor going soft for everything it’s worth. In “Lethal Weapon 2,” Mel cackled with glee as he dislocated his own shoulder just to win a few bucks in an office bet. Here, a brief flirtation with leg wax elicits yelps of agony.

Gibson had done the occasional romantic comedy before (like 1990’s “Bird on a Wire”) but never one without the crux of guns and explosions, and certainly not with this level of emasculation — can you imagine Mad Max apologizing to a woman he’s wronged by telling her she “dazzled” him? Elvis Mitchell once wrote that Gibson had played martyr “more often and more photogenically than anyone since Joan Crawford.” For an actor famously in love with the idea of his own suffering, trashing his onscreen virility may have been the ultimate sacrifice.

The Quiet Man (1952)
Directed by John Ford

Halfway through “The Quiet Man,” flame-haired Irishwoman Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) asks, “What matter of man have I married?” Sean Thornton (John Wayne) is a barrel-chested ex-pug from Pittsburgh, reclaiming his family’s small plot of land in Innisfree. A classic American entrepreneurial type, he’s used to instant gratification. So when he espies the bad-tempered Mary Kate herding some sheep over a lush green pasture, he puffs up his bravado and swoops in for love. He immediately scrapes up against the town’s rigid courting traditions (no touching!), and blunders into a feud with her brother Will (a harrumphing, red-faced Victor McLaglen). O’Hara is coy and cunning all at once, galloping around Wayne with athletic (and flirtatious) abandon before stridently abiding by the courtship book. Wayne lets his macho insecurity burn low, impetuously stealing some kisses but playing obediently by her rules. That is, until O’Hara withholds her bedroom favors and flees the emerald coop. Then the quiet man blows up in the hilariously raucous close, where director John Ford, Wayne and O’Hara pack in so many Irish hay-makers and blarney humor it would choke the Lucky Charms leprechaun. And it’s glorious.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.