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Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming…

Fantastic Fest: And the Hits Keep Coming… (photo)

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“‘Ninja Assassin 2’ will be in 3D with Sprayarama,” director James McTeigue joked before the premiere of the first and so far only “Ninja Assassin” at the Alamo Drafthouse on Tuesday. And there were copious amounts of blood sputtered in the film that followed, a gory but too often creatively bloodless affair that stars Korean pop star Rain as Raizo, a warrior trained from birth in the ninja way before turning against his clan after the death of a female colleague.

How you’ll feel about “Ninja Assassin” will depend on your inherent interest in the masked men (and in this equal opportunity film, women) — throwing stars and bone-crushing punches can atone for cheesy dialogue, but McTeigue makes the curious decision to shoot most of the action in the dark, and the performances are half-hearted. (While a physical marvel, Rain is hamstrung by having to speak in English, though fans of the genre will be thrilled to see ’80s icon Sho Kosugi come out of semi-retirement to play his mentor.)

Not surprisingly, most of the post-screening Q&A, conducted by Ain’t It Cool’s Harry Knowles, revolved around the red stuff — McTeigue took delight in telling the crowd that he thought “maybe I got [the MPAA] on happy hour Friday.” While he viewed his last film “V for Vendetta” as “150 minutes of talking with three set pieces,” McTeigue aimed to make a straightforward action movie with “Ninja” and consulted heavily on a style where the blood would spurt in “a cross between anime and gameplay,” allowing Raizo to pass through the bloodshed after executing one of his victims.

While the Wachowski brothers are once again on board as producers, it’s clear that McTeigue is his own man with “Ninja.” He said his next film will likely be a thriller about the “fictionalized last five days of Edgar Allen Poe,” with a serial killer inspired by the horror author’s short stories in a way the director compared to “Se7en.” “So more killing,” McTeigue surmised, which satisfied the crowd.

09302009_Mandrill.jpgIt’d be interesting to see what “Mandrill” director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and star Marko Zaror would do if they had half the budget of “Ninja Assassin,” but even with limited resources, their latest film is crammed with the kind of thrills that even the best CG can’t provide. “Mandrill” marked a triumphant return for the Chilean duo, who took Fantastic Fest by storm in 2007 with “Mirageman,” the tale of an everyday crimefighter. “Mirageman” has the unfortunate burden of being currently remade into a 3D English film called “Defender,” which coincides with the Woody Harrelson film “Defendor” about…you guessed it. (Fest attendees got a glimpse of a show reel.) It may at least prove an auspicious English-language debut for Zaror, who’s reprising his role for the American version and is an international action star waiting to happen.

Espinoza packs as much creativity into his action sequences as the square-jawed Zaror packs power into his punches — their latest film together, about a suave secret agent, tirelessly aims to please. Although the duo make no secret of their influences — the closing credits list every actor and director involved in the James Bond franchise in the special thanks section — “Mandrill” is a one-of-a-kind spy tale, skipping the backstory of how its title character became a trained killer in favor of showing how he became a ladykiller, taking full advantage of Zaror’s matinee idol looks for considerable comic effect by flashing back to the days when an unsure young Mandrill took lessons from his uncle in the ways of love. Not surprisingly, Zaror received lots of love from the Fantastic Fest jury, who gave him the best actor prize on Monday.


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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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.

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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.