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There’s no such thing as a “critic-proof” movie.

There’s no such thing as a “critic-proof” movie. (photo)

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With millions of parents around the country staring down the barrel of the gun that is “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” it sometimes seems as if we live in a godless universe where the combined powers of children and marketers turn movies into irresistible forces.

Over at Slate‘s “Browbeat” blog, Eric Hynes takes a quick look at 2009’s apparently critic-proof films — those that crunched out an average score of 40 or less (out of 100) on review aggregator Metacritic but scared up more than $100 million at the box office.

Four qualify so far: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Couples Retreat,” “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” (Barely above them on the score average, and making even more, are movies like “Twilight: New Moon” and “Angels and Demons.”)

“Transformers” has wormed its way into the public’s heart for whatever foregone reason, and the same goes for “G.I. Joe.” In both cases, I suspect the public at large (like me) hankered for the good, solid all-American tradition of watching shit blow up in the time-approved fashion: gasoline and loud noise rather than a bunch of fantasy nonsense running around.

The two other films were the biggest of their kind opening in their slots with little serious competition. “Blart” was up against “Hotel For Dogs” and “Notorious” and (my theory) seemed just high-concept-stupid enough to pique people’s curiosity; “Couples Retreat” was up against… pretty much nothing.

But Hynes has a larger conclusion, pointing out that the truly abominably reviewed — “All About Steve,” say, or “Old Dogs” — doesn’t do quite that well, and in general the public tends to skew average. And in Hollywood, as in the larger film world, the mediocre and terrible far outnumber the decent and outstanding, so the public — those members who watch movies based on nothing more than hunches, convenient show-times and advertising — are eminently correct in keeping expectations low and easily satisfied.

Personally, anytime something gets truly heinous, angry reviews and there isn’t an obvious reason — in other words, it’s not a Sandra Bullock movie or a “Saw” entry or a slasher remake — I generally make a note to check it out when I have time. When something gets not dismissive but pissy reviews, that generally means something interesting’s up, whether it be the surreal Lynch-meets-mentally-defective-thriller “I Know Who Killed Me” (16 on Metacritic, and in parts scarier and more resonant than “Inland Empire”), the dazzling “Speed Racer” (a Metacritic 37 and visually one-of-a-kind in a good way) or M. Night Shyamalan’s (intentionally!) funny “Lady In The Water” (36) .

Workaday critics who slog through each week’s release slate rarely can handle too much novelty or weirdness. When a film seems to be going off the rails, the basic reaction is panic and disdain rather than curiosity. In that, they’re much like most multiplex audiences (I don’t mean that condescendingly — my own lust for novelty has been honed by, frankly, watching too many movies). So a truly “bad” movie isn’t critic-proof anymore than audiences are primed for it. But when audiences and critics unite and the reason isn’t obvious, it’s best to take a look.

Which, I’m going to guess, is probably not the case with “Squeakquel.”

[Photo: “Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” 2009, 20th Century Fox]


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.