DID YOU READ

Empty Calories

Empty Calories (photo)

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Director Guy Ritchie’s talent for stirring violence and barely concealed homoeroticism remain very much on display in “Sherlock Holmes,” his first period piece and most flagrant effort to start a new franchise. But for all the film’s wit and zing, there’s no momentum — we get a series of stirring, entertaining scenes, but they never add up to a complete story. It’s a series of desserts with no main course.

Robert Downey Jr. stars as an eccentric, cerebral Holmes whose fighting style reminds us why some call boxing “the sweet science.” (One of Ritchie’s coolest moves is to break down the sequence of blows with which Holmes plans to subdue his opponent before the sleuth actually does so.) Holmes’ longtime companion… make that bosom buddy… make that close friend, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), is getting married and moving out of their Baker Street digs, but Holmes barely has time to pout, since it appears that Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a sinister practitioner of the occult, has somehow resurrected himself following his recent execution and is once again terrorizing London.

“Sherlock Holmes” doesn’t expect you to solve the case — there are tons of throwaway moments that wind up being important clues that the movie doesn’t explain until Holmes’ big summation speech at the end — and besides, the real mystery here is how a movie can be so exciting and so inert at the same time.

12232009_SherlockHolmes2.jpgThe presence of Rachel McAdams as a notorious woman from Holmes’ past is also puzzling; she’s an interesting young actress, but completely miscast. For a 19th century dark lady, she’s too much the spunky girl. (Eddie Marsan of “Happy-Go-Lucky” fares better as the bumbling Inspector Lestrade.)

Holmes’ legendary nemesis Professor Moriarty is threaded throughout the film in an obvious set-up for a sequel, and while the chemistry between Downey and Law makes such a prospect promising — Law gives one of his most relaxed and engaging performances ever — whoever’s responsible for “Sherlock Holmes 2: The Quickening” needs to let the characters breathe and the story build in what will, with any luck, be a less frenetic movie than this one.

Some critics are savaging Nancy Meyers’ “It’s Complicated” for being wealth porn in an era of economic downturn, but that hardly seems fair — would you have denied Depression-era audiences such love-among-the-mega-rich spectacles as “Midnight” (1939) or “My Man Godfrey” (1936)?

The movie has a bigger elephant in the room, but more on that in a moment. The farcical plot centers around Jane (Meryl Streep), who kicked out her husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) years earlier for cheating on her. Now, she owns a successful bakery while he has a hot young trophy wife (Lake Bell) and a rambunctious stepson. On a trip to New York for their son’s college graduation, Jane and Jake have a few drinks, get nostalgic and wind up engaging in a mutually satisfying one-night stand.

12232009_ItsComplicated8.jpgSuddenly, these friendly exes are sneaking around having an affair, and while Jake considers leaving Wife #2 for the original model, Jane finds herself being courted by Adam (Steve Martin), the nice-guy architect who’s renovating her kitchen. (And this isn’t a “Brothers”-style renovation, where the kitchen goes from non-existent to functional; in Meyers-land, a phenomenal kitchen must be turned into a gargantuan one.)

Here’s the elephant that the movie never addresses: What Jake obviously loves more than either wife is the cheating. He did it to Jane before, and now he’s doing it to the second wife (who has a name, but the movie dehumanizes her so much there’s no point in looking it up). Jane even gets a tacit thumbs-up for the affair from her therapist, but it should be obvious to her that what’s really stoking their liaisons is the fact that they’re on the sly. And the character, as presented (and certainly as portrayed by Streep), should be smart enough to figure that out, especially when Jake starts talking about remarriage.

Streep and Baldwin have tremendous chemistry, while poor Martin does what he can with what amounts to the Ralph Bellamy role, and the three of them make this bit of inconsequential fluff far more fun than it has any right to be. Students of corporate synergy will love the fact that the Universal release features two of NBC’s biggest stars — Baldwin and John Krasinski — blowing pot smoke into each other’s mouths; top that, Disney.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.