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District 9-1-1

District 9-1-1 (photo)

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The original “District 13” was made in 2004 and set in Paris of the year 2010, which means if the French are going to fulfill producer/writer Luc Besson’s vision of walled up ghettos, racial and class warfare, and shirtless dudes leaping from rooftop to rooftop, they’d better get their butts in gear. “District 13” was entirely, utterly of its moment; even if problems in the real French banlieues haven’t eased, that moment has largely passed. “District 13″‘s parkour chase scenes and customized hot rod cars would look dated even if its sweeping social changes weren’t scheduled to occur two weeks ago. Yet here is a sequel, “District 13: Ultimatum,” which faithfully continues the first film’s aesthetics and story, a vision of futures past.

Surprisingly, the out-of-time quality wears well on the series. Divorcing the film from its timeliness also divorces it from its inflated sense of self-importance, freeing “Ultimatum” to have more fun with its premise than its predecessor. The sequel is only 100 minutes long, and the first 20 minutes don’t contain even a hint of a plot; Besson and director Patrick Alessandrin (replacing “Taken” filmmaker Pierre Morel) take that time leisurely reintroducing the series’ protagonists — banlieue revolutionary Leito (David Belle) and idealistic supercop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) — in separate action sequences.

02032010_District13-3.jpgBesson and Alessandrin show off this installment’s improved sense of humor immediately in a scene that shows Damien going undercover (in drag!) to arrest a powerful mob boss. No one would ever confuse the muscular Raffaelli for a stripper, so the filmmakers cut back and forth between wide shots of a feminine body double and close-ups of the definitively masculine action hero. The effect, like something out of a Zucker brothers’ film, is hilarious. Once discovered, Damien is forced into a fight involving the rescue and protection of a priceless work of art that’s better than any of the martial arts sequences in the original film.

Morel brought a choppy editing style to the first “District 13″‘s action; he even went so far as to remove frames from impact shots to enhance the intensity of the blows. But stylish editing doesn’t necessarily equate to satisfying fight sequences. In martial arts movies, every cut is a cheat; the fewer the cuts, the more skillful the director, the performers and the choreographers. Alessandrin lets the action sequences breathe, and enables us to fully appreciate the talent of Raffaelli, who serves as his own fight choreographer.

Eventually, a sliver of a story appears, as Leito and Damien are once again put up against a ticking clock and the impending destruction of District 13. This time around, shady government officials try to wrest control of the banlieue away from its rightful occupants in order to turn the area into gentrified high-rise housing. The company that’s been hired for the construction job? Who else but Halliburton (or “Harriburton” as it’s called here). “It’s just like in Iraq!” one character remarks with righteous indignation. “Exactly,” another replies, “except they’re French.”

02032010_District13-1.jpgObviously, this is a film that does not take itself too seriously. Which is good, because no film that takes itself seriously could get away with the things that “District 13: Ultimatum” gets away with, including a stunt set-piece where a car drives up the single most conveniently placed ramp in the history of cinema in order to drive through the upper floors of a police station. That one shot sums up the movie nicely: totally implausible, totally excessive, and yet — totally satisfying.

Parkour, the discipline of leaping, jumping, spinning and diving through one’s environment, doesn’t have nearly the cultural cache as it did in 2004, but it still provides “District 13: Ultimatum” with an endless stream of setups for impressive stunts. Our heroes get into one inescapable predicament after another — like, say, breaking into prison with no discernible plan for how to break back out — then lets them use their parkour skills to do the impossible. It’s a feat almost as impressive as making a movie about parkour seem cutting edge in the year 2010.

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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.

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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.