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DID YOU READ

Seven actors who deserve better.

Seven actors who deserve better. (photo)

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We’ve all had this experience before — you go to a movie and an actor you’ve never heard of totally blows you away.

You expect to see more of him or her, then years go by and you see the movie again on TV and realize you have no idea what happened. (Like, say, almost everyone in “Dazed and Confused.”) This happens all too often — here’s a just-barely-scratching-the-surface list of seven performers of recent years who deserve better than their current career purgatories.

03222010_master.jpgPaul Bettany

For a little while, Paul Bettany‘s career was going in a direction that made sense. He played straight man to Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind” and “Master and Commander: The End of the World.” They had an easy, unforced chemistry that suggested years of companionship. Meanwhile, on his, own, Bettany entered the American cinema naked in “A Knight’s Tale” and was suitably supercilious in “Dogville.” But for some reason, shortly thereafter Bettany’s career went to hell — January 22 saw the simultaneous release of “Creation” (about Darwin) and “Legion” (theologically fuzzy archangel brawl), two equally defective sides of the religious debate. Next down: “Priest,” with Bettany tracking down vampires. Lesson learned: dramatic failure equals semi-religious fanboy resurrection?

03222010_heathers.jpgWinona Ryder

Once, Winona Ryder made a tacit deal with the American public to be the go-to alterna-chick, embodying all layers of the high-school strata from pissed-off goth (“Beetlejuice”) to perky cheerleader queen (“Edward Scissorhands”), with stops at “Heathers” and “Mermaids.” She also tried to sum up Gen X’s ambivalence in “Reality Bites” and auditioned with Salinger monologues; she was alienated slacker America. Eventually she drifted from weak, personality-suppressing parts (“Mr. Deeds”) to non-entity indies (“The Darwin Awards”). Despite a strong turn in “A Scanner Darkly,” her cameo as Spock’s mom in “Star Trek” was mostly disorienting. That Darren Aronofsky promises to do (with the upcoming “Black Swan”) for her what he did for Mickey Rourke’s career speaks volumes about how fast she fell, and how unjustifiably.

03222010_enid.jpgThora Birch

Like fellow “American Beauty” co-stars Wes Bentley and Mena Suvari, Birch’s rise and fall from prominence went by shockingly fast (though at least, unlike Bentley, she didn’t succumb to crippling heroin use). Dark and poised, Birch’s flawlessly bratty turn in “Ghost World” should’ve assured her place on the A-list. Instead, she ended up in “Dungeons & Dragons” and has appeared in two Lifetime movies. (One possible reason for her career problems: her dad, who… well, just read it.) Her appearance in the 2002 Moby video below (“We Are All Made of Stars”) reminds us of a time when people could recognize Kato Kaelin on sight, and Thora Birch was right on par. But hey, Dave Navarro’s still with us!

03222010_lyle.jpgThomas Haden Church

Long-suffering comic trooper Thomas Haden Church has been doing yeomen work for a long time now — six years on the sitcom “Wings,” consistent hilarity regardless of how shoddy the vehicle (“George of the Jungle,” “All About Steve,” “Imagine That”), injecting real pathos and humanity into places where it was unwelcome (“Spider-Man 3”). He’s even briefly done the awards-season comeback/reinvention (“Sideways”). Despite this, it seems that Church’s mellow but surprisingly versatile overgrown-blowhard act — Ron Burgundy without the non sequiturs — keeps getting written off as not that valuable. But he’s the real thing and deserves better — let’s see if his starring turn in drama “Don McKay,” due out next month, will do anything for him.

0322010_ophelia.jpgJulia Stiles

The formidably severe Julia Stiles co-starred alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Heath Ledger in 1999’s “10 Things I Hate About You,” an effective above-average teen movie; both would eventually surpass her, which isn’t fair. Stiles knows how to be funny without ever breaking her frown, an asset that served her well; whether drunk booty-dancing or embodying Ophelia in the 2000 “Hamlet,” it worked. (That her dream in “10 Things” was to go to Sarah Lawrence was right on.) Then what (“Save The Last Dance” aside)? A series of uncomfortable romantic movies — “Mona Lisa Smile,” “The Prince & Me,” “A Guy Thing” — and undistinguished “Bourne” supporting parts. That said, casting her as the lead in an upcoming “The Bell Jar” adaptation makes sense — sadly, since it’s effectively a caricature of her range.

03222010_italianjob.jpgSeth Green

In some ways, Seth Green’s career thrives — he created “Robot Chicken” and is the voice of “Family Guy”‘s Chris Griffen, thereby assuring himself a firm place in the consciousness of stoners anywhere. Indeed, with his parts in the “Austin Powers” films and on TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Green’s well known to the two split halves of a generation. But — despite a terrific supporting turn in the worth-watching “Can’t Hardly Wait” and a credible sub-“Ocean’s” turn in “The Italian Job” — Green’s increasingly sporadic ventures into live-action film are unfailingly dismal (“Without a Paddle,” the “Scooby-Doo” movies, “Sex Drive” and, most recently, “Old Dogs”). Live-wire supporting comics aren’t as plentiful as they seem — and Green, with his running start in “Radio Days,” should’ve been a shoe-in.

03222010_laurabush.jpgElizabeth Banks

Though Elizabeth Banks is seemingly a generically pretty blond, to be slotted alongside Katherine Heigl, she’s got a distinctive personality — she played both Laura Bush and Paul Rudd’s long-suffering girlfriend (“Role Models”) in the same year, which are two different kinds of masochism that she successfully differentiated. But more commonly she’s stuck playing the boring blond, a waste of sharp timing that can be successfully applied to comedy or drama. Her comedic abilities seem thought-out rather than instinctual, and that can be an asset (as when outdoing Seth Rogen in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”).

[Photos: “Dazed and Confused,” Universal, 1993; “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” 20th Century Fox, 2003; “Heaters,” Anchor Bay Entertainment, 1988; “Ghost World,” MGM/UA, 2001; “Hamlet,” Miramax, 2000; “The Italian Job,” Paramount, 2003; “W.,” Lionsgate, 2008]

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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.