DID YOU READ

Great moments in trailer failure: “After.Life.”

Great moments in trailer failure: “After.Life.” (photo)

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If your trailer can’t win a multiplex audience over — if, in fact, it incites active derision — you’re in serious trouble. Such proved to be the case this weekend with “After.Life,” the upcoming, oddly punctuated Christina Ricci-Liam Neeson horror movie (or whatever it actually is — it’s hard to tell). The “After.Life” trailer was running in front of “Cop Out,” not a hard crowd to win over — no one who shows up for “Cop Out,” myself included, is setting the bar terribly high. If you ever want to assess how a movie is getting marketed, you could do a lot worse than simply sit in a darkened theater and listen to the audible reactions. In an era of widespread multiplex rudeness, you don’t have to do much to make people respond.

[“Cop Out,” for the record, was much funnier than I’d expected — despite the dismal reviews, there’s a reason the movie performed respectably in the box office.]

Though it’s unwise to extrapolate too much from trailers, which tend to err on the side of the actively deceptive to pack in audiences, what’s amazing in the case of “After.Life” is how apparent it is that there isn’t enough footage to deceive. All you’ve got is that Christina Ricci may or may not be dead, Liam Neeson may or may not be a creep and Justin Long is without question an ineffectual boyfriend (between this and “Drag Me To Hell,” Long’s career as the disposable horror boyfriend is really taking off).

In the past few months, I’ve heard a few trailer reactions that stood out — the woman who said loudly about the “When In Rome” trailer (one of the dumber high-concept synopses of late, one that seemed to actively assume everyone watching is an idiot) that “that looks good.” More presciently, there were the sounds of active confusion over the “Nine” trailer. It’s like numbers polling for amateurs.

The bar is not very high for horror trailers: all you really need to do is keep the lights down, the cleavage up and throw in one last shock cut before you fade out, and you’re pretty much on your way to a $15 million weekend. (The audience for baseline-competent horror movies is nothing if not consistent and easy to keep coming back to the well.) So why do audiences (or at least my audience — this is obviously not a scientific survey) find it more risible than usual?

03302010_sorcerer.jpgThe main problem with the “After.Life” trailer is that there’s no big scare. It’s unusually muddled, starting in the middle, flashing back to what happens before Ricci’s accident and then implying Liam Neeson will be defeated — yet somehow managing to deliver no tension. There’s also something inherently ridiculous about the whole “are they did or just being deceived” premise — metaphysical horror movies, as a rule, are not a terribly popular genre. No matter how off-the-beaten-path your film is, it helps to sell it like any other.

Saddest of all — this trailer can’t get as much of a buzz out of the audience as freakin’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” (It’s a woeful day indeed when an old Disney cartoon chestnut is reappropriated as some kind of chasing-the-“Harry Potter”-gold vehicle. Why’d they even need the name?)

Here it is. What happened, Ricci/Neeson?

[Photos: “After.Life,” Anchor Bay, 2009; “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Disney, 2010]

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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.