“The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” “The Losers” and “Boogie Woogie”

“The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” “The Losers” and “Boogie Woogie” (photo)

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For better or worse, we live in the age of the action homage, in which popular filmmakers clutch their self-awareness like a talisman against their fears of the unknown — whether manifested through the sublime referentiality of “Inglourious Basterds” or the neurotic mimicry of “Watchmen.” What to make, then, of a film like Kim Ji-woon’s “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” which initially seems disastrously ill-conceived but quickly develops an unholy energy all its own? You kind of want to hate it — do we really need another goddamned love letter to Spaghetti Westerns? — but dear lord, how it moves.

It helps, of course, that Kim isn’t really interested in making a Western so much as mixing together a bunch of action styles and seeing what comes out. The film, set in 1940s Manchuria, gives us a trio of Korean badasses in search of hidden treasure, each of them seemingly from a different movie — a goofy, motorcycle-riding thief (“The Host”‘s Song Kang-ho, “the weird”), a stoic, cowboy-hatted bounty hunter (Jung Woo-sung, “the good”) and a deranged thug dubbed “the Fingerchopper” (Lee Byung-hun, duh, “the bad”). Not far behind them are Japanese occupying forces and a herd of mounted Mongolian bandits. The overall effect is something closer to what might happen if you crossbred the unhinged aesthetic of a “Mad Max” film with one of those eager-to-please, star-studded 1960s zany adventure comedies, like “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” or “The Great Race.”

04212010_goodbadweird2.jpgIt’s an unwieldy concept, to be sure, but for all its characters and subplots, “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” has an infectious briskness. Kim blocks, shoots and cuts action with both uncommon speed and clarity — two virtues that usually work in opposition, but seem to go together here. When the film works — and it works best during an early train robbery sequence and a climactic, comically endless chase through the desert — it’s like a little cinematic perpetual motion machine. You don’t want it to stop because when it does, you’ll have to focus on that derivative story and on those paper-thin characters. Luckily, it doesn’t stop very often.

There’s a germ of an idea here, too, beyond Kim’s desire to give us a giddy rollercoaster ride (which, let me add again, he does). That aforementioned genre dislocation has purpose: The director posits a world in which national loyalties are fluid, and where nobody seems to know what they’re fighting for. Spaghetti Westerns did that too, but their audiences didn’t need to be told that what they were watching was their own reflection — directors like Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci understood that the underlying nihilism of their characters was a given. Kim acts like he just discovered cynicism — and, unlike with his delirious action sequences, he fails to make it his own.

04212010_thelosers1.jpgI know virtually nothing about the Vertigo comic that “The Losers” is based on, so I can’t speak to how Sylvain White’s film adheres to the “mythology” (ugh) of the original — which, as I understand, was itself a reboot of an earlier DC comic set during WWII. Nor can I really speak to whether White (whose previous film was the step dancing drama “Stomp the Yard”) has brought his own style to the film or just pulled a Zack Snyder and transposed the comic’s aesthetic to the screen. But he, along with writers Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, have done one thing quite effectively, which is to capture that unchecked-id quality that draws teenage boys to comic books in the first place. “The Losers” may not be a particularly good film, but it is unapologetic in its candy-colored visuals, deployment of lame wisecracks and drool-worthy shots of Zoe Saldana writhing in her underwear while bullets whiz all about her. It’s almost endearing. Almost.

But most of the time, it’s annoying. The Losers are a ragtag team of wisecracking CIA black-ops guys who find themselves betrayed by an enigmatic superior named Max (who should probably be a disembodied voice but quickly turns out to be Jason Patric). One blown-up helicopter (and 25 dead children!) later, our guys decide to let the world think they’ve been terminated, opting to hide out in a small Bolivian town whiling away the hours getting drunk and watching cockfights. Enter slinky, slow-motion-y Aisha (Saldana), a mysterious hottie who enlists them to help her destroy Max.


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

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



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.


Self Defense

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


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