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“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.


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.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.