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“Killers” and why you should always screen movies for critics.

“Killers” and why you should always screen movies for critics. (photo)

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The press kits given to critics to accompany the movie they’re reviewing are, for obvious reasons, not given to hard truths. They tell us how much everyone enjoyed working with each other, how proud they are of the final film, and generally how well everything’s worked out — predictable, harmless stuff.

But once in a while one will go out of their way to make an extra-foolish statement that seriously shatters credulity, like last year’s “My Sister’s Keeper” (the Cameron Diaz weepy about a terminally ill little girl) kit, which testified that “In films as disparate as ‘John Q,’ ‘Alpha Dog’ and ‘The Notebook,'” director Nick Cassavetes “has investigated the nuances of the human condition, the nature of love and free will and human dignity.” This is not how most people think about “The Notebook.”

Generally, though, such statements are avoided for films that aren’t screened in advance for critics — it’s tacitly understood that the film in question is, most of the time, no good whatsoever, and that it’s only hope is to make as much money as possible before people catch on.

Lionsgate may have well made history in explaining why “Killers” — next Friday’s Ashton Kutcher-Katherine Heigl action-comedy-romance thing — isn’t going to screen for critics (except the day of, in the almost-standard “courtesy screening” that at least saves writers the trouble of invoicing their employees).

05282010_killers.jpgIt’s not, the studio assures, because the film’s a stinker: it’s because they “want to give the opportunity to moviegoing audiences and critics alike to see `Killers’ simultaneously, and share their thoughts in the medium of their choosing. We felt that this sense of immediacy could be a real asset in the marketing of `Killers.'”

Here’s assuming they hope that the kind of people most prone to “sharing their thoughts” online about a movie like “Killers” are also the kind of people that go on message boards and call critics they don’t like out-of-touch-elitists. The whole scenario is nonsense (and would be no matter what the caliber of the movie; 99% of the time, people write in to hector, not to discuss).

The real issue here, as noted by Screen Daily critic Brent Simon, is that studios “don’t really have their finger on the pulse of the fan community”:

For people who are really into films, what the Internet has done – through message boards and a plethora of other sites that report on film – is it’s opened up this world whereby they’re able to see not only the goings-on of production but also of marketing. So when there are no reviews of a film the week of release, that message gets out there. It doesn’t really matter what their interests or predilections are as far the types of films they’re interested in, but people smell a stinker.

12202009_crank2.jpgThey seem to have equal problems figuring out which ones are good, which ones are marketable. The “Crank” films were unscreened, despite being cult classics in the making, and excitably received by some critics. (The same goes for the Neveldine/Taylor team’s “Gamer,” which is actually good fun.)

Nor do bad reviews make much of a quantifiable difference in the first place: people still showed up for “Transformers 2” and “G.I. Joe.” The former screened, the latter didn’t; “Transformers”‘ average Metacritic score is a statistically insignificant three points higher than “G.I. Joe”‘s. There is no real way to explain, based on that evidence, why “Transformers” made nearly $500 million more worldwide and $350 million more domestically. It just doesn’t matter.

This is a backhanded way of advocating something I think should go without saying, but perhaps studios should rethink this policy because there’s no evidence reviews affect box-office revenue. The critic-proof film is now a matter of fact (cf. “Norbit,” “Wild Hogs”); let the coverage be done on time. Everyone’s lives will improve, and no one’s will be harmed.

[Photos: “My Sister’s Keeper,” Warner Bros., 2009; “Killers,” Lionsgate, 2010]


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.