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“Iron Man 2” and “Princess Kaiulani”

“Iron Man 2” and “Princess Kaiulani” (photo)

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With the release of “Iron Man 2,” the Marvel Comics franchise is officially two-for-two — two thoroughly competent, occasionally inspired yet ultimately forgettable films that promise sly engagement with real-world anxieties, then set that promise aside in favor of corporate intrigue and endless scenes of robots bashing the crap out of each other.

The first half of the original “Iron Man” played on public anxieties about a post-9/11 world in which democratic governments had ceded power to soldiers and corporations, and city-leveling firepower was available to any party with money and connections. The hero, wastrel industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), was a poster child for military-capitalist America — a smart-mouthed rotter who believed in nothing but his own comfort. The replacement of Stark’s heart with a nuclear-powered machine was a mere formality: his real heart stopped beating much earlier.

Director Jon Favreau (“Made”) and his screenwriter Justin Theroux set up a hard-edged redemption fable with goofy political resonance. After a lifetime of cashing checks and disclaiming responsibility for his company’s actions, Stark endured Christ-like solitude and abuse in a Mideastern desert, was reborn a man of conscience, and rebuilt his own image and his company’s (both represented by the suit) and set about deweaponizing Stark Industries.

05062010_IronMan2-2.jpgStark’s ethical reboot was a big bait-and-switch, of course. Jeff Bridges’s character, a bald, glowering wannabe-CEO, tried to set Stark up for a fall and reposition the company to deal death again — and, as is always the case in super-expensive comic book flicks, the story resolved itself with the protracted spectacle of two guys in cool suits whaling on each other. Favreau’s gift for semi-improvised ball-busting comedy and Stark’s Nick and Nora Charles-style banter with gal Friday Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) made the film seem fresher than it was.

You could tell by the good-enough-for-government-work fight scenes that Favreau could not care less about mayhem. But since the film moved fast and didn’t take itself seriously, nobody seemed to mind. “Iron Man” coasted to box office glory on the strength of Downey’s Eddie Haskell grin and mumbled witticisms. (What’s the difference between superhero movies and every other kind of movie? During superhero movies, you perk up when people talk to each other and check your watch when stuff blows up.)

“Iron Man 2” enacts more or less the same story, changing key elements to avoid charges of bald-faced rehash. In place of an intra-corporate rival pressuring Stark to surrender the suit, Stark has two external nemeses: Mickey Rourke’s thug-inventor Whiplash, who accuses Stark’s late dad of betraying and impoverishing Whiplash’s own father and building the Stark empire on intellectual theft; and a conniving fellow industrialist (Sam Rockwell, channeling yuppie weasel Carter Burke from 1986’s “Aliens”) who’s in cahoots with military and legislative sleazoids (the latter represented by Garry Shandling, whose rubbery face-work is the film’s scariest special effect).

05062010_IronMan2-5.jpgHere, as in the first “Iron Man,” Stark’s heart trouble is a compact metaphor for his moral and emotional struggle. Sickened by radiation seepage, he obsessively tests his blood and scarfs raw chlorophyll; the ever-growing network of veins on his chest is as abstractly beautiful as a Piet Mondrian print. But Stark’s cardiac failure is at least half due to depression and self-loathing. Scared of death and worried about his legacy, he numbs his pain with booze, material goods and party-hound excess, carrying on like, well, the pre-rehab Robert Downey, Jr.

That description makes “Iron Man 2” sound a cut above the norm, and I guess it is, for whatever that’s worth. But the resolution of Stark’s struggle relies too heavily on deus ex machina (no pun intended). Theroux’s script fudges its laboriously introduced, every-great-fortune-is-built-on-a-crime angle, much as the first film dropped its Tony-Stark-equals-the-sins-the-military-industrial-complex angle. And the entire thing feels a bit too much like A Very Special Episode.


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.