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DID YOU READ

“MacGruber” and “Holy Rollers”

“MacGruber” and “Holy Rollers” (photo)

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If you saw any the SNL sketches or the Super Bowl commercial featuring the nimrod government agent MacGruber — basically Richard Dean Anderson’s MacGyver by way of “The Jerk” hero Navin Johnson — you know to expect from the film that bears his name: five or six inspired bits, surrounded by padding.

MacGruber (Will Forte) is a former super-soldier who spent 10 years hiding out in a monastery following the murder of his fiancée (Maya Rudolph) on their wedding day. He re-ups in service of the good ol’ USA (represented by his commanding officer, Powers Boothe, a forceful, strange actor who’s stifled by this glowering boss part) and tries to thwart a nuclear plot orchestrated by the very man who killed his beloved, an arms-dealer, terrorist and former college buddy of MacGruber’s named Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer, who has aced this kind of material ever since “Top Secret” and is effective if slightly underused here). He’s joined by fellow agent Vicki St. Elmo (Kristin Wiig, whose deer-in-the-klieg-lights reactions are the film’s best asset) and a straight-arrow second-in-command, Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe, turning metrosexual intensity into a comedic style).

Between MacGruber’s fetish for throat-ripping, his agonized post-coital groans, his inclination to prance around with a stick of celery up his ass whenever a diversion is called for, and his tendency to offer blowjobs and anal sex to anyone who’s said “no” to him for any reason, he’s the weirdest, most pathetic action hero since Lt. Frank Drebin.

05212010_Macgruber2.jpgForte plays him with a maniacal gleam. But something feels off. This actor can be hilarious in the right movie, such as the aggressively off-putting “The Brothers Solomon,” yet he’s only sporadically amusing here. It might be because the film, co-written by Forte and directed by Jorma Taccone, makes MacGruber less a deranged-but-gifted loner with an artist’s mentality (a character Mike Myers used to play often and well) but a preening fool.

That creates a disconnect between Forte and his world, which (aside from stray, surreal moments involving the supporting characters, such as the glimpse of Von Cunth painting a portrait of a topless grandma) comes across as a colorless, grimly efficient version of the world depicted in most R-rated, B-list action-adventures. When you see how ruthlessly focused most of the bad guys are, you start to wonder how a doofus like MacGruber could have ended up in their orbit — which surely could not have been the point.

Another related problem: except for the throat-rips and an admirably revolting bullet-removal gag, “MacGruber” stages its violence too straightforwardly. All the action should have been way, way, way over the top, sanctified with gratuitous slo-mo and drenched in fake-looking gore. How else to parody a genre in which excess is the norm?

05212010_MacGruber7.jpgStrike three is the movie’s failure to rise to the heights of similarly conceived but more imaginative spoofs — a category whose leading lights are Shane Black’s ass-kicking screwball comedy “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” (which co-starred Kilmer) and Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s puppet opus “Team America: World Police.”

And from its rah-rah opening credits song (a pale cousin to “America (Fuck Yeah!)”) to its overwrought sex scenes (which aren’t nearly as deranged as the spectacle of marionettes shtupping like porn stars), “MacGruber” unwisely invites unflattering comparisons with Parker and Stone’s loony-bin classic.

Bottom line: “MacGruber” is less a movie than a movie-flavored product, 99 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.

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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.