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DID YOU READ

“Red Dead Redemption” is More Than Just “Grand Theft Alamo”

“Red Dead Redemption” is More Than Just “Grand Theft Alamo” (photo)

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More than any other game developers working today, Rockstar Games mines the cinema for their inspirations. The heavy hand of Scorcese (and I’d argue Michael Mann, too) hovers over the Grand Theft Auto series. The Houser Bros. don’t talk much to the media, but when they do, it becomes clear that their sensibilities are more filmic than gamer.

Some years ago they took a big risk and turned Walter Hill’s cult gang drama “The Warriors” into a big budget video game, which further attests to their film-love. When “Red Dead Redemption” was announced a few years back, it seemed that players would be getting a highly, stylized playable version of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti gunfighter oeuvre.

But, with RDR, Rockstar’s doing more than reconstituting the DNA of their favorite cinematic influences in playable form. “Red Dead Redemption” reconfigures expectations as to what an open-world game — which generally have no set mission structure — will look and feel like.

GTA games trade in dissonance. The cities that Rockstar has built run off a loop of noise, distraction and chaos. RDR’s vistas are the polar opposite — and might even unnerve players with how quiet they are. Quiet doesn’t equal orderly, though. A gallop along the brush could lead you to a stand-off at a bandit hide-out or into a pack of rabid coyotes that you’ll need to put down.

05212010_reddead2.jpgWith “Redemption,” players get the most wide-open virtual vista that any developer’s ever delivered, and is packed with more varied activity than anything Rockstar’s ever done. Reams of contextual dialogue get muttered as you pass by, hinting at a simmering social fabric filled with gunmen, whores, hucksters and just plain folks who all make the world feel rich.

Into this world steps John Marston, a surprisingly thoughtful reformed bandit who’s being strong-armed by lawmen into hunting down his old gang. Marston’s being forced to play along because the feds are holding his family hostage. One of the more striking things about RDR is how effectively it transmits the idea of strangerhood. Even when tough-gal rancher Bonnie McFarlane saves your life, Marston doesn’t go spilling his guts. He stays aloof.

Even while you’re tipping your hat and howdying every person you meet, you’re still an enigma. And when you’re riding down a night road, your apart-ness from the rest of the world makes the interactions available to the player feel even more chaotic or unsettling. You can sidle up to anonymous campers and listen to them spin their tales, wandering off quietly without saying a word.

Or a panicked rider can flag you down to help stop his innocent friend from being lynched. Hopeful treasure hunters can be waylaid by ne’er-do-wells and you, a total stranger, might be their only hope to surviving the encounter. Depending on what you do in these instances, your reputation can grow in fame and honor, so that you become a Legend of the West like Billy the Kid or Jesse James.

05212010_reddead3.jpgWith the setting of the Old West, a lot of the tricks that Rockstar have used in the GTA games just won’t work. You can’t use the cacophony of the modern day to create a sense of atmosphere. No bubbling urban verbosity or airwaves filled with demented deejays.

“Red Dead Redemption” proves, impressively, that the developers don’t need them. The big-sky tableaus and small boomtowns of a young, raw 20th Century make for a quieter world with different tensions and dangers. Fending off coyote attacks and taking out cattle rustlers shouldn’t feel the same as car chases and drug deals, and it’s one of RDR’s strengths that they don’t.

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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.