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DID YOU READ

“Robin Hood” and “Looking For Eric”

“Robin Hood” and “Looking For Eric” (photo)

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There are two kinds of bad films: actively bad and passively bad.

Actively bad movies are engaging. They’re technically competent but utterly nonsensical (and/or offensive), or else so astoundingly inept in every conceivable way that they’re mesmerizing. The greatest actively bad films think they’re masterpieces and carry themselves with an unearned aura of importance. But whatever subgroup of active badness a film falls into, it’s fun. It grabs you. It has personality, attitude, a sense of life.

The passively bad film offers no such compensations. It’s jumbled, tangled, sluggish, with different impulses working at cross-purposes and canceling each other out. It never gets a handle on what it wants to say or why it wants to say it, and it has a tendency to pander. Watching a passively bad film is like trying to swim through Jell-O. It wears you out and saps your spirit. By the end, you feel deflated and defeated, as if you’ve spent several hours coolly waiting in line at a bus station or doctor’s office or the DMV only to have the functionary behind the glass put up a “Closed” sign and tell you to try again tomorrow.

Passive badness, thy name is “Robin Hood.”

05122010_robinhood3-1.jpgDirected by Ridley Scott and written by Brian Helgeland (“L.A. Confidential”), this “Robin” wants to be a gritty historical epic laden with Wikipedia factoids, “Godfather”-style intrigue, and people with oily hair and bad teeth (when this film’s Robin Hood gets invited to a nice dinner, he’s asked to take a bath first because he smells). At the same time, it wants to be a popcorn movie stocked with bawdy humor, gym-chiseled hunks and “crowdpleasing” moments (Russell Crowe’s Robin zaps foes with his bow-and-arrow from a half-mile off; Cate Blanchett’s Maid Marion gets pawed by a would-be-rapist soldier and dispatches him with a face kick).

I don’t object to either mode. Nor do I object to a film trying to fuse them; it’s been done before, with varying degrees of success (“The Last of the Mohicans,” “Queen Margot,” “Elizabeth,” “Rob Roy”). Unfortunately, “Robin Hood” fails to reconcile the two modes and can’t commit to either.

Remember in all those other Robin Hood films how Robin would assemble an eccentric band of merry men, steal from the rich and give to the poor, swing on ropes and win archery contests and the like? There’s little of that here. Russell Crowe’s Robin isn’t even the historically familiar Robin character, Robin of Loxley. He’s Robin Longstride, an archer working his way back from the Crusades in the employ of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), a kind man who dies fighting the French. Our Robin assumes the identity of Robin of Loxley, a dying fellow soldier who asks our Robin to carry a sword belonging to his aged, blind father-in-law, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow), home to the family’s farm. Our Robin returns to England — helping prevent the dead king’s crown from being filched by Frenchmen in the process — and assumes the other Robin’s identity. This leads to a “Return of Martin Guerre”-type situation wherein our Robin strolls around the community posing as Robin of Loxley and everyone sort of collectively agrees to pretend that he is that Robin, even though, to my knowledge, Sir Walter Loxley is the only blind character in the picture.

05122010_robinhood4-1.jpgMeanwhile, the dead king’s spoiled, selfish brother John (Oscar Isaac) contrives to marry his French mistress, Angouleme (Lea Seydoux), and pay off the nation’s war debts by taxing the hell out of the peasantry. Falling at it does some 40 minutes into the film’s nearly two-and-a-half hour running time, you might expect the king’s treasury-fattening gambit to set up the familiar, appealing tale of Robin Hood as justice-seeking folk hero. But it doesn’t. Every classically Hoodian situation is encrusted with multiple layers of historical parentheses — and the parentheses are what Scott and Helgeland are really interested in. The king’s misuse of his power to tax is treated less as audience provocation than a pretext to show how medieval governments paid for their foreign adventures (not too differently from how modern governments do it, apparently). And when Robin and his men interdict a shipment of the local church’s seed and use it to revive Marion’s fading farm, the event seems less about establishing Robin’s nobility and sense of justice than illustrating the church’s self-interested nature.

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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.