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DID YOU READ

Review: “Zonad,” a liquor-soaked alien invasion.

Review: “Zonad,” a liquor-soaked alien invasion. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Around midnight in front of the Village East Cinemas, a group of friends in front of me were saying they might be inspired to finish that documentary they’ve been kicking around after seeing something as “half-assed” as “Zonad” get into Tribeca.

It may be the only time “Zonad” will be cited as an inspiration itself, since so much of it is inspired by other films. It surely won’t be the first time somebody is disappointed by it. As director John Carney’s follow-up film to “Once” — as delicate and revered as any romantic drama has been in years, if not decades — “Zonad” (co-directed with his brother Kieran) is certainly a shock to the system, yet it’s also all but assured many midnight screenings to come if the right audience finds it.

Like one of those “Saturday Night Live” sketches that begin with a funny premise before getting weird and slightly uncomfortable and then ultimately funny again because of the commitment to the original premise, one’s love of “Zonad” will depend entirely on how much you commit to its absurdity.

Certainly, the Carney brothers are true believers. They touch down in the Irish town of Ballymoran where the local entertainment consists of gazing up at the stars and drinking at the local pub, so imagine the community’s embrace of Zonad (Simon Delaney), a portly stranger in a red latex spacesuit that is found passed out in front of a liquor cabinet.

No one questions Zonad when he comes to, easily accepting his explanation that he passed through a “rip in the fabric of time.” No one wonders if he’s responsible for those empty gin bottles or if it’s a good idea or not to undress in front of him when he claims he’s hibernating.

05012010_Zonad2.jpgEven when the family that takes him in finds their telly and DVD player in the back of his trunk, they trust him implicitly and soon after, their teenage daughter, as well as the rest of the town’s women, fall at his feet. However, Zonad’s godlike treatment only lasts so long since a rival “alien” Bonad (David Pearse) swoops into town and easily sways the locals’ short attention spans.

All of this may sound genteel enough on paper, but the Carneys paint Ballymoran as a ’50s era community of conformity thrown for a loop by the modernism Zonad represents — policemen are compelled to urinate on those unwise enough to question the aliens’ bona fides and once chaste girls are possessed to paint “fuck me” on their eyebrows.

It could be seen as a parody in the vein of the knowing sci-fi spoof “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra,” but “Zonad” is too crude to be considered a loving homage and too wedded to its movieness to be classified as anything else. The fact that it’s a tweener adds to the general hit-and-miss quality of the comedy, but also burnishes it with an unusual charm that’s often elusive to the parodies that rely on a steady succession of empty sight gags and in-jokes.

Given the importance of music in “Once,” it’s not surprising that the Carneys can’t help but slip in some familiar soundtrack cues as well as Bryan Byrne’s incredibly versatile score to add to the humor, but it’s ultimately their dedication to keeping the plot (and the good townsfolk of Ballymoran) simple while continually raising the stakes of what Zonad and Bonad are capable of. When the film ends in a musical number, it’s all too fitting — it’s ridiculous, out of the blue and hits mostly all the right notes.

“Zonad” is currently without U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Zonad,” Element Pictures, 2010]

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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.