DID YOU READ

Putting the original “A-Team” up against the new movie.

Putting the original “A-Team” up against the new movie. (photo)

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Before seeing “The A-Team” (to review for another publication) it seemed a good idea to at the very least refresh my hazy memory of the original show by watching the pilot. It was a nice time — the show’s just as amiable and laid-back as memory indicated, and it’s good company.

The new “A-Team,” alas, is very much a product of its times, with hyperventilating sound, some crappy CGI and incoherent set-pieces. (It’s also occasionally hilarious in a “Transporter” way.) The original show is very much of its time, but it holds up better than anyone would have guessed.

The movie gives our heroes an origin story in Mexico, perhaps a tip of the hat to the two-part series pilot “Mexican Slayride.” The episode’s a straight rip of “The Magnificent Seven”: marijuana-growing guerrillas are terrorizing a small town, and the team leads the villagers in a stirring revolt.

You know the drill: a townsman yells “Our grandfathers would spit on us! Better to fight and die than to run like children!” and it’s game on. But getting there is a leisurely process — tthe show opens with many, many establishing shots with no people, so many it’s closer to contemporary art-house master-shot cinema than a normal action movie.

06102010_creature.jpgThe fight scenes are done in the show’s patented no-visible-violence style — though what’s striking about them now is how unbelievably jaunty and upbeat the music is, like there aren’t cars flipping all over the place and bullets flying like nobody’s business.

Not even Indiana Jones got to hear his theme all the time, but the music never so much as hints at danger, conflict or suspense. This creates a weird distancing effect — the violence isn’t so much cartoonish as it is downright pleasant.

Introduced in the mental hospital, the maybe-he’s-crazy-maybe-he-isn’t Murdock gripes “I’m not nuts. I keep telling everyone that. Don’t you think I want to get out of here and see ‘E.T.’ just like everybody else?” Later, the team scams a Mexican town by pretending to be the advance team for a movie called “Boots and Bikinis,” starring Bo Derek, Farrah Fawcett and Loni Anderson, which sounds about right. They’re cinephiles!

The real reference point, though, is Vietnam: there’s a brief but startling shot from the back of a flying crop duster that totally looks like mass bombing is about to ensue, and in the finale the good guys bring a village to its feet to do the fighting for them. It’s hearts and minds in action.

06102010_theateam1.jpgThe show hums along pleasantly, establishing a men-hanging-with-men vibe that can only indulge one token female. (The only major character trait change between the old and new crew is that Face — Bradley Cooper now — is required not just to be a lady’s man, but to only love one woman in particular, which isn’t as much fun.)

As it happened, the end was near for this kind of low-stakes, high-frivolity TV series — as it was, in fact, for action movies starring not particularly complicated people who kicked ass without getting all traumatized or tortured about it. The movie almost manages to avoid getting predictably dark — but secretly, you know the team wouldn’t really want to do all that fighting. The show’s relaxed about its action in a way that’s nearly impossible to see now, which is kind of a drag.

Or you could watch it yourself, below. The opening chase through the studio lot is awfully cool — you’ll never think of “The Ten Commandments” the same away again.

[Photos: “The A-Team,” the “Mexican Slayride” episode, Universal Studios Home Video, 1983; “The A-Team,” Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2010]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.