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DID YOU READ

Disc Covering: “Enemies Among Us,” starring Billy Zane… sort of.

Disc Covering: “Enemies Among Us,” starring Billy Zane… sort of. (photo)

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The top-billed star in 1978’s “Superman” wasn’t the guy who played Superman, Christopher Reeve. It wasn’t even Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. It was Marlon Brando, playing Superman’s father Jor-El for about ten minutes in a two and a half hour movie. That works out to the star of the film appearing on screen for just 7% of the runtime. That was always my gold-standard of disproportionate credits… until I watched this week’s selection from our new direct-to-DVD column: “Enemies Among Us,” which “stars” Billy Zane in what is basically a glorified cameo.

According to my completely unscientific calculations, the top-billed Zane appears onscreen for just three and a half minutes of this seventy-five minute movie, between 4 and 5% of the runtime. He has just one long scene; long relative to his other appearances, which are brief pop-ins during the opening credits and a pre-end credits montage. He has less than 20 lines. That’s like Bill Murray getting top billing for his one scene in “Zombieland,” or selling “The Hurt Locker” as a movie starring Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes.

Before I forget, that brings us to BAD SIGN THAT YOUR MOVIE IS GOING STRAIGHT TO DVD #2: It stars Billy Zane. Somehow this guy went from headlining comic book movies and playing the deliciously oily villain of the biggest movie of all time to making his living entirely in the world of direct-to-DVD. The last time I remember even seeing Zane in a theatrical release was his cameo as himself in “Zoolander.” That was almost nine years ago. How did this happen? Is he impossible to work with? Does he have outrageous salary demands? Does God hate Billy Zane?

I just don’t know. Then again, Zane just made more money for three and a half minutes of screentime than a lot of folks make in a year. So it’s not all bad. Let’s get to the movie.

06012010_enemiesofthestatedvd.jpg“Enemies Among Us” (2010)
Directed by Dan Garcia

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: The corrupt governor of Louisiana kills a hooker-slash-assassin; a morally conflicted cop debates whether or not to cover it up.

Salable Elements: The aforementioned Zane, plus supporting (but far larger) roles by Eric Roberts and Robin Givens and one impressive shot of a car exploding.

Biggest Success: “Enemies Among Us” achieves the sort of timeliness that only happens by chance. The film establishes the corruption of Louisiana Governor Chip Majors (James DuMont) at a press conference where he boasts that his state has “for years been a pioneer in off-shore drilling” and announces a new Aphrodite drill platform. Later, a reporter presses an equally slimy Presidential candidate about “cozy relationships with Big Oil that have cost this nation dearly.” Writer/director Dan Garcia is maybe the only guy benefiting from the BP oil spill. Without it, these references would look as shamelessly didactic as the rest of his attempts at topicality, which include characters motivated by mortgage foreclosures, and bankruptcies, and subplots about waterboarding and campaign finance violations. This is a movie about police officers, government officials, journalists, homemakers, terrorists and intelligence agents who all talk exactly the same: like indignant political pundits.

Biggest Failure: Besides the film’s inability to deliver on the promise of Billy Zane in a prominent role? That would be the film’s inability to go more than a scene without at least one brazenly cliched bit of dialogue. There’s too many to pick just one example, so let’s pick five favorites:

06012010_enemies3.jpg5)“I’m gonna kick ass and take names!” Rowdy Roddy Piper was making fun of this line back in 1988. That was 22 years ago. Piper’s line from “They Live” can legally drink now. Time to update this one.

4)“If it blows up, it’s on you!” You know why I hate corrupt cops? No sense of personal responsibility.

3)“I got some very important therapy for your sexy ass.” How many times have we heard this one before? Okay, never. But it’s such a hilarious line — especially coming out of the mouth of dirty cop Eric Roberts — that I had to figure out a way to include it in this piece. I know you’ll understand.

2)“I– I– I can explain!” Yes, it’s a little of the old wackety-schmackety, as Louisiana State Police Officers Taylor (Griffin Hood) and Cobbs (Roberts) walk in on Governor Majors as he strangles a prostitute to death. But it’s not what it looks like! You see the prostitute — that Majors has apparently visited with on numerous occasions — is actually an assassin-for-hire, working with a cabal of other mercenaries who have been hired by North Korea to kill Majors. Majors, in other words, has very bad taste in prostitutes. To his credit, that does sort of explain things, though it still doesn’t square why Majors would take time out from what he describes as “the biggest day of my life,” securing endorsements and campaign donations from wealthy elites, to sleep with a hooker.

1)“This is so far above your pay grade you can’t even imagine!” Movie heroes are always working above their pay grade. Just once I would like someone in a movie to adequately paid for the job they’re required to do. “It’s a good thing you’re here Johnson! This a job that calls for someone of your job description and approximate wage.”

06012010_enemies2.jpgBest Moment: Eric Roberts, responding to an offer of a bribe in exchange for disappearing the dead prostitute’s body, by making this face:

A close runner up to The Eric Roberts Surprise Face in the Best Moment category comes from Robin Givens, playing a cruel CIA agent who tortures a guy for information for the entire film, threatening her interrogation subject by randomly telling him “You leave me no option! You have wasted my time! Do you realize that I have missed an entire season of ‘Ugly Betty?'” That one was so out of left field, I actually made the Eric Roberts Surprise Face myself.

(By the way, nobody tell Robin Givens that “Ugly Betty” is canceled. There’s really no telling what she could do. We’re just now patching up our relations with the countries of the Middle East; we don’t need anymore war atrocities.)

Worthy of a Theatrical Release: Definitely not. The tired dialogue is really just the tip of the iceberg of “Enemies Among Us”‘ problems, including bad effects, go-nowhere subplots, and camera shots and angles that are, at best, poorly chosen, and, at worst, totally out of focus. It’s also not entirely clear who this movie is about: with the headliner nowhere to be seen, the de facto protagonist becomes Hood’s Officer Taylor, who the movie at least tries to give a backstory (his sister has breast cancer and needs money for treatment, which gives him a reason to seriously consider the governor’s bribe offer). The character with the most scenes, though, is actually the villain, Governor Majors, and there’s also a lengthy (and narratively irrelevant) “60 Minutes”-style interview with a powerful senator (Steven Bauer). This movie needs characters who make conversation, not points. And at least one of them should have been played by Billy Zane.

For Further Viewing: One YouTube user’s tribute to the greatness of The Zane. It’s a minute longer than his entire contribution to “Enemies Among Us.”

[Photos: “Enemies Among Us,” Phase 4 Films, 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.