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Comic-Con Day Two: Cage, “Skyline” and “Super” Bring a Touch of Indie Spirit

Comic-Con Day Two: Cage, “Skyline” and “Super” Bring a Touch of Indie Spirit (photo)

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As you’ve perhaps read elsewhere, to go to Comic-Con is to be in a perpetual state of disappointment.

The long lines are no exaggeration and regardless of where you are, you will likely be in the wrong place. On Friday afternoon, a panel for “The Goon” brought out David Fincher and Paul Giamatti, who are working on an animated film version of the character, in one of the convention center’s smallest rooms — it was one of the rare panels not to have a line. Later that evening, “Jackass 3D” footage played to wild applause at an offsite event on Friday night and if you weren’t invited, you likely were none the wiser. While I sadly was not in the know for either, I left an all-day stay in Hall H more satisfied than bitter.

Much of that had to do with the fact that contrary to some opinion, there are some very real and potentially very important developments going on at Comic-Con that have interesting ramifications for independent film. Since Friday was devoted to such productions, it wasn’t one of the most glittery days for the big hall, but surely one of the most interesting as it broke from the big studio presentations that now feel more like marketing presentations to potential shareholders than the slightly more wild free-for-all that Comic-Con was as recently as two or three years back.

The fun started in the morning with “Drive Angry 3D,” the carsploitation follow-up from “My Bloody Valentine 3D” director Patrick Lussier that appeared to prove some of Summit’s “Twilight” money is going to a good cause. It stars a stringy haired Nicolas Cage as a drifter whose daughter has been killed and his sole purpose in life has become tracking down and retrieving her baby from a Satan-worshipping Billy Burke.

07232010_DriveAngryHeard.jpgAlthough that might not sound exciting as a logline, “Drive Angry 3D” actually looks like a blast, in the vein of the antihero ’70s action films Lussier later said he was drawn to “Vanishing Point,” “Race With the Devil” and “High Plains Drifter,” mixed with Cage’s desire to show off “what moves I could do that could go into the fourth row of the audience.” (Yes, Cage looks particularly deranged with a sawed-off six-shooter reaching far beyond the screen, and Amber Heard jumping onto the hood of his car “and in your face” shouldn’t hurt its prospects.)

In a nice touch, Lussier said the film’s simple, evocative title came from “Groundhog Day,” since work on “Drive Angry” started around the holiday and Lussier couldn’t stop thinking about the Bill Murray comedy and the scene where Murray warns the groundhog, “Don’t drive angry!” But the panel’s most interesting insight came from one of the audience’s silliest questions. When a fan asked Cage whether he had an obsession with “beating the devil,” given films like this and “Ghost Rider,” Cage gave a rather spellbinding reply that partially explains his increasingly strange career choices, which I’ll run in full:

I am eclectic and I’m always looking to push the boundaries with film acting and at this point in my career, I think I stumbled on the concept that if I can play characters that have a bit of a supernatural element to them, it opens up my options.

It’s infinite the things I can do in terms of behavior and performance. It’s limitless, so there’s only very few ways you can do that where you can think of film acting as other artforms that are perhaps abstract like jazz music or abstract painting.

One of the ways to do it is play a character who’s really high on drugs like in “Bad Lieutenant” and another way is to play characters that are from somewhere else and that it’s all bets are off like “Drive Angry” and then another way is to just play somebody completely insane. And that’s next. [laughs]

With a straight face, Cage would explain how his character in “Drive Angry” is “driven, but it’s not so easy to just say he’s angry. There’s other levels going on.” Between that and co-star William Fichtner’s promise that he drives a hydrogen tanker, I was sold. The film is coming out February 11th next year.

07232010_Skyline.jpgArriving sooner is “Skyline,” a sci-fi invasion flick that most people probably had no idea existed before arriving at Comic-Con. It’s been an 11-month production from start to finish, which is unusual for any film, let alone a CG-heavy spectacle. Directors Colin and Greg Strause wouldn’t be anyone’s preconceived idea of independent filmmakers, as the brothers who made their directorial debut on “Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem” and run the preeminent Hollywood effects house Hydraulics, responsible for work on films like “Avatar” and “Iron Man 2.”

Yet when “Paranormal Activity” came out last year, the Strause brothers realized that since they already owned all their own equipment — “the lighting, the cameras, the FX shop” — Greg decided to offer up his house as a main location, spend $25,000 for a day riding around in a helicopter for establishing shots, and making a go of it with a small crew and no studio interference.

To say “Skyline” was a great surprise like “District 9” a year ago would be overhyping it, but the fascinating thing wasn’t necessarily the footage they showed, but the idea that more and more filmmakers from inside the Hollywood system, frustrated with the process, may break free of its constraints, given the right circumstances. (Interestingly enough, later in the day, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay not only announced their secret project “The Virginity Hit,” a “Losin’ It”-style teen comedy directed by “Last Exorcism” scribes Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko, but showed the finished film at the Gaslamp at night.)

As Colin Strause said, “We’ve worked on so many movies and we’ve seen where there’s been horrific inefficiencies the way films are done,” and referring to embracing new technology, he added, “The only way we’re going to make movies now is the new RED cameras that [David] Fincher is using on his movie. [“Skyline”] will be shot on this requires a fraction of the lighting. When you have a fraction of the lighting, that means you don’t have big crews, which means you can do things way more efficiently.”



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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