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“Predators,” an Enigma Wrapped in a Cloaking Device

“Predators,” an Enigma Wrapped in a Cloaking Device (photo)

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An American mercenary named Royce (Adrien Brody) awakens, as if from a dream, into a nightmare. After a brief and painful journey via parachute, he arrives in an endless jungle, where he soon meets seven other individuals, all but one are deadly killers like himself. Where they are and who put them there are big questions for these characters, but they’re not really big questions for the audience, because this movie is called “Predators.”

They’re probably well aware it’s a sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 shoot ’em up that featured a deadly dreadlocked alien who liked to hunt humans for sport, so it’s a pretty safe bet that this one does too. Therefore, the big question for viewers — at least for viewers who know the first movie — will be why producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimród Antal waste so much time on a mystery that they’ve already figured out.

Once the film finally starts moving, it delivers all the requisite gory action, hyperbolic gun violence and creepy-cool alien weaponry you could ever want. But “Predators” takes an awfully long time to get there, and while it does, its cast talks to each other as if they (and us) are all total morons. The characters will stumble upon a clue, one of them will analyze it aloud, and then another will spell out exactly what they’ve gleaned, down to the last detail.

07092010_predators3.jpgAfter fending off an alien assault that ends after a loud whistle is sounded, one character goes, “So, what? They just left?” Another replies, “No, the whistle. They were called off.” Like the bloodiest episode of “Blue’s Clues” in history, the first 40 minutes of “Predators” repeats this process over and over. This movie doesn’t have a subtitle, but if it did, the only logical choice would have been “Predators: Yes, Obviously.”

At long last, the humans uncover the truth: they are not on Earth, but another planet entirely. “A game preserve,” says Royce, “and we’re the game.” With that information finally out of the way, the band of vigilantes’ tactics change and so do the movie’s.

Antal, a talented young action director, is finally free to get back to doing what he did so well in his two previous films, “Vacancy” and “Armored” — conveying the cold, terrifying reality of what it might feel like to be caught in a death trap. Earlier, I mentioned the one human character who isn’t some sort of soldier or serial killer. That’s Edwin (Topher Grace), an American doctor. He’s also a bit of a cliché and something of a MacGuffin, but his presence gives Antal that scared-out-of-his-gourd victim that all of his films require.

Much is made of the fact that Royce and the rest of the humans, including Alice Braga as an Israeli sniper, Oleg Taktarov as a Russian commando, and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as a Sierra Leone death squad officer, are just as bad as the aliens trying to kill them.

07092010_predators2.jpg“We’re the predators of our own world,” Braga’s Isabelle tells Royce, alluding to the title’s double meaning. But Antal and Rodriguez didn’t have the conviction to fill their movie with the truly despicable butchers that sort of set-up demands. Instead, the targets the Predators selected for their hunt are all extremely ethical killers who, for the most part, are fairly likable and sympathetic. Other than Walton Goggins’ repulsive and ruthless death row inmate Stains, these men and women are just run-of-the-mill movie badasses, with nothing especially vicious or extreme about them. At that point, any intended subtext becomes purely theoretical.

Antal doesn’t have a particularly demonstrative visual style, but his action sequences always have a good sense of pacing and geography. When he plunges us into the frenzy of the Predators’ hunt, the movie works. When he attempts anything beyond simple genre thrills, it doesn’t.

I’m still mystified why Antal and Rodriguez treated the details of their story so delicately, especially because after all those pointless investigation scenes, it just so happens that one of the characters magically knows all about the Predators, and can share their history on Earth and weaknesses in battle. How could they possibly know this information? Maybe they’d seen “Predator” too, and were just as tired of the forced air of mystery.

“Predators” is now open in wide release.



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.