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DID YOU READ

“Fire of Conscience,” Reviewed

“Fire of Conscience,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at Fantastic Fest 2010.

What’s the worst job in the world? Garbage man? Human test subject? Porno theater janitor? According to movies, the worst job in the world is a Hong Kong police officer. Oh sure, you get to do cool things like fire two guns at once while sliding down bannisters or walking in slo-mo through a flock of doves. But the price paid for such badass pleasures is a steep one: all your loved ones have to die in awful ways, you have to work around the clock, treat everyone around you like an asshole, and grow bad facial hair as an outward manifestation of your tortured soul.

Consider the Hong Kong cops in Dante Lam’s “Fire of Conscience.” Some are good, some are bad, but all of them are miserable. Captain Manfred (Leon Lai) is grappling with the death of his wife (and, just for good measure, the death of the unborn child his wife was carrying). His right hand man Cheung-on’s (Kai Chi Liu) wife left him, and now he has to raise their daughter alone. And Inspector Kee (Richie Ren), who is too committed to his job to commit to his fiancé, hides dark secrets behind his well-tailored suits. Manfred and Kee meet when their two individual cases intersect, and throws their lives into chaos; emotionally devastating but oh-so-stylish chaos.

“Fire of Conscience” is typical of a certain kind of HK melodrama: characters brood to the sounds of soulful guitar solos until it’s time to get into awesome gun battles. And Lam’s gun battles are awesome; loud, sweaty, and harrowing. There’s an intensity to the violence — the way bullets thwack into concrete walls and grenades knock people around like rag dolls — that’s missing in a lot of action films. This is not a John Woo fantasia where characters can systematically mow down entire buildings full of henchmen without getting hurt. Characters die, suddenly and painfully. Police work is a dirty business.

Lam keeps ratcheting up the stakes: from foot chases to frenzied shootouts in crowded restaurants to life-and-death escapes down construction scaffolds. In the big finale between the good cop and bad cop, he throws in an additional element of jeopardy that deserves an award for sheer audacity. So I’m inventing one for him right now: The WTF Award For Craziest, Most Shamlessly Manipulative Imposition of Stakes on a Action Sequence. Congratulations Dante Lam, you’ve earned it. Once action fans see this one, they won’t forget it.

If only the characters were that memorable. No dice. Lam’s action is innovative and clever, but his approach to the characters is the exact opposite: predictable and obvious. We know these cops from so many previous movies. Not a single thing they do surprises us. And while I’ve tried very hard not to spoil the details of the plot, the ultimate outcome of the story will be immediately clear to anyone within the film’s first fifteen minutes.

The result, predictable on the story side, unpredictable on the action side, leaves you with a solid but unexceptional piece of work, another Hong Kong action film as straightforward as its characters’ sad, desperate, exciting lives.

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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.