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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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.