DID YOU READ

Disc Covering: “Wrong Side of Town,” A Match Made in DTV Heaven

Disc Covering: “Wrong Side of Town,” A Match Made in DTV Heaven (photo)

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Wrestlers and DTV movies are made for each other (I’ve covered one such pairing in this column before). Most of these straight-to-DVD movies are just schlock action soap operas, and what is wrestling if not schlock action soap operas in front of a live studio audience? Even if they don’t have much acting experience, wrestlers already have all the other necessary prereqs: lots of practice in front of the camera, the ability to do their own stunts, and built-in believability as ass kickers. Take a guy like Dave Bautista, former WWE Heavyweight Champion and the top-billed actor in “Wrong Side of Town.” Do I want to see him in “Death of a Salesman?” No. Can he handle a story about two former Navy SEALS trying to survive after a bounty is placed on their heads? Absolutely.

Now that I think about it, I kind of do want to see Bautista’s “Death of a Salesman.” John Cena can play Biff.

Wrong Side of Town
Directed by David DeFalco

10052010_disccovering2.jpg Tagline:“Who Wants to Die First” (NOTE: That’s not a typo; the tagline is a question that doesn’t include a question mark. Which I guess makes it a statement. This movie wants to die. Or maybe the cast does. Let’s call it all of the above.)

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: A current professional wrestler plays a former Navy SEAL on the run on the “wrong side of town” after a gangster puts a bounty on his head.

Biggest Success: Want to see how to show a character’s a scumbag in the shortest amount of time possible? Check out how “Wrong Side of Town” introduces Ethan (Ross Britz). After reading a porno mag, he takes out some coke and uses his oversized crucifix bling to shovel it into his nose. It takes maybe six seconds and zero lines of dialogue. Porno mag. Cross coke spoon. Snort. Done. This guy is bad news. Now that’s narrative economy.

10052010_disccovering3.jpgBiggest Failure: Once again we see that in the world of straight-to-DVD, there is very little truth in advertising. The “Wrong Side of Town” box art promises a lot of Dave Bautista, who gets top billing and central placement. But Bautista is “Wrong Side of Town”‘s Billy Zane — he’s got a brief scene with the film’s real star, wrestler Rob Van Dam, where they allude to a shared past as Navy SEALS, another where he sells RVD out to some thugs and then changes his mind (by announcing “I’ve changed my mind!”), and another at the climax where he randomly knife fights a guy who also only appears in like three scenes. Oh, don’t expect to see Ja Rule very much, either; he’s in this even less.

Aren’t there laws against this sort of thing? And if there aren’t, isn’t it just bad business practice? Maybe in the short-term it nets you a few extra rentals from curious browsers. In the long-run, you’ve killed the actor’s brand, by teaching the audience to be wary of their name on a DVD box. It just doesn’t seem smart.

10052010_disccovering4.jpgBest Moment: Any moment Dave Bautista appears on screen with his teeny tiny gun. Bautista, according to his Wikipedia page, is 6 foot 6 inches and weighs 290 pounds. His neck is thicker than my torso. So why in the world did they give him that tiny little gun? He can barely hold it in his enormous hands! It looks like a teenager trying to shoot his baby brother’s water pistol. He’s giant Dave Bautista! They couldn’t find this guy a rifle?

Sharpest Dialogue: “Wrong Side of Town”‘s screenplay, by director David DeFalco, is loaded with dialogue of the kind you only find in weird DTV: stuff that’s so divorced from the way people speak that it borders on the unintentionally poetic. Plus it’s given an even more mesmerizing quality by the leaden, affectless, am-I-bored-or-did-I-take-too-much-Nyquil delivery of star Van Dam. Some highlights:

“I would love to stay and chat, but my empire calls.”

“I’m not a meathead, I went to community college!”

“I love you too, Daddy. Go kick their asses!”

“He wasn’t my brother. He was my son! He was my SON!”

You hear that Robert Towne? You just got served.

I Question: Rob Van Dam’s near-instinctual ability to know that his wife is in trouble. Let me post a hypothetical situation to you: let’s say you’re out on a double date. The two women go to the restroom together, the men stay at the table. A few minutes later, one woman comes back and says that the other left the restroom before her, but hasn’t turned up. What would you do? Probably assume she had to make a phone call or bumped into someone she knew in the club or just got lost. You’d wait a couple minutes, and if she didn’t show up then, you’d go look for her.

Not Rob Van Dam. The instant his neighbor comes back from the bathroom without his wife, he leaps into acting, running around this club, banging down doors looking for her. And, of course, he’s right! His wife is getting attacked by Ethan, the sleazy cross-coke gangster. But how did he know she wasn’t just dawdling? Is his wife a stickler for promptness? Does he have a supernatural “RVD sense” that alerts him to danger?

Worthy of a Theatrical Release? No. But this is a perfect agreeable home viewing option with dopey, charming actors and dopey, charming action. Yet another fine combination of wrestlers and straight-to-DVD (the film is also available on Netflix Watch Instantly).

For Further Viewing: watch Dave Bautista on the set of “Wrong Side of Town.” My favorite line: “It’s really cool being behind-the-scenes, watching how things are shot, seeing all the stunts. A lot of it’s actually really dangerous. We’re not really using stuntmen.” Watch your back Dave! And if anyone gives you any guff, just come at them with your itty bitty machine gun.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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