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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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.