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“Red,” Reviewed

“Red,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at Fantastic Fest 2010.

Even before the opening credits roll for “Red,” it’s worth noting that for the first time a studio other than Warner Brothers has their logo in front of the one for DC Comics, an unusual sight for those aware of their corporate connection, but perhaps not an unwelcome one. For years, the two have made strange bedfellows, producing film adaptations from comics that have tried too hard – think “Superman Returns,” “Watchmen,” this summer’s wildly misguided “Jonah Hex” – to keep up with the success of longtime rival Marvel in the same realm or even Batman, the one superhero they were able to successfully reinvent twice for the big screen.

So to see the Summit logo in front of “Red” means that it’s the rare DC adaptation that wasn’t picked by Warner Brothers because it could be made, but because something other than corporate synergy dictated it should be made. The result is one of the breeziest comic book adaptations to date made by any studio, gliding on the laid-back charms of an all-star cast and a script from Jon and Erich Hoeber that never takes itself too seriously.

Adapted from Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer’s graphic novel of the same name, “Red” involves a group of retired CIA operatives who reunite when their involvement in a decades’ old coup in Guatemala comes back to haunt them as the members involved are outed by a New York Times reporter and start to get picked off one by one. The team is led by Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), who has gone from shooting terrorists to popping morning meds, a slave to a domestic routine that is only broken up by his weekly call to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a desk jockey who wistfully talks to Frank about seeking out adventures in foreign locales like Chile.

10012010_BruceWillisMorganFreemanRed.jpgShe gets her wish, at least partially, when Frank finds out he’s being targeted for death and fearing someone has traced their phone calls, picks her up and hits the road to get the band back together, visiting the Green Springs nursing home for his oldest friend Joe (Morgan Freeman), the Pensacola swamp for the nutty Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), the Russian embassy in DC for the romantic Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox), and the idyllic Eagle’s Nest for the cool former MI6 member Victoria (Helen Mirren), which draws the attention of current CIA agent Cooper (Karl Urban).

Every location is marked onscreen by a postcard, which is appropriate since “Red” spends every minute of its running time screaming “wish you were here.” Clearly, the entire cast is enjoying themselves, with Willis and Freeman probably imagining this is what they signed up for when they did “Lucky Number Slevin” a few years back. Christophe Beck and David Holmes’ rococo score underlines the all the fun these “Retired and Extremely Dangerous” members are having with artillery.

Frank cannily stages a diversionary shootout in his home by placing bullets in a frying pan on a hot stove, Marvin doesn’t blink during a Mexican standoff when his enemy is armed with a missile launcher while he has a mere pistol, and when Victoria gets her hands on a Gatling gun… well, look out. Throw in the tough talk from Rebecca Pidgeon’s CIA chief who eggs on Cooper with taunts like “You just got your ass handed to you by a retiree” and you’ll believe you’re watching a Mamet film on steroids.

All of this comes courtesy of a surprising source in Robert Schwentke, who last directed the solemn Jodie Foster thriller “Flightplan.” While there’s nothing that’s particularly distinguished about “Red” visually or in its plotting, he does well to get out of the way of his cast, luxuriating in exchanges between Willis and Parker, whose sparks together rival any of the literal fireworks in the film’s action sequences, right down to the more throwaway conversations Willis has with Cox and Ernest Borgnine, who shows up as a backroom guy at the CIA.

10012010_ErnestBorgnineRed.jpgIf anything, Schwentke’s main problem is having too much of a good thing, occasionally encountering a lull when balancing out the demands of pushing the story forward versus a desire to accommodate his entire cast, which is why Mirren and Freeman seem strangely marginalized by the end of the film.

Still, the only thing more ridiculous than the premise of “Red” is the idea that any of its stars are over the hill. At an age when Willis and his co-stars are thought to be moving out their prime as movie stars, they prove they might just be the only movie stars we have left, able to power a film like “Red” on charisma alone. It is a film made by grown-ups, if not necessarily made for them, but then again, it is also the kind of fun that can’t be achieved by simply kidding around.

“Red” opens wide on October 15th.

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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.