DID YOU READ

“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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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.