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“The Nutcracker in 3D”‘s Intriguingly Disastrous Reviews

“The Nutcracker in 3D”‘s Intriguingly Disastrous Reviews (photo)

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As someone with a morbid fascination with bad movies, I’d pinned all my hopes for a holiday film disaster on “Burlesque,” Christina Aguilera’s rumpy ode to the joys of PG-13 gyrations. But that industrial video for the corset industry inspirational story about dance has gotten only middling reviews, and currently stands at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, not the sort of notices you need for a future cult classic. But it looks like I might have backed the wrong horse, as Andrey Konchalovskiy’s incredibly loose adaptation of “The Nutcracker” has garnered the most toxic (and yet oddly intoxicating) reviews of any movie this year.

Currently sitting at 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Nutcracker in 3D” sounds like one of those holy grail bad movies that combines crass commercialism (the film, shot in 2007, was post-converted to 3D for release) and hopelessly misguided passion (the director has been trying to make this version of “The Nutcracker” for twenty years). And what distinguishes this version of “The Nutcracker?” Well, it apparently ditches most of the dancing, adds lyrics to the classic Tchaikovsky music, and even tosses in some dark Holocaust metaphors for good measure. As Peter Martin from Twitch eloquently puts it, that’s “both nutty and cracked.” Here’s a sampling of the reviews, starting with David Edelstein’s from New York:

“Is this movie a tax shelter? Is there some “The Producers”-like scheme to open and close in a week and make off with the unused three-quarters of the budget? Amid the laborious CGI chases in muzzy 3-D, I glanced at my 8-year-old daughter, who put her hand on my arm and said, “It’s okay, Daddy. I’m not mad at you for taking me to this.”

Christy Lemire, Associated Press (who also compared the movie to “The Producers”):

“Uncle Albert shows up with some toys, including a wooden nutcracker shaped like a boy, whom he has nicknamed NC. Uncle Albert is meant to be Albert Einstein, and Nathan Lane plays him as a jaunty, heavily accented buffoon who frequently looks into the camera to make inane observations. He also sings a song to the kids about the Theory of Relativity which is painful in its literal-mindedness. This is just one example of the clunky lyrics Tim Rice (“Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar”) has contributed, which distract from the purity and grace of the music. During “Waltz of the Flowers,” the Snow Fairy sings to Mary: “Is each day a new beginning? Do you have a fight worth winning?”

J. Hoberman, The Village Voice:

“The evil rodents who take over the city in a bit of 9/11-evoking terror are nothing less than Ratzis–they even operate an extermination camp for children’s toys, complete with crematoria. Konchalovsky not only anticipated “Toy Story 3″‘s dump truck to hell sequence, he exceeded it. In one fantastic bit of business, Turturro (or his avatar) dances an exultant flamenco amid toys heaped in the street like bundles of confiscated clothing. The wildest thing about this movie is its faith that what kids (and parents) really want for Christmas is a “Nutcracker” version of the Final Solution.”

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:

“Only one thing could have made this film worse, and they haven’t neglected it. That would be to present it in 3-D. They have. The movie was filmed in Hungary in 2007, and perhaps those studio execs screening it sensed a certain lack of enthusiasm. Maybe they thought that by retroactively “adapting” it to 3-D, it would play better. No luck. I’ve seen bad retro 3-D, but I’ve never seen 3-D as bad as this. The film is so dim and dingy, you almost wonder if the smoke from those burning toys is drifting between you and the screen.”

And on and on. Reviews this epically bad only come along once in a very long while. As A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times last weekend in a piece about why we go to the movies (to not be bored, basically), “Very few movies are so bad that they ruin the experience of moviegoing.” For a film that bad to sneak past all the various gatekeepers of the movie business requires a degree of either bad judgment or mass delusion that’s nearly impossible, almost as impossible as a movie emerging from that same system as a masterpiece. That’s what makes “Nutcracker” my must-see bad movie this holiday weekend. Sorry Christina.

The trailer for “The Nutcracker in 3D.” Give it credit: it doesn’t try to hide the weirdness.

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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.