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Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See

Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See (photo)

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The Associated Press reported Monday that British director Peter Yates died over the weekend of an illness at the age of 81. As The AP reports, Yates had a unique career path:

“Born in Aldershot, southern England in 1929, Yates trained as an actor, performed in repertory theater and did a stint as a race-car driver before moving into film, first as an editor and then as an assistant director on films including Tony Richardson’s ‘A Taste of Honey’ and J. Lee Thompson’s ‘The Guns of Navarone.'”

Yates had a long and, at times, not-quite-illustrious career: his filmography includes the fantasy cheesefest “Krull” and the underwater cheesecakefest “The Deep”, a “Jaws” knockoff that became a hit mostly because Jacqueline Bisset spent a good portion of the movie in a wet t-shirt. But a couple of duds don’t tarnish an impressive legacy, including at least three films that, in my opinion, every movie fan should see. They are:

“Bullitt” (1968)

01122011_bullitt1.jpgThe Library of Congress selects movies for its National Film Registry based on their “cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance.” No wonder that “Bullitt” was chosen in 2007: it has all three. Steve McQueen’s iconic look as San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Bullitt — sportcoat over turtleneck with that elaborate shoulder holster — still remains one of the signature looks for cops in films. And of course the film’s rightfully famous car chase, which lasts more then ten minutes, remains one of the greatest in movie history.

One of the best things about all of Yates’ films are their real sense of place. “Bullitt” is set in San Francisco: not Toronto playing San Francisco, not a Hollywood backlot doubling for San Francisco, but San Francisco, the real city. That’s never clearer than during that incredible car chase, when the camera assumes the perspective of Bullitt behind the wheel of his 1968 Ford Mustang GT, as he flies down the hilly streets of The City By the Bay.

“Bullitt” is a police procedural free polish and gloss. McQueen is cool, of course, but his job doesn’t look glamorous; it looks exhausting. Bullitt works as hard as he can but he still can’t save everyone; despite his best efforts, people still die, brutally and horribly. With its anti-authoriarian hero and blunt depictions of violence, “Bullitt” made cop movies relevant for 1960s audiences. And it still holds up today.

“The Hot Rock” (1972)

01122011_hotrock1.jpgSteven Soderbergh watched two movies as research for directing “Ocean’s Eleven:” “Ghostbusters” and Yates’ “The Hot Rock.” The influence is obvious from the very first scene: both movies begin with their heroes getting released from prison and immediately diving right back into the con game. In the case of “The Hot Rock,” that hero is John Dortmunder, ably played by Robert Redford with just the right mix of laconic cool and world-weariness. Plus, his sideburns are amazing.

Redford and his brother-in-law Kelp (George Segal) are hired by an African diplomat (Moses Gunn) to steal a rare jewel from the Brooklyn Museum. They pull the heist off but one of their partners gets nabbed by the cops, and he’s the guy who was carrying the stone. That’s Greenberg (Paul Sand). So now they’ve got to break Greenberg out of jail to get at the gem. Only to keep it from the cops, Greenberg had to swallow the rock, and when he, ahem, passed it, he had to stash it in his holding cell in another jail. So now they’ve got to break into that jail, which is on the top floor of a police station. “Couldn’t you just keep swallowing it?” the exasperated diplomat asks. Greenberg thinks about it, as he clearly thought about it in the jail, debating whether or not he could swallow a priceless poop. Finally, he responds. “No!”

I guess you could argue that “The Hot Rock” doesn’t have much going for it in the stakes department, and that Dortmunder’s buddies are so laid-back about robbery and so unfazed by failure that their repeated attempts to nab The Hot Rock don’t amount to much. But “The Hot Rock” is, like Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” as much fun to watch for the lovable characters as it is for the heists. Their repeated failures are bad news for them and great news for us because every time they lose the rock it means we get to spend a little longer with these hilarious screw-ups.

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973)

01122011_coyle1.jpgJust one year after “The Hot Rock,” Yates directed a film that plays like its twisted doppelganger. “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is as gritty and bleak a heist film as “The Hot Rock” is a bubbly and comic one. Both movies are about the same ideas — loyalty, friendship, and family — but where “The Hot Rock” tells a crime story that celebrates and upholds those values, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” shows how all of those ideals mean nothing when tested against the strongest human impulse: self-preservation.

In one of his best performances, Robert Mitchum plays Eddie “Fingers” Coyle, a career criminal awaiting sentencing for a botched truck robbery. His only hope of avoiding jail time is by ratting out the guys he works with, including his gun supplier, who delivers the film’s best line: “This life’s hard, man. But it’s harder if you’re stupid.” From Mitchum on down the line, the cast is fantastic: Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, and Alex Rocco as a bankrobber Coyle sells Brown’s guns to.

The movie includes several terrifying heist sequences featuring Rocco’s gang, clad in eerie, dehumanizing masks, as they pick apart Boston-area banks. But really this is a movie about mortality, about an old guy coming to grips with the fact that he’s all played out and, as such, it’s probably the most fitting movie to watch this week to celebrate Yates. This is a sad movie. The title is so cruel too. A real thief doesn’t have friends: just potential betrayers.

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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.