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DID YOU READ

“Red State,” Reviewed

“Red State,” Reviewed (photo)

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Kevin Smith’s personality now looms so large that it can seem inextricable from the films he produces, that buying into his on-screen work means also buying into Team View Askew. Smith has proven himself a mighty wielder of his own personal brand, using podcasts, his Twitter feed, his website, his speaking tours to cement a dedicated fanbase that “gets it,” that gets him. Which is why, I’ve always imagined, he takes criticism of his movies so poorly and can’t help but see it as personal — disliking his work has somehow become tantamount to disliking him, even if that work is a for-hire buddy cop comedy whose stars appear to find it painful to be in the same shot.

With the circus that was the Sundance “Red State” premiere, culminating in Smith telling the distributors in the audience that he can and plans to do a better job releasing his movie than they would have (something I don’t necessarily disagree with), and the director’s earlier campaign, post-“Cop Out,” against critics, Smith has ensured a lot of people don’t like him right now, which will make it all the easier to write them off as biased. So let me just get this out there: There are a lot of lovely, very nice people who’ve made lousy movies, and vice versa. If “Red State” were good, it’d hardly be the first time an asshole had turned out a worthy work of art or entertainment. It’s not good. It’s not a complete write-off, but it is bruisingly heavy-handed, poorly paced and messy, dealing in such nasty, over-the-top caricatures of religious extremists and whatever-means-necessary law enforcement that whatever point it tries for about the increasingly fiery, violence-ready state of our nation ends up seeming glib and juvenile.

The good, or at least the interesting, is the way that “Red State” shifts its emphasis over its different acts, forcing several times a reevaluation of who, if anyone, the hero might be. The film finds Smith getting away from the static shots that have defined his visual style, trying out different angles and more frenetic, occasionally “Bourne”esque camerawork and editing, which are better suited to the subject matter if sometimes distracting. And Michael Parks, as the head of the Westboro Baptist Church-inspired Five Points group that forms “Red State”‘s deadly center, gives a memorably clammy performance.

But for a film that tackles such ripe, relevant subject matter, “Red State” sets up and then knocks down incredibly easy targets. The members of the Five Points Church are, with few exceptions, hammy one-note monsters, the film stopping dead early on for Parks’ character to spew a long, circuitous hate speech-filled sermon while the congregation, which includes children and knitting woman, chime in their agreement. Later, the group matriarch (played by Melissa Leo) extols a girl to get herself together, pray for forgiveness, then retrieve her gun and join her family in shooting at the ATF “like a good Christian.” (An ATF higher-up gets a similarly flip line later in the film, justifying an action with a “Patriot act, bitch.”)

The film shifts from teen comedy (the beginning, in which three high school boys try to get laid, has the most typically Smith-like dialogue) to gothic horror to overwrought action to topical satire without any sense of control or intent. Is the Five Points Church scary? Ostensibly, since they kill people and stuff. But I find Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who were, as promised, protesting outside, far scarier. They, presumably, arrived at their extreme stance through some kind of process of belief and crazed logic, instead of just being drawn that way. And they, like Mr. Smith, know how to goad the press to their own ends.

“Red State” will be self-distributed by Smith through SModcast Pictures on October 19th.

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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.