DID YOU READ

“The Mechanic,” Reviewed

“The Mechanic,” Reviewed (photo)

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There’s a lot to like about Jason Statham, but here’s what I like best: he’s bald.

We do not have enough bald action stars. Being an action star involves too much vanity, and too much vanity leads men to wear too much fake hair. Even Sean Connery, bald as a baby’s bottom, wore a piece to play James Bond (you’d know in his later career when Connery was playing a “serious” role when the toupee came off). There are a lot of male movie stars out there — I don’t need to name names, you know who they are — whose hairlines somehow move forward with age instead of backward. It’s as if these guys are so convinced of their superiority that they can’t allow themselves get older like the rest of us mere mortals.

Statham is not that sort of star. He’s been balding since he started in movies in the late 1990s, and now he’s pretty much barren up there. The fact that he’s comfortable enough with himself to be bald onscreen speaks to the sort of persona he’s developed: tough, dependable, immune to extravagance or self-indulgence. Like the men he typically plays, Statham knows exactly who he is and is comfortable with what he does. And what he does is make small but satisfying thrillers like “The Mechanic,” a lean, no-frills midrange action picture of the kind that Hollywood and its outliers used to make by the gross in the 80s but have recently fallen casualty to modern moviemaking’s economies of scale, which demand B-movies with A-budgets.

In “The Mechanic,” Statham plays Arthur Bishop, an expert assassin for a nebulous company called, nebulously, “The Company.” Odd how the organizations in these sorts of black ops movies are always unnamed — don’t the assassins get confused which unnamed company they’re working for? Maybe that’s the point. You can’t ever rat anyone out because you don’t know who to rat on. Must be a nightmare come tax time.

Anyway, most movies about lone assassins tend to play up their hero’s solitude and anguish. They examine what it must be like to kill people for a living, and consider the toll it takes on a man’s psyche. Not “The Mechanic.” Bishop seems quite content living in his beautiful home in the bayous near New Orleans. Even when his boss (Tony Goldwyn) gives him an assignment he doesn’t want to take for reasons I won’t spoil, he goes through with it anyway. At that man’s funeral, he meets his victim’s son Steve (Ben Foster). Angry over his father’s death and unaware that Bishop is responsible, Steve convinces “the mechanic” (he “fixes things,” you see) to teach him to be an assassin. Bishop agrees but warns his pupil never to let emotion or vengeance get in the way of the job which, in a movie, is a surefire guarantee that before long emotion and vengeance will get in the way of the job.

Though Statham delivers exactly what we’ve come to expect from him, Foster really surprised me in this movie. He approaches his part as if he’s in a moody indie character study of grief and loss and not a Jason Statham vehicle about dudes who use garbage trucks as deadly weapons. A lot of actors in his situation (maybe some of the ones who have the really bad hair) would have gone over-the-top in depicting Steve’s depression. Foster bottles it all up, and is convincingly scary as a kid boiling with anger with no way to release it.

Nothing about the plot of “The Mechanic” is surprising. We predict a double-cross almost from the beginning, and there is one. We know Steve will ultimately discover the truth about Bishop, and he does. But the film, directed by “Con Air”‘s Simon West, is made with intensity and skill. The fight scenes are dramatic and Bishop and Steve’s assassination schemes are entertainingly clever. I wish the story didn’t require the usually brilliant Bishop to act like a moron in one particular moment, but whatever.

Of course, Statham is rock solid as always, delivering all the requisite ass kickings and over-the-shoulder glowers (nobody glowers over their shoulder quite like Jason Statham). I feel more comfortable forking over my twelve dollars for a movie by Statham than I do for a movie by just about anyone else. He never disappoints me. Time and again, he gives me my money’s worth. Two “Crank” films, three “Transporter”s, “The Bank Job,” “Death Race,” “Cellular” and on down the list. He’s really only made one truly unwatchable movie, Guy Ritchie’s “Revolver.” Interestingly, that’s the one movie he’s made where he didn’t play a bald guy. Coincidence?

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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