DID YOU READ

“Paul,” Reviewed

“Paul,” Reviewed (photo)

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Centuries from now, historians of early twenty-first century popular culture will surely point to “Paul” as the ultimate example of geek culture’s invasion of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. Here is a movie about nerds, written by nerds, made for nerds, in which the word “nerd” appears in the dialogue at least a dozen times. This movie is a Toby Radloff cameo away from being the dorkiest movie ever created.

The film concerns a road trip of the sort that only happens in movies, the kind where friendships are tested and strengthened, romance is found in the most unexpected places, and wacky car chases occur between government agents and men in RVs. In another movie, we might label these cliches and brand the whole experience artificial. But it feels wholly appropriate for “Paul,” a movie made entirely of quotations, both visual and verbal, from other movies. If I had to venture a guess, I would estimate that no less than 15% of all dialogue spoken in this movie is lifted directly out of other movies.

That’s par for the course for stars and co-writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who only make movies about other movies, like “Shaun of the Dead,” where they used their knowledge of zombie movies to survive a zombie apocalypse, or “Hot Fuzz,” in which they applied cop movie logic to their jobs as police officers in a sleepy British village. Pegg and Frost have played these sorts of roles so many times already that their mere presence as intensely devoted friends and pop culture aficionados is something a movie quotation itself.

In “Paul,” they play Graeme and Clive, British buddies who cap off their first trip to San Diego Comic-Con with a road trip through the American southwest. Hardcore sci-fi fanboys, they want to soak in the atmosphere of America’s UFO hotspots, from Area 51 to Roswell. But they get more atmosphere than they bargained for one night on a dark and deserted stretch of road, when they stumble upon a real live alien named Paul — voiced by Seth Rogen but played by an impressively lifelike CGI creation — who’s been stranded on Earth for decades after crashing his spaceship here back in 1947. Tired of being a prisoner of the US government, he’s engineered an escape attempt which now requires the help of our two incredulous geeks.

There are obstacles along the way, including Jason Bateman cast against type as the badass government agent assigned by an unseen “Big Guy” (shades of “Charlie’s Angels,” “The X-Files,” and just a smidge of “Knight Rider”) to bring Paul back into custody. And there’s the opportunity for romance as well in the form of Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a trailer park employee with an eye disease that requires her to wear Warren Beatty’s glasses from the end of “Bonnie and Clyde” (curious that Pegg and Frost dressed up their movie nerd’s dream girl like Beatty and not Dunaway). But really the stakes are extremely low. The mood is warm and funny, as the mood is in any Pegg and Frost team-up. There are lots of cute cameos and supporting roles from funny folks like Jane Lynch and Bill Hader. But that’s about it.

“Paul” borrows heavily from so many movies — “E.T.” obviously, but also “Jaws,” “Aliens,” “Easy Rider” and many more — but while it definitely takes their lines or plots, it doesn’t quite replicate their emotional stakes or dramatic payoffs. Unlike the movies its creators love and are paying homage to here, “Paul” is one big goof. It’s worth noting that Pegg and Frost’s previous buddy movies were directed by Edgar Wright, who made his own movie without them last summer, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” (“Paul” is directed by “Superbad”‘s Greg Mottola). I liked both of the movies the movies Pegg and Frost and Wright made separately, but neither as much as the ones they made together. Call me a nerd, but I’m looking forward to their next collaboration.

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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.