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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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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.