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Five “Fourquels” That Weren’t Terrible

Five “Fourquels” That Weren’t Terrible (photo)

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We love trilogies. They’re nice and neat. They conform to the three-act structure of storytelling. We love them so much that we want more movies even after the trilogy is over, which inevitably leads to the fourth film in a franchise — the fourquel, if you will (and if you’re an English teacher, you won’t). Most fourquels are classic examples of outstaying your welcome: “Batman and Robin,” “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace,” “Alien Resurrection,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Jaws: The Revenge,” “The Next Karate Kid,” and on and on and on (and on). Still, hope springs eternal for the great fourquel, like this week when we have the release of “Scre4m” directed by Wes Craven. With fingers crossed for this new “Scream,” we look back at five fourquels that were actually kind of good.


“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986)
Directed by Leonard Nimoy

By the time any movie franchise reaches a fourth installment, all its rules and tropes have been rigidly codified into formula. “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” works so well because it gleefully subverts that formula. “Star Trek” always takes place in the future; this one is set in the past. The crew always flies the Starship Enterprise; this time they’ve got a stolen Klingon Bird-of-Prey. There’s always lots of outer space battles with fiendish villains; this installment goes for fish-out-of-water comedy. In other words, instead of robotically rehashing what audiences had come to expect from “Star Trek,” director Leonard Nimoy boldly went for something new (you see what I did there with the boldly went? Yeah, you did!). Because fourquels typically come loaded with continuity baggage, they rarely connect with a wider audience beyond the hardcore fans looking to live inside their happy memories of the previous films for two more hours. By tossing all that out, Nimoy made the most financially and creatively successful “Star Trek” until J.J. Abrams’ recent reboot.


“Sudden Impact” (1983)
Directed by Clint Eastwood

The fourth “Dirty Harry” is best known for the line “Go ahead: make my day,” (see below). But “Sudden Impact” is directed by Clint Eastwood and it marks an important step on his path toward becoming the creator of films like “Unforgiven” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.” “Sudden Impact” is still very much a Dirty Harry film — don’t expect to see America’s favorite grizzled cop treating suspects with things like dignity or respect — but it also places him into a story loaded with moral ambiguity (truth be told, most “Dirty Harry”s are a lot more complicated than they’re often given credit for). This time San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan finds himself chasing a female vigilante (Sondra Locke) out to kill the men who raped her. While “Sudden Impact” remains part of the collective cultural lexicon because of the scene below where Eastwood breaks up a hold-up with his two pals Smith and Wesson, it’s much more interesting for the stuff that follows, that calls into question the old framework of good guys and bad guys, cops and robbers.


“Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson

I tend to think of prequels as the last, desperate act of creatively bankrupt movie serials; after all, one of the worst fourquels of all time is a prequel. When you couple the lack of suspense in a prequel, where the ending is a foregone conclusion, with the lack of suspense in a regular sequel, where we know everything about the tone and style and characters, what you typically get is a very boring movie (again, not to beat a dead horse here, but it’s true). If “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” isn’t the best prequel of all time, it’s definitely the craziest. You know where things are eventually going in this story — loincloths, Dr. Zaius, “YOU MANIACS!” — but you could never predict the events that would lead there. Unless you always suspected the Planet of Apes was caused by a disease that kills the world’s cats and dogs, forcing apes to become household pets and eventually slaves, prompting a mass uprising at the ape training facility that’s actually the campus of the University of California at Irvine (in which case, congratulations! You’re Paul Dehn, and you’re the screenwriter of “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”). The studio eventually softened the downer ending (SPOILER ALERT: THE APES GET THE PLANET!), but they couldn’t completely erase its chilling echoes of the racial divisions still simmering throughout the country in 1972. I guess in the strictest sense of the word, “Conquest” isn’t technically a prequel because two of the apes from the first and second film travel back through time in the third film, paradoxically kickstarting the chain of events that causes the fourth film and fifth films, later, the first and second. But either way, “Conquest” is a damn fine, damn demented fourquel.


“Live Free or Die Hard” (2007)
Directed by Len Wiseman

I’ve heard many complaints about the fourth “Die Hard” film: Bruce Willis isn’t playing John McClane so much as Bruce Willis, and the PG-13 rated violence is a big step backwards from the previous, R-rated installments. I’ll grant you both objections. Willis is kind of phoning it in and the overall level of murderousness — hey, if fourquel’s a word now, anything goes — isn’t quite as high as it could or should be. But even if it doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the original trilogy movies, “Live Free or Die Hard” does harken back the the larger category of 80s action films, where joie de vivre was much more important that irrelevant matters like logic or physics. Driving a car into a helicopter? Sure! Defeating a Harrier jet with a semi? Don’t mind if we do! “Live Free or Die Hard” bounces from one ludicrous set piece to the next; it’s easily the most physically active movie about computer hacking ever made. Yes, there are things in this movie that don’t make any sense. If they weren’t there, it wouldn’t be worth watching.


“Thunderball” (1965)
Directed Terrence Young

“Thunderball” is the last classic James Bond film, and even though it’s still a damn good time at the movies, you can already start to see the franchise begin to teeter on the edge of self-parody. This is the one where Bond flies with a jet pack (see below) and Blofeld bumps off henchman Dr. Evil-style with his deadly conference room chairs. But “Thunderball”‘s also the last time Connery was really invested in the character, and even if the plot gets cartoonish, Bond himself still has some edge; in the cold open, Bond attends a funeral, then punches the dead man’s widow square in the face (it turns out to be the “dead man” in disguise, but still). Terrence Young, who directed “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” returned for “Thunderball,” and he always brought a sense of real danger and intensity to the series’ action sequences (his secret, I think, is messy choreography which looks like two dudes really scrapping instead of a ballet). Plus the underwater finale is rightfully famous, Ken Adam’s production designs are gorgeous, and the final high note in Tom Jones’ theme song will rattle your cojones to their very core. “Thunderbaaaaaaaaaaaall!”


For Further Viewing: “Rocky IV,” for the training montage set to “Hearts on Fire,” “Land of the Dead,” where allegorical zombies invade Bush-era America, “Fast & Furious,” which recaptures the lunkheaded poetry that the series lost in its first two sequels, “Scary Movie 4,” funnier than you think (and don’t you give me that look), and “Lethal Weapon 4,” because this list is called “Five ‘Fourquels’ That Weren’t Terrible” not “Five ‘Fourquels’ That Were Good.”

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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.

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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.