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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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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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