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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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