DID YOU READ

“Your Highness,” Reviewed

“Your Highness,” Reviewed (photo)

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The target audience for “Your Highness” is at least four years too young to legally watch it. The film is part spoof, part celebration of the schlocky fantasy films of the ’70s and ’80s which hastened a generation of boys into puberty when their copious servings of blood and nudity appeared on late night cable. “Your Highness,” a sort of fantasy of fantasy, was made by two alumni of that generation: director David Gordon Green and co-writer and star Danny McBride. What they’ve done is pay it forward, cinematically speaking: they loved these sorts of movies as kids and now they’ve made this sort of movie for kids today, only it’s even more violent and booblicious and way more vulgar than any of the ones that inspired them. I’m sure it will delight those young, impressionable horny minds, though I’m not sure “Your Highness” will strike as deep a resonant chord with anyone else.

McBride plays Thadeous, a medieval prince living in the shadow of his cooler, braver brother Fabious (James Franco). I want to call Thadeous a classic McBride hero in the mold of his characters from “The Foot Fist Way” and “Eastbound and Down” but he’s missing a key ingredient. Thadeous bears McBride’s standard narcissism, laziness, and foul mouth, but he lacks the sinister core of sexism, cruelty, and hardness that makes Fred Simmons and Kenny Powers more complicated than buffoons. In other words, Thadeous is a buffoon, albeit an occasionally amusing one.

Fabious’ bride-to-be Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped by an evil, horny wizard named Leezar (Justin Theroux) so it’s up to the two brothers to quest for the magical weapons they’ll need to rescue her. Along the way there are wizards to smoke “herbs” with, bare-breasted Amazon hordes to ogle, and many MANY dick jokes to crack, some so visually prolonged and — well “ballsy” isn’t quite the right word given the context, but whatever you want to call them they’re so insane and in your face that you can’t believe the movie managed to sneak through the ratings board with an R.

Someone who enjoyed “Your Highness” more than I did will probably argue that it’s a filthy-minded, potty-mouthed parody of the immaturity of those old school fantasy films and there is definitely some evidence to support that argument. Pettiness in a world of chivalry is pretty funny, and there is some real pettiness on display here: one villain turns to the dark side because he was passed over for the position of Best Man at a wedding. It is sort of charming to watch the bloated self-importance of period films get deflated by an avalanche of profanity. But you can only pop a balloon so many times until you’re just poking a pin into a flabby, shriveled piece of rubber. Green and McBride take the stuffing out of these movies, but they don’t put a whole lot back in except a lot of variations on the eff word.

Though I’m typically a huge McBride fan, stripped of his dark side because of what may have been this multimillion dollar production about minotaur penises’ one concession to a mainstream audience, he isn’t quite the same. So I found myself more drawn to his supporting cast, particularly the hysterical Theroux as the sexually frustrated sorcerer. When you get right down to it, Leezar isn’t all that different than Thadeous: powerful but impotent with women, jealous of James Franco’s awesome hair, and pitifully lonely. If he wasn’t so hellbent on raping Belladonna to impregnate her with a dragon fetus, he wouldn’t be such a bad guy, and that’s how Theroux plays him: sinister but also kind of pathetic (sample Leezar pickup line: “I’m rich, I live in a castle, and I do fucking magic!”).

Natalie Portman’s good too as the first Best Actress Oscar winner to immediately follow her award winning performance with a medieval stoner flick where she makes jokes about her vagina. She plays Isabel, a lone warrior questing across the countryside in search of revenge for the slaughter of her family. To appease that 13-year-old boy audience she also has a scene where she bathes in a thong, and if any thong bathing scene ever deserved to be discussed in the same paragraph as the words “Oscar winner,” it is this one. The biggest waste of a cast member is Deschanel, who has a really great comedic setup for a character — Belladonna has spent her entire life locked up in a tower which has made her incredibly stupid — but almost zero opportunities to pay it off.

I have to admit, as an admirer of its filmmakers, “Your Highness” disappointed me. I laughed, even laughed hard a few times, but I also sat quietly for long stretches. The extreme to which Green, McBride, and co-writer Ben Best went to send-up these sword and sorcery films of their youth is kind of incredible. McBride’s character aside, they made very few concessions to whitebread moviegoer tastes. But maybe they went a little too far pleasing their inner 12-year-olds. My inner 12-year-old was amused. My outer 30-year-old wanted a little bit more.

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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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