DID YOU READ

“Fast Five,” Reviewed

“Fast Five,” Reviewed (photo)

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Finally, The Rock has come back to action movies. Yeah yeah, I know he made “Faster” last year, I know he doesn’t even go by “The Rock” anymore — it’s Dwyane Johnson now, Jabroni — but after years in the kiddie movie wasteland, he’s back where he belongs: beating the holy crap out of people. “Fast Five” has both the continuation of the adventures of Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner and Johnson as their new badass adversary; it’s an embarrassment of macho riches. This movie is so drenched with testosterone, it belongs on Major League Baseball’s banned substances list.

It starts by resuming the nuanced, multilayered plot threads from the end of 2009 “Fast & Furious.” Brian and his girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) break her brother Dom out of prison and the three flee to Rio de Janeiro. Looking to get out of the driving very rapidly and stealing things business, they decide to stay in the driving very rapidly and stealing things business for one last job, and assemble an all-star roster of former “Fast & Furious” co-stars to help them, including Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges from “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Sung Kang from “The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift,” and Gal Gadot from “Fast & Furious.” The enormity of the returning cast — including a few unannounced cameos — turns the film into a “House of Frankenstein” for muscle-bound muscle car movies. But while Dom and Brian’s gang plan to rob Rio’s drug kingpin, Johnson’s DEA Agent Hobbs pursues them as fugitives on the run from United States justice.

“The Fast & The Furious” franchise started in 2001 as a movie about an undercover cop with frosted tips torn between his responsibilities and his deep, deep manlove for a drag racer. The series’ camp elements peaked with “2 Fast 2 Furious,” a movie that culminates with a chase scene so ridiculous that “Starsky and Hutch” used it as its own climax and didn’t have to chance anything to play the scene for laughs. Since then, the series has gotten progressively more straight-faced, if no less absurd. That transformation from corn to pop is completed in “Fast Five,” which tones down the street racing and amps up the heist film elements that have always bubbled beneath its surface. The newfound gravitas is supported immensely by Johnson, who provides a literally sweaty intensity missing from the stone-faced Diesel and smirky Walker. I’m pretty sure he never unfurrows even once in the entire picture. He doesn’t change his shirt once, either. No time for that stuff when there are smackdowns to lay.

Writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin combine all kinds of action in this masculine hullabaloo — a big and enjoyable heist, some good car chases, foot chases, and fight scenes — another way in which “Fast Five” is a bit like a Frankenstein monster. The enormous, lumbering frames of Diesel and Johnson — and their big, destructive mano-a-mano rumble, with its shades of Lugosi’s monster versus Chaney’s werewolf — is another.

“Fast Five’ is significantly longer than any of the other films in the series, and it sags a bit in its middle section; typically heist films thrive on scenes of ingenious planning and preparation, but the “Fast & Furious” movies have never been at their best basking in the intellect of their protagonists. Regardless, Lin, directing his third straight film in the franchise, has evolved into a skilled action director capable of choroegraphing chases that never sacrifice clarity for freneticism. The dual chase, with the Brazilian mobsters and the DEA agents both hot on the heels of Dom and Brian’s crew through the streets and rooftops of a Rio favela, is a bravura sequence.

When you step back and look at it, this series’ evolution is kind of insane. Its fifth entry is unquestionably its biggest and most technically accomplished production yet. It’s also the least silly and the least dumb. This all flies in the face of the rules of almost every long-running movie franchise, which typically turn to self-cannibalization when they exhaust every original idea by installment three or four. It’s kind of sad that simply making a very professional and satisfying movie in a film series feels innovative in our climate of cinematic autosarcophagy. But it does. “Fast Five”‘s so satisfying that even before a cute post-credits teaser, it’s pretty easy to smell what The Rock and his new friends are cooking: another sequel.

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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.