DID YOU READ

“A Better Life,” Reviewed

“A Better Life,” Reviewed (photo)

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It shouldn’t be a consideration while watching “A Better Life” that it came into being as a form of payback for Chris Weitz, who last directed “Twilight: New Moon” for Summit Entertainment and was rewarded with a greenlight for that all-too-rare creature these days – the studio film for adults. But it has to be since it isn’t just the filmmaker who’s allowed to enjoy telling a story closer to his own heart, but the audience who benefits the most.

If “A Better Life” has a fault, it may be that it isn’t adult enough, that its story of an illegal immigrant (Demian Bichir) whose been toiling out as a gardener on the lawns of the rich in Los Angeles to make ends meet is a bit too simple, though that would be ignoring its elegance. Carlos, the gardener, is beyond reproach, though life has been unquestionably unfair to him. His wife passed away, leaving him to take care their now-teenage son Luis (José Julián), while the lawyer who promised him immigration papers has left him broke. Things begin to look up when his boss offers Carlos his truck, so he can retire to a farm, but it’ll come at a cost of $12,000, which would be unthinkable except for a possible loan from his sister, who can also ill afford it.

ABetterLife2_06242011.jpgThrough it all, Bichir is never any less stoic than Gregory Peck, nor is Carlos any less principled than Moses, with obstacle after obstacle testing his resolve in such succession that “A Better Life” would strain credibility if it weren’t so tender and well-executed. In some ways, a remake of Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” reimagined as a thriller, the film takes off once Carlos is joined by Luis after the former is robbed and must track down the thief, an exercise that leads to the fringes of South Central and brings the father and son together to a proximity they haven’t shared since the boy was an infant. Luis, all but orphaned by his father’s endless days at work, has gravitated towards the gangs that rule his school without actually joining one, but now is at the age where he must either be with them or against them.

Aided by a soaring score from Alexandre Desplat (“The Tree of Life”), Weitz elevates the story to near-epic levels, imagining Los Angeles as a land vast enough for ample opportunity and endless swaths of treacherous terrain. After once proving his strength at capturing an unorthodox father-son relationship in “About a Boy,” Weitz’s real achievement with “A Better Life” is teasing out the suspense of not only Carlos and Luis’ fractured relationship, but of the journey that they’re on together that’s fraught with all the uncertainty of being in a place they never can really call home. Every time they speak to a stranger, there’s the possibility for misinterpretation and every encounter with a police officer is a chance to be deported.

Even if the story itself is broad, streamlined for maximized emotional potency as it was in the days of De Sica, “A Better Life” is rich enough with detail to be immune to false moments, whether it’s between Bichir and Julián, whose characters gradually let their guard down as they feel each other out, or in the scenes that push the mystery forward through crowded apartments, chop shops and rodeos. With its story of struggle, “A Better Life” may not entirely live up to its title in a literal sense, but it’s a better movie than we’ve come to expect.

“A Better Life” opens in limited release on June 24th.

Will you want to see “A Better Life”? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

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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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