DID YOU READ

“Horrible Bosses,” reviewed

“Horrible Bosses,” reviewed (photo)

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I’m getting a little sick of reading (and saying and writing) the phrase “the plot is just a clothesline to hang the gags on” in reviews of Hollywood comedies. Yes, laughs are the most important thing in a comedy, but if laughs are the only thing in a comedy, the film might be funny, but that’s all it will ever be. Seth Gordon‘s “Horrible Bosses” represents a welcome return to plot-based comedy. This is not a movie in which the plot is just a clothesline to hang gags on. There’s an honest-to-God story here, and the more twists and turns it takes the better and funnier “Horrible Bosses” gets.

That story is simple but the execution could be tricky. Three working stiffs — corporate drone Nick (Jason Bateman), dental hygienist Dale (Charlie Day), and manager of a small chemical company Kurt (Jason Sudekis) — realize over one of their weekly commiseration sessions at the local bar, that their lives are perfect in every way except for one: their horrible bosses. Dave (Kevin Spacey) tricks Nick into getting drunk on the job, then steals his promotion. Julia (Jennifer Aniston) is so intent on sleeping with Dale that she threatens to tell his fiance they have unless he actually does. And Bobby (Colin Farrell) is a greedy cokehead who inherits the business from his father. He forces Kurt to do his dirty work for him (first order of business: “trim the fat,” i.e. “fire the fat people”) and threatens to run the company into the ground. The trio resolve to murder their bosses, only jokingly and drunkenly at first, but more seriously after things get even worse at work. Why don’t they just quit their jobs, you ask? In this economy? The way things are these days, you’ve got to hold onto your career like grim death, even if that means sending someone else off to theirs.

Murderous fantasies are one thing, but actually plotting (and then actually executing) a hit isn’t necessarily a comedy slam dunk. To make it funny, you’ve got to make the bosses pure, unadulterated evil, and the ones in “Horrible Bosses” definitely are. Farrell, sporting a awe-inspiring combover, is a being of pure sleaze and greed. Aniston, playing against type with a twinkle in her eye, is a funnily filthy seductress. And Kevin Spacey, who’s already in the Bad Movie Boss Hall of Fame for his role in the sadly forgotten “Swimming With Sharks” is a deliciously sinister sociopath as Dave. Nick, Dale, and Kurt make what little rationalizations they need to — since Bobby’s cost-cutting measures will mean the deaths of thousands of South Americans, murdering him would actually be a heroic gesture! — and set off on their plans.

After a lengthy and hilariously unsuccessful search for an assassin with an interest in, um, “wetwork,” they finally find a “murder consultant” played by Jamie Foxx. He suggests they each perform the other’s murders so that the have no apparent motive; you know, like that movie “Strangers on a Train” (or was it “Throw Momma From the Train”)? I will not spoil anything else about Foxx’s small but unforgettable role but everything about every moment he is in — from his plan to his character’s name to his hair to the ultimate reveal of how he got into the murder consulting game — is funny. One joke in particular involving Fox’s character — you’ll know it when you hear it because it involves the unexpected placement of a very unlikely movie title — made me laugh harder than any joke in any movie I’ve seen so far this year.

I laughed a lot in general at “Horrible Bosses,” but even more than the laughter, I appreciated the way the screenplay by Michael Markowitz, Jonathan M. Goldstein, and “Freaks and Geeks” star John Francis Daley continually ratchets up the tension as these very dumb guys get into deeper and deeper trouble. Here is one film whose outcome cannot be predicted from its opening scenes (not by a long shot). Rebounding from his dreadful first fiction feature “Four Christmases,” director Seth Gordon shows the same sort of deftness with suspenseful comic narratives that made his documentary on obsessive “Donkey Kong” players, “The King of Kong,” so hilariously entertaining. He juggles a big cast and a dicey comic premise, and he navigates the fine line between dark comedy and just plain dark with real skill.

“Horrible Bosses” has some good jokes, extremely likable performances and, yes, a real and vital plot. It’s a comedy with some suspense and even some stakes. What a welcome twist. Gordon and company really killed it.

Going to see “Horrible Bosses” this weekend? We want to hear what you think of it. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!

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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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