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DID YOU READ

“Ironclad,” reviewed

“Ironclad,” reviewed (photo)

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When they named ’em the Dark Ages, brother, they weren’t kidding. The medieval action film “Ironclad” shows England in the period just after the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, a time of violence, pain, and death. The setting and milieu recall “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” without all the jokes. There is one scene in “Ironclad” where a guy beats another guy to death with a third guy’s severed arm — something so ridiculous it could be funny — but it’s not played for laughs. In other words, if you’re in the market for a movie where a guy beats a man to death with a severed arm in a completely non-ironic way, your search is over.

The setting may be “Holy Grail” but the story is “Seven Samurai” with a dash of “Rio Bravo.” King John (Paul Giamatti), furious at having been forced to sign Magna Carta, takes systematic revenge against the Barons who imposed it on him. Baron Albany (Brian Cox) decides to mount a rebellion at the strategically advantageous Rochester Castle in southern England. There he and a tiny band of freedom fighters — including a Templar knight, a master bowman, a cynical mercenary, a crazed thief, and a wide-eyed squire — must hold the castle keep until French reinforcements arrive to enforce the charter. The odds are long to impossible and the battles are bloody.

Oh, how they are bloody. The will of the King may be clad in iron, but the action sequences are drenched in blood; so much blood that fans of extreme horror might prove an unlikely but appreciative cult for “Ironclad” and its endless array of gory kill shots. The film pulls no punches in depicting the awesome (and gruesome) sacrifices these men of history made for their beliefs. But even though you might appreciate that sacrifice, you still might not want to watch multiple dudes cut in half the long way (which is really the tougher and nastier of the two ways to cut a dude in half). There’s lots of slo-mo and juiced-up sound effects, and characters tend to pepper their fights with tough guy poses and one-liners, which suggests the battle scenes are intended as thrilling entertainment. But there’s more viscera than visceral excitement, and director Jonathan English takes a shaky, handheld, heavily edited approach to the fight sequences. Whole battles feel comprised exclusively of quick, blurry close-ups of swords and men’s entrails.

Far more to my liking are the scenes between the battles, and the performances by Giamatti and Cox, both clearly having a blast with the opportunity to put on a Prince Valiant wig and some chainmail in order to bellow lines like “You’re no more a king than the boil on my ass!” English and co-writer Erick Kastel’s screenplay is full of nuggets of juicy dialogue like that, and Giamatti makes a wonderfully evil King John, the same one from many versions of “Robin Hood.” Here he’s less the sniveling John of the Disney cartoon and more “I AM THE BLOOD! I AM GOD’S RIGHT HAND! NOW CUT OFF HIS FOOT!” but it’s working for him. Unfortunately Giamatti and Cox spend most of the movie on opposite side of an enormous castle wall, limiting the amount of time they can chew the scenery together, or rather demolish the scenery with enormous catapults of manly charisma.

The bloody, ampu-tastic deaths in this movie are expertly done. Maybe too well done; “Ironclad” walks a very fine line between showing the high cost of freedom and exploiting it. No doubt one of the film’s fans will soon compile all its goriest moments into a YouTube clip celebrating the impressive mayhem. But I’d rather watch a highlight reel of Giamatti and Cox going at it, or a version of “Ironclad” that had a lot more of them in it. They bring enlightenment to a dark film.

“Ironclad” opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, we want to hear what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.