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Fantastic Fest 2011: “Manborg,” reviewed

Fantastic Fest 2011: “Manborg,” reviewed (photo)

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The plot keywords for “Manborg” on the Fantastic Fest website are: action, comedy, sci-fi, and bizarre. To which I would add the following: goofy, violent, funny, cheap, and charming. The mythos of this film is huge. There’s a cataclysmic war between the armies of man and hell, a dystopian future ruled by drippy-skinned demons, chase scenes on hoverbikes, and massive sci-fi battles. If Hollywood tried to remake “Manborg,” the movie would cost at least $150,000,000. I suspect director Steven Kostanski’s budget had at least five less zeros.

Stylistically, the movie looks and sounds like a really impressive cinematic from a Sega CD launch title circa 1992. The backgrounds are flat, the effects are crude, the voice dubbing is laughable, and the entire film looks like it was shot in front of a green screen with an old camcorder. All of that is by design. “Manborg” follows in the footsteps of recent movies like “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” and “The FP” in celebrating a time in genre filmmaking when imagination and creativity were more important than photorealism. No one will mistake anything in “Manborg” for reality, and that’s the point. The movie is a crazed fantasy, freed of the limitations of budget, taste, realism, or good common sense.

It is about the aftermath of a war between man and the armies of hell, in a broken world controlled by an evil dictator named Count Draculon (Adam Brooks). A soldier who died in the war (Matthew Kennedy) awakens into this dark future with most of his body replaced, “Robocop”-style, by cybernetic enhancements. When someone asks him his name, he looks at his hands, one still marginally human, one covered with robotics. “Man…borg…” he replies. All righty, then.

Captured by Draculon’s forces, Manborg is forced into gladiatorial combat alongside a few other feisty human survivors, including a karate fighter (Ludwig Lee), a marksman (Conor Sweeney), and a knife wielding hot chick (Meredith Sweeney). Together they rebel against their overlords and plot to destroy Draculon. Along the way there are some surprisingly effective, anime-influenced fight scenes and some really good comic relief from a character called The Baron (Jeremy Gillespie), a future demonspawn warlord who has a crush on the knife wielding hot chick but doesn’t know how to talk to her. “You may be Prisoner #7, but you’re Prisoner #1 in my heart,” he stammers through a lipless, desiccated mouth held permanently in place by metal clamps.

Manborg himself is a fun character, but he’s also a living, breathing declaration of principles for high-flying, low-fi-ing Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6, whose five members — Kostanski, Kennedy, Brooks, Sweeney, and Gillespie — did basically everything on the film from the acting to the special effects to the screenplay, and who assert on their website that their films, inspired by the “obscure VHS movies of the ’80s,” are financed “by pure, naive passion and ignorance alone.” Manborg, this hideous beast of a hero cobbled together from spare parts, symbolizes the power of discarded junk.

I don’t know how many people are going to find “Manborg.” But I suspect a lot of the people that do won’t be so quick to throw it away.

“Manborg” does not currently have U.S. distribution. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve embedded the film’s trailer below.

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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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