DID YOU READ

“Warrior,” reviewed

“Warrior,” reviewed (photo)

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“Warrior” was the third of three films I saw Wednesday. At the first movie, I took five pages of notes. At the second, I took four. At “Warrior,” I took less than two. In other words: I got lost in this movie. I stopped thinking about the fine points of cinematography, editing, and score and simply gave myself over to the story and characters. Right up until a poorly chosen ending, I was caught up in every twist and turn. This is a fun movie.

It’s set in the world of mixed martial arts, and done in the “Rocky” style, only this movie has two Rocky figures. They’re brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton). Life dealt them both the same bum hand; each played it in different ways. Their father Paddy (Nick Nolte) was a a great wrestling coach and a terrible alcoholic. The exact dimensions of his abuse are left vague but from the way the brothers treat their father in the present day, this much is clear: he was one bad dude. Tommy and his mother left, but Brendan stayed so he could be close to his girlfriend Tess (Jennifer Morrison). Years pass. Brendan and Tess are now married, living in Philadelphia with two daughters and one mortgage they can’t afford. To pay the bills, Brendan works as a high school physics teacher by day and a mixed martial arts fighter at night. Meanwhile Tommy returns from a tour of duty in the Marines to Paddy’s house in Pittsburgh. He hates his father, but he’s thinking about fighting, and he needs someone to train him.

A few enterprising MMA promoters devise a new eye catching elimination-style tournament called Sparta: 16 fighters, one winner. You see where this is going. Despite the fact that Tommy and Brendan are both unranked nobodies, each will get the opportunity to compete at Sparta and, potentially, have the chance to settle years of festering animosity in a final cage match.

The climax of “Warrior” is never in doubt. And the contortions the film takes to put the brothers into that climax are ridiculous. But the journey to that destination is nonetheless very satisfying. So many movies pit a hero against a villain; this movie gives us a battle between two heroes of equal stature, a much rarer but arguably more suspenseful conflict. After all in a battle of good and evil, the ending, especially in a Hollywood movie, is never in doubt. In a battle of good and good, either outcome is plausible. “Warrior” reminded me — in a very good way — of watching “WrestleMania VI,” and the fight between the two biggest good-guy wrestlers of my childhood, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. The tension was incredible because either man could win, and you had no idea what was going to happen. The same holds true here.

Hardy, Edgerton, and Nolte, all from different countries — Hardy’s English, Edgerton Australian, and Nolte American — do a very credible job of creating a cohesive, if effed up family. Nolte channels all of his well-publicized problems with substance abuse into a powerful portrait of addiction. Edgerton has great chemistry with Morrison, and makes both a believable prize fighter and teacher. And Hardy, who gets very few lines, is terrific as a bottled-up beast of a man, who, with his wide open stance, enormous muscles, and jittery hands, looks like a bull charging a matador when he’s in an MMA cage. He is an intimidating figure.

“Warrior” was directed and co-written by Gavin O’Connor who made the very solid hockey movie “Miracle” and the very underwhelming cop movie “Pride & Glory.” The former film was about the sacrifices a husband makes to achieve a career goal; the latter, the thorny connections between family members who share a common vocation. O’Connor combines both those themes here, with strong results: the drama is intense but not overly melodramatic, and the sports movie cliches are all effectively deployed — at least until the finale, which I will not spoil, but which left me scratching my head for its total implausibility and its maudlin sentimentality. Even worse, it totally derails the big confrontation we’ve been waiting all movie to see. And it’s overly sentimental without actually resolving a lot of the major emotional conflicts between the characters.

Up until that ending I really enjoyed “Warrior.” It’s the sort of sports movie you want to see: one that acknowledges its forefathers (there is a very pointed “Rocky” reference early in the film) but isn’t above embracing all the tropes we love to see in this sort of story. But the last few scenes lost me. That’s when the funniest thing happened. I started taking notes.

“Warrior” opens today. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.