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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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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