DID YOU READ

“The Rum Diary,” reviewed

“The Rum Diary,” reviewed (photo)

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2011 could use Hunter S. Thompson. The greed, the fraud, the hypocrisy; that’s what Thompson’s gonzo journalism was all about. So the timing is certainly right for an adaptation of “The Rum Diary,” Thompson’s 1998 novel about his time raking through the muck of corrupt 1950s Puerto Rico. It’s just the wan execution that’s wrong.

Johnny Depp returns to the role of Thompson, one he played to great comedic effect in Terry Gilliam’s delightfully deranged film adaptation of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” There he was Thompson as cartoon character — a lysergically-fueled tornado of flailing limbs and blistering prose. “The Rum Diary” presents Thompson — a.k.a. Paul Kemp — as matinee idol. He’s looking sharp in period suit and sunglasses, with his hair at its most handsomely Deppiest — either perfectly slicked into a small pompadour or perfectly tousled into a droopy curl. Depp does a little of his signature mugging but mostly he’s the straight man in this story: the incredulous observer of crooked newspaper editors, unscrupulous land barons, and hermaphroditic witchdoctors. Given the time period and the reverence with which Depp and the film hold Thompson’s words and ideals, “The Rum Diary” feels a little like a super-hero origin story. You’ve seen the guy at his apex of his powers. Now see how he got them.

Unfortunately, as is the case in most prequels, the backstory is a lot less juicy than the story. Kemp — who describes his drinking habit as existing “at the upper edge of social” — is the only applicant for a job at a crumbling Puerto Rican newspaper. His editor, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins, hamming it up in an intentionally bad toupée), assigns him to replace the recently deceased horoscope writer (he was, Lotterman warns, “raped to death”). Kemp wants to write about the protests against the island’s wealthy American elites but is rebuffed because bad news is bad for business. So he’s sent to cover bowling alley openings instead. That sort of thing didn’t start with Occupy Wall Street, you see.

Kemp’s writing brings him to the attention of one of those wealthy American elites, a real estate developer named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who is clearly evil because he a)dresses all in white and b)smokes big cigars. He wants Kemp to help some shady investors turn a nearby island into the next Caribbean vacation destination. Kemp winds up fighting to keep these rich dudes’ hands off that private Caribbean island, which is kind of hilarious when you remember that in real life Depp IS the rich dude who’s got his hands on a private Caribbean island. Hooray for Hollywood!

For a a while, Kemp does go along with the scheme, mostly because he’s interested in Sanderson’s girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard). With good reason; Heard is insanely beautiful in this movie. Her work in “The Rum Diary” makes a very strong case for her as the best-looking young actress in Hollywood.

“The Rum Diary” is a good-looking piece of work from top to bottom. Director Bruce Robinson — the long MIA creator of “Withnail and I” — captures period Puerto Rico with an eye toward the natural beauty and its colorful inhabitants. The details of the 1950s newsroom feel perfect. But for all of Kemp’s outrageous misadventures and Thompson’s outsized journalism, “The Rum Diary” is surprisingly inert. Even with all the thematic resonances to modern protest movements, it doesn’t add up to a whole lot more than a vanity project in which a big-time movie star valorizes a departed friend for no other reason than he can.

One set-piece after another — a car chase, a cockfight, a disastrous acid trip, and, yes, a visit with a hermaphroditic witchdoctor — come and go with very little in the way of comedy or drama. Maybe Depp, despite his dead-on impersonation of Thompson’s cigarette-stained voice and alcohol-soaked persona, is a bit too cool for the film; even when his job’s on the line, he never seems especially invested in anything around him. When Kemp finds his true, gonzo voice he starts ranting about bringing “blasts of rage” against the greedy bastards destroying Puerto Rico. But the movie never comes close to matching its subject’s passion.

“The Rum Diary” opens on Friday. If you see it, tell us what you think. Leave us a comment below or write to us 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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