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Five classic chick (action) flicks


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The term “chick flick” calls certain images to mind: moonlit kisses in the rain; awkward yet adorable first meetings between lovers; Katherine Heigl. If you’re calling something a “chick flick,” odds are you’re doing it dismissively, as in “My wife is dragging me to that new chick flick.” (NOTE: No one tell my wife I wrote that.) But “chick flick” is such a nice turn of phrase — it’s short, it’s memorable, it rhymes — that I think we ought to take it back. It should apply to all kinds of movies starring women, not just the ones featuring makeover montages or sassy best friends (or Katherine Heigl).

A perfect example is Steven Soderbergh‘s new movie, which opens in theaters this Friday. It’s called “Haywire,” but a more accurate title would be “MMA Fighter Gina Carano Beats the Shit Out of All of Hollywood’s Hottest Young Male Stars.” Carano (official MMA record: 7-1) plays Mallory, a secret agent for hire on a quest for revenge against her former employers. Getting that revenge means wiping the floor with Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, and Michael Fassbender, among others. It’s not a “chick flick” as we’ve come to know it — it’s closer to a Chuck Norris vehicle than a Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle — but maybe it should be. We could call it something like a “chick (action) flick.”

Whatever you want to call it, “Haywire” belongs to a fine tradition of action films centered around strong, sexy women. Here are five of our favorites.

“Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (1965)
Directed by Russ Meyer

Russ Meyer’s camp classic features a trio of busty, deadly woman on a go-go dancing, hot-rod racing rampage through the American Southwest. Meyer’s vixens — Haji, Lori Williams, and especially the voluptuous, karate-chopping Tura Santana — square off against a male cast that is clearly outmatched, both mentally and physically, by their female counterparts. The film’s opening narration, which accompanies images of bouncing sound waves (followed immediately by images of bouncing breasts) sets the tone as well as the connection between the pussycats’ power and their sexuality (“Ladies and gentlemen: welcome to violence!”). No wonder John Waters called it the best movie ever made and “possibly better than any movie that will ever be made.” Forty-five years later, I’m not sure any filmmaker has conclusively proven him wrong.

“Coffy” (1973)
Directed by Jack Hill

Male superheroes have utility belts. Coffy has an afro. She uses it to hide all sorts of useful things, mostly famously razor blades, which come quite in handy — no pun intended — when she finds herself in the middle of a catfight with some grabby prostitutes. Coffy, as played by the charming and stunningly gorgeous Pam Grier, is like the prototype of the woman Gina Carano plays in “Haywire” — beautiful, deadly, kicked around by men, and on a righteous quest for revenge. Though Grier spends a fair amount of the film nude and/or in bed with an assortment of male co-stars, director Jack Hill is actually using the framework of an exploitation film to tell a story of feminine empowerment, of a woman who uses her sexuality to her advantage, and whose enemies are all symbols of patriarchal power: pimps, cops, and, politicians.

“La Femme Nikita” (1990)
Directed by Luc Besson

A secret government agency trains a junkie and convicted cop killer (Anne Parillaud) how to be an assassin — and how to be a lady. Their classes include marksmanship, computer hacking, and grooming. “There are two things that are infinite,” Nikita’s etiquette teacher instructs her. “Femininity and means to take advantage of it.” After her training is complete, Nikita tries to balance her secret life as a deadly spy and her domestic life with a simple grocery clerk with mixed results, a nifty metaphor for the dilemma facing modern working women everywhere. Keeping the personal and the professional apart proves just as difficult as kidnapping an ambassador and stealing his secret files. The film is episodic and almost feels like the pilot of an ongoing television series, so it’s no surprise that there have already been two different “Nikita” television series.

“The Heroic Trio” (1993)
Directed by Johnnie To

This Hong Kong superhero flick gets major demerits for dodgy wirework and a laughable plot (the version available on Netflix Watch Instantly also sports some absolutely horrendous English language dubbing). But that doesn’t change the fact that it also boasts one of the greatest assemblages of woman warriors in movie history. Super-powered Shadow Fox (Anita Mui), and shotgun-toting biker chick Mercy (Maggie Cheung) team up to rescue a bunch of kidnapped babies from the hands of an evil sorcerer who wants to use them to bring about the resurrection of who the hell knows. Eventually, Shadow Fox and Mercy combine forces with the sorcerer’s right hand lady, The Invisible Woman (Michelle Yeoh) and then all three have some absolutely spectacular fight scenes with the movie’s heavy, a flying guillotine toting nutjob played by Anthony Wong. The Trio represent both beauty and brawn; after they win their climactic battle, they grab some flowing robes and do a slow-motion catwalk strut into the closing credits.

“Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2” (2003 and 2004)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

The movie with so much asskickery it had to be split in two parts, first released in the fall of 2003 and the spring of 2004, respectively. Uma Thurman’s The Bride is betrayed and left to die on her wedding day by the rest of her squad of professional assassins; over the course of Quentin Tarantino’s two-part revenge saga, she ferociously repays the favor. “Kill Bill” is, in some ways, the apotheosis of Tarantino’s film quotation aesthetic — the movie’s IMDb movie connections page is almost as long as its screenplay. It combines themes, visuals, and motifs from all these other wonderful female action films — including “Thriller: A Cruel Picture,” “Switchblade Sisters,” and “The Doll Squad” — to create an experience that is arguably more fun than all of its influences combined.

What’s your favorite chick (action) flick? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.