DID YOU READ

“The Avengers” 101: What to know before you head to the theater

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in The Avengers

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At this point, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of “The Avengers,” Marvel’s surprisingly great superhero team-up extravaganza that hits theaters this weekend.

One of the questions that keeps popping up as we approach the film’s premiere is whether you should see all of the previous Marvel movies in order to understand “The Avengers,” or whether it can be appreciated on its own. The answer is yes… to both questions.

While the five films leading up “The Avengers” (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”) can be a little hit or miss, the sense that they’re building toward something larger only adds to the spectacle of this weekend’s big crossover. They also offer a nice introduction to each of the primary characters and, to be honest, their differences in tone and style add some perspective to the success of “The Avengers.”

Still, you’re not alone if you don’t have the urge to watch (or re-watch) all five movies before seeing what all the “Avengers” fuss is about. That’s why I’ve put together a crash course on what you need to know before you head to the theaters this weekend for “The Avengers” — but be warned, if you haven’t watched the Marvel characters’ solo movies yet, there are some big spoilers coming up.

Lesson 1: Loki

Loki is Thor’s adopted brother, who attempted to take over the realm of Asgard (an alien world populated by powerful beings that resemble the Norse gods) in the movie “Thor.” After the bridge from Asgard to other worlds (including Earth) was broken at the end of “Thor,” Loki fell into the cosmic abyss surrounding the bridge and hasn’t been heard from since that film.

Lesson 2: S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Avengers Initiative

S.H.I.E.L.D. is a powerful, international, covert-operations organization headed up by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Throughout the previous Marvel movies, S.H.I.E.L.D. has repeatedly popped up as a thread between the characters, with Fury and his agents — usually Agent Phil Coulson (played by Clark Gregg) — approaching each of the characters from the solo movies to discuss their potential roles in “The Avengers Initiative.” S.H.I.E.L.D. has also served as a police force of sorts that is called in to handle affairs that transcend the abilities of the regular military or police force (i.e., Thor’s arrival on Earth or Hulk’s rampage).

Lesson 3: The Tesseract

Referred to as the “Cosmic Cube” in the Marvel Comics universe, The Tesseract is a powerful energy source that was first introduced in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Its origins are unknown — and possibly alien (or magical) in nature — but what is known is that it generates a nearly limitless amount of energy. In “Captain America,” the evil Red Skull attempted to harness the Tesseract’s power for his own purposes, and created an arsenal of weapons powered by the Tesseract’s glowing, blue energy. At the end of “Captain America,” the Tesseract was seemingly lost in the ocean, but in a post-credits scene from “Thor,” it’s revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. recovered the Tesseract and it is now being studied by one of Thor’s human friends, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard).

Lesson 4: Captain America, Man out of Time

Captain America’s solo movie sports the tagline “The First Avenger” for a reason — that reason being that he started his superhero career back during World War II, decades before Iron Man, Hulk, and the rest of the team. (Although now that I think of it, Thor might have him beat. But anyways…) At the end of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” soldier-turned-superhero Steve Rogers makes the supreme sacrifice, plunging himself and the Tesseract-powered bomber he’s piloting into the frozen ocean. As we see in the film’s closing scene, his body is later recovered and thawed out in the present day, giving him quite the shock when he discovers how much has changed in the world since WWII. As we learn in “The Avengers,” acclimation to the modern era isn’t an easy task for a hero of bygone days.

Lesson 5: Yesterday’s Captain America is today’s Hulk

In “The Incredible Hulk,” we learn that the experiment that caused Bruce Banner to become a raging green behemoth every time he gets angry was actually a failed attempt at recreating the procedure that turned scrawny Steve Rogers into the star-spangled superhero Captain America. When Banner and his colleagues attempted to use gamma rays to replicate the results of the WWII-era experiment (which was lost when Dr. Abraham Erskine was killed by a Nazi assassin), the result was a Hulk-sized catastrophe, and the need for Banner to stay calm or risk the beast inside of him destroying everything around him.

And that’s about it, folks! That’s nearly everything that you’ll need to go into “The Avengers” with a firm grasp on the last five movies’ worth of events in the Marvel universe.

And though I still can’t recommend enough that you check out all of the movies before watching “The Avengers,” this information should give you all the knowledge you need to get the most out of your “Avengers” experience.

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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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