Willem Dafoe still perplexed by “John Carter” reception

john carter

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Andrew Stanton’s swashbuckling science-fiction blockbuster “John Carter” could very well go down as one of the most polarizing films in recent history, with audiences split over whether to love or hate the live-action film based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ popular hero. In fact, it appears that there’s very little middle ground when it comes to “John Carter” — a situation that frustrates and confuses its fans and critics alike.

For veteran actor Willem Dafoe, who played green-skinned alien Tars Tarkas in the film, the reception to “John Carter” is yet another mystery of the Hollywood machine, as he counts himself among the film’s true fans.

“You don’t like to publicly lament disappointments too much, but I’m still kind of scratching my head over it,” Dafoe told IFC during a recent interview. “For me, I thought ‘John Carter’ really captured something. It was very pure in its approach. It was classical. It wasn’t hip and cool. It was really from the source, and I appreciate that.”

“In my experience, sometimes a movie just hits at the wrong time, gets the wrong press, or gets the wrong representation, and it gets misunderstood,” he continued. “Sometimes it’s hard for people to really decide, too. There’s so much reporting about the business and that other stuff, that they really get distracted by some of those things, and then it influences some of the weaker-willed people to not have their own opinion.”

For Dafoe, the poor performance of “John Carter” is particularly disappointing given his character’s evolving role in Burroughs’ stories — a role that would see Tars Tarkas becoming almost as important as John Carter himself in the series’ over-arching narrative. With the film only recently making back its whopping $250 million production budget in worldwide ticket sales, the likelihood of a sequel has become unlikely, to put it mildly.

“It sure doesn’t seem like [there will be a sequel], which is a shame,” said Dafoe. “This was the set-up for what could be a great series of movies. . . I was looking forward to doing a sequel, though, because I know something of where the story goes and the character of Tars Tarkas. He’s big, and the relationship with John gets more intense.”

“So, yeah — that’s a shame,” he sighed.

Why do YOU think “John Carter” performed poorly at the box office? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Benders 107 TG2

Stale Love Life?

5 Ways to Get Ready for Tonight’s Benders and Improve Your Relationship

Catch Benders tonight at 10P ET/PT on IFC.

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Tonight on a brand-new Benders, Karen has a surprise for Paul while Andrew has to deal with a motormouth girlfriend. Before you settle in at 10P ET/PT to watch, check out five ways tonight’s episode can improve your romantic life.

1. Communicate Your Needs in the Bedroom.

Communication is important in any relationship. Sometimes you want to talk about your day, and sometimes you feel like Anthony and just want to fall asleep listening to the latest Marc Maron podcast.

2.  Work on your excuse game.

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However, if you do need to find a way to, say, drone out your talkative girlfriend, don’t follow Anthony’s lead. Come up with an excuse that doesn’t lead to you mispronouncing “tinnitus.”

3. Rescue a cat together.

A pet can be a great way to inject some warmth into your relationship. Just make sure your significant other doesn’t break out into hives at the sight of a friendly feline.

4. Keep your lady away from Jim Breuer.

The Breu-ski cannot be trusted around the fairer sex.

5. If all else fails, remember: Use the Chubby.

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To make a relationship work, remember: there is no try, only do. If Paul didn’t work hard to keep Karen, she’d probably be Mrs. Brue-ski right now.

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross in Mr. Show With Bob and David.

Best of Mr. Show

10 Mr. Show Sketches That Were Ahead of Their Time

David Cross returns as Todd Margaret January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: HBO/Brillstein-Grey

Proving the old adage that anything is possible if you wish hard enough, this month marked the return of comedy pioneers Bob Odenkirk and David Cross to the TV sketch arena with their new Netflix show W/ Bob and David. Featuring many of the writers and cast members (including Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman) who made the ’90s sketch program Mr. Show such an indelible cult classic, the long-awaited follow-up possesses the same sharp, satirical eye as its predecessor.

But in case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Show and how culturally significant its comedy still is two decades later, here are the 10 most important sketches the series produced. And for more David Cross, be sure to catch the return of Todd Margaret on IFC beginning January 7th at 10P ET/PT.

10. GloboChem

For every faceless, multinational, multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, there are countless daily meetings just like this one: corporate pitchmen and bottomliners brainstorming ways to humanize their company’s image while tapping as many markets and demos as possible. And who better to accomplish this herculean task than a magical, pansexual, non-threatening spokesthing named Pit Pat?

9. The Mr. Show Water Cooler

Not too long ago, CNN was a trusted news source, Fox News languished in cable obscurity, and non-substantive political commentary based on monologue jokes and stand-up bits was relegated to variety shows like Politically Incorrect. But in the years since this sketch aired, comedy news outlets like The Daily Show, The Onion, and Last Week Tonight have become far more in-depth than our current cable news offerings and, according to multiple studies, they command a much more knowledgeable audience. Today, the “Mr. Show Water Cooler” sketch is more of an indictment of the “uninformed, unrehearsed political jam sessions” from the mainstream media than the satirical news shows that skewer them.

8. The Story of Everest

Lanky Jay Johnston undercuts his triumph of scaling Mount Everest by repeatedly falling against two racks of his mother’s thimbles in a mesmerizing display of physical comedy. And the fact there’s not much more to the scene makes it incredible. The overall simplicity of the premise, the realistic bewilderment and frustration of the parents, and how the basic tenets of comedy — timing, heightening, misdirection, etc. — are warped or outright abandoned makes this sketch a fascinating study of subtlety within slapstick.

7. Fairsley Foods

Without the financial resources, tax loopholes, and teams of lawyers that your average retail giant maintains, small family-run shops don’t stand a chance in most free market scenarios. So when a humble local supermarket chain is put in the sights of a mega-mart’s cutthroat smear campaign, there’s not much to do but close down locations and spend a fortune on child-sized tracking collars. The satire of mom & pop’s losing ground to mega-chains is just another example of Mr. Show eerily predicting the future.

6. The Prenatal Pageant

Years before Toddlers and Tiaras and Honey Boo-Boo popularized the alien world of child pageants and pushed the lowest-common denominator to record lows, a sketch like “Prenatal Pageant” seemed like a farfetched (albeit hilariously astute) portrayal of pageant families. But with 21st-century hindsight, Bob and David weren’t too far off from how those starry-eyed, reality show parents would treat a potential embryonic meal ticket.

5. Ronnie Dobbs

Once again, Mr. Show — the satirical prognosticator that it was — anticipated the precipitous decline of our celebrity tabloid culture. Ronnie Dobbs, the oft-arrested redneck who’s had brushes with the law in every state, achieves fame and fortune by simply being a petty criminal on a Cops-like reality show. And honestly, is that really different from today’s reality stars who get ample airtime and exorbitant per-episode paychecks?

4. Mr. Show Boys’ Club

In this biting take on the swinging-’60s sexism that predates Mad Men and is still present in many institutions, “Mr. Show Object” Jill Talley discovers that the Mr. Show Boys’ Club not only parades women around in skimpy outfits and deer antlers (a thinly veiled dig at the Playboy Club), but also offers meager concessions to its young female members. At a time when women are still fighting for equal pay and adequate health care, the sketch is sadly still very relevant.

3. The Teardrop Awards

As a stand-up, David Cross has railed against the cynical marketing in the wake of a tragedy. (Check out his thoughts on American flags post-9/11.) And playing a singer-songwriter who lost his five-year-old son a year prior, Cross explores similar exploitative territory with jubilant acceptance speeches after winning awards for his commemorative songs. A cathartic sketch for anyone who has felt gross after seeing suffering and misfortune capitalized on in the age of knee-jerk social media reactions.

2. The Last American Indian

The last living descendent of an ancient tribe is close to death as government agents watch over him and wait to take his land. All that’s left of his rich and storied culture is the foggy memories of a man in his twilight years — ones that could be confusing history with the film Billy Jack. It’s an incredibly dark and poignant reminder of the civilizations that have been lost and forgotten in the annals of war and subjugation.

1. Pre-Taped Call-In Show and The Audition

While these two sketches may not have the satirical edge of other Mr. Show scenes, they’re both master lessons on sketch writing that have inspired countless comedians. Both penned by Dino Stamatopoulos of Community and Moral Orel fame, “Pre-Taped Call-In Show” and “Audition” feature multiple layers of meta-comedy and gut-busting rage that stems from casually benign misunderstandings. To make a diehard fan out of a person unfamiliar with Mr. Show, simply show them these two sketches that continue to influence everything from Adult Swim to IFC’s own Comedy Bang! Bang!.

Want more comedy from the mind of David Cross? Check out the trailer for the return of Todd Margaret

Happy Gilmore

Spoil Sports

The 10 Biggest Jerks, Bullies and Weasels From Sports Movies

Catch Benders Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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To the victor go the spoils, and in sports comedies there is no bigger spoil than the feeling of defeating the sports jerk. You know the sports jerk — he’s the kid who tosses snot-nosed but loveable Timmy Lupus into a garbage can in the The Bad News Bears or the guy who shouts “Put him in a body bag!” before Ralph Macchio gets up on one leg to make that famous Crane kick. Before the Benders guys hit the ice tonight at 10P on IFC, check out the ten biggest jerks we love to hate from sports movies.

1. Shooter McGavin, Happy Gilmore

There is no bigger A-hole-in-one than Shooter McGavin, and Christopher McDonald really seemed to enjoy messing with Adam Sandler. Cocky golf pro McGavin was the perfect foil to Sandler’s childlike Happy and helped to update the sports movie bully for the ’90s. You know you’re the bad guy in a movie if behemoth actor Richard Kiel, (aka Jaws from the James Bond movies) thinks you’re a dick.

2. Reese Bobby, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

It wasn’t Sacha Baron Cohen as French rival Jean Girard that pushed Ricky Bobby to become a winner — it was the lack of love and nonsensical guidance from his absentee father, Reese Bobby. No matter how deadbeat a dad Reese Bobby was, you have to love a character that can get thrown out of an Applebee’s. The moment when Ricky Bobby was able to forget Reese’s pearls of ignorance (“If you ain’t first, you’re last”) is when he truly became a winner.

3. Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, Kingpin

Bill Murray never “pulls a Munson” when it comes to comedy and he basically nailed a split as “Big Ern” McCracken in what is arguably the funniest Farrelly Brothers movie. Woody Harrelson might be the Paul Newman in this hilarious send up of The Color of Money, but Roy Munson would never have received his redemption without his nemesis “Big Ern.” In a bowling buddy comedy adventure where one guy has a rubber hand and the other is Amish, it’s Big Ern and his amazing hair that sets everything in motion.

4. White Goodman, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

In the words of legendary dodgeballer Patches O’Houlihan, “dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” Ben Stiller’s White Goodman surely lives by these words as the Globo Gym douche standing in the way of Vince Vaughn’s rag tag group of misfits. When he’s not torturing himself with electric nipple clamps in order to stay away from donuts, he’s gleefully attempting to prevent The Average Joe’s from taking the Dodgeball championship and making ESPN: The Ocho history. Even though he’s not nearly as tough as his consigliere Michelle, the ’70s porn star mustache alone makes him an all-time sports A-hole.

5. Rachel Phelps, Major League

Charlie Sheen’s Ricky Vaughn might have been called “Wild Thing,” but even he knew to stay away from the team’s diabolical owner. Phelps couldn’t wait to take the Indians to Florida and was more than happy to put the team through hell in a plane that screamed “Buddy Holly.” Despite the fact that her funniest scene was as a cardboard cutout, Rachel was one hell of a villain. Even Jobu hated her.

6. Chas, Back to School

“Why don’t you call me some time when you have no class?” Rodney Dangerfield was the king of one- liners, and Back to School was filled with hilarious Rodney moments as he comes to college to help his son Jason enjoy school. Jason’s obstacle in his path to diving glory was none other than the king of ’80s teen movie A-holes himself, William Zabka. As Chas, Zabka is more frat douche than tough guy, as he can be seen cowering under the table with a pipe in his mouth as a bar fight breaks out. In the end, Jason gets the girl and we get to see The Triple Lindi.

7. Johnny Lawrence, The Karate Kid

Depending on how you look at it, The Karate Kid is either the ultimate feel good story of a teenager who learns the ancient martial art of “waxing off” in order to stand up to the karate dojo bullying him; or it’s a master acting class on how to act like a teen movie A-hole. William Zabka’s legendary performance as Johnny provides everything you want in a villain, right down to his maniacal grin in a skin-tight skeleton costume. He’s such a great bastard, another member of the Stepford bully group the Kobra-Kai even tries to stop him as he lays a beat down on Daniel-san.

8. Coach Turner, The Bad News Bears

The original Bad News Bears is as perfect a movie as you can get. Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal have hilarious and heartwarming chemistry, and Jackie Earle Haley’s Kelly Leak was definitely “un bandito.” But the real bad news in this movie is Coach Roy Turner, played by the great Vic Morrow. It’s only fitting that Turner coaches the Yankees and the Bears are the loveable underdogs (with a second baseman who has a mouth like a drunken sailor). The shocking moment when Coach Turner slaps his own son on the field elevates him to all-time sports jerk status and makes the audience wonder how this angry guy ever landed a wife who looked that good in bell bottoms.

9. Clubber Lang, Rocky III

While Ivan Drago might be the most ruthless villain in the Rocky series, he was really just a pawn of the Soviet military industrial complex. Mr. T as Clubber Lang, on the other hand, was one seriously bad dude. Where Apollo Creed was cool, Clubber Lang shouted and grunted all of his lines to great effect and trash-talked Rocky by telling Adrian to come find a “real man.” You don’t mess with a man in a Mohawk who predicts “pain.”

10. Judge Smails, Caddyshack

Ted Knight personified snooty Waspy-ness while delivering such classic lines as “Are you my friend Danny?” and “Spalding, get your foot off the boat.” (He also rocked a sailor’s cap like nobody’s business.) In the end, Danny Noonan chose “badness” and with the help of a wily gopher, beat Smails to win the tournament. Cue the Kenny Loggins theme music.


Sounds Like Fun

The 15 Funniest Fictional Bands Ever

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Just because a band is fictional doesn’t mean it can’t be as popular as its real world counterparts. (Admit it, you still have that Zack Attack album buried in your closet somewhere.) Whether spoofing a famous act, or creating their own inept sound, these fake bands often wear their love of the music world on their sleeves. Documentary Now!‘s chronicling of the soft rock giants Blue Jean Committee is just the latest example.

It’s no surprise that the folks behind the show (Fred Armisen in particular) have a long track record of finding the funny in the music industry. (It takes musical talent, along with some serious comedy chops, to pull off the smooth lyrics of “Catalina Breeze.”) So, while Blue Jean Committee, or A Mighty Wind’s The Folksmen, could easily have been on this list, it’s not a shock that the folks behind them are. If you love music and comedy in equal measure, you’re going back to that well more than once. Here are some of the funniest fake bands to ever turn it up to eleven.

15. Citizen Dick, Singles

Citizen Dick, the band from Cameron Crowe’s alt rom-com Singles, was both a spoof of, and a turning point for, the Seattle grunge scene of the early ’90s. While many of the bands from that scene were cult hits, the Singles soundtrack helped turn them into superstars. It’s no surprise that the made-up band, fronted by Matt Dillion’s Cliff Poncier, could hold its own with so many grunge standouts, considering 3/4ths of its members were in a little group called Pearl Jam. Heck, Dillion even wore Pearl Jam’s bassist Jeff Ament’s clothes for most of the shoot. Now that’s commitment.

14. Titannica, Mr. Show with Bob and David

With hits like “Try Suicide” and “Try Again,” no one rocked harder than Titannica, the heavy metal band made famous in one of the downright weirdest sketches from the cult hit Mr. Show. But no matter how messed up their music was, the boys of Titannica knew it couldn’t hold a candle to the creep show that was their biggest fan, a chipper kid with the body of a wet cigar. This sketch is a surreal lesson in the power of music.

13. Sonic Death Monkey/Kathleen Turner Overdrive/Barry Jive and the Uptown Five, High Fidelity

You can watch Jack Black become a star in the final minutes of the 2000 cult hit High Fidelity, as his character Barry takes the stage to front his frequently renamed band. While Barry may not be able to decide on a sound for his band, Jack Black knows how to deliver when given the chance. A fun movie about and for music lovers, this scene is the cherry on top. It doesn’t matter what type of music you’re playing, as long as you leave it all on the stage.

12. Dethklok, Metalocalypse

When Metalocalypse co-creator Brendon Small was working on his previous Adult Swim hit, Home Movies, few would’ve guessed that he’d be responsible for one of the most face-meltingly metal bands to ever grace the small screen. And Small didn’t just dream up Dethklok he writes and performs every one of their songs with co-creator Tommy Blacha. While Dethklok has surpassed mere superstardom on their show, becoming the seventh largest economy in the world, their popularity in the real world isn’t far behind. Small and Blacha have fronted more than one tour as the band, and recently played the comedy/music festival Festival Supreme, created by none other than Barry Jive himself, Jack Black.

11. David Brent and Foregone Conclusion, BBC’s The Office

In The Office Christmas Special, which served as the final episodes of the beloved BBC series, co-creator Ricky Gervais revealed his character David Brent had finally chased his dreams of stardom too far, by recording a cover version of the hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” But while the show was wrapping up, this sojourn into music was just the beginning for the former general manager of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg. Gervais has kept up with his most famous character, recording a song for Comic Relief and creating a series of YouTube guitar tutorials. This all culminated in a tour with the made up band Foregone Conclusion. Rumor has it, he’s even been prepping a movie to cover Brent’s presumably delusional journey through the English music scene. While knowing when to say goodbye is a gift, it’s not something David Brent would be capable of, so why should we expect any different from his creator?

10. Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution, Arrested Development

Playing in Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family-Band Solution was a great excuse for some family bonding time, while promoting a worthwhile product to boot. At least that’s what David Cross’ Tobais Fünke thought on the first season of Arrested Development, forcing his family to play in the pharmaceutical funded family band. More a promotional vehicle than a hit maker, any chance to see the dysfunctional Fünke family interact is worth inclusion on this list. The music may not be worthwhile, but the fury behind Maeby’s eyes is.

9. The Rutles, All You Need Is Cash

The Beatles were no stranger to parody, as you’ll see later in this list. But what separated The Rutles from the legion of spoof bands that plagued the world as the ’60s turned to the ’70s was the guidance of Monty Python Hall of Famer Eric Idle, and a will to not just send up, but really satirize the boys from Liverpool. The band first premiered in 1975 on Rutland Weekend Television, a sketch show fronted by Idle, and immediately took on a cult following. George Harrison was such a fan, he ended up appearing in The Rutles‘ feature film All You Need Is Cash.

8. Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros, Saturday Night Live

Long before Fred Armisen made his name on Saturday Night Live, he was a drummer for underground punk bands. The Clash in particular was an inspiration, and even with a right turn into comedy Armisen’s love of punk never diminished. That’s evident in this SNL sketch about a very Sid Vicious-like rock star who hates everything…except for Margaret Thatcher. Initially just a one time performance, the bit struck such a chord that Armisen reunited The Bizzaros for his last sketch as an SNL cast member. Still not done with his alter ego, he’s since taken the band into the real world, playing gigs as the foul mouthed punk rocker with a love for the Iron Lady.

7. Wyld Stallyns, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

If your band is responsible for world peace, you probably deserve a spot on this list. While Bill and Ted start off as musically inept, one visit to the utopian future brought about by their sweet jams reveals them to be more than a mere rock band. They’re modern day messiahs, which is most excellent.

6. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, The Muppet Show

For many of us, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem was the first exposure we ever had to a rock band, real or otherwise. For the better part of four decades the Electric Mayhem has kept at it, managing to cover everything from classical to “Crocodile Rock” with a drummer so wild he has to literally be chained to the set. Even Keith Moon wasn’t kept in shackles.

5. Faith +1, South Park

It’s tough to pick between the two most famous bands to ever be fronted by foul mouthed fourth grader Eric Cartman. While the boyband Fingerbang is for sure a classic, Cartman’s Christian rock band Faith +1 combines his megalomania, cynicism and racism into a beautiful collage of sacrilegious majesty. And considering South Park is far from done, who knows what other bands creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have up their sleeves.

4. PoP!, Music & Lyrics

Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as one half of a Wham!-esque group in this charming rom-com. And he learned from the best — Martin Fry from the new wave group ABC served as Hugh’s vocal coach.

3. Sexual Chocolate, Coming to America

Both “good and terrible,” Randy Watson may not have been the legend he believed himself to be, but to fans of Coming to America, he and his perfectly named backup band were responsible for one of the funniest scenes in this classic comedy. Eddie Murphy was at his peak here, donning the puffy faced prosthetics necessary to truly inhabit the pitchy son of Jackson Heights. And having Morris Day of The Time fame on guitar didn’t hurt either.

2. The Blues Brothers, Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers

As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s, The Blues Brothers, along with their creators John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, were forces of nature. The two comedians and friends first premiered their creation on Saturday Night Live, promptly launching a sensation. At one point, Belushi found himself the star of the week’s number one film (Animal House), number one television show (Saturday Night Live), and singing on the number one album (Briefcase Full Of Blues). Belushi and Aykroyd would soon add a hit Blue Brothers movie to that hot streak. Combining their perfect chemistry with a whole lot of soul, Jake and Elwood transcended comedy, and helped relaunch the popularity of the blues genre itself.

1. Spinal Tap, This Is Spinal Tap

If the last two entries show you anything, it’s that the ’80s were the high water mark of fake bands in popular culture. And yet, with all the classics that came out in that decade, there was never any doubt who would sit at the top of this list. Spinal Tap isn’t just a movie. They aren’t just a band. They’re the id of rock music, manifested into reality by the all-star team of Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. In the ridiculous world of rock and roll, which already operates in a perpetual cycle of self parody, finding the balance of comedy and reality is no easy task. By using the form of a documentary, director Rob Reiner allowed his brilliant cast to improvise their way through the movie, creating the gold standard of fictional bands in the process. The film also introduced the “mockumentary” form to a mainstream audiences, which has gone on to become one of the most popular styles of comedy over the last three decades.

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