DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on Giving “Battleship” a Second Chance

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Summer movie season is drawing to a close — which, depending on who you are, may be cause for sadness or celebration. After months of explosions, sequels, guys in tights, life-or-death stakes, reboots, and yelled dialogue, it’s understandable that you may want a little time to yourself in a quiet room reading a book. But as we prepare to shift into Hollywood’s awards season, I’d like to stick up for one of this summer’s louder, more action-packed entries, which is arriving on DVD on Tuesday. It’s “Battleship,” and I think it’s better than you may have heard.

Opening on May 18, a couple weeks after “The Avengers,” “Battleship” was met with rather savage reviews and, more importantly for Universal, a collective disinterest from the moviegoing public. (It ended up bringing in about $65 million, which was less than “Contraband” or “Act of Valor,” two films with much lower budgets.) Although the film performed much better overseas — taking in almost $238 million — “Battleship” was labeled a flop, star Taylor Kitsch’s second in the span of about two months. (It’s worth pointing out, though, that the much-derided “John Carter” actually made more money in the U.S. than “Battleship” did.)

There are plenty of perfectly sensible objections to “Battleship.” It’s a wannabe Michael Bay film. It’s another rah-rah shoot-‘em-up. It’s based on a board game, except with a lot more aliens and Rihanna. But although “Battleship” certainly represents much of what is tired about summer movie season, I can’t think of a recent big-spectacle film that was this fun. It doesn’t have the depth or pathos of a “Dark Knight Rises” or the sharp wit of a “Men in Black 3,” but where other aspiring blockbusters plod along in a joyless march to their soulless finale, “Battleship” almost has a spring in its step. It’s a shame more summer juggernauts don’t.

The film, which was directed by Peter Berg, stars Kitsch as the stereotypically immature action hero. He plays naval officer Hopper, a charming screw-up who needs to take responsibility for his life. Thankfully — and right on cue — that moment presents itself when the Navy conducts a training exercise just as freakin’ aliens show up to destroy all of humanity! Any further explanation of the plot might as well be accompanied by more italics and exclamation marks, but suffice it to say that Hooper has to rise up and be the big hero, rallying his naval buddies to defeat these seemingly indestructible foes.

But while the setup definitely enters Bay territory, what’s appealing about “Battleship” is that, at least in spirit, it’s somewhat closer to the hard-edged action movies of the recently departed Tony Scott. Though a wizard of spectacle, Scott often did his best work (like in “Enemy of the State,” “Crimson Tide” and “Unstoppable”) when he managed to find the right balance between likeably plucky characters and compelling action sequences. “Battleship” suffers from some of the same clunky “funny” repartee that drags down other bloated summer movies, but in Kitsch, Berg has found an entertainingly unassuming action hero who wears his stardom lightly. It’s a small but important distinction: Kitsch is playful without being jokey in “Battleship,” recognizing the absurdity of it all but at the same time inviting the audience to savor the silliness rather than cluing us in to mock it. Scott’s movies had more flair and originality than “Battleship” possesses, but that same “Hey, going to the movies should be a blast” attitude permeates Berg’s film.

“Battleship” may not be magnificent, but it’s refreshingly good in a way that modern-day action movies tend not to be. Beneath the film’s explosions and yelled dialogue, the movie moves along at a steady pace with a breeziness that suggests that, really, the possible eradication of Earth by aliens isn’t something to be worried about. It’s just a plot device, and we should simply sit back and enjoy the battle between humans and extra-terrestrials as the escapist fun that it is. As Hollywood movies have gotten more and more expensive, increasingly intense commercial expectations have been thrust upon them. But rather than delivering more excitement and pleasure as a result, contemporary blockbusters tend to feel self-conscious and anxious, so desperate to entertain that there’s no sense of confidence or swagger. “Battleship” was clearly made to produce boatloads of money, but Berg and Kitsch don’t break a sweat worrying over the details. Neither should you — you can switch off your brain while watching “Battleship” and not feel like an idiot for doing so.

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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…

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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. 

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.