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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.