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Tim Grierson on the “Bourne” Legacy

Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy

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This weekend sees the unveiling of “The Bourne Legacy,” an unusual twist on the current reboot/remake trend in Hollywood. Rather than bringing back the same character from a popular series, Universal Pictures is returning us to the franchise’s milieu but with a completely new protagonist at the center. That puts pressure on Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner, the lead in “The Bourne Legacy,” to prove himself as a viable action star. (Granted, he played Hawkeye in “The Avengers,” but it’s not as if he was asked to carry that superhero extravaganza.) But with pressure comes opportunity, and Renner should keep this in mind: Before the Bourne films, people didn’t necessarily think of Matt Damon as an action star, either.

“The Bourne Identity” opened June 14, 2002, and it wasn’t as if audiences weren’t aware of Damon. He had won a screenwriting Oscar (with his buddy Ben Affleck) for “Good Will Hunting,” and he was the Ryan being saved in “Saving Private Ryan.” But even in 2001’s hit caper comedy “Ocean’s Eleven,” Damon was overshadowed by his higher-profile co-stars like Brad Pitt and George Clooney. So doing “The Bourne Identity” was definitely a bit of a stretch, playing an elite assassin who has lost his memory and must quickly regain it while being chased by those who want him dead. This wasn’t exactly the same thing as being the sensitive Will Hunting or insecure Linus Caldwell — he had to be a chiseled, believable killing machine.

When “Identity” came out, it performed well in its first weekend — grossing $39 million — but in a sign that audiences weren’t exactly salivating for either a Bourne film or an action movie starring Damon, it ended up in second place, crushed by a $76-million opening for “Scooby-Doo.” (Yes, there was a time when people were more excited about a Scooby-Doo flick that a Bourne film.) But “Identity” showed legs and earned good reviews, snagging almost $122 million during its theatrical run and becoming a huge hit on DVD.

Even more importantly, though, “The Bourne Identity” helped establish a template for what this series could achieve. For as much credit as director Christopher Nolan rightly received for reinventing Batman with the dark, realistic tone of 2005’s “Batman Begins,” “The Bourne Identity” had adopted much of the same approach three years earlier. Directed by Doug Liman, who previously had made the indie films “Swingers” and “Go,” “The Bourne Identity” featured terrific stunts, but most of the best moments stemmed from human-scale tension, such as in the dynamic shootout between Bourne and a lethal sniper (Clive Owen). Damon was able to convince as an action hero, but he didn’t have to jettison his empathy and soulfulness in the process — if anything, those qualities were just as critical to his construction of a character who only slowly begins to understand the monstrous things he once did for the U.S. government.

By the time of 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy,” the series was popular enough that it opened to almost $75 million, dwarfing everything around it. Ending up as the eighth-highest-grosser of its year, “Supremacy” was even better than “Identity,” thanks in no small part to the arrival of director Paul Greengrass. Before “Supremacy,” the English filmmaker had never made a Hollywood movie, but he proved more than capable, delivering a beautifully intense thriller that upped the action while simultaneously deepening the emotional resonance of an assassin’s reckoning with his past. Add to that one of the greatest hand-to-hand combat scenes in recent Hollywood history, and you’ve got a supremely riveting film that was hugely influential. (The steely 2007 James Bond reboot “Casino Royale” is heavily indebted to the quick cutting and realistic tone of “The Bourne Supremacy.”)

2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which reunited Damon and Greengrass, was even more commercially successful, satisfyingly resolving the trilogy while also being faithful to the series’ critique of government surveillance and unchecked power. Between “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum,” Greengrass made “United 93,” a dramatization of the terrorist hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93 during 9/11, and while that film largely eschewed political messages, his big-budget Bourne films were in a way a response to the aftermath of the events portrayed in “United 93,” showing a world in which personal liberties were sacrificed in the name of homeland security. Of course, you didn’t have to read any deeper meaning into the “Bourne” films to be whisked away by their propulsive energy, but that subtext made them rather nervy for mainstream entertainment — and yet all three films combined have brought in almost $1 billion worldwide.

Now it’s 2012, and Greengrass and Damon have moved on to other projects. “The Bourne Legacy” has a financial legacy to live up to, but even more so, a creative one. Outside of Nolan’s Batman films or the “Lord of the Rings” movies, no recent trilogy has been so wholly entertaining as the Bourne series, offering a new level of kinetic thrills and stripped-down drama that also boasted some real brains. The new film is directed by Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote the first three films and also directed “Michael Clayton,” so it’s not as if “Legacy” won’t share any DNA with its superb predecessors. But if Renner felt any wariness about signing up to play a Bourne-like soldier, he might be cheered to know that, of all recent franchises, the Bourne films have been the most welcoming of fresh faces. Doug Liman had never made a film on this scale, and neither had Paul Greengrass or Matt Damon. If anything, Renner’s in fine company.

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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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