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DID YOU READ

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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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.