The Five Best Revenge Movies


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Revenge, or retaliation is as old an impulse as the reptile brain. “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s slavery revenge fantasy, opened on Christmas, following the spring release of “The Avengers.” The theme of revenge, it seems, and the business of avenging was strong in this year passed. Lately, however, it seems as if Tarantino (“Kill Bill,” “Inglorious Basterds”) has taken proprietorship of the whole revenge fantasy film genre. But he is not alone, of course. “The Dark Knight Rising” is in its entirety from start to finish a paean to revenge, from Bane’s revenge against The Bat to The Bat’s revenge against Bane.

Quentin may be on to something. Revenge, when done well, is as immensely satisfying a cinematic experience as it is a dark psychological pleasure that arose in dark antiquity. The feeling of satisfaction from a revenge fantasy movie is not entirely unlike how at the end of TV’s “Law and Order” the bad guys – generally – get their comeuppance. The viewer feels as if all is well and good in the world (even though, of course, it often is not) after a hard day of work in a universe where fortune appears to favor the most aggressive and ethically neutral among us. And who among us wouldn’t prefer to watch Spielberg’s “Munich” than, say, Angelina Jolie’s massive downer of a film, “A Mighty Heart”? Would you rather pay admission to “A Mighty Heart” over “Munich”?

In the spirit of revenge, in all its dark glory, here are my five favorite films from that genre:

5. “Leon: The Professional” (1994)

Icy-precise hitman Leon Montana led a pretty nihilistic, efficient life until he took the contract of little Mathilda. Mathilde, played by Natalie Portman, seeks the avenging of the death of her family by the sleazy-precise corrupt DEA agent Stansfield in an apartment complex. The death of her innocent four year old brother and the powerlessness of a twelve year old girl against such forces of governmental corruption strike a universal chord. And the redemption of Leon, one of the most loveable cold-blooded killers of all time, makes this film truly a superlative example of revenge fantasy. Rest in pieces, brother.

4. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)

“Revenge,” hisses Khan Noonien Singh, “is a dish best served cold.” This, Khan tells us, is an old Klingon proverb, but many actual civilizations have lived by that same idea. Fifteen years earlier, Captain James Kirk stranded Khan in the remains of the USS Botany Bay to live out the rest of his days in the cold embrace of outer freaking space. How cool is that? Sheer geekiness notwithstanding, Star Trek II is an instance of a sequel outdoing the original. The slowly played out space cat and mouse game is masterful, a cosmic dance. “The Wrath of Khan” is timeless, transcending the limited appeal of mere science fiction.

3. “The Unforgiven” (1960)

Before Clint Eastwood made an ass of himself chatting with an empty chair in public, he was one of the greatest American badasses of all time. “The Unforgiven,” widely seen at the time as “the last Western” is also about Redemption, one of the thematic pillars of any great revenge story. There is nothing conventionally good about any of the characters, outlaws all. Eastwood, as aging outlaw William Munny, is no saint – and neither are his gunfighter sidekicks or the prostitutes who post a $1,000 bounty on the heads of the animals that disfigured one of their own.  And yet our primal, reptile brains cannot help but anticipate with dark joy the bloody comeuppance sure to come. Delicious.

2. “Gladiator” (2000)

“Gladiator,” on its surface, is formulaic. The noble Maximus is wronged by Power. He struggles, against all odds, and gets his revenge. And the film won Best Picture. Still, this is not Rocky II. The execution is so brilliant, the story so perfect, the acting so convincing, that Gladiator of the only movies that I have ever seen where the audience at the theater broke into applause several times during the film as well as at the end. Gladiator can only be properly construed as cathartic. We cheer at the sanguinary death of the whiny “Emperor” Commodus because he didn’t deserve the throne; we cheer at the death of the whiny “Emperor” Commodus every time power, unearned, holds its boots to our collective necks. Rest in peace, Maximus; semper fi.

1. “The Godfather” (1974)

Not only is “The Godfather” one of the greatest films in the history of cinema, it is the greatest revenge fantasy in the history of cinema. Vito Corleone, granted, is not as noble as the Roman soldier Maximus, but he, after his own fashion, is not without an ancient moral code guiding his behavior.

Three of the film’s most effective scenes involve intricate depictions of the psychology of revenge in an almost classic tragic form. In the first, Vito Corleone movingly forgoes revenge for the death of Sonny, withdrawing his objections to the Tattaglia’s in the meeting with the Five Families for the sake of peace. In the second hugely effective rendering of the psychology of revenge, Michael Corleone, the next generation of Don, bides his time and brutally exacts his revenge, consolidating his power. And in the final, and most effective scene involving the psychology of revenge, Michael – the son of his father — blatantly lies to his wife, Kay, about the bloody-tragic actions he set in motion.

Retaliation, or revenge, is as old as the reptile brain, but it is that most civilized of human art –motion pictures – that has fully expressed that impulse in all its dark, glorious beauty.

What is your favorite revenge movie? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and 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.


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.

That 70s Show James Franco

That '70s Franco

Watch James Franco’s Geriatric That ’70s Show Spoof

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays 6-11P on IFC.

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Ever wonder if Jackie, Kelso, Fez, Donna, Hyde, and Eric ever made it out of Red‘s basement? According to James Franco, those dumbasses definitely did not.

In a new episode of AOL’s “Making a Scene with James Franco,” the actor peered into the future of the gang from That ’70s Show to see what they’d be up to if the show actually continued into their 70s. Turns out they’re still sitting around the basement, sharing a joint, and listening to some of the Steve Miller Band’s greatest hits.

In the sketch, aptly called “That 70s ’70s Show,” Franco plays both a stoned, elderly Kelso as well as a nostril-hair heavy Eric Forman. The only member of the crew who has made it out of the basement is Donna, who has sadly passed away into a higher plane of existence (yes, it’s possible for them to get higher) leaving Eric to mourn the loss of his one true love.

For more That ’70s Show, find out who almost played Red Forman and more fun facts.

Nightmare on Elm Street IV

Ready for Freddy?

Take the Ultimate Nightmare on Elm Street Movie Quiz

Spend Halloween with an all day Nightmare on Elm Street marathon on IFC.

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Freddy Krueger first grabbed America’s attention with the Nightmare On Elm Street films – and later grabbed cash with a TV series, a Nintendo game, a 1-900 number, toys, dolls, a board game and a pinball machine. But despite the corny spin-offs, the Elm Street movies left psychic scars on a generation of horror fans. Before you catch IFC’s Nightmare on Elm Street movie marathon this Halloween, see how well you know the Freddy films.


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