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Craig Robinson talks “Hot Tub” sequel, “This Is the End” and more

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Craig Robinson pops miniature cupcakes in his mouth, each one representing an alien trapped in an Area 51 prison in his latest film, “Escape from Planet Earth.” A blue one is in reference to either of two brothers in the Supernova family, Gary (the brains, voiced by Rob Corddry) or Scorch (the brawn, voiced by Brendan Fraser). A red one is for Jane Lynch’s Cyclops alien named Io (Get it? Eye-O). An orange one is for George Lopez’s slimy mollusk alien Thurman. But where’s the one for Robinson’s character, a mouse-like alien named Doc, a famed intergalactic talk show therapist who invented social networking? What’s up with that, Doc? “I don’t know,” Robinson laughs. “I’d be delicious.”

Despite his character’s invention, Robinson himself was late to the Twitter party. “Very late,” he acknowledges. “I remember hearing Rainn Wilson talking about it on set [at ‘The Office’], maybe to Mindy [Kaling], and he and she both have over a million followers. I’m still stuck at two hundred thousand. But I’m terrible.”

If Robinson sees an image that makes him laugh, or if he’s at an event where he meets fellow celebs (such as the NAACP Image Awards after party, where he met up with Quvenzhané Wallis from “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Amandla Stenberg who played Rue in “The Hunger Games”), he’ll tweet a picture. “But other than that, I don’t know how to use it exactly,” he says. “And I don’t want it to control me. And I can’t just let off everything. Some of it’s got to be saved for the stage, and who wants to hear what I’m thinking?”

Robinson used his real voice for the character of Doc, but amped up his positivity — he wanted the alien to be the one you turn to in disaster situations (“He feels like he has all the answers,” he says. “He’s the man to know, because he knows how to get out of any situation”). And speaking of disasters, Robinson’s becoming quite the expert on post-apocalyptic situations — “Escape from Planet Earth” is just one of a trio of doomsday films he has on the horizon. Also on the way — Seth Rogen’s directorial debut “This Is the End” (where he and his buddies wait out the apocalypse at James Franco’s house) and “Raptureapalooza,” in which Robinson is the Antichrist.

“They all couldn’t be more different, but it’s quite interesting that I’m at the center of these three,” Robinson says. “‘Escape’ is the possibility of a planet blowing up, but it’s averted, and ‘This Is the End,’ something bad has just happened, and ‘Raptureapalooza,’ the Antichrist has taken over, so it’s all the different stages. They’re all fun and funny, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m the apocalypse guy.”

In “This Is The End,” Robinson says, all the actors (who are playing versions of themselves) go “a little crazy,” but he’s the one who, “for the lack of a better word, I’m not as nasty. Some of the other characters are.” Since it’s a large cast, he had a harder time than usual stealing scenes: “There are six people, so you got Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Seth Rogen over here, so anytime it’s time to improv, it’s like, ‘Okay, here we go!’ You have to get in where you fit in. You have to jockey for position. Jonah is not going to stop. Franco is not going to stop. Rogen is not going to stop. And that left [Jay] Baruchel, Danny McBride, and myself, and it was a lot of jockeying.”

One moment he jockeyed for — and might end up on the cutting room floor — is when “they send me out into the madness,” and he sings a silly song, trying their patience. The key to playing himself, Robinson said, was keeping it positive. “He realizes that drinking his urine is not that bad,” Robinson says of this version of himself. “What else could this post-apocalyptic world have to offer that I never would have experienced if everything is normal? Your attitude is going to carry you. Your attitude is your altitude. It’s not really the end of the world — it’s, What do you do now? That’s the big question.”

In both “This Is the End” and “Rapturepalooza,” Robinson says, people are “Raptured up to heaven,” and it’s about the ones who are left behind. The difference is, he says, two years have passed. For one of his first leading roles, Robinson says his take on the Antichrist is to make him “loveable.” “He’s a regular human being, but he knows he’s going to come back as Satan. He wants to die, because he’s power-hungry, but at the same time, he falls in love with Anna Kendrick’s character.” His character sings to her, “to try to seduce her, in my Antichrist way,” he says. “It’s a very inappropriate song, so there are some fun things I get to say to her about touching her booty and she just has to take it because she’s trying to keep her family and friends alive.” Robinson, who just saw Kendrick’s turn in “Pitch Perfect” on the flight to New York the day previous, thinks he could take Kendrick in a riff-off: “She definitely has a better voice, but I could out-last her in songs.”

But if an apocalyptic situation were to actually happen, don’t look to Robinson for any help. Beyond wondering where he would hide, “I would be ass out,” he laughs. “I am not prepared for anything. I think I have one first aid kit in a backpack from a gifting suite or something. Other than that, I would be trying to borrow margarine from other people. ‘Can I get some beans?’ And I wouldn’t even have a can opener or nothing.”

On the horizon for Robinson — if the world doesn’t end before then — is another trip back in time with the “Hot Tub Time Machine” crew. “Looking forward to seeing if that happens,” he grins. “He’s become a successful music producer, but he became successful because he sang the Black Eyed Peas. That’s not fair. So it might touch on some of that. And hopefully if people liked my singing in the first one, they’ll want some more of that. I think we’re going to go back to that, absolutely.”

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The Nutty Professor Eddie Murphy 1996

Weird Science

10 Weird Movie Substances That Had Hilarious Consequences

Catch The Nutty Professor this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

If you’ve ever opened your refrigerator to find some seriously gnarly days-old potato salad, then you know that sometimes the most harmless-seeming things can turn freaky. Movies have conjured up some truly bizarre stuff, often the work of crazed scientists. Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, check out some of the icky-est, gooey-ist and just plain weird substances on the big screen.

10. Flubber

Flubber
Walt Disney Studios

Professor Brainard’s “flying rubber” increases its speed every time it bounces, and increases the chaos, destruction and unlikely basketball-dunkage of anyone who uses it. Thankfully the movie ends before its thermodynamic impossibility cause the incineration of the entire universe.


9. Quantonium, Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs Aliens
DreamWorks

In Monsters vs. Aliens, both action-packed parties are battling over Quantonium, an exotic material which massively empowers anyone who holds it. Literally in the case of Susan Murphy, whose exposure turns her into Ginormica and enables her to fight against Gallaxhar’s invasion force.


8. Sustengo, Little Fockers

Sustengo
Universal Pictures

After finally finding favor with his hard-bitten father-in-law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) finds himself strapped for cash and starts promoting Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction drug. Which means leaving boxes of ED drugs lying around a family who can’t even use a toilet without triggering a series of hilarious misunderstandings.


7. Iocane, Princess Bride

Iocane
20th Century Fox

Iocane is a deadly poison with no odor or taste that dissolves instantly in any liquid. The perfect tool for murder isn’t usually hilarious, but The Princess Bride makes everything funny. Hero Westley (Cary Elwes) tricks cunning Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) into drinking the poison in a game of wits. Vizzini lost, not knowing that the answer is “Don’t drink anything offered by someone who just talked about how awesome their poison is.”


6. PX-41, Despicable Me 2

PX41
Universal Pictures

The mutation compound engineered by PX-Labs turns anything into a purple, fluffy, indestructible killing machine. And when Despicable Me‘s famous Minions are dosed with it, look out. Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) crafts an antidote, PX-41 Antidote, proving he’s much better with chemicals than he is with names.


5. Mood Slime, Ghostbusters II

Mood Slime
Columbia Pictures

When the Ghostbusters came back for their 1989 sequel, the slime they encountered was sillier and scarier. The “Mood Slime” was a special form of ectoplasm utterly saturated in the emotions of everyone and everything around it. And while our heroes energize some positive vibes with Aretha Franklin tunes, the entire city of New York’s psychic outpourings are filling the sewers with something distinctly less positive.


4. The Stuff

The Stuff
New World Pictures

A science fiction soft-serve satire, The Stuff is about an oddly organic treat which is utterly delicious and zero calories. In fact it’s negative calories, because if you eat enough it’ll take over your brain and hollow you out from the inside.


3. Miracle Weight Loss Serum, The Nutty Professor

Buddy Love
Universal Pictures

The core component of The Nutty Professor‘s plot is a miraculous weight loss serum, a simple fluid which re-engineers human DNA all by itself. This allows sweet but sizable Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) to transform into the tight, toned and turbocharged Buddy Love (Murphy again). The serum is revealed to be fatally dangerous, but anything which allows Eddie Murphy to play himself cranked up to the max is pure comedy gold.


2. Cobalt Thorium G, Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove
Columbia Pictures

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb is about a bomb built with Cobalt Thorium G. It’s a doomsday device designed to annihilate all human civilization and is, slightly worryingly, based on the least fictional materials on this list. Cobalt and thorium both have applications in nuclear weapon design. Luckily we haven’t got them up to G yet.


1. Ectoplasm, Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

The Ghostbusters live in a world where ghosts are real but physics is still in charge. So while the ghouls are flung around with proton packs, they get the boys in grey back with their appalling ectoplasm, or slime, trail. As Venkman says, getting covered in the stuff will make you feel all funky.

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Fast Times Jennifer Jason Leigh

Retro Grades

The 11 Best Movie Comedies of the ’80s

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The ’80s gave us so many great things (Tab, anyone?), but when it comes to movie comedies, the Reagan years were a golden age of funny. In honor of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we’ve selected the best big screen comedies from the decade that gave us Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and other comedy greats. And like one of the movies featured below, this list goes to 11.

1. Back to the Future

“A high school slacker goes back in time, takes his mother to a dance, and gets dangerously close to becoming his own father.” The elevator pitch for Back to the Future doesn’t sound so charming, but the 1985 flick starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover is declared by many as being the perfect movie. (Though we can’t officially say if the Eric Stoltz version would’ve been better.)


2. Ghostbusters

The sheer number of childhoods that were professed to be ruined by the recent reboot should tell you how beloved the original film is. A perfect blend of comedy, horror and fantasy, Ghostbusters has an indelible cast at the top of its game and a heap of one-liners worthy of countless casual references. They have the tools, and they have the talent.


3. Airplane!

Speaking of one-liners, it doesn’t get much more quotable than the 1980 Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic Airplane!. Almost a one-to-one parody of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!, Airplane! works so well because of how straight faced the zaniness is played — which is something its many imitators fail to notice.


4. This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer created the de facto mockumentary film with the hilarious 1984 rock diary This Is Spinal Tap. Heralded as one of the most accurate depictions of backstage life by actual real-life bands, the movie showcases an aging glam metal band struggling for the spotlight while keeping the group intact (especially the spontaneously combustible drummers).


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation

While Caddyshack and Fletch are quintessential Chevy Chase films, nothing beats the bumbling patriarch of the Griswold clan losing his mind en route to Wally World, America’s favorite family fun park. Yes, the sequels saw diminishing returns (aside from Christmas Vacation), but the one that started them all is endlessly watchable. Amen, let’s go!


6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe managed to capture exactly what high school life was like in the early-’80s. The awkwardness, the frustrations, the scares, the search for purpose and gratification, Fast Times presents its young characters as fully fleshed-out individuals (even the designated stoner shows nuance) and doesn’t talk down to its audience like many teen movies do. (Click here to see all airings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC.)


7. Beverly Hills Cop

A reminder of the days when Eddie Murphy was the edgiest comedian in showbiz, the one-two punch of Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. set the template for modern action comedies. We wouldn’t have the Rush Hour franchise and every Kevin Hart film without Axel Foley.


8. Trading Places

A treatise on the Nature vs. Nurture argument at the height of Reagan-era excess, Trading Places depicts the lives that are held in the balance when the mega-rich make friendly $1 wagers and just how joyous the retribution can be. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis are terrific as the leads, the Duke Brothers are delightfully evil, and in all seriousness, that is a nice purse.


9. Better Off Dead

This 1985 Savage Steve Holland movie is teen angst at its most surreal and affably goofy. John Cusack stars as Lane Meyer, a high schooler still reeling from the loss of his girlfriend to a cocky champion skier. (Is there any other kind in an ’80s movie?) With bloodthirsty paperboys, foreign-exchange street races and stop-motion hamburger interludes, Better Off Dead doesn’t let realism get in the way of accurately portraying pure teen heartbreak.


10. Midnight Run

Of all the critically acclaimed pairings that actor Robert De Niro has had through the years, few are as entertaining as his reluctant team-up with a persnickety Charles Grodin in 1988’s Midnight Run. Perfect foils, the bounty hunter and mob accountant race against time, the Feds and mafia hits until mutual Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and the partnership stops becoming merely professional. (The counterfeit bill scene alone is worth the watch.)


11. Heathers

Heathers is the kind of pitch-black comedy that would never get a major release in 2016. Unflinching in its satire of school shootings, teen suicide and the tragedies that come with the need to fit in, the movie remains relevant to the kids currently growing up in a cruel and judgmental world. And the fact that it’s laugh-out-loud funny while also making a sharp point about youth culture is a testament to how great the movie really is.

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Bill Hader in Conan Star Wars Audition Sketch

Acts of Wars

Watch Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and More Audition to Play Young Han Solo

The Documentary Now! star shows off his best Han and Chewie.

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Photo Credit: TBS/YouTube

Thanks in large part to The Force Awakens not sucking, the Star Wars universe is about to get a lot more expansive. Sequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and more are underway — which means a helluva lotta casting calls. Fortunately, Conan O’Brien got his hands on a few audition tapes of celebrities trying out for a role as a young Han Solo.

Check out Documentary Now!’s Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Portlandia favorite Jeff Goldblum, Todd Margaret star Will Arnett and other funny folks offering their takes on what that younger, brasher space swashbuckler would be like.

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