DID YOU READ

The To Do List Review: Pretty Raunchy, Only Kinda Funny

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In The To Do List, it’s as easy to root for Brandy as it is to cheer on the actress playing her. Starring Aubrey Plaza, this sex comedy follows Brandy as she graduates valedictorian from her high school in 1993, preparing for college and a seemingly bright future. But there’s one problem: The mousy gal is a virgin, and after being scared by her sexually assertive older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) into believing that her lack of experience will be a major obstacle at school, Brandy makes it her mission to spend the summer making up for lost time. However, because she’s nerdy, that means putting together a thorough list of every different sexual encounter imaginable, including “motorboating” (she has no idea what that means), hand jobs and, eventually, penetration. Though that sets the stage for all sorts of spirited hijinks, Brandy adorably proceeds about her quest with the same bookish studiousness she would a homework assignment.

Rated R and determinedly raunchy, The To Do List is like other recent teen sex comedies (American Pie, Superbad) in that its seemingly shocking subject matter is really a front for a sweeter, more sensitive core. Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Maggie Carey, the movie doesn’t want to turn Brandy into a slut as much as it wants to show how young women can be tripped up by equating sex with love, acceptance and approval. Surrounded by dumb jocks (Scott Porter, enjoyably going full mimbo), loser burnouts (Bill Hader) and sensitive guys-next-door (Johnny Simmons), she remains a likeable, albeit confused kid trying to negotiate choppy waters.

It’s a godsend having Plaza in the role. Best known for her ultra-dry, deeply sarcastic character April from Parks and Recreation, the actress has established a no-nonsense persona that helps sells Brandy’s cool intelligence, but The To Do List also allows Plaza to be warmer and more vulnerable than her sitcom character. (It’s a good bet that April would never stop rolling her eyes at Brandy’s cluelessness.) Carey tries to upend a few teen-comedy gender stereotypes, but one she holds onto is the myth of the beautiful geeky girl who wows all the guys once she takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. In “The To Do List,” that means having Brandy enchant all those around her by cavorting in a swimsuit as a lifeguard, and it’s to Plaza’s credit that she sells the character’s klutziness as much as her attractiveness. This is a charming, self-deprecating turn that mostly finds the balance between the humane and the humiliating.

Unfortunately, the movie as a whole isn’t nearly as nimble. The To Do List basically plays by the same rules as previous sex comedies, and its attempts to be truly transgressive are either tiresome or just flat-out disgusting. (Consumer alert: A gut-churning poop joke awaits you.) And predictably, the movie ultimately falls back on the notion that, deep down, everyone’s just looking for someone to love: Blowjobs and masturbating are all well and good, but if you’re the main character in a comedy, you still need to end up with a suitable partner. Those who came of age in the early ‘90s will no doubt be sucked in by the movie’s wall-to-wall nostalgia — Trapper Keepers! Girl vests! — but there’s also a danger in playing on our fondness for that bygone era. As someone as nerdy as Brandy when it comes to proper chronology, I immediately noticed that Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” couldn’t have possibly been playing at the time of the movie — it came out a year later. No wonder I graduated from high school a virgin myself.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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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.
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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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