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Eye Poppers

10 3D Movies That Don’t Suck

Catch Jaws 3-D this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/©Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

These days it seems like everything from the latest comic book blockbuster to the umpteenth Chipmunks squeak-quel is being released in eye-popping 3-D. What used to be a fun gimmick is now a cheap tactic to jack up ticket prices. But there was a time, like back in the days of Jaws 3D (airing this month on IFC), when stuff coming out of the screen at you was actually fun. Here are ten movies that were not just great, but better for being in three dimensions.

10. Spooks!

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Movie theaters may be flooded with 3D pictures these days, but there’s no denying that the 1950s were the format’s golden age. With the advent of TV, studios were pulling out all the stops to keep audiences coming to the theaters. Gimmicks like Smell-O-Vision, Cinerama and Stereoscopic 3D were all the rage, and no one was immune to their charms. Not even The Three Stooges, limping along decades after their heyday, who turned a Jekyll and Hyde spoof into a 3D experience. All of a sudden Moe wasn’t the only one with fingers poking at his face. A novelty for sure, but one that helps sum up an era.


9. Friday the 13th Part III

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

The 1980s saw a resurgence of the 3D format, with movies like Amityville 3D and the aforementioned Jaws 3-D trying to ring some life out of the retired gimmick. And while they all have their fun moments, none approached the format with more ridiculous zeal than Friday the 13th Part III. Treating brutal murders like slapstick hijinks, the filmmakers knew that they could get a shriek AND a laugh out of you at the same time. Or do you not want to watch an arrow shot through a victim’s head, popping his eye out and into your lap? We thought so.


8. The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D

Buena Vista
Buena Vista

There are two ways to make a 3D movie. You can shoot the film with a special camera, or you can convert it after it’s been shot. Many of today’s blockbusters use the latter technique, and it shows. Instead of a visual mastery of the potentials of 3D filmmaking, random elements from 2D footage are just snipped out and shifted into the foreground. It can look cheap and confusing. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with the conversion of this Tim Burton holiday classic. With love and craft, the 3D effects here only heighten the gorgeous world building, creating musical numbers that explode off the screen with terrifying cheer.


7. Kiss Me Kate

MGM
MGM

The gold standard of the 1950s 3D experience, this beloved musical was turned into an theatrical event by employing the format. In place of the era’s typical gimmicks, the 3D here is employed to make you feel like you’re at a Broadway play, creating a depth that helps the show-stopping songs, full of wit and heart, explode off the screen. You can see why this classic has stood the test of time.


6. Hugo

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Martin Scorsese ditched mobsters and murder with this love letter to the early days of cinema. The story of a boy, his automaton and a search for dreams, Scorsese creates an impressive world of wonder here, and then uses 3D to pull us into it. From ridiculous chase sequences through a Parisian train station, to a recreation of Georges Méliès’ seminal A Trip to the Moon, the format is used to create wonder, instead of gimmicks, and was duly honored with multiple Academy Awards, including for Best Effects.


5. Ghosts of the Abyss

Buena Vista
Buena Vista

James Cameron was never satisfied with simply being a director. Over the years he’s added engineer, philanthropist and deep sea explorer to his resume. After helming the biggest hit in the history of cinema, Titanic, Cameron stepped away from narrative film for a bit and focused his energy on exploring the world’s oceans. This documentary film, in which he piloted a submarine through the wreckage of the Titanic itself, was the result of this new passion. The subsequent documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss, uses 3D technology along with visual effects to make the sunken ship come to life again. A truly unique experience from a master, this film takes you to another world right here on our own.


4. Life of Pi

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Ang Lee’s masterful adaption of Yann Martel’s 2001 fantasy novel was a remarkable achievement in visual effects and 3D filmmaking. Using technology as a tool of storytelling, the film builds a massive world full of high adventure, wild animals and never ending oceans that would have been impossible to create just a few years ago. A beautiful movie from a beautiful book, this film was dominated by visual effects, and yet they never took you out of the story.


3. Avatar

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Avatar, the current highest grossing movie of all time, really kicked the blockbuster 3D craze into high gear. Granted, this isn’t a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, more an action-adventure take of Dances With Wolves than an original piece of art. And yet director James Cameron builds an entire planet, and civilization, from the ground up with nothing but a few computers and a dream. Basically everyone you’ve ever met turned out in 2009 to be transported to another world, thanks to Cameron’s mastery of the technical side of filmmaking. And with four planned sequels, who knows how many more worlds he has in the offing for us.


2. House of Wax

Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Andre de Toth helmed this bananas 3D classic, despite the fact that he couldn’t see the format himself, having lost an eye at a young age. The progenitor of the 3D jump scare, de Toth employed his effects sparingly to get the most out of the audience’s reactions. Whether it was a brutal murder, or a three-dimensional performance by a group of scantily clad can-can girls, this movie knew what its audience wanted and wasn’t shy about giving it to them.


1. Gravity

Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

Here is the movie that boldly went where 3D has never gone before. A simple idea with extraordinary execution, all of the visual effects here add up to scare the living hell out of you. There’s no jokey stuff flying at you. No dancing girls or goofy aliens. There’s jut one woman, flung through space, alone and terrified. Instead of building an immersive world, the technology is utilized to make the audience feel what it would be like if there was no world at all.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.