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The week’s critic wrangle: “Clerks II.” And there’s a lady. In the water. Also, “Shadowboxer.”

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It’s been quite an inane week here at The IFC Blog; we blame it on this week’s releases, as it is, after all, the week of the Crazy. We’d planned to catch "Shadowboxer" (because Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. is the most awesomely strange romantic pairing we’re ever come across) but couldn’t make the screening, so no reviews from us either. Well, we’d advise you to skip "Azumi" — even with Jo Odagiri in makeup twirling a rose, it’s not that fun.


"Did you know Jesus was a Jew?"
+ "Clerks II": Kevin Smith‘s follow-up to the 1994 film that made him famous is apparently surprisingly melancholy or at least touching; A.O. Scott, who notes the "buried spring of pathos that bubbles ever closer to the surface as the movie wanders toward its end," writes that "what makes ‘Clerks II’ both winning and (somewhat unexpectedly) moving is its fidelity to the original ‘Clerks’ ethic of hanging out, talking trash and refusing all worldly ambition. If anything, the sequel is more defiant in its disdain for the rat race, elevating the white-guy-doing-nothing prerogative from a lifestyle choice to a moral principle." At the Village Voice, Dennis Lim says much the same: "hanging over the proceedings are the melancholy musings of a filmmaker
revisiting old haunts while trying to leave them behind for the promise
of something different, if not better." Of course, he’s less forgiving:

This is the kind of movie one expected from Smith after the middlebrow sitcom "Jersey Girl," in which he found himself smacked down by the fans who wanted nothing to do with his move toward domestication. He had little choice but to go back to the Quick Stop; that’s what viewers wanted—another prolonged dick joke sprinkled with comic-shop small talk. Smith’s heart is in it, but it’s sort of a broken heart now; "Clerks II" feels as though it was made by a man who needs a change but isn’t permitted to make one.

Scott Foundas, in the review/open letter we’ve cited before, wishes Smith would venture further than the comfortable, fan-buttressed universe he’s created for himself, but still likes the film a lot.

[T]his is the umpteenth movie I’ve seen this year about guys in their 30s who aren’t quite sure what they want to do with their lives, and it’s the only one that strikes a real chord, because it’s neither an exaltation nor a condemnation of slackerdom, but rather just a sweet little fable about how sometimes the life that you think could be so much better is actually pretty damn good already. That’s a sentiment, I’d wager, as coveted by you, Kevin, as it is by Dante and Randal, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.


+ "Lady in the Water": Ah, yes. Here we go, mean-spirited quote style.

Dana Stevens at Slate (and officially the film critic now?): "I don’t hold it against Shyamalan that his plot is completely preposterous, that his characters (except for Heep) are cardboard constructions in service of the story, or even that his ending traffics in glutinous New-Age clichés about owning your demons and embracing your inner child. I will hold against him that Lady in the Water isn’t scary, that its own inner logic breaks down at countless points along the way, and that its ending is disappointingly literal and just plain stupid."

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon: "’Lady in the Water’ challenges us to believe in the power of myth. But the big challenge here is surviving the tedium of Shyamalan’s meandering inventiveness. What’s supposed to be fanciful storytelling is really just audience punishment."

David Edelstein at New York: "His new movie is like ‘Splash’ reworked by a grandiose Sunday-school teacher."

Scott Foundas at LA Weekly: "’Lady in the Water’ isn’t awful, mind you, but it is a failure, and one that carries itself with such chest-puffing pomposity that many will take pleasure in shooting it down for sport. Conceived as a movie about the power of storytelling, it is a far more revealing (if unintended) study in the power of ego — the work of a filmmaker who has become convinced that his every whim should be abided, and who believes sinister forces are conspiring against him."

Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice, in what’s probably the harshest review of the film: "Nothing will prepare you—not his previous films, not any reviews you may read, not even a lifetime spent watching Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoons—for the rampant foolishness of Lady in the Water. The Village, his last, distended elegy for Rod Serling, is, well, Rod Serling by comparison. It’s as if on some semiconscious level, Shyamalan, who I do not doubt is a serious and self-serious pop-creative original, is calling his own success into question and daring his audience to gulp down larger and spikier clusters of manure, just to see if they will. Or he’s lost his mind."

And Manohla Dargis at the New York Times: "’Lady in the Water’ is one of the more watchable films of the summer. A folly, true, but watchable."


+ "Shadowboxer": We couldn’t stand "Monster’s Ball" or "The Woodsman," but producer-turned-director Lee Daniels earned our love with the following quote from his interview with Lola Ogunnaike in the New York Times the other day:

His decision to cast Mo’Nique, the proudly plus-size comedian, was met with raised eyebrows all around. Her character, a crack addict, was originally written for an anorexic white woman in her early 20’s who dates a handsome young doctor. Casting Mo’Nique, he said, prompted the film’s writer to remove his name from the credits.

Mr. Daniels remained unrepentant. “My sister was an obese crack addict,” he said. “She had a chicken wing in one hand and crack pipe in the other, and she had the finest white men lined up waiting for her. This is a real person to me.”

Hee! Also, apparently, Mo’Nique plays the love interest of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which earns a double hee: Hee! Anyway, the film seems to have left critics a bit bewildered. Stephen Holden in the New York Times writes that "As it gleefully smashes boundaries and blurs the line between comedy and melodrama, it dares you to collapse into laughter." He goes on to ruminate that:

The intensity of Rose and Mikey’s passion goes way beyond conventional Hollywood sex, and the fact that it is interracial and intergenerational (Ms. Mirren is 22 years older than Mr. Gooding) lends it an extra transgressive kick. I haven’t seen a black man and a white woman make love like this in an American movie since Ellen Barkin and Laurence Fishburne tore at each other in “Bad Company” in 1995.

Dennis Lim has this to add:

"Shadowboxer" appears to have been willed into existence through a potent intermingling of ego and checkbook. To watch it is to ponder how—not to mention why—one even begins to get seasoned, ostensibly self-aware professional actors to perform certain acts onscreen. This is a movie in which at least two people are fucked to death—one with a pool cue, the other by Cuba Gooding Jr.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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