This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Critic wrangle: “American Gangster.”

Posted by on

We’re going to attempt to do this short and sweet from the plus side down, as there’s plenty of praise out there for Ridley Scott‘s "American Gangster" (it’s also somehow already hit #148 on the IMDb top 250) though our usual round of critics are more mixed. (As we mentioned before, we didn’t like the film, through not enough to feel motivated to write much up… seriously, it’s kind of dull. And vaguely morally distasteful — Scott softballs the Lucas character, which is understandable in that he’s played by the eminently likable Denzel Washington, but there’s never acknowledgment from Lucas of what he’s doing, and it comes off as a bit ick when the film finally decides who its bad guys are. But we digress…)

"One must applaud American Gangster as the kind of socko [socko!] entertainment many people thought Hollywood filmmakers had become incapable of. It is not to be missed," writes Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer in what must count as a rave, if one filled with many incredulities. Roger Ebert gives the film four stars and adds a few accolades for Russell Crowe: "This is an engrossing story, told smoothly and well, and Russell Crowe’s contribution is enormous." J. Hoberman at the Village Voice adds that "Ambitious as American Gangster is, it’s well suited to Denzel Washington’s particular star quality — “the circumspect badass." "Normally, Scott loves his flash-bang setpieces," writes Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club, "but he proves equally adept at low-key verisimilitude and long-form storytelling, the kind that sprawls out over years of incidents that only gradually add up to a powerful whole."Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly finds that the film "is meticulous and detailed, a drug-world epic that holds you from moment to moment, immersing you in the intricate and sleazy logistics of crime. Yet the movie isn’t quite enthralling; it’s more like the ghost version of a ’70s classic." He puts some of that blame on Washington’s shoulders, as does David Edelstein at New York, who suggests that the filmmakers’ "ambition is out there. But for all the sprawl, American Gangster feels secondhand. It’s like Scarface drained of blood, at arm’s length from the culture that spawned it." Seconds Slate‘s Dana Stevens (who still notes that the film is "unassailably well-crafted"), "American Gangster… never reconciles its desire to be the black Scarface — a bloody, balls-out fantasy of crime as a form of ethnic empowerment — with its aspiration to be something weightier: a grittily realistic treatise on race, capitalism, and social mobility in America."

David Denby at the New Yorker deems the film "a febrile cops-and-robbers picture that has been scaled as an epic," but adds that "But none of this devastation alters the approving portrayal of Frank. After a while, the shallowness of his characterization and the movie’s glib impassivity become a little unnerving." Glenn Kenny at Premiere adds that "the new perspective Scott and [screenwriter Steven] Zaillian want to bring to this material never gels convincingly, and despite some effective set pieces, a cast of memorable faces and attitudes, and evocative cinematography by Harris Savides, this would-be epic feels tired and rote."  Stephanie Zacharek at Salon bemoans that way the film "offers only the stingiest platform for its actors, and as a piece of
storytelling — built on the foundation of a great story — it’s an
epic that’s been sliced and diced into so many little morsels that
almost nothing in it has any weight." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times
calls both of the leading men "irresistible," though for her that is
"as much part of the movie’s allure as its problem… [Scott] distracts
and entertains until the divide between his seriousness of purpose and
the false glamour that wafts around American gangsters, and invariably
trivializes their brutality, becomes too wide to breach."

Armond White at the New York Press declares Scott an "ultrahack." (We don’t dislike Scott, but we can’t help ourselves: Heh.) He goes on to writes of the film’s "innumerable gangster movie cliches" that it’s "dubious historicism is as fanciful as Gladiator but the relation to modern social crisis makes it far more insulting. It ‘verifies’ those crime stories through which pop media redefined American moral and social issues — and the Western lost its primacy." And we’ll let Nick Schager at Slant have the last word: "Not only is American Gangster dumb as a rock, but it’s also far too convinced of its import to be any fun. Except, that is, in unintentional ways, and there are quite a few of those to be found."

Watch More

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

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

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

Watch More

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

Watch More