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All In A Day’s Work

All In A Day’s Work (photo)

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Seen one, you’ve seen them all. That may be how you feel about zombie movies, but not me. I’ve been a happy, all-but-credulous consumer of the genre going as far back as the Val Lewton-Jacques Tournier gothic romance “I Walked With a Zombie” through George A. Romero’s epic “Living Dead” cycle of gory, apocalyptic satires of consumer culture. Matters not to me if the socio-political context is obtrusively embedded into its storyline (as in Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”) or if you have to bring whatever metaphorical baggage you can find to the party (“28 Days Later”). There are those who prefer vampires, psycho slashers, business executives or other marauding specters of our cinematic subconscious — I’m of the zombie species of horror freak.

I will admit, however, to some advance trepidation about “Pontypool” when I heard that Bruce McDonald’s zombies-in-the-Great-White-North movie unapologetically wears its social commentary on its stormy freakazoid sleeve. Its thematic premise seems to have spawned from William S. Burroughs’ notion of language as a malignancy, a “virus from outer space.” Knowing this makes you wish for even a little of Burroughs’ antic energy to dispel “Pontypool’s” dank, portent-laden staginess. But the movie sustains its momentum briskly enough to keep your head in the game, even when it decides to big-foot its ideas at the expense of real jolts.

So if we can’t have Burroughs’ whack-job clinician Doctor Benway, we’ll gladly settle for Stephen McHattie, decked out in seedy cowboy regalia, as Grant Mazzy, an Imus-esque shock jock who’s been exiled from the big city markets to the movie’s eponymous Ontario backwater. Condemned to a morning drive-time routine of small-town ephemera, Mazzy keeps trying to juice things up with veiled innuendo against the local cops and the occasional quote from Norman Mailer or Roland Barthes. His engineer, a winsome Army veteran named Laurel Ann (Georgina Riley) digs the older man’s shticks while his world-weary producer Sydney (Lisa Houle) wishes he’d stick to what the locals need as opposed to what will titillate them.

In the midst of this argument (the kind I remember from the back end of my newspaper days), details of an honest-to-God catastrophe ooze into the church-basement studio. There are hordes of desperately violent citizens cannibalizing each other and whoever happens to be unfortunate enough to drive into Pontypool. Explicit details are elusive to both the radio crew and the movie’s audience, but it becomes apparent that the source of infection isn’t anything toxic, radioactive or alien. It’s a tic in the English language that sticks words in its victims’ mouths to the point where they have to bite someone else really hard.

05282009_pontypool1.jpgParaphrasing George Carlin, anyone who has likewise been frustrated with the real-life debasement of public discourse, especially via the airwaves, doesn’t have to be Fellini or, for that matter, Cronenberg to figure out “Pontypool”‘s agenda. That the afflicted are to vapid baby talk or meaningless techno-babble literally hammers the message home to those with all-too-vivid memories of the last decade. Still, McDonald’s movie isn’t so caught up in its anti-bullshit fulminations that it misplaces its wit – as with Sydney’s off-the-cuff benediction towards a plague victim that discloses his unsavory character flaw. “Pontypool” is no “Dawn of the Dead” much less “Shaun of the Dead” (loved that one, too). But it’s a gnarly, affecting little goof that barely manages to keep its impulses toward gratuitous profundity at bay. Gratuitous violence? Sorry, you’ll have to check out Sam Raimi’s non-zombie “Drag Me to Hell” for the joy-buzzer shocks for which we zombie-connoisseurs shall forever pine.

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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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