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Chris Columbus, protector of children.

Chris Columbus, protector of children. (photo)

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Some directors are automatic punchlines, their names synonyms for lousy. There’s Adam Sandler cohort Steve Brill (“Without A Paddle,” “Drillbit Taylor”), Eddie Murphy’s favorite Brian Robbins (“Norbit,” “Meet Dave”) and of course Shawn Levy (“A Night At The Museum,” “The Pink Panther,” “Cheaper By The Dozen”), who pays the bills as perfunctorily as possible. The godfather of them all may well be Chris Columbus, a man so prone to alternating equally leaden bathos and comedy it’s amazing he once had it together enough to write “Gremlins.” His resume is one of shame: the first two “Home Alone”s (they’re terrible, get over it), “Bicentennial Man,” this year’s ghastly “I Love You, Beth Cooper”… the list stretches on.

11172009_childstars2.jpgBut even the hackiest director has redeeming qualities, though they might not be visible onscreen; as Geoff Boucher points out at the LA Times‘ “Hero Complex” blog, Columbus is good at launching and protecting child actors. Talking about the Harry Potter trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, Columbus said watching them grow up and take on more roles without flipping out into the usual child star problems gave him “the feeling of a proud parent.”

He may be lousy behind the camera, but Columbus sounds sincere and deft when it comes to discussing how he cast the kids not just as actors but as people with secure families who could look after them. “I realized that we needed to start casting kids based on their families and the security that their families could give them at this particular time in their lives,” he notes.

As it happens, Columbus has had an unusual amount of experience launching kid stars. It went wrong with Macaulay Culkin, whose ’90s battles with his parents were one of the sadder tabloid spectacles of the decade. From that Columbus has apparently learned much: since then, he’s given first big parts to Mara Wilson (“Mrs. Doubtfire”), Jena Malone (“Stepmom”) and the Potter clan, all of whom have turned out well-adjusted and just fine, at least as far as we know. If we must have terrible “family” fare, it’s good to have someone ethical in charge of them.

Speaking of Culkin, here’s an insurance ad from the UK where he appears alongside Bruce Willis, Ringo Starr and Michelle Yeoh. Culkin comes on screen briefly and says “Remember me,” which is oddly moving if you remember the ’90s well:

[Photos: “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone,” Warner Bros., 2001; “Home Alone,” 20th Century Fox, 1990]

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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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