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Where the blockbuster bad guys are.

Where the blockbuster bad guys are. (photo)

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Looking forward to summer, the Independent‘s Tim Walker notes that there are three movies on the way “about a group of wronged ex-military dudes on a revenge trip.”

There’s “The A-Team,” Sylvester Stallone’s ’80s-all-stars “The Expendables” (Sly! Dolph! Arnold! Eric Roberts!) and — first out of the gate — April 23’s “The Losers,” a graphic novel adaptation which — as Walker approvingly notes — has for antagonists “a topical mixture of fictional stand-ins for Halliburton, Blackwater and the Bush White House.” Topical? Two years late, but never mind. “Stallone,” Walker clucks, “is still fighting anachronistic battles: ‘Rambo IV’ replaced Vietnam with Burma, now ‘The Expendables’ sees its star exchanging fire with South American dictators, a plot line that belongs in the 1980s.”

Well, I think Burma is very much still worth talking about, but never mind that. Hollywood films are not and never have been noted for their commitment to real-time villains in all the right countries — most of those Cold War movies weren’t exactly politically accurate in their depiction of Soviet no-goodniks, and in the ’90s a lot of bad guys were a random mixture of sinister indeterminately accented Euro-men, the ever-popular neo-Nazis and — most problematically — the generic jihadist. The latter were in some ways the go-to bad guys of the era, peaking with 1998’s “The Siege,” which pleased the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee not one bit.

03022010_bourne.jpgIn a post-9/11 world, it’s hard to make that cartoonish, and suddenly the complaints about Hollywood stereotyping and demonization carried much more weight. While the idea of a movie meditation on the Bush years being “topical” seems funny, actually engaging with the nuances of Islamic fundamentalism in your average action movie is totally impossible, unless Sly’s going to figure out how to respond to Sunnis and Shi’ites between gunshot blasts. It’s too much of a live wire — one way to explain why the meat-and-potatoes action movie has, at least for the moment, largely ceded ground to so many comic-book and CGI-based spectacles — the villains there don’t have that charge, even allegorically.)

The only movies that have made any kind of serious effort to get their villains to be topical were the Bourne films — at the very least “The Bourne Supremacy,” in which actual Russian oil tycoons were the villains (though you could argue that was meant to trigger subconscious associations of Russian baddies past). The truth is I haven’t seen an action movie with a truly plausible villain according to what’s actually going on in the world in a long time now, and that’s totally fine — creating a politically coherent villain would involve taking up more responsibility than your average blockbuster can bear.

[Photos: “The Losers,” Warner Bros., 2010; “The Bourne Supremacy,” Universal, 2004]

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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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