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The professional villains.

The professional villains. (photo)

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In the latest Mel Gibson revenge vehicle “Edge of Darkness,” Danny Huston turns up as a shady C.E.O., acting as malevolent as possible. When he turned out [SPOILER AHEAD] to be the villain, the compadre sitting next to me at our press screening muttered “of course.”

Though Huston‘s acted all over the place in the last 15 years of his career, every time I see him on-screen, I expect him to do something terrible. He’s slime in “The Constant Gardener,” the antagonist in “The Proposition,” the vampire ringleader in “30 Days of Night,” and Col. William Stryker in “X-Men: Wolverine.” This is what he does.

It’s a double-edged sword. At age 47, Huston is never going to be a Hollywood leading man. Work is work, and — with his unnerving voice and facial features reminiscent of Ray Wise, another career villain — he’s destined to unnerve people. In another era, a suave guy like Huston might’ve been a lead, but these days we as viewers tend to distrust guys like Huston who seem too smooth. And he’s good at what he does.

The problem, of course, is that no matter how many good guy parts he plays, whenever he shows up, the suspense is gone. The same problem affects Max von Sydow and Armin Mueller-Stahl, though they’re considerably older. To see them appear on-screen is to know who the bad guy is. Typecasting is one thing; this kind of signposting is another.

03012010_elisha.jpgIn old Hollywood, everyone knew their place and was cast accordingly. Take Elisha Cook Jr., who — in the words of Wikipedia — “made a career out of playing cowardly villains and weedy neurotics.” But Hollywood’s no longer a place where a given cast member means an understood narrative function. That makes the use of actors like Mueller-Stahl, von Sydow and Huston can be a little annoying — in movies that are ostensibly supposed to contain surprises, they spoil the game before it starts. Not their fault: it’s just how casting goes.

[Photos: “Edge of Darkness,” Warner Bros., 2010; “The Maltese Falcon,” Warner Bros., 1941]

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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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