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When a movie is “fine for what it is.”

When a movie is “fine for what it is.” (photo)

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It’s April, and you know what that means — it’s summer blockbuster time! At least it sure feels like it, with the unleashing of the Kraken, the impending “Kick-Ass,” “The Losers” and so on; the launch of summer proper in May is a thing of the past. And with blockbuster season comes a particular critical responsibility: the need to defend every middling escapist film as “fine for what it is,” with the implication that anyone who can deny that kind of middle-grade fun is a self-deluding snob.

Roger Ebert, per usual, laid out some perfectly reasonable criteria for reviews: “If a director is clearly trying to make a particular kind of movie, and his audiences are looking for a particular kind of movie, part of my job is judging how close he came to achieving his purpose.” But! “That doesn’t necessarily mean I’d give four stars to the best possible chainsaw movie.” In other words, it’s not enough to see if a movie achieves its goals, it’s important to figure out if those goals were worthwhile to begin with (something I believe he’s said exactly, but can’t find online at the moment).

That’s not enough for some people. So, about that Kraken. In these trying political times, it’s nice to know that two sites as dissimilar as Cinematical and Big Hollywood can find something to agree on. “Nostalgia is a strange and powerful thing,” writes Scott Weinberg at the former. Don’t let nostalgia for the original “Clash of the Titans” stand in your way, he implores. The “slightly bland” Sam Worthington and “pacing issues in Act I,” the remake is, on its own terms, “a perfectly mindless, bombastic, colorful, and enjoyable piece of matinee-style popcorn entertainment.”

04022010_clash.jpgBig Hollywood‘s John Nolte is more succinct: “What we bring to the movies plays a big role in what we get from the movies (which is why critics are absolutely useless).” Sure.

There’s something to be said for a critic laying it all out there and letting you know exactly what they don’t mind putting up with. But the defensiveness here bothers me, the idea that there’s something wrong with not enjoying mediocrity — especially in, say, a movie that’s essentially dramatic filler punctuated with effects showcases. (Since when did blockbusters structure themselves like cult movies?) There used to be a place for this kind of thing some 15 years ago, when the fanboy sites were starting up and mainstream film writing was dominated by a self-congratulatory tone that celebrated “well-made,” “serious” films. But now that the fanboys have won, it’s time to knock it off. Otherwise, time to celebrate the chainsaw movies.

[Photo: “Clash of the Titans,” Warner Home Video, 1981; “Clash of the Titans,” Warner Bros., 2010]

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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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