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“Red,” Reviewed

“Red,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at Fantastic Fest 2010.

Even before the opening credits roll for “Red,” it’s worth noting that for the first time a studio other than Warner Brothers has their logo in front of the one for DC Comics, an unusual sight for those aware of their corporate connection, but perhaps not an unwelcome one. For years, the two have made strange bedfellows, producing film adaptations from comics that have tried too hard – think “Superman Returns,” “Watchmen,” this summer’s wildly misguided “Jonah Hex” – to keep up with the success of longtime rival Marvel in the same realm or even Batman, the one superhero they were able to successfully reinvent twice for the big screen.

So to see the Summit logo in front of “Red” means that it’s the rare DC adaptation that wasn’t picked by Warner Brothers because it could be made, but because something other than corporate synergy dictated it should be made. The result is one of the breeziest comic book adaptations to date made by any studio, gliding on the laid-back charms of an all-star cast and a script from Jon and Erich Hoeber that never takes itself too seriously.

Adapted from Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer’s graphic novel of the same name, “Red” involves a group of retired CIA operatives who reunite when their involvement in a decades’ old coup in Guatemala comes back to haunt them as the members involved are outed by a New York Times reporter and start to get picked off one by one. The team is led by Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), who has gone from shooting terrorists to popping morning meds, a slave to a domestic routine that is only broken up by his weekly call to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a desk jockey who wistfully talks to Frank about seeking out adventures in foreign locales like Chile.

10012010_BruceWillisMorganFreemanRed.jpgShe gets her wish, at least partially, when Frank finds out he’s being targeted for death and fearing someone has traced their phone calls, picks her up and hits the road to get the band back together, visiting the Green Springs nursing home for his oldest friend Joe (Morgan Freeman), the Pensacola swamp for the nutty Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), the Russian embassy in DC for the romantic Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox), and the idyllic Eagle’s Nest for the cool former MI6 member Victoria (Helen Mirren), which draws the attention of current CIA agent Cooper (Karl Urban).

Every location is marked onscreen by a postcard, which is appropriate since “Red” spends every minute of its running time screaming “wish you were here.” Clearly, the entire cast is enjoying themselves, with Willis and Freeman probably imagining this is what they signed up for when they did “Lucky Number Slevin” a few years back. Christophe Beck and David Holmes’ rococo score underlines the all the fun these “Retired and Extremely Dangerous” members are having with artillery.

Frank cannily stages a diversionary shootout in his home by placing bullets in a frying pan on a hot stove, Marvin doesn’t blink during a Mexican standoff when his enemy is armed with a missile launcher while he has a mere pistol, and when Victoria gets her hands on a Gatling gun… well, look out. Throw in the tough talk from Rebecca Pidgeon’s CIA chief who eggs on Cooper with taunts like “You just got your ass handed to you by a retiree” and you’ll believe you’re watching a Mamet film on steroids.

All of this comes courtesy of a surprising source in Robert Schwentke, who last directed the solemn Jodie Foster thriller “Flightplan.” While there’s nothing that’s particularly distinguished about “Red” visually or in its plotting, he does well to get out of the way of his cast, luxuriating in exchanges between Willis and Parker, whose sparks together rival any of the literal fireworks in the film’s action sequences, right down to the more throwaway conversations Willis has with Cox and Ernest Borgnine, who shows up as a backroom guy at the CIA.

10012010_ErnestBorgnineRed.jpgIf anything, Schwentke’s main problem is having too much of a good thing, occasionally encountering a lull when balancing out the demands of pushing the story forward versus a desire to accommodate his entire cast, which is why Mirren and Freeman seem strangely marginalized by the end of the film.

Still, the only thing more ridiculous than the premise of “Red” is the idea that any of its stars are over the hill. At an age when Willis and his co-stars are thought to be moving out their prime as movie stars, they prove they might just be the only movie stars we have left, able to power a film like “Red” on charisma alone. It is a film made by grown-ups, if not necessarily made for them, but then again, it is also the kind of fun that can’t be achieved by simply kidding around.

“Red” opens wide on October 15th.

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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 IFC.com

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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.

Uncle-Buck

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…