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“Red State,” Reviewed

“Red State,” Reviewed (photo)

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Kevin Smith’s personality now looms so large that it can seem inextricable from the films he produces, that buying into his on-screen work means also buying into Team View Askew. Smith has proven himself a mighty wielder of his own personal brand, using podcasts, his Twitter feed, his website, his speaking tours to cement a dedicated fanbase that “gets it,” that gets him. Which is why, I’ve always imagined, he takes criticism of his movies so poorly and can’t help but see it as personal — disliking his work has somehow become tantamount to disliking him, even if that work is a for-hire buddy cop comedy whose stars appear to find it painful to be in the same shot.

With the circus that was the Sundance “Red State” premiere, culminating in Smith telling the distributors in the audience that he can and plans to do a better job releasing his movie than they would have (something I don’t necessarily disagree with), and the director’s earlier campaign, post-“Cop Out,” against critics, Smith has ensured a lot of people don’t like him right now, which will make it all the easier to write them off as biased. So let me just get this out there: There are a lot of lovely, very nice people who’ve made lousy movies, and vice versa. If “Red State” were good, it’d hardly be the first time an asshole had turned out a worthy work of art or entertainment. It’s not good. It’s not a complete write-off, but it is bruisingly heavy-handed, poorly paced and messy, dealing in such nasty, over-the-top caricatures of religious extremists and whatever-means-necessary law enforcement that whatever point it tries for about the increasingly fiery, violence-ready state of our nation ends up seeming glib and juvenile.

The good, or at least the interesting, is the way that “Red State” shifts its emphasis over its different acts, forcing several times a reevaluation of who, if anyone, the hero might be. The film finds Smith getting away from the static shots that have defined his visual style, trying out different angles and more frenetic, occasionally “Bourne”esque camerawork and editing, which are better suited to the subject matter if sometimes distracting. And Michael Parks, as the head of the Westboro Baptist Church-inspired Five Points group that forms “Red State”‘s deadly center, gives a memorably clammy performance.

But for a film that tackles such ripe, relevant subject matter, “Red State” sets up and then knocks down incredibly easy targets. The members of the Five Points Church are, with few exceptions, hammy one-note monsters, the film stopping dead early on for Parks’ character to spew a long, circuitous hate speech-filled sermon while the congregation, which includes children and knitting woman, chime in their agreement. Later, the group matriarch (played by Melissa Leo) extols a girl to get herself together, pray for forgiveness, then retrieve her gun and join her family in shooting at the ATF “like a good Christian.” (An ATF higher-up gets a similarly flip line later in the film, justifying an action with a “Patriot act, bitch.”)

The film shifts from teen comedy (the beginning, in which three high school boys try to get laid, has the most typically Smith-like dialogue) to gothic horror to overwrought action to topical satire without any sense of control or intent. Is the Five Points Church scary? Ostensibly, since they kill people and stuff. But I find Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who were, as promised, protesting outside, far scarier. They, presumably, arrived at their extreme stance through some kind of process of belief and crazed logic, instead of just being drawn that way. And they, like Mr. Smith, know how to goad the press to their own ends.

“Red State” will be self-distributed by Smith through SModcast Pictures on October 19th.

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Final Countdown

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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Rev Up

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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Give Back

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…