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2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent

2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent (photo)

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There may be nothing more frustrating to watch as a movie lover than good talent wasted. From our perspective, we felt that frustration way too many times in 2010, as we watched some of our favorite actors squandered in underwritten supporting roles and pointless cameos. Here, now, is our list of the 14 most egregious examples. The point of this list isn’t to bash these actors. On the contrary, we want to shame the filmmakers who had the good sense to hire these brilliant folks but the bad judgment not to use them properly.


Ellen Page in “Inception”

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Take a look at the “Inception” Memorable Quotes page on IMDb. Now search for quotes for Ellen Page’s character, Ariadne. They’re all questions. “Why is it so important to dream?” “Why wouldn’t I wake up?” “Why can’t you go home?” “Whose subconscious are we going through exactly?” And on and on. Page plays the film’s dream architect, the person responsible for designing the worlds the rest of the characters travel through in their sleep. But really, she is the audience surrogate who stands around looking confused and asking questions. So while Page has plenty of screentime in “Inception” it is all a big misuse of her talents. Page is a smart woman, and she’s good playing smart characters: Hayley in “Hard Candy;” Juno in “Juno.” But for all her architectural genius, Ariadne’s a bit of a dim bulb, and that makes her a bad case of miscasting for Page. You might as well hire Babe Ruth in his prime to be your team’s batboy. [MS]


01062010_KnightandDay.jpgPaul Dano in “Knight and Day”
Directed by James Mangold

It’s not unusual for actors known for indie films to take supporting turns in big blockbusters to help pay the bills, but Paul Dano and Peter Sarsgaard, not to mention recent Oscar nominee Viola Davis (who’s getting really good at playing parts that call for her only to crosses her arms and look disgruntled), were likely expecting more when they signed on to “Walk the Line” director James Mangold’s first action film. While Sarsgaard comes off as a standard issue baddie, the real question mark is Dano, who plays a nerdy inventor notable mainly for his oddly stringy goatee. By design, the character and his bottomless battery invention are a bit of a McGuffin, but what’s worse for Dano is having to confront the same dilemma Shia LaBeouf did in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:” having to play the one-dimensional comic relief for major stars (Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz) without upstaging them, even though audiences know he’s capable of more. Dano does the best he can in that department, which means he isn’t able to show the reasons why he was probably cast in the first place. [SS]

Lizzy Caplan in “127 Hours”
Directed by Danny Boyle

While it’s safe to say many of us at IFC.com are firm believers that everyone from the cast of “Party Down” should have their own starring vehicles (see: Adam Scott), Lizzy Caplan should have some genuine gripes about what went down in 2010. After the cancellation of “Party Down,” Caplan saw her unique wit and verve lavished on the thankless role of the rock journalist who captures John Cusack’s heart in “Hot Tub Time Machine” and then appeared in the wordless role of Aron Ralston’s sister in “127 Hours.” One can’t blame Caplan for wanting to work with Danny Boyle, no doubt saying to her agent at some point the old adage, “I’d sweep up in the background to appear in one of his movies.” But that’s basically what she does, appearing for mere seconds in one of Aron’s hallucinations when he’s trapped between boulders. For those that love her, Caplan’s brief appearance almost works because you instantly empathize with Aron for wanting to see more of her. Then again, that’s also the problem. [SS]


01072010_scheer1.jpgPaul Scheer in “Piranha 3D”
Directed by Alexandre Aja

Just how superfluous was Paul Scheer to the narrative of “Piranha 3D?” So superfluous that when the film ran out of money before they could animate his death, they just removed him from the film. That’s right: Scheer’s Andrew, the “Wild Wild Girls” cameraman trapped on a boat surrounded by bloodthirsty fish, doesn’t even get the honor of a cheaply animated piranha murder. He just vanishes into thin air. One minute he’s on the boat with the rest of the cast, the next minute he’s gone, never to be seen — or even mentioned! — again. Director Alexandre Aja just banked on people caring so little about this character they simply wouldn’t notice. Which is too bad, since Scheer, a legitimately funny guy as a member of the sketch show “Human Giant,” probably could have delivered a great comedic death scene. Maybe Andrew can return for this year’s sequel — “Piranha 3DD” — and explain just what the hell happened. [MS]


Rufus Sewell in “The Tourist”
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

In order to explain just how wasted Rufus Sewell was in “The Tourist” I need to SPOIL the end of the movie, so if you’re thinking of wasting your time and money on this film (something I would strongly advise against) you should skip ahead to the next entry on our list now. Sewell plays “The Englishman,” a mysterious character who pops up occasionally during the film. He looks like he’s following Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, but his motives are kept vague. But since he’s Rufus Sewell we figure he’s got to be somebody important. Nope. Turns out Sewell is a nobody who’s been paid to wander around Venice looking suspicious. The fact that The Englishman is a red herring isn’t a problem; plenty of good mysteries rely on red herrings. No, the problem is that the entire movie promises Rufus Sewell is going to do something interesting, and he never does. That’s like having a character talk about his super cool machine gun in scene after scene, then having him reach for a baseball bat when the zombies finally attack. It’s an utter disappointment. [MS]


01072011_dinnerforschmucks4.jpgJemaine Clement in “Dinner for Schmucks”
Directed by Jay Roach

Much like his performance in Jared Hess’ little-seen “Gentlemen Broncos” a year earlier, it looks like Jemaine Clement just decided at some point during the production of “Dinner For Schmucks” that he was going to be in a different movie than the one the rest of the characters were in. On the other hand, that could be considered a byproduct the rangy direction by Jay Roach, which allowed fellow cast members Zach Galifianakis and Lucy Punch to let their freak flags fly as the “schmucks” recruited by Paul Rudd’s corporate climber for his boss’ dinner of shame. Still, in a movie that was set up to be a circus, Clement’s wild, animal-loving conceptual artist Kieran Vollard feels like an elephant in the room, a fact the filmmakers seemed to concede by creating a series of Funny or Die viral videos around him to promote the film, despite the fact that he takes a backseat in “Schmucks” to the less interesting Rudd, Steve Carell and Galifianakis. [SS]

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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.

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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

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…