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“Paul,” Reviewed

“Paul,” Reviewed (photo)

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Centuries from now, historians of early twenty-first century popular culture will surely point to “Paul” as the ultimate example of geek culture’s invasion of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. Here is a movie about nerds, written by nerds, made for nerds, in which the word “nerd” appears in the dialogue at least a dozen times. This movie is a Toby Radloff cameo away from being the dorkiest movie ever created.

The film concerns a road trip of the sort that only happens in movies, the kind where friendships are tested and strengthened, romance is found in the most unexpected places, and wacky car chases occur between government agents and men in RVs. In another movie, we might label these cliches and brand the whole experience artificial. But it feels wholly appropriate for “Paul,” a movie made entirely of quotations, both visual and verbal, from other movies. If I had to venture a guess, I would estimate that no less than 15% of all dialogue spoken in this movie is lifted directly out of other movies.

That’s par for the course for stars and co-writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who only make movies about other movies, like “Shaun of the Dead,” where they used their knowledge of zombie movies to survive a zombie apocalypse, or “Hot Fuzz,” in which they applied cop movie logic to their jobs as police officers in a sleepy British village. Pegg and Frost have played these sorts of roles so many times already that their mere presence as intensely devoted friends and pop culture aficionados is something a movie quotation itself.

In “Paul,” they play Graeme and Clive, British buddies who cap off their first trip to San Diego Comic-Con with a road trip through the American southwest. Hardcore sci-fi fanboys, they want to soak in the atmosphere of America’s UFO hotspots, from Area 51 to Roswell. But they get more atmosphere than they bargained for one night on a dark and deserted stretch of road, when they stumble upon a real live alien named Paul — voiced by Seth Rogen but played by an impressively lifelike CGI creation — who’s been stranded on Earth for decades after crashing his spaceship here back in 1947. Tired of being a prisoner of the US government, he’s engineered an escape attempt which now requires the help of our two incredulous geeks.

There are obstacles along the way, including Jason Bateman cast against type as the badass government agent assigned by an unseen “Big Guy” (shades of “Charlie’s Angels,” “The X-Files,” and just a smidge of “Knight Rider”) to bring Paul back into custody. And there’s the opportunity for romance as well in the form of Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a trailer park employee with an eye disease that requires her to wear Warren Beatty’s glasses from the end of “Bonnie and Clyde” (curious that Pegg and Frost dressed up their movie nerd’s dream girl like Beatty and not Dunaway). But really the stakes are extremely low. The mood is warm and funny, as the mood is in any Pegg and Frost team-up. There are lots of cute cameos and supporting roles from funny folks like Jane Lynch and Bill Hader. But that’s about it.

“Paul” borrows heavily from so many movies — “E.T.” obviously, but also “Jaws,” “Aliens,” “Easy Rider” and many more — but while it definitely takes their lines or plots, it doesn’t quite replicate their emotional stakes or dramatic payoffs. Unlike the movies its creators love and are paying homage to here, “Paul” is one big goof. It’s worth noting that Pegg and Frost’s previous buddy movies were directed by Edgar Wright, who made his own movie without them last summer, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” (“Paul” is directed by “Superbad”‘s Greg Mottola). I liked both of the movies the movies Pegg and Frost and Wright made separately, but neither as much as the ones they made together. Call me a nerd, but I’m looking forward to their next collaboration.

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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…