New to Netflix: December 2014

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Netflix has announced new movies and TV shows that will be making their streaming debut this December. As a way to look forward to lazy days indoors over winter break, or as a way to put off studying for finals a little bit longer, here is a list of all the titles coming to Netflix in the month of December 2014.

Movies

A Knight’s Tale (2001) (Dec. 1)
Inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, this medieval adventure film follows a peasant who is pretending to be a knight to compete in jousting tournaments. Rotten Tomatoes describes this as “Rocky on horseback.” *Dun… dun dun dun. Dun dun dun. Dun dun duuuuuuuun.* 

Almost Famous (2000) (Dec. 1)
Directed and written by Cameron Crowe, this comedy-drama film tells the coming-of-age story of a teenage Rolling Stone journalist following the fictitious 70s band Stillwater.

American Beauty (1999) (Dec. 1)
Suggested to be a satire of the American middle class ideals of beauty and satisfaction, this drama tells the story of office worker Lester Burnham, who falls into a midlife crisis, enamored by his daughter’s teenage friend.

Bewitched (2005) (Dec. 1)

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Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell in Bewitched (2005)

Based on the 1964-72 TV show of the same name, Bewitched stars Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Ferrell plays Jack Wyatt, a struggling actor desperate for a role. Jack agrees to star in a film version of the TV series Bewitched (so meta). Nicole Kidman as Isabel Bigelow is cast as the female lead alongside Jack, playing the witch-turned-housewife Samantha. Nobody knows that Isabel is really a witch (OH BOY).

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BlogDH’s guide to Oscar season

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November brings the promise of turkey, an upcoming winter, and lots of holiday sweaters. But, more importantly, it brings ***Oscar Season***. For those of you who are confused, Oscar season is distinctly different than awards season, which comes a bit later. Oscar season, or “good movie” season as I affectionately call it, is the beautiful time of the year in which Hollywood stops making endless superhero movies and sequels and instead opts for Academy bait and the like. You know what that means: intense thrillers, avant-garde filmmaking techniques, and Amy Adams. Below is a list of the movies that most people (critic-y people, anyways) have cited as having a shot at winning anything come January and February. Don’t worry, no one actually expects you to see all these movies, but knowing they exist will make you feel ~ahead of the game~ when your pretentious informed MCM friend talks about them.

Movies You Already Should’ve Seen

I’m not going to spend too much time on these because, as stated, you really should’ve already seen these movies. Whether you loved or hated Boyhood (did anyone hate this movie?), the movie directed by Richard Linklater promised audiences something they’d never seen before. Its revolutionary process of filming the same actors over an eleven year period had critics across the globe basically jizzing themselves. Love is Strange also got lots of critic love, but won’t be remembered like The Grand Budapest Hotel will. Can you believe Wes Anderson has never been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards? Not even for Moonrise Kingdom? Me neither. People think The Fault in our Stars may get nominated for things, which, I have to admit, would be pretty disappointing.

Movies You Can See Right Now

Skeleton Twins

What the New York Times called the “angsty” tweedledee and tweedledum, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig remind you why they’re awesome and sort of/maybe leave you feeling a little bit sad. The screenplay won at Sundance, too, as if you needed more reasons to see this.

Gone Girl

I’m just going to put this out there: I love Ben Affleck. While I’ll admittedly call his acting so-so, it’s hard not to like a guy who can resurrect himself from the media catastrophe that was Bennifer. I’m not sure how much that can save him for his upcoming role as Batman, but in Gone Girl, it works. Plus, it seems like director David Fincher is capable of anything (or at the very least, snagging another Best Director nomination). Continue Reading


A Misanthrope’s Guide To The Movies: The Judge, Gone Girl, and Men, Women & Children

Fall break is gone, taking with it any and all fleeting excuses to pretend midterms don’t exist. Reality is back and it feels an awful lot like midnight cramming for a stats exam that you’re hard-pressed to care about. In the meantime, you’ll have to look elsewhere to find the enjoyment and excitement of life. For some of you, this may mean a virtual reality, for others, the hallowed halls of your local movie theatre. Or any movie theatre. Luckily, there happen to be several highly anticipated, star-studded films on the silver screen right now, and even luckier, I happened to have seen almost all of them. Here are the movies I saw over Fall Break (in between important dinners and being really popular), and how I felt about them:

Men, Women and Children

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Men, Women & Children was the first movie I saw this weekend, and perhaps the one for which I had the highest hopes. Despite the bad reviews, I didn’t really believe that the man (Jason Reitman) who brought us JunoUp in the Air, and Thank You For Smoking could make a movie that was all that bad. [Ed.: Did you read the reviews for January’s Labor Day?] I was wrong. Men, Women & Children is possibly worse than all that bad. The movie features strange, overwrought narration from Emma Thompson, who is not an actual character in the movie and seems to think that she is back on the set of Love Actually and has switched roles with Hugh Grant. Her narration is set to images of the Challenger shuttle hurtling through space, which does precious little for the actual plot of the film except to remind us that even if we’re just small specks on Earth, irrelevant in the course of time and space, our life can’t possibly be any more pointless than is Men, Women, and Children.

Featuring a cast led by Adam Sandler (you know him from Blended fame), Jennifer Garner, Dean Norris (you actually know him as Hank from Breaking Bad), and Judy Greer, Men, Women & Children aims to tackle the dangerous role of technology in modern society and how it negatively impacts our relationships. Unfortunately, for a movie trying to uncover a societal truth with which we can all relate, very little of the movie feeels grounded in truth, and the characters and circumstances are wholly unrelatable. The teens don’t talk like teens, but rather caricatures of high schoolers ruined by the Internet and created by a middle-aged parent writing a script. The adults in the movie behave perhaps even less realistically. One mom sells illegal, risque pictures of her underage daughter online, her neighbors both engage in virtual, technology-driven affairs on a nightly basis, and the mom down the block treats the Internet like the devil incarnate and her daughter like an inmate.

All in all, I would obviously not recommend seeing Men, Women & Children, though if you need firsthand experience to confirm that the newest Reitman film is nowhere near Juno, I understand. But be warned, by the end of the movie you’ll be wishing Ellen Page and Michael Cera were there to save you.

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What to do this week: October 14 – 19

what-to-do-this-week1Tuesday, October 14

Event: Judith Butler: Fallible Recognition: The Politics of Kinship in the Bacchea
Time: 5:30-7p.m.
Location: Martinos Auditorium, Granoff Center

The Roger B. Henkle Memorial Lecture and MCM department bring us Judith Butler, a name you probably recognize. Butler is an influential gender and literary theorist, today discussing the ancient Greek tragedy after a staged reading by students.

Wednesday, October 15

Event: Rivka Galchen: The Accidental Poetry of Medicine
Time: 5:30p.m.
Location: MacMillan 117

Rivka Galchen has had one of those cool life paths that took her from an M.D. from Mount Sinai to a full-time writer/novelist. Her novel, Atmospheric Disturbances, garnered immense critical praise, as did her more recent short-story collection, American Innovations. In 2010, Galchen was chosen as one of  The New Yorker’s 20 under 40. This literary event is hosted by the Med School, and seems like a promising lesson in serendipity.

Event: Providence Mayoral Debate
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 p.m.
Location: Taubman Center

Mayoral candidates Buddy Cianci, Jorge Elorza, and Daniel Harrop will duke it out at this debate, moderated by Ross Cheit, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science. Whether or not you’re registered to vote in RI, this is an excellent way to learn about issues facing our city. Tickets to the event may have sold out by now, but there will be a live simulcast in Salomon 001.

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This week at the Avon: ‘The Skeleton Twins’ with Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader

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After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, The Skeleton Twins is finally showing in theaters and fortunately for us, at the Avon.

Starring Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins is about Dean (Hader) and Maggie (Wiig), a pair of twins who had not spoken in ten years before reconvening after they both attempt and contemplate suicide on the same day. Pretty dark for two people who made Studio 8H roar in laughter and applause not too long ago, right?

The Skeleton Twins is not a comedy, but with Wiig and Hader, it reminds us that even in the most depressing parts of our lives we can find people who understand us and maybe make us laugh, or at least share a smile. Their performances are phenomenal and incredibly nuanced.

Maggie is married to an adorably oblivious husband, played by Luke Wilson, who wants to starts a family in the near future. Maggie, on the other hand, keeps her reservations about having children a secret, leading to questionable choices with other men. Dean has been living in Los Angeles, trying to make it as an actor but struggling to make ends meet as a waiter. His relationship with his boyfriend has evaporated, and he has no one to turn to. We finally see the twins together when Maggie comes to pick up Dean at the hospital to bring him to her home in New York after his attempted suicide. Through a series of flashbacks, we see the chemistry they’ve shared since childhood and eventually learn that their father committed suicide in their early teenage years, leading to further familial complications.

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The Netflix Files: Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?

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I’ll admit this up front: if your main goal in watching Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? (2013) is to arrive at an answer to the titular question, you’ll be disappointed. Almost none of the film’s meandering 88 minutes, if any at all, are devoted to meditations on correlative assessments of height and happiness.

It is hard, in fact, to say what the 88 minutes are devoted to–the movie covers so much ground while moving so slowly that it’s hard to understand, when it ends, how it’s been less than six hours, much less an hour and a half. Some of this impression may come from the altered mental state in which I watched Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, but that caveat is not at all beside the point, since I can give the film my wholehearted recommendation only to those planning on ingesting herbal enhancements before viewing. Luckily, its availability on Netflix instant play ensures this is a feasible pre-watching activity.

Indeed, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? is, while perhaps far from stereotypical stoner cinema, an essential entry into the genre. What it is–and I apologize for taking so long to get to the point–is a 90-minute conversation between the linguist Noam Chomsky (calling him a linguist is like calling Da Vinci a painter) and French filmmaker Michel Gondry (whose filmography includes, among others, cult classic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay).

The genesis of the film, Gondry explains at the outset, came from his interest in Chomsky’s ideas dating back to his appearance on “some DVDs [Gondry] picked up at the video store a few years ago.” What DVDs those are, or why any profit-maximizing video store would stock them, is another point entirely, but Gondry quickly goes on to describe Chomsky as “the most important thinker alive,” presented as a quote from no one in particular.

He set out to interview Chomsky–twice, it turns out–and supplement the audio of the interviews with animation because “animation is clearly the interpretation of the author… it’s up to [the audience] to decide if they’re convinced or not.”

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