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- 05/22/15--05:06: _Jimmy Fallon and Th...
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- 05/22/15--07:35: _Bad Lip Reading som...
- 05/21/15--13:09: _Is rap music create...
- 05/22/15--08:29: _You're gonna die al...
- 05/22/15--10:05: _A Bill Murray Chris...
- 05/22/15--10:12: _'Supergirl' pilot l...
- 05/22/15--11:57: _All the titles comi...
- 05/22/15--14:22: _See Amy Poehler and...
- 05/23/15--06:00: _This healthcare cli...
- 05/23/15--07:47: _Chris Pratt offers ...
- 05/23/15--11:54: _Neil Young performs...
- 05/23/15--14:09: _Bad Lip Reading giv...
- 05/24/15--02:52: _Eurovision 2015 fea...
- 05/24/15--06:30: _If you loved 'Mad M...
- 05/24/15--10:45: _Everything you need...
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- 05/25/15--05:30: _The 5 best war movi...
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- 05/26/15--07:46: _'Thought Crimes' an...
- 05/22/15--07:35: Bad Lip Reading somehow made reality TV stars even more ridiculous
- 05/22/15--10:05: A Bill Murray Christmas special is headed to Netflix
- 05/22/15--10:12: 'Supergirl' pilot leaks on piracy sites months ahead of premiere
- 05/22/15--11:57: All the titles coming and going on HBO Now in June
- 05/23/15--11:54: Neil Young performs his Monsanto-slamming song 'Rock Starbucks'
- 05/25/15--05:30: The 5 best war movies on Netflix
- 05/25/15--06:30: The 5 worst war movies on Netflix
- 05/26/15--07:46: 'Thought Crimes' and the blurring of fantasy and reality online
As the two students with the lowest GPAs, they normally wouldn’t be allowed to give a graduation speech, but now it’s their time to shine and share everything they know. And hindsight is everything, as they prove to be wrong about, well, everything about the future. But they’re still confident, so it sounds really great coming from the podium.
If more speeches included a martial arts segment like this, we’d probably be better off for it.Screengrab via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube
The Capitol Police, which protects some of the most important buildings in Washington, D.C., is finally doing something about its police officers leaving their guns in Capitol bathrooms.
Does it seem like a no-brainer that you don’t need to whip it out when you whip it out? Of course it does. But the police now have to watch a special video about what to do with your gun when you go to the bathroom. Amazingly, Jimmy Kimmel got his hands on the “video.”
While it doesn’t cover what female officers have to do when they use the restrooms, the “potty training” does hit most of the basics for men. Taking it out, that’s easy. Putting it back is the real problem, and while they may have a ways to go in terms of putting the gun in its case, at least they have the other thing figured out.Screengrab via Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube
The folks over at Bad Lip Reading have been turning our favorite stars onscreen and on the field into blubbering idiots for years now, but for Red Nose Day, they've focused their dubbing powers on people already ridiculous in their own right: reality stars.
The nonsenses of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and shows from the Real Housewives empire gets turned up to 11 as the stars spout gibberish at each other in the course of their mostly unscripted lives. BLR is as on-point as ever, making the Kardashians and housewives talk about larvae in the fridge, squeezing potato heads, and putting Doritos in people's ears.
We know that it’s supposed to be the weirdest interpretation possible, but is it bad that we would believe this was real material instead of a comedic dub?Screengrab via NBC/YouTube
Hip-hop music's highly dissected lyrics and deeply structured nature make it the perfect medium for computer-driven data research. Most rap songs contain three verses, all written in the same format: 16 lines of poetry, each a 4-beat measure in length.
Now, some researchers are parlaying their existing hordes of data about the metrics and patterns of rap into hot, original flows written by their computers.
You may remember Nordic fan extraordinaire Eric Malmi, the Ph.D. student from the University of Aalto in Finland who labored over countless hours of hip-hop music to create an algorithm that beat the genre's most technical and accomplished rappers in a controversial ranking.
With the help of his colleagues, Malmi has taken the research behind that algorithm, which he named the Raplyzer, into a new realm. His new algorithm, dubbed DeepBeat, mines his database of rap music for similar lines across thousands of lyrics. It then composes a Sweet 16 of dope bars that rhyme, all sourced from thousands of different rap songs.
Malmi simply pulls one line from his 10,000-song, 100-artist-strong database, and before you can say "mayne, hold up," a verse is generated, with an eye toward optimizing assonance rhymes. (These are the hard kind to make, because, beyond rhyming "party" with "Bacardi," assonance poetry also rhymes as many parts of a given line as it can.)
"An 82 percent accuracy was achieved for separating the true next line from a randomly chosen line," Malmi told Technology Review.
So is the resulting verse hot to death or straight trash? Judge for yourself.
For a chance at romance I would love to enhance /
But everything I love has turned to a tedious task/
One day we gonna / have to leave our love in the past/
I love my fans but no one ever puts a grasp/
I love you momma I love my momma – I love you momma /
And I would love to have a thing like you on my team you take care/
I love it when it’s sunny Sonny girl you could be my Cher/
I’m in a love affair I can’t share it ain’t fair Haha I’m just playin’ ladies / you know I love you.
I know my love is true and I know you love me too/
Girl I’m down for whatever cause my love is true/
This one goes to my man old dirty one love we be swigging brew/
My brother I love you / Be encouraged man And just know/
When you done let me know cause my love make you be like WHOA/
If I can’t do it for the love then do it I won’t/
All I know is I love you too much to walk away though.
Overall, it's an incoherent narrative that fails at the art of storytellin'. Nonetheless, it's a fun way see how Ghostface lines sync up with Eminem lyrics. And they are dense in structure, as Malmi pointed out: "DeepBeat outperforms the top human rappers by 21% in terms of length and frequency of the rhymes in the produced lyrics."
Of course, that's as far as the hype cycle for MC MacBook can go—until someone finds a way for it to perform.H/T Technology Review | Photo via oddmenout/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
At a certain age, a doctor will ask you if you’ve ever thought about freezing your eggs. Your parents will stop asking if you’re ever getting married. And masturbating becomes an incredibly complicated act involving multiple storylines.
Jen Kirkman is here to be your mirror.
I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), the comedian’s new Netflix standup special—which was filmed at the North Door in Austin, Texas—explores life at 40: the aftermath of divorce, the horror of weddings, being happily child-free, inadvertently being a “cougar,” finding a gray pubic hair.
Kirkman has also appeared on Drunk History and was a writer for Chelsea Lately, but the stage is where she works out the ideas swimming around in her head. (Her podcast, I Seem Fun, is another channel for her stream-of-consciousness communiqués.) The new special is an extension of her 2013 book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, and, to a degree, her 2011 special, Hail to the Freaks. There’s no anger as she discusses friends’ parenting issues or being left out of a couples’ dinner; instead, she zeroes in on the sociology of these situations.
We asked Kirkman about the process of working out all those ideas, from brain to stage.
How did the material for this special come together? I’m assuming it happened over a couple of years?
Yeah, I did some comedy albums years ago, and there’s a couple bits that are even on one of my old albums. When I recorded the album Hail to the Freaks in 2010, I want to say, I stupidly was doing new material on the album that wasn’t worked out yet and I was excited about it, and a few of the stories I worked on on the road for years, so a couple jokes I made about masturbation or my grandmother dying have turned into more… I try not to say “epic,” but I mean epic in the real sense that they keep going and going and I keep adding things to them.
You start the special with a bit about kids: Have you gotten better at deflecting that question?
It wasn’t my family that ever bothered me about having children. It was total strangers at parties. And I’m just not in that same situation anymore. There were a couple years there where all my friends were having kids, so I was spending a lot of time at children’s birthday parties, baby showers, or birthday parties for my friends, but it was a daytime party and everyone brought their kids. There was a one- to two-year period where I was really entrenched in that culture, and I think that’s why I was getting asked so often. And sometimes people would come up to me after shows, and that’s another thing. I had some jokes in my act about “Thank god I don’t have kids because I don’t think I’d be a great mom,” and that’s when people would come up after like I was asking to be talked out of it. But now that I’ve caught on to it and it’s part of my act for a reason, nobody comes up me after I’ve made it so very clear.
No, actually I’m lying. There’s been a couple of times here and there. My orthodontist asked me right around my 40th birthday, and we were trying to make an appointment for me to come back and I was like, “I’m traveling, I’m going to be in Europe for work.” And he said, “God, you know, this life. It has to calm down.” And I said, “It won’t; it’s what I do.” And he said, “Well what if you want to have kids?” … It does come up, but I’ve found people are asking because they’re really asking themselves.
Marriage and kids are pretty well-tread territory in comedy, but you’re sort of coming at it from an increasingly popular view: that it’s just not for you.
Well, I’d get married again; that’s how nuts I am. I’ve changed a lot since I got divorced. I used to think I got divorced because marriage wasn’t for me, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. I definitely don’t have the specific dream of being married, but I have girlfriends that definitely know that’s in their plan. … The only reason I’m a little gun-shy about marriage and don’t idealize it is that I’ve been divorced, and it’s one of the most awful things I ever went through. It was terrifying, lonely, and really expensive. My chances of getting divorced again increase if I get married again, so there’s just no guarantee that you’ll go about divorce in a kind way with your partner. … I think it’s more popular to talk about it. I’m assuming people aren’t changing as a human race.
Your bit about dating a younger guy was also resonant, the line about not wanting to “teach him about grunge.” I’m at an age where 22-year-olds don’t know what JNCOs are!
I don’t know what that is either. Tell me.
JNCOs? The big skater jeans people wore in the late ’90s?
Oh, I never knew the name of those but I know exactly what you’re talking about! … You know what I find with young people too, and why I wouldn’t be really interested in dating one, is they have that kind of blind spot where they can’t believe you’re not into what they’re into. That thing of like, “I’ve been your age; you haven’t been mine.” When I talk to 24-year-olds who are stressing about their careers in a different way than I am, I’m like, “Yeah I’ve been there.” But they don’t often want to listen.I also like the bit about mother-daughter relationships. Women often, at a certain age, fear becoming their moms. Is that an issue for you?
No, you know, I don’t fear things that I’m in complete control of. Nobody ever wants to be their parents. As a teenager, I was like, “I’m not going to be anything like my parents,” and so I wasn’t. And now I realize they have great qualities, and I’ve certainly inherited some of my mom’s flaws and some of her good things. One way that I’d like to be like my mom is that she’s really evolved as a person—not that she had evolving to do, but she’s 76 years old and she lives in the suburbs and grew up Catholic. She didn’t backpack around Europe; she had a pretty traditional, conservative life, and now she’s become a really open-minded person. She sits in the front row of my comedy shows and listens to me talk about masturbating and dating and sex and I’m divorced and she was cool about it. … Mother-daughter relationship stuff for me is a celebration. I think it’s funny that there are ways I’m just like her.
Is the podcast a way to try out material? Or is it a different channel than standup?
That was the intention, not to try out new material, but to… I don’t write standup. I think of something someone yelled out a car to me and think, “Oh, I could turn this into a bit.” I would work that out by talking about it onstage. So I thought the podcast would be great for that, and I just haven’t been able to crack that code. There’s a lot of stuff that works for the podcast but I haven’t turned it into standup yet. I don’t know if it’s even funny anymore. It’s just me talking. It’s more heartfelt.
Do you ever try out jokes on Twitter?
No, it’s too short. I do longer setups and punchlines. Twitter’s where I joke about stuff I don’t joke about onstage.
How do you deal with trolls on Twitter?
I don’t know if I believe in trolls. I mean, there’s the literal definition where you can tell it’s a spambot and their name is in all caps and there’s usually a picture of an ass or a woman’s boobs or a penis ejaculating. That to me is a troll or spambot, but someone who’s really saying mean things, it’s a person saying mean things. I only get mean things said to me about feminism and being a woman. To me, I don’t see that as a troll, I see that as a sexist who’s expressing himself on the Internet. I don’t believe in trolls because I feel like when I call them trolls, I’m taking away from the seriousness. We have a cultural problem with abusing women online, and so I try to retweet what they say and expose it. I’m never trying to change minds; I’m never going to change their mind.
Photo by Courtney Chavanell/Netflix
Christmas just came early, and it brought Bill Murray with it.
Netflix announced on Friday that A Very Murray Christmas will air in December, and if the wide shot in the teaser trailer looks familiar, it's because Murray's teaming up once again with Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola.
According to Netflix, A Very Murray Christmas will be an "homage to the classic variety show featuring Bill Murray playing himself, as he worries no one will show up to his TV show due to a terrible snow storm in New York City. Through luck and perseverance, guests arrive at the Carlyle hotel to help him; dancing and singing in holiday spirit." Those guests are rumored to include Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Miley Cyrus, and George Clooney.
I mean, the look on his face says it all.
The pilot episode of CBS's Supergirl show starring Melissa Benoist has appeared on pirate sites six months before it's set to premiere.
According to Variety, the piracy-tracking firm Excipio said the leaked pilot appeared a bit before 3am ET Friday in HD with no apparent watermarks. Excipio told Variety that the pilot had already been downloaded more than 120,000 times worldwide.
Supergirl’s first official trailer was just released last Wednesday, but has already caused a heated debate among fans. With the pilot leaked online so much faster than other pilots, this early look could go either way for the show. It could show critics they have nothing to worry about or confirm many fans’ fears. It’s so far in advance, however, that it’s hard to tell exactly whether the leak will be helpful or harmful when the premiere finally rolls around.
Supergirl is scheduled to air on CBS starting in November.
Now that you’ve got your Netflix comings and goings squared away for June, it’s time to dive into HBO Now.
And you’ve got a lot of emotions to process. True Detective’s second season debuts June 21, and Game of Thrones ends June 14. Gone Girl and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life also debut, if you’re look for the perfect double screening for your summer barbecue.
Here are all the titles making entrances and exits:
Original series premieres on June 21
True Detective, Season 2
Ballers, Season 1
The Brink, Season 1
Game of Thrones, Season 5 (June 14)
Silicon Valley, Season 2 (June 14)
Veep, Season 4 (June 14)
Vice, Season 3 (June 26)
The Judge (June 6)
Get on Up (June 13)
Gone Girl (June 20)
John Wick (June 27)
Films new to HBO Now
Enemy of the State
Monty Python’s Meaning of Life
Leaving HBO Now
300: Rise of an Empire
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Star Trek: First Contact
Screengrab via HBO/YouTube
July 31 seems so far away, but Netflix offered up some bait for Wet Hot American Summer fans today.
The Netflix prequel—helmed by original creators David Wain and Michael Showalter and titled Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp—returns to Camp Firewood on the first day of camp in 1981 to show how the summer progresses. In a press release, co-creator Showalter said, "We thought it was funny that in the original we played a bunch of thirty-year-olds playing teenagers. Now we're in our forties and our characters are even younger."
BY BREE BROUWER
MedExpress had a bit of fun with semantics in its latest round of YouTube pre-roll ads. The healthcare clinic just launched an “anti-viral” series of ads the company hopes are so boring, they’ll actually prevent the videos which come afterwards from going viral.
Created by ad agency Fitzgerald & Co, MedExpress’s anti-viral campaign loosely plays with the various meanings of viral. As a healthcare clinic, MedExpress’s goal is to stop infections and diseases from spreading among the U.S. population. And while “going viral” online is actually a good thing, MedExpress decided to jokingly lump viral videos in with the diseases it’s trying to stop.
The resulting pre-roll ads boast a medical professional who tells the viewer in an effort to stop the upcoming video from going viral, MedExpress made the “most boring, unskippable video [ads] ever.” The medical employee then proceeds to do a bunch of (you guessed it) mundane activities, like trying not to blink or playing several instruments horribly wrong all at once.
Ironically, the MedExpress ads are just clever enough that some YouTube users may not actually be annoyed by them (which would help boost brand recall among those viewers). However, the MedExpress pre-roll ads are no Geico “unskippable” ads, so we’ll have to see how YouTube viewers respond to the healthcare clinic’s anti-viral campaign. You can check out all of MedExpress’s anti-viral pre-roll ads on the clinic’s official YouTube channel.
Screengrab via MedExpress UrgentCare on YouTube/YouTube
The media darling has a way of charming the pants off of us, as we saw last year when he promoted Guardians of the Galaxy—just like the stars of another little Marvel franchise called The Avengers. But after years of smooth sailing, the latter finally cracked under the pressure this year: Robert Downey Jr. left an interview when the reporter asked him about his past with drugs and alcohol, Chris Evans and Jeremy Rennercalled Black Widow a slut, and Renner doubled down on the belief after his non-apology.
Press tours are long and grueling affairs for the actors who take part in them, and Pratt knows that what he says can make headlines, sometimes for the wrong reasons. So before he starts really getting exhausted, he preemptively put out an apology for whatever thing he might say that will offend people.So how does he do? He starts off with the non-apology of “I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone,” something that doesn’t really come off as sincere to the cynical Internet crowd nowadays, but he expands his vague but detailed pre-apology to include why the offending action or comment likely happened, all while he puts himself down. He’ll probably get points for self-deprecation.
We can only hope it’ll be a fun game of Mad Libs and he won’t have to actually use it. And if he does say something off-putting? We could see his PR team putting something out anyway.
Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)
The Monsanto Years, Neil Young’s upcoming LP with Willie Nelson’s sons’ band Promise of the Real, is targeting the GMO giant Monsanto—with one of the songs hitting at the heart of our coffee obsession.
The LP won’t be out until June 16, but Democracy Now has an exclusive clip of a live performance of “Rock Starbucks.” Starbucks is allegedly tied to Monsanto, which Young pointed out when he encouraged fans to boycott the company last year.
The song starts around the 26:23 mark and features Young and Promise of the Real drinking their coffee while they sing about the two companies’ ties with each other. After all, they just want a cup of coffee like the rest of us. They just don’t want a GMO with their cream and sugar.H/T Pitchfork | Photo via Takahiro Kyono/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Bad Lip Reading makes it work: the incestuous lovefest, Loki demanding Skittles, bad pig, fancy pajamas, and Tony Stark and Pepper Potts being weirdly adorable. It could pretty much be the next Avengers movie; who needs that showdown with Thanos?We’re already looking forward to the next season when they get into a bunch of shenanigans at Hawkeye’s farm.
Screengrab via Bad Lip Reading/YouTube
On Saturday, Europe got together for its annual celebration of strobe lights, drunk TV presenters, C-list techno acts, and international disunity. It was Eurovision weekend, and this year's contest was... OK, I guess? Basically, this: The 2014 winner, bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, had made the most of her yearlong reign and become something of an international celebrity. Her successor, Sweden's Måns Zelmerlöw, is less likely to achieve this level of popularity. He was an uncontroversial choice, a likable pop act with absolutely no distinguishing features whatsoever. But people cheered him anyway, mostly because he wasn't from Russia. Last year's Russian entrant inspired so much audience backlash (for political reasons rather than the quality of their performance) that Russian TV introduced "anti-booing technology" for this year's broadcast—although in the end they didn't need it. Polina Gagarina's song was shockingly successful, creating a tense 20 minutes where it seemed likely she might win.
So much for other European countries being biased against Russia's homophobic reputation and recent military activities. (Ukraine, by the way, could not afford to submit a Eurovision entry this year.)Eurovision's voting system involves every one of the 40 countries giving points to their favorite acts onscreen, a laborious process designed to ramp up the tension—and highlight the blatant favoritism displayed by countries who just vote for their neighbors and political allies. Things were unusually dramatic this year, as Russia remained at the top of the leaderboard for a long time. People began to wonder what would happen if Russia won and had to host the contest next year, since Eurovision is famously LGBT-friendly. Could Eurovision even take place in a country with such a poor LGBT rights record, after Russia went as far as to relaunch an old Soviet song contest to avoid acts like Conchita Wurst?
While political messages are discouraged on the Eurovision stage, the contest is often used to convey subtle statements to the rest of Europe. For example, Armenia's entry is reputedly about Turkey's refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, while several other acts included subtextual support for LGBT equality.Russia even trolled everyone by pretending to award itself full points, a "joke" that fell totally flat. Fortunately, Sweden won out in the end, although its entry was nowhere near as memorable as some of the runners up.
Eurovision 2015 gave us disappointingly few weird entries, with far too many countries opting for lavishly staged ballads. Australia, which became an honorary European nation for the night, put forward a legitimately fun and non-ridiculous contestant, evidently confusing Eurovision for a genuine contest of quality and skill. You'll learn, Australia. You'll learn.To balance things out, Austria set a grand piano on fire, Israel entered an embarrassing rap boy band, and Azerbaijan offered up some kind of interpretive dance about shirtless yoga werewolves. Also, Georgia's contestant looked like a cartoon supervillain, donning black feathered shoulder pads. Comics Twitter immediately began to theorize that several Eurovision acts were actually characters from The Wicked + The Divine, an ongoing comic about godlike pop stars. Comic book references aside, Eurovision was as reliable as ever. We got a few painfully terrible entries, some political statements (Lithuania included same-sex kisses in their act; people cruelly made fun of the Greek financial crisis), and enough bland ballads (a.k.a. drinking breaks) for everyone watching at home to get thoroughly trashed by the end of the night. And no matter who actually won the contest, the true star of the show was clearly Conchita Wurst once again.
Photo via sfslim/Twitter
With The Walking Dead still a ratings juggernaut and Mad Max: Fury Road having pulled in $124 million worldwide, our culture’s fascination with what happens after it all hits the fan shows no sign of letting up. It’s no surprise that many find post-apocalyptic stories alluring, because they are simultaneously bleak and hopeful: They explore humanity in the most dire of circumstances, often in situations where other humans are the biggest danger of all. But many of them are also, by their very nature, ever so slightly hopeful. After all, they imagine that there are at least still some people who have found a way to survive, no matter how challenging the new status quo. The best post-apocalyptic stories are both a celebration of humanity’s stubborn persistence, and an excoriation of our darker impulses.
But “post-apocalyptic” is also a term that often gets used interchangeably with similar descriptors such as “apocalyptic” and “dystopian.” Any attempt to round up the best examples of the genre must first settle the problem of definition. So, for the purposes of this list, we’re concerned with both the post and the apocalyptic. We wanted movies that are defined by some singular event that either destroys civilization or at least strains it to the breaking point. We also want a bit of distance and time between that event and those of the story, so we can see the ways people have adapted to try and make their way in their new reality. World War Z was surprisingly compelling, but unlike the book, it’s set right in the midst of an apocalyptic zombie outbreak, so it doesn’t really fit our criteria. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Equilibrium both take place after devastating wars, but civilization has recovered and reordered into forms that are better described as dystopian, far removed from the hardscrabble existence that the words “post-apocalyptic” bring to mind.
With all that said, here are the best examples of post-apocalyptic storytelling currently available on Netflix Instant.
The end of the world as we know it: Man-made climate change
A decade and a half after mankind accidentally froze the planet, the last vestiges of our species survive in the most unlikely of places: the Snowpiercer, a massive train powered by a “perpetual-motion engine.” The train circles the globe continuously, with no possible destination except continuing to move and keep its survivors alive. Unfortunately, humanity’s worst instincts are still thriving aboard the train, with the passengers divided into an oppressive caste system: the elites enjoy comparative opulence in the front cars, while the poor are crammed into the dismal tail section. Spurred by on by his mentor (John Hurt), a tailie named Curtis (Chris Evans) leads an insurrection and begins fighting his way toward the front of the train. There he will face an inevitable confrontation with Wilford, the eccentric, Howard Hawks-ian industrialist who built Snowpiercer, and decide the fate of the last vestiges our species.Directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Host) and based on a French graphic novel by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer is a truly surreal vision of the post-apocalyptic world, from the unlikely setting to the aggressively bonkers performance of Tilda Swinton as Minister Mason, Wilford’s second in command whose goofy appearance belies a black, power-mad heart. While the core concept of train as Noah’s Ark makes less sense the more you let your brain pick at it, Bong Joon-ho does an outstanding job of bringing the claustrophobic world of Snowpiercer to life, showing off nearly every element of how this microcosmic civilization subsists while permanently crammed into a series of metal shoeboxes. He also packs in some truly memorable action sequences, including one where the tailies find themselves fighting Wilford’s men in a pitch-black train car—while their opponents are sporting night-vision goggles.
Snowpiercer is by turns funny, thrilling, scary, freakish, and very, very weird, but it’s absolutely worth booking passage on Netflix. Even if you hate it—and the divisive climax will leave some out in the cold—I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.
2) Young Ones (2014)
The end of the world as we know it: Drought
Of all the potential apocalypses on this list, the grim world of Young Ones seems the most feasible from today’s vantage point. One need only look at California’s record-breaking drought or dire predictions about water scarcity later in this century to imagine the parched future of Jake Paltrow’s post-apocalyptic Western as being all too close for comfort.
In a near future where widespread drought has pushed civilization to the brink, Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon) ekes out a living transporting supplies to workers who extract precious water from deep wells in the desert. After his pack mule breaks a leg, Ernest purchases a four-legged cargo robot as a replacement, in the process putting himself on a path toward an ugly confrontation with the disreputable Flem Lever (Nicholas Hoult), one that will have dire consequences for his family.While the movie is set in the future and includes such sci-fi trappings as robotic mules and flying drones, Young Ones is very much channeling the style and tropes of classic Western films. You’ve got hardy characters attempting to tame an unfriendly land, and bedeviled by violent men willing to kill to take what they want. Themes of family and rough justice are at the core of Young Ones’ story, with Ernest’s son Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee) forced to grow up fast in the wake of tragedy and do what must be done to protect his own. Jake Paltrow’s script is a mix of familiar material, but it’s elevated by a top-notch cast, a satisfying revenge arc, and a well-realized vision of an uncomfortably plausible near future.
One of the biggest stars of the show isn’t even human. Ernest’s four-legged robotic pack mule is actually based on a real-life bot: BigDog, a “rough terrain” robot designed by Boston Dynamics. The movie’s contrast of high-tech robotics against a dusty, desperate dystopia is both striking and fascinating, and the inclusion of real-world cutting-edge tech only adds to Young Ones’ sense of verisimilitude. Plus, the bot even gets to shoulder one of the film’s biggest plot developments.
3) Stake Land (2010)
The end of the world as we know it: Vampire plague
When it comes to monsters unleashing the end of the world, zombies and giant Godzilla-style beasts tend to have all the fun. Stake Land occupies the same bleak corner of the end times as The Walking Dead, but with the shambling undead swapped out for the considerably more sprightly victims of a vampire plague. Our guides through the ruins of civilization are a teenage boy named Martin (Connor Paolo) and a gruff vampire hunter named “Mister” (Nick Damici), who takes Martin under his wing after the boy’s family is slaughtered by a hungry bloodsucker.The apocalypse always seems to divide people into two types: the ones who hunker down and try to build as secure a life as possible, and those who stay on the move, often in search of some distant rumored safe zone. Mister and Martin fall into the latter category, cutting across the overgrown highways of America in search of “New Eden” up north. Along the way, they encounter isolated towns where the hardy have restored some semblance of normalcy, but where each sundown holds the potential for disaster and bloodshed. Unfortunately, they also run afoul of a fundamentalist cult convinced the vampires are doing God’s bidding and purifying the world. Needless to say, they aren’t the sort who are willing just to agree to disagree.
Stake Land unfolds as a road trip and a series of vignettes, with quiet moments interspersed by brutal violence—and one particularly clever set piece involving a helicopter. Like The Walking Dead and many other apocalyptic tales before it, Stake Land posits a world where the threat posed by the undead is often eclipsed by that of other humans. Director Jim Mickle is in well-trodden territory here, but the journey is still enjoyable, and Stake Land showcases some truly gorgeous examples of nature growing up around mankind’s decaying footprints, from crumbling churches to empty, water-logged warehouses. It perfectly suits the layer of melancholy beneath all the bloodshed.
The climactic confrontation with a vamped-out cult leaded does jump the shark a bit, but not so much that the rest of the movie is in need of a staking.
4) The Last Days (2013)
The end of the world as we know it: Fatal agoraphobia
A global deep freeze. Crippling drought. Freaking vampires. So far the apocalyptic events on this list have been pretty bombastic. The element that brings mankind to its knees in the 2013 Spanish thriller The Last Days (Los Últimos Días) is considerably more subtle, but arguably even more debilitating. Namely, what if you couldn’t go outside… ever again? In The Last Days, humanity is slowly enveloped by a pandemic form of fatal agoraphobia, a fear of outdoor spaces so intense that simply walking out the front door of your building can spark a panic attack so intense it can kill you. It might not sound as dangerous as an angry vampire at first, but really think about it: If you had to survive, forever, on the contents of whatever building you’re in right now, exactly how screwed would you be?Writer/directors David and Alex Pastor take this concept as a launching point to create a fascinating vision of a broken world where people are nonetheless adapting to a life of forced house arrest, digging through building basements and underground parking garages to access the sewers and subway tunnels that crisscross most large cities. The story follows Marc (Quim Gutiérrez) and Enrique (José Coronado), a pair of formerly antagonistic office workers in Barcelona, reluctantly banded together to try and reunite with their girlfriend and father, respectively. Using a stolen GPS device, they make their way through an urban underworld populated by the hungry and the desperate, constantly hindered by the simple fact that they can’t use any route that will take them aboveground.
Like the best post-apocalyptic flicks, The Last Days blends large-scale social extrapolation, inventive action set pieces, and small-scale personal storytelling. Gutiérrez and Coronado are stellar together, and their journey ramps up toward an epic, triumphant moment built upon a thoroughly mundane act: crossing the street.
5) Hell (2011)
The end of the world as we know it: Solar flares
With a name like Hell, the bar for post-apocalyptic misery has been set pretty high. Of course, in German “hell” just means “light,” but this tight little German-Swiss thriller manages to get plenty of thematic mileage out of both potential interpretations of the title. Set in 2016, Hell envisions a world where solar flares have blasted the Earth’s surface temperature upwards by a full 10 degrees Celsius. This is a world where “the harsh light of day” has taken on a very literal meaning, and survivors of this heat-blasted world must either remain largely nocturnal or else drape themselves in protective covering for the times when they must brave the scorching daylight… which, unfortunately, won’t protect them from the darker impulses of their fellow humans.Through this blinding landscape, we follow sisters Marie (Hannah Herzsprung) and Leonie (Lisa Vicari), who are, along with their friend Phillip (Lars Eidinger), headed for the mountains inside a day-proofed Volvo. Along the way, a man named Tom (Stipe Erceg) joins their group as well, but given that they all meet when he’s in the process of trying to rob them, their alliance is an uneasy one at best. Still, their mutual distrust is soon overshadowed (ahem) by far bigger problems after they all wander into a trap set by very bad people possessed of very bad intentions. The end of the world really does bring out the worst in some people, doesn’t it?
Director Tim Fehlbaum does a top-notch job both selling the intense heat and ratcheting up the tension, with everyone distrustful of everyone else, and for good reason. Solid performances across the board also help disguise the fact that Hell sometimes plays like a post-apocalyptic greatest hits reel. If you’re even passingly familiar with the genre, Hell’s surprises aren’t going to be much of a surprise, but that’s OK. There’s no shame in being a good cover band.
Honorable Mention: Tank Girl (1995)
The end of the world as we know it: Comet impact
Look, I’m not here to tell you that Tank Girl is a great movie. Or even a good movie. It does, however, star Ice-T as a human/kangaroo hybrid. And how many movies can honestly make that claim?Screengrab via MOVIECLIPS Trailers/YouTube
Netflix has a pair of power-hitters coming up to bat in the coming weeks: The acclaimed prison comedy/drama Orange Is the New Black returns for a third season on June 12, and the week before that the Wachowskis and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski will introduce their new sci-fi drama Sense8.
Between all that and Daredevil, it’s a good time to be a Netflix customer. But the streaming giant just debuted another show that snuck in under the radar: a young adult science fiction thriller called Between. Check out the trailer, then we’ll walk you through the basics so you can decide if it’s worth your time.
In the town of Pretty Lake, all the adults are dying
Pretty Lake is the sort of scenic little Canadian town that would make for a perfect stopover during a long road trip. It’s nothing remarkable, but odds are they’ve got a diner somewhere in town that makes some really stellar pie. It’s also the sort of place that inevitably encourages its native children to want to grow up and move the hell out, and that’s just what young Wiley Day (Jennette McCurdy of Nickelodeon’s iCarly) plans to do. Just as soon as she can hand off the pesky baby she’s carrying around in her stomach.
Also planning on skipping town ASAP is her best friend Adam (Jesse Carere), a brilliant tech whiz and hacker who will soon be headed for MIT. And so is Gord (Ryan Allen), the son of a local farmer who’s joining the Army to see the world, or at least the parts of it that aren’t Pretty Lake. There are a lot of locals whose to-do list includes getting the hell out of Dodge, but unfortunately those plans are put in lockdown after Pretty Lake’s adults begin dying mysteriously.It’s only the adults—specifically people over the age of 21—and they’re dropping dead suddenly and without prior warning or symptoms. Needless to say, everybody is stumped, from Adam’s harried medical examiner uncle to the national government. That government’s solution to the problem is to impose a total quarantine, throwing up walls and barbed wire around Pretty Lake and policing them with soldiers prepared to open fire on anybody trying to escape. By the end of the first episode, the deaths are already in the thousands, and with no help coming from outside, the survivors inside Pretty Lake are going to have to piece together the mystery on their own.
The first episode of Between doesn't operate on the same level of quality as top-tier series such as House of Cards or Daredevil, but it’s an enjoyable little thriller with enough compelling mysteries at its core to keep us coming back for episode 2 at least. And then there’s the added appeal of old-school week-to-week suspense.
It’s not following the standard Netflix playbook
One of the things that helped Netflix stand apart as it moved into the field of producing original content is its practice of uploading an entire season of a show all at once. It’s a binge-friendly template that helped make overnight hits out of shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, but with Between, you’re going to have to enjoy its twists and turns the old-fashioned way: by waiting for them.
Between is the product of a partnership between Netflix and the Canadian TV network City. The first season will run six one-hour episodes, with initial terrestrial broadcasts at 8pm ET on City, followed by the streaming premiere at 11:30pm ET on Netflix. So if you get hooked on Between and can’t stand the weeklong wait for the next episode, well, welcome to what television used to be like all the time.
It’s a lot like Under the Dome
CBS’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome began with a lot of promise and then got real stupid, real fast, so don’t consider the above a comparison of quality, just of general narrative structure. Both Between and Under the Dome are set in quaint little burghs suddenly cut off from the rest of the world. Both involve a core mystery that the survivors inside the town must solve. And both feature a cast of characters with things to hide.Not that the latter element is unique to Under the Dome. Stephen King does “small town with skeletons in all the closets storytelling” very, very well, but he certainly didn’t originate it. Between is picking up the narrative torch that’s been carried by Under the Dome, Twin Peaks, Jericho, and many more before them.
To paraphrase Twin Peaks’ backwards-talking Man From Another Place, the residents of Pretty Lake are “filled with secrets.” Minister’s daughter Wiley being pregnant is scandalous enough in a small town, but she also won’t say who the father is, and a scene midway through the premiere suggests the secret baby daddy definitely isn’t just some random schmuck from her school. References are made to Adam’s dead father being a geneticist, and given that the town is now being overrun by an inexplicable and likely not naturally occurring disease, you just know that’s no coincidence.
Combined with the larger story of the disease itself, and why it’s only killing people old enough to buy a beer in the States, Between serves up plenty of intriguing mysteries to keep viewers coming back, especially since this first season only requires six episodes of your time. Whether the show succeeds will largely depend on how satisfactorily it provides answers. Hopefully series creator Michael McGowan has learned the lessons—both good and bad—of earlier mystery-heavy shows such as Lost and AMC’s The Killing.
It’s also got a bit of Showtime’s Jeremiah in it
This one’s digging into the deep cuts a bit, but Between is also reminiscent in setup of Showtime’s two-season sci-fi drama Jeremiah, another American-Canadian coproduction that involved a disease wiping out grownups. In Jeremiah, the bug in question killed everyone over the age of puberty, so the folks in Between don’t have it nearly as bad in comparison. That show was developed and executive produced by Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski, and while it featured a lot of duds in its run, it also wrung some really good storylines out of the notion of a world where an entire generation of children have been forced to raise themselves to adulthood. Between envisions the very genesis of a similar, albeit much more contained, situation. Hopefully Between will mine some really interesting drama out of that conceit, but it’s hard to be sure since the first episode is largely just setup. If nothing else, we expect some Lord of the Flies-style youthful hooliganism before all is said and done.
There’s a companion webseries
Between is supplementing its storyline with a weekly webseries called Between the Lines, which is airing on City’s website. The webseries is structured as a yearbook video assignment for Amanda (Krystal Nausbaum), the daughter of Pretty Lake businessman and general sleaze Charles Lott Sr. (Stephen Bogaert). Each episode has Amanda interviewing other students from the town. It begins before the outbreak, but will continue throughout it, focusing on the show’s young characters, beginning with her brother Chuck (Justin Kelly). Between the Lines will comprise eight two-minute episodes by the time all is said and done.
You can watch the first two webisodes on City’s website right now, and catch new episodes of Between every Thursday night on Netflix.
Screengrab via moviemaniacsDE/YouTube
Based on a recent interview with actor Tyler James Williams, known for his roles on The Walking Dead and Everybody Hates Chris, he may have confirmed that rumor.
Skip to around the 1:05 mark.Static Shock was an animated show that premiered in the United States in September of 2000. It ran for four seasons before being cancelled. Static Shock has sort of lived on in cameo appearances in other animated DC Comics shows like Justice League Unlimited, and also had a comic run when DC rebooted its universe with the New 52 series. The comic was cancelled after six issues.
It’s rumored that Reginald Hudlin, who directed House Party and produced Django Unchained, will be involved with the project.
War may be worse than hell, according to M*A*S*H’s Dr. Hawkeye Pierce, but we sure do love to make and watch movies about it.
We’ve been retelling war stories for centuries—millennia, even—through the written and spoken word. Almost as soon as we could film them, we brought the clashes of countries and kingdoms past and present to life on the big screen. They’ve got plenty of explosions and manpower, but that’s now always why people watch: It comes down to the characters to make them compelling and even entertaining. They can tug at your heartstrings at their best and still manage to be a somewhat decent piece of entertainment at their worst, albeit with some exceptions (we’re looking at you, Pearl Harbor and The Patriot).
While everyone else is busy outside barbecuing outdoors and enjoying their day off, celebrate Memorial Day by watching the fictional troops (and those based on real soldiers) on Netflix once you’ve honored the real-life veterans who walk in the local Memorial Day parades. Some of the films with name recognition, such as Saving Private Ryan, Stalag 17, The Great Escape, and the Band of Brothers miniseries aren’t available to watch on Netflix (although you should check them all out anyway), but there’s still plenty to choose from (and by no means is this a complete list).
If it’s absolutely terrible Netflix films to fill your day that you’re looking for, check out Joey Keeton’s roundup instead.
Looking to feel particularly patriotic this holiday? The biopic on the American World War II general opens with George S. Patton giving a speech to the troops while he stands in front of a giant American flag (based on an iconic speech he gave during the war). Rousing the troops is one thing, but it just as easily rouses the audience as it dives into Patton’s war career in northern Africa and his role in leading the Allied forces against the Axis powers. Even if you hadn’t heard of him prior, you may come to admire and respect him largely due to George C. Scott’s performance.
When it came out in the middle of the Vietnam War, critics initially saw it as an anti-war film, but it ended up being one of President Richard Nixon’s favorite films, one he screened multiple times at the White House.
2) The Longest Day
The story of D-Day has been told countless times over the years, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a nearly impossible mission, the stakes have never been higher, and while the Allied troops have fought back for years, D-Day was a chance for them to take the offensive. With 159,000 troops landing by the end of the day, there’s an infinite number of stories to tell. The Longest Day, however, plays it straight as it shows what’s happening on both sides, showing no preference for either the Allied forces or the German ones.
As with many war movies made during this time, it had the added gravitas of featuring a cast of actors who had also fought in World War II; they knew firsthand what war was like, and the film had plenty of consultants who had fought in the battle. It’s as real a docudrama to the day as you’re gonna get.
3) Tora! Tora! Tora!
We’ve seen WWII movies, and we’ve seen movies about Pearl Harbor. This one, like The Longest Day, gives us a look at both sides and attempts to humanize the other side, something we don’t always see in films. And for the filmmakers, it was crucial to cast actors who weren’t household names so as to not distract the audience from the importance of the story.
While a bigger commercial success in Japan than the U.S., it was applauded for the action sequences—the footage which ended up being used in subsequent films—and the plot’s accuracy.
4) Black Hawk Down
Based on a series of articles by Mark Bowden that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Black Hawk Down illustrates the 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, and the U.S. military’s attempt to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid after Somali officials declare war on UN peacekeepers. With plenty of action and an ensemble cast, it’s not about an individual soldier but rather a team as a whole.
Although it was both a critical and commercial success, it was criticized for how it portrayed Somalis in the film.
5) We Were Soldiers
Rather than taking a macrocosmic view of the Vietnam War and its consequences on both the soldiers and the people protesting back in the U.S., We Were Soldiers dives right into the heat of the Battle of Ia Drang, the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnam in 1965. Based on a book by Lt. General Hal Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, who were both at the battle, the film is both harrowing and realistic while portraying both sides of the battle fairly. Moore had complained in the book about how Hollywood always got war wrong, which made the filmmakers even more determined to try and make it right.
The World War I love story has the distinction of being the first Best Picture Oscar—as well as the only silent film that’s won the honor. Two men are vying for the same woman, but they eventually become friends once they join the Air Service.
It was a huge success when it was released in 1927 and a big cinematic achievement, making it something for other filmmakers to strive for when creating their own aviation films. Nowadays we may roll our eyes at yet another love triangle, but it could be worse: a war movie with a love triangle that just isn’t that good.Photo via thecultbox/YouTube
When we decided to do a pair of war movie roundups for Memorial Day, our own Michelle Jaworski was supposed to take the bad movies—but I begged her (well, I asked her) to take the good ones instead. I can’t be reverent; it makes me nervous, which usually makes me laugh. I swear I’m not a monster—my brain just takes sadness and redirects it everywhere that it’s not supposed to go.
Also, I might legitimately prefer watching shitty films to good ones. Aside from sadness making me uncomfortable, I’m not sure that I even like good movies anymore.
The following are the war-related films with the worst IMDb ratings that are currently streaming on Netflix. Most of them were made for around $3 million, which is a completely absurd number for either a period piece or a war film, and most of these are both.
Read on to find out which of these bad movies made me feel things.
1) Jarhead 2: Field of Fire
You know a movie’s going to be good when it opens with voiceover and a black screen, then reveals its title via an embossed, white arial font. The sequence in question involves Marines risking their lives to unload a truck full of Gatorade and water while dozens of Taliban fire upon their outpost. Eventually, somebody’s leg is blown off (the gore is not held back) and everybody crowds around the soldier while he has some dying words. Everybody who dies in this movie gets to have a death speech—this film generally receives low marks in the realism department.
Speaking of which, my favorite unrealistic scene is when a soldier is dying in a poppy field (which is a corn field with a few poppies planted by the art department), and another soldier squeezes poppy juice into his mouth to ease him into the afterlife. First, you have to lance poppies and let them bleed out latex over an extended time, and that latex is relatively weak and generally processed to become opium, because eating the latex takes about two hours to kick in. Second, Marines tend to have morphine on them, so deciding to squeeze poppy juice into a soldier's mouth when he’s going to die in two minutes, instead of giving him a morphine injection, is just a major dick move.
That said, the movie probably deserves better than its 5.5 IMDb rating. It has a lot of heart, and it’s shockingly low on xenophobia. The action is fun, if not complete nonsense, and a couple characters are even treated to a Butch Cassidy fate at the end—I’ll take all the Cassidy nods that I can get.
Do not expect this to have anything in common with the original Jarhead, other than the fact that it involves the military. It’s not even the same fucking war. But if you’re looking for a good B action movie while curing a Sunday hangover, then the dialogue, characters, action, and heart here will do you right.
Allies looks like one of the Asylum’s period pieces, and the action looks like somebody filmed a war reenactment and added CGI blood to it in post. It has no sense of geography—a dude will just seemingly teleport behind a Nazi and slit his throat with a knife, which is admittedly cool, but also stupid.The plot: Yanks and Brits have to team up to go behind enemy lines and retrieve some maps, and they don’t like each other, but then they eventually do, because war brings people together (and because a movie needs an arc).
Overall impressions: The CGI planes in the movie look good. (I can’t actually remember them, but that’s in my notes, so it’s probably true.) The acting is really great for a low-budget film, but the ending suddenly turns into Commando and there’s a twist that’s hard to give a shit about. Like Jarhead 2, this one will pair well with your hangover, and deserves a slightly higher rating than its current 5.0.
3) SEAL Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines
I think this film’s 4.5 rating is quite generous. The credits are headlined by Tom Sizemore, and the cover on IMDb shows him aiming a gun, but he’s actually in the movie for about seven minutes and most definitely never holds a gun. Those seven minutes are spent back at HQ as he looks at goofy CGI computer screens and is constantly upset at the mission (and probably about having to work on this film).
Some things I learned about Navy SEALs: “Curveball” is strategic slang for throwing a grenade at something that’d be way easier to just shoot. “Cover fire” means that everybody runs forward at once and wastes tons of ammo by blindly shooting forward. To kill a Navy SEAL, you have to hit him square in the chest with a rocket launcher, which results in the other SEALs being sad around a gigantic blood splat that looks like something from Quake II.
The main reason this death is so funny is that the film goes to such great lengths to prove that SEALs are invincible, with them doing so many things that should get them killed that when you see a slo-mo rocket fly 100 yards and hit one in the chest, and they explode, you have to laugh at it. Without the slow-motion shots in this movie, it’d be 18 minutes long.
The end turns into some weird version of Dredd and The Raid, with the whole city of Johannesburg turning against the main SEAL, chasing him around with sticks and brooms and whatever shit they can find while he attempts to infiltrate a tower to stop some yellow uranium cake from being sold. Or something. I rewound it and still couldn’t figure out why the whole city turned against him. Oddly enough, that whole scene looks like it must have cost millions of dollars to coordinate and shoot—in fact, much of this movie looks like it was super expensive. There’s a probably a reason that neither the budget nor earnings are listed on the IMDb page.
Fun fact: This is also known as Behind Enemy Lines: SEAL Team Eight, because it’s technically the third film in the Bruce Willis vehicle Behind Enemy Lines, but the name was presumedly switched around when somebody realized that most people don’t remember the original film even exists.
4) Ardennes Fury
This film actually was made by Asylum, because Fury came out and they needed to release their version of it, which is why the cover features a tank rolling over rubble, its turret aimed right in your face. While there are some tanks in this movie, the main protagonists leave theirs in the first 15 minutes to go off on some mission.
The tanks are mostly in the form of shitty CGI, although there are certainly a few real tanks involved, which makes me wonder just how picky the military is about letting people use their priceless WWII vehicles for film projects.
You could remove the tanks, put a bit more time and effort into the production, and you’d probably have a pretty damn good movie here. As it stands, though, even the stock footage that opens the film seems to be the most boring WWII footage possible.
Things I learned from watching Fury, er, Ardennes Fury: When you’re refueling a tank while under massive Nazi fire, it’s best for the whole crew to not only exit the tank, but to stand in front of it while talking and studying a map. Also—and this applies to most of the movies on the list—it’s always a good idea to fire tank rounds at single soldiers. Yes, the tanks have guns on them, and those explosive rounds are expensive and very limited in number, but sometimes you just want to be certain that you’ve gotten the bastard. Evidently, all Nazis speak perfect English, and—despite what common sense might tell you—have Russian accents.
With all those hateful things said, even with its dismal IMDb rating of 2.1, I’d still recommend it for nursing a hangover. Honestly, I’d recommend all of these movies for hangovers. They’re great for distracting your brain, and none of them require you to actually use it. Except the next movie, which I genuinely liked.
This one has a 4.9 rating on IMDb, and that’s just not fair at all. For a movie that’s about 70 percent CGI and had a budget of just over $3 million, the dog fights look pretty damn good, the acting is fantastic, the story (and its arc) are great, and the action is tense as hell. Plus, there just aren’t that many movies about B-17 Bombers and just how extremely dangerous and generally mechanically shitty they were. When I say there aren’t many movies about B-17s, I need to admit that I haven’t actually looked into that claim whatsoever—I’d just wager that the ratio of D-Day to B-17 movies is around 6,000 to 1.When I say the CGI looks good, I should specify that it’s Game of Thrones good. When you see a city in GoT and immediately know that shit’s fake—but you don’t care because the story is awesome—that’s what it feels like when you see this film’s big aerial shots of the military camp.
This movie also gets extra props for not holding back on the gore. Flying those oversized VW Buses through huge clouds of exploding flak and fire from enemy planes meant that people got fucked up a lot, and there are many moments in Fortress where somebody will slump over in a spray of blood, mid-sentence, and those moments will make your heart sink.
In my opinion, this is the best movie on the list (by far), and should be rated at least in the low 7s. Yes, I know this roundup was supposed to concentrate on the worst war movies, but sometimes you come across a gem and you just gotta gush over how good it is. I’d even recommend that you save this one for when your brain isn’t recovering from a hangover. Watch it with your dad or something.
Screengrab via asyluminternational/YouTube
At one point in his life, Gilberto Valle typed “How to chloroform a girl” into a Google search. He also wanted to know where to buy a large baking pan, how to tie a woman to a spit, and sought out the sound a knife makes before carving. We often mindlessly type things into Google in our quest to quell curiosity, loneliness, or a deluge of thoughts. When do those thoughts become crimes?
In the new HBO documentary Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop, filmmaker Erin Lee Carr explores the online life and trial of Valle, a former NYPD cop who was arrested in 2012 and later charged with plotting to kidnap and possibly cook and eat women in chat rooms on sites like Dark Fetish Network. He was dubbed the “Cannibal Cop” by the media, and convicted in 2013 of conspiracy to kidnap and illegal use of an NYPD database. Last year, the conspiracy ruling was overturned by Judge Paul G. Gardephe, reinforcing that Internet fantasies don’t necessarily become reality.
Thought Crimes is the first feature documentary from Carr, the daughter of late New York Times columnist David Carr. In the first few moments, Valle appears on camera, lit in the blue glow of a computer, as his chat logs are superimposed on his face. The text tells a story of his desire to abduct, rape, torture, and cook women. In one interview with Carr, he relates that “the baby’s sleeping, the mom’s sleeping,” and so he was drawn into these hallways. His wife turned him in after finding evidence of his chats and emails, including plots involving her and women she knew.
Much of what Valle wrote could be considered a plot in an extremely deranged novel, and Carr says there was a “scripted element” to his online conversations. “If you looked at all the chats of Gil and the men and women he chatted with, there are incredibly similar themes. It’s about non-consensual cannibalism, it’s about suffering, and it’s about consuming the victim. And it doesn’t deviate that much. Sometimes he would allow someone else to kind of run with their fantasy, but because of the similarities and language, it did seem like a story. Like a really scary, graphic story that I’m not interested in reading, but there were storytelling elements.”
The jury had the unenviable task of trying to prove Valle was going to follow through on his fantasies. He explains in the doc that he’d found acceptance on these sites, that he’s “incapable of violence” in real life. In 21 out of 24 chats, Valle implied it was fantasy; but in three, that line blurred. Valle used NYPD databases to look up personal info on several women mentioned in these chats, and he was allegedly stalking one of the women presented as a victim. His Google searches blurred the line further.
Like most of us, Carr read about the case online. “It was kind of the scariest thing I’d ever heard,” she said. “That a cop was having these thoughts about women, and at the time I was reading about it, it said he was stalking women. So it seemed like the most extreme version of that [idea that] we cannot trust police officers.”
Carr reached out to Valle while he was in prison, first via email. She was then allowed to visit him in prison, but after the third time, she was asked to leave and she’s never been given a reason why. Carr’s careful about stating she’s not speaking for Valle, but from her perspective, she said those first interactions were “fairly uncomfortable, but he was polite. We just kind of talked about life in the prison.”
For all the terrifying images and chats we must process, the doc has its share of black humor. We’re shown chat logs claiming Valle would like to kidnap a woman and “make some bacon strips off of her belly,” then the camera cuts to Valle cooking bacon in his mother’s kitchen. Elsewhere, we’re forced to watch him make the world’s most unappetizing omelet for his mother, and he jokes about how people should be worried that he’s holding a fork around her. You almost have to laugh to get through the dark matter that was being discussed. As comedian Julie Klausnerexplained in 2014, Valle “was really terrible at two things in his life: being a cop and being a cannibal.”
“The thing with the cannibalism is that it was so scary it was funny,” Carr said. “And because he had not had a real victim, the New York Post could make these puns and jokes. Gil always kind of wanted to be in on the joke. He said to me countless times, ‘I’d so much rather be laughing and having fun with this than be terrified,’ and when we’re together and filming, that was kind of a running theme; he was cooking all the time, and it was sort of funny.”
The relationship with his mother is especially fascinating; she was her son’s most unwavering advocate. In one scene, when a reporter asks her how she’s doing after leaving the courthouse, she defiantly says, “Look at me. I’m strong.”
“I think the Valles are fiercely loyal, and I very much sensed that in Gil Valle’s mother,” Carr said. “There’s some recognition that what he did was really disturbing, but she’ll always love and protect and stand up for her son. In cases like this, even your family sometimes won’t show up for you.”
It’s easy to feel sympathy for Valle, but while Carr interviews several law experts about the legal and moral gray areas of the case, what’s ultimately missing is a psychological profile of Valle. We never get a real sense of why he had these urges—his mother posits that her divorce from Valle’s father might have been a factor—or what his relationships were like before his marriage. (His wife declined to be in the film.) There’s also no mention of what kind of help he might need; rather, we’re told he’s trying to date again.
Carr says that because the case is still being litigated, there’s not much to own up to other than thoughts. And that’s what made Valle’s trial such an interesting one. He had allegedly been in contact with a 58-year-old man named Dale Bolinger, who was found guilty last year of plotting to abduct and eat a 14-year-old girl he’d been chatting with on Dark Fetish Network. Valle’s trial was also an important one, especially in the shadow of recentcases of Internet harassment in which the line between anonymous threats and real-life implications was erased.
“The fact that Gil Valle’s private Google searches were used as evidence to bolster a conspiracy charge I found incredibly troubling,” Carr said. “The question was, is a Google search a thought or an action? And I tend to believe that it’s a thought. We’re trying to figure things out. And I get pretty nervous at the thought that any Google search I’ve put in in my life—and I’m sure it’s been tens of thousands—that it could come back to haunt me if the government doesn’t like something I’m saying or thinking. I think it has real-world implications, and Gil Valle is not alone on [Dark Fetish Network]. There’s 60,000 people.”
His overturned conviction is currently being appealed, but we’re living in a time when law enforcement on the local and state level often doesn’t understand how to investigate or deal with online threats, and harassment on social media platforms like Twitter often goes unchecked. Women are being terrorized online: Are we at a point where a major policy shift needs to occur?
“I remember seeing that a lot with revenge porn,” she said. “That happened in 2010, and it’s taken so long… We’re in 2015, and now finally governments are drawing up legislation for revenge porn, and still there are issues about whether the legislature is overreaching. I think the law has always had a really difficult time managing to keep up with the evolving speed of technology, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. … It’s a huge and very arduous battle.”
Carr says she does not know if Valle has had success with online dating.
Screengrab via HBO