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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    Rejoice! After a terrible summer of breakups, we now have proof that love is real for yesterday, comedy power couple Jordan Peele and Chelsea Peretti announced they are engaged!


    It’s perfect that they announced their engagement on Twitter, considering the couple actually met on the Internet. Last year Peretti told Entertainment Weekly, “Me and Jordan also met on the Internet, on Twitter. He was very complimentary of the Web series I once did. We were gonna go to Sizzler on our first [date].” How cute!

    In honor of the couple’s engagement, I humbly present to you the best of Peele and Peretti’s comedy:

    1) Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats

    If you haven’t checked out Peretti’s standup special on Netflix, go do it right now. Just do it. Thank me later.

    2) Key and Peele, “Continental Breakfast”

    This is Jordan Peele at his silliest. He completely embodies this ridiculous character. I never thought a joke about a grape—“aren’t you a tiny plum?”—would put me in stitches.

    3) Key and Peele, “Dicknanigans”

    Peretti and Peele, united together in one of Key and Peele’s wackiest sketches, where Peele shows off his physical comedy chops and Peretti, sporting blond hair, repeats “Dicknanigans.”

    Bonus: Watch Peele be an adorably supportive boyfriend when Peretti gets interviewed at the SAG Awards

    Screengrab via TNT/YouTube


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    Warning: This article contains extensive spoilers for Game of Thrones’s sixth season.

    We’re in the midst of yet another Game of Thrones hiatus, but one thing is for certain: just how uncertain the next season will be.

    It’s reached a point where most of the show’s characters are at the same place as their book counterparts in A Song of Ice and Fire, leaving the show with a couple of different options: Take the characters in a different direction (or push them further) before The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring are released, or spoil what George R.R. Martin is currently writing—unless The Winds of Winter comes out first.

    For the first time in the show’s history, Game of Thrones will be largely running in uncharted territory for both show fans and book fans. But viewers haven’t been completely left in the dark. Thanks to on-set reports, actor résumé updates, and the occasional confirmation from HBO, we have at least some indication of where season 6 is going.

    And if the hints from previous seasons are any indicator, it’s gonna be a wild ride.

    1) A dance with delays

    HBO recently announced that Game of Thrones would return in April, but with much of HBO’s schedule already set in stone, we do have one major inkling about Game of Thrones already: It’s late.

    As far as we know, it’s not due to any production issues, but rather HBO’s scheduling. Last month, HBO announced that its rock ’n’ roll drama, Vinyl, will debut Feb. 14 at 9pm (a Sunday) and will run for 10 weeks, ending its run April 17. Even if Game of Thrones debuted the following Sunday, April 24—the earliest it could with Vinyl taking up its slot—it would still make season 6’s release the latest in the show’s run. That timing aligns with HBO’s confirmation that it will premiere in April. (In the past it’s premiered anywhere from March 31 to April 17.)

    For most people, waiting a week or two longer isn’t really that big of a deal, but some fans believe that there was an ulterior motive to the delay: Game of Thrones is stalling so that Martin will be able to publish The Winds of Winter before season 6 airs.

    And while there’s nothing to suggest that’s why Game of Thrones may air a little later than usual, there is growing evidence that The Winds of Winter will come sometime in 2016.

    2) Reintroducing the Greyjoys

    Game of Thrones has been largely mum about casting for season 6.

    Last season the Greyjoys got sidelined in favor of introducing us to Dorne, but now they’re making a big splash in season 6. We already had suspected that the Ironborn would have a large role to play after a leaked casting call last season included a description matching Theon’s swashbuckling and ruthless uncle Euron. And it turns out it was pretty spot-on.

    Game of Thrones has been largely mum about casting for season 6, with the exception of Max von Sydow, who will be taking over as the Three-Eyed Raven, and Ian McShane, who will be playing a small, mysterious role that some people believe is Septon Meribald. In the case of Euron, HBO’s hand may have been forced after Watchers on the Wall first reported in September that Pilou Asbæk was spotted filming what looked to be the kingsmoot at Ballintoy Harbour, Northern Ireland.

    For his part, Asbæk acknowledged the casting with some choice words from the common prayer of the Drowned God, the religion the Greyjoys and those on the Iron Islands follow.

    Around the same time, a drone flew over the Ballintoy Harbour set, and according to a set report, Asbæk and Gemma Whelan (Yara) were at Ballintoy Harbour, along with Theon. While Victarion Greyjoy, another one of Theon’s uncles, was nowhere to be found, someone who looks to be portraying Aeron was spotted, although that is less certain.

    The kingsmoot, which was previously used to determine the next ruler of the Iron Islands, comes at a crossroads: Balon Greyjoy is dead, allegedly killed by a Faceless assassin hired by Euron. And since Theon—who just escaped Ramsay Bolton’s clutches in the show but is still captured and brainwashed in the books—really isn’t in any position to claim a throne for himself, it’s left to Euron, Yara, and other the other Ironborn to hash it out.

    It turns out Melisandre’s blood magic demonstration all way back in season 3 has finally finished the job after all.

    3) We’re about to see a lot of familiar faces—and they’re (probably) not being worn by any Faceless Men

    While a new season of Game of Thrones often brings brings plenty of new faces, we’ll be seeing many of those characters we thought the show forgot—or feared were gone for good. Here is just a small sample of characters we haven’t seen in at least a season who might be returning:

    • Bran Stark and Hodor, who had just met the Three-Eyed Raven at the end of season 4.

    • Osha and Rickon, who were supposed to be heading towards the Umbers when we last saw them at the end of season 3.

    • Brynden “Blackfish” Tully, who hasn’t been seen since he stepped outside to urinate shortly before the Red Wedding transpired. Always trust your bladder.

    • Edmure Tully—who probably had the world’s worst wedding night the last time we saw him.

    • One of the most despised men in Westeros, Walder Frey, will finally show his face again.

    • Sibel Kekilli, who played Tyrion’s former lover Shae, has been spotted on set recently, although it’s unclear if she was visiting or may return. (She’s probably still dead, though.)

    • Rory McCann has also been spotted in Belfast, despite the fact that Arya left the Hound for dead the last time we saw them. But a major tinfoil theory supports that the Hound is still alive, and considering we might have our Septon Meribald and Elder Brother hybrid in McShane that might fuel that theory even more? Well, get hyped.

    Still no Gendry though, who’s still probably rowing that damn boat.

    We’ll also be seeing a lot of characters, both dead and alive, come to life courtesy of a theater troupe in Braavos—which may include a version of Arya Stark’s released Winds of Winter chapter or even that cameo from Of Monsters and Men. But will the tone of the troupe be closer to Hamlet’s play within a play or the Ember Island Players?

    4) So about #KitHaringtonHairWatch...

    Jon Snow’s “death” at the end of season 5 sent shockwaves throughout the Game of Thrones fandom. TV fans didn’t expect it. Book readers had a feeling but didn’t know the how of it until it aired. And nobody expected Kit Harington or the showrunners to confirm that Jon was dead so quickly—only minutes after the finale ended, according to Entertainment Weekly’s timestamp—or for HBO to keep pressing that point over the coming weeks and months.

    But thanks to the Internet’s obsession with Harington’s hair, noticing just how much time he’s been spending in Belfast (where the main studio for Game of Thrones is located), numerous set reports, paparazzi photos of Harington on set (and in costume) participating in a battle sequence, and reports of an upcoming scene featuring him, Sansa, Petyr Baelish, and Ramsay Bolton, that didn’t really work out so well.

    And director David Nutter, who directed “Mother’s Mercy,” even lied to President Obama.

    Jon Snow is now basically shorthand in TV and pop culture for the audience assuming that you’re screwing around with them.

    But on Nov. 23, just one day after The Walking Dead revealed the fate of its fan favorite character who inspired a few conspiracy theories, Game of Thrones addressed the Jon Snow question head-on with the release of the first poster for Game of Thrones’s sixth season. Despite what anyone’s said on the matter, Jon almost certainly isn’t dead here—at least not anymore.

    So what do we know about Jon’s eventual return? While some fans have been theorizing how Jon gets out of this one for more than four years, there’s not much solid on how the show tackles that particular point. We just know that he eventually ends up in the north wearing what appear to be Stark colors in the middle of a giant battle with the Boltons, the Umbers, wildlings, and a couple of other familiar faces toward the end of the season (which we’ll get to shortly).

    Only time will tell if fans get a scolding from the showrunners for “ruining it for everyone else” or taunts of, “Yeah, I lied. So what?” once that reveal actually comes to pass.

    5) Will the Starks finally get an ounce of happiness?

    It’s basically an unwritten rule in Game of Thrones that the Starks—a family once whole, respected, and untarnished (unless you count Ned Stark’s bastard)—will probably never reunite. Whenever there’s a chance that they might, whether it be Arya arriving at the Twins just before Robb and Catelyn Stark are killed at the Red Wedding or Bran not letting Jon find him at Craster’s Keep (in a sequence that doesn’t happen in the books), they don’t—and it usually ends horrifically.

    But that could end this season. Sophie Turner, our Sansa Stark, was seen on the set of the same battle where Jon was already spotted—although in this case she’s believed to be more of a politician than a fighter. And because the Umbers are on hand for the battle, fans believe that Rickon and Osha will show up. (That is, if they’re not on Skagos, as is believed in the books.)

    The only guarantee about this battle is that not every character we love will make it out alive.

    6) Speaking of family reunions...

    Samwell Tarly and Gilly’s journey toward Oldtown in order for Samwell to become a maester is one of the remaining book plots that still hasn’t been adapted, and in order to do that he’s getting a ripe old family reunion—only this one isn’t as happy as we imagine the Starks’ will be.

    Thanks to casting confirmations, we know that we’ll be meeting Sam’s family next season: his father, Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner); his mother, Melessa (Samantha Spiro); and two younger siblings, Dickon (Freddie Stroma) and Talla (Rebecca Benson); Sam has two more younger sisters in the books, but they may all be consolidated into Talla. Since Sam gave up his claim to Horn Hill by joining the Night’s Watch, Dickon is now the heir to Randyll.

    Before Sam left for Castle Black, Randyll essentially told him that if he didn’t renounce his claim and let Dickon have it, he’d have him killed, so we don’t imagine their reunion will be pleasant. It’s unclear right now just how Sam will react to seeing the rest of his family—or how they’ll react once they meet Gilly and Little Sam.

    7) The sorrow at the Tower of Joy

    We’ve already gotten a flashback last season courtesy of a young Cersei Lannister, but now that Bran’s back in the game, we’ll likely have lots of them through his visions in season 6. And one of them has major implications for one of the show’s biggest mysteries.

    Game of Thrones will be filming the infamous Tower of Joy fight that finds Ned Stark, Howland Reed, and their men facing off against three members of the Kingsguard—the most famous and respected of which is Ser Arthur Dayne—shortly after Rhaegar Targaryen’s death. Ned is trying to rescue Lyanna Stark, but the Kingsguard refuse to disobey Rhaegar Targaryen’s orders to guard her even after his death. A battle ensues, with only Ned and Howland surviving. They find Lyanna covered in blood, who died soon after the battle. Fans believe that this scene will ultimately reveal that Lyanna is Jon’s mother.

    Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran, has been spotted on set while the Tower of Joy sequence filmed, and while we don’t yet know who will be playing a 20-something Ned, Luke Roberts appears to be playing Arthur Dayne, and some people suspect that Robert Aramayo will play Howland Reed.

    Even younger versions of Ned and possibly a young Robert Baratheon have been cast, and maybe we’ll even see a young Hodor as Bran undergoes training through the tutelage of the Three-Eyed Raven.

    8) Checking in on the rest of Westeros and Essos

    A lot has changed since we last saw the characters we love (and love to hate) in Westeros and Essos. Let’s do a quick check-in, shall we?

    King’s Landing

    Reports indicate that Margaery Tyrell, whom we last saw stuck in the same prison as Cersei for lying to the Faith, will soon leave her cell as a broken woman—and a new convert to the Faith of the Seven. Although whether her Faith is genuine is yet to be seen.

    Meanwhile, Tommen Baratheon has become so distraught about losing Margaery that he tries to break her out of jail (with help from his father/uncle Jaime Lannister) and may even hand himself over to the High Septon.

    While Cersei is fresh off her Walk of Atonement—after she admitted to committing adultery—she still has to answer for her other sins. In the books she wants a trial by combat, and with Ser Robert Strong by her side, we could see her choosing the same route.

    Dorne

    We don’t know how the impending fallout between the Lannisters and Martells will play out after the murder of Myrcella Baratheon, but it’s definitely not going to be pretty—especially for Trystane Martell, who’s currently on his way to King’s Landing. The same goes as to whether Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes will suffer any consequences from Doran Martell for killing Myrcella or whether that was all part of their plan.

    But we do know that the Martells may be getting some unexpected guests to Sunspear in the form of Olenna Tyrell and Varys, thanks to Dame Diana Rigg and Conleth Hill being spotted in the same area as some as Doran, Ellaria, and Areo Hotah’s portrayers. The last time we saw Olenna and Varys, they were in King’s Landing and Meereen, respectively.

    Considering the Martells and Tyrells—once allies to the throne—are both now at odds with it, could they perhaps be persuaded to support Daenerys Targaryen, who’s still across the Narrow Sea?

    Meereen and beyond

    At some point Daenerys, who was last seen surrounded by Dothraki, will be taken to Vaes Dothrak (a Dothraki stronghold run by the wives of former khals, or the dosh khaleen). And eventually a couple of Dothraki will will end up talking to or near Missandei, which we know thanks to a page of the script posted by a new Game of Thrones actor.

    Ser Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis, who’ve been trying to find Daenerys, appear to stumble upon a Dothraki meeting where they’re in the midst of deciding what to do about her—and may even include a scene that calls back to a major event all the way back in season 1.

    Meanwhile, Tyrion and Varys are left to deal with the fallout of Meereen after the departure of Daenerys, Jorah, and Daario—and the former two receive an offer of help from a Red Priestess (who isn’t Melisandre).

    The Riverlands

    We’re going to see Edmure Tully and the Blackfish again next season, but we’ll also be seeing some characters’ book plots get back on course after some redirection last season.

    In A Feast for Crows, Jaime was sent to the Riverlands, not Dorne, in order to take out the remaining limbs of Robb Stark’s rebellion—those who didn’t die at the Red Wedding, anyway. He’s heading that way, presumably after he returns to King’s Landing, along with his bodyguard and travel buddy Bronn, as reports claim that the Brotherhood Without Banners will return and several “outlaw” characters will be cast. (Or could it be a version of the Brave Companions, a sellsword company with a nasty reputation?) And Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne, who opted to follow Sansa to Winterfell last season, may end up right back where her book plot had her: in the Riverlands.

    And, if rumors prove true, we may end up seeing another very familiar face returning to the Riverlands, far from her new home in Braavos.

    9) Will we finally get Lady Stoneheart?

    An article speculating on Game of Thrones wouldn’t be complete without conjecture on Lady Stoneheart and whether she’s ever going to show up.

    Stoneheart, the name Catelyn takes after she’s brought back from the dead by Beric Dondarrion, has had a looming presence over the past few seasons, despite never actually having been on the show. Fans expected her to show up after season 3—right after Catelyn’s death—and then we got nothing. We also got nothing after season 4, which essentially covered the latter half of A Storm of Swords (her first book appearance), and despite rumors, IMDb edits, and murmurs about spoilery episode titles, she still hasn’t appeared on the show.

    So with seasons of disappointment behind us, take this tweet with a huge grain of salt.

    With Brienne and Podrick appearing in the Riverlands, the time may be ripe for it to happen. But can fans, who’ve been left disappointed so many times before, muster up enough excitement about it once again?

    The short of it? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Screengrab via HBO Go


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    Potential good news for Apple TV users: According to an Amazon employee, a new Amazon app might be rolling out on the service in the next few weeks. 

    Since Apple TV's launch, Amazon has been noticeably missing from their app offerings. Even though Amazon apps already exist for most of the major streaming devices and gaming consoles (Roku, PlayStation 4, Fire TV), Apple TV users have needed to stream their Prime shows from a third device using AirPlay in order to tune in. But all that may soon change.

    Dan Bostonweeks, a software developer from Oakland, California, reached out to Amazon customer service recently to suggest they develop a tvOS app, and received a surprisingly informative reply

    According to Bostonweeks, Amazon replied to his inquiry within 15 minutes, and though neither Apple or Amazon have responded to requests for comment, the timing of the rollout would make sense. Transparentthe company’s most successful original show—premieres its second season in December. 

    H/T TechInsider | Screengrab via Transparent/Instagram

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    This article contains graphic material.

    The title “Killing Best Friend Prank” doesn’t really inspire confidence in Sam Pepper’s latest video.

    Pepper, who was accused of sexual assault and harassment in 2014 after a video of him pinching women’s butts as a prank caught mainstream attention, has been quietly making video content ever since, but he announced his return to weekly video content with a newly controversial video where he “pranks” someone into believing they watched someone they care about get shot.

    “Let’s see how he reacts to his best friend of five years being killed in front of him,” asks Pepper in the video’s introduction, which features Vine stars and best friends Sam Golbach and Colby Brock. When their car allegedly stalls out in an abandoned alley, a masked man grabs Golbach and covers his head with a bag and masking tape while Brock, who is in on the prank, sneaks off. They put Golbach in the trunk and drive him to a second location, where a masked Pepper pretends to shoot Brock in the head in front of Golbach.

    Warning, the video is graphic.

     The YouTube community has reacted negatively to the prank.

    Meanwhile, Pepper is only acknowledging the positive responses, and promising a return to weekly videos starting after Christmas. For his part, Golbach spoke out on Twitter about the experience, saying that it made his friendship with Brock stronger and that he hopes fan can see “the message behind this video.”

    There’s a chance that the whole thing was a setup, and Golbach is just a great actor, since the final scene is well lit and with an obvious camera, although if he actually believed himself to be kidnapped, he may not have noticed. With YouTube’s “social experiment” problem, it’s hard to decide if Pepper and Brock pranking an unsuspecting Golbach is better or worse than the trio of them producing a fake prank meant to shock.  We might find out soon, as Golbach and Brock offered on their Twitter that they’d be “explaining some things” today. 

    H/T Uproxxx | Screengrab via Sam Pepper/YouTube


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    CollegeHumor is launching a 52-episode weekly comedy series on Go90, Verizon Wireless's mobile-only streaming video service. The series, called Fatal Decision, follows an IT worker named Josh as he records an action-hero show in his office during his downtime. 

    The show is produced by CollegeHumor's Big Breakfast studio and based on a former CollegeHumor webseries of the same name.

    It's "the ultimate movie within a movie,” Sam Reich, President of Big Breakfast and head of video at CollegeHumor, said in a press release. “We hope that audiences get invested both in the story—that of Josh Mullen, trying to make an action series—and the story within the story—that of Jack Maxwell, unstoppable action hero.”

    The show soft-launched last week and will post a new episode every Wednesday.

    H/T Variety | Screengrab via Go90/Twitter

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    You might have forgotten about "Gangnam Style," but the South Korean rapper behind the viral hit of 2012 is still going wrong. 

    Psy's latest "Daddy" is basically four minutes of the ETrade baby facial effects, and we can't look away.  

    "Gangnam Style" is the most-viewed YouTube video of all time. Even though nothing he's produced since then has quite been able to replicate the first video's success, the enormous audience he's built on the platform guarantees his work will reach a ton of eyes whether it goes viral or not. His 2013 followup single, "Gentleman," didn't transcend into memedom the way "Gangnam Style" did, but it's still the 18th most-watched YouTube video of all time. 

     "Daddy" has racked up more than 400,000 views in less than five hours.

    H/T TechInsider | Screengrab via Psy/YouTube


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    Amy Schumer turned heads Monday by posting a black-and-white topless portrait taken by Annie Leibovitz to Instagram. In the pic—which arguably harkens to that famous George portrait from Seinfeld—the comedian casually sips a coffee while lounging topless in some lacy undies and stiletto heels.

    Anticipating the social media commentary it’d inevitably spark, Schumer beat commenters to the punch with her caption, describing herself as “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman.”

    The comedian has gone on the record numerous times over the years about body positivity, the male gaze, and the impact Internet commenters can have on your self-esteem when you’re in the public eye.

    In a speech at the 2012 Gloria Awards, she famously said:

    I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing, but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, "All right! You got it. You figured me out. I'm not pretty. I'm not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I'll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see." But then I think, Fuck that. I am not laying in that freshman year bed anymore ever again. I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I'm beautiful. I say if I'm strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak and share and fuck and love and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they had it in them to do it. I stand here and I am amazing, for you. Not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you, and I thank you.

    This Instagram seems like a physical representation of that message: a big “f**k you” to anyone who might think the comedian should think twice before sharing a photo this revealing.

    Screengrab via Amy Schumer/Instagram


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    This story contains an autoplaying video.

    Returning to work after Thanksgiving weekend, The Daily Show had a serious topic to cover—another mass shooting.

    Following the attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, Trevor Noah broke down several of the talking points that circulated in the media. Did the shooter qualify as a domestic terrorist? What was Ted Cruz thinking when he described the attacker as a "transgendered leftist activist"? But really, the most important question was this: Is it fair to stereotype white Christian men as the typical perpetrators of this kind of crime?

    Enter Jordan Klepper, The Daily Show's token white male correspondent, in a segment that perfectly skewered the way some terror attacks result in racial profiling.

    Yes, it's hard out there for white, Christian men.

    Screengrab via The Daily Show/Comedy Central


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    Surprise, Internet! The best new show of last year just premiered early.

    Last night, Amazon Prime made the first episode of the second season of Transparent available for streaming. The critically acclaimed series follows the ups and downs of the Pfefferman clan, including former patriarch Mort, who has recently made the decision to transition to womanhood as Maura. Jeffrey Tambor won several well-deserved awards for his performance in the lead role, taking home statues at both the Emmys and the Golden Globes, where the show also won Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical.

    There are so many reasons to watch Transparent, but the five below should be enough to get you started. Now is the time to binge-watch season 1, so you can be ready when the rest of season 2 drops on Dec. 11.

    1) It has the best ensemble cast on television

    Tambor’s performance as Maura has been much discussed, and for good reason. As a cis male playing a trans woman, he’s done about the best job possible.

    But Tambor isn’t the only reason to watch the show. Maura’s children, played with equal skill by Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker, and Jay Duplass, all do amazing work. As Ali, the youngest of the Pfeffermans, Hoffman in particular goes for broke every time, and received an Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actress in comedy series for season 1. Judith Light, as Maura’s ex-wife, is also a wonder to behold, especially for viewers who may not know her from anything but her role as Angela on the ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss.

    The show is peppered with a fine array or character actors who filter in and out too, including Melora Hardin, Rob Huebel, Carrie Brownstein, Kathryn Hahn, Michaela Watkins, Tig Notaro, and Bradley Whitford, who won an Emmy for season 1. Expect more familiar faces in season 2, where Anjelica Huston and Cherry Jones will join the cast as well.

    2) You’ll laugh and cry in the same episode

    Transparent is labeled as a comedy, but that’s really only because its runtime is a half hour. Moments of dark, sly humor abound, but they are always tempered with a real sense of struggle and pain. In that way, Transparent is a lot like life: It doesn’t fit easily into any television mold, because life doesn’t fit one genre either. There is real suffering in this show, but it never feels overt or punishing. And there is real hilarity too, but it never arrives inorganically or comes at the expense of its characters. Tragedy and comedy exist side by side in the world of the Pfeffermans, and the show’s dizzying highs and low lows are part of why it is such a joy to watch, and why there is an inherent honesty at its center.

    3) The Pfeffermans are TV’s real “modern family”

    The Pfeffermans are not an easily definable group. Like all families, they make bad choices, they act irresponsibly, and they don’t always atone for their actions. There is love between these characters, but that love never manifests in some tidy resolution at the end of each episode.

    Take the Pfefferman children. Each one is on a quest of self-discovery, and each of their quests feels as rocky and as uncertain as they would in real life. Ali experiments with gender identity. Josh (Duplass) deals with sex addiction, which may be brought on by experiences with a former babysitter that you could qualify as abuse. Sarah (Landecker) rediscovers her bisexuality as she’s entering middle age. There’s no “normal one” on among them, because are no “normal” people in the sense that television frequently defines humanity.

    4) It’s providing important representation for the LGBT community

    Transparent’s depiction of trans issues isn't perfect. But what the show does get right is the struggle to make others see you as you really are, in a world where they are still largely told to do otherwise. Just because we’re aware of who Caitlyn Jenner is, does not mean that the trans community’s struggle to be seen, heard, and protected is over. Trans people are underpaid, and frequently harassed at work. Most states still don’t have laws governing trans people’s right to use the correct bathroom. As of last month, over 20 trans women have been murdered in the U.S. alone.

    This is why shows like Transparent, which depict trans people not just as a talking point, but as thinking, breathing individuals, are so important. Part of the reason Maura’s relationship with her daughter feels so authentic is because it’s based on the one between Transparent’s creator, Jill Soloway, and her own father, who came out as trans late in life. Not that trans representation is the whole whole scope of Soloway’s interests. "Forget the forgotten T. Where's the forgotten B?", said Soloway, discussing her representation of Sarah’s bisexuality.

    In that sense, Transparent’s version of representation is all-encompassing, and yet it never lets the audience forget that women like Maura are more than cyphers for us to project our own questions onto. Both Maura and the other trans people on the show are specific, defined individuals even within their community, and ultimately, their ability to transcend simple labels is probably the show’s biggest representative victory of all.

    5) There are more trans people actively involved with it than any show before

    Speaking of the other trans people on Transparent, it’s important to note that Tambor is the only individual on the show playing a trans person who is not actually trans in real life. Both in front of and behind the camera, Soloway has amassed an impressive team of trans actors and crew members.

    Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the upcoming season, Transparent’s first trans director, Silas Howard, said that, “It’s a big deal because it feels like instead of being put into the system that isn’t necessarily integrated, I’m in the room with all these professional, incredibly talented people and they come from a lot of different backgrounds.”

    “We have other things interesting about us besides being trans,” Howard continues. “I looked for opportunities where a sort of paradoxical quality is happening, where things are messed up and beautiful at the same time, or funny and tragic.”

    It appears as if Howard was interested in working on Transparent for the same reasons so many of us watch it. To that end, Dec. 11 can’t get here soon enough.

    Screengrab via hollywoodstreams/YouTube


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    This article contains spoilers for the season finale of Jessica Jones.

    Trauma, sexual violence, and sexism are some of the major themes woven into Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and the Internet is abuzz with how well the show has managed topics that many others have either mishandled or totally shied away from.

    But while much of the 13-episode first season is focused on either evading or breaking free from the sinister Kilgrave’s mind control, the show perpetuates a similar sort of power in something separate from its plot development. Product placement in one of the pivotal scenes of Jessica Jones acts as a different kind of mental manipulation, this time for the audience members.

    Here’s the low-down if you haven’t already binge-watched the latest Marvel property by now: The series stars Krysten Ritter as the titular superhero-turned-private investigator with super strength, just looking for a way to pay her Hell’s Kitchen rent and buy a bottle of cheap whiskey. When Jessica picks up what she believes to be a simple case of a missing girl, she soon finds out that the man that held her captive and raped her for over a year through his power of mind control has returned. His name is Kilgrave (David Tennant), and he is the physical embodiment of the patriarchy, obsessed with regaining control over Jessica. Kilgrave has to simply tell someone to do something and they feel completely compelled to carry out his request. By the end of the first season, Jessica puts an end to his misogynistic, evil ways.

    It’s of course a major moment when Jessica finally defeats Kilgrave in the season’s closer. But in order to take down the man that has caused her and so many others pain, Jessica needs a little bit of help from her best friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor). In the final battle against Kilgrave, Trish acts as a decoy, impersonating Jessica by wearing her dark clothing and keeping the hood of her jacket up while Jessica sneaks up on the villain. And to keep from being controlled by Kilgrave’s powers, Trish is wearing headphones blasting music to drown out any commands that he might bark at her.

    These bulky headphones might not be super-powered, but they aren’t just any old headphones, either: You can clearly see the instantly recognizable “b” of Beats by Dre. Now, this might just be a coincidence. As Trish’s mom notes in an earlier episode, her daughter always had good but expensive taste. And Beats headphones definitely are on the pricy side, ranging anywhere from $200 to $1,200. But with the amount of detail that went into the aesthetic of the show, from Jessica’s modest wardrobe to Trish’s expansive closet, we have to doubt that it was entirely up to chance that Trish was sporting Beats headphones.

    Eventually, the uber-branded piece of technology falls off of Trish’s head while she’s keeping some civilians from killing one another—but not before we once again see that “b.” And when they finally do fall to the ground, you get a great look at just how plush they are.

    The headphones are a tool used by Trish to fend off Kilgrave’s mind control while simultaneously being both a piece of marketing and symbol for control over people watching Jessica Jones.

    As Devin Liddell writes in Fast Company, “Beats isn’t great design—it’s just great marketing.” The line’s product placement in music videos has become blatantly obvious, to a point where it’s almost comical. But that doesn’t change the allure that has been created by seeing Miley Cyrus or Snoop Dogg bumping some Beats products. This ingenious marketing is what helped make the company worth $3 billion in the eyes of Apple in 2014. The ethos is that if you’re someone who owns something from Beats, then you’re someone who’s really loves and respects music.

    Product placement isn’t a new method of marketing, and it’s definitely an intelligent ploy by advertisers. Instead of telling someone that they need something, it shows why they need it. That they’re someone cool like a dancer on Ariana Grande’s intergalactic spaceship or Jessica Jones’ best friend charging into battle alongside the hero. The subliminal aspect to this marketing is what aligns with Kilgrave’s own insidious abilities. He doesn’t just make his pawns do something against their will; he makes them want to do whatever he instructs. Beats by Dre headphones aren’t in music videos and Jessica Jones just to make you buy; they’re there to make you want to buy them, of your own accord.

    And Trish’s headphones isn’t the only form of consumerism mind control in the series: Jessica has a particular affinity for whiskey, with bottles littering her apartment. It’s not all cheap, though; she’s guzzling on some Wild Turkey 101 one night, which isn’t the thriftiest.

    Then again, the Wild Turkey 101 could have just been a “treat yo’self” situation, because she’s also seen drinking Jim Beam in the pilot, and redditors pointed out this pristine Heaven Hill product placement. At least she switches it up every so often.

    A similar case of a story’s message running counter to making money can be seen with the Hunger Games franchise. News recently broke that there’d be a theme park inspired by the books. But much of the series’ central theme is about the rich and powerful’s exploitation of children for spectacle. Isn’t that pretty much what an amusement park is? And Jennifer Lawrence’s song “The Hanging Tree” from Mockingjay: Part 1, which was used by the anti-Capitol rebellion in the movie was remixed and polished to play on radios everywhere, becoming a hit single. As one Tumblr user notes, that’s what the Capitol would do to neutralize the power of the song and render it meaningless. 

    Product placement is clearly a necessary evil for companies looking to make a buck by casually inserting some headphones or some booze. It might not be as malevolent as a British man in a well-tailored suit directing you to donate to him your kidneys or to kill another person, but it can be just as sneaky. And while Jessica Jones eventually rids the world of Kilgrave, the average person is still susceptible to subliminal marketing and sly product placement. There might only be one Kilgrave, but there are masses of companies trying to control your spending habits. 

    Screenshots via Marvel Entertainment/Netflix


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    Ah, the cruel irony of the streaming age: Music, music everywhere—but not a drop to bump. 

    When mankind's entire discography is but a click away, where does one start? This crippling starting-line decision is probably why you’re one of the 3.8 million lost souls who bought Adele’s 25 last week.

    To help with the dilemma, we’ve swapped notes and written strong pitches for why you should fold these Spotify playlists into your seasonal rotation. The object of the game isn’t to foam at the mouth with pretentious name-checks, but rather to provide directions to pleasant, captivating, ahead-of-their-time recordings. 


    1) Bollywood Workout

    Finding the perfect workout playlist is a quixotic task (although Kanye is always a safe bet to get you amped). But if you can forgive the bizarre, anachronistic inclusion of Selena Gomez’s “Come and Get It” and Sting’s “Desert Rose,” Spotify’s featured Bollywood Workout mix is the absolute best playlist wake up to for your sleepy 7am run. A.R. Rahman’s “Jai Ho”—from Slumdog Millionaire—bangs, but I’m a sucker for “Raanjhanaa,” the title track from the Bollywood hit starring Sonam Khapoor (she’s very popular in India). Other fun favorites include Miss Pooja’s “Second Hand Jawaani” (so many hand claps) and “In My City,” the will.i.am-produced track from Quantico star Priyanka Chopra. —Nico Lang

    2) DJ Screw

    At more than 62 hours in length, Marvin Churchill’s “DJ Screw” is a completionist paradise of chopped and screwed projects from Houston’s late genre-evolving maestro. For the uninitiated, Screw (born Robert Earl Davis) recorded a series of basement tapes in the ’90s—literal mixes wherein he’d slow-pitch recordings and yield magnetic soundscapes of nostalgic, soulful doom. By ’93 he’d wrangled together a swashbuckling rap posse, the 12-deep Screwed Up Click, and lorded over a franchise of indie music shops strewn across Texas until his death in November 2000 from a codeine overdose. It’s a lot to unpack, so just start with3 ’n the Mornin’, and blare Fat Pat gems like “Ghetto Dreams” and “25 Lighters.” —Ramon Ramirez

    3) The Shangri-Las and the Girl Group Garage Sound

    Spotify is to playlists what CD samplers used to be to music lovers back in the days of infomercials. While afternoon PBS programs in the mid-’90s really wanted us to listen to Anne Murray, they were incredible resources for audiophiles interesting in broadening their historical horizons. “The Shangri-Las and the Girl Group Garage Sound” keeps this legacy alive precisely because it originally was a CD sampler. It’s also an incredibly good one, with the Shangri-Las’ well-known hits (“Out in the Streets”) along with obscure gems. The Models’ “Bend Me, Shape Me” and “Jelly Belly” by Nai Bonet—about the joys of pole dancing—are both perfect ’60s kitsch and lightyears ahead of their time. I can’t believe they exist, but I’m so, so glad they do. —NL

    4) Riddim, Vol. 1

    Sometimes your roommate insists on tinging the cookout with a Caribbean theme. Suddenly the burgers boast decorative pineapples and he’s set a Pandora station to “reggae.” And then “Red Red Wine” comes on. Save yourself from this grotesque moment of privilege and take the hour-45 this installment requires to explore one of the most dynamic, vital, and soulful flourishes in music—one with dozens of subgenres that extend far beyond Bob Marley. Here we focus on Jamaican producers Lee “Scratch” Perry and Joe Gibbs. Perry is the Dr. Dre to Marley’s Snoop Dogg, and his Black Arc studio was a more experimental Hitsville. (He later reportedly burned it down because he feared evil spirits had taken over.) Between the two, some of the most pointed love ballads: the Heptones’ “Pretty Looks Isn’t All,” Cornell Campbell’s “I Will Never Change,” Mighty Diamonds’ “Shame and Pride,” and Barrington Levy’s “My Woman.” —RR

    5) Cambodian Music

    Bands like Dengue Fever have kept the legacy of Cambodian ’60s pop alive by blending it with modern sensibilities, but the originals are even better. The decade birthed psych rock superstars like Sinn Sisamouth, who was the country’s answer to Elvis Presley, and Ros Sereysothea, known as the “first lady of Cambodian rock.” Sereysothea’s “Shave Your Beard” and “Wait 5 More Months” appear on the playlist, but if you listen to one song on this playlist—or any playlist—make it “I’m Sixteen.” Sisamouth and Sereysothea’s careers were extinguished by the totalitarian Khmer Rouge—banning all music that was not explicitly nationalistic—and many musicians were killed by the regime. For more on the era, check out the documentary Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock & Roll. —NL

    6) Iceland Airwaves

    Like South by Southwest and CMJ, Reykjavík’s Iceland Airwaves festival has the core value of brandishing up-and-coming talent. And for all of the free tacos and horrible human beings you’ll find in Austin come showcase season, Iceland Airwaves boasts DJ sets held in thermal pools. (Don’t image search this thing unless you yearn for eternal FOMO.) Anyway my friend Harrison returned an enlightened disciple following the 2013 iteration, and this mix of Icelandic pop followed suit. It’s a dizzying rush of sparkling piano loops, broken English, falsetto wailing, the forward garage plucks of seven-piece rockers Grisalappalisa, the burrowing synth pop of Halleluwah, Emiliana Torrini’s anthemic wanderlust, and Samaris’s meditative coffeehouse angst. You have a full calendar year to prepare for the 2016 iteration, but in the meantime this playlist is a marquee score for office hours. —RR

    7) Halloween Hipster

    If you’re the type of person who wishes you could celebrate Halloween 24/7, here’s your dream Spotify mix. The choices are admittedly all over the place (Evanesence, anyone?), but there’s a little something for everyone. Indeed, it might be the only playlist to ever bring together Katy Perry and the Boswell Sisters and offers up choice selections from an eclectic array of artists: Bat for Lashes, Daniel Johnston, Sufjan Stevens, TV on the Radio, Blue Oyster Cult, Julia Holter, Annie Lennox, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. While I always appreciate a little Kate Bush love (“Hammer Horror”), my favorite oddball pick has to be the theme from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. I want to find whoever made this playlist and personally shake their hand. —NL

    8) 20s Music

    Due to a resurgence of interest in the ’20s after Baz Luhrmann’s remake of The Great Gatsby, there’s no shortage of good playlists for aspiring flappers. My favorite is the generically named “20s Music.” Although the Spotify-approved “Taste Remind—the 20s” is a nice sampler of music from the period, you could spend all afternoon listening to this playlist—and you just might. The mix starts off to a spirited start with “Washington Squabble” by the Claude Hopkins Orchestra and the great Eva Taylor’s “Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home?” Other standouts include ”How’s Your Uncle?” by the Troubadours and “Oh Gee, Georgie” by Margaret Young, which will make you wish you knew how to Charleston. —NL

    9) SITAR&B

    The Earth-rotating soul of the ’60s in places like Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was doing just fine. Of course simultaneously, the Beatles bathed across India and returned awake enough to tinker with souvenirs. While the Western world patiently tolerated George Harrison at his most ponderous (“Love You To,” “Within You Without You”), all the R&B cool kids were dropping sitar solos on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “Chain of Fools.” And that’s where our journey begins. Of note: SITAR&B is an in-house production from a few years back. It’s a trusted banger, and if you like that one, the Daily Dot’s Spotify archives are padded and nerdy. Follow us—RR

    Illustration by Max Fleishman


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    Even Oscar winners like Julianne Moore aren't immune to Billy Eichner's charm.

    On this week's Billy On the Street, Eichner brought the actress to Times Square in Manhattan to compete for tips with all the people in Elmo and Batman costumes. The twist? Moore performed lines from her most iconic roles for the tourists instead of posing for selfies. 

    And they nominated Annette Bening over her. Can you imagine?

    Screengrab via Billy on the Street/YouTube


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    We here at the Daily Dot are big fans of streaming TV and movies, but we also know how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the massive lists of Netflix’s comings and goings each month. Here’s our curated take of what’s new on Netflix this month.

    December 2015

    Pick of the Month: A Very Murray Christmas (Dec. 4)

    One of the best parts of the holidays for cinephiles is revisiting the movies and shows that have become traditional viewing over the years, whether they’re officially “holiday movies” or not. I’ve got a friend who watches Blade Runner every Christmas Eve. For me, Edward Scissorhands has always felt very Christmas-y. Well, this year Netflix is looking to add another tradition to your queue, and it may just be the best present ever: It’s A Very Murray Christmas.

    The Murray in question is, of course, the only Murray that matters. Bill Murray headlines this musical/comedy special directed by Sofia Coppola and also featuring George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Michael Cera, Maya Rudolph, and Miley Cyrus, to name but a few. The storyline focuses on Bill Murray making a TV show and worrying that no one will make it to the taping after a massive snowstorm buries New York. But honestly, does the storyline even matter? It’s Bill Murray, singing and generally being Bill Murray, which is awesome. I think I’ll save this one for Christmas Eve and double-feature it with Scrooged.

    Best of the rest:

    1) Broadchurch: Season 2 (Dec. 1)

    If you’re one of the folks who’ve encountered David Tennant for the first time as the sadistic Kilgrave in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, we highly recommend checking out his time as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who. But watching him as a benevolent god might be a bit too jarring fresh off the trauma of Jessica Jones. So allow us to point to the excellent British crime drama Broadchurch as a palate cleanser that puts Tennant on the side of the angels. (Not the Weeping Angels.)

    Not to be confused with the American remake Gracepoint—which also starred Tennant—Broadchurch casts the Scottish actor as Alec Hardy, one of two detectives charged with investigating the murder of a young boy in a small British town. The show was created by Chris Chibnall, who previously worked on both Doctor Who and its Torchwood spinoff, as well as Law & Order: UK and Starz’s one-season King Arthur series Camelot. A third season of Broadchurch is scheduled to shoot next summer, but in the meantime the two eight-episode seasons will make for perfect holiday binge watching.

    2) The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (Dec. 1)

    With Vin Diesel having recently announced that he’s working on both a fourth Riddick film and a spinoff TV series set in the Riddick universe, now’s as good a time as any to revisit the hit-or-miss mythology Diesel and writer/director David Twohy have been spinning for 15 years now. That includes the solid 2000 cult classic Pitch Black; its two lesser sequels, 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick and 2013’s Riddick; the excellent Riddick video games, Escape From Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena; and this 2004 direct-to-DVD animated flick that bridges the first two movies.

    Dark Fury picks up after Riddick, Jack, and the Imam escape the deadly world featured in Pitch Black, only to be picked up by a ship full of mercenaries. Unfortunately for Riddick, the ship’s captain has an odd hobby of literally collecting criminals, capturing them in suspended animation and using them as living artwork. Needless to say, Riddick isn’t amenable to this arrangement, which means motherfuckers gonna die. Dark Fury was directed by Korean-American animator Peter Chung, best known for creating MTV’s Æon Flux.

    3) Darkman (Dec. 1)

    Long before he bedeviled Batman as R’as Al Ghul, Liam Neeson played Dr. Peyton Westlake, a brilliant scientist on the cusp of perfecting a revolutionary type of synthetic skin to help burn victims. Unfortunately, after his lawyer girlfriend acquires documents that could incriminate a local crime boss, Peyton gets caught in the middle and blown the fuck up. He survives, just barely: He’s horribly disfigured, incapable of feeling pain, and now flirting with insanity. Fortunately, that’s a useful combination of qualities when you’re about to seek vengeance on a crime syndicate, especially if you’ve also got a synthetic skin formula that lets you disguise yourself. Let the games begin!

    A twisted chimera combining director Sam Raimi’s love of pulp heroes like the Shadow and classic screen monsters such as the Phantom of the Opera, Darkman didn’t reach blockbuster levels like Tim Burton’s Batman the year before, but it did become a cult classic that still gets watched and referenced some 25 years later. It also spawned a couple of direct-to-video sequels, several actual comic-book series, and a failed 1992 TV pilot, which you can watch on YouTube.

    4) Stir of Echoes(Dec. 1)

    We’re now one major holiday beyond peak horror season, but you can only take so much holiday cheer before you need a break. Even if there’s tinsel and colored lights everywhere, that chill in the air will still make for ideal viewing of this underrated ghost story starring Kevin Bacon, directed by David Koepp (War of the Worlds), and based on a novel by the (I am) legendary Richard Matheson.

    Bacon plays Tom Witzky, a telephone line repairman living with a pregnant wife and young son in blue-collar Chicago. While he and his friends are having a shindig, Tom makes the mistake of letting his wife’s sister hypnotize him. Unfortunately, the seemingly innocent party trick opens Tom up to something profound: He begins having violent visions of a young girl fighting for her life. Once he eventually learns that the girl from his dreams is a real local teen who vanished a few months earlier, Tom’s obsession with learning what happened to her threatens to tear his family apart.

    5) The Da Vinci Code (Dec. 14)

    It’s been 12 years, so it’s easy to forget how big a deal Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was in 2003, managing to outsell every other novel of the year that didn’t have “Harry Potter” in the title. The blend of page-turning beach read and faith-baiting controversy was a powerful mix, so naturally Hollywood soon came a-calling, casting Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon, an expert in religious symbolism. After the curator of the Louvre is murdered, the authorities are convinced Langdon may have done the dirty deed, forcing him to try and uncover a centuries-old mystery to clear his name. And the secret involved is a whopper, involving the Catholic Church, the Holy Grail, and Jesus Christ himself. Also, Hanks has really weird hair in this, but that doesn’t seem to be part of the conspiracy, so far as I could tell.

    6) Helix: Season 2 (Dec. 16)

    Helix was one of the first shows out the gate under the current Syfy regimen, which seems genuinely committed to returning the network to its roots and embracing ambitious genre storytelling like it used to. And the show had a solid pedigree, with Battlestar Galactica’s Ron Moore on board as an executive producer. Unfortunately, Helix was a bloody mess: Season 1 started out as a riff on John Carpenter’s The Thing, then settled into extended wheel-spinning punctuated by batshit-crazy plot twists that would have been more shocking had they made any damn sense at all. There were viruses, silver-eyed immortals, pseudo-zombies, and frozen severed heads. You certainly couldn’t fault the show’s ambition.

    Season 2 leaves the arctic setting of its freshman year behind, following CDC disease expert Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) and his team to a mysterious island populated by a creepy cult led by that guy from Wings. (No, the other one.) Syfy killed Helix after season 2, so don’t expect all the show’s questions to get satisfying answers.

    7) Black Mirror: White Christmas (Dec. 25)

    The critically acclaimed British anthology series Black Mirror is one of the best shows of the young century, and a worthy successor to the legacy of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. Created by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror explores the darker aspects of of our relationship with technology in a brutal and insightful fashion that eschews easy answers. Netflix earned a collective high five from all of us earlier this year with the announcement that it’d be producing a third season of the show, but while we’re waiting for those new episodes to come down the pike, there’s still one you might not have seen yet. The holiday special “White Christmas,” starring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, hasn’t previously been available on Netflix… but that’s about to change. “White Christmas” intertwines three different stories, including some of the show’s darkest material yet. This is not feel-good television, but we’ll celebrate its Netflix arrival as a Christmas miracle just the same.

    8) Maron: Season 3 (Dec. 28)

    Standup comedian/podcaster Marc Maron stars as a fictionalized version of himself, trying to balance his personal life and career against the constant realization that he’s usually his own worst enemy. In season 3, Marc struggles with success, invites his ex-wife onto his podcast, and dabbles with antidepressants. If you’re a fan of Maron’s standup or his long-running WTF Podcast, you’ll find plenty to like in Maron. The show has already been renewed for a fourth season on IFC, so expect more to come in 2016.

    9) Nurse Jackie: Seasons 1-7 (Dec. 31)

    Hulu launched a major partnership with Showtime this past summer, but Netflix continues to acquire the network’s shows as they wrap up, and at the end of the month Nurse Jackie will join Weeds, Dexter, and Californication in the Netflix queue. Jackie stars Sopranos alum Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton, a put-upon ER nurse who numbs the stress of her job with pills. Jackie earned critical praise for its dark humor and explorations of addiction, not to mention a Best Actress Emmy Award for Falco in 2010.

    November 2015

    1) Jessica Jones: Season 1 (Nov. 20)

    With Jessica Jones (formerly A.K.A. Jessica Jones), Marvel is doing the same thing it did with flicks like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man: taking risks. Marvel made a massive small-screen success out of Daredevil, a character that had been languishing in big-screen development hell for years. So next up? An obscure Marvel character all but the most die-hard fans probably haven’t even heard of. And it’s not a traditional superhero tale and it’s incredibly dark material and it’s got the most generic title since John Carter. You certainly can’t accuse Marvel of playing it safe. Thankfully, there’s every reason to be optimistic that Jessica Jones will carry on the solid momentum built by Daredevil and further flesh out this seedy little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the path toward Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the eventual Defenders Netflix miniseries.

    So who the hell is Jessica Jones? Well, she was a costumed superhero for a hot minute, until that career… ended badly. The man responsible for that end was Kilgrave, a sociopath with the metahuman ability to make people do whatever he tells them to. It’s not hard to imagine how that sort of power could be abused, and abuse it he does. (With Doctor Who’s David Tennant in the role of Kilgrave, there are sure to be a lot of traumatized Whovians if the show goes half as dark with his storyline as the comics did.) Now Jessica (Krysten Ritter) works as a private investigator, deeply scarred by her past and just trying to get by. Along the way she meets Luke Cage (Mike Colter), another mysterious figure with powers of his own, including a powerful romantic connection with Jessica. Jessica Jones was created and developed by Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter), based on the critically acclaimed comics by Brian Michael Bendis, and the pilot episode received a rousing reception at New York Comic-Con a few weeks back. Fingers crossed that this show keeps up Marvel’s winning streak.

    2) The 100: Season 2 (Oct. 31)

    Based on the series of young adult novels by Kass Morgan, The 100 is set a century after a global nuclear war wiped out most of humanity. Thankfully some small percentage of mankind was living aboard 12 space stations orbiting the planet. They unified as “the Ark” and spent the next 97 years cobbling together a makeshift society… but one that’s on the verge of disaster, thanks to failing life support. Out of desperation, the Ark’s leadership conjures up a truly crazy plan: Drop 100 expendable juvenile delinquents back to the surface to see if the planet can support human life yet. But Earth has become a dangerous place in all those long years, and it harbors many secrets. If you get hooked on The 100 after a Netflix binge, the series will return for a third season in 2016.

    3) Last Days in Vietnam (Nov. 1)

    Rory Kennedy (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib) directed this documentary look at the dire final weeks of the Vietnam War. With the local citizenry desperate to escape as the North Vietnamese army inched ever closer to Saigon, United States forces were ordered to evacuate themselves and any American citizens—but only American citizens. Last Days in Vietnam examines the closing act of a war that defined a generation through archival footage and interviews with those who were there. Kennedy’s documentary currently boasts an impressive 95 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    4) Twinsters (Nov. 1)

    There are plenty of fascinating things to discover on YouTube, but Anais Bordier found something wholly unexpected: a twin sister she didn’t know she had. A French fashion design student living in London in 2013, Anais had the no-doubt surreal experience of seeing a video online featuring American actress Samantha Futerman...who looked exactly like her. A bit of Googling and social networking later, Anais contacted Samantha and the pair became convinced they’d been separated at birth. The Kickstarter-funded documentary Twinsters follows the stranger-than-fiction tale of their meeting and burgeoning relationship. Moral of the story: Maybe don’t ignore all those emails from names you don’t recognize.

    5) The Midnight Swim (Nov. 3)

    Few horror movies have ever hit me in the gut as strongly as Lake Mungo, and I’m intrigued by the creepy, understated trailer for The Midnight Swim because it gives me the same kind of vibe: an aura of sadness and unsettling strangeness, the sense both of something bad having happened and something worse yet to come. Similar to Lake Mungo, The Midnight Swim is set in motion by a death—in this case, the death of a mother, who vanishes while diving in the notoriously deep Spirit Lake. Her three daughters, one a filmmaker, return home to grieve and deal with her affairs, but strange occurrences drag them deeper into the mysteries of the lake. The Midnight Swim has received strong critical praise for its story and performances, currently holding an 83 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    6) Master of None: Season 1 (Nov. 6)

    Netflix has been building a solid catalog of diverse, original comedies over the past couple of years, from BoJack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to Grace & Frankie and the Wet Hot American Summer prequel. Landing a new series from popular comic and Parks & Recreation vet Aziz Ansari was a major get. Ansari co-created Master of None with Parks & Rec producer Alan Yang, and Ansari stars as Dev, a 30-something actor navigating family, relationships, and generally trying to make a go of it in the Big Apple. Treat yo’self to all 10 episodes of the first season when it premieres this month.

    7) With Bob and David: Season 1 (Nov. 13)

    I would have thought Netflix had exhausted its comedy miracles with its seven-years-later resurrection of Arrested Development. But it trumped that feat entirely by getting the principals behind HBO’s brilliant Mr. Show back together for With Bob and David. In addition to Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the new Netflix sketch comedy series also reunites much of the Mr. Show writing team, including Brian Posehn and Dino “Star-Burns from Community” Stamatopoulos. Mr. Show has justifiably ascended into the holy pantheon of comedy in the 20 years since it aired on HBO, so the show has a high bar to clear. But if there’s a chance it could give us even one sketch as good as “Pre-Taped Call-In Show,” there’s more than enough reason to be giddy.

    8) Blue Caprice (Nov. 14)

    Sadly, there have been so many horrific headlines in the years since, many of us have probably all but forgotten about the Beltway Sniper shootings of 2002. Director Alexandre Moors’ Blue Caprice tells the story of John Muhammad and Lee Malvo, who killed 17 people and injured more in a crime spree that stretched across several states before culminating in the Washington murders that captured the world’s attention. Named after the modified vehicle from which they fired their shots, Blue Caprice examines Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) and Malvo’s (Tequan Richmond) twisted father-son relationship and the unsettling banality of evil.

    9) Continuum: Season 4 (Nov. 15)

    As a fan of both Rachel Nichols and time-travel stories done well, I was intrigued by Continuum when the Canadian series popped up on Syfy a few years back. However, I soon got sidetracked and never returned to the show after midway through its first season. I’ve had multiple friends who stuck with it singing its praises to me nonstop pretty much ever since, insisting that the series soon became bold and unpredictable in much the same way shows like Fringe and Person of Interest eventually blew past the limitations of their first impressions. Nichols stars as Kiera Cameron, a cop from a corporate-controlled 2077 Vancouver who follows several “freedom fighters”/terrorists back in time to 2012, where she must track down the fugitives, try and get home, and struggle with the realization that her very actions may already have cut off any access to her own time—or permanently rewritten it. All four seasons will be available streaming by mid-month.

    10) Soaked in Bleach (Nov. 15)

    It’s been over two decades since the death of legendary Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who took his own life on April 5, 1994. Like many fallen celebrities before him, however, his death has become a nexus of conspiracy theories for those who won’t, or can’t, believe the official explanation. Mixing dramatizations with interviews and documentary footage, Soaked in Bleach explores the persistent theories that Cobain’s death wasn’t actually a suicide. It revisits the events through the eyes of private investigator Tom Grant, who was hired by Cobain’s wife Courtney Love to track him down in the weeks before his death. Unsurprisingly, Soaked in Bleach has aroused plenty of controversy, with Love’s lawyers sending out cease and desist letters to theaters and detractors trying to sabotage its Rotten Tomatoes rating before it was even released.

    11) The Red Road: Season 2 (Nov. 23)

    Most people know Jason Momoa from his role as Khal Drogo on HBO’s Game of Thrones, and he’s going to spend the next decade or so immersed in the big-screen DC Cinematic Universe in the role of Aquaman. In between those two life-changing events, Momoa played a heavy in Sundance’s original scripted series The Red Road. Martin Henderson plays Harold Jensen, a recovering alcoholic sheriff in a fictional Jersey town called Walpole. After a cover-up involving his mentally ill wife, Jensen is forced into an alliance with Phillip Kopus, an unsavory member of the local Ramapough Mountain tribe. With its mix of crime, corruption, and Native American politics, it reminds me a bit of Longmire. The series received decent reviews, but it was canceled after its second season. Still, that makes for perfect bite-size binge-watching. If you dig it, definitely also check out Sundance’s Rectify.

    12) Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (Nov. 29)

    The Cannon Films logo was a persistent presence in the B-movie circuit throughout the 1980s, often attached to movies starring Sylvester Stallone (Cobra) or Chuck Norris (Missing in Action), as well as Tobe Hooper’s cult classic “space vampire” flick Lifeforce. They also gave us some of the decade’s easiest punchlines, such as the Stallone arm wrestling movie Over the Top, the Masters of the Universe movie, and the flick which gave both this documentary its title and the internet one of its favorite memes: the mock-worthy breakdancing sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Director Mark Harley’s 2014 documentary examines the rise and fall of the notorious Cannon Group featuring interviews with the likes of Tobe Hooper, Richard Chamberlain, Bo Derek, Elliott Gould, Dolph Lundgren, and Molly Ringwald, to name a few.

    October 2015

    Pick of the month: Beasts of No Nation (Oct. 16)

    Having established a solid foothold in the world of streaming television with shows like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Daredevil, now Netflix is stepping into the world of film with Beasts of No Nation. Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga (HBO’s True Detective, season 1), Beasts stars Idris Elba and Abraham Attah in a story about civil war and child soldiers in an unnamed African country. Attah plays Agu, a young boy who is recruited into the rebel forces of the NDF after his family is executed. Elba is the Commandant, both commander and twisted father figure to Agu as he serves as a pawn of the forces ripping his homeland apart. Netflix released Beasts simultaneously on streaming and as a limited release in theaters, continuing to shift the dynamics of the media landscape in a way that has some theater owners irked (four theater chains, including AMC and Cinemark, are boycotting the film for violating the traditional 90-day theatrical release window). Both Elba and Attah have received tons of critical praise for their Beasts performances, and there’s already potential Oscar buzz for the both of them. Netflix has already acquired a shelf full of Emmys, so can an Academy Award or two be far behind?

    Best of the rest

    1) Batman Begins (Oct. 1)

    While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a true masterpiece, Batman Begins is arguably a better realization of Batman/Bruce Wayne himself, if only because it doesn’t have Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Joker to steal the spotlight. Bale’s gruff Batman voice may still be an easy punchline, but his haunted, determined portrayal of the crimefighter is still one of the best, and the script by Nolan and David S. Goyer actually makes the concept of a rodent-dressed vigilante scaring the shit out of hardened criminals grounded and believable. If somebody really was going to become Batman, it would pretty much have to happen like this. (Except for maybe the fear gas and the ninjas.)

    2) Boogie Nights (Oct. 1)

    I’ll always have a special soft spot for Magnolia (that montage!), but Boogie Nights rivals it for the position of my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson flick to date. Mark Wahlberg stars as doofy high school dropout Eddie Adams, who is reborn as “Dirk Diggler” after porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) discovers him and his star-making schlong. In between all the boot-knocking, Dirk finds a new dysfunctional family in his porn crew, but his cockiness (ahem) paves the way for his own eventual downfall. The amazing cast also includes Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, William H. Macy, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to name a few.

    3) The Bourne Identity/The Bourne Supremacy (Oct. 1)

    It’s a little frustrating that The BourneUltimatum wasn’t included with Netflix’s October update, but even two-thirds of one of the best action franchises of all time is still plenty to be excited about. Matt Damon sells both the badassery and the tortured humanity as a former covert agent with a Swiss cheese memory and loads of people who would really prefer he be dead now, thanks. And if you want to finish out the trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum is available from Amazon and other digital retailers.

    4) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Oct. 1)

    You have to admire the gumption of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp for thinking they could improve upon Gene Wilder’s iconic performance as mysterious confectioner in 1971’s WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Actually, no, you don’t, it was a terrible idea. Still, if you liked the story of Wonka and Charlie but thought it needed a less charismatic lead and a bunch of the same schtick Burton has been serving up for the past several decades, help yourself. Me, I’ll stick with the creepy-ass boat ride and the sheer, pitch-black brilliance of Wilder-Wonka. Good day, sir!

    5) Million Dollar Baby (Oct. 1)

    Hilary Swank earned her second Best Actress Academy Award for her performance as an underdog amateur boxer who is taken under the wing of a weary trainer haunted by his past (Clint Eastwood). Baby also earned trophies for director Eastwood and supporting actor Morgan Freeman—oh, and it nabbed the Best Picture Oscar for 2005. The flick is based on the short stories of fight manager Jerry Boyd, so it’s certainly not lacking for verisimilitude. Adapted for the screen by Paul Haggis (Crash), it’s a powerful and emotional story of redemption and tragedy, but it’s also depressing as all hell. Don’t watch it unless you’re ready for a downer.

    6) The Nightmare (Oct. 1)

    Wes Craven soiled the pants of an entire generation with his stories of teenagers being tormented in their dreams by a vicious, knife-fingered psychopath who could kill you while you slept. If Freddy Krueger ever frightened you, the documentary The Nightmare will likely scare the snot right out of you, because it examines the very real phenomenon known as “sleep paralysis,” a condition where the sufferer experiences vivid, frightening dreams or hallucinations while incapable of moving or waking up. It would be a very bad idea to watch this before bed time … which I wish someone had told me before I made that very mistake. The Nightmare was directed by Rodney Ascher, who previously earned both attention and critical acclaim for 2012’s Room 237.

    7) Reign: Season 2 (Oct. 2)

    The CW’s period drama is currently chugging through its third season, continuing the net’s history of letting shows grow and find their audience even if they aren’t breakout hits. Created by Laurie McCarthy and Stephanie Sengupta (Ghost Whisperer), Reign explores the early life of Mary, Queen of Scots. In season 2, King Henry II is dead, and Mary and her husband Francis have ascended to the throne of Scotland. Unfortunately, the land has been devastated by a plague, religious discord is rife, and politics continues to be deadly. (Reign airs Friday nights at 7pm CT on the CW.)

    8) iZombie: Season 1 (Oct. 6)

    Based on the Vertigo comic-book series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, iZombie stars Rose McIver as Olivia “Liv” Moore, a morgue worker who regularly “samples the merchandise.” She’s a zombie, and she has to eat brains both to survive and to be able to pass as the living. But all that noshed gray matter has some gnarly side effects, allowing her to see flashes of the dearly departed’s lives and deaths. Being a civically minded zombie, Liv poses as a psychic and uses her abilities to help the local cops solve the murders of those on her menu. iZombie was adapted for TV by Diane Ruggiero-Wright (Bates Motel) and Rob Thomas, the genius who gave us Veronica Mars. iZombie’s second season is currently airing Tuesday nights at 8pm CT on the CW.

    9) The Flash: Season 1 (Oct. 6)

    DC may be trying to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe with next year’s Batman v Superman, but I’m far more interested in the shared TV mythology it created with Arrow and expanded with the breakaway CW hit The Flash. Grant Gustin is perfect as speedster Barry Allen, a crime scene investigator haunted by his mother’s murder by a superfast mystery man. After being granted powers of his own by a freak accident, he struggles to defend his home of Central City against a rogue’s gallery of villains, as well as to solve the mystery of his origins and clear the name of his father, who’s in jail for the murder of his mom. The Flash is action-packed, funny, earnest, and charming as hell, a perfect slice of Silver Age comic-book fun updated for the smartphone era. You can keep your brooding Dark Knights and even your Men of Steel; I’ll stick with the Fastest Man Alive, thanks. (Season 2 of The Flash is currently airing Tuesday nights at 8/7c on the CW.)

    10) Arrow: Season 3 (Oct. 7)

    Of course, there would be no Flash without the show that spawned it, the CW’s take on DC’s emerald archer, the Green Arrow. After being lost on a remote island for years, aloof playboy Oliver Queen learned the skills and the drive to return to his home of Starling City and take down all the crooks and corrupt officials who have “failed this city.” In season 3, Oliver and his team of noble vigilantes faces his most overwhelming foe yet: the nigh immortal Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins. Arrow has had its ups and downs over the years, but its strength has always been its charismatic cast, including Emily Bett Rickards as adorable tech expert Felicity Smoak, David Ramsey as stalwart badass John Diggle, and Stephen Amell as the wounded but well-intentioned Oliver. Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 7pm CT on the CW.

    11) Legends: Season 1 (Oct. 7)

    Sean Bean—he of the frequent onscreen expirations—headlines this TNT thriller series as Martin Odum, a crack undercover FBI man who can become damn near anybody but whose revolving door of identities leaves him questioning both his sanity and his own real identity. Based on an award-winning novel by Robert Littell, Legends was adapted for television by Howard Gordon (24, Homeland), Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow), and Mark Bomback (The Divergent Series: Insurgent). Legends will return for a second season on TNT beginning Nov. 2.

    12) Supernatural: Season 10 (Oct. 7)

    Carry on, my wayward sons, indeed. Supernatural is one of the shows that helped build The CW, so it’s not surprising that the network has continued to return that support, allowing the show to build a large and loyal following over the past decade. Brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) have a lot of bad road behind them, having faced down creatures from every corner of your nightmares and lost pretty much everyone they care for along the way. In season 10, Dean has fallen prey to a terrible darkness, and Sam works to try and find a way to bring him back from the precipice before he does something unforgivable. Supernatural’s 11th season is currently airing Wednesday nights at 8pm CT on the CW.

    13) Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Oct. 9)

    In addition to becoming a power player on the original scripted drama front, Netflix has been racking up quite a track record for acquiring top-notch documentaries, including What Happened, Miss Simone? and Mitt. That trend continues with Winter on Fire, which delves into the protests and civil unrest that rocked Ukraine in 2013, eventually resulting in the Ukrainian revolution the following year. As the official synopsis puts it, “The film captures the remarkable mobilization of nearly a million citizens from across the country protesting the corrupt political regime that utilized extreme force against its own people to suppress their demands and freedom of expression.”

    14) Jane the Virgin: Season 1 (Oct. 12)

    Adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela, Jane the Virgin is the story of a devout young Latina woman who is saving herself for marriage … until a doctor mistakenly artificially inseminates her during what was supposed to just be a checkup. As if that’s not awkward enough, the father of her new aspiring bundle of joy is 1) married, 2) her former teenage crush, and 3) the owner of the hotel where she works. That’s one helluva triple-whammy. Actress Gina Rodriguez won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her performance as Jane, and the series also earned both a Peabody Award and an AFI Award. Jane the Virgin returned for a second season on Oct. 12, and new episodes air Mondays at 8pm CT on the CW.

    15) Circle (Oct. 16)

    The 2015 horror/sci-fi flick Circle begins with a simple but intriguing premise: 50 people awaken to find themselves in a strange room with no memory of how they got there. They are arranged in a circle, and very soon, something unseen begins killing them. Every two minutes, another person dies, but the group soon realizes they can control the carnage … to an extent. They can’t stop it, but they can decide who dies next, through an act of collective will. So how do you direct a chain of death that very well may kill all of you? Who deserves to live the longest, or maybe even to be the last man standing? The Hollywood Reporter described Circle as “Twilight Zone-y” in its generally positive review, and that’s certainly good company to be in.

    16) Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (Oct. 18)

    Ruth (Rooney Mara) and Bob (Casey Affleck) are a pair of wannabe Bonnie and Clydes for whom one job goes very bad indeed. Their buddy Freddy is killed, Ruth shoots a sheriff, and Bob decides take the fall for the whole mess so the pregnant Ruth can raise their child. Years later, Bob escapes from prison and hopes for a happy reunion with the mother of his child, but his oncoming presence could collapse the lie that has permitted Ruth a somewhat normal life while he was in the clink. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was written and directed by Texas filmmaker David Lowery, who’s currently working on Disney’s remake of Pete’s Dragon.

    17) Hemlock Grove: Season 3 (Oct. 23)

    Just in time for Halloween, Netflix’s horror/thriller series is returning for a third and final season. If you’ve been curious about the show are a horror junkie, this will be the perfect excuse for a binge-a-thon. The series, executive produced by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel), centers on a fictional Pennsylvania town plagued by violence, supernatural goings-on, and Famke Janssen. Season 3 promises more monsters, more gore, and possibly even the “end of days.” Sadly, the most carnage involving the show may have come from the critics savaging it for the past two seasons. Still, they’re called “guilty pleasures” for a reason.

    17) Manson Family Vacation (Oct. 27)

    Reconnecting with the brother you never really got along with is a noble enough goal. Unfortunately for Nick Morgan (Jay Duplass), all his estranged brother Conrad (Linas Phillips) wants to do during his visit to Los Angeles is tour the Manson Family murder sites. Well, they always say the family that becomes just a little too interested in a bunch of homicidal psychopaths together, stays together… right? The film began life as a Kickstarter project, and it’s currently rocking a damned impressive 100 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    18) The Gunman (Oct. 28)

    Sean Penn tries to follow in Liam Neeson’s footsteps on the “respectable older actor tries out the action-hero thing” path. Penn is Jim Terrier, a veteran black-ops merc who left the soldier’s life behind after successfully assassinating a government official in Africa. Years later, he returns to the “scene of the crime” for nobler purposes, serving as a charity worker. Unfortunately, his dark past catches up with him when he’s attacked, forcing him to go on the run in search of the truth about who wants him dead—and why.

    September 2015

    Pick of the Month: The Walking Dead: Season 5 (Sept. 27)

    Fellow cord-cutters, rejoice! The long weeks spent plugging your ears and avoiding social media are drawing to a close, and if you’ve managed to remain unspoiled about The Walking Dead’s most recent season this long, you’ve only got a little while longer to remain in self-imposed exile. Season 4 was a long walk toward the uncertain destination known as “Terminus,” and that supposed safe haven proved about as hospitable as the name suggests. Season 5 finds Rick and his fellow survivors fighting to escape from their (latest) captors and once again in search of sanctuary in a world that seems determined to bury them in a steady torrent of blood and bad days. The Walking Dead has always been uneven, but season 5 is a welcome return to form in just about every way imaginable, and it’s a helluva lot more entertaining than the misguided (and unfortunately named) prequel series, Fear the Walking Dead. (It even includes the return of one fan favorite from the show’s earliest days.)

    Best of the rest

    Lawrence of Arabia: Restored Version (Sept. 1)

    Based on the larger-than-life story of British archaeologist and soldier T.E. Lawrence, this 1962 classic follows Lawrence’s World War I adventures across the Arabian Peninsula, during which he first fought against and eventually found himself sympathizing with the various local tribes. The film won a whopping seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. It’s also jaw-droppingly, eye-gapingly gorgeous, so you’ll want to view it on the biggest screen possible. I personally am planning on breaking into AT&T Stadium and borrowing the Jumbotron.

    The League: Season 6 (Sept. 1)

    Even if you don’t give a fig about football—of either the fantasy or the IRL varieties—there’s plenty to love about FX’s The League. The show is about a group of friends who compete in an aggressive fantasy league, battling each other for “The Shiva,” an eyesore trophy named for their high school valedictorian. Football may be the ostensible focus of the show, but really it’s just an excuse to watch this crew lie, cheat, manipulate, and screw each over in their dogged pursuit of victory at all costs.

    Masters of the Universe (Sept. 1)

    Oh lordy, I love it when Netflix drags out a relic like this one. It’s been three decades since I’ve seen this thing, but I’m going to go ahead and guess it doesn’t hold up without the nostalgia filter dialed up to 11. Thankfully, my nostalgia filter is strong, so I’m looking forward to introducing my kids to the musclebound He-Man (Dolph Lundgren), who finds himself transported to Earth to keep the budget down in order to retrieve the magical Cosmic Key before Skeletor (Frank Langella) and his minions can get to it. Also enjoy an embarrassing early-career appearance by a pre-Friends Courteney Cox. Hopefully the new movie will be better....

    Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (Sept. 1)

    Netflix continues its plan to assist me in my master plan to get my kids hooked on every educational staple of my own childhood. First they added episodes of Bill Nye, the Science Guy to the Instant catalog, then Reading Rainbow. Now the gentle, sweater-wearing Presbyterian minister who taught so many of us not to be dicks is available for streaming. The beloved PBS children’s program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood aired from 1968 to 2001, and this first Netflix “volume” includes 20 episodes from the series’ long history. Hopefully there will be many more to come.

    The Monster Squad (Sept. 1)

    Ask someone to list off great ’80s kids’ films, and you’ll get stuff like Goonies, Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal. The Monster Squad may not make the top 10 lists as often as those undisputed classics, but it deserves more love than it gets, both because it pits a group of horror-movie-loving kids against versions of Universal’s classic movie monsters and because it gave us the immortal line “Wolfman’s got nards!” Monster Squad was co-written by Fred Dekker, who also penned the ’80s cult classic Night of the Creeps, and Shane Black, who became one of the most highly paid screenwriters of all time with flicks such as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. Black has staged a major comeback in recent years with flicks like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, and he’s recently reunited with Dekker for the Amazon Western pilot Edge.

    Our Man in Tehran (Sept.  1)

    Most people had probably never heard of the events of the so-called “Canadian caper” until Ben Affleck’s Argo brought the daring rescue mission back into the public consciousness. That flick was a rousing good time, but for anyone curious to learn more about the real-life CIA-backed mission to rescue U.S. diplomats from the midst of the Iran hostage crisis, look no further than Our Man in Tehran. The 2013 documentary focuses on the heroic actions of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor and his staff, who put their own lives at risk to shelter six American diplomats and cooperate in a scheme to smuggle them out of Iran.

    Person of Interest(Sept. 1)

    What if you had a machine that could predict violent crimes before they could happen? That’s the high concept behind Person of Interest, CBS’ sci-fi procedural created by Jonathan Nolan, brother and frequent collaborator of Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan. What began as a relatively boilerplate sci-fi procedural has evolved into a fascinating exploration of morality and artificial intelligence. Lost’s Michael Emerson stars as Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire and software genius who created the Machine. Jim Caviezel plays John Reese, a troubled Special Forces/CIA veteran recruited by Finch to be the means to his ends. Seasons 1-3 are currently streaming on Netflix Instant, and season 4 will be available beginning Sept. 22. The show’s fifth season will premiere on CBS this fall.

    The Rambo Trilogy (Sept. 1)

    Netflix added the first five Rocky movies a while ago, and now it’s lined up Sylvester Stallone’s other huge ’80s franchise. Beginning with 1982’s First Blood, Stallone introduced the world to John Rambo, a battle-scarred Vietnam vet trying and failing to move beyond his traumatic experiences in the war. Based on the novel by David Morrell, the first Rambo movie is a bit less cartoonish than the ones that followed, pitting Rambo against unfriendly small-town cops when he just wants to be left alone. First Blood Part II sends Rambo back to Vietnam to rescue POWs, and Rambo III drops him into Afghanistan to retrieve his friend Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna), who has been captured by Soviet soldiers. (The 2008 follow-up, titled simply Rambo, isn’t currently available on Netflix.)

    Sleepy Hollow (Sept. 1)

    Tim Burton’s spin on Washington Irving’s spooky 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow envisions the Headless Horseman as a former Hessian mercenary turned supernatural killing machine, and Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) as a cowardly but brilliant New York police constable sent to the titular village to investigate a series of brutal murders. Give it a watch and see if you can erase the memory of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Dark Shadows.

    Up in the Air (Sept. 1)

    George Clooney plays a corporate “downsizer” named Ryan Bingham, a man whose life consists of airplanes and airports, traveling from one city to the next so he can deliver terrible news to people who are suddenly without a job. His comfortable life on the go is threatened by Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a new hire with a plan to replace Ryan’s job with videoconferencing. To make matters worse, he’s assigned the indignity of “showing her the ropes,” a task—along with his relationship with fellow frequent flyer Alex (Vera Farmiga)—that soon has Ryan questioning his whole philosophy on life. (For more from Up in the Air co-writer/director Jason Reitman, check out Men, Women & Children on Amazon Prime beginning Sept. 12.)

    Zathura (Sept. 1)

    Zathura is based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg, the same guy who wrote Jumanji, so calling ZathuraJumanji in space” isn’t just easy shorthand. Much like in Jumanji, the events of Zathura are driven by a mysterious board game discovered by curious kids, but in this case the game in question unleashes meteor showers and hostile aliens rather than monkeys and Robin Williams. Apparently Chris Van Allsburg was seriously traumatized by a board game at some point in his life. Zathura was directed by a post-Swingers, pre-Iron Man Jon Favreau, so it’s got a good pedigree, if nothing else.

    Madam Secretary: Season 1 (Sept. 4)

    Tea Leoni stars as Dr. Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, a former CIA analyst and college professor turned United States Secretary of State. Wings alum Tim Daly plays her husband, Cheers’ Bebe Neuwirth her chief of staff, and Keith Carradine stands in as POTUS Conrad Dalton. Madam Secretary follows McCord’s struggles to balance her personal and family life against the demands of one of the nation’s highest offices. The political drama was created by Judging Amy/Joan of Arcadia veteran Barbara Hall, and the show will return for a second season on Oct. 4.

    Longmire: Season 4 (Sept. 9)

    Fans rallied to try and save Longmire after A&E canceled it last year, and thankfully Netflix eventually agreed to pony up for a fourth season. Based on Craig Johnson’s series of “Walt Longmire Mysteries” books, Longmire stars Robert Taylor as Sheriff Walt Longmire, a gruff and laconic lawman who keeps the peace in the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. Walt is still grieving the death of his wife, which was a lot more complicated than the “cancer” explanation he told their daughter, and the truth about what really happened to her forms an ongoing arc as the series progresses. Battlestar Galactica fan favorite Katee Sackhoff co-stars as Victoria “Vic” Moretti, Walt’s deputy and a former Philadelphia homicide detective with skeletons of her own. Lou Diamond Phillips recurs as Henry Standing Bear, owner of the Red Pony Cafe, Walt’s best friend, and a frequent middle man between Walt and the local Native American population. Season 4 will pick up right where season 3 left off, with Walt bent on revenge after having learned the truth about who was responsible for his wife’s death.

    The Bank Job (Sept. 14)

    I’m a sucker for a good heist flick, and The Bank Job has the added appeal of being based on a real-life robbery from which the stolen goods were never recovered. Jason Statham stars in one of his less punchy roles, playing Terry Leather, a car salesman whose friend talks him into mounting a “foolproof” bank robbery, unaware that his seemingly benevolent friend (Saffron Burrows) has secret motivations of her own. The target is a roomful of safety deposit boxes filled with money and jewelry… but the contents of one of those boxes will put Terry and his crew in the crosshairs of powerful people.

    Moonrise Kingdom (Sept. 15)

    Wes Anderson’s movies can definitely be love-them-or-hate-them affairs, with his style sometimes hovering right near the border of self-parody. Still, nobody else makes movies quite like him these days, and as long as he keeps attracting casts that include the likes of Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman, I’ll keep on coming back. In Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson conjures an eccentric vision of a 1960s New England summer camp, two smitten 12-year-olds who run away together, and how their disappearance turns the local community on its ear. Moonrise Kingdom was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay award in 2013, and it’s currently boasting a 94 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    The Blacklist: Season 2 (Sept. 15)

    James Spader is at his best when he’s chewing scenery as the smartest man in the room who also knows he’s the smartest man in the room and who is eager to remind the rest of us that we’re a bunch of dolts. That description more than fits Raymond “Red” Reddington, the brilliant criminal mastermind at the heart of The Blacklist. This month Netflix will be adding season 2 of the NBC hit, in which Red continues to assist the FBI—and young profiler Liz Keen (Megan Boone) in particular—in tracking down some of the most dangerous crooks on the planet. It’s pure popcorn television that steps back and lets Spader shine, and you’ve got a few weeks left to binge before the show returns for a third season on Oct. 1.

    Keith Richards: Under the Influence (Sept. 18)

    Academy Award–winning director Morgan Nevilla helms this documentary look at the iconic Rolling Stones guitarist, currently enjoying his 72nd trip around the sun. Under the Influence follows Richards as he works on Crosseyed Heart, his first solo album in over two decades, and will include interviews, archival material, and “both new and beloved music.” Richards’ new album will release the same day Under the Influence hits Netflix, so Stones fans will have plenty to look forward to. You can listen to “Trouble,” a track off Crosseyed Heart, below.

    Gotham: Season 1 (Sept. 21)

    Gotham was simultaneously one of the biggest hits and one of the most frustrating viewing experiences of the 2014-2015 TV year. Robin Lord Taylor gave a breakout performance as a cowardly, manipulative young version of Batman villain the Penguin, but too often this “pre-capes” prequel felt like an exercise in pointless wheel-spinning, a never-ending parade of “Hey, look who it is!” without many compelling reasons to actually give a shit about these characters. Still, I’d be lying if I said the show didn’t have its moments—many of them involving Donal Logue’s morally flexible Detective Harvey Bullock—and young David Mazouz does far better with the thankless role of a pre-pubescent Bruce Wayne than anyone could have expected. Am I damning with faint praise? It’s only because you should be watching Arrow/The Flash instead. Gotham season 2 premieres on Fox the same day this hits Netflix, which is decidedly binge-unfriendly.

    August 2015

    Pick of the Month: Reading Rainbow: Volume 1 (Aug. 1)

    The beloved children’s program was back in the news last year after host LeVar Burton launched a massively successful Kickstarter campaign to both resurrect the show and bring it to as many schools as possible, free of charge. Now Netflix is bringing the classic original series to its streaming catalog, hopefully exposing a whole new generation to Burton’s infectious love of reading. Between this and the May arrival of Bill Nye, the Science Guy, Netflix seems to be making a run on the educational shows of my youth, and I couldn’t be happier. My kids are just getting old enough to have an interest in storybooks, so I can’t wait to work through the Reading Rainbow catalog with them. This first “volume” includes such classics as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare,” along with 23 other episodes.

    Best of the rest:

    1) Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front (Aug. 1)

    This 2014 documentary follows five Israeli high school graduates as they transition into their compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces’ army paratrooper brigade. For those unfamiliar, citizens of Israel are required to serve in the military after reaching the age of 18 (although there are exceptions), often for three years or more. Beneath the Helmet is presented as a coming-of-age story, exploring the lives of an Ethiopian immigrant, a female sergeant, a Swiss volunteer, a soldier descended from Holocaust survivors, and the unit’s commander, all struggling to balance their service with their personal lives and family commitments. It doesn’t look like Beneath the Helmet has a Rotten Tomatoes page at the moment, but it’s currently rocking an impressive 9.4 user rating on IMDb.

    2) Chronic-Con, Episode 420: A New Dope (Aug. 1)

    In 2003, documentarian Morgan Spurlock subjected himself to ungodly amounts of McDonald’s for his movie Super-Size Me. Stoner comedian Doug Benson responded in 2008 with Super High Me, which was sort of the same thing but with Benson consuming enough marijuana to give most of the West Coast the munchies. Now Benson is nipping at Spurlock’s heels again with Chronic-Con, Episode 420: A New Dope, which riffs on Spurlock’s 2011 flick Comic-Con: Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Chronic-Con follows the comedian through a hazy landscape of cosplayers, fans, and celebs, including Spurlock, Joe Rogan, Brian Posehn, and fellow stoner Kevin Smith, to name just a few. Having been several times over the years, I can only imagine the surreal experience of Comic-Con is even weirder when viewed through an ever-present fog of pot smoke. I just hope Benson brought his own snacks; convention center food is crazy expensive.

    3) Dogs on the Inside (Aug. 1)

    Netflix is kicking off the month with several intriguing new documentary additions, and this one is pretty much guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings of any animal lover. Dogs on the Inside explores a program that pairs abandoned rescue dogs with inmates at a Massachusetts prison. It’s about more than just companionship: Many of the dogs have been abused or mistreated, so their new human partners must first earn the animals’ trust, a commodity unquestionably in short supply behind bars. The inmates help save dogs that would otherwise likely be euthanized, and both human and canine partners help rehabilitate each other and hopefully put their darker times behind them. Honestly, I can already tell you I won’t be making it through this one without choking up a little.

    4) Enemy at the Gates (Aug. 1)

    Set during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II, Enemy at the Gates stars Jude Law as Vassili Zaitsev, a former shepherd serving as a sniper in the Russian Army. After saving the life of one Commisar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), Vassili becomes a propaganda tool for Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev, with the army newspaper spinning tales about the young marksman’s heroic exploits against the invading Nazis. The Germans soon take notice and deploy their own lethal sniper, tasking Major Erwin König (Ed Harris) with putting a bullet through Vassili’s brain. Loosely based on the experiences of the real-life Vassili Zaitsev, Enemy at the Gates follows the dueling snipers as they lead each other on a game of cat-and-mouse against the backdrop of one of the bloodiest battles in history.

    5) The Hurt Locker (Aug. 1)

    From the rubble of World War II-era Stalingrad, venture forward 60 years and into another war entirely. Written by Mark Boal, a journalist who was embedded with an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Baghdad in 2004, The Hurt Locker follows Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner), a veteran assigned to lead a bomb disposal team after his predecessor is killed by an IED. His maverick—or reckless—approach to an inherently dangerous job does little to endear him to his new squad, who are convinced he’s more interested in chasing an adrenaline high than trying to keep them all alive. The Hurt Locker took home six Academy Awards in 2010, including Best Motion Picture and Best Director for helmer Kathryn Bigelow.

    6) Russell Brand: End the Drugs War/From Addiction to Recovery (Aug. 1)

    British comedian/author/activist Russell Brand is a love-him-or-hate-him personality on the best of days, but even if you have no patience for his politics, there’s no question that he’s got some valuable insights when it comes to addiction. Brand has talked extensively about his struggles with substance abuse—and the fact that he knows he could very easily slip back into it at any time, even after over a decade of sobriety. Brand explores society’s attitudes and approaches to the problems of substance abuse—and substance abusers—in a pair of BBC Three documentaries hitting Netflix in August. In End the Drugs War, Brand explores how various countries handle the problem and questions whether criminalization is the answer. In From Addiction to Recovery, Brand shines a light on his own troubled past, including his addiction to heroin and the death of his friend, performer Amy Winehouse.

    7) Welcome to Me (Aug. 6)

    Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a TV-obsessed woman with borderline personality disorder who spends most of her money on lottery tickets. Except she actually beats the odds and wins, netting an $86 million jackpot. She celebrates by moving into a casino hotel, but after she gets booted off the news right in the midst of delivering a speech she’d prepared—one that inexplicably includes mention of masturbation—Alice decides she wants her own show, so she can say whatever she wants to say. In addition to the always wonderful Wiig, Welcome to Me’s stellar cast includes Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Robbins, and Alan Tudyk.

    8) HitRECord on TV: Season 1 (Aug. 7)

    Actor/director Joseph Gordon-Levitt has forged a career as one of the most interesting young performers of his generation in movies such as Brick, (500) Days of Summer, and Looper, but since 2005 his passion project has been the website/collaborative production company he founded with his brother, Dan. HitRECord on TV is the culmination of that work, a series that premiered on Pivot last year and which compiles user-contributed short films and performances, with each episode’s content focused on a particular theme. The eight-episode first season includes explorations of fantasy, trash, space, games, money, patterns, and more. The show just aired its second season on Pivot last month, so expect it to show up on Netflix eventually. In the meantime, there’s plenty more to explore on the HitRECord website.

    9) Doctor Who: Season 8 (Aug. 8)

    For the fourth time in Doctor Who’s “modern era,” a new actor stepped into the TARDIS and the iconic role of the nigh-immortal Time Lord. And new lead Peter Capaldi was a very different Doctor indeed than David Tennant or Matt Smith: darker, less given to whimsy, and at times much colder than his recent regenerations. This is a Doctor who describes his companion Clara as his “carer”—she cares so he doesn’t have to—and while he’s not nearly as callous as he pretends to be, Clara’s doubts as to whether she can trust the Twelfth Doctor underscore the entire season. Capaldi’s Doctor is set to return for a new season of adventures in September, so now’s the perfect time to jump aboard if you’ve ever been curious about what all the fuss is about. If nothing else, watch “Listen,” arguably one of the finest episodes of Doctor Who ever.

    10) Two Days, One Night (Aug. 11)

    The talented Marion Cotillard landed a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance as Sandra, a worker at a solar-panel factory in Belgium. After a nervous breakdown forces her into a brief leave of absence, she returns to work to discover that she’s been rendered redundant: management is paying her co-workers a significant bonus to pick up a few extra hours so they don’t have to keep her on. With a family to care for and desperate not to lose her job, Sandra spends the weekend appealing to each of the 16 co-workers who hold her future in their hands. But she’s got a hard sell: Times are tough, and all of them could use that extra money. If the synopsis doesn’t win you over, listen to the Tomatoes: Two Days, One Night is rocking a damned impressive Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97 percent Fresh. That’s even Fresher than Will Smith during the Bel-Air years.

    11) Alex of Venice (Aug. 15)

    Because one dynamite female lead performance deserves another, we recommend following up Two Days, One Night with Alex of Venice. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, probably best known as the crushworthy Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, stars as the Alex in question, a workaholic lawyer whose life is thrown for a loop after her stay-at-home husband bails on her. Now she must reinvent her life while caring for and reconnecting with both her young son and ailing father (Don Johnson). With the exception of interesting highlights such as Scott Pilgrim and Death Proof, Winstead has usually been better than the material she’s been cast in, so it’s great to hear so many critics singling out her performance in Alex of Venice, with Variety calling her “extraordinary.”

    12) Byzantium (Aug. 27)

    We just recently broke down some of most interesting vampire movies currently available on Netflix and Hulu, and if Neil Jordan’s Byzantium had already been up, we definitely would have included it. Byzantium stars Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a mother and daughter pair of vampires who have been alive since the Napoleonic era. Byzantium unfolds both in modern day and through flashbacks, exploring how the two became immortal bloodsuckers, and their pariah status within the secretive echelons of the vampire elite (there’s always a vampire elite, isn’t there?). The flick got mixed reviews, currently sitting at 63 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, but critics praised its moody atmosphere, and frankly, I’d watch Ronan in damn near anything.

    13) Narcos (Aug. 28)

    Netflix has had a busy few months, introducing two new series in the form the sci-fi epic Sense8 and the Wet Hot American Summer prequel First Day of Camp, not to mention returning favorites Orange Is the New Black and BoJack Horseman. Now the streaming giant is wrapping up the summer with a bang, courtesy of Narcos, a new crime drama centered around Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and law enforcement’s attempts to curb the flow of cocaine into the United States in the 1980s. Created by Chris Brancato (Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU), Narcos will trace the rise of the Medellin Cartel, an empire that eventually made Escobar one of the wealthiest criminals in history. Even better, the series is being directed by José Padilha, best known for the Elite Squad movies and the better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be RoboCop remake.


    July 2015

    1) An Honest Liar (July 1)

    Stage magician James Randi has spent the last several decades using his knowledge of illusion and deception to debunk self-proclaimed psychics, faith healers, and other con artists who use their skills to prey on the emotionally vulnerable. An Honest Liar chronicles Randi’s long career as an icon of reason and skepticism, including his frequent appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and his crusading attempts to make life difficult for people like spoon-bending celebrity psychic Uri Geller. In addition to the main attraction of Randi himself, the filmmakers also interview luminaries from the worlds of magic, science, pop culture, and skepticism, including “Science Guy” Bill Nye, MythBuster Adam Savage, illusionists Penn & Teller, and rock legend Alice Cooper.

    2) Set Fire to the Stars(July 1)

    British TV helmer Andy Goddard (Torchwood) makes his feature directorial debut with Set Fire to the Stars, which stars co-writer Celyn Jones as legendary Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. (One of Thomas’ best-known works was “Do not go gentle into that good night,” which featured prominently in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.) Elijah Wood co-stars as John Malcolm Brinnin, a meek poetry professor who gets the chance to host his literary hero, Thomas, during a weeklong visit to the States. Brinnin’s uptight nature clashes with Thomas’ heavy drinking and larger-than-life hedonism, and the trip soon becomes an object lesson in why it’s sometimes best not to meet your idols.

    3) Knights of Sidonia: Season 2 (July 2)

    Netflix boasts a decent selection of anime, but in 2014 it expanded the variety of its Netflix Originals catalog with Knights of Sidonia, based on the manga series by Tsutomu Nihei. Knights is set in the year 3394, a millennium after the Earth was obliterated by a race of giant alien monsters and the remnants of mankind regrouped and fled, Battlestar Galactica–style. The Sidonia is the last-known surviving ship of this exodus, a massive vessel populated by over 500,000 people. Having grown to adulthood living in the bowels of the ship and training on a mech simulator, the heroic Nagate Tanikaze is perfectly suited to join the fight when the deadly Gauna creatures threaten his home once again.

    4) Faults (July 3)

    Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a strong-willed cult member kidnapped and forced into a round of deprogramming at the behest of her desperate parents. Her guide back to “normality” is Ansel Roth (Leland Orser), one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of mind control. Suffice to say, Claire isn’t giving up her convictions without a fight, and the power struggle between the two makes Faults both funny and ferocious. Faults premiered at South by Southwest in 2014 and balances dark humor and satire against more serious commentary about manipulation and brainwashing. Winstead in particular has been singled out for giving perhaps the best performance of her career thus far. It currently holds an 88 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    5) Monsters: The Dark Continent (July 9)

    Gareth Edwards’ understated creature flick Monsters posited a world where huge, tentacled alien beasts had overtaken much of Mexico, forcing the country into military quarantine. Monsters was a deliberately paced, ground-level look at fantastic events, even holding off the really good looks at the creatures until the film’s climax (a trick he repeated with Godzilla). This sequel runs counter to that philosophy in just about every way. Set 10 years after the first Monsters, The Dark Continent takes a more action-oriented approach that drops four soldier friends into a Middle East positively swarming with the alien creatures. So long, character work and nuance; hello, explosions and monster stampedes.

    6) Serena (July 9)

    Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Ron Rash, Serena stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a pair of newlyweds running a timber company in Depression-era North Carolina. Anyone who saw Cooper and Lawrence’s chemistry in Silver Linings Playbook would be excited to see the actors playing an on-screen couple again, but unfortunately the pair’s performances are one of the only things critics praised about Serena. It’s rocking a cringe-inducing 20 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment, so if you’re curious, watch it for Cooper and Lawrence and moderate your expectations appropriately. (Fun fact: Serena was originally going to be directed by Darren Aronofsky and star Angelina Jolie.)

    7) Creep (July 14)

    The found-footage horror/comedy Creep stars co-writer director Patrick Brice as a videographer who answers a cryptic Craigslist ad from Josef (co-writer Mark Duplass), a terminally ill man who wants someone to film him in a series of videos for his unborn son. The situation soon takes a turn for the, well, creepy when it becomes clear that Josef may be… shall we say “less than stable.” Creep scared its way to a 91 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, earning positive reviews from outlets such as the Hollywood Reporter and Indiewire. Bonus points if you pretend Duplass is playing his character from The League the whole time.

    8) Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (July 14)

    Director Richard Stanley was fired by New Line a mere three days into filming his 1996 attempt to bring H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau to the big screen. Things didn’t get any better from there. John Frankenheimer stepped into the vacated director’s chair, but he faced a sea of troubles that included script problems, production delays, and a pair of uncooperative egos named Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. The end result is one of the worst movies ever made...which, thankfully, makes for a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary. In addition to revisiting the shitshow that was The Island of Dr. Moreau’s actual shoot, Lost Soul examines Stanley’s original vision for the film, including his plans for Bruce Willis to play the role that eventually went to Val Kilmer.

    9) Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (July 15)

    Da Sweet Blood of Jesus tells the story of Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams), a respected anthropologist who is inflicted with a hunger for blood after an encounter with a cursed African artifact. Director Spike Lee actually turned to Kickstarter to fund Da Sweet Blood of Jesus—a first for Lee—and the movie was filmed in only 16 days.

    Lee describes this particular “joint” as being about “Human beings who are addicted to blood. Funny, sexy and bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of Blacula).” It received a VOD release this past February, just in time for Valentine’s Day. And am I the only one disappointed that it isn’t a remake of Blacula though?

    10) Changeling (July 16)

    Based on strange-than-fiction real-life events, Changeling stars Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, a woman in 1920s Los Angeles whose son vanishes. Her relief when the LAPD announces they have found him is soon dashed by the discovery that the kid they bring forward isn’t actually her boy—even if they keep insisting he is. Soon the scandal-plagued department is trying to shut her up and brush the case under the rug, but Collins never gives up hope or stops trying to find her son. Writer J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Netflix’s Sense8) spent a year researching the real-life Collins case, and even included newspaper clippings in copies of the script to remind people that this bleak and bizarre story was based on true events.

    12) BoJack Horseman: Season 2 (July 17)

    Easily the weirdest original show in Netflix’s stable, BoJack Horseman stars Will Arnett as the titular Horseman, a washed-up sitcom star in a world where humans share the planet with anthropomorphic animals who are apparently not very creative when it comes to choosing last names. BoJack is eager to try and rekindle his fame, just like any other has-been celebrity—horse-headed or neigh. In addition to Arnett, BoJack Horseman’s impressive voice cast includes Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, Patton Oswalt, Stanley Tucci, J.K. Simmons, and Community’s Alison Brie as BoJack’s ghostwriter/love interest. Season 2 also adds Friends star Lisa Kudrow into the mix.

    13) Tig (July 17)

    On Aug. 3, 2012, comedian Tig Notaro walked on stage at Largo in Los Angeles and opened her set with these words: “Good evening, hello, I have cancer. How are you?” The crowd laughed, expecting a bit. Instead, Notaro delivered a set that has become justifiably legendary in the standup world, with the comic opening up about her diagnosis, only days before, of invasive stage II breast cancer. The documentary Tig explores Notaro’s fight against her illness, her reignited career in the wake of that unforgettable Largo set, and even her finding love in the wake of a dark and difficult time. On a related note, you should definitely listen to Tig’s bit about how she is cosmically bonded to former ’80s teen pop icon Taylor Dayne.

    14) Teacher of the Year (July 23)

    “Surrounded by the eccentric faculty of Truman High School, Mitch Carter wins the California Teacher of the Year award and immediately receives a tempting offer that may force him to leave his job.” Key and Peele’s Keegan-Michael Key co-stars as a character named Ronald Douche (pronounced “doo-shay”), so on the surface this flick could easily be a trainwreck. However, Teacher of the Year did well on the festival circuit, the reviews currently listed on Rotten Tomatoes are mostly positive, and the trailer actually looks like this one might be worth your time. Honestly, I’d check it out for Key’s presence alone, but throwing the Sklar Brothers into the mix just cements the deal.

    15) The Guest (July 25)

    Director Adam Wingard gave the world the outstanding 2011 slasher flick You’re Next. With 2014’s The Guest, Wingard reunited with You’re Next screenwriter Simon Barrett for a thriller about a family mourning the loss of their oldest son, Caleb, a soldier who died in Afghanistan. When a stranger named David shows up claiming to be a friend of their late son, the family embraces him and welcomes him into their home. David is polite, helpful, and seemingly a great guy… but events soon begin to suggest that he harbors dark secrets and a violent streak that could put the entire family in danger. (July 25 is a long way away, so we highly recommend checking out Wingard’s You’re Next in the meantime if you haven’t already.)

    16) Comet (July 28)

    I’m a sucker for Emmy Rossum, but ever since Tusk, I can’t see Justin Long without subconsciously superimposing the walrus mustache back onto his upper lip. That’s bound to interfere with my enjoyment of this high-concept romantic comedy/drama that explores a six-year star-crossed relationship in non-linear fashion. Writer/director Sam Esmail received a “story by” credit on the 2014 found-footage horror flick Mockingbird, and more recently he created the thriller series Mr. Robot for USA. If nothing else, the fact that this isn’t a guy I’d expect a rom-com from intrigues me, and Comet looks to be playing with stylistic and narrative flourishes that could be interesting. Plus, let’s be honest: I’ll follow Emmy anywhere.

    17) Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (July 31)

    Wet Hot American Summer was a flop when it was released in 2001, but it’s since become a cult classic thanks to a script that deftly skewers ’80s teen sex comedies and a dynamite ensemble cast that includes Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Elizabeth Banks, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Molly Shannon, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Poehler, to name just a few. A decade and a half later, Netflix is taking viewers back to Camp Firewood in this prequel series. And yes, you can be sure there will be plenty of jokes about the fact that the “teenage” cast is now several decades past their first pimple. First Day of Camp is set earlier in the same summer explored in the original movie, and includes appearances by Jon Hamm, Chris Pine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig, Judah Friedlander, Michael Cera, and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

    Screengrab via BBC America/YouTube


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    With Adele's "Hello" single and her surreal video propelling her album, 25, to towering heights ever since it was released, it's hard not to go a day (or an hour) without hearing her soulfully sing about trying to stay in touch with herself.

    But the singer can make toddlers smile and can gobsmack impersonators into the surprise of their lives. And she recently joined the Roots and Jimmy Fallon to play a version of her song using school instruments.

    Now the Southern University marching band wants to introduce to you the most kickass version of the song so far. This is the song perhaps the best band in the country played during the Bayou Classic Battle of the Bands on Nov. 27.

    Beware: When those horns come blasting in at the chorus, it is loud, loud, loud. But it's ever so worth it.

    If you'd like to watch more Southern University marching band performances—and, seriously, why wouldn't you?—there are plenty of choices on YouTube.

    H/T the Comeback | Screengrab via HBCUBANDS.com/YouTube


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    “The worst part is, if I had known film production involved getting up early, I guarantee you I’d be a computer programmer by now,” laughs RocketJump co-founder Freddie Wong, on set for the final day of shooting for his company’s first Hulu show.

    Lucky for the world of digital video, Wong is still waking up early and making content: RocketJump: The Show premieres today.

    RocketJump, the production company founded in 2011, is deeply and obviously steeped in geek culture: Its name references a video game technique of pointing a rocket launcher at the ground or wall and then combining that firepower with a jump for maximum lift,. With three seasons of the award-winningVideo Game High School, a special-effects-heavy series that imagined a high school for elite gamers, RocketJump helped redefine what was possible from YouTube creators, entertaining an audience of 7.6 million on its channel and hosting guest stars from Conan O’Brien to Tony Hawk. Now, the team is seeing if their digital prowess can transfer to a broader audience—and if their audience will follow along if new content lives exclusively on a new platform.

    RocketJump’s show isn’t the first attempt for a digital brand to cross over to the more mainstream mechanisms of entertainment. Epic Meal Time brought its over-the-top food to FYI network, earlier this year Grace Helbig helmed her own alternative talk show on E!, and Todrick Hall produced an MTV series on the ins and out of making his viral videos, to name a few. None has been a genre-changing breakout success, but RocketJump may have stacked the deck in its favor for this foray into the mainstream.

    RocketJump helped redefine what was possible from YouTube creators.

    First, RocketJump stayed close to its digital home: The show will air on Hulu, a comparatively alternative programming choice by mainstream standards. Second, while the company is successful at making straight-up fictional productions for a rabid audience, its first show a hybrid: part scripted series, part real life.

    “People have called it reality, people have called it behind the scenes,” explains Ben Waller, RocketJump: The Show’s showrunner. “Ultimately it’s going to be a documentary. It’s not reality because we’re not getting drunk; nobody’s getting fired after the show ends. It’s not a [behind-the-scenes look] because it’s not just, ‘how do you frame a shot,’ because I think the general audience doesn’t want to see that. The audience wants to be told a story. It’s comprised of technical explanations and examples, but ultimately it’s the story of us and the company, and running a digital studio.”

    In fact, RocketJump already has a weekly show, This Week at RocketJump, which follows a heightened behind-the-scenes aspect of life at the company, so transitioning to a show for Hulu wasn’t so tough.

    “We’ve been very careful from the beginning to try and do things our own way, so to speak,” explained Wong, who built his digital cache with shorts like an action hero cat to Mario Kart IRL. “I think that what we do very much depends on the process itself. The process is something we’ve been very fortunate to be able to hone over the last five years. From a personal perspective it doesn’t feel like a huge jump, but at the same time I think we were very calculated at that.”

    The series features eight shorts, and follows the production decisions behind each, illuminating life at RocketJump along the way. Waller said when he was pitching the concept, he took inspiration from HBO’s Hard Knocks and a selection of cooking shows, specifically the Copenhagen episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.

    “It’s so cool because it’s him traveling around Copenhagen with the head chef at Noma, but it’s dreamlike and a tone poem in the way they blend Anthony’s interviews and the interviews of the chef with the footage that they got,” Waller said. “It told a story without having to be on the nose with everything. Chef shows and Hard Knocks I saw as portrayals of people who are really passionate about things doing what they love doing.”

    The first episode, which premieres today, jumps directly into one of the company’s most ambitious shoots, a Western stylized in the vein of the Fast and Furious franchise. Their goal was to find a way to make the horses “drift” like a car does when a driver intentionally oversteers. Despite an increased budget from Hulu, money and timeline meant they couldn’t specially train horses to pull off the trick, but they still got horses.

    “Horses are weird,” Wong exclaimed. “We had no idea. There’s so many questions you have about horses you just don’t know.”

    “That’s Cirque du Soleil levels of coordination.”

    They learned that, yes, you can stand on horses, and no, if you put a camera on an remote-controlled car and drive it around the horses’ feet, they won’t freak out, as long as you give them a chance to get used to it. They also learned that the horses figured out that they’d call “3, 2, 1” before “action,” and started to get riled up on “3,” before everyone was ready, so the crew had to change their procedure.

    “The horses were just as professional as us,” said Waller, who noted these particular ponies had previously starred on Django Unchained and The Lone Ranger. “We expected that to be terrifying, but it wasn’t.”

    On set they’re tight-lipped about the rest of their big ideas, but do offer a sneak peek of another ambitious sketch, Tip Jar. During filming, there’s a great bit with a cigar that may or may not make the final cut, but it had everyone on set cracking up. It’s a one-take fight scene that involves a spy dropping a piece of film with Nazi secrets into a tip jar, and the three-minute one-take fight scene that happens as different hands vie for that piece of info. RocketJump had to take a whole day down from the shooting schedule just for rehearsals.

    “That’s Cirque du Soleil levels of coordination,” said Waller. “It’s like a dance.”

    Waller wears many hats at RocketJump, from director to writer to sometimes actor (“I only put myself in if we need a Germanic-looking guy walking around,” he joked.) Across the board, one of the biggest adjustments the RocketJump crew had to make for Hulu was being able to step back and focus.

    “It's weird to not have to do a hundred jobs at once,” Waller explained. “We’re only doing 50 jobs at once now.”

    Even with a lighter workload, the RocketJump team isn’t slacking off, but they aren’t too nervous about the greater implications of their jump to the mainstream, or the perceptions of a Midwestern mom who clicks on them through her Hulu subscription. For RocketJump, this show is business as usual, just on a potentially bigger screen.

    “We’ve always from the get-go focused on ‘how do we make something first and foremost that we enjoy watching,’” said Wong. “That’s the focus. The standard we have set for ourselves is pretty high, and it’s about hitting that. … Now we can concentrate on doing cool stuff.”

    Photos by Temma Hankin/RocketJump


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    The upcoming Star Wars movie, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, is set to come out on Dec. 18. What better way to celebrate its release than with a style of music that hasn’t been cool since the last movie in the franchise?

    It’s been 10 years since Revenge of the Sith, which wasn't long after DJ Danger Mouse did a whole mashup album of Jay Z and the Beatles. That bootleg, The Grey Album, led to a big legal battle for its use of unauthorized samples and also spawned countless copycats, splicing the most ridiculous juxtapositions. Even then there were a bunch of nerdy Star Wars ones.

    Even though mashups themselves have become a bit passé, a couple of dedicated nerds have taken the opportunity to set a bunch of Notorious B.I.G. songs to the rich orchestras of John Williams’ original score. As far as timeliness, the project would be like if the Star Wars disco album came out right before Episode I in the late ’90s rather than 20 years earlier.

    This week's Life After Death Star comes from a couple of unknown producers. The apparent Fort Worth, Texas, duo is called the Otaku Gang and it’s made up of Solar Slim, who produced the minor hit “Homegurl (He Gotta)” by rapper Bone; and Richie Branson, who describes himself as a nerdcore rapper. (Nerdcore, as I just learned, is a rap subgenre made up of a bunch of random dorks, including Childish Gambino, who rap about comic books and Jedis.) 

    Despite the opportunistic marketing tie in, this end result is downright inspired. It moves well beyond stretching acapellas over the “Imperial Theme.”

    The songs cull from Biggie’s whole discography and the loops created from the Star Wars soundtrack fit strongly. There’s 15 tracks plus a couple interludes, so it stretches pretty long. For some inexplicable reason none of the songs use “Hypnotize,” which includes the line, “Hit ‘em with the force like Obi.” After a quick listen, “Nasty Boy” and “Machine Gun Funk” work the best.

    Take a listen below to Life After Death Star by Otaku Gang.

    Photo via HipHopDX/Twitter


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    Although Harrison Ford may think Star Wars: The Force Awakens is “wonderful,” he remembers his on-set ankle injury less fondly.

    Ford, who previously discussed Star Wars in a hot dog costume, pushed his curmudgeonliness to lightspeed as he batted away Jimmy Fallon's questions about the new Star Wars film. (When asked if he got emotional putting Han Solo's costume on, Ford answered, "I got paid.") But the actor channeled his anger over injuring his ankle on the door of the Millennium Falcon by taking it out on a Han Solo doll while simultaneously demonstrating what happened.

    Based on what he showed Fallon, it’s a miracle he and his feet are even here today.

    Screengrab via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube


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    There’s little doubt that Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl is a master of creating viral moments. Some of these moments are organic—or, at the very least, they appear that way—but other times, Grohl is paired with another culturally popular being in the hopes that TV ratings will increase and Internet pageviews will explode.

    That, I suppose, is why we’ve received this digital gift of a drum battle between Grohl and Animal from the Muppets.

    In reality, this isn’t much of a contest. Despite Animal’s experience advantage, he can’t match Grohl’s chops. Even though Grohl admits at the end that Animal bested him, we all know this is a lie. Grohl won the contest—and rather easily. Perhaps for his next test, Grohl should take on the 5-year-old girl who recently pounded through a System of a Down cover.

    The duel between Grohl and Animal was fine—neither great nor innovative but also not terrible. But I was thinking that another Muppet should have been given the chance. How about for an encore, Grohl challenges the criminally underrated Scooter?

    Screengrab via Musicology Online/YouTube


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    The Daily Dot is celebrating Woman Crush Wednesday, better known as #WCW onTwitter andInstagram, by highlighting female creators onYouTube whose work we admire.

    In the year that I’ve been watching Grace and Amelia Mandeville, I’ve become equally obsessed with their endearingly awkward vlogs as I have with the idea of raiding their enviable closets.

    Grace, the oldest of the pair at 21 years old, is an actress, author, model, and disability rights activist. Amelia, 18, is an aspiring writer, obsessed with zombies, Green Day, and yoga. For every similarity (long brown hair, insatiable love of food, sense of humor, creative drive), the pair counterbalance with traits so opposite it’s a puzzle how they came from the same British family. While Grace loves to travel, Amelia prefers to stay at home for a duvet day, letting her spastic nature take her imagination around the world; as Grace dreams of a future in front of the camera presenting and acting, Amelia talks frequently in her videos about her obsession with writing a book.

    A dynamic duo, Grace and Amelia Mandeville have been making YouTube a little more stylish since late 2013 when they reopened their channel and launched their lifestyle blog. In biweekly videos, the sisters talk about fashion, life, and their weekly adventures in their ongoing series “MandevWeekly.” Beetlejuice-inspired blazers, overalls, whimsical throw pillows, Oxfords, Polaroid pictures: Their blog is like falling down the rabbit hole of a real-life Urban Outfitters catalog. But instead of leaving you envious with their perfectly choreographed “I just threw this on” outfits, they leave you inspired to pursue your best self.

    Their videos are pure entertainment, as their sibling affection and bickering easily dissolves the fourth wall between themselves and their 53,000 subscribers. But what I find most inspiring about Amelia and Grace is the pair's passion for nurturing confidence in their viewers. Born with one hand, Grace has made it her mission to shatter people’s preconceived notions of how individuals can live with physical disabilities. In 2015, Grace modelled for Dazed magazine, starred in the third season of The Sparticle Mystery, announced she was writing a book, and took viewers along on auditions in London. She’s a fashion icon, obsessed with perfecting her “Downton Abbey meets Blair Waldorf” style, and often creates cheeky videos addressing questions about her one-armed life. She’s helping redefine the relationship between Hollywood and physical disabilities by example as she shows her disability might be a part of her identity but it is not her whole self. And through it all, Amelia is never far from her side, speaking frequently about the journey to finding confidence in one's own body.

    Grace, Amelia, thank you for taking us along on your many adventures, and should you ever have a yard sale, please send an invite to NYC. Nothing—and I mean nothing—would keep me from crossing the pond to seek your cozy sweater and overall advice.

    Screengrab via Mandeville Sisters/YouTube


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    Need some inspiration for your New Year’s Eve playlist? DJ Earworm’s got your back.

    He mashed up the 50 biggest hits of 2015 using Billboard’s weekly Hot 100 charts as his guide, and the resulting five-minute song is like pop culture Sparknotes.

    Earworm, an Illinois-born DJ whose real name is Jordan Roseman, has been mashing up the biggest pop hits of the year for YouTube since 2007. Each video ends up getting millions of views and—in recent years—even radio play.

    This year’s is set up to be just as much of a success. It’s serving you all the Adele, Drake, and Fetty Wap you can handle. 

    H/T Vulture | Screengrab via DJ Earworm/YouTube


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