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- 12/28/15--10:17: _Spotify releases to...
- 12/28/15--13:06: _Verizon's mobile-on...
- 12/29/15--14:11: _Lilly Singh calls f...
- 12/30/15--05:56: _Snapchat returns or...
- 12/30/15--06:00: _2015: The year we c...
- 12/30/15--08:49: _Netflix wants to he...
- 12/30/15--10:17: _John Cena puckers u...
- 12/30/15--11:45: _How much would it a...
- 12/31/15--05:00: _4 fan-spun conspira...
- 12/31/15--06:30: _Meet VidMob, the Li...
- 12/31/15--10:43: _DJ trio mashes up y...
- 01/01/16--06:00: _9 underrated YouTub...
- 01/01/16--08:14: _Listen to Kanye Wes...
- 01/01/16--11:17: _The best new movies...
- 01/01/16--12:25: _The best new movies...
- 01/02/16--13:48: _7 new Netflix origi...
- 01/03/16--11:45: _Does 'Inside Out' h...
- 01/03/16--13:57: _Petition to free 'M...
- 01/04/16--01:00: _Anne Hathaway beats...
- 01/04/16--05:00: _Eating healthy in 2...
- 12/28/15--10:17: Spotify releases top-10 most streamed Beatles songs
- 12/30/15--06:00: 2015: The year we couldn’t take a joke
- 12/30/15--08:49: Netflix wants to help trick your kids on New Year's Eve
- 12/30/15--10:17: John Cena puckers up in '7 Minutes in Heaven'
- 12/31/15--05:00: 4 fan-spun conspiracy theories about 'Making a Murderer'
- 12/31/15--06:30: Meet VidMob, the LinkedIn for video talent
- 01/01/16--06:00: 9 underrated YouTube channels to watch in 2016
- 01/01/16--08:14: Listen to Kanye West's fiery new song 'Facts'
Yeezus gives a shout-out to their best-selling Kimoji app “that just shut down the App Store”
West references Drake twice: “Yeezy Yeezy Yeezy just jumped over ‘Jumpman,’” he opens, name-checking the Drake and Future track from their collaborative mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive—fitting, given that West nabbed that song’s producer, Metro Boomin, for “Facts.”
There are about a dozen potshots at Nike, from whom he had a less-than-amicable split after the release of his third shoe, the Red Octobers.
He even tackles Facebook’s Trending Topics: “I’ve been trending years, y’all a couple days.”
Did I mention he released it on SoundCloud?
- 01/01/16--11:17: The best new movies and shows on Netflix
- 01/01/16--12:25: The best new movies and shows on Amazon and Hulu this month
- 01/02/16--13:48: 7 new Netflix original series to look forward to in 2016
- 01/04/16--05:00: Eating healthy in 2016 starts on YouTube
The dreams for many of the world's music fans came true last week when the Beatles finally allowed their catalog to be placed on streaming services, meaning most everybody with an Internet connection could lose themselves in the magical, mystery world of the Fab Four whenever they wanted.
Now Spotify has let us know exactly what we wanted to hear, releasing the top-10 most globally-streamed Beatles songs since they were all released Dec. 24 for mass consumption on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Rhapsody, Slacker, Microsoft’s Groove, and Deezer.
The top pick was a little surprising to me—I would have guessed either No. 3 or No. 9 would have been No. 1—but overall, the list, via the Independent, is probably similar to what most of us would have guessed.
1. Come Together
2. Let It Be
3. Hey Jude
4. Love Me Do
6.Here Comes The Sun
8. All You Need Is Love
9. I Want To Hold Your Hand
10. Twist And Shout
Not surprisingly, none of those songs made our Spotify playlist of the 20 worst Beatles songs, and maybe a little surprisingly, none of the tunes came from the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band album—which, as we discovered recently, is even better than we remembered it.
Most of the top picks were from the Beatles poppy earlier years or on the late-era Abbey Road album, and the Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper's albums aren't represented at all.
But in news that will warm the heart of any Beatles fan who worries about the band's continued impact in the future, the Independent writes, "Spotify has also revealed that 65 percent of those listening to The Beatles were under the age of 34... So, that can officially shut down any arguments over the band facing any kind of irrelevance in the face of modern pop."
Here are the top-10 songs in the U.S., via Rolling Stone.
1. Come Together
2. Hey Jude
3. Here Comes The Sun
4. Let It Be
5. Twist And Shout
7. I Want To Hold Your Hand
8. In My Life
9. She Loves You
On the U.K. list, "Come Together" also is No. 1, meaning that all around the world, people continue to be extremely interested in hearing John Lennon's take on Timothy Leary.
Photo via Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
BlackBoxTV is using YouTube to help get eyes on a series that lives on go90, Verizon's mobile-only streaming service.
While you can already watch The Fourth Door on go90, the horror channel just released a new trailer in support of the show, one of the six original series New Form Digital is releasing on go90 this year. It follows Lain, played by High School Musical’s Monique Coleman, and her quest to save her lover from Limbo. YouTuber Joey Graceffa plays the king of Limbo, bent on destroying the duo.The new trailer is a chance for fans of Graceffa and Coleman to access the series, and hopefully will bring new eyeballs to go90. Fans can also interact with series creator Tony Valenzuela during a 24-hour livestream event starting at noon PT on Dec. 30 via the BlackBoxTV channel.
YouTuber Lilly Singh may have 7.4 million subscribers, but she knows the vast majority—6 million—are women, and is challenging them to end girl-on-girl hate with a new video.
"Together we can show the world how lame girl-on-girl hate is, and how awesome it is to support one another and build women up," said Singh in her latest clip.
Singh called on her fellow female YouTube influencers like Grace Helbig, MirandaSings, Hannah Hart, and Kandee Johnson to be part of her video to encourage the #GirlLove Challenge. They're encouraging women to post a compliment to another woman on social media with the hashtag #GirlLove to spread the message, and to share the original video. Singh pledged the money her video raises from advertising revenue to the Malala Fund to support educating girls worldwide.
"Girl-on-girl hate sucks, so let's stop it," Singh concluded. It already has more than half a million views.
Screengrab via IISuperwomanII/YouTube
BY BREE BROUWER
In mid-2015, Snapchat started its own original content division and hired an exec to oversee all programming development. Only a few months later in October, the app, known for deleting messages after a short period of time, shuttered its content division and laid off all that branch’s staff members. Now, however, Snapchat is returning to original content creation, at least for the time being. The ephemeral messaging app (which pulls in 4 billion video views a day) has launched its own music-centric channel on Snapchat’s Discover platform.
Sponsored exclusively by Spotify, Snapchat’s channel has several new pieces of music-themed content created by an in-house team led by Nick Bell, according to one of AdAge’s sources. The original content first debuted on Dec. 26, 2015, and will run through the start of 2016, with each day focusing on a different genre of music, like hip-hop, electronic dance music (EDM), and R&B. Snapchat plans to publish original articles, artist interviews, videos of live performances, and more media summarizing the best moments in music from 2015.
A spokeswoman for Snapchat declined to clarify whether or not Snapchat will continue to make original content in the future. For now, the messaging app’s in-house team could simply be testing what original content will best resonate with the app’s users and how Snapchat can make a name for itself on its own Discover platform. If Snapchat manages to find success with original content (however that’s defined), the short-term messaging app company could displace one or more of the 18 other brands currently releasing content on Discover, including Vox and Mashable.
Photo via jeffreyw/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman
Could we take a joke this year? Did we even want to? Indeed, in 2015, telling a joke online often looked like this:It was a year of debate over what’s funny, what’s not, and who exactly holds sway—and power. Over the summer, Jerry Seinfeldtold ESPN’s Colin Cowherd how he’s had it up to here with the kids and their PC viewpoints, even going as far as to call out his own daughter for being too PC.
“They just want to use these words," he said. “That’s racist, that’s sexist. That’s prejudiced.” Other male comedians like Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, Artie Lange, and Dennis Miller echoed his lament about the encroaching specter of political correctness on comedy, a medium that has favored men for decades. Writing for the Guardian, Lindy West explained that while Seinfeld hasn’t exactly been inclusive in his comedic career, young people might not be the problem. Instead, this is a chance to shift tides:
“It’s so-called political correctness that gave me the courage and the vocabulary to demand better … from the community I love. Yes, this cultural evolution is bumpy, but what Seinfeld and some other comedians see as a threat, I see as doors being thrown open to more and more voices.”
A look back at some of the years highs and lows in the comedy scene suggests that’s true, at least in part: More diverse voices are making waves, but the Internet has scaled up its outrage to match.
In March, Trevor Noah’s old tweets put the Internet on the defensive, after it was revealed he once tweeted some unfortunate things about women and Jewish people. But he’s now settled comfortably into his role as the new host of The Daily Show, and people have mostly forgotten about it. On Hulu’s Difficult People, Julie Klausner’s character tweets a joke about Blue Ivy and R. Kelly that caused the offended to call for the show to be canceled—a broad stroke for a show that is literally about terrible people and a joke that was perhaps an unintentional meta-critique of the Internet’s habit of piling on.
Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was put under the microscope after Jane Krakowski’s character was revealed to have Native American parents, something she hid from people to appear more white and successful. In a recent interview, co-creator Tina Fey suggested this advice: “Steer clear of the Internet and you’ll live forever.”
“We did an Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode and the Internet was in a whirlwind, calling it ‘racist,’ but my new goal is not to explain jokes,” she said. “I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they need to speak for themselves. There’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and I’m opting out of that.”
Which leads us to YouTuber Nicole Arbour, whose “Dear Fat People” video showed the comedian calling out overweight people, but not really offering any insightful commentary about weight loss or body positivity that would elicit a laugh. She later presented it as “satire,” the go-to for people who often don’t know what that word means. In a rare instance where a comedian’s shitty joke saw real-life consequences, Arbour allegedlylost a movie role, but she continues to post videos with titles like “Most Offensive Video EVER.”
In an interview with Vice, author Kliph Nesteroff pointed out how comedians who court backlash often have so many more options in 2015:
“Nobody is being blacklisted in comedy. Show business is so atomized that even if you were blacklisted, say, from the major networks, there’s enough comedy fans who aren’t watching the major networks that you can still find your audience with your podcast or your YouTube channel or whatever. So even if somebody’s platform is being violated, they can easily find another platform and their audience will follow them.”
This season, South Park picked up the PC thread and created an entire recurring storyline around a new character, PC Principal, who is brought in to help with cyberbullying, microaggressions, and hate speech at South Park Elementary. But when he and his literal frat bros are presented with their own biases by a student, it’s a perfect mirror of the Internet. In one of the season’s best episodes, “Safe Space,” Butters is asked to monitor the social media accounts of the town’s residents (and some celebrities) so they only see the positive comments. This is a Sisyphean task, of course, and it nearly kills him.
When outrage is a click away, it can be a thrill to dive into the maw. But these moments of outrage are often short-lived. On the Internet, a mob can quickly form to intimidate someone into deleting a joke or apologizing for some perceived offense. But then we move on just as quickly, the outrage now just a dimly lit figure in our rearview.
These debates over political correctness and boundary-pushing in comedy have been happening for decades, of course, but now, the Internet is our mirror, reflecting a new generational divide. For younger comedians like Elliott Morgan, who just debuted his standup special Premature on Vimeo, platforms like YouTube (which Seinfeld once called a “giant garbage can”) have prepared him for PC conversations. Still, he doesn’t believe it makes things better. Writing for the Interrobang, he said:
“A constant, totalitarian approach to language causes more oversimplifications. Political correctness does not protect groups from socially ingrained stereotypes; it defines them by them. It locks those stereotypes away. It sweeps them under the rug and pretends they don’t exist. If you do that for long enough, you do not end up with a more inclusive world. You end up with an inauthentic one, where our beautiful differences are reduced to unspeakable taboos, and where Donald Trump and his hair are actual contenders for the White House.”
When Daily Dot contributor Cece Lederer taught a standup class at a college this summer, she saw firsthand how young people often had to work through ingrained ideas of political correctness to find humor in a story or joke:
“They were downright petrified of being offensive, especially when it came to talking about gender, sexuality, and dating. And I was surprised to find that a white male was most worried about potentially offending his audience.”
When outrage is a click away, it can be a thrill to dive into the maw.
In 2015, Amy Schumer drew perhaps the most high-profile backlash over jokes, after people zeroed in on a sentence in a mostly positive Guardian piece, in which the author lamented that Schumer has a “shockingly large blind spot around race.” It’s a fair criticism, one that should have opened up a more important conversation about power, race, and accountability. But, because the Internet loves to measure people, critics attempted to suss out if Schumer was feminist enough. Ironically, this paralleled an episode in season 3 of Inside Amy Schumer, in which 12 men judge whether she’s hot enough for TV: another mirror for the Internet.
In the wake of the backlash, people pointed out that there’s Amy Schumer the real person and there’s the “character” of Amy, who often is oblivious to the issue of race or bumbles through her privilege—a depiction many white people might be able to uncomfortably relate to. After the release of Trainwreck this summer, the Atlantic’s Megan Garber called it the rise of “ladyjerk” (much like Klausner’s Difficult People character): “The movie is, by way of its star and its plot, giving a woman permission to do something that many a movie-dude has done before, by default: be a jerk, and be loved anyway.” (This was also a year in which comedian and Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger was called out once again for harassing women online, though he only saw a fraction of the blowback that she did. Ironically, he’s listed as a writer on the “12 Angry Men” episode.)
Even Sarah Silverman, never one to tone down her jokes, has said that maybe it’s good to be politically correct and listen to what younger kids are saying, instead of dismissing them. Comedy, in its essence, elicits a physical or emotional response. Maybe it’s a laugh, maybe it’s a heavy sigh, but it’s a reaction. A good joke, especially one about a taboo subject, offers a bigger truth or insight. But comedians have to try them out to know whether to discard or move forward with it: This urge to embrace inclusivity and more voices is weeding out the old men yelling at clouds. Comedians (like Seinfeld) must evolve with their audience or die.
Illustration by J. Longo
Every year, parents of young kids run into the same issue on New Year's Eve: The idea of staying up until midnight becomes exciting, but the reality means everyone's tired and cranky the next day.
Netflix is offering a solution. Whenever your family is ready to count down to 2016, the kids can choose their own countdown hosted by characters from shows like Care Bears & Cousins, Inspector Gadget, and All Hail King Julien. Then just tell them it's midnight. They're kids. They won't know.
All you have to do is search "New Year's Eve" in the search bar to peruse the options, and you're free to count down to 2016 literally whenever.Happy new year. H/T Huffington Post | Screengrab via Netflix/YouTube
After a three-year hiatus, Mike O’Brien's 7 Minutes in Heaven returns to YouTube with a John Cena lip-lock.
Above Average last produced the series in 2011, but it’s promising new awkward celebrity interviews in the new year. The series starts off as an interview between O’Brien and a celebrity in an intimate closet space, and ends with him going in for the requisite kiss of the teenage party game. After a chat about Cena’s past as a limo driver, the scents of his wrestling opponents, and his role in Sisters, he’s relatively amenable to O’Brien’s kiss.
“I think that probably is going to get me in so much trouble with my gal, but it was what you felt you needed to do,” he deadpans, before going in for his own “European” two-cheek kiss plus face slap.O’Brien’s next guest will be Will Ferrell, but if you can’t wait for more 7 Minutes in Heaven, you can always revisit their back catalog of guests including Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, and Jeff Goldblum.
If there's one thing we've learned from Matt Damon movies, it's don't agree to go on a mission with him. Dude loves to get stranded.
In fact, his characters get stranded so often that Quora user Kynan Eng decided to tally up how much money it would cost to save all of them from their various predicaments.
First, he listed the budgets for the films where Damon's character finds himself in need of a rescue:
Courage under Fire: $46m
Saving Private Ryan: $70m
Titan AE: $75m
Green Zone: $100m
The Martian: $108m
Then, he paired those with the cost of each rescue mission:
Courage Under Fire (Gulf War 1 helicopter rescue): $300k
Saving Private Ryan (WW2 Europe search party): $100k
Titan AE (Earth evacuation spaceship): $200B
Syriana (Middle East private security return flight): $50k
Green Zone (US Army transport from Middle East): $50k
Elysium (Space station security deployment and damages): $100m
Interstellar (Interstellar spaceship): $500B
The Martian (Mars mission): $200B
TOTAL: $900B plus change
That's a $900 billion tab on a $729 million budget. In other words: "making the Matt Damon movies has cost about 0.1% of the 'real' cost to actually send him on all of these business trips."
Maybe he should stick to Earth for the time being.
Just like Serial and The Jinx did before it, Netflix’s new true crime docuseries Making a Murderer has gone viral because people are determined to crack the case. The show chronicles the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who—after being wrongfully jailed 18 years for a sexual assault he didn’t commit—gets exonerated and released, only to be charged with the brutal murder of Teresa Halbach two years later by the same police force.
The series does a great job of tracking the trials and building a case for Avery’s innocence, but it avoids pointing any fingers at a potential alternative suspect. That’s where the fans come in.
All the fan theories are being hashed out on the subreddit r/MakingAMurderer, where people are breaking down the information available and making guesses as to what could have actually happened.
As of now, there are four major schools of thought, but it’s important to keep in mind that all of them are super speculative.
1) Teresa Halbach’s ex, Ryan Hillegas, had something to do with it.
Even though they weren’t dating at the time of her disappearance, Hillegas was the one who was able to guess Halbach’s cellphone password and listen to her voicemails. Redditors posit not only that Hillegas could have theoretically deleted voicemails from her account (explaining why her mailbox mysteriously goes from full to not-full), but also that he could have guessed the password long before she went missing and been monitoring her voicemails. While far more speculative, that would mean that he could have ostensibly heard a voicemail from Avery and known she’d be at Avery’s property on the day she disappeared.
Redditors also think the visible marks on Hillegas’ hand from the search party footage are a little suspect, and that, at the bare minimum, he might have helped the police plant the car key in Avery’s house.
2) A suspicious man from a neighboring town could have done it.
Blogger Brian McKorkle has been following the case since 2006, and he’s pieced together a theory from local news reports: The week the crime was likely committed, a woman from nearby Maribel, Wisconsin, called the police saying her husband was acting very suspiciously. She’d come home one night to find a hallway closet open with women’s jeans, a top, and a pillowcase with red stains inside. When she asked the deputy if it might be related to the Halbach case, the deputy told her the Halbach clothing had already been recovered.
3) Avery’s nephew Bobby Dassey and brother-in-law Scott Tadych did it.
This theory is very popular and has a lot of components, but simply put: These guys were each other’s alibis, and a lot of the testimony they give in the trial directly contradicts both other witness testimony and their own testimony from earlier in the investigation. Key factors like the height of the flames at Avery’s bonfire, when Walbach was seen taking photos, and Avery joking about “getting rid of a body” were all corroborated by these two. In the words of redditor Betterwithcheddar: “They knew Steve would be the suspect. They were tired of Steve’s impact on their family.”
4) The Halbach murder was used as an excuse to seize the Avery property.
This one’s a deep, deep dive, but at one point in the documentary, a man named Doug Hagg is referred to as the district attorney’s mentor. Redditor BathRobeJesus looked him up, and it turns out he’s the head of a Wisconsin real estate transfers and registry office. Since one of the main hiccups in the “The police framed them!” theory is, “But why would the police care?” BathRobeJesus posits that maybe the case was a last-ditch effort to get the Averys to sell their land (to pay for the defense), since it runs right along the town’s “gravel pit.”
While Reddit will probably never reach a consensus on the best theory, look for Making a Murderer defense attorneys Dean Strang and Jerry Buting to dominate the news as the Internet seizes on this new mystery.H/T Tech Insider | Screengrab via Netflix/YouTube
Premium: a word that is thrown around in the video space, and one attributed to the content that streams on more “serious” platforms like AOL, Amazon, Hulu, even Vessel. It’s a word that open platforms like Vimeo and YouTube have strived to achieve as they commission work from the more production and narrative-focused creators. And up until recently, many creators simply had to ride the ad-supported or direct-to-fan pathway towards revenue, scrape together funds for better equipment and talented editing teams, or hope for time at one of YouTube’s various big-budget studios. On the heels of successful companies like Lyft and AirBnb, the sharing economy is thriving right now. In 2016, two companies are tapping that trend and looking to provide ways for video creators to pro-up their works.
Meet VidMob and Kitsplit—two very different businesses but each aimed at solving for one big problem in the video industry: the accessibility to resources that elevate production quality, whether physical equipment or the people themselves.
VidMob is a self-proclaimed LinkedIn for the video industry—a place to connect with the above the line talent essential for completing a project with the highest quality polish. We caught up with Alex Collmer, to learn more about how VidMob is going to accelerate premium video production in 2016! (Learn more on KitSplit here.)
VideoInk: So let’s start at the top and tell me what you guys are doing, and how you fit into the ecosystem.
Alex Collmer: Sure, sure, so what Vidmob is, is an app that connects people and business that have raw assets on their iphone devices or in their clouds with professional editors to turn that raw content into professional [works]. So what we realized is there are 3 billion smartphone users, all shooting video, and there is 14 million GoPro users who are all shooting video, and no one knows how to do anything with the videos that they have.
VI: So you help create professional connections for the creative community to help facilitate better quality content?
AC: That is right. Our driving mission was ‘Let’s make it as easy as it is to get an Uber driver, for people with raw media to get it edited”. I started thinking of this, when I started thinking of building the business. I have got a lot of video clips of my kids, trips that we go on, and stuff I am doing with friends, and individually it wasn’t that interesting. And it would be great if I could go in and tap on ten clips from a trip and share that with my friends, and they could tap on their tips and we could get it edited for $75 bucks, so I started building the business. With a little bit of love, you can create things that are actually really cool and people really like.
Read the full interview on the Video Ink.
Photo via woodleywonderworks/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman
Los Angeles remix trio Captain Cuts struck paydirt this week with its zany reconsideration of early 2000s emo. The scavenger hunt of glossy, expensive pop rock hits from bands like Dashboard Confessional and Fall Out Boy is here mashed up with modern top 40 from the likes of Drake and Adele.
Many of these bygone bands are nothing but chat logs—reminders you were once a naively earnest AOL emoticon of an embryo. But it turns out that Captain Cuts’ resulting SoundCloud suite, If You’re Listening It’s Never Too Late, is a richly compelling thought experiment.
Would you ever want to publicly stream this 30-minute mix? Of course not. But think about how you listened to Jimmy Eat World, and you’ll immediately give in to the project: in front of the family desktop, headphones on, exploring a more rigid and slow Internet.
Moments like Jimmy Eat World’s “Sweetness” floated over Gotye, or Saran-wrapping Sum 41’s “Fat Lip” over “Uptown Funk,” show how truly engineered for shameless pop these hidden-under-guitar hits were. And all of your embarrassing favorites are here: Head Automatica’s “Beating Heart Baby,” multiple Blink-182 pop-ins, the opening guitar strums from Taking Back Sunday’s soaring and swooshing “Cute Without the ‘e’” tingeing Adele’s “Hello.”
Turns out DJ Snake and AlunaGeorge’s “You Know You Like It” serves as a learned backdrop for “Hands Down” because the world is an unbearably high-calorie, sugary place. Bon appetit.H/T Slate | Photo via Roberto Taddeo/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
As YouTube stars have edged into the mainstream with big brand deals, movies, books, and billboards, the platform has become a smaller and smaller feedback loop of bigger and bigger stars. Those creators with half a million or more subscribers represent the idea of what YouTube success looks like in this new era of entertainment. But what about the new kids to the game or the channels that just began to hit their stride in 2015?
With YouTube’s seemingly endless supply of potential talent and channels to choose from, the platform’s emerging talent can often be overlooked in favor of those who’ve already achieved big subscriber counts. But those smaller-scale operations have their own active fanbases and produce content on par with their big name counterparts. To give some attention to these under-the-radar creators, we selected nine YouTube channels that are poised to make an even greater impact in 2016, from vloggers to musicians to sketch comedians who just might be the next big-name YouTuber of tomorrow.
116,024 subscribersBen J. Pierce might have the URL KidPOV on YouTube, but this 16-year-old is cornering the teen market. In 2014 he took on gender stereotypes with his “Little Game” music video, and he has continued to climb the YouTube ranks since. While many other YouTubers are stuck behind structured signing tables at a venue like VidCon, Pierce can still hold in-person meetups triggered by his own social media. One we witnessed this summer included impromptu midnight dance-offs., teaming up with the likes of Tyler Oakley, Between giving makeup tutorials on how to be an egg and sharing his child star game show past, Pierce has been collaborating his way to more exposure by teaming up with the likes of Tyler Oakley.
2) Jackson Bird
19,001 subscribersJackson Bird was already a fixture of the nerdy YouTube scene when he caught massive attention this year for his transgender coming-out video. He’s worked with the Harry Potter Alliance in its quest to turn fandom into activism, and he has been running his series “Will It Waffle” with guests like John Green. Adding in a mix of transgender issues was the perfect formula to catch the eye of Eddie Redmayne, who has been shouting out Bird in interviews for helping him prepare for both The Danish Girl and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Thanks to that, Bird (who, full disclosure, was once my intern) might be one of the YouTubers with the biggest mainstream influence right now, if you know where to look.
63,373 subscribersFoxy Hot Mess, aka Jade, describes herself as a “urban comic with a slick tongue and even slicker bangs.” Her style is a mix of comedy and rant videos, and she’s taken on everything from Beyoncé’s imaginary audition for FOX’s Empire to the realities of being a Little YouTuber to meeting your YouTube crush IRL. Unlike much of the Los Angeles–clustered YouTube world, Jade resides in Virginia, and she keeps fans up to date with her daily life with a vlog series on her second channel.
4) Ami Yamato
35,648 subscribersYou might notice something strange right away about Ami Yamato, a U.K.-based vlogger: She’s animated. However, Yamato approaches her channel (described as “videos that confuse people”) just like any flesh-and-blood vlogger would, and she doesn’t seem to think of herself as a virtual being at all. When people hoping to to learn about the animation software behind Yamato ask “how do you make your videos” in the comments, she responds with videos that explain what kind of webcam she uses. She even recently posted her own videos of trying to learn how to animate cartoons. It’s fascinating, and definitely the kind of genre-bending experimentation perfectly suited to YouTube. Can the next top vlogger be virtual? Yamato is here to find out.
106,460 subscribersNetting caught YouTube attention a few years ago with a Harry Potter and Book of Mormonmashup video—no surprise, since Netting has Broadway chops as an original cast member of Billy Elliot. She’s now acting in Los Angeles, with a recurring role on Disney’s Bunk’d, and entertains her legion of Starfish on various social media channels with her mix of music, geekdom, and general vlogging. She’s even an Etsy crafter, digging deep into her fandom roots for a line of bows suited for every form of fangirl.
23,036 subscribersLateef would really like you to know that no, he’s not Kingsley. Just because he’s a black YouTuber who rants and does comedy on his channel doesn’t mean he’s the same as one of YouTube’s most established acts. Lateef is a huge anime fan who lives in Florida and has been making videos for the past two years on his channel, adding in some lifestyle vlogging with men’s fashion and get-ready-with-me videos. He’s collabed with Miles Jai and weighed in on the scandals of 2015, and he’s just getting started.
12,880 subscribersSketch comedy is an ever-growing segment of YouTube, but finding a group that can be both consistent and funny, instead of just a single-joke flash in the pan, is a challenge. Enter the Tin Can Brothers, who make modern comedy with a fair amount of fake moustaches. Joey Richter, Brian Rosenthal, and Corey Lubowich, the trio behind TCB, have their roots in another YouTube phenomenon, Team Starkid, whose Harry Potter parody musicals went viral starting in 2009. The L.A.–based group has been uploading weekly sketches since 2014, mostly recently a series that parodies the trials and tribulations of vlogger boyfriends on the verge of a breakup. (Full disclosure: I had a guest role in one of their videos this year, and I’ve known the trio since I started covering YouTube and StarKid in particular in 2011.) Their major project for 2016 is an offline one—a spy-themed musical running in Los Angeles that they funded through Kickstarter—but they’ll be keeping fans updated with sketches, podcasts, and other digital treats along the way.
13,538 subscribersMusic and nerd culture have a solid home on YouTube, and the Doubleclicks exist at the intersection of the two. The sisters from Portland, Oregon, combine their musical talent to produce geeky videos about Doctor Who, dinosaurs, and even Jane Austen. When they aren’t making cello music for the Web, they’re on tour bringing their unique sound to loyal fans in the flesh. If you can’t catch them in person, you can still follow along with tour vlogs and Web-based performances.
9) Jordan Doww
51,602 subscribersJordan Doww was already building a successful presence on Vine when he decided to transition his strong following to YouTube, and it’s paid off. The 20-year-old moved from Detroit to Los Angeles for a Disney internship and has stuck around to break into the entertainment scene in 2015. His biggest hit this year was a coming-out video, a phenomenon that also elevated in saturation level with several big name YouTubers coming out after having established millions of followers. The difference with Doww is he’s starting his channel with his authentic self, and building from there. Doww has attended conferences and spoken on panels about challenges as a smaller-scale YouTuber, and he will kick off 2016 with his first sketch and improv show in Los Angeles.
Screengrabs via YouTube | Remix by Max Fleishman
Just before the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, Kanye West sneaked in one last attention-grabbing stunt into 2015.
The fiery diss track opens with a sample of Father’s Children’s “Dirt and Grime” but ultimately comes off like a desperate ploy for social media relevance. To wit:
Are we inching closer to the release of West’s next record, tentatively titled Swish? Given what we’ve heard lately, I hope not.
H/T The Daily Beast | Illustration by Max Fleishman
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.
1) Constantine (Jan. 1)
Vertigo Comics’ hit supernatural comic series Hellblazer became a surprisingly good but unsurprisingly short-lived NBC TV series this past year, but chain-smoking occultist John Constantine made the leap to the big screen a decade ago—even though he lost his accent along the way. Keanu Reeves stars in this 2005 outing directed by Francis Lawrence (the Hunger Games franchise), which sees Constantine caught between the machinations of heaven and hell, with his own soul on the line. The show was certainly a better adaptation of the comic than this film, but the movie has its charms, including Tilda Swinton as an androgynous angel Gabriel and Peter Stormare as a particularly slimy incarnation of Lucifer. It’s not enough to forgive an Americanized Constantine, but hey, Keanu did what he could with it.
2) How to Change the World(Jan. 1)
Director Jerry Rothwell (Deep Water) helmed this documentary look at the origins of the environmental activist organization Greenpeace. It all started in 1971 with a single fishing boat and a group of true believers determined to stop Richard Nixon’s atomic testing in Amchitka, Alaska. The film focuses particularly on Robert Hunter, whose long career includes stints in journalism and politics as well as eco-activism, and how he co-founded the often-controversial Greenpeace along with several others. How to Change the World won both the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing and the Candescent Award after its premiere at Sundance 2015. It’s currently rated 95 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
3) Intolerable Cruelty (Jan. 1)
Netflix is adding two Coen Brothers flicks this month, and while neither is anywhere near the best of the brothers’ works, they’ve still got their moments. In Intolerable Cruelty, George Clooney stars as hotshot divorce attorney Miles Massey, a guy so good at his job that they named an ironclad pre-nup after him. He winds up on the bad side of the beautiful Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) after helping her philandering husband kick her to the curb and leave her nothing. She soon begins to hatch a long con to win Miles’ affections, the better to eventually nab his fortune. This is a Coen Brothers movie, however, so of course things soon get very complicated and very silly. Even though Intolerable Cruelty isn’t considered in the Coens’ top tier, it’s still rated a respectable 75 percent Fresh on RT.
4) Meet the Parents(Jan. 1)
In Meet the Parents (and its inferior sequel, Meet the Fockers) Robert De Niro leverages his tough-guy image to play the intimidating father-in-law every guy dreads of meeting. The man in his crosshairs (and outside his circle of trust) is Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), a well-meaning male nurse who tries and fails at every opportunity to impress De Niro’s Jack Byrnes, a gruff former CIA man who’s convinced Greg isn’t good enough for his daughter (Teri Polo). Greg tries everything he can to prove that he’s worthy and win the affections of his fiancée’s family, but whether it’s clumsily toppling a funeral urn or accidentally burning down a gazebo, the poor Focker just can’t catch a break. Meet the Parents is 84 perfecnt Fresh on RT, proving that they should have stopped while they were ahead. Meet the Fockers—which is also arriving on Netflix Instant and which introduced Greg’s parents in the form of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand—rates only a 38 percent. (The less said about 2010’s Little Fockers, the better.)
5) Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me (Jan. 1)
Brilliant British comedian, author, and actor Stephen Fry (Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie) recorded this stage performance as part of a 2014 book tour to promote the third volume of his autobiography, titled—you guessed it—More Fool Me. Both the book and this one-man show focus on Fry’s recollections of the tail end of the ’80s and early ’90s, when his career was already well established and the darker side of fame began to intrude, with glamorous parties and celebrity friends sending Fry down the path to excess and addiction. Thankfully, Fry made it out intact, so now he can look back on it all through the lens of his own cutting wit and a few decades’ hindsight, mixing readings from his diaries from that period with his latter-day insights.
5) We Need to Talk About Kevin(Jan. 1)
I always like to think this is a Home Alone sequel focused on a deeply troubled adult Kevin McCallister, but Macaulay Culkin already kind of made that. But no, it’s actually an acclaimed psychological thriller based on the 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver. Tilda Swinton stars as Eva Khatchadourian, a parent living out a nightmare after her troubled son committed a school massacre. The story unfolds as she remembers her son Kevin’s earlier life, and the various warning signs that the boy was not well. John C. Reilly stars as her husband, Frank, who repeatedly dismisses and downplays her concerns about Kevin (Ezra Miller). The film received critical praise, especially for Swinton’s performance, including from the late Roger Ebert, who gave it four stars and called it “a masterful film.”
6) Training Day (Jan. 4)
Denzel Washington brilliantly played against type in this 2001 crime thriller from director Antoine Fuqua, and his performance earned him an Academy Award for his role as dirty cop Alonzo Harris. Ethan Hawke was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jake Hoyt, a rookie LAPD narcotics officer spending the day training under the legendary and decorated Detective Harris. Hoyt is shaken as he learns how morally gray Harris’ world is, and how many compromises he’s made to navigate the dangerous world that is his day-to-day. Soon, however, the depths of Harris’ corruption become clear, and Harris begins to suspect Hoyt might be a liability he can’t abide.
7) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 10 (Jan. 5)
It’s hard to believe the crew from Paddy’s Pub have been sharing amoral adventures together for a solid decade at this point, but there you have it. Mac, Dee, Dennis, Charlie, and Frank’s 10th year finds them group dating, appearing on a gameshow, attempting to clear Mac’s dad of murder charges, and trying to beat Wade Boggs’ record for the most beers consumed on a cross-country flight. The 11th season of Sunny is scheduled to premiere Jan. 6 on FXX.
8) New Girl: Season 4 (Jan. 5)
On the slightly more twee/less deplorable end of sitcom, we have the Zooey Deschanel Fox sitcom New Girl, which drops its fourth season onto Netflix Instant this month. This outing sees Jess pining for a charming British teacher, Schmidt pursuing a councilwoman, and Cece still struggling with her maddening feelings for Schmidt. You even get to learn Jess’ middle name, which is apparently a whole big deal. The fifth season of New Girl premieres on Fox the same day this season hits Netflix, so you can catch up quickly with some judicious binge-watching and DVRing. (Fun fact: New Girl was developed under the working title of Chicks & Dicks, which they totally should have stuck with.)
9) The Ladykillers (Jan. 12)
The second of the lesser Coen Bros. flicks to hit Netflix Instant this month, The Ladykillers is actually a remake of a 1955 British film starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. Ladykillers was the Coens’ immediate follow-up to their previous flick on this list, Intolerable Cruelty, and features Tom Hanks doing his best Col. Sanders impression as Professor Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, an alleged linguist who’s actually a would-be criminal mastermind. He and his gang—including Marlon Wayans and J.K. Simmons—pose as a band of musicians and rent out the root cellar of an elderly widow for their “rehearsals,” as cover for their scheme to tunnel into the underground vault of a nearby riverboat casino.
10) Parks & Recreation: Season 7 (Jan. 13)
NBC’s hit sitcom starring Amy Poehler wrapped up its run with its seventh season last February, so as of Jan. 13, you’ll be able to binge your way through the entire series. The final year of the Emmy-winning show unfolds in 2017, with Leslie Knope (Poehler) working as Midwest Regional Parks Director and Ron Swanson having left the Parks department to start a construction company. As the season progresses, Leslie and Ron butt heads over her efforts to found a national park in Pawnee, and the emotional series finale flashes forward even further to show what happens to all the characters we came to know and love.
11) Degrassi: Next Class - Season 1 (Jan. 15)
The Canadian teen drama Degrassi has been unfolding in one form or another for over 35 years, beginning as a series of afterschool specials on CBC Television and spawning multiple spin-off shows over the years, including this latest installment. Degrassi: Next Class will feature ties to the previous incarnations but is aimed at being a standalone “soft reboot” of the show, which is easy to do when you’re telling stories about a high school, which has new crops of kids arriving every year. As with earlier versions of Degrassi, Next Class will tell stories that address issues and problems faced by modern teens, from cyberbullying to sexuality to drug use. All 10 episodes of Next Class’ first season will be available for streaming on Jan. 15.
12) The Overnight (Jan. 15)
Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are new arrivals to Los Angeles, trying to find their place in a new city and new home. During a family outing to the park with their son, they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godreche), a free-spirited hipster couple who invite everyone back to their house for a playdate with their own kid. As the grown-ups bond and the kids eventually go to sleep, it becomes clear that Kurt and Charlotte may have an entirely different kind of playdate in mind. The Overnight is certified 81 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising the talents of both the cast and of writer/director Patrick Brice.
13) Chelsea Does (Jan. 23)
Former E! host Chelsea Handler stars in this new four-part docu-series that will explore a different subject that Handler is interested in each episode: drugs, racism, marriage, and Silicon Valley. Each installment with Handler discussing the topic with a psychologist, then delving into the subject in a broader way. It’s definitely a departure from Handler’s typical image and material, so it’ll be interesting to see her showing viewers, in her own words, her “serious side.” It’s also not the last we’ll be seeing of Handler on Netflix: She has a talk show debuting on the streaming network later in 2016.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.
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 Zathura“Jumanji 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:
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.
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.
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.
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
We here at the Daily Dot love our streaming TV and movies, but we also know how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the massive lists of comings and goings on streaming platforms each month. Here’s our curated take of what’s new on Amazon and Hulu this month.
Check our for Netflix list for more streaming picks.
1) Fear the Walking Dead (Hulu, Jan. 26)
There are no doubt quite a few cord-cutters out there who’ve been eagerly waiting for the chance to see the much-hyped Walking Dead spinoff/prequel series Fear the Walking Dead, and now your chance is finally on the horizon. Love or hate its parent series, there’s no question that Fear the Walking Dead had big shoes to fill, and even the mixed reviews that accompanied its run this past summer likely won’t be enough to keep curious Dead fans from wanting to judge for themselves—me included, since I haven’t watched it yet. Fear the Walking Dead is set during the earliest days of the undead outbreak that brings down civilization, following a Los Angeles family as the world begins to crumble around them. And at a brief six episodes long, the first season will make for easy bite-sized bingeing.
2) Scrooged (Hulu, Jan. 1)
Talk about bad timing. It would have made a lot more sense to have Scrooged available for streaming before the holidays were over, but such are the vagaries of entertainment contracts. Still, there’s no bad time to watch or rewatch Bill Murray’s darkly hilarious spin on Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Directed by Richard Donner, Scrooged stars Murray as Frank Cross, a humbug-y TV exec staging a ridiculous live production of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, even though that means forcing his staff to work through the holiday. Just like Scrooge before him, Frank is due for a lesson in the holiday spirit, courtesy of three holiday spirits.
3) 1408 (Amazon Prime, Jan. 5)
Based on one of my favorite Stephen King short stories, 1408 stars John Cusack as Mike Enslin, a writer who’s built a career investigating haunted houses despite being a dyed-in-the-wool nonbeliever. An anonymous postcard tips him off about New York’s Dolphin Hotel, and one particular room—1408—which is supposedly a hotbed of paranormal activity. Enslin is determined to spend the night in the room, ignoring the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson). After Enslin sets up camp in 1408, he soon learns that his lifelong search for proof of the supernatural is about to reach a terrifying conclusion.
4) Bone Tomahawk (Amazon Prime, Jan. 1)
This horror/Western from writer/director S. Craig Zahler is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Kurt Russell stars as Sheriff Franklin Hunt, who leads a mission to rescue several kidnapped locals from a band of cannibalistic cave-dwellers dubbed “Troglodytes.” In spite of warnings from a Native American familiar with the savage group, Hunt assembles a posse to head into the hills in search of the missing settlers. Unfortunately, they find the Troglodytes, and they prove to be even more brutal than expected, setting up one of the goriest and most disturbing death scenes of 2015. Bone Tomahawk definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of both the the horror and Western genres, it will ensure you never want to venture into a cave again in your life.
5) Goodnight Mommy (Amazon Prime, Jan. 9)
Speaking of scary, this disturbing German horror flick was selected as one of the top five foreign language films of 2015 by the National Board of Review. Goodnight Mommy has a mother (Susanne Wuest) returning home to her twin sons after facial reconstruction surgery, her face draped in bandages. The twins soon become convinced that the woman beneath the bandages is not their mother, but rather some other impostor, and they set out to force her to confess the truth...whatever it takes. Playing on dueling universal fears of something being wrong with your parents or your children, Goodnight Mommy is an unsettling, slow-burn descent into terror, full of surprising twists and with nary a punch pulled.
6) Billions: Season 1 (Amazon Prime with Showtime, Jan. 17)
“What’s the point of having fuck-you money if you never say fuck you?” This new Showtime series stars Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti as a powerful hedge fund king and the determined U.S. Attorney on a collision course with him, respectively. Exploring the world of high finance—and the abuses therein—Billions was created by Ocean’s 13 co-writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien, along with journalist/Too Big to Fail author Andrew Ross Sorkin. Lewis was one of the best parts of Showtime’s Homeland even when it went off the rails, and Giamatti is always a hoot even when he’s in subpar material. Thankfully, Billions looks to offer meaty roles to both of them—and the chance to see the two of them going head-to-head and trying to outsmart each other. Even if you aren’t springing for the Amazon/Showtime package, you’ll be able to watch the premiere episode of Billions Jan. 1 on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Hulu, Roku, and others.
7) Baskets: Season 1 (Amazon Prime, Jan. 22)
This new FX series will be premiering Jan. 21 and then hitting Amazon Prime the following day, with future episodes set to follow that same one-day delay pattern. Created by Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis, and Jonathan Krisel, Baskets stars Galifianakis as Chip Baskets, a man chasing his dream of becoming a professional clown (apparently there’s more to it than just buying a squeaky nose and some oversized shoes). Unfortunately, that dream took a hit after Chip failed to gain admission to a prestigious French clown school (apparently there are prestigious French clown schools), so now he’s working in the somewhat less prestigious role of “rodeo clown” in Bakersfield, California.
8) Mad Dogs: Season 1 (Amazon Prime, Jan. 22)
Mad Dogs was one of my favorite Amazon pilots I’ve seen, so I’m thrilled the black comedy is dropping its first full season this month. Adapting a 2011 U.K. series of the same name, Mad Dogs follows a group of 40-something friends reuniting at their rich buddy’s posh Belize villa, only to see things take a bloody turn after a series of bad decisions leaves one of them dead and the rest under the thumb of some very bad people. Cris Cole, who created the British original, helped adapt it for Amazon alongside TV vet Shawn Ryan, whose résumé includes The Shield, The Unit, and a pair of my underrated favorites: the short-lived Terriers and Last Resort. The cast is great across the board, including Billy Zane, Ben Chaplin, Michael Imperioli, Steve Zahn, and Romany Malco. The pilot was funny, shocking, and thoroughly addictive, so bring on the rest!
9) Black Sails: Season 3 (Amazon Prime with Starz, Jan. 23)
One of the perks of the Showtime and Starz Amazon subscriptions is that, unlike Amazon’s deal with HBO, they’ll get you access to new episodes as they premiere on their home networks. So that means you won’t have to wait for new episodes of Starz’s pirate drama Black Sails when it returns for its third season on Jan. 23, even if you have bailed on cable and satellite. And if you haven’t checked out Black Sails, this is the perfect time to dive in, since the Amazon membership also gives you access to the first two seasons. The show is actually a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure novel Treasure Island, set two decades before the events of the book and mixing fiction with real-life during the so-called “Golden Age of Piracy.” Lost treasure, swashbuckling, naval battles, and shivered timbers: Black Sails is the most pirate-related fun you can have without Johnny Depp and a bottle of rum.
Pick of the Month: Transparent: Season 2 (Amazon, Dec. 11)
Amazon’s slate of original programming finally found its flagship success with Transparent, which stars Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) as the patriarch of a family who announces to his grown kids that he’s transgender and will begin living as a woman. The series explores both Maura’s transition into living out what she always felt to be true, and her kids—played by Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and Gaby Hoffman—dealing with the changes. The show boasts a ridiculously impressive 98 percent Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes, and it has picked up a slew of awards, including an Emmy for Tambor’s performance and a Golden Globe for Best TV Series – Musical or Comedy. The show is already renewed for a third season as well.
Best of the rest
1) Dr. No (Hulu, Dec. 1)
Last month Hulu added a motherlode of James Bond movies, adding damn near the entire pre-Brosnan run of agent 007’s adventures. One notable absence, however, was the movie that started it all (setting aside the non-canonical original Casino Royale). Now that oversight has been remedied, as Hulu added 1962’s Dr. No on the first of the month, ensuring you can begin your holiday Bond binge with Sean Connery’s very first outing as the debonair spy with the license to kill. After all, it just wouldn’t be a proper Bond-athon without Ursula Andress emerging from the surf in that white bikini.
2) Friday the 13th series (Hulu, Dec. 1)
Speaking of long-running movie franchises, Hulu’s also ringing in December with a very different killer. I’m not sure who’s got the higher body count, James Bond or Jason Voorhees, but I’m pretty sure Bond wins in the “flagrant womanizing” department. We all know Jason’s aversion to people having sex, after all… December is a weird time to stock up on slasher movies, but if you’re in the mood for a seasonally dissonant bloodbath, Hulu’s got your back, stocking the streaming catalog with the first eight Friday the 13th movies—well, seven. For some reason Friday the 13th – Part V: A New Beginning is missing. Maybe it’ll pull a Dr. No and show up next month. Slay bells ring, are you listening…
3) Good Morning, Vietnam / Good Will Hunting (Hulu with Showtime, Dec. 1)
The holidays are often a mix of the merry and the melancholy, and few actors have ever brought to life both ends of that spectrum as well as the late, much-missed Robin Williams. However your holiday season is playing out, Hulu with Showtime has left a wonderful present under the tree: two of Williams’ best films. And hey, they both start with “Good,” so it’s a natural double feature. In Good Morning, Vietnam, Williams plays an Armed Forces radio DJ in 1965 Saigon whose on-air antics inspire the troops but put him increasingly at odds with his superiors. In Good Will Hunting, Williams gives an Oscar-winning performance as a therapist trying to crack the affected apathy of the brilliant but troubled math genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon). Watch ’em both and raise a glass in Robin’s honor.
4) Young Sherlock Holmes (Hulu, Dec. 1)
Even though it was released in 1985, Young Sherlock Holmes would fit right in with today’s crop of films. It’s a prequel, it’s about an iconic pop-culture character during his younger years—hell, it even has cutting-edge CGI special effects! Well, they were cutting edge at the time. The film explores the first meeting between Sherlock (Nicholas Rowe) and John Watson (Alan Cox), who encounter each other at school and are soon swept up in a mystery involving poison darts, an ancient cult, and good old-fashioned human sacrifice. Barry Levinson directed YSH, from a script by Chris Columbus.
5) Man Seeking Woman: Season 1 (Hulu, Dec. 7)
Jay Baruchel, (Undeclared, How to Train Your Dragon) stars in this FXX sitcom about a young man navigating the perils and pitfalls of trying to find love after a breakup from his longtime girlfriend. That sounds like a thousand other disposable sitcoms you’ve seen before, but this one at least has the advantage of a singular creative vision guiding it. It’s based on Simon Rich’s 2013 book of short stories, The Last Girlfriend on Earth, and Rich serves as showrunner on the series. The show’s featured some noteworthy guest stars in its 10-episode run thus far, including Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, and Battlestar Galactica’s Michael Hogan, and it’s currently rocking an 81 percent Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes. It’s due to return for a second season on FXX on Jan. 6, 2016.
6) Interstellar (Amazon/Hulu, Dec. 12)
Christopher Nolan’s space epic was one of the most anticipated films of 2014 before it came out… and one of the most controversial and divisive afterwards. Visually stunning and unquestionably ambitious, the film becomes either more interesting or a complete mess in the third act, depending on who you ask. Matthew McConaughey stars as Joe Cooper, a widowed NASA vet living on a dying Earth that’s running out of natural resources. Through a weird set of circumstances related to the aforementioned bonkers third act, Joe winds up enlisted in a secret last-ditch mission to travel through a wormhole near Saturn in search of a new planet for humanity to colonize. Taking the mission could literally mean saving the species, but it will also mean he’ll have to leave his young daughter behind, where, thanks to the vagaries of physics, she’ll keep getting older while he stays the same age.
7) Mozart in the Jungle: Season 2 (Amazon, Dec. 30)
Transparent isn’t the only Amazon Original returning for a second season this month. Created by Paul Weitz (About a Boy), Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited), and Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore), Mozart in the Jungle takes viewers inside a world of “sex, drugs, and classical music.” The behind-the-curtain look at modern classical music is revealed through the eyes of Gael García Bernal as composer Rodrigo and Lola Kirke as young oboist Hailey. Like Transparent, Mozart received rockstar critical ratings, currently sitting at 95 percent Fresh on RottenTomatoes, even if it didn’t get nearly the same level of spotlight as Tambor’s show.November 2015
Pick of the Month: The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime, Nov. 20)
The Man in the High Castle is Amazon Studios’ most ambitious project yet, a much-anticipated adaptation of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick’s infamous novel of alternate history. Set in a divergent 1962 in which the Axis powers won World War II, The Man in the High Castle imagines an America under the bootheel of Japanese and German forces. That status quo is threatened by the appearance of a film titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, said to have been created by the mysterious so-called “Man in the High Castle” and depicting a very different America—our America. Is it merely anti-authoritarian propaganda, a postcard from a different reality, or something else entirely?
The Man in the High Castle was executive produced by Ridley Scott, a bloke who knows a thing or two about successful adaptations of Dick, having given us the best of the best in the form of Blade Runner. It was written by X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz, with a cast that includes Alexa Davelos, Rupert Evans, Rufus Sewell, and DJ Qualls, to name a few. The pilot was the most-watched since Amazon began its “pilot season” system of development and audience voting, and it’s already been renewed for a second season.Best of the rest
1) Bond. James Bond. (Hulu, Nov. 1)
Agent 007 returns this month with the much-anticipated Spectre, and if Bond’s latest adventure leaves you craving more, Hulu has got your back and then some. Continuing a press to beef up its movie catalog, Hulu has snagged streaming rights to the mother lode of classic Bond. While it doesn’t have the entire Bond catalog—Daniel Craig’s modern era is missing, as are the Pierce Brosnan years—you can still watch three decades’ worth of licensed killing for your streaming enjoyment. Clear your schedule and you’ll be able to watch From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Never Say Never Again (1983), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), The Living Daylights (1987), and License to Kill (1989).2) Adventures in Babysitting (Hulu with Showtime, Nov. 1)
Chris Hemsworth may be perfectly cast as Marvel’s Nordic beefcake God of Thunder, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Thor’s appearance in Christopher Columbus’ 1987 directorial debut, Adventures in Babysitting. OK, so he isn’t really Thor, but it was still his most noteworthy live-action appearance until the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe. Elisabeth Shue—cementing my childhood crush begun in The Karate Kid—stars as Chris Parker, a teenage girl who gets stood up, takes what should be a simple babysitting gig, and winds up having a night of crazy adventures across Chicago.3) Arachnophobia (Hulu with Showtime, Nov. 1)
If you’ve got a thing about spiders, there’s a very good chance you won’t survive viewing Arachnophobia. After a rare and deadly Venezuelan spider hitches a ride to the States, the creepy crawly and its offspring begin terrorizing a small California town. Jeff Daniels is a local doctor trying to figure out what’s causing all the mysterious deaths, and he’s increasingly paralyzed by his crippling fear of spiders. Come for the ookiness, stay for John Goodman as no-nonsense exterminator Delbert McClintock.4) Exists (Hulu with Showtime, Nov. 1)
Back in September in this column we profiled Bobcat Goldthwait’s found-footage Bigfoot flick Willow Creek. Behind that movie, Exists is probably the second-most noteworthy of the recent trend of Bigfoot horrors. Directed by Eduardo Sánchez—one of the men responsible for kickstarting the modern found-footage genre with The Blair Witch Project—Exists opens with a standard horror setup, with a group of friends venturing into the woods for some fun. Unfortunately, strange noises escalate to mysterious damage to their car, and the friends soon realize there’s something menacing stalking them. Exists only has a 35 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but fans of Sanchez will likely enjoy the ride.5)Grosse Pointe Blank (Hulu with Showtime, Nov. 1)
Martin Blank (John Cusack) is a professional killer, but his personal life is more of a mess than his crime scenes: He’s bored, depressed, and in therapy years before Tony Soprano got the idea. After fouling up a hit, he takes a job in his hometown to appease his irate client, attend his 10-year high school reunion, and hopefully reconnect with the girl he stood up at prom a decade earlier (Minnie Driver). Grosse Pointe Blank is an eminently rewatchable flick, and the blending of rom-com tropes with edgier scenes like Martin killing a guy with a ballpoint pen in the hall of his high school perfectly mirror Martin’s internal crisis. Bonus points for Dan Aykroyd’s role as a rival “professional” who’s determined to put Martin in the ground.6) Out of Sight (Hulu with Showtime, Nov. 1)
Say what you will about J-Lo, but her onscreen chemistry with George Clooney is electric in this Elmore Leonard adaptation directed by Steven Soderbergh. Clooney is a professional bank robber named Jack Foley; Lopez is U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco. The pair meet-cute while crammed inside a trunk during Foley’s escape from prison, and after that she’s determined to take him down. But is she really pursuing him for the right reasons? The rest of the top-tier cast includes Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn, and Albert Brooks. The script by Scott Frank is one of the best Leonard adaptations ever, and the flick is worth watching for the nonlinear love scene alone.7) Turner & Hooch (Hulu with Showtime, Nov. 1)
I’m a sucker for a Tom Hanks ’80s comedy—The ‘burbs is unapologetically one of my favorite movies—and watching him play straight man to an oversized canine with a drooling problem sounds like a great way to kill an afternoon to me. Hanks is a Scott Turner, a neat-freak cop forced to take the slobbery Hooch into his life after the dog is the only witness to his owner’s murder. Hooch proceeds to eat more or less everything Turner owns, but damned if he doesn’t start growing on the reluctant cop. Half the fun is watching Hanks interact with the dog, but Turner & Hooch also has heart to spare. That heart is just covered with ropes of dog saliva.8) The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Amazon Prime, Nov. 5)
Star Heath Ledger died a third of the way through filming on Terry Gilliam’s fantasy film, but his friends rose to the occasion, with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell all stepping in to play different incarnations of Ledger’s character. It was a clever solution to a heartbreaking problem, but also a lovely tribute to a powerhouse talent taken far too young. Ledger & co. headline a tale of a travelling theater troupes, magic mirrors, and outsmarting the Devil himself.9) Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? (Hulu with Showtime, Nov. 6)
Superman Lives has become one of the most notorious failed productions in Hollywood history, thanks in no small part to Kevin Smith’s accounts of his time on the project, not to mention those pictures of long-haired Nic Cage in the Superman costume. Death of ‘Superman Lives’ dives deep into the history of the doomed project, which was set to be directed by Tim Burton but was canceled three weeks before filming was set to begin in 1998. The documentary includes interviews with Burton, Smith, writer Dan Gilroy, and producers Jon Peters and Lorenzo di Bonaventura.10) Ex Machina (Amazon Prime, Nov. 14)
Alex Garland has been the screenwriter on some of the best and most intriguing genre films of the young century, from 28 Days Later and Sunshine to Never Let Me Go and Dredd. He finally made his feature directorial debut with Ex Machina, a critically acclaimed science-fiction thriller about a Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer invited to the home of his wealthy, eccentric employer (Oscar Isaac) to investigate a breakthrough: an android named Ava who may be the first example of true artificial intelligence. The more Caleb interacts with Ava (Alicia Vikander), the easier it becomes to forget that she’s machine, but it soon becomes clear that his boss’ motivations may not be as clear-cut as they first appeared. Ex Machina has been almost universally praised, currently rocking a 92 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.October 2015
Pick of the Month: The Back to the Future trilogy (Amazon Prime, Oct. 1)
This year rings in the 30th anniversary of Robert Zemeckis’ beloved Back to the Future trilogy, and in fact we’re only a few weeks away from “Back to the Future Day”—Oct. 21, 2015, the date Marty arrived in the future in BTTF2. There are plenty of crazy celebrations going on this month, from this cheeky fake trailer for Jaws 19 to the sudden appearance of Pepsi Perfect. But the very best way to celebrate the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown is to rewatch them, and Amazon Prime customers can do just that throughout the month of October. Amazon Prime has added all three Back to the Future movies to the streaming catalog, so now’s the perfect time to play hooky from work, school, or family commitments and settle in for six hours or so of pure time-hopping, hover-boarding, paradox-inducing, “Great Scott”ing, 1.21 gigawatting awesomeness. Our real-life hoverboards may still not be as cool as the movie version, but at least we have the Back to the Future trilogy on-demand for our marathoning delight. This is heavy.
The best of the rest:
1) Blood Simple (Hulu, Oct. 1)
The Coen Brothers have been a pair of the most fascinating filmmakers in the industry for the past three decades, but it all started here, in 1984’s bleak noir crime thriller Blood Simple.
Small-town Texas bar owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) hires a private dick (M. Emmet Walsh) to investigate his wife (Frances McDormand), whom he suspects is cheating on him. That simple act is the beginning of a long, crooked road full of bad turns and dead bodies. In addition to marking the Coen Brothers’ directorial debut, Blood Simple also kickstarted the careers of cinematographer (and later director) Barry Sonnenfeld and actress Frances McDormand. Blood Simple is currently rocking a 94 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
2) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Amazon Prime, Oct. 1)
Jim Carrey mostly makes the news these days for being a vocal anti-vaxxer, so it’s easy to forget just how good he can be when paired with the right material. He’s never been better than in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) and directed by Michel Gondry. Carrey plays Joel Barish, coming off a bad breakup with the former love of his life, Clementine (Kate Winslet). He hires a mysterious company to erase all memory of his relationship with his ex… but then changes his mind halfway through. Unfortunately, the procedure has to be done while the subject is sleeping, so Joel is left fleeing through the landscape of his subconscious, clinging to a memory of Clementine and trying to save her from the encroaching darkness. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and is rated 93 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
3) The Expendables 3(Hulu, Oct. 1)
Sly Stallone managed to resurrect both of his iconic ’80s franchises with 21st century installments of Rocky and Rambo, so it made sense when he eventually put together a series designed to bring every last aging action relic of the Reagan years back to the big screen. In the third Expendables outing, merc badass Barney Ross (Stallone) and his crew face off against one of the group’s co-founders (Mel Gibson), an arms dealer who’s nursing a grudge and determined to make the Expendables live up to their name. The cast for this go-round also includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, and… Kelsey Grammer?
4) Girl Most Likely (Hulu, Oct. 1)
Imogene (Kristen Wiig) is a failed playwright struggling with writer’s block, working a crappy job at a New York magazine to make ends meet. After a failed suicide attempt in hopes of luring back her ex, she winds up in the custody of her mother (Annette Bening), who frankly would rather be gambling. After inadvertently discovering that her long-thought-dead father is actually alive and living in NYC, Imogene enlists her friends and brother to help track him down, and along the way falls for a charming Backstreet Boys cover band performer.
Girl Most Likely got nailed with negative reviews, but Wiig and Bening’s performances were singled out for praise. If you’re a Wiig fan, double-feature it with Welcome to Me over on Netflix, or wait around for another Wiig entry further down this list.
5) The Innkeepers (Hulu, Oct. 1)
Director Ti West has established himself as one of the most talented young horror directors in the game with flicks such as The House of the Devil and The Sacrament, as well as segments in the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death anthologies. The Innkeepers is by far my favorite thing he’s done thus far, a good old-fashioned ghost story buoyed by charming performances from Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.
They star as the last two remaining staff at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a historic hotel that’s about to close its doors permanently. With the building mostly abandoned, the pair set out to try and gather tangible evidence of the spirits said to haunt its hallways, and what unfolds bounces between funny, tragic, and slow-burn terrifying. If you like the cut of West’s jib, The House of the Devil is also available on Hulu, and The Sacrament is on Netflix Instant. The Innkeepers has a 79 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
6) Joe (Hulu, Oct. 1)
In recent years, David Gordon Green has mainly been on a comedy run with things like Pineapple Express and HBO’s Eastbound & Down, but he returned to his drama roots with 2014’s Joe. Nicolas Cage stars as the titular Joe Ransom, an ex-con who runs a tree-removal crew in rural Texas. He hires and then befriends 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan), a good kid with a particularly bad dad (Gary Poulter). That friendship will put Joe on a path for either redemption or destruction… maybe both.
With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 86 percent Fresh, Joe earned praise from critics for both Green’s direction and Cage’s performance, and god knows it’s nice to see Cage actually being good in something these days. One tragic and morbid footnote: Actor Gary Poulter, who played the alcoholic father in Joe—who was homeless in real life when he was cast—was found dead before the film even made it to the festival circuit.
7) Much Ado About Nothing (Hulu, Oct. 1)
Joss Whedon has spent the past several years earning Disney billions of dollars with the juggernaut Avengers franchise, but he cleansed his palate between them with Much Ado About Nothing. A modern-day remake of Shakespeare’s beloved proto-screwball comedy, Whedon’s Much Ado enlists several of his regulars, including Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, and Tom Lenk. The reunion of Acker and Denisof in a romantic pairing—playing Beatrice and Benedick, respectively—should be more than enough to lure in Angel fans still stinging from the respective ends of Fred and Wesley, but the film was well received overall, currently sitting at 84 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It even earned a Guinness World Record, courtesy of a Blu-ray commentary track that crammed in a whopping 16 members of the cast and crew.
8) Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (Amazon Prime, Oct. 1)
Paul Reubens is on the cusp of resurrecting Pee-wee with the help of producer Judd Apatow and Netflix, but in the meantime you can re-experience one of the best iterations of Reubens’ hyperactive manchild. In Big Adventure, Pee-wee sets out cross-country in search of his stolen bicycle, along the way encountering hobos, biker gangs, and “Large Marge,” a creepy trucker who single-handedly soiled the pants of my entire generation thanks to one iconic close-up. Scripted by Reubens with Michael Varhol and the late Phil Hartman (Simpsons, NewsRadio), Pee-wee’s Big Adventure also marked the feature directorial debut of Tim Burton and the first of many collaborations with composer Danny Elfman.
9) The Skeleton Twins (Hulu, Oct. 1)
Kristen Wiig’s second appearance in this month’s list is in another movie that, weirdly enough, also involves a suicide attempt as inciting incident, just like Girl Most Likely up top. In The Skeleton Twins, Maggie’s (Wiig) attempts to end it all are interrupted by a phone call notifying her that her estranged twin brother Milo (Bill Hader) also just tried to kill himself. She travels to Los Angeles to visit him in the hospital and eventually convinces him to return to their hometown and stay with her a while. The pair’s mutual brush with death proves to be the unlikely catalyst for their own reconnection and discovery of reasons to keep on keeping on. The Skeleton Twins is rated 87 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so if you’re only going to watch one streaming Kristen Wiig suicide comedy this month, it should probably be this one.
10) The Wolf of Wall Street (Hulu, Oct. 1)
Hulu just snatched a ton of content from Netflix after the latter ended a multi-year deal with the cable net Epix, and one of the big fish switching ponds is the award-winning Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio joint The Wolf of Wall Street.
Based on the memoir of ruthless former stock trader Jordan Belfort, Wolf follows Belfort’s (DiCaprio) rise and fall on Wall Street, earning millions through crooked business practices before eventually being brought down by the feds. The cast is stellar across the board, including DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, and Rob Reiner, and screenwriter Terence Winter’s adaptation of Belfort’s book is by turns funny, infuriating, and profane. But poor old Leo still didn’t get to take home an Oscar…
11) They Came Together (Hulu, Oct. 1)
There’s plenty to mock in modern romantic comedies: the cliched twists and turns, the tired formulas, the inevitable comic misunderstandings. All of that is grist for the mill in They Came Together, a sharp satire of everything rom-com starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, directed by David Wain from a script by Wain and fellow Stella comedy group veteran Michael Showalter. Molly (Poehler) runs a small candy shop. Joel (Rudd) is the head of a massive candy corp that wants to shut her doors permanently. Naturally, they hate each other. But wait...maybe they actually love each other? Because that’s how it works in these things.
12) You’re Next (Hulu, Oct. 1)
If you still haven’t seen Adam Wingard’s acclaimed post-modern slasher flick You’re Next, this will make perfect viewing for the Halloween season. Like Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, You’re Next is best approached with as little foreknowledge as possible, so suffice to say it involves a family gathering that goes sideways when masked figures start trying to kill everyone in the house. Where it goes from there… Well, just watch and know that You’re Next ably mixes scares, gore, pitch-black humor, and a star-making performance by Sharni Vinson. It’s rated 75 percent Fresh on RT, but horror fans can easily add another 10-15 percentage points onto that score. Also be sure to check out Wingard’s The Guest on Netflix Instant, which reunited the director with You’re Next screenwriter Simon Barrett, to good effect.
13) American Horror Show: Freak Show (Amazon Prime/Hulu, Oct. 6)
The fourth season of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s FX horror anthology series unfolds in 1950s Florida, set in and around “Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities,” one of the last surviving “freak shows” in America. As with previous seasons, much of the earlier cast recurs in new roles, including Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, and Gabourey Sidibe. Even more intriguingly, several other actors, including James Cromwell, actually reprise their roles from season 2’s Asylum, strengthening theories that all of these stories are unfolding within the same narrative universe. Also, there’s a scary-ass clown, because of course there is.
14) Casual (Hulu, Oct. 7)
Jason Reitman has racked up the résumé over the past decade, including Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult. He also directed several episodes of the American incarnation of The Office, and now he’s diving back into television with Hulu’s Casual, which he created.
Michaela Watkins (SNL) stars as Valerie, a newly divorced therapist and single mom who moves herself and her 16-year-old daughter (God Bless America’s Tara Lynne Barr) in with her bachelor brother (Tommy Dewey), who runs a dating site. Hijinks will undoubtedly ensue.
15) Red Oaks (Amazon Prime, Oct. 9)
Amazon’s much-anticipated Philip K. Dick adaptation The Man in the High Castle is due to arrive next month, but in the meantime they’re serving up another new original series—and this one’s a bit less heavy than “What if the Axis powers won WWII?”
Red Oaks is set at the prestigious Red Oaks Country Club in 1985, following a young college tennis player named David (Craig Roberts) who is working a summer job there. It’s a coming-of-age tale blended with a workplace comedy, with a dash or two of familial dysfunction thrown in for good measure. Red Oaks was created by Joe Gangemi and frequent Steven Soderbergh collaborator Gregory Jacobs (Magic Mike XXL). Soderbergh also executive produced the series, with David Gordon Green (see also Joe) directing the pilot. Red Oaks’ 10-episode first season features a cast that includes Paul Reiser, Richard Kind, and Jennifer Grey.
16) Camp X-Ray (Hulu with Showtime, Oct. 17)
Kristen Stewart continues carving out a post-Twilight career with this drama set at the infamous Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. Stewart plays a guard at the facility, spending her days watching over the prisoners designated “enemy combatants” as part of America’s ongoing war on terror. Both the prisoners and her fellow soldiers are frequently hostile toward her, but she befriends one man in particular, who has been incarcerated in Guantánamo for eight long years. That relationship causes her to begin questioning her convictions. Camp X-Ray earned a 73 percent Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, with critics singling out the performances of Stewart and co-star Peyman Moaadi.
17) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (Amazon Prime/Hulu, Oct. 23)
Hollywood will be in need of a new reigning young adult movie franchise to milk after The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 hits theaters on Nov. 20. The fourth film in the franchise will wrap up the big-screen adaptation of author Suzanne Collins’ best-selling YA book series, with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) determined to take down the oppressive government of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) once and for all.
But before then, both fans and newcomers alike will get the chance to revisit the path that led Katniss from simple small-town girl to revolutionary. The original Hunger Games flick isn’t available on any of the core trio of streaming services, but Hulu already has Catching Fire, and the third film is coming to both Amazon Prime and Hulu later this month.
18) While We’re Young (Amazon Prime, Oct. 23)
While We’re Young is one of the latest from writer/director Noah Baumbach, who previously gave us indie hits such as Frances Ha, Greenberg, and The Squid and the Whale. While We’re Young reunites Baumbach with his Greenberg leading man, Ben Stiller, with the actor this time playing a New York City documentarian named Josh, alongside Naomi Watts as his wife Cornelia. Their marriage is on the rocks, and Josh has been struggling to complete his latest film for years. Their lives are energized after befriending a younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), but they soon learn that sometimes something that looks too good to be true, is. While We’re Young is currently sitting at 83 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.19) Danny Collins (Amazon Prime, Oct. 30)
Screenwriter Dan Fogelman’s (Crazy, Stupid, Love) feature directorial debut stars Al Pacino as an aging ’70s rock icon named, well, Danny Collins. Based loosely on the real life of folk singer Steve Tilston, Danny Collins has the titular rocker reexamining his life after discovering a 40-year-old letter written—but never delivered—to him by the late John Lennon. He moves into a hotel in Jersey, tries to start a relationship with the grown son he’s never met (Bobby Cannavale), and tries to reconnect with the creative fire he lost somewhere along the way. The flick is rated 77 percent Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes, with Pacino’s lead performance earning much praise, alongside a dynamite cast that also includes Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, and Christopher Plummer as Collins’ long-time manager who discovers the Lennon letter.September
Pick of the Month: Hand of God (Sept. 4, Amazon Prime)
Hand of God is the latest original series from Amazon Studios, and it landed a helluva lead in Ron Perlman, fresh off making us love to hate him for five years on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. In Hand of God, he’s on the other side of the law… or, at least, he starts out that way. Perlman plays Pernell Harris, a morally flexible judge who suffers a mental breakdown and becomes convinced that God is “compelling him onto a path of vigilante justice.” (I’m guessing his vigilante career won’t involve any tights, but you never know.) The series was created by Ben Watkins, whose primary previous credit was working on Burn Notice, but Hand of God definitely looks to be darker fare than USA’s fun-loving spy drama. While Amazon hasn’t received quite as much attention as Netflix, it has some solid original content in their lineup, including the award-winning Transparent and the upcoming adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. With a meaty role for Perlman to chew on and a cast that also includes Dana Delany and the ridiculously talented Garrett Dillahunt (Deadwood, Raising Hope), Hand of God should definitely be on your must-see list.
Best of the rest:
1) The Blair Witch Project (Sept. 1, Amazon Prime)
“In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary… A year later their footage was found.” It’s hard to believe it’s been over 16 years since The Blair Witch Project was unleashed on the world, igniting a found-footage horror trend that continues to this day. Blair Witch was a viral marketing hit before social media made such things commonplace, and it played the whole “is it real?” card better than any of the imitators that have followed in its shaky-cam footsteps. Filmmakers have been trying to find new ways to bend, twist, and evolve the found-footage genre ever since, but The Blair Witch Project’s simplicity is also one of its strengths: Kids go into the woods looking for a monster, bad shit happens, and the cameras keep on rolling…
2) Elementary: Seasons 1 - 3 (Sept. 1, Hulu)
At the time it premiered, Elementary played second fiddle to the more critically admired British Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but over the ensuing three seasons, CBS’s modern take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective has built its own loyal following. Johnny Lee Miller stars as a Holmes who relocated to the States after a stint in rehab, and Lucy Liu plays Dr. Joan Watson, the “sober companion” assigned to Holmes by his father. Together the pair assist the NYPD in solving crimes that leave the police stumped, as well as interacting with retrofitted Doyle icons such Rhys Ifans as brother Mycroft Holmes and Natalie Dormer as a gender-swapped version of Holmes’ archenemy, Moriarty. Elementary returns for a fourth season on CBS this November, so there’s plenty of time to binge.
3) Hannah and Her Sisters (Sept. 1, Amazon Prime)
Thanksgiving is still a few months away, but you can get an early jump on the holiday with Woody Allen’s 1986 comedy, which is bookended by a pair of Turkey Day gatherings hosted by the titular Hannah (Mia Farrow). Hannah used to be married to neurotic TV writer Mickey (Allen), but now she’s married to Michael Caine’s Elliot, who is developing a crush on one of her sisters. People are sleeping with people they’re not supposed to be, people aren’t sleeping with the people they are supposed to be, and all the relationship drama unfolds using flashbacks and the two holiday gatherings, set two years apart, as narrative anchor points. The excellent cast also includes Max Von Sydow, Barbara Hershey, Carrie Fisher, future Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and even perpetually angry Daily Show contributor Lewis Black. Hannah and Her Sisters was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Caine and Best Original Screenplay for Allen.
4) Killer Klowns From Outer Space (Sept. 1, Amazon Prime)
Everybody knows clowns are creepy, and Tim Curry in particular traumatized my entire generation as the demonic Pennywise in the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s It. The killer clowns in Killer Klowns are more goofy than nightmare-inducing but still just as homicidal. It all begins with a mysterious object falling out of the sky into a field. But instead of a smoking crater, it leaves behind a big-top tent and a mess of murderous clown-like aliens. There are toy ray guns that will really kill you. There are acid cream pies that will melt your face off. There’s even a puppet show.
Nobody’s suggesting this is high art, but it is art you should watch while high, preferably with a room full of buddies to make clown-related puns the whole time. (Believe it or not, there’s actually a sequel in pre-production: The Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 3D is tentatively slated for release in 2016.)
5) Pitch Perfect 2 (Sept. 1, Amazon Instant)
The 2012 musical/comedy hit ricocheted off the popularity of Glee, introduced the world to Rebel Wilson, and further cemented the general awesomeness of Anna Kendrick. This year’s sequel picks up four years after the Barden Bellas a cappella group won the nationals, but their fame hits a serious roadblock after a disastrous performance at President Obama’s birthday gala. Bellas leader Beca Mitchell (Kendrick) sets her sights on restoring the group’s reputation by winning an international a cappella competition that no American group has ever won. Directed by Elizabeth Banks, Pitch Perfect 2 hit a high note of $285 million worldwide box office, making it the highest grossing musical comedy of all time, dethroning School of Rock.
Correction 7:13am, Sept. 2: While Pitch Perfect 2 is newly available on Amazon for streaming, it is not one of the selections Prime users can watch for free.
6) Popeye (Sept. 1, Amazon Prime)
And on the less auspicious end of the musical-comedy spectrum, we’ve got Robert Altman’s 1980 outing Popeye, based on E.C. Segar’s beloved comic strip (and the cartoons that followed). Popeye was never exactly begging for a live-action adaptation in the first place, but that didn’t stop Altman and stars Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall from giving it their best shot. Well, a shot, anyway. It’s not the finest hour for anyone involved, but it’s almost worth a watch for the surreal train-wreck factor alone. To the film’s credit, Duvall makes a shrilly pitch-perfect Olive Oyl, and if ever there was a human capable of pulling off the lead role while saddled with a permanent squint and comically oversized prosthetic forearms, it was Robin Williams. Also, at one point he punches out an octopus.
7) Willow Creek (Sept. 2, Showtime with Hulu)
There’s been a run of found-footage Bigfoot movies in the last couple of years, but few were as interesting as Willow Creek, which earned indie cred by being written and directed by standup comedian turned filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait. His résumé includes such controversial flicks as Sleeping Dogs Lie, in which a woman admits to her fiancé that she once dabbled in bestiality. Willow Creek isn’t nearly as provocative as all that, but it’s no less fascinating simply because it’s not the sort of material you’d expect to see Goldthwait tackle.
The flick follows a couple as they venture into the California wilderness in search of the location where the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film was shot. Needless to say, they find more than just a guy in a gorilla suit. Willow Creek doesn’t do anything earth-shattering with the material, but it’s worth watching for a standout sequence that wrings serious tension out of nothing more than spooky noises and a long shot of two people cowering in a tent. It’d make a solid double feature with The Blair Witch Project, actually. (Note: Willow Creek is only available to customers with the Showtime with Hulu package.)
8) That Guy Dick Miller (Sept. 3, Hulu)
So who is Dick Miller? As this documentary’s title suggests, he’s one of the many “that guy” character actors who has appeared in countless films over the years, the sort of person you would instantly recognize but could never name. A quick perusal of Miller’s IMDb page reveals appearances in The Terminator, both Gremlins movies, General Hospital, two Star Trek series, and—my personal favorite—The ’Burbs, to name just a few. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, That Guy Dick Miller examines Miller’s long career, which includes roles in over 100 films and television shows, and features interviews with Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Fred Dekker (who directed Miller in Night of the Creeps), and of course Miller himself. That Guy Dick Miller is currently rocking a 77 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s worth checking out this Dick.
9) Dear White People (Sept. 4, Amazon Prime)
Writer/director Justin Simien’s social satire follows the lives of several black students at an Ivy League college. Samantha “Sam” White (Tessa Thompson) hosts a controversial radio show where she unloads truth bombs such as, “Dear White People, the amount of black friends required not to seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, your weed man Tyrone doesn’t count.” The campus’ already simmering racial tensions reach a boil after Kurt, the white son of the school’s president, hosts a blackface party. Dear White People stirred up plenty of positive buzz at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and it boasts an impressive 91 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. A glance at the evening news on any given day confirms that Dear White People is all too timely, but thankfully it handles its hot-button issues in a way that’s intelligent, honest, and funny.
10) I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (Sept. 5, Amazon Prime)
After joining Jim Henson’s Muppeteers in 1969, Caroll Spinney helped launch Sesame Street and bring to life two of its most iconic characters: Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. He’s a figure who’s been an integral part people’s childhoods for over four decades, but there’s a good chance most of those people couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Hopefully I Am Big Bird will fix that. Like That Guy Dick Miller, I Am Big Bird was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, so kudos to crowdfunding for continuing to assemble interesting projects that otherwise might not have come together. Having been a staple of the pop-culture landscape for 40 years, Spinney has no shortage of ripping yarns to tell, from the time he was almost killed by a trash-can fire to how Big Bird nearly went into space aboard the Challenger space shuttle.
11) St. Vincent (Sept. 5, Showtime with Hulu)
Bill Murray can pretty much do no wrong at this point in his career, but so long as he keeps picking roles like St. Vincent, he won’t have to coast solely on goodwill anytime soon. In writer/director Theodore Melfi’s theatrical debut, Murray plays Vincent MacKenna, a cranky Vietnam vet whose hobbies include gambling, alcoholism, and hating people. He meets his new neighbors—single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her 12-year-old son, Oliver—after they accidentally damage his car, which isn’t exactly an ideal introduction. Nevertheless, Vincent soon reluctantly allows Oliver to start staying at his house after school, and Maggie and the boy slowly drag him out his self-imposed social cocoon and reveal the beating heart lurking underneath all that misanthropy. Murray is outstanding as always, and McCarthy seriously impresses in a more complex role than she’s usually given, one that lets her be funny but also do more than just mug and pratfall. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on director Melfi’s career from here on out. (Note: St. Vincent is only available with the Showtime with Hulu package.)
12) The Awesomes: Season 3 (Sept. 8, Hulu)
Hulu is a distant third behind Netflix and Amazon when it comes to earning buzz for its original programming, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some gems in its lineup. If you’ve already binged through BoJack Horseman and are looking for a new animated series to dive into, Hulu is launching the third season of The Awesomes on Sept. 8. Created by Saturday Night Live alum Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker, The Awesomes tells the story of Professor Doctor Jeremy “Prock” Awesome (voiced by Meyers), the son of legendary superhero Mr. Awesome. After Mr. A retires, it’s up to Prock to take the reigns of his dad’s team—which, in practice, means recruiting a bunch of second-tier capes and hoping they don’t screw things up too bad. Together they’ll face supervillains, bad press, and their incompetence. The voice cast includes tons of SNL vets, including Meyers, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, and Amy Poehler.
13) Men, Women & Children (Sept. 12, Amazon Prime)
Director Jason Reitman gave us Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air. That alone should be reason enough to give Men, Women & Children a look-see, even if it didn’t fare enormously well among critics. But Reitman’s latest also has an added sheen of timeliness thanks to the fact that it includes the Ashley Madison infidelity website as a plot point in its web of stories about various sorts of online addiction and dysfunction. Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt star as a married couple each trying to cheat on the other—her through Ashley Madison, him through an escort service. Their teenage son is hooked on increasingly extreme pornography. Teenage Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia) posts salacious pictures of herself online… on a site maintained by her mother (Judy Greer). You might have guesses this isn’t exactly a “feel-good” kind of movie…
Pick of the Month: Curb Your Enthusiasm (Aug. 6, Amazon Prime)
Amazon Prime has added the full run of the HBO classic to its streaming catalog. That’s eight seasons of crankiness and misanthropy from and starring Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld. Just as Jerry Seinfeld did in that legendary series, David plays a fictionalized version of himself in Curb: a retired TV writer/producer whose hobbies include social anxiety and being irritated at everything everyone around him does at all times. Cheryl Hines co-stars as his wife, and Jeff Garlin plays his manager Jeff. The show was heavily improvised and—also in the spirit of Seinfeld—features a revolving door of celebrity cameos, including Mel Brooks, Martin Scorsese, Ben Stiller, and Ricky Gervais, to name a few, not to mention all four Seinfeld leads: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards.Best of the rest:
1) Difficult People (Aug. 5, Hulu)
Hulu has been running a distant third behind Netflix and Amazon; it has yet to find its House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, or Transparent. Hopefully Hulu will get a little time in the spotlight with the new Amy Poehler-produced comedy Difficult People, which earned a straight-to-series order from Hulu after USA passed on the pilot. Created by author/performer/podcaster Julie Klausner, Difficult People stars Klausner alongside Billy Eichner (Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street) as a pair of struggling New York comedians “who hate everyone but each other.” Klausner cites the aforementioned Curb Your Enthusiasm as a major influence on the show, and also describes it as “Will and Grace, if one was a six and the other was a seven.”2) 52 Tuesdays (Aug. 6, Hulu)
Shows such as Transparent, Orange Is the New Black, and Sense8 have all featured transgender characters prominently, shining a light on a community that is still widely misunderstood and discriminated against. For those seeking another intelligent and insightful exploration of the topic, look no further than the acclaimed Australian coming-of-age drama 52 Tuesdays. Tilda Cobham-Hervey stars as Billie, a teenager whose lesbian mother Jane (Del Herbert-Jane) announces her plans to transition to a male. She sends Billie to live with her uncle (Mario Späte) during the transition process, and for the next year, Jane/James and daughter see each other only on Tuesday evenings, a situation that further strains their already troubled relationship. 52 Tuesdays premiered to much critical acclaim at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and earned director Sophie Hyde the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award.3) A Most Violent Year (Aug. 7, Amazon Prime)
Rising star Oscar Isaac stars as Abel Morales, an immigrant in 1981 New York City who is building the American dream, having taken his father-in-law’s heating oil business to the heights of success. Even more impressively, he’s done it all honestly and above-board in the midst of an industry with a substantial criminal element. Now a new business deal could expand the family business even further, but a series of robberies and attacks of Abel’s workers could threaten that future. To make matters worse, Abel’s father-in-law didn’t run nearly as clean a ship as Abel does, and now the company is being targeted by an assistant D.A. eager to root out corruption. Abel tries to save his company without sacrificing his ethics, but even his own wife (co-star Jessica Chastain) believes they need to do whatever it takes to protect what’s theirs. Critics praised both Isaac and Chastain’s performances, and A Most Violent Year currently sports an impressive 90 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.4) Doctor Who: Season 8 (Aug. 8, Hulu)
See our recommendation from this month’s Netflix picks.5) You’re the Worst: Season 1 (Aug. 10, Hulu)
Continuing the “cranky people doing cranky things” trend of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Difficult People, we come to FX’s You’re the Worst. Created by former Orange Is the New Black/Weeds producer Stephen Falk, You’re the Worst explores the relationship between writer Jimmy (Chris Geere) and PR exec Gretchen (Aya Cash). Jimmy excuses his assholish nature as blunt honesty, and Gretchen is determined to self-destruct in a variety of creative ways. The pair meet-cute as he’s being kicked out of a wedding and she’s sneaking out with a food processor stolen from the bride’s gift pile—it’s a match made in self-obsession. Critics praised the show’s writing and the chemistry between the two leads, and You’re the Worst will return for a second season on FXX Sept. 9.6) Misery Loves Comedy(Aug. 16, Amazon Prime)
Curb Your Enthusiasm, Difficult People, You’re the Worst… The strange truth of the matter is, unhappy people can generate some of the best comedy. Given the inclusion of those shows on this list, it’s oddly appropriate that we round out the month with this Kickstarter-funded documentary, which asks the question: Do you have to be miserable to be funny? Directed by comedian Kevin Pollak, Misery Loves Comedy enlists a ridiculous lineup of talent to dissect that central question, including Judd Apatow, Janeane Garofalo, Kevin Smith, Jon Favreau, Stephen Merchant, Jason Alexander, Lewis Black, Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Gaffigan, Paul F. Tompkins, Christopher Guest, Bob Saget, Martin Short, Marc Maron, Penn Jillette, and (bringing it full circle) Larry David. And that’s not even close to everybody involved. This is pretty much a must-see for comedy fans.Illustration by Max Fleishman
If you're currently in the middle of a Making a Murderer or Jessica Jones binge-hole, you know Netflix had quite a successful year in terms of original series.
The company vowed to double its original series output in 2016, and this year it's set to debut Marvel's next series, Luke Cage, and the much-anticipated Pee-wee's Big Holiday, as well as new seasons of favorites like BoJack Horseman, House of Cards, and Grace and Frankie. But, as the Daily Dot's Nico Lang pointed out, the company needs to keep its focus on quality, which doesn't necessarily translate with middling Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider vehicles.
But there's hope. Here are a few original series that look promising this year.
1) Chelsea Does (Jan. 23)
Comedian Chelsea Handler returns to TV in this four-part documentary, which will allegedly explore "marriage, racism, Silicon Valley, and drugs." Handler's new talk show is also set to debut on Netflix this year.2) Flaked
Netflix fave Will Arnett plays Chip, "a celebrated long-time resident of the insular world of Venice, California, who falls for the object of his best friend's fascination." The show is co-executive produced by Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz. We can only hope magic tricks are involved.
3) The Get Down
Baz Luhrmann's musical look at New York in the '70s—on the edge of the punk, rap, and disco movements—has reportedly been in the works for a decade now. While you wait, go watch 2015 standout Dope, starring The Get Down's Shameik Moore.4) Marvel's Luke Cage
Netflix continues to expand the Marvel Universe with its third title, zeroing in on Jessica Jones star Mike Colter, aka Luke Cage. He told the L.A. Times that the show "is going to have soul, it's going to have intensity, it's going to have dark parts to it. I think what's going to make it unique is also the musicality of it."
Paul Rust (I Love You, Beth Cooper) and Gillian Jacobs (Community) star in this Judd Apatow creation about love and dating. It must be worth it, because Netflix gave it the green light for two seasons.
6) Lady Dynamite
A TV series helmed by Maria Bamford is a gift to us all. The show is touted as a "mockumentary" of the comedian's life, the "story of a woman who loses—and then finds—her s**t.” Fellow comedians Sarah Silverman and Tig Notaro are slated to guest star.
7) Fuller House
Inside Out is a film that takes place largely inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley and uses emotions to mess with your emotions, but when you take out the “inside” part of it, is the movie just as compelling?
At the request of a redditor on r/movies, Jordan Hanzon cut out all of the scenes occurring inside of Riley’s mind to create a more than 15-minute edit that still manages to encompass the pains of growing up and moving away from the only home you ever knew as Riley is on the brink of puberty.
There are no adventures between Joy and Sadness or the emotional journey they each go through, and there’s certainly no Bing-Bong. But it can still pack a punch and we’re left with what we usually see on the outside: a girl who has a range of emotions that can switch off at any time—and with no explanation.Screengrab via Jordan Hanzon/Vimeo
Netflix's wildly popular documentary Making a Murderer has turned the Internet into obsessive detectives, as we collectively try to unravel theories and overlooked details. It's also made viewers push for real-life justice.
Two petitions to free Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, the two men convicted in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach, have been circulating since late December, one from Whitehouse.gov and one from Change.org. To get an official response from the White House, the petition to pardon Avery and Dassey would need to reach 100,000 signatures by Jan. 19. As of Sunday afternoon, it has more than 18,000. It states:
Based on the evidence in the Netflix documentary series "Making a Murderer", the justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives.
There is clear evidence that the Manitowoc County sheriff's department used improper methods to convict both Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.
This is a black mark on the justice system as a whole, and should be recognized as such, while also giving these men the ability to live as normal a life as possible.
The Change.org petition to free Avery, however, has more than 110,000 signatures.
Making a Murderer explores the two convictions of Avery, a Wisconsin man who was jailed for the 1985 rape of Penny Beerntsen, then released in 2003, when DNA evidence proved he was a wrongfully convicted. Avery was then arrested once again for the murder of Halbach in 2005, and the doc shows how he and his then 16-year-old nephew Brendan were made into the main suspects by a broken, corrupt justice system.
The prosector in the 2005 case, Ken Kratz, who took quite a beating on Yelp recently, has claimed filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi left out key evidence that pointed to Avery's guilt, but they stood by their work.
Photo via Netflix
Anne Hathaway has been pretty low-key about expecting her first child with husband Adam Shulman since the news leaked to the press in November, but after a trip to the beach on Sunday, the 33-year-old actress released a formal statement via Instagram.
Hathaway noticed paparazzi snapping photos of her pregnant belly from afar while she was in a bikini, and—knowing that they’d try to sell the pics to tabloids—she decided to nip the problem in the bud by releasing a photo of her own.
She included the following caption:
Happy 2016 to my beautiful Instafriends! So, posting a bikini pic is a little out of character for me, but just now while I was at the beach I noticed I was being photographed. I figure if this kind of photo is going to be out in the world it should at least be an image that makes me happy (and be one that was taken with my consent. And with a filter :) Wishing you love, light and blessings for the year ahead!May we all find light, love, and a flattering filter in 2016. H/T Jezebel | Screengrab via Anne Hathaway/Instagram
YouTube can be a great place to find extreme foods and calorie-bomb concoctions, but it’s also a great resource to find inspiration and recipes to support those healthy eating New Year’s resolutions. We’ve got seven of the best healthy cooking YouTube channels to inspire your culinary health in 2016.basic knife skills and mango prep techniques to scrambled eggs and eggplant parmesan recipes. She even reveals how to gift other people healthy treats even if you don’t have kitchen skills.
2) LeanSecretsLeanSecrets is a combination of fitness and food, and its host offers tips for practical food prep and how to get extras without the fancy tools. For example, she has a wheatgrass tutorial that doesn’t require a juicer, and these cheap food lists are still healthy for the budget-conscious. Brenda Lee Turner also demystifies “healthy” foods like orange juice, all while showcasing workout tips and vlogs about her weight-loss journey.
3) FitMenCookKevin at FitMenCook is all about starting a healthy body in the kitchen, not the gym. With everything from meal prep and weekly grocery shopping plans to practical tips for cooking moist chicken, FitMenCook helps fans figure the step-by-step way to kickstart a fitness journey through their stomach. He even caters to the desire to eat fast food with fast-food alternatives like a KFC-style chicken. cakes, and brownies for the sweet tooth. By adding tech-centric interfaces to her videos, she gamifies healthy eating, giving viewers a fun reason to keep coming back. There are also hacks like portable lunches in mason jars and homemade pizza rolls to avoid the store-bought kind.
5) FabLunchFabLunch puts the culinary focus on one meal of the day: lunch. For office workers who turn to store-bought food for convenience and to escape repetition, this channel shows a variety of options for midday meals that are both healthy and fun. The other twist? FabLunch emphasizes the vegan lifestyle. YouTuber Olga Bykina provides vegan transitional tips like how to make a back-to-school bento box out of veggies. FabLunch also promotes its own line of lunch containers, for sale on its website. Nandos chicken. Roshdy also includes vlogs about his own life and shares supplement haul videos. overnight oats. Her signature is showing you a multitude of ways to prepare a given recipe, instead of just one style. That means everything comes in multiples so you can’t get too bored of her recipe ideas.
Screengrab via Fit Men Cook/YouTube