Anchor Bay via Everett Collection
It's Saturday night. The game is on. The town is yours. You're ready to go. But you need a little cinematic pep-talk. A movie that'll get your adrenaline rushing top speed. Something with action, adventure, excitement... hell, maybe even something fantastical every so often. This week, our Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendation for Saturday Night Fever is Battle Royale.
It says a lot when a movie's title becomes a permanent fixture in the international lexicon. The 2000 Japanese action movie Battle Royale is an unmistakably influential piece of cinema, predating America's fight-to-the-death franchise The Hunger Games by more than a decade. The movie, itself adapted from a 1999 novel, centers on a junior high school student who is thrust into a lethal competition with his classmates at the whim of the government.
Making everything in American cinema look tame by comparison, Battle Royale is not only brutal but skillfully delivered, with dazzling aesthetics, fun characters, and the emotional throughline of the hero's journey to overcome the death of his father. There are few films as capable of kicking up your pulse, and even fewer that can do so and still maintain an artistic air.
You can watch Battle Royale on Netflix, and check back tomorrow for our Lazy Sunday pick.
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For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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MGM via Everett Collection
Looks as though the familiar yell of the original jungle warrior himself, Tarzan, will once again be heard in theaters the world over, with Warner Brothers announcing a release date of July 1, 2016 for the live-action 3D adventure. Sound exciting? Hardly – in fact, here’s why Tarzan is already doomed to fail: CGI.
Yes, the darling of modern movie-making is, unfortunately, sure to zap all the juice out of this once-ripe papaya of pulp heroes. After all, is there anything truly menacing about a pixilated puma or a computer-rendered rhinoceros? No – and that was truly a major appeal of Tarzan, specifically, taking viewers into a world most would never go: the deepest, darkest climes of Africa, complete with a real person interacting with the most-dangerous of jungle beasts.
Sure, those "darkest climes" of cinema yore were simply another Hollywood back lot (and fancy editing made the "menace" seem more real than in actuality) but replacing actual animals with near 100 percent CGI versions will surely remove any of the genuine intrigue and excitement – particularly with Tarzan’s pal Cheetah. It’s one thing to suspend disbelief with a King Kong or Planet of the Apes (both of which depict animals larger-than-life, or creatures of pure fantasy). It is quite another to immediately recognize a phony chimp, complete with an actor looking in the general direction of the post-production induced co-star.
Look for Tarzan 3D to swing to the ground with a large, loud thud – even with stars such as True Blood's Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, and Sam Jackson attached.
It makes sense that Jimmy Fallon, king of all things viral, would have an awesome Instagram account. He posts a lot of selfies with the amazing guests on his show, from Nina Dobrev to Harrison Ford. There are also a lot of goofy pictures, but we detect some vanity shots in the mix. Here are our favorites from his Instagram.
GALLERY: Our Favorite Jimmy Fallon Selfies
Okay, we get it. Barack Obama is the first ever "pop culture president." Bill Clinton was cool, with his saxophone and all that, but Obama is in another league. There was that photo of him with kid Spider-Man that went viral, the fact that he kicks it with Jay Z and Beyoncé on a regular basis, and his wife is BFF with one of the biggest stars on television, Kerry Washington. Many of us love this about Obama and love the idea of having a very cool POTUS. But this mid-February tweet he sent out about House of Cards season two is a little weird.
Tomorrow: @HouseOfCards. No spoilers, please.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 13, 2014
We get it. House of Cards is insane, and addictive, and everyone is loving it. But isn't it a little awkward knowing that the president has time to, well, watch Netflix? With everything going on in the world, isn't it a little strange to know that right now — at this very moment — he could be sitting back and enjoying a good ol' fashioned binge-watch? It'd be like knowing he was in a bathroom somewhere taking hella selfies... like, 20 in a row until he got the perfect shot. Or knowing that he was just on Facebook, clicking on all of his friends' random links and watching the latest viral videos for 45 minutes. Weird.
Obviously, the president is a normal guy and he deserves some down time, but there's a part of us that wants to be left in the dark about those times. We get that he probably takes a nap here and there, we just don't want evidence of it on Twitter.
And then there's the subject matter of the show — political scandal and ruthlessness abound in the series, so there's that added layer of awkwardness. President Obama even (jokingly... maybe...) expressed his support for protagonist Frank Underwood, the vengeful, opportunistic congressman played by Kevin Spacey: "This guy’s getting a lot of stuff done... I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient."
Again, this is a very cool take on the series! But is it, dare we ask, too cool? Is Obama officially too cool to be the president?
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Whether you know her from House, Tron, her raunchy Jason Sudeikis-related quotes, or her Marchesa sparkleball of a Golden Globes dress, there's no denying the fact that Olivia Wilde is kind of awesome. She's awesome for lots of reasons, but chief among them (this month, anyway) is her recent cold-hard-truth-telling about sexism in Hollywood. As a panelist at the State of Female Justice, Wilde was able to distill down just what is wrong with the movie industry.
Yes, she said it, and she said it eloquently – and most importantly, she said it in a way that people are able to rally behind. It makes sense – we know she's smart and well-spoken from the column she wrote for Glamour (girl's good with words!). And her outcry against show business chauvinism delivered with some memorable pearls of wisdom.
She tells it like it is (and drops some Bechdel test truth): "Any woman working at any level in any part of Hollywood will tell you ... it's really hard to get a any stories made that are about women ... not just women being obsessed with men or supporting men."
She calls out her male peers: "It's really hard to get men to be a part of films that are about women in a leading role."
She rallies her cause: "Movies are made based upon what people areasking for ... so really the power is in our hands, and it's really just a matter of asking for it much louder."
And she tells a hilarious and hard-hitting anecdote about a gender-swapped version of American Pie: "It was so fascinating to be a part of this because, as the women took on these central roles – they had all the good lines, they had all the good laughs, all the great moments."
...And she throws some more (delicate) shade on her male peers: "The men who had joined us to sit on stage started squirming rather uncomfortably and got really bored because they weren't used to being the supporting cast."
She talks about some films that got it right: "When we switch the roles, which has been done with movies, many of you probably know already that in Aliens, Siourney Weaver's role was written for a man. In Salt, Angelina Jolie's role was written for Tom Cruise. These things, when reversed, have proven to be just as exciting and entertaining with women in leading roles."
Watch Olivia kick some metaphorical ass here:
Four for you, Olivia Wilde. You go Olivia Wilde!
Late songwriter Gerry Rafferty's life and work will be celebrated at an exhibition in his hometown of Paisley, Scotland. Personal artefacts belonging to the Baker Street hitmaker, including his golden discs, guitars, and handwritten lyrics, will go on display in Paisley Museum from Friday (07Mar14), on loan from Rafferty's daughter Martha.
She says, "My father's hometown meant a huge deal to him and helped inspire a lot of his work, so it is fitting to be able to hold this event here in Paisley."
Rafferty's legacy will also be celebrated with an eight-day music festival in Paisley in April (14).
He died from liver failure in 2011 aged 63, after a long battle with booze.
Former The Sopranos star Lillo Brancato has spoken out for the first time since his release from prison, where he served eight years for his part in a botched robbery that resulted in the death of an off-duty police officer. Brancato was released from prison on New Year's Eve (31Dec14), but is only now speaking publicly about the incident that robbed him of his freedom.
Speaking to U.S. news show Entertainment Tonight in a taped interview that will air on TV on Friday (07Mar14) and Monday (10Mar14), the actor shared his remorse for the death of Daniel Enchautegui, who tackled Brancato and associate Steven Armento after hearing them break into a neighbour's apartment.
Armento was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, while Brancato was sentenced to 10 years behind bars in 2009.
He tells ET, "I wish I could just take it back and I could bring police officer Daniel back to life. He was a hero, he was off-duty, lived next door, heard broken glass, came out and put his life on the line."
Brancato, who will be on parole until 2018, insists he learned a lot about himself behind bars and he's determined to turn his life around.
He added, "I thought about (my career) a lot and (it) reminds me of a saying someone once told me: 'It takes a second to get in trouble and a lifetime to get out of it', and I think about that every day because I did have many great opportunities... and (I) made the horrible choice to use and abuse drugs.
"The most important things to me right now: staying focused and giving back, and using that second chance at life."
Universal via Everett Collection
By the time Thursdays roll around, you're probably exhausted from a long week and looking for something familiar and comforting to help you forget about everything that's stressing you out. If the Internet is any indication, the best cure for this kind of fatigue is nostalgia, and the warmer and fuzzier it makes you feel, the better. This week's Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendation for Throwback Thursday is Cry-Baby.
After Johnny Depp left 21 Jump Street, but before he appeared in every Tim Burton movie ever made, he starred as the ultimate rock 'n' roll-singing, hip-swivelling, drag-racing bad boy in John Waters 1990 film Cry-Baby. A parody and homage to films of 1950s, it centers around "square" goodie two-shoes Alison (Amy Locane), who falls hard for Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker (Depp), who brings all kinds of trouble with him when he and his "drape" friends arrive in her quaint suburban town. Like all of Waters' work, it's a weird, over-the-top film filled with weird, over-the-top characters, but underneath the vintage aesthetic and the hilarious satire, there's a film with a lot of heart and a message about acceptance that's not trite or cloying. If Waters' twisted sense of humor and Depp's early days as a heartthrob don't win you over, Cry-Baby's insanely catchy, Elvis-esque rockabilly score is sure to do the trick. Plus, the film itself is a throwback, which makes it the perfect thing to watch while you decide which adorable baby picture of yourself to upload to Instagram.
You can stream Cry-Baby on Netflix, and make sure to check back tomorrow for our recommendations for the perfect Freaky Friday film.
FOX Broadcasting Co.
All of the futuristic gadgets, zany crimes and mashed-up metal on Almost Human have malfunctioned. The show finished its 13-episode run with a lot of gaps in the story. That was way too quick. It has been enjoyable watching John Kennex (Karl Urban) and Dorian (Michael Ealy) fight crime, but Almost Human has a ton of untapped potential. Questions need to be answered such as...
When Will the Antagonist Reappear?
Dr. Nigel Vaughn (John Larroquette) has established himself as the main bad guy. Or at least he is potentially. Vaughn is a rogue cyborg creator on the run. A crazed robot called an XRN (Gina Carano) still exists and as long as it's around, lives are at risk. The XRN killed countless people during the first run-in with law enforcement. When Kennex and the rest of the crew realize the XRN is functioning again, they quiver like a bunch of rookies on their first patrol.
The Insyndicate, the top tier of organized crime, still needs to be taken down. Kennex barely survived the Insyndicate's attack that killed his partner. And what about Kennex's ex-girlfriend, Anna Moore, who helped the Insyndicate in the attack? Almost Human must address these antagonists in future episodes. We got basically nothing from Season 1.
Stahl Is a Chrome. So What?
Nobody's perfect. Except maybe chromes. In Almost Human, chromes are genetically superior people who live longer, excel at everything, and mingle with their own. Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) is a detective, which surprises her fellow chromes. Usually, law enforcement is beneath a chrome. She has a lot in common with Kennex. The possibility of these two getting together seemed like a formality. Unfortunately, romance must take a back seat as Stahl was last seen dating some hotshot chrome. Would a chrome date a normal human?
The Wall and Future Sci-Fi Terrain
Many characters make references to the wall, a structure built to separate cities. People aren't allowed to cross the wall and it's not a place you casually visit. Vaughn made his escape (along with stolen XRN materials) by scaling the wall. What's on the other side? And what else can Almost Human do to wow us going forward? Dorian could clash with other cyborgs in potentially limitless action sequences. Kennex is weighed down by his inner demons. Investigating crimes, Dorian's partnership and Stahl's smile keep him sane. Let's hope he stays that way.
After a global search, sixteen finalists are brought to Hollywood, divided into four teams and will engage in elimination-style competitions to produce a short film. Each week the short films will be critiqued by a studio executive, film critic and guest judge with the viewers voting on their favorite. The final winner gets a meeting with Spielberg, an office at Dreamworks and $1 million to fund their next project.