Go Watch This: “Gibberish” by MAX & Hoodie Allen

by Gabriel Valdez

In celebration of the YouTube Music Awards, the internet video giant released 13 commissioned music videos, their artists ranging from FKA twigs to Ed Sheeran. Some of these are better than others and, of course, we’ll count them through in our Best of March round-up at the end of the month (see the Best of February here).

Here’s the complete list of what was just released – it’s a strong group of music videos – but among the best of these is a bit of magic put out by MAX and Hoodie Allen. It’s called “Gibberish” and it uses clever choreography, special effects, and plain, old visual trickery to create a video that travels forwards and backwards in time all at once.

The metaphor it creates for how people in a relationship communicate past each other is pretty exceptional, but it’s always a complement to the music and dancing itself – it prioritizes style and a “how’d they do that?” factor over making you think too hard. In other words, it’s good to get you through the middle-of-the-week grind. Check it out above.

Dear Everybody: The 1983 “Scarface” Was a Remake

Scarface Paul Muni

by Gabriel Valdez

It was just announced that Scarface will be remade by the incredibly talented director Pablo Larrain. The only problem? Well, the internet seems to be exploding with disgust at the notion that a classic original like 1983’s Scarface, starring Al Pacino, could possibly be denigrated by a remake.

The only problem with that only problem? The 1983 Scarface was a remake of the 1932 classic Scarface starring Paul Muni.

Let’s stop saying that a remake is sacrilegious. If it were, the film that everyone’s defending against being remade…? It wouldn’t even exist.

Netflix: Expiring Soon (March 2015)


If you use Netflix, take a look at the movies you have two weeks left to watch.

via Justine Baron.

Originally posted on Justine's Movie Blog:


Below you will find lists of titles expiring on Netflix during this month (March) in the US, Canada, and the UK. For anyone wanting to know what has been added this month, you can find that list here. I try to keep it as updated as possible.

As usual, if anyone comes across any expiration dates that are not on this list, leave the title in the comments and I will add it. Enjoy!

Note: Unless any of these titles are renewed, the dates below represent the date of the last day these titles will be available for you to watch.

Netflix US

House Hunting (2013)
Miss Dial (2013)
Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011)
The Silence (2010)
Entre Nos (2009)
My Way (2011)
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
Edgar – 1 Season (2007) (TV)
Family Affair (2010)
Love Free or Die (2012)
Upside Down (2012)

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The Case for Counselor Troi — How “Star Trek” & “Buffy” Shaped Movies, TV, and Me

Buffy the vampire slayer

by Gabriel Valdez

I was raised on Star Trek. In The Next Generation, male power figures struggled to connect with their emotions (Picard, Worf, Data).

On Deep Space Nine, they struggled to contain their anger when the universe took away the things they loved (Sisko’s sanity, Worf’s wife, Bashir’s research and humanity, O’Brien’s pretty much everything – I think the writers made it their mission to obliterate O’Brien twice a season).

On Voyager, they struggled to be commanded by a woman, not because she was a woman – mind you, Star Trek posed a civilization too advanced to be dealing with that – but because she was the Yul Brynner to their rag-tag, rowdy Magnificent Seven (Chakotay, Paris, the Emergency Medical Hologram). The metaphor, however, was pretty clear.

These struggles with male expectations often proved to be the most difficult obstacle for a plot to overcome. For all the derision heaped on Counselor Troi in Next Generation – the running joke in a lot of the show’s criticism was that she was useless – she may’ve been the most crucial cog in that entire crew, constantly coaxing men to get over themselves and experience another person’s or culture’s perspective. She may have saved the Enterprise more than any other character, not through the orders she gave or actions she took, but by helping the crew to inhabit situations from the perspectives of others.

Picard goes through the ringer several times – indoctrination by the Borg, torture by the Cardassians, living a whole other alien life because of a mysterious space probe – and it’s always Troi bringing him back from the edge. She helped Data achieve his goals of becoming more human by introducing him to concepts of art, empathy, and social responsibilities outside of his duty. She talked Worf out of suicide countless times. The suicide was always ritual – cultural – but it came at times when Worf was afraid of dying in a way that wasn’t warlike enough – that wasn’t manly enough.

Major Kira

On Deep Space Nine, while Sisko and Worf and O’Brien struggled with their personal losses, it was Kira Nerys – a survivor of genocide who had lost her family, culture, religion, and most of her species – who held it together the best. There were times the others were barely fit to command, and would risk crewmates or shirk their responsibilities in order to exact vengeance, but Kira was the one who could fight for a cause one minute, and look her enemy straight in the eye and relent when it saved lives. (If you’re at all a fan of science-fiction, Deep Space Nine is on Netflix and Hulu. It is the best science-fiction show ever put to television, with the possible exception of The Twilight Zone.)

On Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway incorporated a band of rebels into her crew, relied on a convict navigator, a holographic doctor, an officer who was essentially reconditioned from a lifetime in a genetically enhanced cult, and even – at points – the son of an omnipotent being. She made decisions more quickly and more fairly than any other captain because she came fully in tune with her own emotions – she didn’t have the same struggles as Picard or Sisko – and constantly approached situations from the perspectives of her opponents. She was Counselor Troi and Captain Picard all rolled up into one.

So Next Generation showed me that being manly, being Rocky or Rambo, could cause more problems than it ever solved. Solutions came through the diplomacy Picard represented, yes, but true diplomacy could only be achieved through the empathy Troi championed. Deep Space Nine showed me that relying on my anger would only risk those around me, that anger is self-perpetuated and can destroy better solutions in order to maintenance its own survival. And Voyager showed me that sometimes men should shut up and listen, not because women know more or have better opinions – it’s all pretty much equal – but because our society gives men so many more chances to speak that we can’t benefit from the opinions we never hear.

Captain Janeway

But then came Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its men whined and pouted and spilled their feelings willy-nilly, while the women kicked ass and got things done. Creator Joss Whedon is often criticized for making women strong by making them literally, physically strong rather than emotionally or mentally, but that’s a false argument to me. Buffy coped with heartache and breakup and becoming a single parent to her sister while dealing with the end of the world and staking vampires through the heart. Guys like Angel and Riley couldn’t do both at once – they would get sidetracked by bottled-up emotions they had failed to deal with and lose sight of the fight at hand. At times, they may have been Buffy’s physical equals, but they were never her mental or emotional equals. They had a lot of maturing to do before they could make that claim.

Fast-forward to the spinoff Angel and even Valley-girl Charisma Carpenter became the war-wearied voice of reason and unofficial leader of the pack, allowing Angel to continue his more personal quest to become the moodiest moodster in Moodytown.

You know what, though? Angel became a better person – he literally gets his soul back – by connecting with those around him and sharing his feelings. Clutzy, nerdy Xander becomes a leader precisely because he was so emotionally honest in his formative years – he had learned to deal with his emotions rather than hiding them or pretending they weren’t there. Giles is perpetually himself and doesn’t feel any pressure to be any other way. It keeps him sane through some pretty messed up plot. So Buffy might have strong women, but I’d already bought into that idea. It was important to have that reinforced, but just as importantly, Buffy featured men who understood it was OK to be weak, to talk about your problems and, yeah, to whine. And that was pretty crucial for me to be exposed to.

None of these shows on their own finished painting the picture, but all of them combined helped me place different priorities on what was important in “being a man.”

I didn’t see them in a vacuum either – they were informed by Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis styled action roles. Yet when I watched those roles, they didn’t seem like the examples of manliness they were supposed to be. I saw pieces missing. I enjoyed their exploits, but they never seemed like full characters.

There’s a reason that male Marvel heroes spill their guts and confront each other about their emotions now. It’s not because Whedon’s in charge of them either – they did that before he came on board. It’s because shows like Star Trek and Buffy forced science-fiction to grow up when it came to how men and women related to each other. Schwarzenegger and Stallone stopped feeling real to enough people, they stopped having as much function for viewers; men who were strong because they shared their emotions started feeling more real and started being more useful.

We often talk about how geek culture took over – I don’t think it did, at least not because it’s specifically geek culture. I think science-fiction, comic, and fantasy fiction were the only genres that let us progress as a storytelling society and so, like water flowing down the path of least resistance, we gravitated toward the genres that allowed us to evolve our storytelling and the kinds of characters we felt were important.

We still watch the old-fashioned movies, and there’s still a lot to fix in the new ones, but it’s nice to know that Troi and Kira and Janeway all helped explain (along with the voices of friends and family) that there were better ways to solve problems than just beating them up, that empathy was more important than dominance, and that characters like Picard, Worf, O’Brien, and Chakotay would be less successful, or even dead, without the benefit of empathy, understanding, and compromise. That paired well with Buffy telling me it was better as a man to talk about emotions and move on than to be tough, hide them, and never cope. Voices of women not only saved other characters from science-fiction and fantasy predicaments, they saved science-fiction and fantasy themselves.

Go Watch This: If It Happened Here

by Gabriel Valdez

I don’t want to tell you to go contribute to Save the Children. I don’t know how it compares to other charities. But their latest ad presents a moving 90 seconds of what life is like in war-torn countries. If we watch the news today, we see images of bombs dropping and exploding in false-color images as if the preview for a movie, in a purposefully desensitizing presentation honed over the last 25 years.

We have our objections and protests worn out through sheer attrition. War in the Middle East and, in particular, our involvement in war in the Middle East has become so standard that we wouldn’t quite know what to do if we weren’t involved in one.

Worst of all, whether you believe we should stay in or leave those wars, we fail to build any infrastructure in the countries we bomb – schools, hospitals, roads, emergency services. This failure primes conditions for another war in these areas 20 years later, our diving in feet first 20 years later, our emptying already-empty coffers 20 years later, and regional conditions where millions of refugees (2.3 million from Syria since 2011) are created generationally. And then we blame those people, those countries, those ethnicities, justifying in our own heads our racial and religious hatred, instead of understanding we have created a cycle that only benefits our politicians, our military contractors, our oil companies, at the expense of taxpayers and our schools and our hospitals and our roads and our emergency services.

We are now involved in a multi-sided civil war that spreads across Syria and Iraq, that is nearing Turkey and Iran, a war in which Iraq has chosen to coordinate military operations with Iran over the United States, a war in which our arch-nemesis of the moment, the radical terror organization ISIS, was originally a pet project of the Saudi royal family to harass the Syrian government, a pet project we indirectly funded with taxpayer-funded assistance and oil money.

The United States ascended during the Cold War and became the world’s premier superpower not because of our military. Our military simply extended the game of brinksmanship. We won because, after every military conflict, we would be the ones who rebuilt nations. We were good at projecting military power across the globe. We were even better at projecting infrastructure, re-creating cities, helping other nations. After natural disasters, we were the first ones in, we supplied aid and helped refugees, we organized the recovery, and we understood that building a better world resulted in unbreakable alliances.

Now we bomb, we invade, and we largely turn around and leave, creating rebooted nations with little to no support, dictators whose only incentive toward maintaining rule is terror instead of kindness. And we wonder why every installed ruler is overthrown, why we’re drawn back in again and again.

So give to Save the Children or some other charity or don’t give at all, but whatever you do, watch the above video and ask why we’re in these situations today, why a state of war is the American constant, why our greatest moments as a country coincided with our greatest international involvement and cooperation in building countries, and why our worst involve countries we bomb and then refuse to build. Keep all that in mind when you watch the news or read about politics. Keep what we briefly were in mind, and what we are now, and don’t just ask what’s morally or ethically better – that choice is obvious – ask what’s more effective. That’s the choice we never talk about.

Go Watch This: Auralnauts Redubs

by Gabriel Valdez

What if Star Wars: Episode I had featured an epic dance battle, hard-partying Jedi, and a deranged C3PO obsessed with wearing the skin of Jar Jar Binks?

These are just a few of the important questions that Auralnauts asks and, I have to admit, I’m late to the party on this one. Let me back up a bit:

It’s funny how you come across new tastes. I was having a Facebook debate one day about Michelle Rodriguez’s insistence that minority actors “stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes.” While Rodriguez would later contextualize the statement in a way that was more reasonable (although still not realistic to me), it was obviously worth talking about.

My view? In superhero movies: Tony Stark’s adversaries were changed from Vietnamese to Afghans in Iron Man. Superman, arguably, should be Jewish. While 1930s comics publishing wouldn’t allow a superhero to be Jewish, his creators did everything that era allowed to hint he was an analogue for the Jewish immigrant experience. He’s never been portrayed that way on film. I heard not a peep when Latino character Bane was cast with Australian actor Tom Hardy, or when the Arabic Ra’s al Ghul was cast with an Irish actor in the Dark Knight series.

If you read here often, you know that I’m in favor of recasting regardless of race across the board. We may not be a post-racial society, but if movies treat it as normal, we may one day pick up the cue.

Regardless, the same voices that express moral outrage over white comic characters being recast fail to speak up when nonwhite comic characters are recast. While I don’t agree with that outrage, it would be nice if it were at least a consistent outrage.

So I insisted that Kevin Costner should appear to Superman in a dream Obi-Wan style and tell him, “Actually, we’re Jewish.” Have the Afghans appear in the next Avengers film and reveal themselves as Vietnamese secret agents. Have Tom Hardy’s lines in The Dark Knight Rises re-dubbed by Selena Gomez. Use CGI to replace Liam Neeson with Omar Sharif.

Once that’s all done, anyone who wants can complain about white superheroes being stolen or adapted, but not a moment before.

Needless to say, we haven’t fixed the world just yet, and I learned a valuable lesson: once you suggest Selena Gomez play Bane, any serious conversation goes out the window.

The number of Bane redub videos I’ve been sent since is…catastrophic. I really need to re-evaluate my life. Most of them were horrible. The only good one, to tell the truth, was by Auralnauts, and it featured the wonderful Bane rap at the top of this video.

So I checked out their channel, and it’s what I never knew I always wanted from redubs, and I never even knew I wanted redubs. Take a look at their reinterpretation of the Star Wars prequels, where the entire plot centers around Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon skipping the bill at a Space Hooters and regional manager Darth Maul becoming obsessed with beating them in a dance-off. I’ll start you at a good bit in the middle of the first one, so you can get a taste of what’s in store.

I haven’t looked at all their work – there’s a lot of it – but I intend on following them for a long time to come.

Trailers of the Week — The Importance of Documentaries

Pulitzer Winner breaking news 2012 by Massoud Hossaini

by Gabriel Valdez

The photo above is real. It was taken by Massoud Hossaini and documented the aftermath of a suicide bombing aimed at Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan. The name of the girl screaming is Tarana Akbari. It means “Melody” in English. 17 women and children in her family were walking to a shrine to celebrate a holy day, Ashura. Seven died. This information is taken from the Pulitzer Prize website. This photo was shared around the world, and helped keep focus on Afghanistan at a time when it was drifting from the public eye.

There’s a perception that being an artist is easy, a lazy way out. You tell me: What’s the most important thing you can do in that moment? Help the girl or take the photo? Each choice changes lives; each choice sacrifices the opportunity to change other lives.


American society likes to downplay the role of artists – that they’re narcissistic, self-serving, or feel that the expectations of society are less important than their own personal goals – but this is a dangerous rejection. Artists often have a vital role to play in being a culture’s conscience. That can be in the form of comedians, photographers, painters, filmmakers, any kind of artist.

In Afghanistan, where photography was banned under the Taliban, it falls upon photographers to remind the world of the daily struggles and intolerances their citizens face. They know what stability is there will fall apart when the U.S. leaves because, well, they’ve seen it before in their lifetimes. The fault isn’t in our leaving again, it’s in our leaving nothing of value behind again, focusing on winning wars rather than building schools and hospitals and roads, leaving nothing for their population to pick up but weapons and damning ourselves to another war there 20 years later.

Directors Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli depict how photographers can use our interconnected world to keep pressure on Western nations to build something more. It’s an uphill battle, it’s a battle unlikely to be won, but that doesn’t mean that artists shouldn’t have it because along the way they will save lives, they will improve their culture’s situation, and they will make things that much better and more stable to survive the next war and the next dictatorship. That’s the role of an artist – not narcissism, but self-sacrifice, even if those they’re sacrificing for couldn’t recognize that in a million years. How dangerous is it to devalue your own conscience?


How exceptional would it be to suddenly discover you have an adopted twin halfway around the world? That’s the unique experience Twinsters documents. I know very little about it, but Samantha Futerman documents her own strange experience of meeting her twin. It’s the sort of unlikely drama we attach to fiction and never expect to encounter in reality, but these are the things that become more likely as our web of social networks makes the world a smaller place.


Very few people realize that Caroll Spinney has been playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street for nearly 50 years now. What’s the story behind a puppeteer and voice actor who is, essentially, synonymous with the entire history of the most successful children’s program in TV history? And what does that history mean going forward, at a time when public television is under political attack for…well, I’m really still unsure why Republicans in Congress keep trying to pull funding from it.

I’m told I approached my mother with a storybook once, when I was very young. She assumed I wanted her to read it to me. I started reading it to her instead. My parents were terrifically involved in my growth, but like many things in my life, I had kept my ability to read private until I could do it at a certain level. They were shocked I could read so early. They asked me how. I had two words: “Sesame Street.” I don’t see how you pull what amounts to very little public funding for a show that can teach children – some who have parents who weren’t as involved as mine were – to read.


I know, it’s Taylor Lautner, and he was the pinnacle of horrible in a franchise pretty much dedicated to horrible. Although I think the first Twilight is perfectly acceptable for what it is, its four(!?!) sequels were increasingly dreadful. Every other actor in the movies, however – Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Anna Kendrick, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Mackenzie Foy – boasts a career composed of far better performances. The evidence suggests none of them are bad actors, but rather they all joined in on a franchise composed of terrible performances.

Why should Lautner be any different? I don’t see any reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially in a movie that looks like the lovechild of Point Break and Premium Rush, and features parkour as its action focus.


I have no idea of the context of this, nor of its underlying messages or historical or mythical accuracy. I have zero background in this, but there aren’t a whole lot of epics from Sri Lanka that we get a chance to see, and my radar starts going wild any time I get a chance to see movies from a film industry that – to me, at least – is new.

Every culture inputs something new and different into the films they make, adds something new to the visual language that makes up storytelling in movies. That’s why I’m excited for this, even if I know little else about it.


Mike Flanagan put out Oculus last year and it was a moodily effective, if ultimately underwhelming, horror movie. I look forward to seeing what he does as he continues to develop and evolve as a filmmaker. The plot of Before I Wake feels a little predictable, but some of those visuals are more effective than I want to admit. If he can pull those off, he’ll join a small group of young directors who – I don’t want to be overdramatic here – are basically our only hope of saving a woeful American horror genre.


Mumblecore – a genre defined by naturalistic acting, often messily overlapped dialogue, and real shooting locations – has long been a genre associated with twenty-something melodrama. While that’s all well and fine (and a bit underrated in what it can contribute to film), I find it fascinating when it’s applied to other genres. Take You’re Next, a 2013 horror movie that adopts mumblecore as an effective way of marrying dark comedy to intense horror.

While mumblecore would seem tailor-made to the screwball comedy, the reality is that nobody really thinks to make screwball comedies of any sort anymore. That’s a shame, and one reason Wild Canaries is on my list of harder-to-track-down films.


Rose Byrne has a head for intriguing and challenging independent film. She’s followed a career of never quite going mainstream, yet she often pushes her movies into unexpected box office success anyway. Despite the disaster that was last year’s Neighbors (read the review), I’m more than willing to trust her in an indie comedy opposite Nick Kroll – despite or because of the fact they’re playing enabling narcissists, I’m not really sure.


It’s a Dev Patel world, we’re just living in it. Two weeks ago he had two debuts – Chappie (read the review) and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – that opened first and third on box office charts. Later this year, The Road Within will find its way to rental, if not the theater, and even if the trailer looks a little rote, it also looks fun. That and Dev Patel is quickly becoming a bit of a must-see actor for me.

Other trailers of note:

Pixar’s latest animated film, Inside Out, debuted its first real story trailer.

Hotel Transylvania 2 featured its first trailer, a cute scene about vampires learning to fly.

Maggie Kiley’s Dial a Prayer looks like it could be a very good comedy.

Movies and how they change you.


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