Over on AC: Trailers of the Week

Michael Fassbender Slow West

Like I said, some things are going to shift around as I write for Article Cats, so Trailers of the Week might switch days. Here’s this week’s, including Jake Gyllenhaal’s Oscar shot, some exciting new comedies, new Donnie Yen, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s…Oscar shot? Really?

Oh, and the new Bond trailer, but after the misogyny of Skyfall I’m not exactly holding out high hopes. Check out Trailers of the Week’s new home here:

The Best New Trailers of the Week

And happy Friday!

– Gabe

Netflix: What’s New on Streaming (April 2015)

basilmarinerchase:

The best resource online to find out what’s new on Netflix is Justine Baron’s monthly segment. She does a more complete list than any mainstream site I’ve found. Covering the US, UK, and Canada, here’s what’s new this April.

Originally posted on Justine's Movie Blog:

netflix-logo

Here are the US, Canada and UK lists for new movie and TV titles that have been added to Netflix streaming this month of April. I will try to keep this list updated as I find more titles are being added later on in the month. In the meantime, you can see what new was added last month and what expired recently. Enjoy!

Netflix US

4/1
29 Palms (2003)
50 First Dates (2004)
Affluenza (2014)
Agora (2009)
All Relative (2014)
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)
American Psycho (2000)
American Psycho 2 (2002)
Anatomy of a Love Seen (2014)
And Now…Ladies and Gentlemen… (2002)
Angela’s Ashes (1999)
Another Woman (1988)
Approaching the Elephant (2014)
Autumn in New York (2000)
Bandolero! (1968)
Barnyard (2006)
The Beautician and the Beast (1997)
Bebe’s Kids (1992)
Bella (2006)
Belly (1998)
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I – The Egg of the King (2012)
Beyond…

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Over On AC: Why the Bechdel Test Matters

by Gabriel Valdez

I’ll be linking all my new work for Article Cats here, so subscribers and visitors can easily find the additional work I’m doing for them. My first article is on – what else? – the Bechdel Test. I address the gender balance and treatment of women and men according to stereotypes in all my reviews, and it’s important to revisit why regularly. Go check it out:

“Why the Bechdel Test Matters (As Told by a Male Film Critic)”

Notes on a Critic — Going Nuts, Not Falling Over

by Gabriel Valdez

I’ve had a number of people over the last several months ask me about writing or criticism – how to, advice, that sort of thing. I don’t want to pretend I’m any sort of guru in a field that’s becoming increasingly freelance, but I suppose I’ve assembled a team of writers and developed a reputation for being very critical of mainstream criticism. I also write more than most, and that’s what a lot of the questions are about – how to stay fresh without burning out.

So after some pushing, I thought it wouldn’t hurt (probably) to compile some notes – not on “how to be a critic” or “how to write” but just on what’s important to me as a critic and a writer, how I go about things.

The Tetons and the Snake River by Ansel Adams

MASSIVE DISCLAIMER (REALLY MORE OF A CLAIMER)

I don’t want this to come off as self-help, because: bleughch! Maybe I’ve just had unlucky experiences, but all the people I’ve seen regularly push self-help have turned out to be, not to put too fine a point on it, sociopaths. It’s not bad to read self-help, not at all, but if you base your entire worldview on it…oh dear. Do not base your worldview on me. Please. That’s more burden than I want. A little altar in the corner of your room is fine. You don’t even have to pray to it every day.

The point of advice is to only take around half of it. Take too little, and you’re probably ignoring some important voices. Take too much and you’re not trusting your own ability to take risks.

So please, don’t treat this as self-help or how to. If I write something you connect with – AMAZING! If I write something you think is stupid and doesn’t fit you – SPECTACULAR! The best advice I’ve ever gotten is the kind I can tear down, retrofit, stick some afterburners on, spin it upside down, and go, “Thanks, that really helped.”

The most important thing to have as a writer is your own opinion, so treat these notes as something far more innocuous: my manifesto. Nobody evil ever wrote a manifesto, right? All kidding aside, it’s a set of theories – my set of theories – on the direction I’d like to see criticism take. They’re the rules I write by, which means it’s important for me to sometimes break them, too.

Who am I to say film (and music, and art, and theatre) criticism needs to change? I’m a critic. If you love what you do, you have opinions on it. You have a way that you want to do it that’s important to you personally. (And if you don’t love what you do, why are you doing it?)

So let’s start with the piece of advice every critic will give you:

A Clockwork Orange TV torture

WATCH EVERYTHING

The things you like, the things other critics recommend, crazy shitty 80s movies, your friends’ experimental mumblecore, even that weird-ass movie where Charles Bronson is a pissed off watermelon farmer out for revenge because gangsters shot his watermelons (seriously, it exists and it’s not half bad). You never know what you’re going to like for what reasons, or where you’re going to get that article no one else ever thought to write.

You also don’t know what you’re going to fall in love with until it’s staring you in the face. Everyone can write about how they love Jurassic Park or Star Wars, but you might be the only critic that connects with that crazy SubReddit audience that LOVES watermelon-based vengeance flicks.

It does two things – 1) it builds your taste and it makes your specific stable of knowledge more particular to you; 2) it makes your writing stand out to audiences as something different. Believe me, if you write regularly, it won’t be hard to find yourself being thirtieth in line to repeat a specific opinion. Embrace the times you’re the one crazy person in the crowd babbling about something unique.

When do I break this? Like in any other job, you can burn out. If you’re watching 15 movies a week, you’ve probably lost perspective. Go feed some ducks in the park or yell at neocons on Facebook. Shoot some watermelons even, whatever shakes you loose.

FIND THE ARTICLES NO ONE ELSE IS WRITING

This is essentially a compulsion for me. I’m wary of writing articles that already exist. If I find someone else has already made the point I want to make, I’ll ask myself a question: did they do it better than I will?

Sometimes the answer is no, so I’ll cite them and write my own take.

Sometimes the answer is yes, so I’ll cite them, and take it as a challenge to extrapolate even further and find a place in the writing they didn’t.

And sometimes the answer is yes and I’ll just share what they wrote. I never want to waste my time writing something that’s already been written when I can simply tell others, “Go read this other person!”

When do I break this? Pretty much never. I’m a little OCD about it and I really, honestly believe echoing someone else’s opinion when I can just feature and link them is a waste of my time as a writer. Which brings me to my next point:

NC Falling Over

SHARE (BUT DON’T FALL OVER)

If you love something, share it. Don’t steal someone else’s opinion as your own original thought. If you need to steal opinions, you won’t last long anyway. You can stand on other writers’ opinions, reference them and use them as the basis for further arguments, but if they’re not yours, they’re not yours.

Similarly, don’t hide someone else’s good work away because you’re afraid of sending your audience elsewhere. You may feel bad you didn’t write that article yourself, but the conversations that grow around what you share will be the ones that lead you to your best articles.

You also never know who you’ll get to talk to because you share. I enjoyed conversations with Vivian Kubrick and Anand Ghandi this last year because I shared others’ work, and one of the articles I shared sparked a back and forth series between Indiewire‘s Sam Adams, An Historian Goes to the Movies‘ A.E. Larsen, Threat Quality Press‘s Chris Braak, and myself. It even broadened my perspective as a critic.

When do I break this? All the time. There are only so many hours in a day and I always want to write my own articles first. This means I’ve got dozens upon dozens of articles and videos bookmarked to share, but by the time I write my own pieces and share one or two of someone else’s, it’s dinnertime, and dinner has food in it and I probably missed lunch, so it’s either that or fall over. So share as much as you can, but make sure you don’t fall over. It never hurts to have a backlog, and keep those bookmarks so that you can cite others when you need to. Never steal an opinion, though. You can make your argument just as well (even better, actually) with a citation as you can without it.

Empathize

EMPATHIZE

Ha, you were going to skip this part but then I put up a picture of a monkey and a pigeon or whatever the hell’s going on there. You’re stuck in now.

If you read me, you know I love collaborative criticism. I believe a critic never has “the right opinion,” they just have “an opinion.” I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here: what I say as a critic will never be as important as what your friend sitting next to you in the theater says, and that holds true for every critic.

In an age of social networking, where we can have friends sitting in the theater next to us half the world away, a critic’s responsibility isn’t to tell you what opinion to hold, it’s to open you up to more opinions, to ask you to consider perspectives you wouldn’t have before. On my best day, I haven’t convinced someone I’m right, I’ve convinced someone to be more empathetic or to look at a movie in a way they hadn’t considered. To do that, a critic has to practice it, too. A critic has to break down some of the things they’re sure of and rebuild their perspective further out, and they ought to do this regularly. To me, that’s often synonymous with the act of watching a movie. You have to be willing to let art break you down, or you’re not a critic, you’re a cynic.

Criticism has an opportunity to be a constantly evolving reflection on art, not just an obsolete rating system. Critics need to begin looking at themselves as artists of empathy, not as expert judges.

When do I break this? It’s OK to have opinions. It’s OK to fully believe in and fight for them. It’s OK to debate and argue. Just don’t end the day thinking you have sole ownership of being right, because you don’t, and learn to value what’s worth having the fight over and what isn’t.

Don’t worry whether your own voice will always be the most important one to you or whether it will come through enough. You’re kind of stuck with it. Trust that and go nuts.

There’ll be more entries in this feature down the road, especially if people are into it.

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.

Go Watch This: Lindsey Stirling’s “Roundtable Rival”

by Gabriel Valdez

As we scour our way through dozens of music videos each week, we sometimes come across something we’ve missed. This site’s always been about trying different things out, especially when it means teaming different writers together, and late last year that means we gave music videos a break to try other things.

Now that we’ve brought that coverage back to stay, we’re finding a few gems we didn’t feature, like “Roundtable Rival.” In this case, that means discovering that Lindsey Stirling totally stole the idea that I was gonna steal from Six String Samurai. (No, it’s not really stealing.)

If you’re unfamiliar with Stirling, I could say something snarky like, “That must’ve been one comfortable rock,” but instead I’ll point you to her channel, where she combines playing the violin with her unique brand of hip hop and folk dancing – usually all at once – to create some of the most imaginative (and positive) music videos being made in the industry today.

Trailers of the Week — Most Anticipated Comedy, Irish Drama, and Mission: Impossible

Jimmys Hall Ken Loach

by Gabriel Valdez

It is really hard to get me interested in a romantic comedy. Not because I don’t like the genre – it’s none of that “I’m a guy, I can’t do this” guff. It’s because so many are made with the wrong priorities in mind: either stressing Disney-fied “one true love” views of love or deconstructing male friendship toward women as quiet obsessions that would be creepy as hell in the real world yet are nearly always rewarded with a woman-as-prize on film. Neither represents good lessons for either gender.

Give me a Sliding Doors or a 10 Things I Hate About You or even a Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Love Actually any day of the week. But hold the cloying copycat junk. Give me something unique, and I’m as excited for a romantic comedy as I am for any other kinds of film. Which leads me to:

TRAILER OF THE WEEK
MAN UP

I’ve been waiting for Lake Bell to become the next Sandra Bullock for a while now. Armed with a similar sensibility for communicating women finding their way in the world (and being OK with it), but with a voice actor’s knack for accents and an eye toward directing, she finally seems to be breaking through.

Pairing my favorite comic actress with my favorite comic actor – Simon Pegg – makes this film by British TV director Ben Palmer jump out of seemingly nowhere to near the top of my list. Like I said up top, I’m not a sucker for most romantic comedies – it takes a lot to get me interested. Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, and a trailer like this? That all gets me interested.

And while you’re at it, check out Bell’s directorial debut, In a World… (and what I wrote about it as one of 2013’s most overlooked films).

JIMMY’S HALL

No one films Ireland like Ken Loach, and the director of the quietly poetic war drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley returns to that 1920s and 30s era he depicted so beautifully to visit another moment in Irish history, when a new government – fearful of fascism and communism – cracked down on anything that seemed new or different, that questioned Catholicism or hinted at socialism.

Loach is among the best directors that few viewers know. His films are always visits into other places, times, and worlds, pieces of simmering working class drama filled with human connection and visual poetry. He’s a director who cuts you to your core in the gentlest of ways, like a singer whose voice both calms the soul and haunts it for days.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION

For all intents and purposes, it looks like M:I picked up the borderless rogue state concept that the Bond series developed so well in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, brushed it off, wondered aloud why the hell Bond would just casually drop such a well-developed plot, and said, “Finder’s keepers.”

Why did Bond drop that plot anyway? Oh yeah, that’s why.

If Bond doesn’t want it, I’m happy for M:I to start mattering a bit more than it has in the past. The series continues to get better and fresher as Tom Cruise’s policy of a new director every film leads to giving upcoming action auteurs their best chance to show off all that they’ve got.

It’s a smart-as-hell business model that’s led J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird to bigger live-action fare, and Christopher McQuarrie, longtime writer (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Edge of Tomorrow) and fairly new director (The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher) may turn out to be a better director than either.

GOOD KILL

Do I put a serious movie about the ethics of drone warfare above or below the Mission: Impossible trailer? This is a monumentally worthless question, but it’s still one that gave me pause. In the end, it’s not a great trailer. Mission: Impossible‘s is better. But Good Kill looks like it could be a great project. I trust in most things Ethan Hawke, if not in the totality of every movie then at least in his very honest and forthright performances.

Director Andrew Niccol is one of the most up-and-down directors you find. Gattaca remains one of the most important movies of the 90s and one of the most important and singular science-fiction movies ever made. Lord of War featured, in my book, Nicolas Cage’s best performance. Then you have S1m0ne, a thoughtful but ill-constructed comedy, and The Host (the U.S. sci-fi movie, not the fun Korean monster flick). Somewhere in the middle, you have the stylish but rather void Justin Timberlake-vehicle In Time.

Which Andrew Niccol shows up to a given film is difficult to pin down, but Good Kill feels most in synch with Lord of War, and that’s promising. It also reteams Niccol with Hawke. The last time that happened, we got Gattacca. Count me cautiously optimistic.

THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED

This trailer to a FOURTH movie in a franchise that barely managed to hang together a first one has no business making me smile. It doesn’t even have Jason Statham in it.

And yet…

It looks like something I’d watch. Mind you, it doesn’t look like anything I’d have high expectations for. But sometimes those are two different things. In fact, when it comes to The Transporter series, those are always two different things.

WORST TRAILER OF THE WEEK
PIXELS

This idea of classic video game characters invading Earth wasn’t a bad one when Futurama did it. In 2002. It’s just that the cast, led by Adam Sandler and Kevin James, also seems better suited to 2002. Nothing against the actors, but they don’t seem the most appropriate to headline this level of comedy anymore. Hell, Sandler agreed to do one recent comedy only because it included a free trip to South Africa. Their star hasn’t burned out, but it has grown tiresome and repetitive. Imagine Tina Fey, Kevin Hart, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Jennifer Aniston, or Jason Segel in these roles.

Melissa McCarthy – who I’m generally not a fan of because she’s been stuck David Spade-like into movies that make fun of one element of her persona – would slaughter a movie like this. Dice it into little pieces and put it in a soup. Kill it. She would. McCarthy.

Point is, everything about this movie seems…well, not good but at least promising, until you see the faces. Then any notion of clever goes out the window, and “derivative” bolds, underlines, and ALL-CAPS itself. Obviously, I don’t hold out much hope for DERIVATIVE. Er, I mean Pixels.

Other trailers of interest:

Estonian war drama Tangerines.

Super cheesy-looking but kinda heartstring-pulling hero-dog movie Max.

Paper Towns actually looks like a fun teen mystery, but it smacks of promoting my least favorite lessons about men being rewarded with women by warrant of being obsessed, so good job ruining that.

And the disastrously titled Barely Lethal is proof that Samuel L. Jackson will act in anything. Oh well, it can’t be any worse than Vampire Academy, which was deceptively watchable.

Movies and how they change you.

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