Tag Archives: Movies

Hulu Holiday: 5 More Surprisingly Watchable Films

29 Jul

Whoa there-don’t freak out on me like that. Summer’s almost done and the free playtime is over.

Almost.

A few days before August, school, life, and everything in between, I have made a short list for those of you who have time in this fair month to enjoy the increasingly numbered days of a free Hulu. Enjoy while you can, it may become a thing of the pets.com age…

1) “Roxanne” -Say what you will about Steve Martin, but I think he’s an enjoyable actor. He’s a perfect fit in the Rom Com of awkwardness. A remake of the story of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Steve stars as the perfect sensitive man with a heart of gold but a rather large nose. He falls for the girl next door, who’s also caught the attention of his more attractive, less eloquent friend. Does love triumph or meet every stereotypical shortcoming about appearances?

You know why they call him The Lizard King...right?

2) “The Doors” -Oliver Stone does Rock n’ Roll in this trippy tribute to one of the best bands to trip out to. Val Kilmer (!) stars as “The Lizard King” Jim Morrison, the much maligned front man of The Doors. Much more enjoyable when not edited (coughVH1cough). Tune in, drop out and enjoy possibly one of Oliver Stone’s most entertaining, non-political films of all time.

3)”Jerry Maguire“- “Show me the Money!” Won Cuba Gooding Jr. the Oscar and gave Tom Cruise respect. Who knew such promising careers would hit the skids by the end of the decade? I blame “Snow Dogs!” A sport agent tries to survive in a field just as competitive as those he represents. I’m not a huge fan of sport movies, so it’s not one that really spoke to me until “You had me at hello.”

A tale as old as time...

4) “The Way We Were”-Sidney Pollack directs Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in one of the most memorable romantic films of all time. The story about a relationship over the course of around 30 years, it depicts the highs and low of life during the Depression, World War II, the Red Scare, and the start of the women’s liberation movement. She’s a political activist working through college and he’s a spoiled ROTC kid, opposites attract and what culminates is one of the most endearing relationships to be portrayed on the screen. Their differences cause as much problem as it does enrich their characters. It is a flawed, imperfect romance-how like life.

5) Random Doc choice: “Strip Club King“: Okay, so this is more of a local shout out. Before we had half-decent sports teams, Tampa was renown for its (in)famous Mons Venus club. I grew up not 15 minutes away from one of the World’s most famous topless bars. Yay seedy not-so-underground, the bar is literally on one of the main roads in the city and led to subsequent competion on the street. I think in around the mid-nineties or so, we had about 5 “gentleman’s” club on the same mile strech. All thanks to this guy, Joe Redner. To some he’s the most famous celebrity from Tampa, to others he’s a national disgrace. This documentary is quite encompassing on both sides, talking to the man that’s the head of a strip club empire to Bible activists that protest his establishment outside his club. It’s quite entertaining, and at times frightening: I lived in such a bizarre little Florida town.

Happy watching!

Boston Film Events-Summer ’10

3 Jul

Movies on the Lawn-available here too!

I’m doing this officially as a post, but also as a FYI to those not acquainted to my newly christened “Boston Movie Circuit.”

Basically, we go out, we see movies, we have a good old time. It’s just that simple.

I’ve (slightly) painstakingly put together a listing of movie venues and events from around the Boston area for people to enjoy. This includes free or discounted movies, special events such as director visits and marathons, and film-related events such as Film Night at Tanglewood.

So please, read and enjoy your summer in the city.

You can sign up on Facebook for the latest updates and get togethers here.

~Coolidge Corner Theater~

-Roxbury Film Fest (next Thurs)
-Mad Max (midnight movie, either 9/10)
-Raiders of the Lost Ark (July 12th-you don’t want to missss!!!)
-The Big Lebowski (Aug 16th)

~Brattle Theater~
-FREE-Elements of Cinema: Double Feature!
Beauty and the Beast(Sat 7/10 at 11:00 AM)
Orpheus(Sat 7/10 at 1:00 PM)
-The Hospital, with Director Fredrick Wiseman in person! (July 19)
-Back to Back to Back to the Future Marathon (July 25)
-Return of “Metropolis”: (Aug 6-9)

Series (many awesome movies):
-Best of the Oughts
-100 years of the Noir

Check out the documentary series:
http://thedocyard.com/

~MIT LSC~ALL MOVIES ARE FRRREEEEE~
-Kick Ass (July 9/10)
-Jaws (July 23/24)
-Green Zone (Aug 6/7)
-Date Night (Aug 20/21)

~MFA~
July-French Film Festival

~FREE Movies at the Hatch Shell~
starts at 8pm!
7/9 “The Wizard of Oz”
7/16 “Star Trek”
7/23 “Where the Wild Things Are”
7/30 “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs”
8/6 “Monsters vs. Aliens”
8/13 “How to Train Your Dragon”
8/20 “The Princess & The Frog”
8/27 “Up”

~FREE Movies in the Moonlight~
starts at dusk at the Boston Harbor Hotel!
July 9: “The Maltese Falcon”
July 16: “Field of Dreams”
July 23: “An Affair to Remember”
July 30: “Some Like It Hot”
Aug. 6: “All About Eve”
Aug. 13: “Tootsie”
Aug. 20: “All the President’s Men”
Aug. 27: “The Adventures of Robin Hood”
Sept. 3: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

~Free films at the BPL~

Class Notes: “Birth of a Nation”

2 Jul

So I know it’s summer. It’s grogeous out, I’m in one of the busiest cities in the world. But, ya know what I miss?

NOT being in school.

It’s summer, and I’m still in class.

Thankfully, first semester of summer class have passed (and I will never forgive the computer science professor who gave me a “B+” off of a 89.9, curse you!). The second slew of classes have just started, and you, dear reader, will benefit from it. Without having to attend the lectures nor write the papers, I will discuss my Film and Society class. A Sociology class, but one that speaks to two of my loves: social constructs and film history. Let the paper writing commence!

It's the stuff of nightmares.

Our first film was none other than the very beautifully shot, loathsome piece of historical bullshit, “Birth of a Nation.” Part imagined history, part love story, 110% racist. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Thank the Lord they don’t. Talk about the most awkward 3 hours and then some I had to sit through for a movie. Any movie, let alone a silent film, which for those who haven’t sat through “The Cheat”, “Broken Blossoms”, “The Sheik”, etc., are some of the most racist films in history. And they were wildly popular (with “Birth of a Nation” becoming the highest grossing silent film).  Cinema techniques pioneered by the talented Mr. Griffth can not even begin to make up for the blatant charicatures and offensive stereotypes of the black characters in the “story.” I place the quotation marks on “story” because it is a thinly veiled argument for the superiority of the white man who, according to the “story”, is the only one who can restore polite society and order to this country. Excuse me, while I grab the bucket-this film should make everyone sick to their stomachs.

As a modern movie-goer, it was difficult to see how this movie was so popular across the country. Partially because of the controversy and boycotts surrounding it, curious movie patrons ended checking it out, but crowds were said to have enjoyed it. People whooped and hollered at the arrival of the Klan in the nick of time to save the white family from certain death. Meanwhile, I’m horrified at one point during the climax of the battle, a father prepares to murder his daughter next to her fiance in order to “protect” her from the incoming battalion of black men. Um…

A painful still from "Birth of a Nation."

Yet that’s not even the worst of it. Incredibly, all “leading” black actors (maids, mulattoes, and traitors) are actually white actors and actresses in blackface. There’s an affair hinted between a crooked politician and his mulatto maid (who gets off when he “talks powerfully”). She manipulates him into making “bad decisions” like appointing another mulatto to be his apprentice for the senate. Basically, the writer said that mixed race individuals were not to be trusted. Who is this asshole and how the hell did he get to screen this trash at the White House? Oh, being best friends with Woodrow Wilson helps, I guess.

Even West Point lent a helping hand by providing the correct Civil War strategies and the artillery. This is unfortunately one of the only historical accuracies in the entire film. However, D.W. Griffith succeeded in not only creating film history, but for a long time rewriting American history. Historical scholars had to remount assessments on the Reconstruction Period in order to check the information the movie portrayed as a “true account” of the time.

Now, while I hated, detested, and loathed every minute of this film, I do not think every negative of it should be burned or that it should be banned. It’s the first time in film many editing techniques are used, but aside from that, I do not believe we should erase a portion of our country’s tumultuous times from the early twentieth century. It was horrible, it pitted people against their neighbors and spurned a thousand debates. However, burning Mein Kampf or destroying this film does not benefit society. We learn from the mistakes of our past. By depriving generations of the hard learned lessons of the outcomes of apartheid, holocaust, segregation, and genocide we do nothing but allow those cursed doors to be reopened by the ignorant.

I do not believe that “Birth of a Nation” should not be viewed in any setting that is not an academic. It is not entertainment; that appeal should have died the day it was released. But it should remain a lesson, a testament not only to the cruelties of man, but also to the manipulative abilities that historical writers can wield. Outside of an academic setting, the ideas can not be discussed and the hurt emotions from the audience would be neglected. It is a painful lesson to watch, told from viewpoint of the men who benefited from the Jim Crow laws. Unapologetic, the film is both a masterpiece and curse to cinema history. The world’s first blockbuster is also one of the worst lies ever told about the human race. Good and bad are delineated by the color of one’s skin, and the attempt to equalize the groups leads to death and war. Never have I ever sat through so much torture in a film, for it was not the blood and guts of a horror film but the damages done by regular people to each other. You tear up not from the “redemption” from the coming of the Klan but from the injustice done to the portrayal of the so-called villains. Little lies in this movie are strung together to form a horrific portrait of a America that did and did not exist.

10 Hulu Movies: Roundup 1

1 Jul

This past Tuesday, the evil conglomerates that own one of the best free (not illegal!) streaming website are going to start a premium pay service (for the audacious fee of $9.95 a month) that will effectively put hulu.com on the path to being an exclusive subscription based website. Well, not yet you see-which is why you should get a jump on its selection of free movies/TV shows while you still have the chance.

So after a quick browse/watch/shifting through the “Cheerleading Ninjas” of shit on there, I’ve made a little list, with more to come…enjoy! (Note to self: start making a “Hulu to Remember: Worst of the Worst list.”)

Note: Not all films on this list will have long term viewing licenses-so as of 7/1/10, they were on the site, but they maybe gone within the next few days-so be sure to check! (But hey, these are films I’ve watched, so they are/can be decent.)

1)“High Fidelity”

Highly unappreciated film. John Cusack stars as the music guy who’s obsessed with making the perfect lists of everything in his life. When he loses his girlfriend, our lovable dork must figure out life isn’t just as organized as his music collection. Fun scenes between his friends, Jack Black included, and the great tunes to boot. Cute ’90s Rom Com to pass the time.

2)“Philadelphia”

Drama, drama, drama. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington take on the law in the ’80s to fight for the rights of gay men living with HIV/AIDS. But, clearing discrimination and keeping his reputation intact, these men must fight opposition on all fronts in order to restore rights to the disenfranchised. Be prepared to tear up a little, especially when Antonio Banderas plays the role he seems to love to take up-the passionate Latin lover.

3)“War Games”

Camp ’80s classic starring Ferris Bueller Matthew Broderick, “War Games” is an adorable old antique picture of the dark days of limited personal computer use and supercomputers the size of an elementary school. Scary. That, and an innocent kid accidentally plunges the world into WWIII by playing a game with the war computer in the Pentagon. They were simpler times.

4)“The Secret of NIHM”

Yay for the animated entry into my first list! I loved this movie as a little girl, and I still love it now. The often ignored Don Bluth animation style may have fallen out of favor, but I would love to see it make a comeback. More fades and shades, special film effects, and interesting coloring schemes plunge these darker non-Disney films (Among them “All Dogs go to Heaven”, “Anastasia”, and “Land before Time”) into a category unto themselves. A mouse’s tale to survive and save her family after the passing of her husband, whose mysterious past was unknown-until now.

5) “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”

Another touching story about family, but with a lot more dysfunction. Johnny Depp stars as a conflicted teen trying to live his life while coping with an Autistic brother and his morbidly obese mother. The temptation to run away is more than he can stand. A movie certainly worth watching.

6) “When the Music Dies”

My only documentary on the list, primarily because I intend to keep my docs separated from movies. They are different, trust me. This one here is a great overview of the music industry and how it’s current model of business will destroy it. From bad money decisions to the lack of originality of the product, this documentary looks at the past, present, and possible future of a vastly changing art form.

7)“Gandhi”

History pick alert! Amazingly detailed account of the story of Mahatmas Gandhi-both before his days as a peaceful activist up until his assassination. Ben Kingsley is incredible as the leader, and the entire supporting cast performs accordingly. Highly recommend this winner of 8 Oscars, you don’t even feel the three hours thanks to the skillful direction of Richard Attenborough.

8 ) “His Girl Friday”

Fast paces comedy pitting Cary Grant, an editor, against his ex-wife and his best reporter, Rosalind Russell. Let the classic romantic sparks fly and the words shoot  line after line in witty putdowns. “If you was worth breaking my nails on I’d tear your face wide open.” If only all divorces were this funny… wait…scratch that…

9)“Terror By Night”

Not a shitty horror movie-I swear! It’s actually one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes movies, starring (in my opinion) one of the best actors ever to play the clever sleuth, Basil Rathbone. It would have been more aptly named “Terror on a Train” as we are stuck solving the mystery aboard one, and time is certainly of the essence. Also check out the other classic Holmes available on Hulu for a more complete look at the characterization of the most famous detective the world has ever known.

10) “Chaplin”

I saved this one for last because of sentimental reasons. Not just because I’m a die-hard Chaplin fan, but because this is the movie that started it all for me. One boring summer morning, I got up at 6:50am in order to watch a movie on AMC (damn you, commercial filled channel!) I found this movie while channel surfing the night before. I recognized the name, but knew very little about him. So, at 7a.m., my life changed forever by watching “Chaplin.” It was my introduction to silent films, to old style comedies, to physical pratfalls, to the history of cinema and her audiences. Love at first sight. The amazing cast, under the direction of Richard Attenborough, includes Robert Downey Jr. in an Oscar nominated performance, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Marisa Tomei, Dan Ackroyd, Kevin Klein, James Woods, Milla Jovovich, Diane Lane, and Geraldine Chaplin, the daughter of Charlie Chaplin.

The score, with beautiful promotional pictures.

Happy Hulu Hunting!

Doc Days:Round 1

29 Jun

In case you didn’t know, I’m a fan of the documentary genre.

Whether its propaganda or vivid story telling, there’s something to be said about the unusual appeal of documentaries. Voyeuristic insights to a world unknown to viewers can either bring good or bad feelings. You can enlighten your audience, bring facts to life that had been the secrets of boardrooms, executives, and conspiracy theorists. Then there’s true to life stories of other people-in your backyard or halfway around the world. Their story is laid bare, at the feet of the viewer. There is no agenda, no propaganda, just a person and their life. I enjoy these documentaries the most as they don’t usually illicit the ire of gut-wrenching-call-your-senator-films. They are more passive, no matter how disturbing the subject, And while it may hurts to watch fellow humans go about their day-to-day lives in chaos and pain, there’s an unspoken understanding that you must finish the documentary. Every award-winning documentary has its redemptive ending.

Here are some of the documentaries that I have come across recently. All of them of wonderful to watch and I highly recommend them. They are not in any particular order, just haphazardly thrown into a sort of list for easy reading. Enjoy them on Netflix instant watch!

“The Business of Being Born”

Most convincing argument I’ve seen yet on the natural birthing unit. Unlike a Michael Moore film-you certainly get both sides of the story from experts in each field. From the Doctors of NYU teaching hospitals to (shout out) Boston University School of Public Health’s expert on maternal health to the midwives battling stereotypes, it’s an all-out war for women’s right to choose…how they birth. Sobering statistics flash in the beginning in order to set up the crisis by the numbers. We are the country with the 2nd worst mother and child survival rate, yet spend more than double all the other countries on delivery. That’s right. It’s more expensive to have a baby here, than anywhere else in the world. As the medically trained midwives point out, birthing is something women have been doing since the start of civilization. Why not take it back?

Bonus Doc Points: Freaky medical history. Natural birth is rough. C-section is rough. But, how about being “induced” into a labor so horrific, women lost their minds and had to be strapped onto a bed. For days, until the baby came on its own. There’s a great little bit about how hospitals have used unwitting women and children as ginea pigs for new medications, all in pursuit of the 20 minute delivery. With C-sections at an all time high (well over 40%), it makes you wonder what other procedures and medications have doctors been passing as safe medicine.

Trailer:

“Food, Inc.”

Do you know what’s in your food? That’s probably a good thing, because it’s actually rather sad and unpleasant. Yet another “blame it on the CEO” documentary, but I can feel it’s justified outrage. Food poisoning is at an all time high, with hundreds and thousands of cases ending in hospital visits (and in some cases, death). Farmers are being forced to take on debt just to support their business, so they fall into an indentured servant model of worker. The FDA is allowing genetically modified foods into the market, with little or no testing. Disgusted yet? I haven’t even gotten to CAFOs and the darken caverns that house chickens so unhealthy they collapse from having their breast too enlarged. I’ll have a side of genetically modified potatoes fried in the poly-saturated corn oil, please. And make it Super Sized.

Doc Bonus: It takes you into the farms, through the chicken shit, over the cow dung, and past the meat packing to bring you the gritty truth. Uncensored. Not for the squish nor faint at heart. But necessary for anyone who defends an industry that treats their employees as poorly as their product. In one troubling scene, a big chain name squashes any attempt by its workers to form a union by purposefully hiring illegal immigrants-from their Mexican hometowns- bringing them into the States, then after a period of time, calling Immigration Services to pick up their own employees and their families. Meanwhile, the company is already recruiting and hiring just south of the boarder. Just like a factory.

Trailer:

“Born into Brothels”

Now for the documentary to steal your heart. A photographer on assignment, takes on the daunting task of photographing in India’s poverty-stricken red light district. Soon after her arrival, she notices the brothels and blocks that are the stomping ground of pimps and whores are also the playground for their children. Still stuck in a sort of untouchable limbo, these kids are neglected and largely uneducated with little hope to escape their fate of “joining the line” of prostitutes, pimps, and drug addicts. As heartbreaking as it is to see them plead to the camera themselves, I can’t imagine what the photojournalist must have felt. She becomes an advocate on their part, aggressively campaigning for their acceptance into boarding schools and teaching them how to photography. It is in their photography, the mixture of childish delight fights against the dark seedy backgrounds of their pictures. The group of children in rags flying kites above their homes when their mom is “working.” Taking pictures while running through the slums in  order to escape the death threats of their photo subjects. They may not have noticed during the filming, but these are snapshots into their own lives.

Doc Bonus: The end. Very rarely does a documentary leave you with a sense of closure. You find out what has happened to the kids you’ve come to know, months after the documentary was filmed.

Trailer:

“Maxed Out”

You don’t need to tell me more Americans are in debt than not. I’m aware. I’m one of them. Millions of Americans are in debt without even realizing it. Though this documentary was released well before the current recession, it is far from being a relic. Sure we may not get free t-shirts when we sign up for credit cards, but credit offers still pour in. Back when I was but a wee junior in high school, I got my first credit card offer. Thank goodness, my mom promptly threw it away, but she only postponed the inevitable, my decline into debt. Oh, and it’s not like I’ve never paid off my card. It’s my student loans, as it’s probably yours too. They will be another economic crisis with student loans (the only loan NOT covered by bankruptcy protection), but we’ll just have to wait and see on that one. My story is not unique, as many of the talking heads in the documentary will tell you. There are the sad stories of people ending their lives over their incredibly large loans, and of companies ending the livelihoods of elder individuals who can no longer juggle medical costs, food, and mortgage. There’s also a look to the collection agencies, some of the most hated people in the world view their job as a game of cat and mouse. We have a crisis after all.

Doc Bonus: My favorite commentator, the professor from Harvard Business School obviously knows her stuff. Forget she’s Harvard brass, and just listen. She makes the most sense of the alphabet mess that is the credit card industry. If anything, this documentary is a great teaching tool to avoid the pratfalls of navigating the landmines of credit card companies. Sort of like the tip to not visit hospitals in July (new residents, new interns, newbie doctors!), but way better.

Trailer:

“This Film is not yet Rated”

Finally, a documentary on film! But, don’t get too excited folks! It’s going to be one bumpy ride! Through the suburbs, studios, and MPAA headquarters we go, dashing sex, homosexuality, and the first amendment along the way. The Production code may be long gone, but another more clever form of censorship stands in its place. Jack Valenti’s rating system is biased, horrifically so. While violence against women is okay at the PG-13 level, a passionate love scene is not. A completely bloody “gore-porn” flick (The “Saw” series) will fly with an R rating, and anything other than hetero-kissing (and it depends where!) will land itself in the same category. Only a certain amount of F-bombs can be said, but only as use as an adjective. A reference to the act of love making F-bombs will land you in the R category. And, its okay for men to masturbate in an R-film, female masturbation is strictly NC-17. Try understanding that without yelling “*#^%@&!+” !

Trailer: All the directors talk about their struggles with the totally unbalanced system and just why you must bow to their requests. Otherwise, you will be forbidden to advertise your movie and certain distributors, theaters, and retailers will refuse to carry anything with a NC-17 rating. No wonder most movies suck, people who aren’t filmmakers are editing the pictures.

Upcoming Docs to do: “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices”,”Tales from the Script”, “Grey Gardens”, “Man on Wire”, “Valentino: The Last Emperor”, “I.O.U.S.A”