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Tina Fey–Narrated Monkey Kingdom Makes the Wild Familiar

6 hours ago

It’s rarely mentioned today, but Walt Disney, alongside innovating the animated feature film, was also among the pioneers of the feature-length nature documentary. 1953’s Oscar-winning The Living Desert is still one of the pinnacles of the genre — with its beautiful photography and sly editing, not to mention its gently anthropomorphized, playful depiction of animal life in the Arizona Desert. But perhaps its most remarkable quality is its easy translation of geography and science: The Living Desert opens with an elegantly animated sequence explaining how the Sierra Nevada Mountains keep moisture from reaching the desert, and there’s a comforting simplicity to it, as if Uncle Walt and his filmmakers had succeeded in turning science into fairy tale. That’s not meant as a slight: Generations of kids back then probably first learned about the wonders of nature from these films unspooling through 16mm projectors in classrooms around the country. »


- Bilge Ebiri

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Movie Review: The Dead Lands Is a Streamlined, Relentless Action Film

6 hours ago

Toa Fraser's Maori thriller The Dead Lands is a solid entry in the loose subgenre we might call the "ethnographic action film" — earlier examples of which include Mel Gibson's Apocalypto or Zacarias Kunuk's Atanarjuat; The Fast Runner or Kevin Reynolds's Rapa Nui. In these movies, which vary dramatically in tone and quality, basic action tropes are recycled, and in some cases revitalized, as we're immersed in remote, sometimes extinct, native cultures. Primal tales of vengeance or pursuit or loyalty gain mythic power through the sheer novelty of context. That's the idea, anyway. Sometimes, the setting is just a crutch. You won't necessarily learn all that much about Maori culture while watching The Dead Lands, which is set in a pre-colonial stretch of wilderness thick with forests, mountains, and caves — all beautifully shot by Leon Narbey. Fraser himself is a half-Fijian director who works out of New Zealand, »


- Bilge Ebiri

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Furious 7 Made a Billion Dollars in Just 17 Days

6 hours ago

On Friday, Furious 7 became the fastest film to hit $1 billion at the worldwide box office, doing so in just 17 days. It's also Universal's first film to ever reach that benchmark. NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer made the announcement in an effusive blog post on their site, calling it a "significant milestone in our history." As for a Furious 8, Vin Diesel has been hinting hard that it's going to happen, because, well, it's "F8." »


- E. Alex Jung

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It’s Friday: Cry Watching Tracy Chapman Sing ‘Stand by Me’ to David Letterman, or Maybe Just Cry From the Relief of a Work Week Finished

7 hours ago

Tracy Chapman is a national treasure, and if that's a fact you've doubted in the 20-plus years since "Fast Car," her latest performance might challenge you to reconsider. Chapman, making a rare television appearance, performed a heart-stopping rendition of Ben E. King's classic "Stand by Me" Thursday night as a special send-off to David Letterman, who says the song was a childhood favorite. Excuse me while I shed an infinite stream of tears. »


- Dee Lockett

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Daredevil Recap: Black Sky

7 hours ago

This episode, we go on a little trip down psyche lane with Matt Murdock and his old father figure, whom he calls “Stick.” But first, a bloody opener. The shot of the guy running down the stairs was great, as well as the way we see the elevator come up by a single sliver of white light. A man with a katana tortures him for information, and it turns out the guy doing the chopping is blind, was talking to a man in Japan, and is an old friend of Matt’s. They meet when Matt botches an interrogation with Leland Owlsley over what was honestly a terrible plan. Good job following him to his meet-up with Nobu, Matt … but be a little more strategic about your intimidation techniques. “Stick,” as Matt calls him, is an old mentor of his, a man who approached him when he was in a »


- Sulagna Misra

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Tidal CEO to Be Replaced

8 hours ago

Andy Chen, the CEO of Tidal’s parent group Aspiro, acquired by Jay Z in February, is being replaced. The interim successor is former CEO Peter Tonstad, who has been with the company since 2010. In a statement, Tonstad says: I believe in Tidal and what the team is doing to affect the change the music industry needs. We're streamlining the company and refocusing our resources to ensure the platform continues to grow, and listeners can make a connection to their favorite artists. No one else is doing this. At the moment, very few people share his faith. Artists including Mumford & Sons, Steve Albini, and Ben Gibbard have all been publicly critical of Tidal and its high-profile shareholders' plea for $20 a month for "lossless sound." It's the steepest price on the streaming market, and when the wealthiest pop stars in the world ask fans to pay more money for something that, »


- Lauretta Charlton

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Felicity Jones on True Story, Star Wars, and Oscar Season

8 hours ago

In the new, fact-based movie True Story, Jonah Hill plays Michael Finkel, a disgraced New York Times journalist who gets a second shot at the big time when he learns his identity was stolen by accused murderer Christian Longo (James Franco), who posed as Finkel while on the run from authorities. When Longo says he'll explain himself only to the man he impersonated, Finkel soon becomes obsessed with investigating Longo's case, and it falls to Finkel's skeptical girlfriend Jill (Felicity Jones) to intercede and pull him back from the brink. For Jones, True Story is her first role since her Oscar-nominated breakthrough in The Theory of Everything, but there are even bigger parts to come: Jones recently signed on for the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One and will star opposite Tom Hanks in the Dan Brown adaptation Inferno. A few weeks ago, she called up Vulture to talk about how »


- Kyle Buchanan

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Kars4Kids Is on Television. The End Is Nigh.

9 hours ago

The 1-877-Kars-4-Kids ad is legendary, but only because America hates it.Originally introduced in 1999 for radio, your least-favorite jingle made its television debut a few months ago now, but it appears that people are finally starting to reach their breaking point. Maybe it’s because the kids in the ad look like they’re having the out-of-body experience necessary to hear this song more than once in any given time frame? Thoughts that might go through one’s mind when they hear this song on television: Should we call someone for help, preferably not a 1-877 number? Is there a corner I can crawl into and rock back and forth until someone rolls me out on a stretcher? More important: How. Do. I. Make. It. Stop?  You could donate your car and include a note on the dashboard begging for mercy, though apparently, organizations affiliated with Kars4Kids »

- Lauretta Charlton

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12 Years a Slave’s John Ridley Is Secretly Working With Marvel on a New TV Series

10 hours ago

Looks like Marvel has yet another TV series in the works, but this time it involves a big-name collaborator: John Ridley, who won an Oscar for his 12 Years a Slave screenplay. Entertainment Weekly reports that Ridley is working on a mysterious new project with Marvel for ABC. Marvel already has a growing roster of superhero shows on ABC, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and a reported new S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff. For now, details on the secret project are vague, with EW only confirming that it'll involve an "existing Marvel superhero character or property." We're still holding out hope for that Black Widow spinoff! »


- Dee Lockett

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Watch Rose Byrne and Nick Kroll Freak Out in Jane Krakowski’s Swim Class

10 hours ago

In the new comedy Adult Beginners (out April 24 in theaters and on-demand), Nick Kroll and Rose Byrne play very different siblings — he's a high-flying Manhattan entrepreneur, she's a suburban mom — who are reunited when Kroll's business crumbles and he's forced to move in with her. What initially seems like a less-than-ideal living arrangement may actually pay dividends if these two can work out their long-buried issues, and in this exclusive clip, they attempt to do just that by bringing Byrne's son to a swim class, even though they themselves were never taught to swim. Luckily, swimming teacher Jane Krakowski has a pamphlet for that to give to our sibling duo … as well as some unasked-for, subtle shade. »


- Kyle Buchanan

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Sundance Standout Dope Has a Trailer and It’s Dope

10 hours ago

After the trippy, meta teaser-trailer, now you can watch the official trailer for Rick Famuyiwa's Sundance darling Dope and get a sense of what the heck everyone has been talking about. In his review, our Bilge Ebiri called it "an infectiously entertaining, twisty-turny punk-comedy-thriller" that managed to include film references from Risky Business to Boyz n the Hood and create a blend of pure originality. Plus, there's A$AP Rocky! And Chanel Iman! But really, we suspect you'll be completely charmed by lead actor Shameik Moore, who plays our intrepid hero. Dope comes out in theaters June 19, and here's your reason to get excited. »


- E. Alex Jung

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Why Cristela Deserves to Get a Second Season

10 hours ago

The season-one finale of Cristela Alonzo’s self-titled ABC comedy airs tonight at 8:30, and based on TV-industry buzz, odds are a bit less than 50-50 that the show will make it to season two. If it ends up canceled, it won’t be a tragedy on the order of prematurely killed series like My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks. But it will be a damn shame — and a mistake by ABC. Cristela is a funny, family-friendly, sometimes edgy, and almost always entertaining comedy that, based on both its content and its Nielsen performance, deserves to live at least a little longer.  Let’s start with the creative case for the show. I’m not someone who takes much interest in multi-camera comedies, at least not those created after 2000. The noisy jokes, broad characterizations, and obnoxious studio-audience laughter? I loved Lucy and dozens of multi-cam shows that came after it, »


- Josef Adalian

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Matthew McConaughey Fanboyed Out to the Star Wars Trailer, Just Like the Rest of Us

11 hours ago

If you saw the Star Wars trailer (which, of course you did!), then your reaction probably resembled something like Vulture's own Abraham Riesman's shot-for-shot lovefest. Or maybe it looked more like Matthew McConaughey's nonstop sobbing in Interstellar — which some brilliant fan thought to mash up with the trailer to make it look like one of those YouTube reaction videos. A+ work! »


- Dee Lockett

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Child 44 Wastes a Great Cast and Premise

12 hours ago

Dear Lord, what happened here? Can one file criminal charges against a film that wastes this good a cast and premise? Child 44, directed by Daniel Espinosa and scripted by Richard Price, is based on Tom Rob Smith’s acclaimed novel, which itself was based on a series of shocking real-life murders in the Soviet Union committed between 1978 and 1990. This fictionalized variation transplants the crimes into the paranoid, industrial hellscape of Stalin’s Ussr, and it comes with loads of historical and sociopolitical context. So much ambition. So little competence. The investigation into “the Ripper of Rostov,” here called “the Wolf of Rostov,” has already inspired one terrific work of art, Chris Gerolmo's 1995 HBO film Citizen X, starring Steven Rea and Donald Sutherland — still one of the best TV movies I’ve ever seen. Engrossing and claustrophobic, Gerolmo's film portrayed the single-minded determination of a forensic investigator (Rea) as »


- Bilge Ebiri

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 Sure Is Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

12 hours ago

Nobody was expecting much from Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, but did it have to be this unimaginative and lifeless? The original wasn’t exactly Sherlock, Jr. to begin with, but you might have thought that, given its success, Kevin James and Co. could try to take the second one into stranger, edgier, more interesting territory … Oh, who am I kidding? As Homer Simpson once said, “It’s okay, money. Your money’s money is aaall that’s money.” The first Paul Blart did the trick and made bank. The second one is the same trick, with a different setting and a Wynn Casinos promotional tie-in.When we catch up with Paul Blart and his beloved family, it turns out the happy ending of the first film was an illusion. His beautiful new wife has left him after six days. “She had ‘regrets,’” we’re told, but “her doctor called it ‘uncontrollable vomiting. »


- Bilge Ebiri

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After 53 Years, It’s Time to Say Good-bye to Univision’s Sábado Gigante

13 hours ago

Univision's longest-running program, the magically campy variety show Sábado Gigante, will end on September 19 — after airing every Saturday night for the last 53 years. Mario Kreutzberger will officially retire from his "role" as host Don Francisco, after interviewing everyone from Selena to Michelle Obama (not to mention segments like "El Detector De Mentiras," in which Don gives lie-detector tests to cheaters). Good-bye Sábado Gigante! We'll always have this performance of "Gangnam Style":  »


- Lindsey Weber

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Kevin James Movies Have a Kevin James Problem

13 hours ago

I’ve been watching Kevin James movies for years. But, like most of my fellow pointy-head critics, I haven’t liked most of them. Which perplexes and troubles me, because I’m a fan of dumb comedy. (I made my friends take me to Joe Dirt on my birthday many years ago.) Plus, I’ve spent countless hours defending Adam Sandler, whose Happy Madison company produces many of James’s films, and who co-starred with the latter in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007) and the two Grown Ups. Which is all to say: I feel like I should like Kevin James. And yet, I find myself dreading the impending release of each new Kevin James movie, including this week’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.  As I recently revisited James’s oeuvre — not just his movies, but also his TV and stand-up work — I was struck by the »


- Bilge Ebiri

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Horror Movies and the Modern-Day Technology That Will Kill You

14 hours ago

Forget the threat of zombies or vampires. It's 2015, and we're dealing with things that are actually terrifying: Snapchat, instant messaging, video streaming. Millennial-friendly scary flick Unfriended, out this weekend, takes aim specifically at social networking and Skype, but it's not the first horror film to vilify newfangled technology. Below, some of the best modern creations we've been told to be afraid of. The Net (1995) The premise: A systems analyst discovers hidden information in a computer game that leads her down a crazy road of hackers, thieves, and killers — who manage to erase her identity completely and assign it to someone else, leaving her on her own and on the run. What should we be afraid of? The idea that much of the information that identifies us as us exists in a computer somewhere and could potentially be compromised at any time. (It could be even worse by now! »

- Lindsey Weber

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Thanks to WikiLeaks, You Can Now Search Through All the Leaked Sony Emails

14 hours ago

WikiLeaks jumped into the Sony-hack beat this week, publishing the entire Sony Pictures data dump — 30,287 documents and 173,132 emails in all — on its website. In a press release, Julian Assange explained the group's motivation: "This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain." Sony understandably disagreed, telling the Los Angeles Times that WikiLeaks was doing the North Korean hackers' work for them. "The attackers used the dissemination of stolen information to try to harm Spe and its employees," the company said in a statement, "and now WikiLeaks regrettably is assisting them in that effort." The archives are fully searchable, which means that anyone with an internet connection is now able to see all the times when Hollywood's most powerful people emailed the word boobs. »


- Nate Jones

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Was a J.Lo Cameo in Anna Kendrick’s ‘Booty’ Lip Sync Enough to Beat John Krasinski in a Dress?

14 hours ago

We're in week three of Spike TV's biggest hit ever, and Lip Sync Battle isn't losing any momentum. This episode brings executive producer John Krasinski in against little Anna Kendrick, which means Vulture is back again for our post-match analysis of who lip-synced it best. Was John Krasinski's cross-dressing performance as Tina Turner enough to beat Anna Kendrick? Roll the tapes!Battle 1: John Krasinski's "Bye Bye Bye" vs. Anna Kendrick's "Steal My Girl" Anna Kendrick knows how to build a performance and embody a character. You can see it even in this somewhat subdued performance of One Direction's "Steal My Girl." That said, the entire performance is really all about the joke that she's stealing Krasinski's wife Emily Blunt, which is fine, but the best way to dis someone in a lip-sync battle is to win it. Krasinski, meanwhile, hits allll the millennial nostalgia »


- E. Alex Jung

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