November’s upon us, and since in recent years there seems to be somewhat of a race to see who can get their Christmas decorations out the quickest, the movers and shakers of TV and film have responded in kind by unfurling their holiday fluff earlier and earlier each year. Given the multitude of channels I receive with my cable subscription, most of which I’ll never even peruse, I’m surprised a 24 hour, 365 day holiday channel does not exist. Maybe it does, and I haven’t gone that far down my dial just yet. But as you all eagerly anticipate the release of Grumpy Cat’s Christmas movie, (yes, it’s real) there is also a batch of heathen non holiday shows and films debuting this month as well. So for all of those not quite ready to slap on that holiday cheer, don’t worry, there’s plenty of entertainment to help keep you preoccupied, as you’re otherwise inundated with the endless cycle of the season’s commercials, and the festive people surrounding you attempting to break your resolve.
Note: Since Thanksgiving does not get much play in the realm of holiday flicks, I would strongly suggest watching the classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” this month. Steve Martin’s misadventures with the legendary late John Candy en route to celebrate turkey day with his family, is something I return to every year.
Release Date: Nov. 14th
My wife and I were recently discussing the post television film output of one, Steve Carell. We wondered if he was destined to star in a string of family friendly, middle of the road, predictable comedies. The film gods must have been listening, for the upcoming release of the chilling true crime bio flick “Foxcatcher”, starring Carell as eccentric multi-millionaire heir turned convicted killer John du Pont, seems the perfect vehicle to rescue his career from being stuck on the road to mediocrity.
Directed by Bennett Miller, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the 2011 film “Moneyball”, Foxcatcher also features Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as Olympic gold medal winning wrestler brothers Dave and Mark Schultz. John du Pont himself turned to wrestling at an advanced age, beginning to train and compete in his mid-fifties. Du pont’s stern mother, (played by Vanessa Redgrave), dissuaded her son from getting involved in what she deemed such a “low” sport. But not long after du Pont’s mother passed, he quickly turned his family’s sprawling Foxcatcher Farm in suburban Pennsylvania into a world class training facility for some of the biggest names in amateur athletics.
Du Pont did not want to just amass a stable of stellar athletes, but create a team of star spangled champions, that the country could look up to look to as an inspiration. Mark Schultz and his wife even resided at a home on the grounds of the over 800 acre property. Du Pont, whose family began making their vast fortune by being the first major manufacturers of gun powder in the US, was heir to what had grown onto become one of the largest chemical conglomerates in the world. Given his lifetime of philanthropic work, study and participation in scientific expeditions, people often overlooked the peculiar quirks and social awkwardness of the extremely wealthy man. Chalking it up to the isolation and distinct world perspective that only such an incredibly rich life could afford. But when behavioral patterns began to take a paranoid turn for the worse, friends began to become concerned. Overtime du Pont began to fear that those around him, the small brotherhood of struggling athletes whom he himself had cultivated, were only there in order to steal his money. Noticing that du Pont had begun to carry a gun, many of the wrestlers training at Foxcatcher left or were told at gunpoint by du Pont to leave the premises immediately. With tensions coming to a tragic head one January day in 1996.
Adeptly capturing du Pont in a downright creepy tone, there’s already buzz that this role could land Carell an Oscar. While others are giving a nod to Tatum’s performance as award worthy as well. This film just may clean up come trophy time. Foxcatcher opens in theatres Friday, November 14th.
Release Date: Nov. 7th
In June of 2009, Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari appeared during a satirical segment on the Daily Show. During the piece, show correspondent Jason Jones went to Iran and interviewed locals in an attempt to show the hatred for everything American, which radiated from the average person on the street. And to showcase the vast cultural differences that separate the US and scary old Persia. The joke of course being that there ain’t much difference. Jones illustrates the point by visiting the home of a middleclass Iranian family, playing video games with the children and enjoying the same trappings that could easily be found in Anytown, USA.
Shortly after the episode aired, Bahari was arrested for what authorities deemed “communication with an American spy.” Tortured and made to make a televised confession of his guilt, Bahari was detained for over 100 days in one of the world’s most notoriously brutal penitentiaries, Evin Prison. A jail which holds such a large number of political and intellectual prisoners, it has garnered the nickname “Evin University.”
The events of the arrest and imprisonment spurred Daily Show host Jon Stewart to take the story and make his directorial debut. The upcoming “Rosewater” tells the tale of Bahari’s ordeal, one which he himself has dubbed both stupid and funny at the same time. The title of the film comes from the name Bhari gave to his interrogator, whom he couldn’t see since he was blindfolded but said smelled of the fragrant water.
With Stewart serving daily helpings of sarcasm for fifteen years now, it will be interesting to see him transition his political skewer over to another medium. And attempt to give proper justice to such a serious story rife with injustice. Rosewater opens Friday, November 7th.
Film: Dumb & Dumber To
Release Date: Nov. 14th
So, this is coming out this month.
Nothing is broken, this is what I wrote.
Show: The Hitmakers
PBS continues their Arts Fall Festival of programming, with an in depth look into the shape shifting and evolution, which the music industry has undergone during the upheaval of the digital age. The special Hitmakers examines how corporate strategies have changed in recent years, as so many artists have been given direct control over their own creative destiny via social media.
The last twenty years have seen the industry deal with the decline of CD sales, the problem of online piracy, and the proliferation of new ways of listening and buying music over the internet. The popularity of streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora, have dealt the industry and its affiliated artists another blow by forcing them to scramble to restructure archaic contracts made before the digital dawn. Some musicians have felt ripped off due to the lack of royalties received from on-line musical consumption. While others see it as a blessing and praising it as a wider avenue for their music to be shared.
While the industry is still seeing its fair share of residuals from their internet contemporaries, many in the game are loudly crying recession. Many outside are asking if the industry is, in fact, still relevant. With so many labels now feeding the beast with a steady diet of tween-aimed disposable singles, are companies now willing to take a chance on artists of more substantial and lasting value? Or has self-expression been pushed aside in favor of pure pop entertainment? The Hitmakers delves into these topics and more with artist interviews and performances on its Friday, November 14th premier.
Film: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Release Date: Nov. 21st
Yadda, yadda, Jennifer Lawrence.
Badda, binga, never saw the other ones.
Lambda, lambda, be more excited if I was 15.
Show: The Newsroom – (final season)
HBO’s critically acclaimed drama The Newsroom returns for its third and final season in November. The show features the tense daily commotion at the fictional Atlantis Cable News, as the team of talking heads attempt to bring viewers the day’s daily events. Focus is laid on News Night lead anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, who won an Emmy for his role in the series. Daniels and crew try to navigate the maze of growing political, commercial and corporate blockades placed in their way of delivering an unfiltered news program.
One of the obstacles the group must deal with is the CEO of their own parent company, Leona Lansing. Lansing played by Jane Fonda in her first major television role, one in which she earned her own Emmy nomination, is frequently upset with the broadcasts that conflict or alienate her corporate interests. Installing her ratings hungry son, Reese, (played by Chris Messina) as the president of the network in order to keep a close eye on McAvoy and crew.
The Newsroom’s strong point is that it covers current events, as opposed to fictional affairs. And the characters have an air of reality to them, with the clearly apparent nods to media power manipulators such as Fonda portraying none other than her ex-husband, Ted Turner. As well as her son Reese’s antics of wiretapping and phone hacking, having a similar ring to the actions which landed Fox News magnate Roger Murdoch on the front pages of his own papers. With this being the third and final season of the show, conflicts are sure to come to a head. As the battle of creating an unbiased news source rages on.