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Top 10 Greatest Movies that Premiered on the July 4th Weekend

This is not the typical yearly list of the best 4th of July themed or raw-raw-USA patriotic movies of all time. You’re welcome.

With The BFG, Purge: Election Year, and Legend of Tarzan opening this Independence Day weekend, I thought it would be better to list the top 10 greatest movies that have premiered on this holiday weekend in the past.  Mostly because, I don’t think either of this year’s entries will have as lasting an impact in cinema history like the following.

 

#10 Men In Black
Opened July 2, 1997

Some master puppet work, special effects makeup, and CGI give Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones plenty to play off of.  It’s a fast paced 98 minutes of two government agents working autonomously (which may be why they are so efficient) to save humans and friendly aliens from the scourge of the galaxy’s worst.

#9 – Terminator 2
Opened July 3, 1991

Arguably regarded as Schwarzenegger’s best action film, writer/director James Cameron lets loose with cutting edge CGI (for the time) in this time-travel sci-fi action thriller where Robert Patrick’s motorcycle cop would haunt anyone pulled over on the highway for speeding .

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The Scene from HBO’s Silicon Valley that Everyone Should be Talking about

Silicon Valley’s (the place, not the show) not-so dirty little secret got its moment under the Hollywood spotlight on this past Sunday’s penultimate episode of Silicon Valley’s (the show, not the place) third season.

Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, is perhaps the most honest portrayal of what work and life is like in California’s digital gold mining community.  And if the antics of Richard and team’s Pied Piper start-up company  seem sometimes a little far fetched, the final scene of this episode, titled “Daily Active Users,” represents an all too honest peak behind the curtain.  Audiences are finally brought face to face with human beings in a third world country (think Bangladesh or India) who wake up each day and go to work in a large office filled with dozens if not hundreds of others who do nothing all day but click on ads, download apps, log into sites, and various other tasks that real everyday users of the internet engage in purposefully.

Here is that final scene…

 

However, these people do it simply to get paid on average, the equivalent of $1 a day. Their “work” can be worth millions to their employers and sometimes billions to the tech companies of Silicon Valley like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, What’s App, etc..  Really, any company that bases its value to investors and potential buy-out suiters on a high DAU count. That’s Daily Active Users to us laymen.  In contrast, a company like Uber may not utilize these click farms because they are providing an actual real world service – connecting people with cars and nowhere to be, to people with no cars and somewhere to be.  So it’s kind of hard to fake actual people getting rides in actual cars.  Although I do admit to a possible future where people, or AI robots, could be paid to book Uber rides around town just to boost their DAU count.

Facebook, for instance, now claims that it has a DAU count of over 1 billion. That’s one billion people everyday, logging into Facebook and engaging.  How many of them are actually using it for its intended purpose of connecting with friends and family, sharing stories, photos and life events? Well considering that over 1 billion of Facebook’s total 1.59 billion user accounts exist outside of Europe and North America, I imagine it is fair to say that a plethora of those accounts are are bogus.  Read this account published by Business Insider three years ago which details some of the fakery behind all those likes, views, and followers that social media giants rely on for their billion dollar evaluations.  Emphasis mine.

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Hollywood’s REAL Trigger Warning Problem

Trigger warning: There are actual triggers and warnings ahead.  Please proceed with extreme caution.

Driving around any major boulevard, ride any busy subway, walk through any mall and you will notice them.  Movie posters, billboards, bus and train decals promoting the latest Hollywood action movie.  Photographic collages filled up with recognizable beautiful celebrities in sharp outfits and perfect poses.  Here are some popular examples.  And pay attention, there will be a quiz afterwards.  See ya on the other side.

So other than the fact that it’s sad how boring most movie posters have become over the years (the motif of the early Bond films is a lost art form) what is the one thing all these film poster have in common?

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3 Things the Netflix Series, The Ranch Gets Right

Netflix recently debuted a brand new traditionally produced sit-com series that is sitting pretty with a 4 1/2 star rating from their subscribers. Having recently finished watching this first season’s ten episodes, here are three things the series gets right:

1. Ashton Kutcher is front and center.

Kutcher in Bed

Ashton Kutcher stars as Colt Bennett, a washed-up college football QB, who is forced to move back home to the ranch he grew up on with his never-satisfied father, Beau (the great Sam Elliot), and smart-mouthed brother “Rooster” (Kutcher’s former That 70’s Show co-star Danny Masterson.) Mom, Maggie (Debra Winger) is living in her own Airstream behind the bar she owns due to her estranged relationship to husband Beau.

Ever since he debuted on That 70’s Show in the late 90s, Ashton Kutcher has proven himself to be a natural comedic actor with leading man looks.  In television land, this is hard to come by.  He’s maintained relevancy in pop-culture ever since we were introduced to him with stints like MTV’s Punk’d, a bunch of hit (and miss) feature films, as a successful venture capitalist and angel investor (AirBnB, Foursquare), stepping back into TV and into Charlie “Tiger’s Blood” Sheen’s shoes on Two & a Half Men, and bringing it full circle with this second outing co-starring to his former 70’s Show co-star Masterson. Through it all he’s been married to Demi Moore and now is married-with-children with another former 70’s co-star, Mila Kunis, yet somehow has seemingly maintained humility and stayed true to Chris.

While Ashton is clearly the lead of the show, Masterson, Elliott, the re-emerged Winger (Urban Cowboy) as Beau’s estranged wife, and Elisha Cuthbert (Kim “Kidnapped” Bauer from 24) as Colt’s corn-fed country-girl former high school sweetheart, round a solid cast.  The first few episodes take minute for everyone to gel, but once you know everyone and it feels like they know everyone, it’s a welcome sight when any one of them pops on screen with Kutcher who brings chemistry to each interaction.  The biggest surprise comes from the amount of depth that begins to percolate as the these honest familial relationships start to surface.  Sam Elliott and Debra Winger have both had long careers filled with terrific dramatic performances, that cache helps bring balance to what could easily have been a Duck Dynasty style sitcom. (I contend Duck Dynasty masquerades more as a reality show, when in reality it’s more situation comedy without the acting talent.)

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TOTY award

VOTE: Trailer of the Year Award

Welcome to Smash Cut Culture’s annual Trailer of the Year Award.  This is the inaugural year and we are excited to showcase six of the year’s best trailers. It will be up to you to determine which of the six should take home the top prize.

Before we continue, we must address the big elephant in the room, or rather, the big bantha in the room. You will notice that there are a total of zero Star Wars: The Force Awakens nominations.  This was done for one reason, it would have been a completely pointless contest because anything Star Wars on the internet, wins.  I equate it to long discussions about who was the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, in that there are no long discussions because of Jerry Rice. There are long discussions about who is the second best NFL receiver, but the top spot belongs to Rice.

So to keep this interesting and still interactive, Star Wars trailers are banned from contention. Because for the foreseeable future,  there will be a new Star Wars trailer released every year that breaks the internet.  That is unless The Force Awakens turns out to suck, then all bets are off.

Now that that is out of the way, on to the nominations of which each will introduced by a top YouTube comment.

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Trailer Tuesday – The Ridiculous Six

The-Ridiculous-6-posterAdam Sandler has a new comedy and it headed straight to… Netflix?  That’s right, in addition to the original series programming that has changed the face of your television with the like of Orange is the New Black, Bloodline, Narco, and House of Cards, Netflix has now brought full-length feature films with heavy Hollywood talent at the helm.

While Adam Sandler’s more recent film efforts haven’t been the huge box office success stories of his earlier slate of films, overall, Sandler still has his fans and most of his comedies turn into cult favorites when they end up on DVD or, nowadays, streaming online.  So for Sandler, why not head straight to that medium and ditch the bad press of a low box office turnout for your latest film?  Our movie-going culture is so transfixed on box office grosses that it makes complete sense to ditch that bear trap and go directly to this streaming demographic, especially when the bulk of Sandler’s fanbase is made up largely of the under 40 crowd who are more prone to just spend a night at home with Netflix and chill.

As for the movie? Well, it’s a Sandler comedian the great Rob Schneider co-stars, so most will hate it, and I will grow to love it after seeing it for the third time.  The Ridiculous 6 debuts on Netflix Dec. 11, 2015.


Joy

Trailer Tuesday – Joy

The first trailer for the new David O. Russel film was already profiled in this space a few months back, it was nominated for Smash Cut Culture’s Trailer of the Year award.  That trailer was more of a teaser as it didn’t divulge much about the story only the promise of something worthy of $15 and 150 minutes of your time.  The full trailer has just landed and simply doubles down on that promise.  Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence seems to channel Michael Corleone by the end after opening up the 2 1/2 minute trailer with, “Don’t ever think the world owes you anything.  Because it doesn’t.  The world doesn’t owe you a thing.” Preach it sister.


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Trailer of the Year Awards – The Big Short

It’s Trailer Tuesday here at SCC and also time for another nominee in the Trailer of the Year Awards.  Director Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Anchorman) takes a break from the Will Farrell comedies to take on the rather ludicrous true story of the events leading up to mortgage crisis of 2008 and those characters who predicted it and profited from it.  Adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Michael Lewis, the film looks to become the definitive answer when best explaining why you and your neighbor lost half the value of your home and watched your 401k vanish. Unfortunately, as Anthony Radanzzo points out in his 2010 review of the book for Reason:

Lewis falsely assumes that the perfect storm of failures at mortgage brokers, rating agencies, Wall Street firms, and regulators is the outcome of free market “hypercapitalism.” But in fact those problems are all symptoms of a government-manipulated market that didn’t allow for failure and had government subsides favoring housing investments over other sectors of the economy. One of The Big Short’s biggest shortfalls is failing to examine how federal policy drove investors to get things wrong while Lippman, Eisman, Burry, and the Cornwall Capital boys managed to get it right.

Still, with an all-star cast made up of Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Steve Carrell and McKay behind the lens The Big Short is sure to make a big gains when released this Christmas and heading into Oscar season.

While the trailer an obvious attempt to capture the same audiences that made The Wolf of Wall Street a hit, modeling your trailer after a Scorcese film ain’t a bad thing. It offers up the perfect blend of one-liners, set pieces, and a tone all in sync to the classic Led Zeppelin song “When The Levee Breaks.”  For that alone, it deserves the nod.



2015 Trailer of the Year Award nominees so far:

Mad Max: Fury Road

Black Mass

Cop Car

Joy

Trumbo 

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Trailer Tuesday – Legend

legendThe only thing better than a movie staring Tom Hardy is a movie staring two Tom Hardy’s. Emily Browning is his co-star and narrates this true crime story of London’s notorious Kray brothers. Twin brothers who ruled the world of organized crime in England in 50s and 60s. Their story has already been  told in cinema including the excellent award-winning 1990 film The Krays, staring Gary and Martin Kemp, real life brothers (not twins) who, interestingly enough, were also members of the 80s rock band Spandau Ballet (the one-hit wonder UK band who gave us the song “True“).

This go around, Tom Hardy plays both roles and with today’s visual effects artistry, the magic looks seamless. Let’s hope the story is as good as the terrific The Devil’s Double where you are so caught up in the story of madman Uday Hussein (Saddam’s son, “The Butcher of Baghdad”) and his reluctant double, Latif, both played brilliantly by Dominic Cooper,  you forget that there is only one actor portraying both roles.  Even if the story fails, it’s going to be a great bargain in getting two Tom Hardy performances for the price of one.


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Colin Quinn Unconstitutional is Ratified on Netflix

colinVeteran comic Colin Quinn’s one-man show, Colin Quinn Unconstitutional, debuts on Netflix and offers an often doting and hilarious look back on the creation of the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers.  Quinn never masks his love for the Constitution and is brilliant at placing himself outside of the traditional red-state vs blue-state mentality that, as he puts it, is tearing this country apart.  The comedian has no problems using the 1st Amendment to go after the trigger warning crowd that can’t take a joke, or reminding you that before it existed, talking crap about a king or dictator anywhere else in the world in history would get you killed.  The bulk of the show deals mostly with the writing of the articles of the Constitution and why and how the government was intended to operate.  Being the classic Irish-American that Quinn is, he uses a bar room analogy to explain how the government is supposed to operate.  As mentioned, Quinn tackles 1st Amendment issues, as well as a bit on the 2nd Amendment, but leaves the rest of the Bill of Rights for another time.

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PMJ

Hey There Delilah by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox ft. Joey Cook – Your Rockin’ Feel Good Music Video of the Week

Chances are you probably have seen one or more of the recent Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox music videos over the past few months.  Bradlee and his rotating group of singers and musicians record jazzy, bluegrass, swing or standards style covers of pop songs and release these simplistically perfect music videos to accompany them.  Bradley & Co. have been doing  this for some years now, but there has been renewed interest because of the brilliant cover version of the mega-hit All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor.  A version that was so popular that PMJ covered their own cover a few months later.

But this week PMJ released this excellent cover with recent American Idol finalist Joey Cook singing Plain White Ts Hey There Delilah. 


 

trumbo

Trailer of the Year of Awards – Trumbo

Bryan Cranston brings his expertise to the role of real-life blacklisted screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo.  Jay Roach, director of the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchises, creates a certain fun loving swagger to what is one of the more serious chapters in American and Hollywood history – the investigation to out Communists by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late forties

While blacklisted, Dalton Trumbo won an Academy award for the screenplay of The Brave One which he wrote under the pseudonym, Robert Rich. In 1993, Trumbo was awarded a posthumous Oscar for his screenplay for Roman Holiday, in which screen credit was given to another writer who was awarded the statue at the time.

The trailer here moves along with some classic swing jazz, behind-the-scenes antics of Hollywood’s golden era, plus Louis CK as Trumbo’s fellow blacklisted screenwriter Arlen Hird (Oscar nod in his future?). The trailer plays out more traditionally than the others we’ve been nominating, but Hollywood loves it when films are made about its history and industry, so including this trailer for some sort of meaningless award, is just par for the course. Plus, any chance to highlight how awful elected officials can be when they decide to go witch hunting American citizens based on what they think (commie or no commie), and to give you another perspective the next time you watch Trumbo and Stanley Kubrick’s collaboration on Spartacus, I’m all for.



2015 Trailer of the Year Award nominees so far:

Mad Max: Fury Road

Black Mass

Cop Car

Joy

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Trailer Tuesday – The Peanuts Movie

In 1950 cartoonist Charles M. Shultz debuted what would become arguably the great American cartoon strip – Peanuts. Gracing the pages of nine different newspapers for the first time on October 2, 1950 was a bald headed boy named Charlie Brown. His faithful beagle, Snoopy, made his appearence just 2 days later. 65 years, and 2,600 newspapers later, Charlie Brown, and the more popular, Snoopy, would make up an marketing empire that could rival the one based on some Mouse. But Peanuts had a far more, albeit subtle, impact on the culture than Disney’s band of animal characters ever would. What Schultz and the comic strip did in the 60s and 70s really helped foster forth an era of a new normal, one that centered readers on what real diversity meant – a melting pot. And like a true melting pot, it was a slow cook.

From Hogan’s Alley

Characters like Franklin, Peppermint Patty, and even Pig-Pen helped acknowledge that race, gender and social status shouldn’t be the focus of societial relationships. Individualism and free association is the best path to achieving a harmonious community – even if Lucy pulls the football every time. It wasn’t all Schultz’s idea though. Like many advancements, sometimes it takes some outside persistance. For instance, Schultz was nudged into introducing the Franklin character by a school teacher who insisted the time was right to introduce a black character that was just as adorable as the others. With literally the stroke of a pen, or many strokes, Schultz agreed and without ever overtly acknowledging such an introduction of a minority character, Franklin appeared and fit right in with the rest of the Peanuts gang.

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See What Happens When 1000 Italian Musicians Play a Foo Fighters Song

This is one of the coolest videos of the year. 1000 musicians got together to perform the Foo Fighters’ Learn to Fly. The event was the brainchild of one man, Fabio Zaffagnini, who so wanted the band to come back to his part of Italy to hold a the first concert in Cesena Italy since 1997, that he spent over a year planning this.

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Trailer Tuesday – Mississippi Grind

Having been a fan of early Ryan Reynolds comedies, he’s been mostly missing the mark in the past few years due to roles as superheroes, in bad horror films and the occasional indie flick. Judging by the trailer for his latest film Mississippi Grind, Reynolds seems to have finally utilized the secret sauce of comedy (just be honest) for this dramatic turn. It’s refreshing to see the talented filmmaking team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar) put their faith in Reynolds and pairing him up with Ben Mendelsohn, an actor who just stole the show on the Netflix series Bloodline. Mendelsohn and Reynolds are an unlikely pairing, which makes this trailer promising of unlikely hit film.


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Trailer of the Year Awards – Joy

In case all we were concerned we wouldn’t get another nominee for the Trailer of the Year Award, along comes David O. Russell and his trio of players Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro to save the day.  It’s more of a teaser with little dialogue and Russell continuing his ode to prime Scorcese with The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” playing throughout.  I am a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook, I enjoyed American Hustle and but now, here comes Joy… with a shotgun.


2015 Trailer of the Year Award nominees so far:

Mad Max: Fury Road

Black Mass

Cop Car

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Trailer Tuesday – Creed vs Southpaw

In an age where MMA fighting is drawing more fans than traditional boxing, because of major letdowns like the recent Pacquiao/Mayweather Jr. fight, there is one arena where boxing is still flourishing – Hollywood.

If you’ve not heard Creed yet, I won’t spoil the trailer for you because it’s a fun reveal. I’ve got high hopes for this film as I am a big fan of the inspiration.

As for Southpaw, this adds another layer of intensity to the genre as it’s penned by the creator of the ultra-brutal FX series Sons of Anarchy. Both films look to offer a refreshing dramatic break from the super-human heroes of late and their dominance of the big screen.


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Trailer Tuesday: Jaws – The 40th Anniversary Edition

It’s officially summer here in the northern hemisphere and to kick it off, this week’s Trailer Tuesday brings us the 40th anniversary of the first ever summer blockbuster movie, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece, Jaws.

Courtesy of MovieClips Trailers on YouTube comes a “Modern Recut” trailer for this classic film. Incorporating modern sound effects and editing styles, this trailer gives it the old college try at making the film look as though it may be hitting theaters for the first time ever. Sadly the film’s greatest asset, John Williams brilliant score, is missing throughout. The music that is used over powers the dialogue, feels out of place and for a film 4 decades old and beloved by many, to not even offer a taste of Williams’ classic score is downright criminal.  Ultimately the trailer fails, as the final 15 seconds looks to promise not a bonafide cinematic achievement, but a laughable SyFy midnight movie.  After watching this Modern Recut, go ahead and cleanse the palate with the original  trailer from 1975 just below it and you’ll realize that it’s hard to improve on perfection, even when it comes to marketing.

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The Southern Hazzard of the Rebel Yell

In the wake of the horrific and senseless murders in Charleston, SC last week, national debate has sprung up once again about a flag.  The Civil War era Confederate Flag.  Not unlike the German Third Reich’s Nazi flag, for many, seeing the South’s Rebel Stars & Bars conjures up equally horrific memories of the vile treatment of scores of innocent human lives.  I get it.  Perhaps there are those that would seek to re-redefine the symbol of the swastika with the pre-Nazi factoid, that due to its original use as an ancient decorative symbol in eastern cultures, we shouldn’t allow the Nazis to commandeer such a worldly historical symbol.  Those that may make that argument will lose.  We will never be able to bring back those ancient glory days of when seeing a swastika was pleasing to the eye.  Unless you are a nazi sympathizer, Hitler & Co. have ruined the swastika or any incarnation or variation of it forever.  You can’t “un-see” the horrors its appearance summons, so to speak.

To many, the Battle Flag holds the same sad memories of murder, enslavement, and loss of human dignity.  However, because some Southerners (white or black) are simply proud of being from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina or any other of the former confederate states, they like the image and feel proud to display it as prideful modern day Southerners.  This does not immediately qualify them as a racist.  Sadly, some opportunists use the flag as a political weapon to paint broad strokes on those who fly it to cause divisiveness for their own benefit.  If you make such judgements you are part of the problem, not the solution and not a very intelligent person. Outside of the personal use, if you ask me, the flag does not deserve to fly above any State building of these United States of America for the same reason we would never fly the Union Flag (or Union Jack) above a government building.  All y’all lost the war. ‘Merica!

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supersize squad

The Fast Food Mascot Re-Boot

Off of the tease announcements from McDonald’s that the Hamburgerler is coming out of hiding,  filmmaker Leigh Scott debuts this re-imagining of our favorite fast food mascots. From Wendy to Col. Sanders to the King and the Clown , in all honesty, this works great on so many levels.  My particular favorite appearance is from the purple guy himself, Grimace.  It’s the Supersize Squad.