movies

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Everybody's a film critic, right? I mean, who walks out of a theater with no opinion about it? Also, nobody's a film critic. By that, I mean that most people resist deep analysis of a film. A frequent refrain is "Hey! It's just a movie."

For a film critic like David Edelstein, the key word is engagement.

Beasts of No Nation is the story of a West African child who is forced to join a unit of mercenary fighters. Actor Idris Elba portrays a brutal warlord who recruits the child soldier.

Sony Pictures

Several of my musical friends had said I should see the movie “Whiplash.” They told me I probably wouldn’t like it but that I should see it anyway. So I did.

They were right on both counts. I didn’t like it all that much but I’m glad I saw it. I think young people interested in the performing arts – not just music – should see it.

Updated at 1:16 p.m.

Actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Mr. Spock, the logical half-Vulcan, half-human in the original Star Trek series and several movies, has died at his home in Los Angeles, his granddaughter, Madeleine, told NPR. Nimoy was 83.

The cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, she said.

NPR's Neda Ulaby, who is reporting on the story, tells our Newscast unit:

The rain that fell on Hollywood as the hours of red-carpet coverage wore on may have provided one of the evening's best visuals: actual people running around wearing plastic bags as they guided famous people out of limos, under umbrellas and to the waiting microphones of interviewers who wanted to know who made the dress, the shoes, the jewelry. It was literally the packing up and encasing of humanity to keep reality out: What could be more Oscars than that?

Davidlohr Bueso / Creative Commons

The Academy Awards are almost upon us! It's hard to focus on the best movies of 2014 when you're already looking forward to the next SpongeBob movie, "Fifty Shades of Yellow."

We don't care! It's time for Vivian Nabeta's Rockin' Pre-Oscar Special Edition of The Nose, our culture roundtable.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Our plan, from the  beginning, for today’s episode of The Nose had been to ask the panelists to see “American Sniper” and then discuss this unusual movie – unusual because director Clint Eastwood’s intention was to make an anti-war statement but the movie has been embraced far more ardently by boosters of the Iraq conflict.

By the numbers, it’s a surprising story. “American Sniper” grossed a quarter of a billion dollars in the month of January. Released on December 25, it’s capable of becoming 2014’s highest grossing film, although it would have to catch the latest “Hunger Games” iteration.

One hundred fifty years ago on Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

To commemorate, Connecticut's Second District Congressman Joe Courtney issued a resource guide for students that details Connecticut's part in passing the amendment.

The guide also corrects a glaring mistake in Steven Spielberg's 2013 movie "Lincoln."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

We decided to bow to reality, and make this hour all about getting ready for the storm. You’ve heard about the storm, right? We begin today with NBC Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan, and find out why this particular storm has his profession in such a lather.

Then we move on to what most -- ideally all -- of you will be doing from Monday night through Wednesday morning: staying put.

Culture critic Linda Holmes and I will discuss some viewing recommendations. Watch them until the power goes out. If and when that happens, maybe you’ll still be able to read. You’ve still got time to add to your e-reader or physically pick up some of the books our final guest John Warner and I will be discussing. Warner is one of the commentators in a March tournament of literary fiction.

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr Creative Commons

Academy Awards are not intrinsically important; therefore, Academy Award nominations are not intrinsically important, but these things are great moments for starting conversations and taking stock. They work pretty well as mass cultural Rorschach blots, and as is the case with many things, the ways in which they make us unhappy are probably the greatest source of interest.  

[At the top of this post, you'll find a discussion I had with Stephen Thompson, my Pop Culture Happy Hour co-panelist, about the Oscar nominations. Tomorrow's full PCHH episode more fully covers the film Selma.]

Ou Ning used to hate the countryside.

He had a comfortable life in Beijing where he worked as an artist. Yet in 2013, the 45-year-old packed his bags and traded his apartment for a centuries-old house in Bishan, a small village in China's Huizhou region. He brought with him his mother, younger brother, nephew, his then-fiancé and her son.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

One nice thing about the holidays is that David Edelstein, America's Greatest Living Film Critic, comes back to his hometown and joins us for a conversation about movies. Recently on Fresh Air, he told Terry Gross that 2014 was a "very, very depressing year for film because none of the great material came from Hollywood studios."

Starting Christmas day, audiences can see a new version of Stephen Sondheim’s nearly 30-year-old musical fairy-tale mash-up, “Into the Woods” — this time, on the big screen.

And as the production moves from stage to screen, the high-budget Hollywood version comes with the requisite star power, including Johnny Depp as the iconic big bad wolf, Emily Blunt as a baker’s wife and Meryl Streep as the wicked witch who sets the whole plot in motion.

"This is a very, very depressing year for film," critic David Edelstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "because none of the great material came from Hollywood studios."

Studios, he says, direct their financial resources into sequels and comic-book movies, which leaves little room for "creative expression, and for doing something weird and potentially boundary-moving."

Sony Pictures

Moviegoers in Connecticut who want to watch "The Interview" have a choice of two theaters screening the film at the center of an international storm involving Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and North Korea. 

Updated at 8:20 p.m. ET

More than 200 theaters will now show The Interview on Christmas Day, a spokesperson for Sony Pictures tells NPR.

Sony had pulled the controversial comedy that centers on a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after ominous threats were made, allegedly by a group that hacked the studio's emails. The nation's largest theater chains had also said they won't show the movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Let me set the stage a little: A movie called "The Imitation Game" will be released nationwide Christmas day, the latest of several attempts to tell the story of Alan Turing. That story is so big, it can only be told in little pieces.

The piece most people focus on is Turing's work as the single most important code breaker in World War 2, the man who built a machine that broke apart the deeply encrypted Nazi code, and then gave the Allies an advantage that they were forced to conceal.

In the new film Top Five, Chris Rock plays Andre Allen, a standup comedian who has starred in a series of blockbuster comedies as a catchphrase-spewing character called Hammy the Bear.

When Top Five begins, Allen has given up the Hammy movies, given up drinking and is trying to reshape his career with his new dramatic film about a Haitian slave rebellion. Like Allen, Rock says he has had doubts about his own career.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

You've probably heard, seen and read a lot about Bill Cosby this week, but I think today's Nose panel tears into the topic in some interesting ways. I hope you'll listen and maybe even comment down below. Later in this show, you'll hear us talk about Mike Nichols, a disagreement about how many people can live as a family in a one-family house, and whether Allison Williams can forbid us from live tweeting her live NBC appearance as Peter Pan.

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The day after Thanksgiving is not only the biggest leftover eating spree of the year; movie theaters are as packed as our stomachs are. To catch our list of what's playing now and what's coming for the holidays, listen to our conversation with Arnold Gorlick, founder of Madison Art Cinemas in Madison, Conn.

Granby Public Schools

A Connecticut middle school principal has resigned amid questions about his role in making violent movies featuring scantily clad women. 

Thai Weber / Flickr Creative Commons

This is one of those shows where you may start by saying, "huh?"  But with any luck, 30 minutes from now, you'll start to say, "Oh!" 

I got interested in the word "twee" and in the idea that it's a mostly undocumented cross-platform artistic movement.

There is no question that, in the 1990s, a musical movement called "twee pop" arose, first in England, spearheaded by a label called Sarah Records. Acts like The Field Mice and Talulah Gosh were embraced as twee by fans who wore their twee-ness with pride.

Tom Jervis / Creative Commons

First up on the Scramble today, writer and thinker Nicholas Carr, whose new book, "The Glass Cage" is about our blind surrender to automation. Most tellingly about the way we surrender (unthinkingly) control to sophisticated computer tools. 

You'll hear for instance, the story of a luxury cruise ship that ran aground on a sand bar because the GPS was spitting out wrong information and the entire crew ignored visual evidence that should have been a dead giveaway.

Disney Enterprises

Poignantly, the Stephen Sondheim Obsessives of this world (I consider myself a lifelong admirer but not quite an obsessive) are poring over every scrap leaking out from the Disney fortress concerning the upcoming movie version of “Into the Woods.” 

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

It's been 40 years since the release of the Mel Brooks' movie Blazing Saddles. I recently went to an anniversary screening and in the audience was one of the movie's stars: Gene Wilder.

Kenneth Lu / Creative Commons

Fist fights and guns in Congress… robber barons roaming the land… bombs exploding in the streets… a boisterous, snaggle-toothed press corps… this was how it was in America a decade into the 1900s, when close pals Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft broke up their friendship. Happens all the time, you might say, but in this case the break-up so crippled the progressive wing of the Republican Party that Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected president, changing the course of history.

Popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tells me how the muckraking media zeroed in on corruption high and low, causing Roosevelt to enact reforms instead of handling the rich, famous and powerful with kid gloves. These are lessons for today, she says.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sarchi/1279251301/

This hour, we talk about movie trailers. Maybe you wonder what a movie critic thinks of them. Actually, critics don't see as many as you do because they often go to special screenings.

When star Denzel Washington and director Anton Fuqua collaborated on 2001's Training Day, the film won Washington an Oscar and changed the trajectory of his career. Now they are together again.

The Equalizer is unapologetic in its excessive, frequently grotesque violence. But because it's got Denzel Washington as its star, it's more interested in character development than you might guess.

In 1966, Jimmy James, a guitarist working as a sideman in R&B bands, is discovered by Linda Keith, a 20-year-old music insider. She helps him move to London, where he developed his own sound. During that year, he transformed himself into an electrifying performer known as Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix formed his band The Jimi Hendrix Experience, recorded his first album Are You Experienced, and soon became a star.

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