News Home RSS Feed

Friday, August 31, 2012

Remembering Princess Diana

Today marks fifteen years since the passing of Diana, Princess of Wales. The beloved royal was killed in an automobile accident in Paris. She was 36.

Diana married Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, in 1981. The ceremony, which took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, reached a global television audience of approximately 750 million. Over the course of her time as princess, she became involved with a great number of charities and causes both domestic and international. In fact, she was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 due to her effort to help ban the use of landmines worldwide.

Her marriage to Charles, which began on such a glorious note, was eventually fraught with a number of highly publicized problems. The two divorced in 1996. However, Diana remained close to the couple’s two sons, Princes William (born 1982) and Harry (1984). When William was engaged to Catherine Middleton in 2010, the ring he presented her was his mother’s own engagement ring from Charles.

In 2011, Prince William married Catherine (who was then named Duchess of Cambridge) in a ceremony that was once again seen by millions around the world via television and the Internet. They carried on Diana’s charitable bent, establishing a fund to which celebrants could donate in lieu of wedding gifts.

Nor is that the only way in which William and Catherine honor Diana’s memory. In September, the couple will visit Southeast Asia as part of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebration. While in Singapore, they will attend an orchid-naming ceremony in which a flower will be named for Princess Diana.

Fifteen years later, there is still a great deal of interest in Diana, her sons, and the British Royal Family. Here are some titles that may be of interest to your patrons.

The Princess Diana Collection
Princess Diana (Conspiracy?)
Diana – An Intimate Portrait
Prince William & Kate: The Royal Romance
William & Kate – Planning a Royal Wedding
The Royal Wedding – William & Catherine

The Diana Chronicles
The Real Diana
Prince William
William and Harry
William & Kate: The Love Story
The Making of a Royal Romance
Elizabeth the Queen
Her Majesty

A Musical Tribute to Diana

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Romy and Michele, 15 Years Later

Written by Kirk Baird

Perhaps because this summer marks my own 25th high school reunion, I have a fondness for Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a Blu-ray release. The film stars Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) and Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe on Friends) as two best friends from high school whose fashion sense and other peculiarities made them objects of derision by the cool girls in school. A decade later and Romy (Sorvino) and Michelle (Kudrow) have left Tucson and their classmates behind and moved to Los Angeles. The best friends are roommates, virtually inseparable, and quite content with their lives, but the 10-year high school reunion causes them to take inventory of their accomplishments. Romy is a window clerk at a car dealership, and Michelle is unemployed. They have dreams of being fashion mavens, but that’s never panned out. So when they decide to attend the reunion, they concoct a plan to reinvent themselves as successful businesswomen – they fabricate a story that they invented the post-it notes, or, at least, the adhesive glue on the back of the paper – to impress those who once made fun of them. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

Sorvino and Kudrow partner so well together and have such great chemistry as best friends on screen, you wonder if perhaps it didn’t spill over into real life. It’s a shame they never worked together on another major project. The cast also features a wickedly comedic performance by Janeane Garofalo as a high school outcast with an acerbic personality who is determined to prove her worth to those who rejected her. Alan Cumming plays the nerdy classmate who overtly pines for Michelle – though she politely declines his advances. And Julia Campbell plays the most-popular girl in school who plots to make Romy and Michele’s life hell in high school, and a decade later at the reunion.

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion was written by Robin Schiff, who also wrote the play on which it’s based. (Schiff also wrote and directed the 2005 prequel Romy and Michele: The Beginning, a TV movie with Katherine Heigl (Romy) and Alexandra Breckenridge (Michele) in the leads.) The script’s dialogue retains the feel of a stage presentation, but the sly humor and observations survive the transition to the big screen intact. Schiff clearly has an affinity for her protagonists, and she never lets them devolve into caricatures, as is the case with a lot of films about ditzy or eccentric blondes. These are warm, friendly souls we can’t help cheering for.

Director David Mirkin, who has long-served as a producer on The Simpsons, employs a mostly subtle approach to the film’s humor, allowing the characters and their motivations to supply the laughs rather than inventing obstacles for them to overcome. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion may not be gut-busting funny, but it doesn’t try to be: it’s a pleasant comedy with characters you genuinely care about. For those of us with high school reunions on the brain, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is worth another visit, even 15 years later.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More on Jaws

Written by Kirk Baird

Following up yesterday's post about Jaws on Blu-ray...

Jaws is arguably the most effective film of all time. Consider that more than 35 years after the release of the first true summer blockbuster, how many of us still suffer an almost irrational fear of sharks?

The film’s legacy of fright was hardly surprising to its co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, who recalls in a documentary included in the new Blu-ray release of Jaws that he recognized the lasting impression it would have with audiences when production began on the movie.

“I said that we have the chance to make a movie that’s going to do for the ocean what the shower scene did for Psycho in terms of affecting a generation with kind of a fear of water. And to this day when people come up to me and know that I’ve worked on the screenplay for Jaws and talked to me about it, inevitably one of the first things they say is, ‘You know, that whole summer I didn’t go swimming,’ or ‘I’ve been afraid of the water ever since that movie’ or ‘I’m still afraid of sharks.’” The film remains a monster of merchandising as well, with legions of fans collecting authentic movie props, along with vintage and new toys, games, posters, magazines, books, puzzles, towels, T-shirts, Halloween costumes and everything else with a Jaws logo or name slapped on it.

Jaws was Hollywood’s first modern-day blockbuster, a film that changed the landscape of the industry upon its release in the summer of 1975, as just as Star Wars did two years later.

But did you know…

Jaws was the first film to break the $100 million mark — it took only a three-month span to do it — on its way to becoming the biggest film of all time. It now has a lifetime gross of $260 million in the U.S., according to, which is good enough for No. 60 on the biggest films list. Adjust for inflation, though, and Jaws leaps back to No. 7, with a gross of $1.027 billion, behind Gone with the Wind ($1.620 billion), Star Wars ($1.428 billion), The Sound of Music ($1.142 billion), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial ($1.137 billion), Titanic ($1.087 billion), and The Ten Commandments ($1.050 billion).

Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss will forever be linked in their iconic roles as Chief of Police Brody, shark hunter Quint, and marine biologist Hooper, but Scheider and Shaw were not the original choices. Sterling Hayden and Lee Marvin were initially offered the role of Quint, and Robert Duvall was the first choice for Brody; he turned it down for fear the film would make him famous. Dreyfuss also politely declined the role of Hooper, but fear of a flagging movie career after seeing his performance in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz convinced him he should take the offer while it was still there.

In the novel Jaws, written by Peter Benchley, and in the version of the film’s script he turned in, the massive great white shark dies from a combination of exhaustion from towing three floating barrels attached to it, as well as wounds from a harpoon. Director Steven Spielberg, who was only 27 at the time and making only his second theatrical release, felt the shark’s death was anticlimactic and opted for a more visceral and dramatic ending, with Jaws being blown up by a scuba tank detonated by a bullet. Benchley hated the ending but after seeing the film, he agreed with Spielberg that the director’s ending worked much better.

Jaws was first shown to a test audience in a Dallas theatre. The filmmakers knew they had a hit from the first collective scream from the moviegoers when the shark first attacks. But Spielberg thought there was one scene – when Hooper discovers the head of Ben Gardner in a wrecked hull – that didn’t elicit enough surprise and fear from the audience, so he reshot the sequence in a swimming pool and paid for it himself. It worked: the next screening, audiences screamed louder at that “scare” than anything else in the film.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jaws Blu-ray: Worth the Wait

Written by Kirk Baird

Arguably the greatest man vs. nature film, Jaws is an enduring masterpiece, a gripping thrill ride of scares and exhilaration that marries popcorn entertainment with intelligent writing, effective casting, and the determined vision of a young director about to become a filmmaking force.

As most everyone knows, the film is about a 25-foot great white shark that terrorizes a small island resort on the East Coast one summer by dining on several swimmers, a colourful fisherman, a young marine biologist, and a police chief with a fear of the water determined to kill the beast.

The blockbuster has been on every home video format there is, with the exception of Blu-ray…until now. And was it worth the wait.

The video quality of Jaws on Blu-ray, released as part of Universal Studio’s centennial celebration, might be reason alone to upgrade to high-definition, if you haven’t already.

I compared the Blu-ray to the 25th anniversary DVD release of the film, itself remastered, and found the difference in colours, lack of artifacts on the film, and the overall clarity of the image to be remarkable. Jaws may be 37 years old, but it has never looked this good. As director Steven Spielberg noted in a 10-minute feature on the digital remastering of Jaws, his film looks better now on Blu-ray than when it was released to theatres in June, 1975.

The sound has been upgraded as well from simple two-channel stereo as originally shown to 7.1, meaning the dialogue, music, and sound effects have been expanded to play through up to seven speakers plus a subwoofer.

If that’s not enough to convince you to upgrade, consider the Blu-ray’s extensive extras to sink your teeth into: roughly six hours plus of features, including two separate documentaries that delve deep into the notoriously lengthy and problem-plagued film production, as well as hundreds of on-set photos, original storyboards, and deleted scenes and outtakes. Some of this has been available on DVD before, but never in one package. Even better, it all fits on a single Blu-ray disc.

Jaws is one of Hollywood’s great films, and now it’s one of the best Blu-ray offerings, with a digitally remastered and near-flawless presentation, and a treasure trove of facts, trivia, and behind-the-scenes accounts for fans of the film and those who love film period.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Curiosity Boosts NASA’s Popularity

When the Curiosity rover landed on Mars in the wee hours on August 6, it represented a high point in a project that began, tentatively, in 2004. Across the U.S. (including a huge gathering in Times Square), people watched breathlessly as the rover touched down on the surface of another planet. After launching on November 26, 2011, and traveling approximately 563 million kilometres through space, Curiosity landed less than 2.4 kilometres from the original target site. The actual landing site has been named Bradbury Landing in honor or Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles (among many other things).

Curiosity’s mission is to explore the climate and geology of Mars. Primarily, it will be looking for evidence of water, as well as organic material and chemicals necessary for life. This information will help determine the feasibility of a manned mission to the Red Planet.

With the success of the landing, interest in NASA and space exploration has skyrocketed. Curiosity even has its own Twitter account for those interested to follow the progress of its mission. Here are some titles to bolster your library’s space collection. For more titles, see our website.

The What’s Up, NASA? Series
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Box Set
NASA – The Complete Story
Apollo 11 – A Night to Remember
Magnificent Desolation – Walking on the Moon
Space Flight Collection
Mars – The Red Planet
Mars in 3D - Images from the Viking Mission
IMAX - Hubble

Death by Black Hole by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Failure Is Not an Option by Gene Kranz
Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin
Too Far from Home by Chris Jones

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Expendables 2 in Theatres Now

Written by Kirk Baird

Expendables 2 is in theatres now and bringing with it a who’s-who of action-film stars from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s: Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Sylvester Stallone, who co-wrote and directed the first Expendables and co-wrote the sequel.

Here are film highlights from each actor:

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Predator, The Running Man, Total Recall, True Lies

Bruce Willis: 12 Monkeys, Armageddon, Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Fifth Element, Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable

Chuck Norris: Lone Wolf McQuade, Missing in Action, Silent Rage

Dolph Lundgren: Rocky IV, Universal Soldier

Jason Statham: The Bank Job, Crank, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, The Mechanic, Snatch

Jean-Claude Van Damme: Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Nowhere to Run, Universal Soldier

Jet Li: Fist of Legend, The Forbidden Kingdom, Unleashed, The Warlords

Sylvester Stallone: Cliffhanger, Cop Land, Death Race 2000 (Roger Corman’s original 1975 version), Lords of Flatbush, Nighthawks, First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part 2, Rocky, Rocky III, Rocky Balboa

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Full Metal Jacket Turns 25

Written by Kirk Baird

Stanley Kubrick didn’t set out to make a great Vietnam movie; he wanted to make the definitive war film. More specifically, a film about what war does to men and women…and children. And just like with Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now—the first in a wave of reactive and reflective Vietnam movies—Full Metal Jacket’s Vietnam setting is mostly incidental. In fact, Kubrick, notorious for not wanting to work much further than a short drive from his English home for his later projects, filmed Full Metal Jacket in and around London, with an abandoned gasworks outside the city doubling for a crumbling and bombed out Hue City, including imported palm trees planted all around. But really, the Vietnam setting is intentionally amorphous so that the burned-out buildings and rubble-strewn streets could be doubles for World War II or, more currently, the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars.

Full Metal Jacket was just released in a deluxe Blu-ray 25th anniversary edition, which includes a half-hour retrospective by cast and crew and others, audio commentary, and the fascinating and illuminating hour-long documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, which sheds light on the increasingly reclusive director through personal notes, photos, and fan and hate mail. Kubrick died March 7, 1999, at the age of 70.

The director’s film operates on two distinct levels, in much the same way as Private Joker (Matthew Modine), the closest thing we have to a protagonist in Full Metal Jacket, speaks of his own duality as killer soldier-peaceful civilian.

There is the harrowing marine indoctrination on Parris Island, with star-making turns by Vincent D’Onofrio as the simpleminded Private Pyle turned crazed killer, and R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine drill sergeant, who steals the film with his profanity-laced tirades as the taskmaster assigned to make soldiers out of teenagers. This act is about creating the perfect killing machine.

The second and third acts are about Vietnam, where the killing machine is loosed. More than just an hour of white-knuckle bloody combat, though, Full Metal Jacket dispassionately examines modern warfare through young marines, through innocence lost on both sides of the war, and through the media machine that tries to tell the story of war while avoiding the truth. There is commentary sprinkled throughout Full Metal Jacket, but it’s subtle—unlike the majority of Vietnam War-based films.

Consider the film’s ending, as the marines, after a grueling firefight with a sniper, retreat inward to a childish comfort and sing out the Mickey Mouse Club theme song as they leave the burning city. There’s nothing heavy-handed about the moment, but its visceral impact lingers.

Full Metal Jacket was released in June, 1987—nearly a year after Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning Platoon, thus creating unnecessary comparison between the Vietnam films. But there really is no artistic comparison.

As D’Onofrio notes in the film’s audio commentary, “The narration in Oliver’s movie is fantastic because it’s Oliver’s deal and he went through it…you can’t beat it.…But [Full Metal Jacket] is Vietnam plus weirdness beyond belief. Full Metal Jacket is just an amazing piece of work, just the whole thing.”

Full Metal Jacket has all the ingredients of a classic Kubrick film: sharp, almost cold camera angles, an emotional detachment from the director—thereby allowing us, the audience, to create our own responses to the film—and meticulous detail in every shot that begs for repeated viewings with the finger on the pause button. Eyes Wide Shut may have been Kubrick’s last film, but Full Metal Jacket is his last extraordinary work. And this special box set gives the film its proper due. Kubrick was no stranger to war films. Also check out these two anti-war classics:

Paths of Glory

Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Memoriam: Tony Scott

Written by Kirk Baird

Tony Scott may have been Hollywood’s most successful director who wasn’t a brand name.

His 16 films combined to earn nearly $1.1 billion at the box office, and he helped pioneer a fast-paced editing technique that’s de rigueur in modern action cinema. Yet he was often derided by critics for that same style and worked in the shadow of more accomplished older brother Ridley.

Scott died Sunday at the age 68 after jumping from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles. An unnamed source told ABC News that the British-born filmmaker had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

He is survived by his wife Donna and two children.

Scott’s foray into filmmaking began while lensing commercials for his brother’s advertising agency in the 1970s. He made the leap to feature films in 1983 with the vampire tale The Hunger starring Susan Sarandon, Catherin Deneuve, and David Bowie. The film failed to attract large audiences, but Scott’s fortunes would change — literally — with his second film, Top Gun, in 1986, a box-office smash that turned Tom Cruise into a superstar and created such catchphrases as “I have the need, the need for speed.”

Top Gun was Scott’s first action film and showcased the kinetic style that would become his hallmark and influence a younger generation of action directors, perhaps most notably Michael Bay.

Scott teamed with Cruise again on Days of Thunder, and was in the planning stages of a Top Gun sequel. He also directed Denzel Washington five times in Crimson Tide, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Deja Vu, Man on Fire, and Unstoppable, his final film behind the camera.

Other films included Beverly Hills Cop II, True Romance, and Enemy of the State.

Along with Ridley and their production company, Scott also produced a number of projects, including 2008’s The Andromeda Strain TV miniseries, 2010’s big-screen adaption of the TV series A-Team, the acclaimed CBS series The Good Wife, and this summer’s Prometheus, which his brother also directed.

Unlike the work of many of his peers, a Scott film was consistent in its qualities: top-notch production values, a cast of big-name actors clearly enjoying their time on the set and in front of the camera, polished action sequences, and the sound cranked up to theatre-rattling decibels.

Those characteristics helped define his work and made him a popular favorite among audiences, even if many moviegoers didn’t know his name — or perhaps confused him for Ridley.

Scott wasn’t a great director — certainly not by the critical acclaim and trophies by which filmmakers are judged. But he was good at what he did — at times very good. And that should be good enough.

Five Scott films to check out:

Top Gun: The Tom Cruise aerial adventure that helped define modern action movies.

Crimson Tide: A terrific thriller anchored by ferocious face-offs between a nuclear submarine captain played by Gene Hackman and his mutinous first officer played by Denzel Washington.

True Romance: Quentin Tarantino wrote this quirky and violent tale of two lovers on the lam from the mob.

Man on Fire: Washington plays a burnt-out ex-CIA operative-turned vengeful bodyguard.

Unstoppable: Washington and Chris Pine team up to stop a runaway locomotive loaded with dangerous cargo in this film inspired by a true story.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Cusack Films Debut on Blu-ray

Written by Kirk Baird

How to make a non-cloying, witty, and original romantic comedy that appeals to both sexes. If it was easy, we wouldn’t have a world of The Hottie and the Nottie. But John Cusack managed to pull it off in not one but two R-rated comedies: 1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank and 2000’s High Fidelity, both of which recently made their Blu-ray debut.

In Grosse Pointe Blank, Cusack plays professional killer Martin Blank, who is obsessed with former high school girlfriend Debi, and finally has the chance to reconnect with her at his 10-year high school reunion. In High Fidelity he plays Rob Gordon, the owner of a Chicago record store, whose obsession with music is equaled only by his inability to get over his ex-girlfriend, Laura.

Seeing a theme here? As different as the films are in narrative plot and in the central character’s occupation, Martin and Rob are very similar with their girl troubles and their fixation to mend that relationship. That’s a universal theme that connects us to Martin and Rob and allows us to bond with them in an otherwise alien environment. And few play the relatable outsider as well as Cusack, whose impeccable comic timing is less about delivering jokes than informing us of the character through smartly written dialogue. How Martin and Rob work to overcome their neuroses and other issues to win back their girl is charming and funny and inventive — in the best sense of an indie comedy masquerading as mainstream romantic.

Both films are also highlighted by stellar supporting casts. In Grosse Pointe Blank, Minnie Driver became a familiar face as Debi, who still harbors resentment after he disappeared for a decade the night of their prom, and Dan Aykroyd is hilarious as a rival assassin who wants to form a union for professional killers. Cusack and Aykroyd play off each other brilliantly in dialogue and the inability for their characters to trust each other — even at a diner.

High Fidelity features Catherine Zeta-Jones as one of Martin’s former flames, Lisa Bonet as a beautiful singer he falls for, and a wickedly effective cameo by Tim Robbins as the new boyfriend of Laura (Iben Hjejle). But the film is comically hijacked by Jack Black and Todd Louiso as a pair of hipster music snobs who work at Rob’s record store and look down on all the customers and even each other. Other than Cusack’s obsession with top 5 lists, it’s Black’s manic performance you’ll likely remember best about the film.

Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity look great in Blu-ray. While no extras save the trailer on the former, the latter does include on-set interviews with Cusack and director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen) as well as 14 minutes of deleted scenes. Both films are highly recommended and play well in a back-to-back mini Cusack marathon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hatfields & McCoys Comes to DVD/Blu-ray

Written by Kirk Baird

“Never forgive. Never forget.” That’s the somber tagline for the History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys miniseries, which set high marks in ratings for cable programming when it aired in late May.

The record number of viewers who tuned in to watch the miniseries is also a testament to not only the quality of the Hatfields & McCoys, but the enduring fascination we have with this bloody feud that consumed and ultimately decimated two Appalachian families in West Virginia and Kentucky. The roughly six-hour series recently made its debut on DVD/Blu-ray.

Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton star as the rival patriarchs, “Devil” Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy, respectively. The friends turned foes served together as Confederate soldiers, and looked after each other. But the mental toll of the Civil War is more than Hatfield can bear and so he deserts the army, something McCoy can never forget, especially when he returns from the war — the sole surviving member of his platoon and a former prisoner of war — to find his family scraping by while Hatfield’s family business prospers. McCoy’s animosity toward Hatfield spills over to the rest of his family, and the Hatfields grow equally intolerant. Their rift leads to a murder; add an unwelcomed love affair between Anse Hatfield’s oldest son and Randall McCoy’s daughter, and the feud is on.

The miniseries takes a few liberties with historical facts for drama’s sake. In reality, because of intermarriages between the two clans, the families were not as segregated as Hatfields & McCoys suggests, and their epic feud had more to do with professional jealousy — Randall McCoy’s bitterness over Anse Hatfield’s thriving lumber business — than personal spite.

But Hatfields & McCoys more than adequately captures the spirit of the irrational hatred, and how the subsequent violence consumed two families as well as friends and neighbours. The miniseries proves, if nothing else, there were no winners in this war of family honour, only an expanding cemetery full of fresh graves.

And speaking of long-standing feuds, it’s worth noting that Hatfields & McCoys was directed by Kevin Reynolds, who had a big news in Hollywood falling out with Costner twice while directing the actor: in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves over Costner’s screen time, and in the 1995 mega-flop Waterworld, in which Reynolds left the project, and Costner took over as uncredited director.

Reynold subsequently remarked to Entertainment Weekly, “In the future Costner should only appear in pictures he directs himself. That way he can always be working with his favorite actor and his favorite director.”

The pair obviously has patched up their relationship since then. In a half-hour making-of feature, Costner even remarks, “Kevin, for me, is just a very talented director. And I made no bones about it. I’ve supported him and supported his career and his talent for a long time.”

Thankfully, this is one feud that didn’t end in bloodshed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Toronto International Film Festival Preview

Written by Kirk Baird

The Toronto International Film festival kicks off September 6 and offers 10 days and nights filled with some of the best mainstream, avant-garde, and international movies. There will be nearly 140 feature-length films screened at the event. Here are some highlights, separated into four categories, along with write-ups from the Toronto Film Festival website. For more information, check out:


9.79: Filmmaker Daniel Gordon investigates the 1988 Olympic race that resulted in disgrace for Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, a gold medal for the USA’s Carl Lewis, and major controversy over drug testing.

The Act of Killing: In this chilling and inventive documentary, executive produced by Errol Morris, the unrepentant former members of Indonesian death squads are challenged to re-enact some of their many murders in the style of the American movies they love.

Artifact: Telling harsh truths about the modern music business, Artifact gives intimate access to singer/actor Jared Leto and his band Thirty Seconds to Mars as they battle their label in a brutal lawsuit and record their album This Is War. The film is a true artifact of our times, as its subjects struggle with big questions over art, money and integrity.

As if We Were Catching a Cobra: Focusing on the work of cartoonists in Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Palestine, this documentary examines how comic strips and caricatures are becoming a vehicle for dissent and a voice for freedom of expression in the Arab world.

Bestiaire: Visionary filmmaker Denis Côté (Curling) offers a strikingly beautiful contemplation of the caged denizens of a zoo in this intriguing cinematic inquiry into the mysterious rapport and insuperable gulf between animals and humans.

Camp 14 — Total Control Zone: An enthralling documentary portrait of twenty-nine-year-old Shin Dong-Huyk, who was born and spent the first two decades of his life behind the barb wire of a North Korean labour camp, until his dramatic escape launched him into an outside world he had never known.

The Central Park Five: The devastating new documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon on the infamous "Central Park Jogger" case details how a rush to judgment by police, media and an outraged public led to five black and Latino teenagers being convicted for a heinous crime that they did not commit.

Far Our Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story: Far Out Isn't Far Enough follows the multiple careers of the artist Tomi Ungerer, who had stints as a bestselling children's book author, an illustrator of 1960s protest posters, and a creator of explicit erotica until he found himself shunned from the American publishing industry.

Fidai: A seventy-year-old veteran of the Algerian War of Independence speaks about his years of struggle as an underground soldier for the National Liberation Front, in this fascinating documentary by first-time filmmaker Damien Ounouri.

First Comes Love: With great wit and insight, New York City filmmaker Nina Davenport documents her quest to have a baby as a single mother over forty. Davenport's film taps into the zeitgeist topic of how the modern family is being re-imagined.

Free Angela & All Political Prisoners: In this essential new feature documentary, legendary radical activist Angela Davis speaks for the first time about her 1970 imprisonment as a terrorist and conspirator, which became a flashpoint in the black liberation struggle and turned her into a revolutionary icon.

The Gatekeepers: In an unprecedented and candid series of interviews, six former heads of the Shin Bet — Israel's intelligence and security agency — speak about their role in Israel's decades-long counterterrorism campaign, discussing their controversial methods and whether the ends ultimately justify the means.

The Girl From the South: Twenty years after peace activist Im Su-kyong swore that she would cross the border between North and South Korea on foot, Argentine documentary filmmaker José Luis García goes in search of the young woman who was once known as "The Flower of Reunification."

How to Make Money Selling Drugs: This fascinating documentary offers an in-depth look at the high-stakes world of drug dealing and drug enforcement, featuring interviews with top-ranking government officials and such celebrities as Woody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon, The Wire creator David Simon and rappers Eminem, 50 Cent and Rick Ross.

Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp: Director Jorge Hinojosa blends pulp fiction imagery with ambitious biographical digging to tell the story of legendary pimp/author Iceberg Slim, whose gritty and poetic books about ghetto life gave birth to Street Lit. Interviews include Chris Rock, Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Quincy Jones.

London — The Modern Babylon: Director Julien Temple (The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, The Filth and the Fury) surveys the past century of London's tumultuous history in this vibrant documentary.

Lunarcy!: In this irresistibly zany, sharp-witted documentary, director Simon Ennis introduces us to an unforgettable group of characters whose obsession with the moon and lunar colonization has given birth to utopian dreams of truly galactic proportions.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God: Academy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) explores the charged issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, following a trail from the first known protest against clerical sexual abuse in the United States and all way to the Vatican.

Men at Lunch: This remarkable new documentary explores the story behind one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century: the 1932 photograph of workmen taking their lunch while perched on a girder high above New York City.

More Than Honey: With dazzling nature photography, Academy Award–nominated director Markus Imhoof (The Boat is Full) takes a global examination of endangered honeybees — spanning California, Switzerland, China and Australia — more ambitious than any previous work on the topic.

No Place on Earth: This extraordinary testament to survival from Emmy-winning producer/director Janet Tobias brings to light a story that remained untold for decades: that of thirty-eight Ukrainian Jews who survived World War II by living in caves for eighteen months.

Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out: Marina Zenovich dives into the mysterious details of Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland in 2009, which came suspiciously soon after the release of her ground-breaking 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. In this follow-up investigation, Zenovich raises fresh questions about legal manipulation, media distortion and power politics.

The Secret Disco Revolution: Cheekily fun and intellectually absorbing, Jamie Kastner’s meticulously researched documentary casts a new light on the much-maligned musical genre, contending that the disco era represented a moment of mass liberation for women, African-Americans and gay men.

Shepard & Dark: Director Treva Wurmfeld captures an indelible portrait of the complex relationship between playwright/actor Sam Shepard and his close friend Johnny Dark as they prepare forty years of their correspondence for publication, stirring up old memories both good and bad.

Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky: Barry Avrich (Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project) recounts the life and troubled times of controversial Cineplex and Live Ent founder Garth Drabinsky, whose daring innovations and flamboyant personal style reshaped the Canadian entertainment industry.

Storm Surfers 3D: This pulse-racing real-life adventure follows two of Australia's greatest surf legends on their quest to hunt down and ride the Pacific's biggest and most dangerous waves. With 3D cameras installed on their boards, Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll defy middle age by pushing the limits of what they — and cinema technology — can do.

Venus & Serena: An intimate documentary that takes us inside the lives of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, during a year when debilitating injuries and life-threatening illness threatened to take them out of the game once and for all.

The Walls of Dakar: This captivating documentary explores the contemporary graffiti culture of Dakar, where painters, rappers and taggers have created a language of dissent and uncensored self-expression that gave prescient warning of the insurgency to come.

A World Not Ours: Imbued with nostalgia and striking a wide range of emotional notes, filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel travels to the Lebanese refugee camp of Ain El Helweh to explore how the camp's displaced people use the World Cup series to articulate their own ideas of home, community, victory and hope.

Major Films:

Argo: Academy Award winner Ben Affleck directs and stars in this based-on-fact thriller about a CIA "exfiltration" expert who concocts an outlandish plan to get six stranded Americans out of Tehran after the 1979 invasion of the American embassy — by having them masquerade as a Hollywood film crew.

At Any Price: Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham star in this drama from acclaimed director Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo), about a rebellious son whose dreams of becoming a professional race-car driver are derailed when his father's farming empire becomes the target of a high-stakes investigation.

The Bay: Acclaimed writer-director Barry Levinson gorily switches gears for this mock-doc eco-apocalypse thriller about a seaside town that becomes a breeding ground for a terrifying nest of parasites.

Byzantium: A pair of female vampires (Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton) wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting English seaside community in this deliciously depraved supernatural drama from Academy Award winner Neil Jordan.

Cloud Atlas: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving head a stellar international cast in this visionary, time-tripping science-fiction epic from directors Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix).

The Company You Keep: Robert Redford directs and stars in this gripping political thriller about a young journalist (Shia LaBeouf) who stumbles upon the story of his career when he uncovers the identity of a wanted ex-radical activist (Redford) who has been underground for five decades.

Dredd 3D: In a grim, dystopian future, ultimate lawman Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) takes on a vicious drug empress (Lena Headey), in this dark, visceral new screen version of the legendary British comic-book icon.

End of Watch: David Ayer (Training Day) writes and directs this high-octane found-footage crime flick about two up-and-coming L.A. cops (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña) who find themselves on the lam from a ruthless drug cartel after making an unexpected discovery during a seemingly routine traffic stop.

The Impossible: Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) recreates the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in terrifyingly vivid detail in this grueling survival story about a married couple (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) searching for their missing children in the aftermath of the disaster.

Looper: A mob hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is assigned to kill his own future self (Bruce Willis) in this mind-bending futuristic thriller.

Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles and Jennifer Lawrence star in this acerbic comedy-drama from David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter), about a former high-school teacher who returns to his family home after four years in a mental institution and begins to slowly rebuild his life.

Art House:

Berberian Sound Studio: In this tense and moody psychological thriller, a timid British sound engineer begins to lose his grip on reality when he is hired to work for a flamboyant Italian horror director.

Frances Ha: Greta Gerwig stars as Frances, an apprentice in a dance company who wants so much more than she has but lives life with unaccountable joy and lightness. This modern fable from Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) explores youth, friendship, class, ambition, failure and redemption.

Ginger and Rosa: As the Cold War meets the sexual revolution in 1960s London, the lifelong friendship of two teenage girls (Elle Fanning, Alice Englert) is shattered by ideological differences and personal betrayals. This new film from director Sally Potter (Orlando) also stars Annette Bening and Christina Hendricks.

Great Expectations: An outstanding roster of British acting talent — including Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Sally Hawkins, Jason Flemyng, Ewen Bremner — bring Charles Dickens' universe to life in this magnificent new screen version of the classic novel from director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

Hannah Arendt: The great Barbara Sukowa stars in Margarethe von Trotta's fascinating biography of the influential philosopher and political theorist, whose reporting on the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann led to her famous concept of the "banality of evil."

Hyde Park on Hudson: Bill Murray and Laura Linney star in the true story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's relationship with his distant cousin and soon-to-be mistress Margaret Suckley, over a weekend at the president's country estate with the visiting King and Queen of England in 1939.

Imogene: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, and Matt Dillon headline this hilarious comedy about a washed-up playwright who, after faking her own suicide as a ploy to get her ex-boyfriend's attention, winds up remanded to the custody of her wackily dysfunctional family.

Jayne Mansfield’s Car: A top-notch cast — including Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon and John Hurt — star alongside writer-director Billy Bob Thornton in this drama set in 1969 Alabama, about the culture clash between two families — one American, one British-brought together by the death of a loved one.

A Late Quartet: A powerhouse cast — Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir — brings vivid life to Yaron Zilberman's engrossing drama about an illustrious string quartet, whose quarter-century anniversary precipitates a tempestuous (and potentially explosive) release of repressed feelings, long-held resentments and painful betrayals.

A Liar’s Autobiography — The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman: John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam pay tribute to their late Monty Python colleague Graham Chapman in this hilarious, 3-D animated adaptation of Chapman's brazenly fictionalized life story.

Mumbai’s King: A young boy comes of age in a Mumbai slum while dealing with his long-suffering mother and violent father, in this gently observational portrait crafted in the tradition of the great neorealist classics.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: In this witty and affecting coming-of-age story (adapted by writer-director Stephen Chbosky from his own novel), a shy teenager (Logan Lerman) with a dark family secret is coaxed out of his shell by a sympathetic teacher (Paul Rudd) and two wild, carefree new friends (Emma Watson and Ezra Miller).

The Place Beyond the Pines: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes star in this multi-generational crime drama from director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), about a motorcycle stunt rider whose moonlighting a bank robber brings him into conflict with an ambitious young cop.

Reality: Matteo Garrone follows his 2008 Mafia epic Gomorrah with this scathing satire of Italy's post-Berlusconian obsession with celebrity, in which a charismatic Neapolitan family man overhauls his entire life under the deluded belief that he is destined for reality-TV stardom.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, and Kate Hudson co-star in this adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's international best-selling novel, about a young Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) whose pursuit of corporate success on Wall Street leads him on a strange path back to the world he had left behind.

Room 237: Obsessive cineastes detail their byzantine conspiracy theories about the secret themes and messages hidden within Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, in director Rodney Ascher's fascinating, kaleidoscopic deconstruction of a horror classic.

A Royal Affair: This sumptuous historical drama from writer-director Nikolaj Arcel (screenwriter of the original version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) chronicles the scandalous love triangle between a queen (Alicia Vickander), her German doctor (Mads Mikkelsen), and the mad King of Denmark (Mikkel Følsgaard).

The Sessions: Academy Award nominee John Hawkes (Winter's Bone) stars in this funny and touching comedy-drama about a childhood polio survivor — now in his thirties and permanently confined to an iron lung — who hires a professional sex surrogate (Academy Award winner Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity.

Shahid: This compelling drama tells the remarkable true story of slain human rights activist Shahid Azmi, who became a powerful voice against the intercommunal violence that has engulfed Mumbai since the early 1990s.

Ship of Theseus: In the first feature film from acclaimed Indian playwright Anand Gandhi, three disparate people — a devout monk stricken by illness, a young woman who is given a second chance, and a stockbroker who sets out to combat the illegal international trade in human organs — are linked by an unknowing connection as they follow their individual paths through the kaleidoscopic streets of Mumbai.

Thanks for Sharing: Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins star in this comedy-drama about a group of people who are brought together when they join a support group to overcome their sex addictions.

The Time Being: In this suspenseful drama from first-time writer-director Nenad Cicin-Sain, a struggling young artist (Wes Bentley) accepts a series of bizarre commissions from an eccentric, dying millionaire (Frank Langella) who may be trying to either help further his career or destroy his life.

To the Wonder: Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko star in the new film from Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), about a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown after his marriage to a European woman falls apart.

Twice Born: Actor-director Sergio Castellitto (Don't Move) directs Penélope Cruz and Emile Hirsch in this vivid, full-throttle melodrama about an ill-starred romance set against the backdrop of the siege of Sarajevo.

The We and the I: On the last day of school, a group of NYC teenagers on a Bronx bus head towards an uncertain future in the rollicking, charming and formally daring new film from Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

Special Presentations:

The ABCs of Death: Over two dozen of the world's top horror directors bring you twenty-six alphabetically-inspired ways to die in this provocative, shocking and deadly funny compendium of carnage.

Bitter Ash: A landmark in Canadian independent cinema, Larry Kent's jazzy, Nouvelle Vague–style chronicle of the sexual shenanigans of a young printer returns in a new restoration.

The Cloud Capped Star: A young woman desperately struggles to keep her family out of poverty in this fiercely moving masterpiece by the great, perennially under-recognized Indian auteur Ritwik Ghatak.

Dial M for Murder: Alfred Hitchcock’s devilish drawing-room thriller, about a retired tennis pro (Ray Milland) who plans the "perfect" murder of his adulterous wife (Grace Kelly), is revived in a new, eye-popping 3-D digital restoration.

Foxfire: The latest film from Palme d'Or winner Laurent Cantet (Entre les murs) is a vivid adaptation of the celebrated Joyce Carol Oates novel about a small-town girl gang in the 1950s.

Gangs of Wasseypur — Part One: Part One of Anurag Kashyap's decade-spanning gangster epic chronicles the bloody turf war between two competing criminal families during the tumultuous era of Indian independence and industrialization.

Gangs of Wasseypur — Part Two: Part Two of Anurag Kashyap's gangster epic amps up the adrenaline as the irresistibly amoral criminal clans of Wasseypur careen towards their bloody date with destiny.

The Hunt: Mads Mikkelsen won the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his performance as an innocent man accused of child molestation in this ferociously powerful new film by Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration).

Loin du Vietnam: A new restoration of the legendary, rarely seen 1967 agit-prop classic from celebrated filmmakers Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, William Klein, Joris Ivens, Agnès Varda and Claude Lelouch, which mixes fact and fiction in an angry rebuke to the US war in Vietnam.

Midnight’s Children: Spanning decades and generations, celebrated Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's highly anticipated adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize–winning novel is an engrossing allegorical fantasy in which children born on the cusp of India's independence from Britain are endowed with strange, magical abilities.

Mr. Pip: Living under the shadow of the Papa New Guinean civil war, an eccentric schoolteacher (Hugh Laurie) forms a unique bond with a young girl (Xzannjah) over their shared love for Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, in director Andrew Adamson's (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia) lusciously beautiful adaptation of the award-winning novel by Lloyd Jones.

Much Ado About Nothing: Shakespeare's classic comedy gets a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon's stylized adaptation. Shot in just twelve days using the original text, the story of sparring lovers Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.

Rust and Bone: Marion Cotillard (La Vie en rose) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead) star in this gritty, moving and emotionally raw love story from Cannes Grand Prix winner Jacques Audiard (Un prophète).

Seven Psychopaths: An alcoholic screenwriter (Colin Farrell) struggling to write a serial-killer script gets more real-life inspiration than he can handle when a dognapping scheme gone awry brings a galaxy of crazies to his doorstep. A top-notch cult-movie cast — including Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton — anchors this wacky, blood-spattered commentary on the psycho-killer thriller from the writer-director of In Bruges.

Sightseers: A pair of sad-sack lovers turns into a frumpy Bonnie and Clyde as their romantic getaway to the English countryside turns into a bloody killing spree, in this gleefully gory laugh riot from the director of the Midnight Madness favourite Kill List.

State 194: Filmmaker Dan Setton gained unprecedented access to the highest circles of the Palestinian leadership as he chronicles Prime Minister Salam Fayaad's quest to have Palestine recognized by the United Nations as an independent state.

Stromboli: Long circulated in severely truncated or re-edited versions, Roberto Rossellini's once reviled, now revered masterpiece — the first of an epochal trilogy of films starring Ingrid Bergman — returns in this glorious new restoration.

Tai Chi 0: Martial arts meets steampunk in Hong Kong actor-director Stephen Fung's (Gen-X Cops) slick, stylish pop-art take on the life of Yang-lu Chan (played by new martial-arts sensation Yuan Xiaochao), founder of the Yang school of tai chi.

Tess: Roman Polanski’s gorgeous, sweeping version of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles returns in a glorious new 4K digital restoration.

Writers: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, Kristen Bell and Logan Lerman star in this touching comedy-drama about a successful novelist whose obsession with his ex-wife has sent his perplexed family into a tailspin.

Zaytoun: An Israeli fighter pilot (Stephen Dorff) is shot down over Lebanon and must make his way across the war-torn country with the aid of an angry young Palestinian boy, in this gritty, moving drama from director Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride).

What are you most looking forward to from the Toronto International Film Festival? Let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Marathon TV Sessions on the Rise

Written by Kirk Baird

TV is continuing its comeback to relevancy, with cable channels leading the charge with movie-level quality shows that often break new ground or, at the very least, buck decades-long network programming trends. The Wire. The Sopranos. Breaking Bad. The Walking Dead. Dexter. Battlestar Galactica.

These are just a few examples of appointment TV, critically praised fare that have entered our cultural zeitgeist. And if you missed or are missing these popular shows, you often are left out in the all-important water cooler chat the next day at the office, or on Facebook with friends and family.

But an increasing trend is changing that — thanks to DVD/Blu-ray box sets and even DVRs: binge viewing, a marathon session of a season or seasons of a TV show consumed in hours, days, and sometimes a week or more.

Binge viewing, aka binge watching or simply bingeing, is a new term coined for a trend that has been happening for a while. A few years ago, for instance, I spent a weekend holed up watching back-to-back seasons of an obscure Japanese animated series, Star Blazers, while my wife was out of town. It was just me on the couch for hours and hours and hours staring at the TV and desperately reliving a part of my childhood.

Binge watching doesn’t have to be personal, either. I knew a TV critic who opted to review the first season of Fox’s action-thriller series 24 — conceived as a “real-time” show with every hour-long episode an hour in the plot’s 24-hour timeframe — by gorging on a single 19-hour-plus marathon of the show. If memory serves, he had snacks at the ready and only took the occasional break for the call of nature.
Neither of us knew it at the time, of course, but we were bingeing.

For the purposes of this blog I opted to binge watch the first season of AMC’s acclaimed zombie series The Walking Dead. Of course, there are only six hour-long episodes in that initial season, which made for an easier-to-manage marathon than a 20-season binge. But the concept was the same: get caught up on a popular TV show without taking a week off or more between episodes.

Comparing The Walking Dead mini-binge to the all-weekend gorge fest of Star Blazers, I found that bingeing, whether in small bundles of hours or in wholesale bulk of days, offers the same rewards. There’s no interruption in continuity. There’s quick payoff to plot twists. There’s almost no chance of losing your place and forgetting characters and major or minor story twists. And, perhaps best of all, there’s a profound since of self-satisfaction when you’re finished, a strange sense of accomplishment.

Binge watching is not for the faint of heart — or those with calendars filled with activities. It’s a major commitment (and investment) of your time, but the reward is cramming an acclaimed TV series you’ve heard about and watching it on you’re time. Consider it speed reading through a semester of Brit Lit.

If you’ve never tried bingeing, perhaps consider some of these shorter TV series to get started.

The Walking Dead, Season One. Again, only six episodes in this eerie drama about a world overrun by zombies.

The Office (the British version). This 10th Anniversary Edition features all 12 episodes and a two-part Christmas Special.

Breaking Bad, Season One. The new season is about to kick-off, and this six-hour first season, which chronicles the origins of a high school chemistry teacher-turned meth dealer, is a great way to test the waters of whether or not you’re ready to make the commitment for seasons two through four.

Dexter, Season One. Try this 12-episode season and see if you don’t get hooked on the hour-long drama about a serial killer who preys on other killers, and binge on seasons two through six.

And then move up to these shows.

The Wire, Complete Seasons One-Five: This tense drama about the Baltimore drug scene is arguably the finest TV show ever.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Complete TV series. Nearly 30 hours of classic sketch comedy, from the Dead Parrot and The Lumberjack to The Cheese Shop and The Argument Clinic. Try watching all the shows in a single weekend.

The West Wing, Seasons One through Seven. If you haven’t already, check out Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece of drama, political commentary, and sensational dialogue set in the White House.

Battlestar Galactica (the 2005 series). I was skeptical of the reboot of the TV series from the late 1970s. The two-part miniseries pilot didn’t win me over, either. Then the series began in earnest and the show’s writers used a science-fiction series about humans fleeing through space from their robotic oppressors as a platform for social and political commentary on our world now, and I changed my mind. Battlestar Galatica only got better through its remaining three seasons.

Lost. I have a friend who missed the show and recently decided to binge through the entire twisty (and sometimes painfully illogical) six-season series about survivors of a plane crash trapped on a strange island through the summer.

Binge watching doesn’t just have to be for TV shows. Also consider watching these movies series back-to-back-to-back.

The Star Wars saga: Episodes I through 6. I did just that with the Blu-ray release in September. The good news with this strategy is you get The Phantom Menace out of the way first.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson’s extended cut version of the movies, which piles on a hefty two hours of additional footage between the three films, was just released on Blu-ray. Watching the films alone is a nearly 12-hour commitment, and there’s several DVDs of bonus material to comb through as well.

The Harry Potter films. Watch the series get better and better – along with the acting – through the eight films, including the two-part finale.

For more seasons of the series listed, please see our website.