Icahn buys 2.3 million more Herbalife shares; slams Ackman’s ‘obsessive’ remarks

Carl Icahn said on Friday that he bought another 2.3 million shares ofHerbalife and criticized hedge fund manager Bill Ackman for his “Herbalife obsession.”

The stock gained about 4 percent in extended trading. Roughly an hour after the market close, Herbalife traded almost quadruple its 30-day average volume of 2.9 million shares.

Herbalife Chairman and CEO Michael Johnson said, “We appreciate the support of all of our investors and are particularly grateful to Carl Icahn and the conviction he shares, and continues to show in our business, as demonstrated by today’s significant increase in his stake in the Company.”

Icahn said that, last month, Herbalife granted him permission to up his stake to 35 percent. Friday’s trade increases Icahn’s stake to 20.8 percent from 18.3 percent.

“At the time of the disclosure, Ackman declared that I have no interest in increasing my position in Herbalife. This was obviously another misstatement of the facts by Ackman since today I bought another 2.3 million shares,” he said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, Ackman told CNBC on Friday he was approached indirectly by Icahn to purchase the billionaire’s stake in Herbalife — Ackman’s longtime short target.

Asked why Icahn would want to sell his stake in Herbalife, Ackman responded: “I think he knows this is toast” and “he’s made bunch of money.”

Icahn refuted Ackman’s allegations. He said that while many investment bankers “frequently make bids for our large positions … I have never given Jefferies an order to sell any of our Herbalife shares.”

Jefferies told CNBC it never received a sell order from Icahn or anyone at his firm.

He continued that while “Ackman may be a smart guy but he has clearly succumbed to the same dangerous (and sometimes fatal) malady that afflicts many investors – he’s developed a very bad case of ‘Herbalife obsession.'”

Icahn said that obsessing over the value of stock can be “the undoing of many investors” and that Ackman’s earlier comments are a “perfect example.”


‘Banking black’ becomes the latest form of social protest

The exterior of OneUnited Bank in Boston

For some, the fight for social equality is moving to a new battleground: the banking sector.

In the midst of a national debate about how to address police brutality and economic inequality, a quiet shift has taken place. Participants in a nationwide movement to deploy African-American spending power in a more targeted fashion have funneled deposits into black-owned banks across the country. Dubbed the “Bank Black” campaign, proponents have called for using black wealth to create positive change in an increasingly fractured society.

“There is an awakening for the black community to utilize our $1.2 trillion in annual spending power to create jobs and build wealth in our community,” Teri Williams, president and COO of One United Bank, told CNBC in a recent interview. One United has the dual distinction of being both the largest black-owned bank, and the first black internet bank in the country.

The number of banks catering to African-American clientele has declined in recent years, down from 48 in 2001 to 23 out of the more than 6,000 FDIC-insured banks in the U.S. Boston-based One United uses a mix of technology and customer service to attract customers to its web banking services, as well as its nine branches located in California, Florida and Massachusetts.

“We know the importance of online and mobile banking include the expectations that millennials and beyond expect from their banks,” Williams said. Dismissing the idea that institutions owned by people of color are less established or inherently risky, Williams told CNBC that “there is no risk to banking black.”

Overall, some 156 U.S.-based minority-owned banks collectively hold $131 billion in assets, according to FDIC data, with black-owned banks holding approximately $4.7 billion in assets. However, those figures pale in comparison with the leading commercial banking giants like JPMorgan Chase, which holds more than $2 trillion.


Black Lives Matter protesters chant slogans at the Mall of America light rail station in Bloomington, Minnesota December 23, 2015.

Craig Lassig | Reuters
Black Lives Matter protesters chant slogans at the Mall of America light rail station in Bloomington, Minnesota December 23, 2015.

The black banking movement is the latest incarnation of a call to economic activism that spans nearly 100 years. In the early 20th century, black intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois issued a call for voluntary financial cooperation among blacks oppressed by racism and segregation, echoed in 1966 by the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s”Freedom Budget for All Americans” designed to stamp out poverty in America.

In the context of wealth, there is a persistent disparity between what black families earn when compared to other ethnicities. According to figures from the Urban Institute, the average wealth gap between white and nonwhite families exploded between 1963 and 2013 from $117,000 to more than $500,000. Separately, a recent study from the Pew Research Center found that college-educated blacks earned more than $20,000 less than their white counterparts.

For those reasons, observers like Darrick Hamilton, president-elect of the National Economic Association and an associate professor of economics and urban policy at The New School, say that bolstering the economic fortunes of blacks would also lead to a commensurate rise in political power.

“Income is flow and wealth is worth. Wealth isn’t only assets such as home ownership and stock, it also includes political influence,” Hamilton told CNBC. “Wealth is far more powerful than income.”

Hamilton was supportive of the idea of black consumers parking wealth in black-owned banks, downplaying the idea of a backlash.

“People aren’t saying don’t bank [as a form of protest], so banking black is not a loss to the financial industry,” Williams said. “It’s merely a distributional change from one institution to another.”

Others insist that a focus on black economics should include all generations — especially millennials looking to build a movement for transformative social change. BMe Community, a national nonprofit focused on growing wealth and neighborhood building, redirected $1 million of its deposits to One United from another institution as a way of promoting the banking black movement.

Derek Smith, an art director based in New York, told CNBC that he planned to open an account at Carver Federal Savings Bank, the nearly 7-decade-old African-American institution that has fallen on hard timessince the 2008 crisis.

“I’m not going to close my other bank accounts,” said Smith. “But I do plan to open up a savings account for my son at Carver so he could understand that his life and his money should matter.”

Carver, named after peanut pioneer George Washington Carver, has increased the number of bank branches and ATMs in the NYC area, offering financial literacy workshops and products aimed at small business owners and budding entrepreneurs.

“If my son can learn about preserving the legacy of black banks and become financially savvy while doing so, I see no harm in that lesson,” he said.

Dedrick Muhammad, director of the racial wealth divide at the Corporation for Enterprise Development and a former economic advisor at the NAACP, told CNBC that the success of supporting black-owned institutions relied on buy-in from consumers.

“People need to change their perception about personal finance,” Muhammad said. “Having Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is important, but it’s more important to get dollars in black hands.”

Even with the convenience of modern technology, Muhammad acknowledged there was no easy road to economic empowerment for the disenfranchised.

Consumers should “look at spending habits as investment habits. Purchasing power is not just a transaction. It should be part of an investment towards economic empowerment,” he added.


Carl Icahn shopped a portion of his Herbalife stake, but in a twist ended up buying more

Carl Icahn

Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Carl Icahn

Carl Icahn bought more than two-million additional Herbalife shares late on Friday, but according to sources the billionaire investor may have been interested in exiting his position earlier in August—but only for the right price.

Sources tell CNBC that two financial firms, Jefferies and UBS, were working independently to find a buyer for Icahn’s massive stake in the nutritional supplement company, but nothing ever happened.

These sources also said that, as recently as late last week, Icahn was bid for a large block of his Herbalife position but chose not to sell. In addition, Icahn never offered his shares, they added.

It’s also possible that Icahn, a well-known poker enthusiast, was simply shopping his shares to give the appearance that he was looking to exit his position.

The billionaire had no comment when reached by CNBC on Saturday.

Icahn’s position in Herbalife is worth more than a billion dollars, shares which he started accumulating in late 2012. The price off the stock has soared in value over that period, as has Icahn’s stake.

On CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, Friday morning, Bill Ackman claimed he was among the parties contacted by Jefferies about buying a small portion of Icahn’s shares. Ackman claimed his long time Herbalife nemesis was trying to sell his position “because he knows this thing is toast.”

Yet Icahn ended up buying more instead, and said in a statement on Friday that he never directly put in a sell order to Jefferies, which a spokesperson at the firm confirmed to CNBC.

Icahn and Ackman have been battling over Herbalife for years. Ackman is short the stock and has waged a public battle against the company, while Icahn has taken the other side of the trade.

In a letter announcing his Friday Herbalife purchase, Icahn tore into Ackman. “It amazes me that a guy who hasn’t any knowledge of my internal investment thinking believes he is in a position to go on television to tell the world what I AM thinking,” the investor wrote. “Amazing!”


University of Mumbai Admissions 2016: Apply now for Distance UG/PG programmes

University of Mumbai Admissions 2016

The Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL)-University of Mumbai  has released an official notification inviting all the interested,  eligible candidates to apply for  Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Master of Science (MSc), Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Commerce (MCom) programmes for the commencing academic session 2016.

All the eligible candidates are requested to apply latest by  September 17.

Eligibility criteria:

Educational qualification:

BA programme:  All the candidates interested in applying need to be intermediate (class 12) pass from Maharashtra state board or other state board/university with English as compulsory subject.

MSc. programme: All the candidates interested in applying for this course, need to possess a degree in Bachelor of Science (BSc)/ Bachelor of Engineering (BE) with minimum 45 per cent per cent.

For more details, all the candidates are requested to check the official notification, the link for which is http://mu.ac.in/portal/

Selection procedure:

All the candidates will be selected on the basis of marks obtained in class 12 board examination.

How to apply:

  • All the candidates need to apply online
  • Log on to the official website
  • Click on relevant link
  • Enter all the required details in prescribed format
  • Take printout of the same for future reference

Important dates:

Last date for submission of application form is September 17, 2016.


SSC CGL Exam 2016: Check the paper analysis

Check the SSC CGL 2016 paper analysis

The Staff Selection Commission successfully conducted the first session of the Combined Graduate Level exam (CGL) from 10 am to 11:15 am on August 27.

As per reports, this year many candidates from across the nation appeared for the examinations.

This year the exam paper was easy, but a lot of time was wasted as the server was slow, said students.

For the first time, the exam was conducted online and this year the question paper had four parts– Quantitative Aptitude, General Intelligence, General Awareness and English Language.

Each section carried 25 questions, each question carried 2 marks and for each wrong answer, 0.50 mark was to be deducted. The time limit of the examination is 75 minutes.

More on paper analysis:

Section Level Good Attempts
English Language Easy-Moderate 18-22
Quantitative Aptitude Easy 20
General Intelligence Easy 20-23
General Awareness Moderate- Difficult 12-15
Overall Moderate 70-80

Section wise review:
English Language

Topic No of Questions Level
Sentence Improvement 3 Easy- Moderate
Error Detection 3 Easy-Moderate
Idioms/Phrases 3 Easy- Moderate
Comprehension (Comparison of mothers in China and Fathers in India on emotional ground) 5 Easy-Moderate
Antonym/ Synonym 3-4 Easy
One-word substitution 3 Easy-Moderate
Spelling check 1 Easy
Fillers 2-3 Easy
Total 25 Moderate

Quantitative Aptitude

Topic No of Questions Level
S.I, CI, Profit/Loss and Percentage 4-5 Moderate
Mensuration 1-2 Easy- Moderate
Trigonometry 2-3 Easy-Moderate
Algebra 3-4 Easy-Moderate
Time and Work 1-2 Easy-Moderate
Geometry 3-4 Easy-Moderate
Speed and Distance 3 Moderate
Average 1 Easy
DI 3 Moderate
Total   25 Moderate

General Intelligence

Topic No of Questions Level
Syllogism 1 Easy
Matrix 1 Easy
Non Verbal (1Fig. was of water Image) 2 Easy
Odd one out 2 Easy-Moderate
Direction Sense Test 1 Easy-Moderate
Analogy 1 Easy-Moderate
Series (Number/Alpha Numeric) 8-10 Easy-Moderate
Miscellaneous 5-7 Moderate
Total  25 Easy-Moderate


General Awareness

Topic No of Questions Level
History 4-6 Moderate – Difficult
Geography 1-3 Moderate – Difficult
Polity 3 Moderate – Difficult
Economics 3 Moderate – Difficult
General Science  3-6 Moderate – Difficult
Current Affairs 3-4 Moderate – Difficult
Total 25 Moderate – Difficult


The analysis is based on the review given by various students across the country.

With inputs from Anil Nagar, CEO & Co-founder, Career Power

Read: IDP Education Australian Education Fair 2016: Starts with Kolkata, details

Indian- American contesting for significant educational post in US

Click here for more education related news.


Javadekar to hold meeting with IIM directors next month

HRD minister to meet directors of IIM next month

HRD minister Prakash Javadekar will meet the directors of IIMs next month to discuss the issues related to quality of management education, exploring avenues for financing and improving global perception of Indian institutions.

Briefcase: Topics to be discussed in the meeting

  • “The HRD minister will be meeting Directors of various IIMs soon and it is expected that a range of issues from quality of education to building best infrastructure will be discussed,” a senior official said
  • The meeting will be held at a time when the HRD ministry is working on formulating a new education policy, said officials
  • “There are a range of issues from quality, affordability, global standings to making education affordable and accessible. It is expected that these sessions will be brainstorming sessions and new ideas will emanate,” officials said.

HRD minister will also meet heads of other higher educational institutions that are to be financed by the central government in near future, said the official.

“It has been planned that in the coming days the minister would be interacting with various Vice-Chancellors of Central Universities, NITs, Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) etc,” the official added.



lenovo freesync monitor

AMD’s game-smoothing FreeSync monitors launched a full year after Nvidia’s rival G-Sync displays, but they’ve been coming fast and furious ever since. Late Thursday, the company revealed that its technology surpassed not one, but two major milestones with the launch of the 27-inch Y27f ($400 on Amazon) earlier this month. This curved, 144Hz 1080p display is both Lenovo’s first-ever FreeSync display, as well as the 101st FreeSync display released overall.

FreeSync and G-Sync monitors synchronize the refresh rate of your graphics card with your display. That eliminates stutter and tearing, resulting in gameplay so buttery smooth that you’ll never be able to use a traditional non-variable refresh rate monitor again. Both technologies are utterly superb.

But each kills stutter from different angles. G-Sync forces monitor makers to bake a hardware module inside their displays. AMD’s FreeSync is a software-based solution that piggybacks on the royalty-free, industry-standard spec known as DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync. G-Sync’s dedicated hardware offers more universal refresh range support, but inside of standard gameplay frame rate ranges, both solutions perform all but identically.

Building around open standard software has helped FreeSync monitors flourish, however. While existing G-Sync monitors are fairly limited in number and start at $380 thanks to the extra hardware, there’s a range of FreeSync monitors available for every possible display niche you can think of—and prices start at just $110 on Amazon for a 22-inch 1080p FreeSync monitor.

The story behind the story: There’s a nasty anti-consumer downside to this display technology war between AMD and Nvidia: The lack of cross-compatibility. The benefits of FreeSync displays only work with Radeon graphics cards while G-Sync’s charms are restricted to GeForce cards. With many gamers buying monitors far less frequently thangraphics cards, the threat of brand lock-in is real. Here’s hoping AMD and Nvidia cast aside their difference to rally around a single standard at some point in the future—but don’t hold your breath.

Update, August 27, 2016: AMD Vice President Roy Taylor left a note in this article’s comments section to note that FreeSync is based on industry-wide standards, and  that Nvidia could adopt it if it chose to do so. Scroll down to see his full comment below.


Seagate Barracuda Pro 10TB hard drive review: Vast and amazingly fast (for a hard drive)

seagate barracuda pro hdd 10tb front

I’ve used “Vast and fast” to describe previous hard drives I’ve reviewed, but I’m not sure that it’s ever been this spectacularly well-deserved. Seagate’s 3.5-inch, 7,200rpm, SATA 6Gbps Barracuda Pro not only delivers a stunning 10TB of storage, it laid down some rather astounding transfer rates: 240MBps in both directions of our 20GB copy tests. At first, we didn’t quite believe what we were seeing, but several repeats and throwing even larger data sets at the drive convinced us.

The Barracuda Pro is still a hard drive, so seek times aren’t close to SSD-like, but if we had to build a system around a hard drive, this would be it.


By the numbers, AS SSD rated the drive at 243MBps reading and 229MBps writing. In our 20GB copy tests, which are subject to the vagaries of the Windows 8.1 operating system, that was closer to 250MBps each way with a single large file. Even with a 20GB mix of smaller files and folders, reads and writes, which were nearly identical in pace, dropped only to about 145MBps. (Ah, those seek times.)

seagate barracuda pro 10tb 20gb tests

While not as fast as an SSD, the Barracuda Pro is closer than anything we’ve seen to date. Note the relative slothfullness of the other internal Barracuda.

How did Seagate do it? We’re not sure, but the CMR (conventional magnetic recording) drive is extremely high-density, and has a whopping 14 platters and 7 read-write heads. Perhaps the company has leveraged some of the algorithms developed over the last few years for SSD controllers and is scattering data equally about the platters. Combined with 7,200rpm and its 256MB cache, that could do the trick. Whatever Seagate’s done, we like it.

We also brought HD Tach out of retirement, and it seemed to say that the Barracuda Pro retains its speed across the entirety of its capacity. That’s unusual; hard drives tend to write faster on the outside of the platters where sectors whip by at a faster pace than on the inner portions of the disc. More fodder for speculation.


Could it be true? HD Tach is old-school, but it seemed fine with the Barracuda Pro 10TB and indicates that unlike most hard drives, it’s a consistent performer across the entirety of the drive.

The Barracuda Pro also draws a mere (in HDD terms) 6.8 watts when operating. That’s very low for a hard drive, and far lower than, say, the five 2TB drives you’d need to get the same amount of capacity.

The ramifications of capacity

10TB is a lot of data. I have a hard time filling up my lone WD 4TB drive and there is a lot of multimedia on there. A lot. The Barracuda Pro is the equal of two of those, plus a 2TB drive. Unless you download a lot of stuff and never dump any of it, 10TB is massive overkill.

Not that you wouldn’t take a 10TB drive over a 4TB drive if they were handed out for free. But you do need to consider that you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. If the drive goes bad, still a very common occurrence, you’re SOL (surely outta luck). Unless, of course, you back up regularly, or are willing to pony up a substantial amount of coin for a pair of the $500 Barracuda Pros to mirror each other. Mirroring has saved my bacon many a time when backup schemes go wrong.

seagate barracuda pro hdd 10tb dynamic


Seagate’s new Barracuda Pro 10TB hard drive.

All this adds up to a warning not to overbuy, especially if you’re already running an SSD, which you should be if you like fast data transfers. The Barracuda Pro’s speed is seductive, but a pair of 2TB drives (rather slow ones) can be had for $100 and a pair of average 4TB drives, around $250. That’s a lot more affordable. You can also mimic some of the performance (and increased vulnerability) of the Barracuda Pro by running two drives in RAID 0 (striped) rather than a mirrored RAID 1.


The 10TB Barracuda Pro is warrantied for five years at 220TB worth of writes per year, or 1100TB over the warranted lifespan. The SSD folks call this TBW (terabytes written), and Seagate’s promise far outstrips the amount of data likely to be written to the drive. Then again, there are moving parts here. The warranty is limited, and includes only replacement, not data recovery. You’ll need to purchase Seagate’s Rescue service for that, at $10 for one year or $15 for two years. Why not the full five years? I can’t say, but most of my drives that have gone bad have lasted more than two years. Just saying.


This is an absolutely fantastic hard drive. But 10TB is massive overkill for the average consumer. And data redundancy in the form of a $1,000 mirrored RAID pair is very pricey.

Warnings aside. To heck with it—if the powers that be let me keep this drive, I’d replace my 4TB with it in a heartbeat. Keeping it routinely backed up, of course.

Note: This article was edited on 08/27/2016 to reflect different data provided by the vendor after publishing. CMR instead of SMR, and 220TB per year as opposed to 180TB.


Dropbox urges some users to change their passwords

dropbox logo sign

Dropbox is asking users who signed up before mid-2012 to change their passwords if they haven’t done so since then.

The cloud storage service said it was asking users to change their passwords as a preventive measure, and not because there is any indication that their accounts were improperly accessed.

Dropbox said it was taking the measure because its security teams learned about an old set of Dropbox user credentials, consisting of email addresses and hashed and salted passwords, which it believes were obtained in 2012 and could be linked to an incident the company reported around the time.

In July 2012, Dropbox said its investigation found that usernames and passwordsrecently stolen from other websites were used to sign in to a small number of of Dropbox accounts. It said it had contacted the users affected to help them protect their accounts.

The move by Dropbox comes in the wake of several breaches including that of LinkedIn in 2012, which has led to concerns that email addresses and passwords used by people across accounts could be used to compromise other services.

Starting in 2007 with a consumer focus, Dropbox, which allows users to store, access and share  files easily from a variety of devices, launched in 2013 its Dropbox Business service, its entry into the business market. The company claims over 500 million registered users, with over 200,000 businesses and organizations using Dropbox Business.

Users who signed in before 2012 and haven’t changed their password since then will be prompted by Dropbox to change it the next time they sign in. Users will have to set a stronger password with the help of a meter provided by Dropbox that measures its strength.

“If you don’t receive a prompt, you don’t need to do anything. However, for any of you who’ve used your Dropbox password on other sites, we recommend you change it on Dropbox and other services,” wrote Patrick Heim, head of trust and security at Dropbox, in a blog post Thursday.

Dropbox is also recommending that users use two-factor authentication when resetting their passwords.

On Twitter, a number of users pasted copies of emails they received from Dropbox about the password change.


Catch ‘No Country for Old Men’ and other movies streaming online

jma nocountryforoldmen1

Another week, another crop of movies now on your favorite streaming services. Whether you’re partial to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, one of the others, or all of the above, new and old movies are yours for the watching.

Catch the Coen brothers’ classic No Country for Old Men. Witness Christian Bale’s turn as a serial killer in the sardonic American Psycho. Or get your horror on with Final Destination 3. 

Too dark? Partake of some lighter fare with the delightful stop-animation Shaun of the Sheep; a movie adaptation of The Little Prince; or the hilarious-if-juvenile antics of Police Academy. 

That’s just a sampling of the goods. Read on to learn about all 12 movies now available online.  

The Little Prince (Netflix)

jma littleprince1


Given that it’s based on one of the most popular books of all time (Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s 1943 novella), fans may rule that Mark Osborne’s movie version of The Little Prince (2016) is somewhere between an insult and a disaster. But taken on its own, it’s a wonderfully creative, soul-soothing work. After screening at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, it was successfully released overseas, but a U.S. release somehow never happened. Now Netflix has picked up the ball, and it can be seen at last (at least in its English-dubbed version).

In this movie, we meet “the aviator” as an old man (voiced by Jeff Bridges). He once encountered the Little Prince and now tries to tell his story to a modern-day little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy). The girl’s mother (voiced by Rachel McAdams) only wishes for her to get into a good school; things like friends, stories, and imagination are unworthy of her time. Eventually she goes on her own journey. This storyline is computer-animated, while the classic “Little Prince” material is stop-motion animated. The focus is more on storytelling and joyous images than it is on noise and flash, and it’s a standout for families as well as movie buffs. The voice cast also features Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Bud Cort, Paul Giamatti, and Albert Brooks.

Final Destination 3 (Netflix)

jma finaldestination3


In retrospect, this horror series has become something rather unique, especially after the unexpectedly clever fifth and final entry in 2011. Unlike many horror films, it has no serial killers or ghosts or vampires or zombies or monsters. The villain is simply the force known as death. Though the characters may try, there’s no puzzle to figure out, no way to fight. The suspense comes from hoping against hope as death mounts complex, spectacular, and gruesome Rube Goldberg-style accidents to kill those that have previously escaped its grasp.

Final Destination 3 (2006) begins, like the others, with a major disaster, this time a rollercoaster crash that kills many riders. Teen Wendy (the talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has a vision of the crash beforehand and manages to get several of her fellow passengers off the ride. Death is not pleased, and begins hunting them down, one by one. Aside from the unusual, monster-less plot, the loss of life actually means something here; the departed are missed and mourned by the living. It’s a scary movie stripped down to its most existential and primal state. James Wong, a veteran of The X-Files on TV, directed and co-wrote, just as he did on the first Final Destination. (As of now, Netflix only offers this single film in the series, but perhaps next month….)

[email protected] (Netflix)

jma youngatheart1


The documentary [email protected] (2007) sounds awfully cutesy, but it’s very easy to get caught up in its music and emotions. It tells the story of troupe director Bob Cilman, a brutal drill sergeant who puts together a singing musical show. The twist is that these singers are all senior citizens in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s. They don’t sing show tunes; they sing soul, alternative, and punk music from the likes of Sonic Youth, Coldplay, James Brown, the Clash, David Bowie, and the Ramones. Cilman chooses the songs carefully, finding lyrics that will connect with folks that have put in some time on this earth, including Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia” and Coldplay’s “Fix You.”

The focus is not on polished professionalism, but rather on emotional truth. While he’s hard on his artists, he’s also capable of moments of tenderness, required as sometimes the members of his troupe simply pass away. Director Stephen Walker narrates and occasionally enters into the film, which makes it seem less like a documentary and more like something personal. But the highlight has to be a powerful, soul-shattering concert given for a prison full of inmates. The group continues today, and has its own YouTube channel: youngatheartchorus.

No Country for Old Men (Netflix/Amazon Prime)

jma nocountryforoldmen1


The Oscars, for once, got it right when they gave No Country for Old Men (2007) four Academy Awards, including Best Picture; some will contend that There Will Be Blood deserved to win, but I maintain that this adaptation of a complex Cormac McCarthy novel is a masterpiece in every respect. Joel and Ethan Coen adapted the screenplay and directed this story. (They won Oscars for both jobs.) Vietnam veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a grisly crime scene and decides to steal a case of drug money. Meanwhile, killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, who also won an Oscar)—with his weird curtain of hair—is also after the money.

The two men use all their skills, one to chase, and the other to evade, while the old man, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), uses phone calls and detective work to solve the case. The dialogue in this film is sharp and poetic, a perfect melding of McCarthy and Coens, while their visual sense (and Roger Deakins’ cinematography) beautifully represents McCarthy’s story. Using a wide canvas of empty spaces and harsh close-ups, their depiction of violence is quieter than usual, sometimes grisly, but other times careful. (It’s probably the quietest movie about violence ever made.) Woody Harrelson co-stars as a bounty hunter, and Kelly Macdonald plays Moss’s wife.

St. Vincent (Netflix/Hoopla)

jma stvincent1


Two stars from this summer’s Ghostbusters—Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy—first worked together in St. Vincent (2014), which wasn’t nearly as controversial. Except, possibly, for the fact that Murray portrays perhaps the world’s worst role model (the titular Vincent) being paid to watch a child after school while his mother works. Vincent is an unemployed Vietnam War veteran living off of a reverse mortgage that has just run out. To cover his various expenses, which include the regular company of a pregnant Russian prostitute (Naomi Watts) as well as copious amounts of booze, he reluctantly agrees to watch the nerdy, bullied Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher).

The movie effectively copies the structure of Bad Santa without missing a beat (perhaps ironic, given that Murray was once considered for that movie), but it has enough personality to succeed on its own. It helps that Murray, by now one of the undisputed comedy masters of all time, plays the jerky Vincent not as an angry man, but as a man without care, which is hugely appealing. The final shot of Vincent playing with a garden hose illustrates just how free he is. Terrence Howard co-stars in a subplot about a debt collector that is weirdly forgotten. For viewers not subscribed to Netflix, the movie is also available free on Hoopla; check your local library for details.

Robocop (Hulu)

jma robocop1


It may be hard to imagine what Robocop (1987) looked like before it came out; it could have been a wretched, laughable B-list item destined to go straight to video. But in actuality, it was an insane black comedy, an action movie obsessed with brutal, grueling violence, that, at the same time, satirized that very violence. The absurd, hilarious, fake TV ads that decorate this tense future world are just the frosting on all of it; we’re part of the joke, but in on it, too. Peter Weller—who had already played another cult superhero, Buckaroo Banzai—stars as Alex Murphy, a good cop who is fatally injured in a shootout.

Scientists turn him into the title cyborg (all from his, and our, point of view). His partner, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) figures out that it’s him, and together they discover a massive corporate conspiracy behind the robot armor. In the midst of all the shooting and bleeding are several unforgettably simple moments, including a robot navigating a staircase, and the famous “you’re fired” scene. Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Dan O’Herlihy, and Ray Wise co-star. Hulu has this, plus two sequels: the not-quite-as-good, but still-underrated Robocop 2(1990), which was written by Frank Miller and directed by The Empire Strikes Back’s Irvin Kershner; and Fred Dekker’s PG-13 rated Robocop 3 (1993), which was made without Weller.

Marathon Man (Hulu/Amazon Prime)

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This classic 1970s thriller hasn’t aged very well, but it still contains one of the indelible images of its time: Laurence Olivier as the sadistic, ex-Naxi dentist torturing Dustin Hoffman for information, asking the simple, sinister, “Is it safe?” Screenwriter extraordinaire William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) adapted his own novel and Oscar-winner John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) directed a tale of a secret government spy, Henry “Doc” Levy (Roy Scheider), and his brother, a scholar and a jogger (the marathon man of the title), Thomas “Babe” Levy (Dustin Hoffman).

On his latest case, Henry inadvertently brings Thomas along, and the latter gets caught up in a deadly plot, dating back to the WWII days. Schlesinger takes 125 minutes to tell his story, and, oddly, it does best when it gets a chance to slow down, but its pacing is nevertheless uneven. Moreover, while Hoffman was, and still is, one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, his performance here is too much, too full of manners and ticks, whereas Scheider and Olivier’s cooler approaches seem more effective. Olivier received the movie’s only Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actor.

Shaun the Sheep Movie (Hulu/Amazon Prime)

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Shaun the sheep was originally introduced in Aardman Animations’ Oscar-winning short film A Close Shave (1995), and he eventually won his own animated TV series. The trick is that it contained no dialogue, only music and sounds, to convey its 7-minute stories. It’s even more impressive, then, to consider that Aardman filmmakers Mark Burton and Richard Starzak made the 85-minute Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) the same way; it’s practically a silent comedy, as funny and wonderful as anything since Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.

After tiring of the crushing routine of the daily farm work, Shaun and his fellow sheep decide to trick the farmer into taking a nap so that they can escape and have a vacation. Unfortunately, the farmer goes to sleep in a trailer that gets loose and careens its way toward the big city. When he wakes, he’s lost his memory and gets a job as a hair stylist. It’s up to Shaun and Bitzer the dog to find and rescue him before a mean dog-catcher does his work. The stop-motion visuals are extraordinary, but it’s the character expressions and the film’s sound—including a few delightful songs—that make it work wonders. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.

Police Academy (Crackle)

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It’s hard to know what a new viewer might think of this movie today; inspired by such films as National Lampoon’s Animal House, Airplane!; and Stripes, Police Academy (1984) is just about as lowbrow as it gets, but not without its moments of brilliant comic timing and crafty compositions and editing. The simple premise begins with the fact that the new mayor has loosened the requirements needed to qualify for the police academy, thereby winding up with an class full of outcasts and weirdos. Steve Guttenberg stars as the carefree Bill Murray type, a cool, unflappable troublemaker called Mahoney.

Michael Winslow makes an astounding array of sound effects with his mouth (including gunshots), Bubba Smith is the giant-sized Hightower, David Graf is the gun-nut Tackleberry, Donovan Scott is the overweight wimp named Leslie Barbara, Marion Ramsey is the soft-spoken Hooks, and so on. Kim Cattrall appears, pre-Sex and the City, as socialite Karen Thompson. Aside from its many guilty laughs, the movie is filled with stereotypes and thoughtless humor, and its huge success drove critics crazy at the time, but not as crazy as the six sequels did. (Four of them sport the infamous “0%” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) All seven movies are now on Crackle, free with ads.

Living in Oblivion (Fandor)

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Legend has it that 1990s indie filmmaker Tom DiCillo made Living in Oblivion(1995) based on the horrible experience he had making his debut feature, Johnny Suede (1991), with a young Brad Pitt. I can’t confirm that the legend is true, but whatever it was that inspired DiCillo, it worked. Living in Oblivion is one of the darker, funnier, and more brutal cinematic looks at a movie set ever filmed. Steve Buscemi plays the hapless director Nick Reve, making a low-budget film in New York and struggling every step of the way.

Many of his problems are real, and—in another clever parody of low-budget filmmaking—some are dreamed. The movie even occasionally uses black-and-white to cement its skewering of indie pretensions. One of its most memorable sequences features a just-starting-out Peter Dinklage, cast as a dwarf in the movie-movie’s dream sequence. He protests: “Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? I don’t even have dreams with dwarves in them!” James Le Gros plays the egomaniacal movie star, Catherine Keener co-stars as the actress, and Dermot Mulroney as the cinematographer.

American Psycho (Shudder)

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An adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s most infamous novel, American Psycho(2000) is a gruesome slasher movie and a slick black comedy at the same time. It takes place in the greedy, corporate world of the 1980s, where business cards are a fetish object and where cocaine flows as freely as money. The main character, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), gets ready for the day with facial creams and stomach crunches. He’s never seen doing any work, but he does go to the office. He is dating Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) and sleeping with Courtney (Samantha Mathis) on the side. He occasionally hires prostitutes and listens to generic 1980s pop tunes. Oh, and he’s a serial killer.

Amazingly, the movie was made by women, co-writer and director Mary Harron and co-writer and actress Guinevere Turner, and they give it a refreshing approach; the violence is bracingly mixed with humor and shock, without fetishizing, without rubbing it in. It’s wicked, nasty fun. Chloe Sevingy is terrific as Patrick’s unknowing assistant, future Oscar-winner Jared Leto is another corporate d-bag, and Willem Dafoe is an investigator. Patrick Bateman’s younger brother Sean (played by James van der Beek) was the focus of the next Ellis adaptation, The Rules of Attraction (2002).

Hardcore Henry (Vudu)

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Director Ilya Naishuller, of the Russian indie rock band Biting Elbows, is known for making impossible-looking first-person music videos, including the astounding, ultra-violent “Bad Motherfucker,” which currently has 35 million views on YouTube. Employing this technique over the 90 minutes of Hardcore Henry (2016) is much harder, but Naishuller borrows a few ideas from first-person shooter video games (i.e. the main character has amnesia and can’t speak, so other characters speak to him and tell him what’s going on).

Our unseen hero Henry wakes up, is told he has a beautiful wife (Haley Bennett), and has been turned into a cyborg. A man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley)—who somehow has the power to keep showing up in different disguises, even after it appears that he has been shot—seems to want to help, and a bad guy Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) seems to have telekinetic powers. Needless to say, there’s a great deal of running, jumping, falling, crashing, chasing, escaping, shooting, and a lot of other stuff, but not much in the way of character development. Nevertheless, as an exercise in pure, stripped-down style, it’s hard to get much cooler than this.