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Cartoon Network

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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AntiChrist

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Return to the Planet of the Apes

What would you do if someone stole your priceless, first edition copy of “The Complete Works of William Apespeare?” Not a typo. This week’s excavation of the bizarre history of television cartoons is Return to the Planet of the Apes, the only animated entry in the illustrious simian franchise if you’re not counting the CGI accomplishments of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Only one season was produced, 13 episodes that aired on NBC in the fall of 1975. Then it was canceled and relegated to the dustbins of cartoon history. This was two years after the final installment of the original film series and one year after the equally short-lived Planet of the Apes TV series. The cartoon was the last gasp of the franchise before its revival in 2001, more of a farewell than a homecoming. But now, thanks to the marvel that is the Internet, you can watch all of it on Hulu for free!

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Ciao-Maschio-2

Earlier this week, I wrote about one of the worst movies ever made, Congo. It’s actually just a single example of the many terrible movies involving apes and monkeys, which form a whole subcategory in the worst movies of all time canon. The group includes titles where actors wear gorilla suits as well as those where real chimps, orangutans or other primates are trained to play sports, drive cars, wear costumes of their own or provide comic relief in some other fashion. Thank goodness we have something like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, to make us forget about the crap that’s come before it. Yet there has also been a lot of great ape movies ahead of this rebooted Planet of the Apes series. Most of them are documentaries, but there are a number of fiction films and dramas based on true stories that ought to be recognized, to keep them in the spotlight while leaving stuff like Congo, Ed, Buddy, Link, Dunston Checks In and so many more in the shadows where they belong. Of course, as this week’s big movie is a sequel to a reboot, it’s recommended that you also look back at the originals. At least the first Planet of the Apes and second sequel Escape From the Planet of the Apes and definitely not Tim Burton’s 2001 remake. Also, obviously Rise (obviously, right, but I went to see Dawn with someone who didn’t even know […]

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20th Century Fox

This past weekend Life Itself, the Steve James-directed, Martin Scorsese-produced documentary that chronicles the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, grossed $138,000 in 23 theaters while boasting an impressive 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, this situation forced film critics to write about the film critic that — at least in some ways — inspired and influenced their careers (some of whom knew Ebert personally). Crafting a critical, objective analysis of a film is difficult when one is so deeply connected to the subject they’re analyzing. While praise predominantly permeated the airwaves last week, there have been some dissenting takes. These reviews, published at Slant Magazine, Pajiba, CinemaBlend.com and elsewhere, are outliers in a sea of positivity. And as every contemporary critic is painfully aware, challenging the consensus can be dangerous in the insular-minded, troll infested Internet age we inhabit — where incendiary thoughts are immediately deemed “contrarian” or “patently dishonest.” Unfortunately, Life Itself is no exception to this dangerous trend that discourages dialogue and engenders uniformity in opinions. The irony of this situation is rich, though. As the chief film critic at The Chicago Sun-Times for nearly have of cinema’s existence (from 1967 to his death), Ebert was a purveyor of discourse and a proponent of dissentient writing himself. Throughout his illustrious career, Ebert was unafraid to champion a film his contemporaries eviscerated, and vice versa. With that in mind, below are twelve films in which Ebert eloquently went against the grain.

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American Promise still

The raves are flying thick around Boyhood, the long-time-in-the-making new film from director Richard Linklater which finally opens in theaters this weekend. Linklater and his crew shot the movie over the course of 12 years, so that they could capture the main character age in real time, from a young boy to a high school graduate. I can vouch for pretty much every good thing you’ve heard about the movie. It’s a fantastically moving, incredibly true-to-life piece of work, and an impressive accomplishment. It is not, however, a unique accomplishment, no matter how many critics may think it is. While the scope of Boyhood‘s production period may rival any completed fiction film, there are numerous documentary projects of equal or greater scale. An easy example is the Paradise Lost trilogy, which revisited the same legal case over a 17-year period. An even easier example is the Up series, which has been revisiting the same set of subjects every seven years for the last half century. But this week’s Doc Option is a film whose structure hews remarkably close to that of Boyhood. In fact, these two movies were trying to do almost the same thing – and with a significant overlap in the time during which they shot — but on opposite sides of the fiction/nonfiction coin. American Promise was shot over the course of 13 years instead of 12. It has two protagonists, not one (though with both movies, you can argue that the parents are just as important as the main characters are). And while Boyhood is concerned with a variety of subjects that have to do […]

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Planes Fire and Rescue

Kids don’t have a problem with anthropomorphic characters populating their culture and entertainment — just look at nearly every single Disney sidekick (from horses to teacups, monkeys to crabs) — which helps explain a lot of the love that the little ones consistently heap on both the Cars franchise and its Planes spin-off. Adults may have questions about how an entire world populated only by mechanical vehicles works (and the popular theory regarding how every Pixar film ties together, and one which basically makes every car and plane a terrifying war monster, manages to both speak to this and remind us to be careful what we question, because do you want to view smiley-faced trucks as harbingers of human, no, you do not), but the kiddos don’t care. They just like what they’re looking at. But we’re not kids. And we have a lot of questions about how these things work. Next week, Walt Disney Pictures will release Planes: Fire and Rescue, the first (and we’re going to assume, not the last) sequel in the Planes franchise that took wing with last year’s Planes. While the first Planes film was all about a high-flying around-the-world ariel race, Fire and Rescue is about, well, fires and rescues. Lead character Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) is back, but now he’s working on a new career: as a plane dedicated to snuffing out fires and leading rescues in what looks to be a massive national park. It’s a cute premise, but man, do we have some questions. Here’s what Plane: Fire and Rescue needs to answer for us.

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Layover Movie

Let’s say you desperately want to make a feature film, but you don’t have any money to do it. Can you scrape together a few thousand? Good, because writer/director Joshua Caldwell and producer Travis Oberlander join us this week to explain how they made Layover for only $6,000. Beyond making a movie for a few months’ rent, Geoff and I will answer your screenwriting questions and continue our star-spangled conversation from last week by exploring the concepts of Freedom and Revolution as they apply (for better and worse) to filmmaking. You should follow Caldwell (@joshua_caldwell), Travis Oberlander (@tobewan), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #66 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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20th Century Fox

David Fincher‘s Fight Club wowed audiences with his typical technical brilliance and sharp use of CGI, but it remains an amazing piece of work fifteen years later for its narrative, social commentary and fantastic black humor. Misunderstood and under-appreciated by many upon its release, the film has gone on to earn legions of fans over the years, and listening to the commentary track featuring Fincher, Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter (one of four commentaries on the disc) opens up an even more detailed appreciation of the film. It’s actually one of the very first commentary tracks (or “auxiliary tracks” as Fincher calls them) I ever listened to many years ago, and the discovery that we had yet to cover it here made it well worth a second listen. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for Fight Club.

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Putney Swope Boardroom

If there’s one movie I’d like to see referenced on Mad Men before it’s all over and done with, it’s Putney Swope. The cult classic, about an advertising agency run by an increasingly militant black man, opened in New York City on this day in 1969. That puts its initial release as just before the events of the most recent episode of AMC’s TV drama (the last before the season 7 hiatus), aired back in May. But the movie continued its remarkable success through the fall, giving Don Draper plenty of time to go see it. If he can take a few months to catch up with I Am Curious (Yellow), and if both the show and the character are hip enough to that art film’s existence, they’d have to be to Robert Downey Sr.‘s record-breaking hit, especially when it’s a satire of his very industry. Whether or not he’d recognize any similarity between his own work and what’s depicted on screen is another story. Putney Swope follows its title character (played by Arnold Johnson yet featuring dubbed vocals by Downey) as he goes from being an ad agency’s token black executive, specifically its music director, to head of the company, through a board vote gone wrong. He renames the place Truth and Soul, Inc., fires most of the old white guys who just put him in charge and ceases business with all clients who produce war toys, alcohol and cigarettes (Draper would be proud). He forms a new team that is all black save […]

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Follow Your Fears Short Film

Why Watch? To be honest, there’s a lot of schmaltz going on in this documentary short film from Live Unbound, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that dreams can be both big and personal. Sometimes it’s good to remember that, damn it, you can work to achieve your own thrills in life. Follow Your Fears has everything a soft focus inspirational story needs: a crazy person attempting something crazy, a kind message of life’s brief brilliance by a beloved relative, and a money shot that requires a mental crash pad. Brad O’Neal has wanted to launch a motorcycle into the air high enough to base jump from since he was a little kid, and now that he’s a professional Motocross racer, he’s decided he has the skills necessary to make it a reality. To be specific, that means riding a motorcycle off a ramp so high that he can pull a parachute and make it safely back to the ground. Sadly, no one else seems to want to make it a reality, so it takes an education and guts into his own hands to do something that could potentially break most of the important bones in his body (all to the tune of navel-gazing post-rock). Yes, it’s a little bit funny to pump so much grandiosity and poignancy into a 2-second bike stunt, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that there are wonderful, wacky people out there trying stuff that we shouldn’t attempt at home.

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The Purge Anarchy

Watching gruesome scenes over and over seems like a symptom for someone battling serious demons, but when you’re the composer on a horror film, this practice is just part of the job. Nathan Whitehead returns to The Purge series with a brand new score full of the tension cues you’d expect, yet he’s also included enough unexpected musical elements to keep your ears guessing throughout The Purge: Anarchy. Unlike the first movie, Anarchy takes audiences out of the confines of a single home to go out into the streets and explore what it really means when laws are lifted and chaos is allowed to reign supreme. I spoke with Whitehead last year about his score for The Purge, and he explained that the hybrid nature of the film as both horror and thriller “really steered the music into these grittier textures and more processed sounds,” whereas with his score for Anarchy he looked to “explore the action moments more.” “But there are also opportunities to explore more emotion,” he said when I talked to him again about scoring the sequel. Now that the series is moving further into the fray, the violence is sure to get amplified as the story goes from cat-and-mouse to all-out nihilism. I wondered about the psyche of someone tasked with having to watch these scenes repeatedly to get all the elements right. How does that weigh on a person? The short answer: perspective helps.

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Planet of the Apes (1968)

Some movies, no matter how old they are, never age a day. Their situations and themes remain as relevant now as when they were first released. Watching them today, they reflect and comment on our present in ways they couldn’t possibly have anticipated. Every month we’re going to pick a movie from the past that does just that, and explore what it has to say about the here and now. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arrives in theaters tomorrow nearly fifty years after the release of original Planet of the Apes. It’s a perfect excuse to take another look at the 1968 classic and see what it may have to say about us in 2014. Sometimes it can be hard for allegorical science-fiction to resonate past its then-and-there. Planet of the Apes, not surprisingly, doesn’t have that problem. For a film made fifty years ago— set millenniums in the future and on a planet ruled by simians—a lot of its conflicts, scenes and characters shed light on our non-ape ruled world in the present. Here are five examples where 1968’s Planet of the Apes speaks directly to us.

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King Kong

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a film that could only have been made in this moment. Think of it like Avatar or InAPPropriate Comedy; a film that owes its very existence to modern technology. You wouldn’t stage an all-out ape war without the assistance of lifelike computer apes any more than you’d try to film a Rob Schneider “comedy” about apps (is it really about apps? I’m not exactly sure) in a time before apps ever existed. Yes, the road to this weekend’s monkey mayhem is a long one. Because primates have been waging bloody vengeance on each other (and us, mostly) for more than a century, but only now is photorealistic chimp warfare a legitimate thing we can pay ten dollars to see. So let’s start back at the very beginning, and trace cinema’s primate special effects from their origins to the present day; from King Kong to King Kong to King Kong. Also a few other movies in between.

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Catfish

MTV’s Catfish doesn’t always save the big catches for its season finales – the first season finale centered on a tale so classic that it seemed as if it should be served with a side of fries and some coleslaw, a genuine romance marred by one half of the couple sending pictures of someone else and lying about her life (they eventually worked it out, at least for a bit), while the second season ended with a somewhat similar storyline (though this one was elevated by the revelation that the Catfisher had already run this same game on the Catfishee before) – so while we’ve come to expect blockbuster season finales from most other shows, the reality program seems disinterested in delivering that kind of television. Unless, of course, there’s a supermodel available to assist hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph as they go about their searching (read: stalking, Googling, making that Spokeo money). For last night’s third season finale, Schulman and Joseph were joined on the road (and in their investigation) by supermodel Selita Ebanks, who apparently tagged along because she’s a big fan. No, really. Catfish, a show that has never really tried to deliver a truly shocking season finale, appeared to randomly do just that – but not because of the actual story at the show’s heart, but because an (obviously very nice) supermodel wanted to come to North Carolina and Iowa and watch two people be humiliated on camera. Let’s never do this again, okay?

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22 Jump Street

We all know the refrain by now: remakes and reboots are a prime example of a creatively bankrupt Hollywood. The trend has gotten so ridiculous that now we have reboots and remakes within years of each other, studios throwing cinematic spaghetti at its old properties to see what sticks. Some do it right. After the success of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, Phil Lord and Chris Miller will have to fight tooth and nail to avoid sinking under a pile of desired reboots and reimaginings. Others projects, meanwhile, seem to hold little sense at all – like turning a dangerous tale of high school obsession (Endless Love) into a positive romance. But what’s really frustrating is that our modern reboot culture rarely picks the properties that are still relevant today – the setups that can tap into a modern message while exploring the evolution of old ideas. Some projects are trying – we now have a Girl Meets World sequel series and the excellent Danger Mouse is primed for a return – but what else is there? If reboots are here to stay, it’s time to think about ways to inject the trend with new life.

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amc-recliners

Depending on who you ask the movie business is either in bad financial shape this year or in really, really bad shape. The numbers break it down in similar fashion depending on what time frame you’re looking at. Per Box Office Mojo, 2014 is down 4.6% from last year at this same time and 6.5% compared to 2012. This isn’t particularly stunning or upsetting news as even a cursory glance at the same chart shows similar drops and equivalent jumps are a common enough occurrence over the years. But this summer’s box office has seen a far more dramatic decline. 2014′s summer months are down nearly 19% from this time last year, and the July 4th holiday weekend brought in a whopping 46% less than 2013′s. It was actually the lowest it’s been since 1999 — and that’s a pretty scary statistic for those in the movie business. AMC thinks they have the answer to the decline in audience interest. They’re spending $600 million upgrading the seating in 20% of their theaters to leather recliners. The hope is to draw moviegoers back from their couches and Netflix accounts, and after a year of unchanged prices (“to seed [consumer] behavior”) the ticket costs will go up to account for the rich Corinthian leather. As someone who sees audiences as the consistently worst part of the theater-going experience I’m no fan of this plan. Too many audience members already treat the theater like it’s their own living room — talking, using their cell phone, […]

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Hancock Movie

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Congo Martini

If I was disappointed with Jurassic Park, there was no reason for me to be hopeful about Congo. I didn’t even like the book of the latter as much as I did the dino novel, but I guess I believed it wouldn’t take as much to be faithful to Michael Crichton’s 1980 ape-filled adventure story. To me, at that time in my life, retaining and translating everything from page to screen was important. And given all that was altered in the adaptation for the worse, I would remain in that camp for a few more years. There are a lot of things that make Congo one of the most awful movies ever made, but the thing that’s always been a clincher for me is the portrayal of Amy the Gorilla. I didn’t really mind that it was a person in a costume, especially since there wasn’t much better in the movies to compare it to then. Computers could create a convincing T. rex, but realistically rendered hairy primates were not yet in the cards for Hollywood in 1995. Instead, I’m referring to the way they made the ASL-fluent gorilla wear a mechanical glove to translate her signing. Obviously the decision was made to pander to moviegoers so we didn’t have to read subtitles of Amy’s communication with her trainer, Dr. Peter Elliot (Dylan Walsh). In the context of the story, however, it didn’t make any sense for her to have the prosthetic. It would’ve been an unnecessary expense when Elliot could already understand her just fine, and […]

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Chaser Short Film

Why Watch? At the center of this short film from Sal Bardo is a sex scene made uncomfortable to watch not by the presentation of the act, but by the orgy of emotive facial expressions projected by the film’s star Max Rhyser. In Chaser, Rhyser plays Zach, a teacher (with surprisingly empathetically intelligent young students) who is alienated and alienates himself from a conservative family. While his brother and sister-in-law have bought a new house with enough rooms for new humans, Zach views a foundational future as something beyond his reach, and seeks comfort in a barebacking house party that offers easy sex as a temporary fix. “Fix” is a good term for what Zach is chasing — both as a solution and as a high. There is both pleasure and pain in his stripping down in an unfamiliar room and having sex with strangers, but through the act, Zach reveals that he was used up before he ever walked into the party. There are a few hiccups — notably some stagey-feeling acting (that ends up working thematically in the story’s favor) and a few amateur lighting cues — but the overall impact of the short film is potent and aggressive. I especially loved the image of a piece of paper with continuous hollow fun advertised on one side and the chance to escape the cycle on the other.

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