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Robin Williams Teddy Roosevelt

Twentieth Century Fox

As with any Ken Burns documentary, PBS’s The Roosevelts (having finished its second of seven two-hour episodes last night) features a trove of archival material including photographs, documents, newspaper headlines, excerpts of diaries and books reads by actors ranging from Meryl Streep to Billy Bob Thornton, and new footage from the preserved estates of the title characters. Yet what dominated yesterday’s entry (which takes place roughly between 1901 and 1909) was silent film footage of the United States’ 26th President, often brought to life for a sound-sync audience through music or even foley effects.

While Burns’s films are known for their archival display, they don’t always contextualize how certain information is made available at certain points in history. Yet as The Roosevelts promises to cover over a century of ground between 1858 and 1962, the way information spread is a story that will inevitably be told, explicitly or implicitly. Between the early days of the moving image alongside the rise of industrialization in the late 19th century to Hollywood’s important role in rallying Americans during WWII, the story of how media develops in turn shapes how history is known.

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THE BATTERY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon.

Discs Section: Pick of the Week

THE BATTERY bluThe Battery

The zombie apocalypse has left America a wasteland of the undead with pockets of mankind struggling to survive. Two former baseball players forced by the situation to become fast friends travel the country looking for supplies and safety, but their different personalities and views on the situation lead to dramas far removed from the flesh-eating varieties.

Zombies have been ubiquitous in the horror genre for years now with three out of every five horror films focusing on them as their monster of choice. (I totally made that up, but it feels right.) The vast majority of them are pretty damn terrible, but once in a while a real gem comes along, and one of the best is this American indie that dares find the humanity in a story about the inhuman. It feels like a drama, but a lack of flesh-chewing scenes doesn’t mean it’s devoid of horror as the reality these men find themselves in is a terrifying one. Writer/director Jeremy Gardner (who also plays one of the two leads) is a refreshingly smart new voice in genre film-making.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, outtakes, featurette, trailer]

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Marilyn Monroe Seven Year Itch

Twentieth Century Fox

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere.

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Magnet Releasing

Magnet Releasing

Here’s the thing. It’s fashionable to bash remakes from their very first announcement as unnecessary and doomed to failure, but there have been more than enough good (and even great) ones to know that’s just dumb. No remake, whether good or bad, has the power to alter the original which will always be available to watch and enjoy. Of course, knowing that doesn’t change the knee-jerk reaction you feel when a particularly fantastic foreign film is snatched up and scheduled for American consumption.

Kim Jee-woon‘s deliciously brutal I Saw the Devil has been on the path towards an English-language remake since its release in 2010, but details as to who would actually be involved have been up in the air until now. The Wrap just revealed — and producer Keith Calder confirmed via Twitter — that the team behind You’re Next and the recent The Guest will be writing and directing the film. Adam Wingard will direct from Simon Barrett‘s script, and while we’re still more than a year away from a finished product there’s reason to feel both excited and concerned… while still remembering that Kim’s original will always be here regardless.

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Adam Sandler in Men Women and Children

Paramount Pictures

It’s an understood rule of comedic actors that they can all do drama, as well. Comedy is harder, of course. But then not every comedic actor is truly an actor. Not every comedic performance is about more than good line readings and having the necessary timing to tell a joke. Stand-up comedians often get starring gigs on sitcoms, but that doesn’t mean they’ll wind up with an Oscar nomination someday. (Sorry, Sinbad.) Those who do end up with Academy recognition are those who were always set to shine on the big screen and wound up on TV as a short little detour along the way. Jennifer Lawrence, for example. And Tom Hanks. And Leonardo DiCaprio. But there are also former TV comedy stars who do great work in dramatic movies and never garner Oscar attention, and then they have to go back and do a Dumb and Dumber sequel.

There is hope and buzz for quite a few former sitcom stars this fall. They could join the likes of Helen Hunt, George Clooney, Sally Field, Melissa McCarthy, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Mo’Nique, Sandra Bullock, Marisa Tomei, Will Smith, Diahann Carroll, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Judd Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Patty Duke, Pat Morita, Kate Winslet, Billy Bob Thornton, Jamie Foxx and Robin Williams. I’m sure I’m forgetting some others (and not even thinking of all the variety TV players like George Burns, Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Cher and Goldie Hawn). Or they could be the next Jim Carrey. Check out the funny TV vets said to be in contention now that the Toronto International Film Festival has spewed out a number of this year’s awards candidates.

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L4st Short Film

Mikko Löppönen

Why Watch? This short film proves that at least one filmmaking collective in Finland is obsessed with the fungus-murdering “The Last of Us.” Mikko Löppönen and company have created a slick action set piece that earns its haunting atmosphere with navel gazing music and uncomfortably long shots of a decrepit location.

L4ST barely has any dialogue, and it doesn’t exactly need what it has. It’s a brief anxiety attack, shot in a way that forces you to try to look around corners even though you have no control over the scene. That echo of video game views helps sell the survival, but the short’s greatest strengths are the choreography and execution of its fight scenes. Quick, sharp and simple, they mirror the ferocity necessary to survive in a world with few supplies and many dangers.

Someone give these people a bigger budget.

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Edge of Tomorrow BTS

Warner Bros.

As you all know, Edge of Tomorrow is the story of a man facing a grueling mid-life crisis who can only save himself by escaping a workday grind where every day poses the exact same set of existential irritations and wide-mouthed aliens who want to blow him into tiny bits. We’ve all been there.

The movie required a lot of projectiles and explosions for Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt to run away from (or to), and this B-roll footage (via ScreenSlam) shows the pair doing their own stunts while practical fireballs blaze in the background.

It’s tough to say whether Edge of Tomorrow had more practical special effects than other big action flicks (I once saw a car thrown at another car while driving near the Transformers set), but it definitely feels like it. The kind of explosions and stunts they’re pulling off without CGI are really fantastic. The body-flinging segment at 3:00 is genuinely startling, and I’m waiting for someone to explain how they safely shot rockets (missiles?) above the heads of dozens of extras and movie stars. That’s the kind of phone call Ned Ryerson waits his whole life for.

Questions aside, this video is damned impressive, and it makes me want to see Cruise and Blunt star in a Zhang Yimou movie as soon as possible.

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Focus Features

Focus Features

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival boasted dozens upon dozens of films to sate the cinema-hungry masses, and we’re willing to bet that we saw…well, at least a hearty fraction of them. The festival has just wrapped up, and as we all attempt to recover from ten-plus days of universally excellent film-going, it only seems appropriate to revisit our favorite films of the festival. These are the titles that stuck with us, the ones we recommended to anyone who would listen, the ones we couldn’t quite shake, a big mix of the funny and the fantastic, the sad and the silly, the wild and the weird. Are these the best films of TIFF? We certainly think so.

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Top Five

Paramount Pictures

If we were to list some of the most horrific cultural tragedies of the 20th and 21st century, the paucity of films that have effectively captured the comic genius that is Chris Rock would have to … not make that list. It wouldn’t even make the honorable mentions. But still, it’s astounding that after three decades of work in cinema, Rock’s sensibility has failed to be transplanted successfully from stage to screen. Alas, Top Five is probably as close as we’ll ever get to a proper Chris Rock joint. Vulgar, obscene and insightful, Rock’s third directorial effort proves to be his strongest and most similar to his rollicking standup routines.

At once autobiographical and satirical, the film picks up with Andre (Rock), a celebrated comedian no longer interested in being the funny man. After four years of sobriety, Andre believes he’s incapable of making people laugh without being intoxicated. So instead of comedy, he does drama – cast as the leader of a Haitian slave rebellion in a self-serious film entitled Uprize! And yes, the fictitious film looks as abhorrent as it sounds, and Andre knows it.

To dive into Andre’s past and present states of mind we have New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who spends a day with him walking around the city for a profile she’s penning. This conceit allows for Andre’s past to be explored organically. She pushes as the resolute reporter and he pulls away as the guarded celebrity. Rock and Dawson create this dynamic that oozes humor and warmth, a sensation one similarly receives when watching any of Rock’s ingenious HBO specials.

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Radius / TWC

Radius / TWC

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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Raiders of the Lost Ark Story

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere.

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Doctor Who Orson Pink

BBC

What a clever girl, this episode was! Part of me should be disappointed that “Listen” wasn’t strictly the creepy installment that was promised in the preview and the first act (I revealed my excitement in last week’s recap). But in the end I am too impressed with the unexpected turns of its plot to complain. We began with an introduction teasing a new villain along the same lines as the Weeping Angels and The Silence. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is wandering about the TARDIS talking to himself about the possibility that none of us is ever truly alone, that the fear of something under the bed or right behind us comes with good reason. Whatever might be there is always hidden, as the best baddies in the Doctor Who universe are — they come at us when we aren’t looking, or we forget about them when we’re not looking, or in this case they’re always there when we don’t see them.

But the creepiness quickly subsides for some rom-com-ness with Clara (Jenna Coleman) and Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) — or should I say Rupert Pink — which reminded me of how, two episodes ago, in “Into the Dalek,” the flow of the action was similarly interrupted by some cuteness between that budding couple. The show just can’t wait to get back to them any chance it can. Here they have some awkward get-to-know-you and a sudden walk-out from Clara, who gets home and finds her time-traveling pal in her bedroom amazed by her tri-fold vanity mirror (called back for a nice punchline later). The pair go off to investigate the Doctor’s suspicion about common nightmares of hidden and unknown constant consorts and through a distraction during psyche-navigation wind up meeting a younger version of Mr. Pink (Remi Gooding). The creepiness is back for a bit with a creature or kid or something under a blanket, but in a matter of minutes that subsides again to get us back to Clara’s retry of her dinner date.

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birth

Rocks in My Pockets is a rare commodity, a stellar example of something we rarely get to see: animation for adults. The film is a memoir, a family chronicle and a national history. Director Signe Baumane grew up in Soviet Latvia, one of an enormous brood of cousins whose grandparents lived through the tumultuous 1930s and 1940s, bracing for Communist and Fascist invasions and struggling to get by. More specifically, Rocks in My Pockets is a family history of depression. Beginning with her much-harried grandmother, Baumane traces emotional hardship and the manifestations of mental illness down through her own generation. More contemplative than sad, this shape-shifting odyssey of strength and weakness is an artistic achievement the like of which doesn’t come around very often.

But don’t take my word for it. I can offer you some proof of Baumane’s unique approach to visual storytelling in the form of a cartoon. Birth premiered at the Berlin Film Festival back in 2009. It’s the story of a young woman named Amina, pregnant at only 17 years old. She goes to the doctor alone and resists telling her mother. Seeking advice from her aunt and her friends, she builds up a great deal of anecdotal knowledge, some of it true and some of it almost mythologically distracting. She obsesses in particular with that monstrously vague word, “delivery.” This is a film about the state of the mind, pregnancy as a psychological process as well as a physical one.

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