Computer Chess

goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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discs white house down

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. And for those of you still reading, how’d you like a chance to win a new Scream Factory Blu-ray of John Carpenter‘s Body Bags? Just leave us a comment below with the name of your favorite horror anthology and why you love it, and we’ll pick a winner on Friday 11/8. (U.S. addresses only!) White House Down John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol cop with aspirations towards the Secret Service, but while his application is rejected he gets a second shot when terrorists attack the White House with a nefarious goal in mind. Cale finds himself protecting the president (Jamie Foxx) while simultaneously trying to save his own daughter. All that and he still doesn’t get the job. Probably. You’ll have to watch. Director Roland Emmerich‘s film had the misfortune of following the near-identical Olympus Has Fallen into theaters, but while most folks will tell you you can only like one or the other I’m here to say I love them both. Olympus is the better action film, but while this one does just fine in that department its real strength is its energy and sheer entertainment value. The effects are shady, and I’m fairly certain there’s not a single scene in the film that was actually filmed outdoors, but Tatum and Foxx have fantastic chemistry that when combined with an absolutely ridiculous script will have you smiling […]

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ComputerChess1

I’ve never seen an Andrew Bujalski film before, but I loved his new film Computer Chess, which I’m told is something of a departure for the independent filmmaker. It’s funny, bizarre, and utterly original. It’s the type of film that introduces a type of funny that you didn’t know existed, that isn’t based in popular culture or punchlines or pratfalls or virtually anything that we’ve seen before. The movie has resonances of familiarity (as indicated by the title of this review) but also continuously subverts any potential means of access, constantly remaking itself as it progresses along. Computer Chess moves freely from a mockumentary artifact to a Lynchian, low-fi comedy of oddities, revisiting a range of topics including go-nowhere academia, post-counterculture free love, late Cold War-era politics, and conspiracy theories. It’s an ‘80s period piece, but it never feels nostalgic or hip. It exhibits incredible verisimilitude to its time and subject matter, but at the same time builds its own autonomous world. It’s the weird kind of funny, but it’s never too discomfiting or alienating or quirky or self-aware . Computer Chess feels like a return to the golden era of ‘80s and ‘90s American independent filmmaking – not a place for Hollywood’s refugees, but a place where American films are created as if Hollywood never existed.

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Computer Chess

Many who have seen Computer Chess — either during its Sundance, SXSW or other festival runs — don’t seem to know what to make of it. On the surface, it’s a remarkably faithful recreation of a time three decades before nerd culture was co-opted as cool. On the surface, it’s a documentary-aping narrative that covers a chess tournament meant to hone the code that will see a system eventually beat a man at an ancient game. A little bit deeper than the surface, things get weird. Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha) and starring Wiley Wiggins (which is apparently not the only Linklaterian element), maybe you can figure it out by watching the trailer:

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