Join me at Sundance to talk about “Pay 2 Play” and “Listen Up Philip”

A protestor stands on a mock Monopoly game board on the street during May Day demonstrations in Los Angeles

I mentioned a little while back that Sundance Cinemas was restarting its Screening Room calendar this fall, and with it I’d be hosting post-show chats for a couple of the films. Well, I’ve figured out when those chats are going to be — and one of them I’m particularly excited about.

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“The Drop”: One last round with James Gandolfini


“The Drop” is now playing at Sundance and Eastgate Cinemas. R, 1:46, three stars out of four.

I had thought “Enough Said” was the late James Gandolfini’s final role, so it was a welcome if poignant surprise to see his graceful bulk move through one more movie, Michael Roskam’s crime drama “The Drop.” He plays Cousin Marv, a small-time Brooklyn hood who got pushed aside when the much nastier Chechen terrorists moved into the neighborhood.

Now, Cousin Marv sits in the bar he used to own, drinking and reading the paper, but Gandolfini puts the glint of what-might-have-been frustration in his eyes. Like Gandolfini, Cousin Marv bears watching.

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The five movies you have to see in Madison: Sept. 12-18, 2014


1. “The French Connection” (7 p.m. Friday, UW-Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall) — The car chase, sure. That iconic car chase, in which Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) is barrelling underneath a New York City subway train containing his prey, is one for the ages. But the rest of William Friedkin’s 1971 film (kicking off a Friedkin retrospective at the Cinematheque) is a stone-cold classic, from the driven, unlikable Doyle’s pursuit to that bravura cat-and-mouse game between Fernando Rey and the cops in midtown Manhattan. But, yes, also the car chase. FREE!

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“The Trip To Italy”: Been there, done that, ate this, imitated him

The Trip To Italy

“The Trip to Italy” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 1:48, three stars out of four.

Ever been on a fantastic vacation? Ever go back to the same spot the following summer?

Not quite the same, is it? You can still have a good time, but a great vacation is more than just location — it involves your state of mind, the time, the people you’re with, and often the essential newness of the experience. Hard to exactly replicate that again.

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“Frank”: How to get a head in the music business


“Frank” is now available on iTunes and VOD. R, 1:35, three and a half stars out of four.

The old rule in Hollywood is that if you have a handsome movie star in the lead role, don’t obscure his features. No mustaches, no beards, no fake noses.

And one would presume that a giant papier-mache head would also be right out.

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Those movies that never played Madison? They’re playing at MMOCA Spotlight Cinema


It’s a cycle familiar to Madison movie fans. We pick up the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly or some other national publication and read a review of some cool independent movie on the way. A Jim Jarmusch vampire movie starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston? A comedy about three Swedish middle-school punk rockers? A new Roman Polanski movie based on an acclaimed off-Broadway play? Can’t wait to see it when it comes to Madison.

And then it doesn’t. For reasons only booking agents can understand, the films don’t open in Madison.

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Instant Gratification: “Le Week-End” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix Instant


Pick of the week: “Le Week-EndMy full review is here. Don’t get snookered by the trailer, which tried to sell this Roger Michell drama as a Baby Boomer “Before Sunrise,” which longtime married couple Lindsey Duncan and Jim Broadbent rekindling that old flame in Paris. In fact, this is an often bruising, acerbic but tender look at a wobbly but resilient lifetime relationship, with two terrific lead performances by two of Britain’s finest character actors. Add in a playful Jeff Goldblum performance as an old friend and you’ve got an entertaining but not easy film.

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