Instant Gratification: “Super” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix right now


Pick of the week: “Super”My full review is here. With “Man of Steel’ setting records in theaters, it’s a great time to revisit James Gunn’s funny and twisted demolition of the superhero mythos. When his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon) Rainn Wilson’s troubled fry cook dons a costume and becomes the Crimson Bolt. Only he’s less masked avenger and more psychotic assaulter, with an even more sociopathic sidekick (Ellen Page) in tow.

Cult hit of the week: “Miami Connection” — The UW-Cinematheque recently featured this cheesy ’80s action film as part of its Marquee Monday series, so you know it’s good. When motorcycle ninjas flood Florida with drugs, it’s up to a martial arts rock band to fight back. Classic so-bad-it’s-great flick.

Comedy of the week: “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” — Back in 1982, Steve Martin and director Carl Reiner made this interesting and clever experiment, a noir parody that intercuts Martin into clips from dozens of classic movies, letting him banter with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Veronica Lake. The more you know the source material, the funnier it is.

Documentary of the week: “How to Grow a Band” — As a big fan of Nickel Creek, I was fascinated to see this new documentary about mandolin player Chris Thile, and his evolution into his new project The Punch Brothers.

Action movie of the week: “13 Assassins”My full review is here. — Takashi Miike’s bloody and largely reverent ode to samurai epics tells the tale of a ragtag band of samurai who plot to ambush a psychopathic lord and his 100 soldiers. The end of the film is a bravura 40-minute battle, where swords, arrows and even a stampede of flaming bulls are all employed as weapons.

“Breakup at a Wedding”: Here comes the bride’s neuroses

breakupataweddingBack in April, one of the highlights of the Mini_Indie Film Festival at the UW’s Union South was a pre-release screening of a comedy called “Breakup at a Wedding,” with some of the creators and cast in attendance. By all accounts it was a raucous and successful affair (“They’re laughing like hell at the breakup scene? I love these sick bastard Wisconsinites!” tweeted writer/producer Anna Martemucci (@annamartemucci) during the screening.)

If you missed it, the movie’s out Tuesday on video-on-demand services and available on iTunes, and is a pretty funny R-rated comedy. It should be a mandatory stress-reduction technique for anybody currently in the throes of planning their own summer wedding.

Alison (Alison Fyrhie) and Phil (Philip Quinaz) see their impending nuptuals bearing down on them like a freight train — she is an undiagnosed Bridezilla, while he is already betrothed to his iPhone. Before the wedding, the pressure comes to a head and they decide they really shouldn’t get married. But since the flowers are bought and everyone’s RSVPed, why not go through with it anyway? How else are they going to score an ice cream maker?

Of course, mishap piles upon mishap, from the groom’s plans to switch his best man at the last minute, to the bride’s half-assing her personal vows, to a fight with a rival wedding party over free booze at the reception. The trick to “Wedding” is that it’s all presented mockumentary style, as if this was the raw footage from the wedding videos. It works pretty well, although I was pretty annoyed at the videographer’s voiceover explanations at the beginning (the last thing a movie that shows people acting ridiculous needs is a narrator saying “Aren’t these people acting ridiculous?”).

But the film is genuinely funny, builds effectively to its big laughs at the end, and manages to inject just enough sweetness among the cynicism about the outrageous expense and lavishness of modern weddings. If you think you might laugh at a breakup scene yourself, check it out.

“Man of Steel” and the importance of dorky red capes


I’ve never been a Superman guy. Batman, Spider-Man, even Flash, but never really Superman. I like my superheroes to have up to one superpower, maximum. It’s the limitations that make things interesting.

Superman, meanwhile? It’s kind of boring to be the guy who can do everything. So I went to a screening of “Man of Steel” on Father’s Day putting the film in a no-win situation. If it was the square-jawed Superman of old, it would be kind of dorky. And if it attempted to “Dark Knight”-ify Superman (Christopher Nolan produced and co-wrote), well then, it betrayed all that dorkiness at the heart of Superman. No-win.

But then, in the lobby at Star Cinema, I saw a man and his son, who looked to be about 5 or 6, sitting at one of the tables. Both decked out in full-length red capes.

And these weren’t the cool maroon capes that the new Superman wears, but the bright red, old-school Christopher Reeve capes of old. And it suddenly reminded me that, while Superman didn’t mean a lot to me, it meant a lot to somebody. Suddenly, as the lights went down, I was starting to become invested in the hope that “Man of Steel” would get it right.

And, as it turns out, I liked it.

It was a slow process of winning me over — the early scenes on Krypton seemed unnecessarily busy, as if terrified of losing the audience early.  And that oil rig rescue, with a buff, bearded, flaming Henry Cavill, didn’t exactly set the right tone for me either.

But when “Man of Steel” started flashing back to Kal-El’s Smallville upbringing — Diane Lane coaxing him lovingly out of a janitor’s closet, Kevin Costner nervously telling him to hide his gifts until the world is ready for them — this movie was fantastic. Costner in particular is just so good as Pa Kent — that last moment during the tornado just wrecks you — and I love how together, without ever meeting, he and Russell Crowe’s Jor-el work in tandem as fathers for Clark, giving him the parenting he needs when he needs it.

It’s that stuff that really grounds the film, and gives weight to the theme of Superman being a protector of the world, something the movie takes very seriously. At first I worried that Cavill would just be an empty red-and-blue suit, and being just Superman and not Clark Kent doesn’t give an actor a lot to work with. But I thought he sold it, sold the audience on this idea that he’s this nearly godlike being who has chosen to serve beings much weaker than him.

And then we get into all the punching and explosions and building toppling, and that’s great — the visual effects are top-notch. I will say that director Zach Snyder continues his streak of not really caring what real people are doing — Amy Adams gets some nice moments as Lois Lane, but for the most part the human race is relegated to bystanders, watching as the big boys go at it.

For all the talk on what the revelation of Superman’s existence would do to the human race, we hardly ever see that effect — we hardly see him inspire anybody. The movie could have used a scene like the subway train scene in “Spider-Man 2,” when the passengers rise up to try to protect Spider-Man from Doc Ock. Although I appreciate any superhero movie that allows Toby from “The West Wing” to save the day.

But “Man of Steel” is an authentic, sincere take on the Superman story; it isn’t just trying to riff off previous versions with in-jokes and references, but to find a different, larger-canvas way to tell that story from scratch. And although it looks expensive and in many ways is subservient to the needs of today’s IMAX 3D summer blockbusters, the heart is still intact.

I didn’t love “Man of Steel” — not as powerful as “The Dark Knight” movies, not as fun as “Iron Man 3” or “The Avengers.” I would have liked to see someone with a lighter, more human touch take on the same material. But all the same, I liked it more than I thought I would, and thought it puts down a solid foundation to build on in other movies. I think that caped father and son went home happy.

“Before Midnight”: The honeymoon’s over for Jesse and Celine


“Before Midnight” opens Friday at Sundance and Star Cinema. R, 1:48, three and a half stars out of four.

(Note: You may not want to read this review before seeing “Before Midnight,” as spoilers abound.)

Early on, we get the moment we’ve been waiting nine years for in “Before Midnight.” Jesse (Ethan Hawke) exits an airport in Greece after saying goodbye to his son, who lives in Chicago with his mother.

Jesse walks out to his car — and there’s Celine (Julie Delpy)! With adorable twin 7-year-old girls sleeping in the backseat! They’re together! The happily ever after that fans of “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” have been hoping for has finally arrived.

And then the movie starts. And we see what exactly “happily ever after” entails.

As someone who thought 1995’s “Before Sunrise” was a near-perfect romantic film about the possibilities of true love, and 2004’s “Before Sunset” was even closer to perfect, I was both thrilled by the news that Richard Linklater was making a third movie with Hawke and Delpy, as well as a little nervous. Could they sustain the romantic spell that the first two films had cast?

The answer is not only no, but deliberately no. “Before Midnight” turns out to be a much tougher and more realistic film about relationships than its predecessors, and it’s quite a shock. If “Sunrise” was a film that was all about possibility, and “Sunset” was a film that balanced the possibility of what could be against the regret of what was, “Midnight” is very firmly more about regret. This couple, now 41, has been together for a while, and made choices to be together. And some of those choices still don’t sit well.

On the drive home from the airport, Linklater settles into the familiar rhythms of the “Before” movies, using long takes as Jesse and Celine talk. The relationship seems good — they still have lots to say to each other, can still make each other laugh, still seem genuinely interested in each other. But underneath the banter you sense some buried issues that have never been quite resolved.

For one, it seems like things got very messy after the closing credits of “Before Sunset.” Jesse left his wife for Celine, they had the twins almost immediately, and now the couple lives in Paris, Jesse hardly ever seeing his son. Meanwhile, Celine had to downshift her career to take care of the twins, and has a dream job offer in front of her. That opening conversation is a master class in saying things without saying them, as Jesse tries to float the idea of the family moving to Chicago, without actually floating it.

The family comes to a gorgeous seaside Greek home, where they’ve been staying all summer. The film’s second big conversation is over dinner with friends, which is great, because for the first time we see Jesse and Celine really talking to other people rather than just to each other. The other couples at the table represent the different phases of love — a young couple, a middle-aged married couple, a widow and widower living with their memories. The topic at the table is the limits of love, surprisingly frank and downbeat on the subject of whether another person can make you truly happy, or if you inevitably settle for someone. This person may be the love of your life, but if life is so fleeting, how enduring can that love be?

The third major conversation of the film happens in a lavish hotel room that Jesse and Celine stay in, intended for a romantic getaway. And there’s just no sugarcoating it — it is a vicious, protracted fight between the two that goes on and on, as those long-simmering tensions bubble over and they say all the things you never should say to your significant other, the things you know will cut the deepest.  It feels uncomfortably real, even following the rhythms of a bad fight — how things will plateau a bit and you think you might be done, but then someone says something and then it starts up all over again, even worse than before. After the long, graceful takes of the rest of the film, Linklater opts for quick, angry cuts, treating the couple like combatants.

It is well-acted, insightfully written, and really hard to watch; I felt like I went to see a  romantic comedy and a John Cassavetes film broke out. We’ve developed such affection and goodwill towards this couple, rooted for them for so long, that to see them turn on each other like that is heartbreaking.

But, ultimately, what “Before Midnight” is doing is putting us in the same position with Jesse and Celine that they are with each other. The romantic idealism has evaporated, and now we see them for who they are — real, deeply flawed, sometimes selfish people. Can we still love them?

“Before Midnight” is a powerful film because it plays on our long-standing affection for these characters, daring to take them into much darker emotional territory than we expected them to go. Delpy and Hawke (who collaborated with Linklater on the screenplay) know these characters so well, and are able to add those shadings while staying true to their essences. Jesse is still talking philosophy, still writing stories, but has settled into something of a middle-aged poseur. Celine is quick-witted and sharp as ever, but perhaps too quick to let her cynicism get the better of her — believe me, you never want to be on the receiving end of a withering look for Delpy.

The hard-won truth of “Before Midnight” is that there’s no “happily ever after” — making a relationship work is still work, and maybe the work gets harder as the relationship goes on. Things seemed so much simpler on a train ride in Vienna, when all things seemed possible for two 23-year-old romantics.

But we still root for them. We still love them.

What’s playing in Madison theaters, June 14-20, 2013


All week

Man of Steel” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — Less than a decade after “Superman Returns,” DC Comics tries another “Superman” reboot, this one noticeably bearing the stamp of writer-producer Christopher Nolan as well as director Zach Snyder. Is it “The Clark Knight”?

This is the End” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — My full review is here. Everyone else is destroying the planet at the movies this summer, so why shouldn’t Seth Rogen? In this raunchy, gross and funny comedy, Rogen and several of his Hollywood friends (all playing themselves) are stuck in James Franco’s house when the apocalypse hits, and must contend with demons, cannibals and their own pampered ineptitude.

Before Midnight” (Star Cinema, Sundance) — Jesse and Celine of “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” return in this long-awaited third installment, as the pair are now in their 40s and questioning the choices they made that got them to this point.


The Short Films of Miranda July” (9:30 p.m., Madison Museum of Contemporary Art rooftop, 227 State St.) — MMOCA’s cool Rooftop Cinema series presents a series of shorts from filmmaker and artist Miranda July, all pre-dating her first feature “You and Me and Everyone We Know.” FREE for museum members, $7 for everyone else. If it’s raining, the movie will take place in MMOCA’s screening room indoors.

How to Train Your Dragon” (7 p.m., Warner Park Duck Pond) — It’s the Madison Mallards vs. the Dragons, as Moonlight Movies uses the Mallards’ stadium to screen the action-packed and clever animated hit about a boy and his dragon. Concessions will be available for purchase. Visit to check on weather updates. FREE!


Mars Attacks” (9 p.m., UW Memorial Union Terrace) — Aliens attack and many celebrities are caught in the cross fire in Tim Burton’s kinda mean-spirited adaptation of the trading card series. FREE!


“Earth” (10 a.m. Point, Eastgate) — Marcus Theatres’ Kids Dream film series powers up for the summer, offering family films for only a $2 admission Tuesday through Thursday morning. This week it’s the Disney nature documentary “Earth,” following three animal families on their journeys.


“E.T. The Extraterrestrial” (1:15 and 6:50 p.m., Sundance Cinemas) — This is the third time in about a month that you can see “E.T.” in Madison, following Moonlight Movies and Memorial Union Terrace screenings. This week’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” screening was sold out, so I’d still get there early if you want to seee it.

“Earth” (10 a.m. Point, Eastgate) –See Tuesday listing.


New Belgium Clips of Faith Film Festival” (7:30 p.m., Olin-Turville Park) — The popular annual traveling festival mixes short films with limited-edition batches of craft beer, all in a venue that encourages audiences to bike in. Salvatore’s Tomato Pies and the Good Food Truck will be serving up food, and the event is a benefit for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

“Earth” (10 a.m. Point, Eastgate) –See Tuesday listing.

UW Cinematheque’s summer series to honor the late Roger Ebert


Usually, the UW-Cinematheque on-campus film program schedules series around the work of a particular filmmaker, or from a certain country, or even a particular genre of film.

But this summer, the Cinematheque is building its main series around something different — a film critic.

That critic is, of course, the great Roger Ebert, who passed away in April. In addition to being the most famous writer about film on Earth, Ebert was a good friend to Madison, coming up for several Wisconsin Film Festivals; on his last visit, in 2006, he and film professor David Bordwell presented the film “Laura” in the UW-Cinematheque screening room at 4070 Vilas Hall.

So it’s fitting that the free summer Cinematheque series, which kicks off July 11, will feature “Roger Ebert: Great Movies, Overlooked Films and Guilty Pleasures.” Ebert loved movies, all kinds of movies, and the series gives audiences a taste of that, mixing established classics like “The Third Man” with lesser-known gems like Tarsem’s visually ravishing “The Fall” (July 26) and the sci-fi kung fu movie “Infra-Man.” (July 19). The series also includes Akira Kurosawa’s epic “Ran” (Aug. 2) and Russ Meyer’s less-than-epic “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (Aug. 9), which Ebert wrote the screenplay for.

And, in a major coup for the campus series, the Cinematheque will present the only Madison screening of the much-anticipated new film from Terrence Malick (“Tree of Life”). “To the Wonder,” starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko, was the last movie that Ebert filed a review for before he passed away.

All the screenings are free and open to the public, and seating is first-come, first-serve. The Ebert series will be much longer than Cinematheque summer seasons of past years, stretching through the rest of the summer. In addition, Cinematheque programmer Jim Healy is showing many of the Ebert selections in the larger Marquee Theatre in Union South. The Ebert screenings will run Friday nights, with a special showing of “To the Wonder” on Saturday, July 13.

On Thursday nights, Cinematheque will show the films of French comic filmmaker Pierre Etaix, whose work is largely unknown outside France but very influential on the works of David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and Robert Bresson, among other filmmakers. Those films, all new 35mm prints, will all screen in the Cinematheque’s usual home at 4070 Vilas Hall.

The opening weekend shapes up like this:

Thursday, July 11, “Le Grand Amour” (UW Cinematheque) — Pierre Etaix’s 1969 comedy follows a married businessman tempted to stray by his beautiful young secretary.

Friday, July 12, “The Third Man” (Marquee Theater) — Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles star in this classic tale of intrigue and betrayal in post-World War II Vienna.

Saturday, July 13, “To the Wonder” (Marquee Theater) — Terrence Malick uses rapturous imagery to tell the tale of a French woman (Kurylenko) who comes to live with her new lover (Affleck) back home in Oklahoma.

Visit for the full schedule.

“This is the End”: When the apocalypse comes, it’s going to be superbad


“This is the End” opens Wednesday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinema. R, 1:59, three stars out of four.

This is the way the world ends; not with a bang, but with Jonah Hill whimpering.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s hilarious “This is the End” finds the sweet spot between apocalyptic horror-comedy and Hollywood satire, a sweet spot I didn’t even know existed. Raunchy, nutty, gory and even sometimes sweet, the movie doesn’t stray too far from their breakthrough as screenwriters, “Superbad.” Only, this time, instead of two friends worrying about whether girls will tear their friendship apart, they worry that demons from the gaping maw of Hell will tear them apart. Literally.

Rogen plays a version of himself, a pampered Hollywood actor who invites his old friend Jay Baruchel (the two are both Canadians and former “Undeclared” cast members) to Los Angeles for a weekend of weed and PS3. The friendship has grown strained over the years as Rogen’s become more famous, and Baruchel is resentful of his new Hollywood lifestyle. The duo go over to James Franco’s fortress-like house that’s packed with celebrity friends from the Rogenverse (including Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, and a riotous cameo by Michael Cera as a coked-out, hyper-aggressive version of his sweet, gentle onscreen persona). Baruchel is ready to bail.

And then the Rapture hits. The worthy ascend to Heaven riding beams of blue light (good joke: the Hollywood night sky shows maybe 12 or 15 of these blue lights, tops) leaving everyone else to suffer doomsday. A giant sinkhole opens up on Franco’s front lawn, and celeb after celeb gets sucked into its fierydepths.

Rogen, Baruchel and Franco barricade themselves in Franco’s house along with Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, and the film becomes a variation on the usual “hangout comedy,” as the actors trade insults, pass the time making a homemade “Pineapple Express” sequel, and worry about the growls and screams they hear outside the front door. The central joke of the film is that these pampered Hollywood actors are self-centered babies who are totally unsuited for a crisis situation’; Franco doesn’t know if he has any tools in his mansion, but his basement is full of memorabilia from “Spider-Man 3” and “Flyboys.” They’re so self-involved that they firmly believe they’re essential to the human race. “We bring joy to people,” Franco says. “You have to pretend it’s hot when it’s really cold,” Robinson offers as part of his skillset.

That Rogen and Goldberg (who wrote and for the first time directed) would nail these kind of laughs is not surprising. What is unexpected is how well they weave in some genuinely scary jolts in between the laughs, keeping the audience on its toes. The mix of horror and comedy helps solve one of the biggest weaknesses of Rogen’s (and his mentor Apatow’s) previous films — the sometimes exhaustive pacing, hitting the same kind of joke again and again for over two hours. Here, you don’t know what’s coming around the next corner, and that gives the tighter “This is the End” much more momentum.

Even though we know how it’s going to end. In a summer where the world seems to be going up in flames over and over again, from “After Earth” to “World War Z,” “This is the End” seems perfectly timed to show that you don’t need to take the death and destruction of every single thing you’ve ever known or loved so darn seriously.

Instant Gratification: “Upstream Color” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix right now


It’s not often that your favorite film of the year suddenly shows up in your Netflix Instant recommendations. So that made the top pick this week kind of a no-brainer.

Pick of the week: “Upstream Color”My full review is here.  Shane Carruth’s strange and ellipticial sci-fi romance mixes mind control, psychic pigs, and Thoreau’s “Walden” into a heady film about free will and self-determination. It’s gorgeous, cryptic and I wouldn’t want to impose my interpretation on another viewer. but I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Thriller of the week: “The Score” — Hard to believe Frank “Missy Pig” Oz directed this taut 2001 heist film, in which a cocky young thief (Edward Norton) and a wary veteran (Robert De Niro) try to steal a priceless scepter out of a Montreal customs house. Meticulously plotted and well acted, it builds slowly but is a ton of fun in the last hour.

Comedy of the week: “Mystery Men” — I have a big soft spot for this 2000 action comedy, starring Ben Stiller, William H. Macy and Janeane Garofalo as low-rent superheroes who must band together to fight a supervillain when the city’s A-list hero is incapacitated.

Noir of the week: “A Shock to the System” — Michael Caine gives a deliciously fine performance as a middle -management type who, instead of meekly allowing himself to be downsized, starts using murder to get ahead at his company.

Drama of the week: “The Rainmaker” — Still the best of the John Grisham adaptations (edging out “The Firm”), this well-structured Davey-and-Goliath legal thriller stars an impossibly young Matt Damon as a wet-behind-the-ears attorney trying to take down a big corporation.


Is going out to the movies an endangered pastime in Madison?


As I sat with about 60 other people at MMOCA Rooftop Cinema on Friday night, watching one harvester ant rip the head off another one on the big projection screen, I wondered if the concern that theatrical moviegoing is an endangered pastime might not be so grave.

Which is not to say that there isn’t reason for concern. But if you can fill seats for “The Hellstrom Chronicle,” as MMOCA did, there’s definitely room for hope.

The concern, expressed well by Mark Riechers at Madison Arts Extract last week, is that there’s a large group of movie lovers in Madison who don’t go out to the movies. They’ll come out in droves for the Wisconsin Film Festival, but when independent films come back to Sundance Cinemas and elsewhere, the theaters are nearly empty. Granted, this is a problem everywhere; when I was last home visiting my parents in Denver, I sat in the city’s majestic Mayan Theatre all alone to see “Rust and Bone.”

But I think Madison has a particular challenge, having to do largely with the fact that we’re a second- or third-tier market with first-tier taste in movies. Independent films don’t usually open everywhere at the same time the way “The Internship” does; instead, they roll out slowly, starting in New York and Los Angeles, spreading to cities like Chicago and San Francisco, eventually making their way to some smaller markets if they’re doing well enough. It’s a cinematic Doppler effect: you hear about a movie through reviews in the New Yorker or New York Times, and then weeks or months later you see it. A larger city like Denver can largely dictate when an indie movie will get to their theaters, but for Madison, we seem to largely have to wait and see for many of them to trickle down to our level.

The problem for Sundance is that they don’t often know when the films will finally make it to Madison until, sometimes, the Tuesday before the Friday they open. That’s not much time to build up any word of mouth that a film is opening. If a movie that already has a fair bit of advertising and viewer interest, such as “Before Midnight” or “Much Ado About Nothing,” it has a good chance of making a big splash. Madison will usually come out big to support those films, judging by the lines at the concessions counter at Sundance. But other, lesser-known films might arrive without much notice, and if audiences aren’t willing to take a chance on them, they could open and close in a week. And, as the price of going to the movies goes up, audiences are less likely to take those chances.

Of course, there are exceptions; “Free the Mind,” a film made in Madison about meditation research at the UW, ended up being a surprise hit for Sundance, playing for several weeks. Sundance does broadcast what’s playing through its e-newsletter, and programs smaller indie movies into its Screening Room Calendar, which maps out weeks ahead what arthouse movies will be showing. And there are media resources (such as, ahem, this blog) that feature reviews and news about what movies are playing. But in general, the burden is on the viewer to keep track of what’s playing where and when.

And, as Mark points out, the rise of Netflix Instant and VOD has changed the equation. On the one hand, streaming makes a vast treasure trove of movies available for movie lovers, cheaply and easily. That’s an unalloyed great thing, giving good films that might have tanked theatrically (or never even made it to a Madison theater) the chance to be seen. The trade-off, though, is that there’s no sense of urgency for audiences to go see a film in theaters, because they know it will inevitable end up on DVD. (And yet so called “day-and-date” releases, simultaneously out on VOD and in theaters, seems to be working for indie distributors like IFC and Magnolia. Go figure.)

Yet, in Madison, we’re blessed to have this other strain of filmgoing, exemplified by Rooftop Cinema, Cinematheque and the Wisconsin Film Festival, that seems to do very well. Those Studio Ghibli films that screened Sunday afternoon at the Chazen this past semester were absolutely packed, the festival never seems to go wanting for crowds, and folks will turn up to see almost anything, no matter how off-the-beaten-path, at Cinematheque or Rooftop. The other encouraging sign I’d point to is the continuing success of the “Classics” series at Sundance Cinemas, which often has the biggest crowds of any theater there on a Wednesday night. We actually outpace other Sundance theaters in larger cities like Houston when it comes to our support of classic movies.

All of which is to say that there’s we’re ahead of the game compared to many other places — there’s a lot of movies to see, and a lot of appreciative and hungry movie fans who could go see them. The challenge continues to be making sure audiences know what movies they can get out to see, and why it’s important they do so.

What’s playing in Madison theaters, June 7-13, 2013


All week

The Purge” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — “Star Trek Into Darkness” was basically a remake of the classic Trek episode “Space Seed,” and now this horror-thriller lifts the premise from another Trek episode, “Return of the Archives.” (Will Landru make a cameo?) In the future, once a year there’s a 12-hour period where all crime is legal, and a family has to deal with a pack of murderous intruders. Festival!

The Internship” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — My full review is here. “Wedding Crashers” Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite for this much tamer comedy about middle-aged guys who get an internship at Google.

Kon-Tiki” (Sundance) — The incredible voyage of Thor Heyerdahl, across the ocean in a flimsy raft, is recounted in this adventure tale that played at the Wisconsin Film Festival.

What Maisie Knew” (Sundance) — My full review is here. A wrenching custody battle between two self-centered New Yorkers is viewed through the eyes of their six-year-old daughter in this powerful drama.

Opens Wednesday

This Is the End” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride all play themselves, pampered Hollywood actors who realize the apocalypse is upon them.


The Hellstrom Chronicle” (9:30 p.m., Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St.) — MMOCA kicks off its Rooftop Cinema series with this 1970 film that mixes sci-fi and documentary footage to show how insects are fascinating, creepy creatures. The screening is free for museum members, $7 for everyone else. The good news of this unseasonably cool weather is that actual insects may not bother the audience during the screening.


Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan” (9:30 p.m, Memorial Union Terrace, 800 Langdon St.) — The best of the “Star Trek” movies plays on the lakefront, as Kirk and Spock face off against the delightfully hammy Khan and his crew. Free!


Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1:30 and 6:45 p.m., Sundance Cinemas) — Sundance’s Classics Series is devoted to Steven Spielberg in June, and the chance to see the original Indiana Jones adventure up on the big screen is what summer is all about. Plus the Rooftop Bar at Sundance is now open!