“Big Sur”: Life off the road for an older, sadder Jack Kerouac


“Big Sur” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:21, three stars out of four.

Think of “Big Sur” as the counterpoint to Walter Salles’ fevered, rapturous adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” that came earlier this year. Salles’ movie mythologizes Kerouac’s book (and the real-life characters and events that inspired it), as much about the book’s impact on the world as the book itself.

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Blu-ray review: “Byzantium”: Neil Jordan’s follow-up interview with the vampire


In 1994, director Neil Jordan adapted Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” for the screen. It was elegant and clever, if a little overwrought and overburdened with star power (Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise). But one thing it definitely wasn’t was a horror film. There were no jumps or jolts to be had, but rather a moody, mordant take on the pluses and minuses of immortality.

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“Mr. Nobody”: A heady sci-fi Choose Your Own Adventure


“Mr. Nobody” is now available on video-on-demand and for rent on Amazon and iTunes. It opens theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, November 1. A Madison date has not yet been set. R, 2:28, two and a half stars out of four.

Think of “Mr. Nobody” as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book for grown-ups, but read straight through as if it were any other book, so the reader keeps skipping across alternate storylines. On Page 28, the hero gets eaten by a dragon; on Page 29, he’s alive again, having decided not to go into the dragon’s cave after all.

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“Museum Hours”: When the paintings look back at you


“Museum Hours” screens at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Free for members; $7 at the door for everyone else. Not rated, 1:46, three and a half stars out of four.

It’s fitting, of course, that a film called “Museum Hours” would screen at a museum, although the classical paintings in Jem Cohen’s film would stick out like a sore thumb among MMoCA’s more contemporary pieces. Still, the film captures the contemplative feeling of whiling away a couple of hours among some of the world’s great works of art, especially in the company of a couple of engaging, droll guides.

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Instant Gratification: “Dirty Wars” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix Instant


Pick of the week: “Dirty Wars”: My full review is here, and my interview with Jeremy Scahill is here. Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill (a Wauwatosa native) looks into America’s secret war on terror, including targeted assassinations and drone strikes, and ponders the blowback that we may be unleashing.

Classic of the week: “Wake in Fright”: My full review is here. A cultured schoolteacher is waylaid in a rough Australian town in this 1971 film, and a dark night of drinking, carousing and kangaroo slaughter unleashes his inner beast.

Documentary of the week: “Ai Weiwei Never Sorry”: My full review is here. The combative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei mixes art and activism to crusade against his government’s abuses.

Thriller of the week: “In Bruges”: My full review is here. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are hitmen on furlough in a picturesque Belgian town in this very funny and very violent film.

Western of the week: “Two Mules for Sister Sara“: Not my favorite Clint Eastwood Western, as Clint reluctantly takes on a prostitute masquerading as a nun (Shirley MacLaine). But still, a Clint Eastwood Western.

See “Nosferatu” and help UW-Cinematheque convert to digital

On the Set of "Nosferatu"

You really don’t need an extra reason to see Werner Herzog’s 1979 chiller “Nosferatu” on the big screen, especially with Halloween coming up. The 1979 film is effect both as an homage and an update to the F.X. Murnau silent vampire classic; as UW student Ryan Waal said on the UW-Cinematheque blog, “this film is emotionally expressive and scary in ways most films only aspire to be, and a fantastic demonstration of Herzog’s abilities to curate and display pure weirdness on the screen.”

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“Gravity,” “Captain Phillips,” and being trapped off the grid


Spoilers abound in this article, not surprisingly.

“I get it.” astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) says to astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) at one point during “Gravity.” “It’s nice up here.” Earlier in the film, before everything goes to hell, Kowalski asks Stone what she likes best about outer space, and she says, “The silence. I could get used to that.”

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