“Blue is the Warmest Color”: A love story that, flaws and all, isn’t easily forgotten


“Blue is the Warmest Color” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 2:55, three and a half stars out of four.

“Blue is the Warmest Color” is a beautifully imperfect film about a beautifully imperfect love affair. Abdellatif Kechiche’s Cannes Film Festival winner has been on the receiving end of both rapturous praise and brutal criticism since it premiered in May — either it’s the best French love story since “Breathless” or it’s anti-feminist pornography masquerading as an arthouse epic. I’ve wrestled with both extremes in the few days since I’ve seen it, and I’m wrestling still. But I know there are moments of great tenderness and artistry here, especially in the performance, that make me think the missteps were at least honorably made.

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“Afternoon Delight:” Down and out in Silver Lake


“Afternoon Delight” screens Thursday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Union South Marquee Theatre, 1208 W. Regent St., and writer-director Jill Soloway, a UW-Madison graduate, will introduce the film and take part in a post-show Q&A. R, 1:39, three and a half stars out of four.

For women (and men) of a certain age, there are many wince-worthy moments to be had in writer-director Jill Soloway’s “Afternoon Delight.” In her feature film debut, Soloway absolutely nails the rhythms and conversations of upper middle class parenting, the endless series of playdates and charity auctions and girls’ nights out that must be navigated just right, preferably by Evite and Facebook.

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


Pick of the week: “Skyfall”: My full review is here. I know I usually make the pick of the week some kind of semi-obscure indie gem, but good gravy do I love the last James Bond movie. It has all the classic elements of a great Bond movie — great villain, exotic locations, killer pre-credits sequence, but those all feel put in service to a real movie. 

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Blu-ray review: “Passion”: Brian De Palma’s Brian De Palma homage


Maybe “Love Crime” was too much in director Brian De Palma’s wheelhouse. The French thriller, about a pair of female executives whose struggle for power turns murderous, had a Hitchcockian gloss to it that the director of “Dressed to Kill” and “Blow Out” would find hard to resist.

But De Palma’s remake, “Passion,” feels like someone else’s idea of a Brian De Palma homage, gorging itself on familiar tropes — masks, surveillance cameras, dream sequences– and failing to build either tension or interest.

Noomi Rapace plays Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier in the original), a bright young creative in a Berlin-based ad firm that works with a big mobile phone client. Isabelle comes up with a brilliant advertising campaign for a new camera phone, which her boss Christine (Rachel McAdams) brazenly takes credit for at a meeting. “It’s not backstabbing, it’s business,” Christine calmly explains when confronted. She’d expect Isabelle to do the same in her shoes.

Isabelle accepts the explanation at least at face value, but a power struggle is on, involving falsified incriminating emails, surveillance tapes and competition over one boyfriend (Paul Anderson). Isabelle starts to spiral into depression and paranoia. Christine appears to have destroyed her — but Isabelle may have a couple of tricks up her sleeve.

De Palma has some undeniably ravishing sequences, most notably the murder of a major character split-screened and choreographed to a ballet. But they seem like finger exercises in a movie that never justifies its existence. The buttoned-down Rapace doesn’t exude much charisma, and McAdams has more of a “Mean Girls” pettiness than the dragon-lady menace that Kristin Scott Thomas brought to “Love Crime,” making her not much of an adversary. But you get the sense De Palma is so busy setting up shots that he doesn’t notice that his characters aren’t connecting.

At least with “Redacted,” De Palma’s controversial found-footage film about the Iraq War, he could be forgiven for at least trying something different. Here, he’s doing the same thing he’s been doing for decades — only not nearly as well.

The Blu-ray edition from EOne Entertainment certainly makes De Palma’s images look good. The only special feature is a featurette that seems aimed at people who haven’t seen the film, not those who have just watched it.

“Thor: The Dark World”: If I had a hammer . . .


“Thor: The Dark World” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinema. PG-13, 1:52, two stars out of four.

Man, the screenwriters of “Thor: The Dark World” must look back with envy on the writers of the first “Iron Man” movie. Times were simpler back then — there wasn’t this whole interconnected Marvel cinematic universe of cameos and post-credit sequences and overlapping plots to pay fealty to. There’s much talk in “The Dark World” of the Nine Realms all coming into alignment for the first time in 5,000 years, but that’s nothing — try and keep nine superhero franchises lined up.

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“About Time”: It’s time travel, actually


“About Time” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinema. R, 2:03, three stars out of four.

The moment of truth comes early on in writer-director Richard Curtis’ “About Time.” Is he going to be able to sell the audience on the film’s central conceit, that a father (Bill Nighy) and son (Domhnall Gleeson) can travel through time?

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