What’s playing in Madison theaters, Feb. 28-March 6


All week

The Wind Rises” (Point) — Don’t miss legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki’s supposedly final film, the true-life story of a nearsighted man who becomes an influential plane designer.

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“Non-Stop”: Excuse me, ma’am, is this seat “Taken”?

Photography By Myles Aronowitz

Non-Stop” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate, and Star Cinema. PG-13, 1:50, two and a half stars out of four.

Give Liam Neeson credit — he’s an action star who acts. In the “Taken” movies, “Unknown” and now “Non-Stop” (reteaming him with “Unknown” director Jaume Collet-Serra), Neeson manages to sell increasingly unbelievable premises with a world-weary gravitas and an edge of menace. In “Non-Stop,” he’s the captain, and even if we don’t know where we’re going and suspect the movie doesn’t either, we trust him to get us there.

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“Wadjda”: For a Saudi girl, freedom comes on two wheels


“Wadjda” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. PG, 1:40, three stars out of four.

Wadjda wants a bike. She sees a beautiful bike strapped to the roof of a car, and it seems to be gliding in the air by her, just begging her to hop on board and ride. But bikes cost money. That is a problem for Wadjda, but not the biggest one.

The biggest one is that Wadjda is a 10-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive cars or vote.

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“At Berkeley”: At 84, documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman goes back to school


“At Berkeley” screens at 1 p.m. Saturday at the UW-Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave. Not rated, 4:04, three and a half stars out of four. FREE!

That running time in the above description is not a misprint. Legendary documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s “At Berkeley” clocks in at over four hours, which you’d think would make viewers eligible for some kind of college credit.

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Blu-ray review: “King of the Hill: The Criterion Collection”


When film lovers made lists of the movies that they wanted to see on DVD but were been released, Steven Soderbergh’s “King of the Hill” was often near the top of the list. Only available on VHS since its release in 1993, Soderbergh’s affecting and lovely third film is finally out this week, and worth the wait, on an extras-packed DVD/Blu-ray combo package from the Criterion Collection.

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Instant Gratification: “Surfwise” and four other good documentaries to watch on Netflix Instant


For some reason, a bunch of really good documentaries from the past few years just went up on Netflix Instant in the last few days. So I’m going to break protocol this week and do an all-doc edition of Instant Gratification, with subjects ranging from sports to politics to a very strange romance.

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I don’t care what Steven Soderbergh says, I still like “The Underneath’


On the new Blu-ray of Steven Soderbergh’s “The Underneath,” somebody has some pretty harsh words to say about the film.”Dead on arrival,” “totally sleepy,” “15 seconds in I know we’re in trouble.” It’s an unusual perspective to say the least on a film being released on Criterion, which is supposed to celebrate great films.

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What’s playing in Madison theaters, Feb. 21-27, 2014


All week

Pompeii” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — What’s the only thing that can stop a Roman slave from rescuing his true love from the clutches of a cruel rich man? An erupting volcano, obviously! This will be the first film at Point to be shown in its brand-new Ultrascreen DLX theater, featuring Dolby Atmos sound and leather electric recliners, but the film is not in Dolby Atmos. The recliners should work fine, however. (The first flick to show off Atmos at Point will be “300: Rise of an Empire” on March 7, which is ironic, since I believe Star Cinema used the original “300” to show off its IMAX screen to critics.)

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“The Great Beauty”: They threw outrageous parties, they paid heavenly bills


“The Great Beauty” opens Friday at Sundance. NR, 2:22, three and a half stars out of four. I’ll be doing a post-show chat in Sundance’s Overflow Bar after the 6:50 p.m. show on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Ah, to be wealthy, gorgeous and dead inside in Rome! Paolo Sorrentino’s ravishing “The Great Beauty” at first makes the life of the rich and shallow look like a wonderfully decadent carnival, the camera swooping and gliding from outrageous parties to breathtaking architecture.

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Guy Maddin brings his strange and wonderful movies to Madison


You haven’t seen anything like a Guy Maddin film, unless you’ve seen another Guy Maddin film. At the simplest level, the Canadian filmmaker makes elliptical experimental films using the language and iconography of Golden Age Cinema. His last film, “Keyhole,” was a cryptic take on gangster noir, while his most famous, 2004’s “The Saddest Music in the World,” was a parody of the musicals of yesteryear.

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