The five movies you have to see in Madison: May 30-June 5, 2014


Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sundance Cinemas) — Even though Steven Spielberg doesn’t even have a new movie this summer, it just wouldn’t be summer without him. And so, by sheer coincidence, three different venues are showing three different Spielberg classics in the same week. First off is Indiana Jones’ first and indisputably greatest outing, which I saw at Sundance last summer with a sold-out crowd and was a total blast (33 years later, the bit with the swordsman still draws a laugh.)

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“A Million Ways to Die in the West”: How the West was wan

A Million Ways to Die in the West

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema and Sundance. R, 1:56, two and a half stars out of four.

“I’m not a hero,” Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) says at one point in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” “I’m the guy in the crowd who makes fun of the hero’s shirt.”

Nailed it in one, Seth. “West” is at its best when MacFarlane, in his first lead acting role after creating shows like “Family Guy” and the movie “Ted,” has his character standing on the sidelines, riffing. The central joke of MacFarlane’s Western spoof (which he also directed, co-wrote and produced) is that Albert is a hapless sheep farmer who hates the Old West, and the best parts of the film are Albert’s hilariously foul-mouthed rants on how lethal everything is around him, from rattlesnakes to cholera to frontier doctors.

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“Jodorowsky’s Dune”: The best life never leaves your lungs


“Jodorowsky’s Dune” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 1:25, three and a half stars out of four.

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a documentary about failure, and “the greatest movie ever made.” So why did it leave me so oddly happy, this story of a beautiful dream that never came true? Perhaps because there’s beauty in the dreaming itself. Continue reading

MMOCA’s Rooftop Cinema offers heady animated films under the stars


One of the many pleasures of summer is the chance to see movies outdoors. Here in Madison we’ve got an array of choices; we can grab a beer on the Terrace on a Monday night and see a crowd-pleaser like “Ghostbusters” or “Jursasic Park” as part of the Lakeside Cinema series.  Or we can head out to a local park with the kids to see one of Madison Parks’ Moonlight Movies, such as “Jaws” playing this Friday night at Olbrich Park. Or, of course, you can always road-trip it out to one of the drive-in theaters still going strong in our area, including the Sky-Vu in Monroe and the Highway 18 in Jefferson.

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


Pick of the week: “Diggstown — Michael Ritchie’s later films were a pretty spotty bunch, but one bright spot is his immensely entertaining 1992 film starring James Woods, a shady boxing promoter who bets the town patriarch (Bruce Dern) his over-the-hill boxer can beat 10 of Dern’s best fighters — in 24 hours. It feels like a great B-movie from the ’40s, snappy and punchy and full of surprises.

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The five movies you need to see in Madison: May 23-29, 2014


1. “Chef” (Point, Sundance) — Before he became Mr. Blockbuster with the first two Iron Man movies (and less so, much less so, with “Cowboys and Aliens”), Jon Favreau made small comedies like “Made.” He gets back to those indie roots with his new film, in which he plays an arrogant chef who learns a little humility when he loses his job and starts running a food truck. I hear it’s really good, and that the food in the film is so mouth-watering that if you don’t have a meal beforehand, you’ll start gnawing on the arm of your seatmate.

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“X-Men: Days of Future Past”: Mystique gets the bell-bottom blues


“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is now playing at Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema and Sundance. 2:11, PG-13, three stars out of four.

“All those years wasted fighting each other, Charles,” Magneto (Ian McKellen) intones to Professor X (Patrick Stewart) at one point during “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” “To have a precious few back.”

I’m guessing he’s referring to around 2006, when Marvel handed the keys to the franchise to Brett Ratner and he promptly drove it into the ditch with the careless (in every sense) “X-Men: The Last Stand.” But the reboot “X-Men: First Class,” which cleverly followed the mutants’ younger selves in the early 1960s’, got the series back online.

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“Palo Alto”: Teenage doldrums fuel a new Coppola’s first film


“Palo Alto” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:38, two and a half stars out of four.

In the opening scene of “Palo Alto,” two teenage boys sit in an idling car in a parking lot, getting drunk, talking about whatever. Then the driver hits the accelerator and drives the car into a wall. Just to see what would happen.

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Nine reasons to get all hot and bothered by the UW-Cinematheque summer schedule


Just when the ads for “Blended” threatened to sap the will of local movie lovers for the summer, the UW-Cinematheque rode to the rescue this week by posting its summer movie schedule. Much of last summer’s calendar had a theme, a sort of cinematic salute to the late Roger Ebert that ranged pretty far and wide, from “The Third Man” to “Infra-Man.”

This summer’s schedule doesn’t have the pretense of a theme, other than the notion that these seem like fun movies to see on a big screen, be they old classics, cult favorites or a couple of high-profile new films getting their Madison premieres. Interestingly, this summer the Cinematheque will not be using its own screening room at Vilas Hall, instead showing films on Thursday nights in the Chazen and Fridays and Saturdays in the Union South Marquee. Continue reading

“Ace in the Hole”: This reporter found a man buried alive. You won’t believe what happens next.


If you think the media satire in Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” is dated, I’ve got a Malaysian airliner I’d like to sell you. Even today, perhaps especially today, Wilder’s 1951 satire (his follow-up to “Sunset Boulevard”) hits a nerve  — especially if the viewer happens to be member of the media himself. Criterion released a dandy DVD edition in 2007, and it’s been re-released this month as a Blu-ray/DVD combo package with a sparkling new digital transfer.

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