“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (all week, Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — It’s a rainy Friday with a high of 57 degrees, which can only mean one thing — it’s summer movie season in Wisconsin! After months of promos (and some not very kind early reviews), the sequel to the reboot of the film version of the comic book is here. For Madisonians, the big draw is that hometown by Marc Webb returns as director — the first “Amazing” was most notable for its sweet and funny relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. In the sequel, which has at least three villains and all sorts of connections to the larger Marvelverse, I hope that doesn’t get lost in the CGI shuffle.
“Blue Ruin” (all week, Sundance) — My full review is here. You’ll be reminded of the Coen Brothers, and “Blood Simple” in particular, when watching this fantastic debut thriller from writer-director Jeremy Saulnier. A vagrant seeks revenge against the man who killed his parents, only to find himself drawn into an eye-for-an-eye war with the killer’s family. It’s violent and haunting, with some exquisitely staged suspense sequences and a sobering undercurrent.
“Frenzy” (Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. Sunday) — The Cinematheque at the Chazen’s semester-long salute to Alfred Hitchcock concludes with one of his most underrated films, 1972’s “Frenzy.” His second-to-last film has never quite been able to escape the “Psycho” shadow, but it’s still a dandy thriller about a serial strangler loose in Covent Garden, and the innocent man being pursued for the crimes. The screening is free, with tie optional.
“Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America” (Alicia Ashman Public Library, 2 p.m. Monday) — My full review is here. This portrait of the notorious Vietnam War whistleblower is thrilling and eye-opening. Ellsberg gets to narrate his own tale of leaking official documents and the ensuing politi cal and media firestorm, and he’s harder on himself than any progressive documentarian would have been, still disgusted with his own role in perpetuating myths about how well the war was going. In this era where people are still arguing about whether Edward Snowden is a hero or traitor, this documentary is indispensable. UW professor Stanley Kutler will talk about the film after the screening.
“Ben Hur” (Sundance Cinemas, 1 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. Wednesday) — I’ll admit it — the most I’ve seen of this historical epic is the same three-second chariot race clip over and over in Oscar montages. But if I’m ever going to want to see it, it’ll be on the big screen, and the Sundance Classics series is perfect. Charlton Heston plays the Jewish nobleman who is sold into slavery by anti-Semitic rivals and has to fight his way back to power to seek revenge.