Instant Gratification: “Dear Mr. Watterson” and four other good movies to stream on Netflix Instant


Pick of the week: “Dear Mr. WattersonMy full review is here. My daughers are just discovering my old “Calvin & Hobbes” books, and I imagine that someday their kids will fall into the magical, funny, poignant and beautifully-rendered world of Bill Watterson. This highly entertaining documentary deliberately doesn’t try to contact the reclusive Watterson, instead talking to fans, fellow comic strip artists and colleagues to celebrate and investigate why we love it so much. There’s treasure everywhere in this movie.

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UW Lakeside Cinema’s summer 2014 series feels like the very first time


It’s a summer of sequels — not only “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the sequel to a reboot of a series that already had a “Spider-Man 2,” but “22 Jump Street,” “Step Up All In,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Think Like a Man Too,” “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” “Expendables 3” and more.

So the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee, which sponsors the Lakeside Cinema free outdoor movie series Monday nights on the UW-Madison Terrace, had an original idea. Why not just show the original movies?

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The five movies you need to see in Madison: May 16-22, 2014


Godzilla” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — After the 1998 Roland Emmerich debacle, it’s understandable to have cringed at the thought of Hollywood taking another crack at everybody’s favorite radioactive lizard. But early reviews suggest this latest incarnation comes the closest to the somber chills of the allegorical 1950 Japanese original. (Love the idea that the A-bomb tests in the Pacific didn’t create Godz, but were part of an attack to try and stop him.) Gareth Edwards of the cult hit “Monsters’ directs.

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“God’s Pocket”: A great place to watch, but you wouldn’t want to live there


“God’s Pocket” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:28, three stars out of four.

I’ve seen “God’s Pocket” twice now — the first time at the Sundance Film Festival, a couple of weeks before its star, Philip Seymour Hoffman, died of a drug overdose, and again three months later. The first time I thought it was a good movie. Now I think it’s essential.

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Blu-ray review: “Overlord” is a World War II movie unlike any other


Is every war movie an anti-war movie? Many think so — Tom Hanks once said in an interview that he hoped that, by the end of “Saving Private Ryan,” the audience will hope it never sees one person shoot another person again. But then again, maybe ever war movie is a pro-war movie too, as it’s so hard not to get caught up in the characters’ struggle, to feel a visceral if awful excitement as Capt. Miller and his men fend off the Germans. It’s a mixed message – war is wrong, but warriors are heroes.

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Instant Gratification: “Much Ado About Nothing” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix Instant


Pick of the week: “Much Ado About NothingMy full review is here. The gimmick behind Joss Whedon’s Shakespeare adaptation is a lot of fun, he shot it in his own house, using a lot of actor friends (including Nathan Fillion and Amy Acker) in under two weeks, as a break between shooting and editing “The Avengers.” But the film, set in present-day Los Angeles, is an efficient and knowing adaptation of the text, never skimping on the fun of the Bard’s plot while throwing the play’s sharp anti-feminist themes into sharp relief.

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“Fading Gigolo”: Paid for every dance, selling each romance


“Fading Gigolo” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:38, two stars out of four.

There ought to be some kind of asterisk required on reviews of movies shot in New York City in autumn. Even the worst movie can seem pleasant enough when you see those leaves dappling the stoops of a row of brownstones, or people in expensive coats walking through a golden Central Park. There’s one scene in “Fading Gigolo” set in a glade in Central Park, the trees every gorgeous shade of red, yellow and orange imaginable, that looks like a CGI painting from “The Hobbit.”

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The five movies you need to see in Madison, May 9-15, 2014


Neighbors” (all week, Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — My full review is here. The studio comedy is on the ropes (or maybe you’re looking forward to seeing that “Blended” thing with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore?) so when a good one comes along it’s worth pointing out. Nick Stoller’s consistently funny film, about a turf war between new parents (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and the frat next-door (led by Zac Efron) exists in the Apatowverse of raunch and sweetness, but it’s tighter than an Apatow epic. Plus, it offers a great comic role to Byrne that basically thumbs its nose at all the underwritten “wife” roles in most other comedies. Take note, Sandler.

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“Neighbors”: Guess who’s coming to our toga party?


“Neighbors” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema and Sundance. R, 1:36, three stars out of four.

The marketing department at Universal Pictures must have flipped out when they heard about the premise of “Neighbors.” A fraternity house living next to a house with new parents? They’d be able to get both college students and twentysomething couples on date night in the theater on date night!

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