“Cuban Fury”: Nick Frost makes a hot fuss on the dance floor


This may be a strange thing to say about an actor best known for playing a chipmunk-cheeked slacker zombie, but Nick Frost always exudes a certain dignity on screen. As Simon Pegg’s sidekick in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy of movies, Frost could have easily been relegated to porky comic relief. Instead, as the layabout friend in “Shaun of the Dead,” the action-movie-loving rookie cop in “Hot Fuzz,” and the clone-battling middle-aged man in “World’s End,” Frost always brings a certain gravitas to ridiculous circumstances. He’s funny, but very self-possessed, and I wouldn’t mess with him.

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“The Big Chill”: Your parents used to be screwed up, too


It’s surprising that “The Big Chill” writer-director Lawrence Kasdan never pulled a Linklater and revisited the film’s seven Baby Boomer characters 10 or 20, or now even 30 years later. It may be that the movie business has changed — movies like “The Big Chill” just didn’t get sequels back then. Or maybe Kasdan was hellbent on moving forward, even if that forward momentum led him into, uh, “Dreamcatcher.”

Or maybe it’s because “The Big Chill” is a film that needs to be stuck in its time — both in 1983, the year that the ex-hippies got rich, and in the single weekend that brought the seven college friends together for the funeral of the eighth, to take stock of their lives, play old records, get drunk, and maybe reconnect on a deeper level. As Harold (Kevin Kline, sporting a distracting Southern accent) puts it, “I feel like I was at my best when I was with you people.”

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Recipes for failure: Behind the making-of docs for “Mystery Science Theater 3000” movies


With 29 DVD editions and four movies in each edition, you’d think Shout! Factory would be running out of bad movies to put in its “Mystery Science Theater 3000” boxed sets by now.

But nope, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXX” is out in stores this week, and still has some top-level cheese in it, from the cut-rate swords-and-sorcery of “Outlaw of Gor” to the classic ‘50s giant-insect shocker “The Black Scorpion.”

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“Hercules”: It ain’t easy Herc-ing for a living


“Hercules” is now playing at Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema. 2 hours, PG-13, three stars out of four.

For once, I’m happy to have been lied to by a movie trailer. The trailer for “Hercules” shows Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (if ever there was a movie for him to use “The Rock,” this is it) fighting giant lions, boars, even a multi-headed Hydra sea serpent. Yet another super-serious swords-‘n’-sorcery CGI fest, right?

In truth, all those battles happen in the first five minutes of “Hercules,” and there’s some doubt as to whether they really happened or are an exaggerated legend. In truth, this is a refreshingly unpretentious “Hercules” with human-sized heroes and villains. It’s really more like a Western — specifically, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” with killer pecs.

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“Lucy”: In the sky with diamond-tipped bullets


“Lucy” is now playing at Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema and Sundance. R, 1:30, two stars out of four.

Scarlett Johansson’s year at the movies has been inhuman. First, she played a sentient computer program in “Her,” then a predatory alien seductress in “Under the Skin.” Now, in Luc Besson’s “Lucy,” she’s a woman who becomes superhuman when an experimental drug unlocks 100 percent of her brain power. The days of playing zookeepers in “We Bought a Zoo” seem long behind her.

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The five movies you have to see in Madison: July 25-31, 2014


A Most Wanted Man” (all week, Point and Star Cinema) — Months after his death from a heroin overdose, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances are reaching theaters. This looks like the best of them, as Hoffman plays a disgraced German intelligence agent trying to topple a possible terrorist cell in Hamburg. It’s based on a John Le Carre novel, so expect lots of gray areas, and it’s directed by Anton Corbijn (“Control”), so expect some beautifully-framed shots.

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Instant Gratification: “Manhunter” and four other good movies to stream on Netflix Instant


Pick of the week:  “Manhunter” — Still shaking from Season 2 of “Hannibal”? Time to head back to Michael Mann’s 1986 adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel, with William Petersen as FBI profiler Will Graham and Brian Cox as the manipulative Hannibal Lecter.

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The five movies you have to see in Madison: July 18-24, 2014


American Movie” (7 p.m. Friday, Union South Marquee) — What could have been a sneering look at Mark Borchardt, a suburban Milwaukee man trying to make what will assuredly be a terrible horror movie, instead becomes wildly funny, oddly poignant, and in the end kind of inspiring. That Borchardt refuses to give up on his dream despite his dire circumstances underscores that, as the old man says, “It’s all right, it’s okay, there’s something to live for!” FREE!

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