The five movies you have to see in Madison: Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2014


Ghostbusters” (all week, Eastgate and Star Cinema, and Wednesday at Sundance) — Even though it’s one of my favorite movies of the ’80s, and I vividly remember seeing it at a late-night screening opening night in high school, I kinda hope this 30th anniversary revival tanks. Because we don’t need another “Ghostbusters” movie (we really didn’t even need the second one), and nobody seems to want it except Dan Ackroyd. (Although an all-female version directed by Paul Feig is certainly the least bad idea out there for a reboot.) Anyway, it’s still “Ghostbusters,” and still lots of fun to watch.

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“Calvary”: Forgive me, Father, for I will sin


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

John Michael McDonagh’s “Calvary” has a corker of an opening scene. Father James (Brendan Gleeson), a kindly village priest in County Sligo, is in the confession box, and an unseen parishioner walks in. He tells how he was sexual abused by another  priest as a boy. The man then vows to kill the good priest in one week as revenge against the church.

“It’s certainly a startling opening line,” Father James responds drily.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Not just a great cause, but great cinema


Is independent cinema dead? Have the major studios killed the do-it-yourself iconoclastic spirit, or at least driven it to the margins of popular culture? One might think so. And yet there is a new breed of independent cinema that is capturing the popular imagination, a guerrilla art form made by amateurs, enjoyed by amateurs, passed around on an alternate distribution system than the traditional studio model.

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Instant Gratification: “Blue Ruin” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime


Pick of the week: “Blue Ruin (Netflix) — My full review is here. This fantastic thriller reminded me of the Coen Brothers’ first film, “Blood Simple” in its mix of gritty thrills, spiritual weight and a dash of surreal humor. A homeless man tries to exact revenge for the murder of his parents years later and finds himself spectacularly unsuited for the job, eventually drawn into an escalating cycle of vengeance he can’t extract himself from. Plus it has Eve Plumb with a machine gun.

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Jeff Daniels puts on the blond wig again for ‘Dumb and Dumber To’


Over at 77 Square, I wrote the cover story this week, an interview with Jeff Daniels. Daniels is coming to the Stoughton Opera House Saturday night with his son Ben’s rock band. Actors who try their hand at singer-songwriting are nothing new (coincidentally, Jeff Bridges is in Milwaukee performing with his band on the same night.)

So most of the interview concentrates on Daniels’ side gig as a musician — he’s actually pretty good at writing wry and poignant folk songs in the Steve Goodman mode. But we did talk a little about making movies in his home state of Michigan, and about “Dumb and Dumber To” this November. He seems pretty excited about it. “We certainly didn’t leave it in the locker room, I know that. We threw everything we had at it, for better or worse.”

Read the interview here.

The five movies you need to see in Madison: Aug. 22-28, 2014


Pick of the week: “Rooftop Cinema: From Puppets to Pixels” (9 p.m., Friday, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art) — Late August is a rough time of year for moviegoers, especially in Madison; not only are we getting the dregs of the summer movie season, but we’re waiting impatiently for the UW-Madison on-campus film series to get rolling in early September. Thank heavens for MMOCA’s Rooftop Cinema series, which returns for one last summer night this weekend, presenting additional short films from all four of the animators featured in the June programs. It’s free for museum members, $7 for all others, and part of an evening of festivities that will include a gallery talk by artist Jason Yi about his new installation “A Fragile Permanence.”

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