“The Notebook”: Learning the lessons of war only too well


“The Notebook” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:52, three stars out of four.

I’ll admit it, there’s a perverse appeal in the thought of somebody thinking they’re going to the theater of seeing a 10th-anniversary screening of the Ryan Gosling-Rachel McAdams romantic drama and instead seeing this pitiless World War II drama from Hungary.

Continue reading

The five movies you have to see in Madison, Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2014


1. “Nightcrawler” (all week, Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — Every generation gets the Rupert Pupkin it deserves, and ours apparently is Jake Gyllenhaal as a twisted freelance photographer whose thirst for grotesque crime scene photos takes him into some very dark places. No way he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for this.

Continue reading

“Birdman”: What we talk about when we talk about superheroes


“Birdman” is now playing at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:59, three and a half stars out of four.

What is “Birdman”? A Hollywood in-joke, an existential drama, a backstage face, a magical realist drama, and a work of technical virtuosity so dazzling that it can only mean to to dazzle. This is a nutty, chewy, wildly ambitious film that leaps tall buildings in a single take.

Continue reading

“Sundance 2014 Live Action Shorts”: Short cuts from Park City




“Sundance 2014 Live Action Shorts” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 1;39, three stars out of four.

The Oscar-nominated short film collections have been a popular annual tradition at Sundance Cinemas in February, and not just for audiences filling out their Oscar ballots who want an edge. The chance to see an eclectic mix of shorts is like a sampler platter — if you don’t like what you’re tasting, the next one’s coming soon.

Continue reading

“Eastern Boys”: Same train station, different tracks


“Eastern Boys” plays Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St. FREE for museum members, $7 for all others. R, 2:08, three stars out of four.

For some reason, whether it’s because it’s an especially big issue in France or because the French are particularly interested in their national identity, recent French cinema seems to be dealing with immigration a lot lately. Whether it’s in a thriller (“Cache”), social drama (“The Class”) or even heartwarming comedy (“The Interrupters”), the clash between Old World and New World French seems to provide endless inspiration.

Continue reading

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


Pick of the week: “Django Unchained — Samuel Fuller knew that sometimes only genre pulp can tell the truths that more high-minded films skirt around, and Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist Western “Django Unchained” was in that spirit. An unholy mash-up of Spaghetti Western and ’70s blaxploitation, set in the pre-Civil War South and West, in addition to being a bloody, rip-snortin’ good time, “Django” was unflinching in showing the evils of slavery, how cruelty and greed kept it going.

Continue reading

Come talk “Listen Up Philip” with me at Sundance on Tuesday

Listen-Up-Philip-Photo3-JasonSchwartzman-JosephineDeLaBaume (1)

Just a reminder that I’m hosting another Sundance Screening Room post-show chat this Tuesday, Oct. 28, after the 7:05 p.m. showing of “Listen Up Philip” at Sundance Cinemas.

Last month’s chat for the political documentary “Pay 2 Play,” which was co-sponsored by the Cap Times, was a lot of fun,with some 80 people showing up. But it was a pretty politically-focused chat with Nation and Cap Times columnist John Nichols co-hosting, so it’ll be nice to get back to some good ol’ movie movie talk with “Listen Up Philip.”

And the movie will give us a lot to talk about — Alex Ross Perry’s merciless look at a “notable” writer (Jason Schwartzman) and how success only seems to exacerbate his arrogant, thoughtless nature has been compared to Woody Allen, but most expressly to novelist Philip Roth, who Perry cites as a clear influence. Here’s my review, and here’s a fascinating interview Twitchfilm did with both Perry and Schwartzman about making the film.

So we’ll meet in Sundance”s Overflow Bar at about 9  p.m. or so — no extra charge. Hope you can join us!



“Dear White People”: A message that can’t be ignored


“Dear White People” is now playing at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:48, three and a half stars out of four.

There’s a scene in Justin Simien’s “Dear White People” where a group of African-American students rail against Tyler Perry movies. Staring straight at the camera, they rail magnificently against the mix of cheap comedy and greeting-card sentimentality. Then we get the reverse shot, where we see the one bewildered white movie theater clerk they’re yelling at. Why are they yelling at me, he seems to wonder?

Continue reading

“Listen Up Philip”: He’s hard on himself, but harder on you



“Listen Up Philip” is now playing at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:49, three stars out of four. I’ll be hosting a post-show chat after the 7:05 p.m. show on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at Sundance Cinemas.

You know those movies about an abrasive curmudgeon who, in the end, redeems himself and becomes a caring person? “Listen Up Philip” is emphatically not one of those movies.

Continue reading

“The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears”: There’s always room for giallo


“The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” has its Madison premiere Friday at 7 p.m. at the UW-Cinematheque screening room, 4070 Vilas Hall. R, 1:36, two and a half stars out of four. FREE!

360-degree whirls, time lapse, split screens — at times, the horror film “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” feels like the entire syllabus to a Filmmaking Techniques course. An homage to Italian giallo films, Helen Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s phantasmagoric film is overflowing with inventiveness. Does it matter that we have no idea what is going on?

Continue reading