The five movies you have to see in Madison: Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2014


Pick of the week: “Citizenfour” (all week, Point) — If nothing else, I hope this blog lets people know about good movies that slip into Madison under the radar with no publicity. That’s certainly the case with “Citizenfour,” a much-anticipated documentary by Laura Poitras (“The Oath”) about a whistleblower she met who claimed to have exposive secrets about the U.S. spying on civilians. That whistleblower’s name was Edward Snowden.

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Celebrate Turkey Day the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” way


I think it was on Turkey Day 1992 that I first discovered “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Home for the holidays, my parents’ house in suburban Denver had a different cable provider than the one I had back in Chicago. Sneaking up to the TV room with my brother, he turned on Comedy Central and this cheesy Japanese sci-fi movie.

Only there were these silhouettes at the bottom . . .

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“The Theory of Everything”: Relatively speaking, this is an amazing performance


“The Theory of Everything” opens Wednesday at Point and Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 2:03, three and a half stars out of four.

If Eddie Redmayne wins an Oscar for playing famous physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” Academy voters will probably be responding to the technical virtuosity of his performance. Portraying Hawking’s slow slide into near-immobility due to ALS, Redmayne looks and sounds uncannily like Hawking, with every twitch, every contorted movement just perfect.

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“Horrible Bosses 2”: or, The Three Stooges Go Kidnapping


Horrible Bosses 2″ starts Wednesday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinema. R, 1:48, three stars out of four.

Comedy is hard, and comedy sequels are harder. There has to be some element of freshness and surprise to a comedy, yet a sequel by definition has to have a sense of familiarity. Get that balance right, and you’ve got something like “22 Jump Street,” which let the audience in on the whole in-joke of it being a sequel. Get it wrong, and you’ve got something like “The Hangover Part II,” which recreated all the beats of the original to mind-numbing effect.

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“20,000 Days on Earth”: Shining a light inside a deep, dark Cave


What’s it like to be Nick Cave? Oh, the usual — having imaginary conversations in your car with Kylie Minogue and Ray Winstone, poring over old photos and writings as if on an archaeological dig, kicking back with the kids and watching “Scarface.” And occasionally bounding on stage and transforming into one of the most magnetic and enigmatic songwriters today.

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


Pick of the week: “Happy Christmas” (Netflix Instant) — Joe Swanberg’s latest feels a little less baked than “Drinking Buddies,” although it mines the same territory of white Chicagoans trying to deal with each other. In this case, it’s Swanberg himself playing a filmmaker whose alcoholic younger sister (Anna Kendrick) moves in, disrupting the lives of him and his wife (Melanie Lynskey). It’s slender but charming and authentic, with a feel for how people really talk (and don’t talk) to each other.

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“God Help The Girl”: And a one, and a two, and a twee . . .


“God Help the Girl” has its Madison premiere on Sunday, Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. at the Union South Marquee Theatre, 1308 W. Dayton St. as part of the UW Mini Indie Film Festival. Not rated, 1:51, two and a half stars out of four.

“God Help The Girl” was written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian, and the charmingly slight musical at times feels like one of those monochromatic Belle & Sebastian album covers come to life, with attractive young folks staring wistfully off into space.

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