Instant Gratification: “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and four other good movies now on Netflix


Pick of the week: “How To Train Your Dragon 2” — Apparently the first movie didn’t provide ample dragon-training instruction, as there’s a sequel. But it’s a sequel that improves on the already strong first movie, with dazzling action sequences, sharp humor and a genuinely affecting family drama at its core. Plus dragons.

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“An Autumn Afternoon”: David Bordwell teases out the patterns in Ozu’s last film


Very few of us will get the experience of watching a Yazujiro Ozu film along with UW professor emeritus David Bordwell, author of “Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema” and considered one of the world’s leading scholars on Ozu.

But you get the next best thing with Bordwell’s commentary track for “An Autumn Afternoon,” Ozu’s last film, from 1962. Bordwell recorded the track for the DVD release in 2005, and it appears on the new Blu-ray edition recently released by the Criterion Collection.

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“Run All Night”: Liam Neeson makes the mean streets a little meaner

Run All Night

“Run All Night” is now playing at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinemas. R, 1:55, three stars out of four.

At this point, the question is not whether Liam Neeson will kick ass, but what sort of ass he will kick. Albanian ass, as in “Taken”? German ass, as in “Unknown”? Midair ass, as in “Non-Stop”?

Or Irish-American ass, as in his latest action thriller “Run All Night,” although “Run” takes some pains to worry about things like acting, characterization and texture. Why, it’s almost a full hour before the first ass gets kicked.

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Instant Gratification: “Listen Up Philip” and four other good movies to watch on Amazon Prime and Netflix

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

Pick of the week: “Listen Up Philip” (Amazon Prime)My full review is here. Jason Schwartzman is hilariously awful as an arrogant young writer who finds that success only feeds and confirms his misanthropy in this acerbic comedy from Alex Ross Perry.

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“Jauja”: Viggo Mortensen wanders in an existential desert


“Jauja” has its Madison premiere on Saturday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at the UW-Cinematheque screening room, 4070 Vilas Hall. Unrated, 1:50, three stars out of four. FREE!

Lisandro Alonso’s “Jauja” is shot in a boxy 4:3 frame that used to be the standard for movies. But interestingly, the edges of the frame are rounded, the colors deeply saturated, making each frame look like an old photo you might find in a shoebox in your grandfather’s closet.

That anachronistic out-of-time sensation suits “Jauja” well, both for where it’s set, and where it’s going. Argentinian director Alonso is known for experimental films with little dialogue and slippery narrative rules. At first, “Jauja” seems like a much more traditional sort of film, with lots of dialogue and a big star (Viggo Mortensen) in the center. But don’t be fooled.

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“Le Pont du Nord”: Playing deadly games in the City of Lights


It’s a bit of a cliche to say that a city is almost a “character” in a movie, like how Austin is such a big part of “Slacker” or Manhattan is such a major part of, well, “Manhattan.” But Paris really is a character in Jacques Rivette’s trippy 1981 film “La Pont Du Nord.” And, quite possibly, it’s the villain.

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“Wild Canaries”: Indie mystery-comedy offers up cheep thrills


“Wild Canaries” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles and is available to rent on video-on-demand, including Amazon Prime and iTunes. Not rated, 1:42, three stars out of four.

You know what a musical “sting” is? It’s a sudden jolt of “Duh DUH!” music in a movie soundtrack, like a blast of horns, intended to maximize the surprise or shock of a moment in a movie, usually in a thriller.

“Wild Canaries” has comically oversized stings, stings that don’t just startle you, but come right up and punch you in the face. These are “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”-sized stings. That they’re so ridiculously big speaks to the tone of Lawrence Michael Levine’s funny, fizzy screwball comedy, an homage to old mystery spoofs set among the hipsters of Brooklyn.

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