“Tomorrowland”: The future sure ain’t what it used to be


“Tomorrowland” opens Friday at Point, Palace, Star Cinema and Sundance. PG, 2:10, two stars out of four.

Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” may be directly inspired by the Disneyland theme park, but it may be more emotionally connected to the name of a Scottish rock band called We Were Promised Jetpacks. Back in the optimistic prognostications of the 1964 World’s Fair (where “Tomorrowland” begis), the future was a bright and peaceful place, without war, hunger or ignorance. Now it’s 2015, and the future belongs to drone strikes, crumbling Antarctic ice shelves and selfie sticks. Where’s our friggin’ jetpacks?

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


Pick of the week: “The Deep Blue Sea (Amazon Prime)My full review is here. Not a super-intelligent shark to be found in Terence Rattigan’s beautiful film about a woman in post-World War II London (a wonderful Rachel Weisz) leaving the security of her older husband for a handsome but shallow pilot (Tom Hiddleston).

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“Mad Max: Fury Road”: What a lovely day for an apocalypse


“Mad Max: Fury Road” opens Friday at Point, Palace, Star Cinema and Sundance. R, 2:00, four stars out of four.

I saw George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” at a 10 p.m. late screening, and, writing this at 2 a.m., I just can’t recommend it as a sleep aid.

I can recommend it every other way imaginable. Miller’s ferocious, grotesque, beautiful film is every bit the equal of its original trilogy from the ’80s, and throws down the gauntlet for every action film made since. You had CGI, $100 million budgets, all the tools at your disposal, “Mad Max” seems to ask all those other films — what were you doing with it, anyway?

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“The Surface”: All is (not quite) lost on Lake Michigan


The Surface” opens Friday at Point Cinemas. PG-13, 1:26, two and a half stars out of four. The film’s director of photography and co-producer, Jimmy Sammarco, will be doing a Q&A after the 7 p.m. show on Saturday, May 16.

First off, all hail Gil Cates, Jr’s “The Surface” for not only shooting in Milwaukee, but shooting the hell out of Milwaukee. The city looks great in the film, from the shots of Milwaukee’s gorgeous lakefront to the vast blue waters of Lake Michigan, which the film makes look both soothing and ominous.

Cates and screenwriter-producer Josh Gendelman plunk two intriguing characters (played by two strong character actors) in the middle of this blue and watches what happens. “The Surface” is at its best, both as a suspense drama and as a character study, when it keeps things that simple and elemental.

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Lakeside Cinema’s new film series provides vehicle for summer fun


Even if you’re not going anywhere this summer, the UW-Madison’s Lakeside Cinema series, which projects free movies on the UW Memorial Union Terrace every Monday night through the summer, will set you in motion.

That’s because the theme of this summer’s series, announced this week, is all about vehicles. Planes, trains, automobiles, spaceships, balloon-powered houses, Snowpiercers — you name it, it’ll be gassed up and ready to go at dusk every Monday night this summer. If you’ve never been to Lakeside before, it’s a really fun way to watch a movie — the screen’s set up on the stage against the water, prizes are given away before the show, and everybody shouts out their favorite lines during the flick.

I imagine you’ll hear “Those aren’t pillows!” shouted out pretty loudly during the opening film, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” on Monday, May 25. While it may seem strange to see a Thanksgiving movie on Memorial Day Weekend (though maybe not so strange if these low temperatures keep up), John Hughes’ comedy is a stone-cold classic.

Here’s the rest of the Lakeside Cinema schedule. For more information, visit the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee’s site at wudfilm.com.

June 1: “Speed”

June 8: “North by Northwest”

June 15: “Cars”

June 22: “Mad Max” (the original!)

June 29: “The Fast and The Furious”

July 6: “Up”

July 13: “Thelma and Louise”

July 20″ “WALL-E”

July 27: “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”

Aug. 3: “Con Air”

Aug. 10: “Snowpiercer”

Aug. 17: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl”

Aug. 24: “Airplane!”

Aug. 31: “Top Gun”

Instant Gratification: “The Homesman” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix and Shout Factory TV


Pick of the week: “The Homesman” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Tommy Lee Jones’ most recent film as director as well as an actor is an “anti-Western” in every sense, following a drunken thief (Jones) and a good woman (Hilary Swank) escorting three emotionally damaged women back East. But it also flips the genre on its head, showing the toll that taming a frontier took on the innocent and defenseless who were dragged along.

Hoop Dreams” (Shout Factory TV) — The free streaming site shoutfactorytv.com added a bunch of arthouse films in May, including six John Cassavetes classics and Steve James’ wonderful 1994 documentary about two African-American boys hoping their basketball skills will lift them out of the inner city.

Winter Sleep” — My full review is here. Three characters seem like they’re on the world’s slowest collision course in Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s closely-observed 196-minute drama about an imperious hotel owner whose illusions about his marriage and position in the town are slowly stripped away.

The Sixth Sense” — Gotta say, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film “The Visit” does not look like a return to form. Better to go back to his modern horror classic about a psychiatrist (Bruce Willis) and the troubled boy (Haley Joel Osment) who can see dead people. Now that we know the twist, it’s fun to watch how artfully Shyamalan executes his sleight-of-hand.

Futuro Beach” — In this Brazilian drama, a tragic swimming accident brings together a young lifeguard and a German veteran of Afghanistan. The encounter spins their lives off into directions they never imagined, and the film follows them over the next decade as they make choices that can’t be undone.


“Merchants of Doubt”: In climate change debate, rising B.S. levels at all-time high


“Merchants of Doubt” is now playing at Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 1:36, three stars out of four.

Movies have already been made about the science of climate change, from “An Inconvenient Truth” to “Chasing Ice.” Robert Kenner (“Food Inc.“) has made a movie about the anti-science.

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“The Salt of the Earth”: The world’s beauty and horror, presented in black and white


“The Salt of the Earth” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 1 hour 50 minutes, three stars out of four.

You may have seen the photo. It’s a black-and-white photo of miners of Brazil’s Serra Pelada gold rush, hundreds of filthy men crawling across the pitted mountainside like ants, scrabbling for their fortunes.

The man who took that photo, Sebastiao Salgado, says he felt like he was witnessing the “dawn of time” when he took that photo. For 40 years, Salgado has traveled the world taking photos in places most would fear to tread, documenting famine, genocide, poverty, death.

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“The D Train”: Things you don’t write in your high school yearbook

D-Train Movie

“The D Train” opens Friday at Point, Star Cinema and Sundance. R, 1:37, two and a half stars out of four.

The movie has its flaws, but there’s something gleefully perverse about “The D Train” opening wide this weekend. With Jack Black and James Marsden hugging it out on the poster, it’s going to lure in moviegoers expecting a bro-com like “Neighbors” or “This is the End.”

And then . . . boom.

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