“She’s Funny That Way”: Peter Bogdanovich’s wobbly screwball barely makes it to the plate

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“She’s Funny That Way” opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles, and is available on iTunes and video-on-demand. R, 1:33, two stars out of four.

Be wary of a great cast. That might seem counterintuitive — more good actors should make for a better movie, right? — but salting the credits with too many big names runs the risk of a celebrity pile-up on screen. That’s what happened with, for example, George Clooney’s “Monuments Men,” where the A-listers were so polite in making sure they didn’t outshine each other that they forgot to make a good movie.

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“Saint Laurent”: Not an off-the-rack biopic of the legendary designer

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“Saint Laurent” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 2:15, two and a half stars out of four.

There’s a scene late in “Saint Laurent” where a group of journalists are (prematurely) writing the obituary for legendary fashion designer Yves St. Laurent, finding tidy phrases to sum up the man’s life and impact (“Make sure you include the word ‘visionary’.”) It seems to sum up director and co-writer Bertrand Bonello’s distaste for the idea of making a traditional biopic, with a clean narrative arc and easily identifiable causes-and-effects.

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Instant Gratification: “Two Days, One Night” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime

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Two Days, One Night” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Marion Cotillard plays a working-class woman who must convince her fellow employees to forego their bonuses or else she’ll be laid off. From such a small struggle, Cotillard’s unshowy performance and the Dardennes Brothers naturalistic direction make for a film that’s full of drama and suspense, as well as a resonant look at an economy that turns fearful workers on one another.

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Nine reasons to get excited about the UW-Cinematheque Fall 2015 calendar

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I don’t know how it got to be mid-August already, but the long lines of college students at the Hilldale Target confirm it; fall is just around the corner.

By all means, savor those last humid drops of summer while you can. But don’t get too bummed out about autumn. First of all, you look great in that sweater from last year! And, secondly, it means a lot more good movies coming to Madison thanks to the just-announced UW-Cinematheque Fall 2015 calendar. Add in Spotlight Cinema at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the programming at Union South’s Marquee Theatre, the Tales from Planet Earth Film Festival, the return of the Screening Room Calendar at Sundance Cinemas and all the Oscar contenders coming to theaters, and the fall harvest should be a bountiful one.

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“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”: Espionage isn’t his strong suit

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“The Man From U.N.C.L.E” opens Friday at Point, Palace and Star Cinemas. PG-13, 1:56, two and a half stars out of four.

You don’t want to watch “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” you want to pore over it like it was a glossy catalog. Instead of updating the spy TV show to a modern era, Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes”) positively wallows in ’60s European style — the cars, the dresses, the music and especially the suits. There’s a rather witty scene with the two heroes arguing over which purse their female accomplice should wear with each outfit, and you think yeah, this could be the entire movie: “The Spy Who Loved To Tell Me What Not To Wear.”

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Post-show Sundance chats set for “Phoenix” and “Testament of Youth”

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August .2013
Dreharbeiten zum CHRISTIAN PETOLD Film PHÖNIX
mit Nina Hoss , Ronald Zehrfeld und Nina Kunzendorf
Verwendung der Fotos nur in Zusammenhang mit dem Film PHÖNIX von Christian Petzold
( Model release No ) © Christian Schulz
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Just a quick update that I’ve scheduled the post-show chats for the next Sundance Cinemas Screening Room Calendar for September and October. The full Screening Room calendar is here. The chats have been really fun this year, and I’m looking forward to talking about these movies after the lights go up.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, I’ll be doing a post-show chat after the evening performance of “Phoenix,” Christian Petzold’s Hitchcockian World War II drama starring Nina Hoss. And then on Tuesday, Oct. 5, we’ll be talking after “Testament of Youth,” a World War I drama starring Alicia Vikander of “Ex Machina” and Kit Harington of “Game of Thrones.”

The talks are free — just hang around in the theater after the lights go up. I think they’re both movies that will give us a lot to talk about. Hope to see you there!

“I Am Chris Farley”: A family portrait of a fearless, troubled comic genius

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Here comes Chris Farley, entering his own documentary “I Am Chris Farley” doing cartwheels. It’s his first appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and it’s utterly delightful to see how Farley charms the pants off the normally reserved, arch host (Letterman is every bit Farley’s opposite) with his physical explosions of comedy and puppy-dog excitement at just being there.

In many ways, Farley never stopped doing cartwheels, right up until his tragic death of a drug overdose in December 1997. Eager to please, almost desperate for a laugh, and fearless about how to go about getting one, the through-line in “I Am Chris Farley” is of a kid who was driven to entertain. His brother John tells the story of a fourth-grade Chris leading the school bus in a rendition of “Joy to the World” on the way to school. With his shirt off, of course.

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