“Louder than Bombs”: There is a light that never goes out in Joachim Trier’s empathetic drama


“Louder than Bombs” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:46, three and a half stars out of four.

What could be a more tired cliche for an indie drama than a family struggling to grieve the loss of a parent? And yet you’d think Joachim Trier’s “Louder than Bombs” was the first film to ever explore this emotional territory. Trier’s English-language debut (after the Norwegian “Reprise” and “Oslo August 31st,” both also excellent) is empathetic and graceful, and comes up with a bracingly different visual language to illustrate grief and memory.

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“Phoenix”: An act of invention rising from the ashes


In the three featurettes that accompany the new Criterion Collection edition of Christian Petzold’s “Vertigo” is mentioned exactly once. Director of photography Hans Fromm brings up the Alfred Hitchcock classic in comparing the lurid reds he wanted for one nightclub scene to the bright color palette of “Vertigo.”

That seems odd, given that most movie fans would make the obvious connection between “Vertigo” and “Phoenix.” Both films are about women who remake themselves for men, recreating the haunting spectre of a flame thought lost forever. Maybe the connection is so obvious that it’s not worth mentioning. Or maybe “Phoenix” goes so deeply into its own distinct themes — of betrayal and identity, of the futility of trying to change back into the person you were — that the cinematic homage becomes the least interesting part of the film to those who made it.

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Gone in an Instant: “Election” and four other good movies leaving Netflix in May


Netflix giveth, and Netflix taketh away. The streaming service quietly drops a few titles at the beginning of every month, and the “Gone in an Instant” column lets you know so you can get that last-minute binge in.

Lately, Netflix has started getting rid of a few titles at the first of the month and then sneakily deep-sixing a few more throughout the month. Perhaps they think if they spread the pain out a little bit it won’t sting so bad? Either way, make sure to catch them before they’re gone.

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

FILM STILL - PAWN SACRIFICE - Liev Schreiber (left) stars as Boris Spassky and Tobey Maguire (right) stars as Bobby Fischer in Edward Zwick's PAWN SACRIFICE, a Bleecker Street release. Date Added 8/4/2015 3:25:00 PM Addtl. Info Credit: Takashi Seida

FILM STILL – PAWN SACRIFICE – Liev Schreiber (left) stars as Boris Spassky and Tobey Maguire (right) stars as Bobby Fischer in Edward Zwick’s PAWN SACRIFICE, a Bleecker Street release. Date Added 8/4/2015 3:25:00 PM Addtl. Info Credit: Takashi Seida

Pawn Sacrifice” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Tobey Maguire gives a bravura and boldly unlikable performance as Bobby Fischer, the unstable chess wizard who played a series of high-profile matches against Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) in 1971. The film has the contours of a sports movie but the depth of a character study, mixing archival footage and reenactments to tell a fascinating story.

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“That’s Not Us”: Three couples, six problems, one vacation house


Why do people in movies even go on vacation anyway? Aside from the occasional Stella getting her groove back, cinematic vacations never seem to go very well. At best, you’re plagued with one comic mishap after another like in “National Lampoon’s Vacation”; at worst, the mishaps are more sinister, “Turistas”-style.

Or you can find a getaway is a great time to deal with a crisis point in your relationship, which happens to all three couples in “That’s Not Us,” a straightforward and empathetic comedy-drama now out on DVD from Strand Releasing and available on Netflix. Director William Sullivan is clearly inspired by the French New Wave in his naturalistic tale of longterm twentysomething lovers who decamp for Fire Island for the weekend, but forget to leave their baggage on the dock.

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“The Adderall Diaries”: A million little pieces of plot that never add up


“The Adderall Diaries” opens Friday at AMC Fitchburg. R, 1:45, one and a half stars out of four.

Stephen Elliott’s “The Adderall Diaries” would be a beast of a book for any filmmaker to try to adapt. The hazy brew of addiction memoir and true-crime nonfiction may have worked well on the page, but writer-director Pamela Romanowsky’s confused and easily distracted film feels like several first acts jammed together with nowhere to go.

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Instant Gratification: “God’s Pocket” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix


“God’s Pocket”My full review is here. One of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last and most overlooked performances is in this black comedy, based on an early Pete Dexter novel, in which Hoffman plays an outsider in a godforsaken neighborhood of Philadelphia who must set things right when his good-for-nothing stepson is killed. Great character actors, including John Turturro, Eddie Marsan and Richard Jenkins, abound in the film.

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Instant Gratification: “Best in Show” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix and Hulu


Pick of the week: “Best in Show” (Netflix) — No offense to “A Mighty Wind,” but “Best in Show” is the last great Christopher Guest mockumentary. In following an eccentric but devoted menagerie of dog owners on their way to a prestigious show, Guest and his troupe of improvising regulars capture the obsessive natures of the competitors hilariously, but with sweetness and even tenderness too.

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Around the world in 16 movies with the UW Marquee International Film Festival


Well, this is a great idea. As foreign films seem to have a harder time breaking through into theatrical distribution (some supposedly indie distributors such as Fox Searchlight just flat-out won’t touch foreign-language movies), the Wisconsin Union Directorate is christening its first annual Marquee International Film Festival this weekend.

It features 16 films running Thursday through Sunday in the Union South Marquee Theatre, 1208 W. Dayton St. All are free. Some are films that recently played Sundance Cinemas for a week or two, others are festival hits that wouldn’t have gotten a theatrical screening in Madison, and a couple are early peeks at films that we wouldn’t otherwise see until later in the year.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s coming. Visit wudfilm.com for more details on this and the rest of the semester’s offerings.

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“Victoria”: A German heist thriller that doesn’t take any short cuts


At first glance, the Blu-ray edition of the German heist thriller “Victoria,” now out from Kino Lorber, seems distressingly bare-bones. No audio commentary. No behind-the-scenes featurette. There isn’t even a “Scene Selection” option.

Wait. I get it. That’s because there’s only one scene. One 138-minute scene.

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