“Song of Lahore”: Forgotten Pakistani musicians find a new groove with Brubeck


The musician’s violin is broken, and will likely stay that way. He lives in Lahore, once the cultural center of Pakistan, and decades ago was a vibrant place where a classical musician could make a living performing concerts and recording movie soundtracks.

But when fundamentalist Muslims swept into power in a coup and installed Shariah law, music was considered to be a sin. Musicians were harassed, concerts were banned, instruments were smashed. While life is better now in Pakistan, the generational link was smashed, and those old musicians have trouble getting audiences or younger musicians interested in their traditional classical sounds. They can’t even get those old instruments repaired.

“Song of Lahore” is a documentary that meanders around for a little while and then will suddenly connect with a powerful moment, musical or emotional. Then it frustratingly wanders off point again. Maybe there wasn’t quite enough here for a feature-length documentary, but sprinkled in here and there are some memorable moments of tragedy and triumph, and the music is terrific.

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“Rams”: Don’t be sheepish about going to see this Icelandic family feud


Rams has its Madison premiere at 6 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Union South Marquee Theatre, 1208 W. Dayton St. FREE! R, 1:30, three stars out of four.

Grimur Hakonarson’s Rams was a movie I wanted to pet while I was watching it. Everything in the movie looks soft — the wool of the sheep that fill the remote Icelandic valley where the movie takes place, the long unkempt beards of the sheep farmers, even the sweaters. I wanted to gentle stroke all of it.

But all that padding is a bit misleading. Because once it gets taken away, Rams is a film about hard, intractable forces butting heads with each other, over and over.

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“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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“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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“The Confirmation”: Proof that “Nebraska” was no fluke for writer-director Bob Nelson


“The Confirmation” is now playing at AMC Johnson Creek 16. R, 1:37, three stars out of four.

I want to live in the depressed Washington State town that’s the setting of Bob Nelson’s “The Confirmation,” because it seems to be populated entirely by great character actors. Clive Owen, Maria Bello, Robert Forster, Tim Blake Nelson, Patton Oswalt, Matthew Modine, and Stephen Tobolowsky all live here. While you don’t see him, you just know Paul Giamatti presides as mayor.

I’m guessing all these fine actors were drawn to the film by Nelson’s low-key but utterly convincing screenplay, which lets these performers convey a lot with just a little. Nelson wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” and there are definitely areas of overlap here — a focus on a strained father-son relationship, an unsentimental view of small-town town life. But “The Confirmation” might be a little less bleak, a little more forgiving of its characters and their shortcomings.

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“The Boy and The Beast”: Troubled boy discovers beast mode in Japanese anime


“The Boy & The Beast” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 1:59, three stars out of four.

The Japanese anime film “The Boy & The Beast” begins with a thunderous intro, as we see part-human/part-animal warriors battling for supremacy, their silhouettes wreathed in fire.

It may seem a strange intro for a movie that, at heart, is as much a tender drama about blended families as it is a martial arts saga. Writer-director Mamoru Hosoda (“Wolf Children,” “Summer Wars”) expertly blends emotion and action into a gorgeous and enchanting anime film aimed at older children and adults.

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“The Lady in the Van”: Alan Bennett remembers the woman who never left



“The Lady in the Van” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 1:44, three stars out of four.

What would possess a man to not only help a homeless person, but to let that person live on his property for 15 years? Heroism? Selfessness? Generosity?

Timidness, Alan Bennett insists.

The British playwright and essayist really let a homeless woman park her van in his driveway for 15 years. He turned the experience into a play and now a movie, “The Lady in the Van,” in which the dyspeptic Bennett (played to a T by Alex Jennings) recoils at the notion that he’s being kind “It’s just easier,” he insists almost defensively to a neighbor. “It’s not kindness.” Sure.

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