Pick of the week: “Mud“ — Writer-director Jeff Nichols’ terrific films feels like a modern-day updating of a classic boys’ adventure tale mixed with a true slice of Southern life, as two boys help a mysterious stranger (Matthew McConaughey in mid-career Renaissance) hiding out on a remote island. The film’s understanding of its characters and their environs feels authentic; this movie was made by people who’ve been there.
“Pacific Rim” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Cinema Cafe) — Rex Reed sniffily dismissed this as “Godzilla vs. Predator,” which means that a) he thinks the Predator was a robot and b) he doesn’t realize how awesome that concept would be. In fact, reviews are saying that when the robots and aliens are duking it out in Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi epic, “Rim” is a blast. When humans are talking to each other on screen, not so much.
“Grown Ups 2” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Cinema Cafe) — Adam Sandler seems to pushing himself to new depths in his last few movies, and this sequel to one of his most smug films looks like the bottom of the barrel. It makes one hope he actually does do “The Re-Do,” the fake movie-within-a-movie in “Funny People.”
“20 Feet From Stardom” (Sundance) — This enthralling documentary looks at the voices behind some of the biggest hits in rock music — not the lead singers, but the immensely talented backup singers who helped make songs like “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Gimme Shelter” classics, but whose names were never known.
“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Star Cinema) — The inspirational story of the Olympic runner Milkha Singh (“The Flying Sikh”) is told in this Indian-language epic.
“Kung Fu Panda” (7 p.m, Warner Park) — Madison Parks’ Moonlight Movies series continues with this terrific animated film that’s a great action movie as well as a fine comedy, in which rotund panda Po (Jack Black) pursues his dream of becoming a martial arts warrior. Free!
“The Third Man” (7 p.m., Marquee Theater, 1308 W. Dayton St.) — The Cinematheque’s summer-long tribute to Roger Ebert begins with one of the greatest of the great movies, the twisty, cynical noir starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles and set in post-war Vienna. Required viewing on the big screen. Free! My story on the Ebert series in this week’s 77 Square is here.
“To the Wonder” (7 p.m., Marquee Theater) — My full review is here. The last film Ebert reviewed before he died was Terrence Malick’s lustrous drama about love and faith, starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko and Javier Bardem. Some critics question whether there’s much going on underneath those pretty pictures, but the pictures are indeed pretty, especially on the big screen in a a 35mm print. Free!
“The Last Starfighter” (9 p.m., Memorial Union Terrace) — Remember the heady ’80s, when being good at an arcade video game was enough to lead to fortune and glory? That’s what happened in this sci-fi hit, in which a teen is conscripted into a war between alien races. If my memories of reading Starlog are correct, I believe this is the first movie to use computer-generated spaceships instead of models, but don’t quote me. Free!
“The Hunger Games” (10 p.m. Star Cinema) — With “Catching Fire” on the horizon, catch up on the massive hit starring Jennifer Lawrence as a teen in a dystopian future, enlisted to fight other teens to the death while the world watches. Only $3.
“Escape from Planet Earth” (10 a.m., Eastgate and Point) — I saw this animated film, about an alien who has to rescue fellow aliens from Area 51, in the viewing room at Rocky Rococo’s for a child’s birthday party. That’s pretty much the ideal viewing environment for this utterly disposable second-tier kids’ flick. Only $2.
“The Hunger Games” (10 p.m., Star Cinema) — See Monday listing.
“Turbo” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Cinema Cafe) — It’s “A Bug’s Life” meets “The Fast and The Furious” (or, more likely, “Cars” meets “Cars 2”), as a snail (Ryan Reynolds) with a need for speed ingests some nitro and becomes fast enough to compete in the Indy 500.
“Escape from Planet Earth” (10 a.m., Eastgate and Point) — See Tuesday listing.
The Hunger Games” (10 p.m., Star Cinema) — See Wednesday listing.
“Yoyo” (7 p.m., 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.) — In addition to its fine Ebert series, the UW Cinematheque is also showing the five films of French comic master Pierre Etaix, including this charming family saga which starts as a silent film and evolves into a talkie as the years pass. Free! My story on the Etaix series is here.