You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an “E.T.” screening in Madison


I’ve got nothing against Steven Spielberg’s beloved 1982 family classic “E.T. The Extraterrestrial.” I showed it to my own kids for the first time a few months ago and they loved it (although it may have helped that I shut it off just when E.T. started getting the sniffles.)

But it seems a little odd that Madison audiences have gotten so many chances to see the film in so many different ways over the past few weeks. First, Madison Parks kicked off its “Moonlight Movies” series of outdoor family movies in May with a screening of “E.T.” at Olbrich Beach.

Then, last Monday, the Lakeside Cinema series at the Memorial Union Terrace kicked off its series of outdoor films — all having to do with aliens or outer space — with, you guessed it, “E.T.” (“Spaceballs,” not quite as heartwarming, plays this Monday night.)

And now, when I was at Sundance Cinemas on Sunday to see “Frances Ha” for the second time, I saw that Sundance’s Classics Series is devoted the month of June to the works of Steven Spielberg. And screening on Wednesday, June 19 is, of course, “E.T.” My only question at this point is why the Rooftop Cinema series at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art couldn’t have worked in a “E.T.” screening in its June series — perhaps playing it backward to make it a little more avant-garde.

I guess it’s a testament to “E.T” as a bonafide family classic that generations of moviegoers will turn out for, both older audiences feeling a touch of nostalgia and young families exposing their kids to the saga of Elliot, Gertie and their new houseguest. Still, that’s a lot of Reese’s Pieces.

The Spielberg series, by the way, shapes up like this, hitting four of his biggest films. Not an “Always” in the bunch.

Wednesday, June 5 — “Jaws” (1:30 and 6:45 p.m.) — Less family-friendly than “E.T.,” to be sure, but the film that pretty much invented the concept of the “summer blockbuster” works like gangbusters.

Wednesday, June 12 — “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (showtimes TBA) — Seriously, how great will it be to see Indy’s first outing on the big screen again with an audience?

Wednesday, June 19 — “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” (showtimes TBA) — See above.

Wednesday, June 26 — “Schindler’s List” (showtimes TBA) — Not exactly my idea of big-tub-0f-popcorn summer moviegoing, but a film you must see at least once. I wouldn’t make a plan to go out for drinks afterward, though.

What’s playing in Madison theaters: May 17-23, 2013


It’s commencement weekend, which means that graduating students are thrilled, parents are teary-eyed, restaurants are packed — and this column gets a lot shorter for a while as the campus film series come to an end.

All week

“Star Trek Into Darkness” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — My full review is here. J.J. Abrams’ second outing in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise is getting mostly positive but not many rapturous reviews. I had a fun time watching it (especially in eye-popping IMAX 3D) but felt the screenplay panders too much to Trekkies (of which I’m one) instead of pushing the franchise forward.

Lore” (Sundance) — Cate Shortland’s film dares the audience to identify with a teenage girl who at least shares her Nazi parents’ Aryan sensibilities, as she tries to shepherd her siblings to safety in post-war Germany. It’s a beautiful, at times elliptical film that’s more about adolescence that politics. I’m doing a post-show chat on Monday after the 7:05 p.m. showing at Sundance Cinemas, 430 N. Midvale Blvd. Come for the movie, or if you already saw it at the Wisconsin Film Festival or elsewhere, just meet us in the Overflow Bar at 9 p.m.!

Free the Mind” (Sundance) — A documentary about pioneering research in the beneficial aspects of meditation on the brain could be a high-falutin’ esoteric exercise, but this film is level-headed and practical, looking at research done right here in Madison on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and preschoolers with ADHD. Some teachers from the program will take part in a post-screening chat after the 7 p.m. show on Saturday.


“E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” (8:30 p.m., Olbrich Park) — Madison Parks and the Madison Mallards have a great idea — show free movies outside all summer long, at both local parks and the Duck Pond. The series kicks off with Steven Spielberg’s enchanting sci-fi classic. UPDATE: This screening was originally scheduled to take place Friday, but was moved to Saturday because of the weather. Free!


Crafting a Nation” (7:30 p.m., Barrymore Theatre) — Did Madison Craft Beer Week make you thirsty to learn more about craft beers and the people who make them? Check out this new documentary, which looks at craft beer makers in seven states (not Wisconsin, though) who quit their jobs and cashed in their 401ks to chase their dreams of making and selling great beer. Tickets are $10 in advance through, $12 at the door.