What’s playing in Madison movie theaters, Aug. 31-Sept. 5, 2013


All week

The Getaway” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — My full review is here. Late August seems to be a favored spot for lean, no-frills action movies (see last summer’s “Premium Rush”). But this year’s entry is a junky car-chase movie with a slumming Ethan Hawke and an in-way-over-her-head Selena Gomez.

The Grandmaster” (Star Cinema) — Far more promising an action movie is Wong Kar-Wai (“In the Mood For Love”) moving into martial arts action, with this tale of the martial arts legend who trained Bruce Lee.

One Direction: This is Us” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — Morgan Spurlock of all people made this concert documentary about the immensely popular teen band. “Don’t Look Back” it ain’t, but it should finance the next five “Greatest Movie Ever Solds.”

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (Sundance) — My full review is here, and my interview with writer-director David Lowery is here. This elegaic crime film starts up after a “Bonnie :& Clyde”-style outlaw couple have been captured, as the husband (Ben Affleck) escapes from prison and tries to rejoin is wife (Rooney Mara). Great performances and a beautiful, sepia-toned cinematography of a fading West.

In A World. . .” (Sundance) — My full review is here. Actress-writer-director Lake Bell delivers a hilarious comedy as well as a pointed feminist message, as a female voiceover artist tries to make it in an industry full of men (and male chauvinists). Very funny stuff.

Star Trek Into Darkness”/”World War Z” (Star Cinema) — If you didn’t catch either of these blockbusters this summer, or want to see them again, they’re being offered as a two-for-one double feature this week only. If only they’d show some cartoons and a newsreel and charge a quarter. (Here’s my original reviews of “Star Trek” and “World War Z.”)


Bob Le Flambeur” (7 p.m., UW Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall) — Cinematheque’s fall tribute to master French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville begins with this stylish 1956 caper film, as an aging thief assembles a team to rob a casino. (This film was remade as “The Good Thief” with Nick Nolte in 2002, which is also good.) FREE!

Girl Walk // All Day” (9:30 p.m., Memorial Union Terrace) — Read my preview here. Bring your dancing shoes as the insanely fun dance film, in which dancer Anne Marsen (seen on “The Good Wife”) takes to the streets of New York City for an epic performance choreographed to Girl Talk’s “All Day” album. FREE!



Space Jam” (9:30 p.m., Memorial Union Terrace) — Let’s face it. Deep down, every Lakeside Cinema theme is just an excuse to show “Space Jam.” They did it last year and they’re doing it again this year to close out the season. FREE!


The French Connection” (1:20 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., Sundance Cinemas) — William Friedkin’s action classic has a fantastic car chase, a cat-and-mouse game on the subway, and an iconic Gene Hackman as hard-nosed, line-crossing detective Popeye Doyle, out to nab a French heroin smuggling ring.

The Fab Five” (7 p.m., Union South Marquee) — The highest-rated ESPN documentary of all time is this tale of the ups and downs of the legendary 1990s Michigan Wolverines team. FREE!


The Place Beyond The Pines” (6 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., Union South Marquee) — The lives of a small-time thief (Ryan Gosling), a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) and their sons intertwine in Derek Cianfrance’s ambitious drama. FREE!

“Getaway”: A gullible audience gets “Taken” for a ride


“Getaway” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinema. PG-13, 1:33, one star out of four.

The good news about “Getaway” is that it always uses real cars and drivers. Unlike the CGI’d up action of other summer action movies, you can tell that those are real vehicles motoring at high speeds and bashing into each other.

The bad news is that it does not always use real actors or writers. The utterly ridiculous storyline (even by car-chase movie standards) attempts to leap over Snake Canyon-sized gaps of implausibility, and has a hilariously miscast Selena Gomez in a key supporting role as foul-mouthed hoodrat hacker.

Ethan Hawke, who has mouths to feed at home, plays Brent Magna, a failed race car driver living a quiet life in Bulgaria with his wife. But then she’s kidnapped by a mysterious villain (Jon Voight’s lips) who directs him to a souped-up, armored Shelby with cameras mounted on the inside and out. Over the course of one night, Brent has to drive that car and do everything that Jon Voight’s lips tell him to do, or Jon Voight’s lips will kill his wife.

Most of this involves seemingly random mayhem, where Brent smashes through parks, sending innocent people fleeing for cover, or smashing into Sofia’s endless supply of police cars, who pop up reliably every five to 10 minutes, like in a “Grand Theft Auto” game. Brent picks up streetwise hacker AND megabanker’s daughter Gomez, who is so burdened by the weight of this overwrought backstory that she can only muster out yelling “I hate you!” and “Let me out of here!” throughout the film. (Between her and Jon Voight’s lips’ constant directions to “Speed up” or “Turn left,” “Getaway” could be renamed “Backseat Driver: The Movie.”)

Of course, Jon Voight’s lips has a more nefarious scheme in the works, but nobody comes to a movie like “Getaway” for the plot. The film is the non-stop car chase delivery system as advertised, and while the chases are freneticallly, desperately edited to within an inch of their lives, that’s not the real problem. The real problem is director Courtney Solomon’s mystifying decision to use so much dashboard cams and other cruddy digital video, so that he’s cutting from one muddy, washed-out image to the next. Maybe he’s intending to capture the immediacy of a YouTube video, but it looks awful.

Except for one scene that shows what might have been, a beautiful, rolling first-person shot that last several minutes of cars weaving and dodging through suburban streets at dawn. I’d like to think it’s an homage to Claude LeLouch’s short film  “Rendez-Vous,’ which is poetry in fast motion. The rest of “Getaway” is clunky technical writing in motion.