“Stray Dog”: Teaching a troubled old dog some new tricks

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“Stray Dog” screens on Sunday at 7 p.m. at 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave. as part of the UW-Cinematheque series. Director Debra Granik and subject Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall will both be in attendance to talk about the film. FREE!

I would not mess with Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall. The Vietnam veteran and Missouri biker is a fearsome-looking man, the sort who looks like he’s led a hard life, but can make yours a lot harder. No wonder director Debra Granik asked him to appear in her movie “Winter’s Bone” as a terrifying backwoods drug dealer. (My interview with Granik is here.) In one deleted scene on the DVD, you can watch Hall absolutely let loose on John Hawkes with an improvised rant that includes the threat “I’ll nail your dick to the wall.” It clearly comes from someplace real.

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The five movies you have to see in Madison: Sept. 27-Oct. 2, 2014

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1. Pick of the week: “The Boxtrolls” (all week, Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — I’m willing to give anything made by Portland-based Laika a pass just because it looks like it takes forever. The animation studio uses stop-motion animation in the tradition of Aardman Studios, giving each frame a loving, handmade feel. Luckily, the movies have been good, too — “Coraline” is a modern classic, and I really liked “ParaNorman” too. “Boxtrolls” is a similarly dark and delightful tale, about bizarre creatures who raise a human boy as their own.

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