What’s playing in Madison theaters, June 14-20, 2013

manofsteel

All week

Man of Steel” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — Less than a decade after “Superman Returns,” DC Comics tries another “Superman” reboot, this one noticeably bearing the stamp of writer-producer Christopher Nolan as well as director Zach Snyder. Is it “The Clark Knight”?

This is the End” (Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — My full review is here. Everyone else is destroying the planet at the movies this summer, so why shouldn’t Seth Rogen? In this raunchy, gross and funny comedy, Rogen and several of his Hollywood friends (all playing themselves) are stuck in James Franco’s house when the apocalypse hits, and must contend with demons, cannibals and their own pampered ineptitude.

Before Midnight” (Star Cinema, Sundance) — Jesse and Celine of “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” return in this long-awaited third installment, as the pair are now in their 40s and questioning the choices they made that got them to this point.

Friday

The Short Films of Miranda July” (9:30 p.m., Madison Museum of Contemporary Art rooftop, 227 State St.) — MMOCA’s cool Rooftop Cinema series presents a series of shorts from filmmaker and artist Miranda July, all pre-dating her first feature “You and Me and Everyone We Know.” FREE for museum members, $7 for everyone else. If it’s raining, the movie will take place in MMOCA’s screening room indoors.

How to Train Your Dragon” (7 p.m., Warner Park Duck Pond) — It’s the Madison Mallards vs. the Dragons, as Moonlight Movies uses the Mallards’ stadium to screen the action-packed and clever animated hit about a boy and his dragon. Concessions will be available for purchase. Visit cityofmadison.com to check on weather updates. FREE!

Monday

Mars Attacks” (9 p.m., UW Memorial Union Terrace) — Aliens attack and many celebrities are caught in the cross fire in Tim Burton’s kinda mean-spirited adaptation of the trading card series. FREE!

Tuesday

“Earth” (10 a.m. Point, Eastgate) — Marcus Theatres’ Kids Dream film series powers up for the summer, offering family films for only a $2 admission Tuesday through Thursday morning. This week it’s the Disney nature documentary “Earth,” following three animal families on their journeys.

Wednesday

“E.T. The Extraterrestrial” (1:15 and 6:50 p.m., Sundance Cinemas) — This is the third time in about a month that you can see “E.T.” in Madison, following Moonlight Movies and Memorial Union Terrace screenings. This week’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” screening was sold out, so I’d still get there early if you want to seee it.

“Earth” (10 a.m. Point, Eastgate) –See Tuesday listing.

Thursday

New Belgium Clips of Faith Film Festival” (7:30 p.m., Olin-Turville Park) — The popular annual traveling festival mixes short films with limited-edition batches of craft beer, all in a venue that encourages audiences to bike in. Salvatore’s Tomato Pies and the Good Food Truck will be serving up food, and the event is a benefit for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

“Earth” (10 a.m. Point, Eastgate) –See Tuesday listing.

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“This is the End”: When the apocalypse comes, it’s going to be superbad

Thisistheend-cast

“This is the End” opens Wednesday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinema. R, 1:59, three stars out of four.

This is the way the world ends; not with a bang, but with Jonah Hill whimpering.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s hilarious “This is the End” finds the sweet spot between apocalyptic horror-comedy and Hollywood satire, a sweet spot I didn’t even know existed. Raunchy, nutty, gory and even sometimes sweet, the movie doesn’t stray too far from their breakthrough as screenwriters, “Superbad.” Only, this time, instead of two friends worrying about whether girls will tear their friendship apart, they worry that demons from the gaping maw of Hell will tear them apart. Literally.

Rogen plays a version of himself, a pampered Hollywood actor who invites his old friend Jay Baruchel (the two are both Canadians and former “Undeclared” cast members) to Los Angeles for a weekend of weed and PS3. The friendship has grown strained over the years as Rogen’s become more famous, and Baruchel is resentful of his new Hollywood lifestyle. The duo go over to James Franco’s fortress-like house that’s packed with celebrity friends from the Rogenverse (including Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, and a riotous cameo by Michael Cera as a coked-out, hyper-aggressive version of his sweet, gentle onscreen persona). Baruchel is ready to bail.

And then the Rapture hits. The worthy ascend to Heaven riding beams of blue light (good joke: the Hollywood night sky shows maybe 12 or 15 of these blue lights, tops) leaving everyone else to suffer doomsday. A giant sinkhole opens up on Franco’s front lawn, and celeb after celeb gets sucked into its fierydepths.

Rogen, Baruchel and Franco barricade themselves in Franco’s house along with Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, and the film becomes a variation on the usual “hangout comedy,” as the actors trade insults, pass the time making a homemade “Pineapple Express” sequel, and worry about the growls and screams they hear outside the front door. The central joke of the film is that these pampered Hollywood actors are self-centered babies who are totally unsuited for a crisis situation’; Franco doesn’t know if he has any tools in his mansion, but his basement is full of memorabilia from “Spider-Man 3” and “Flyboys.” They’re so self-involved that they firmly believe they’re essential to the human race. “We bring joy to people,” Franco says. “You have to pretend it’s hot when it’s really cold,” Robinson offers as part of his skillset.

That Rogen and Goldberg (who wrote and for the first time directed) would nail these kind of laughs is not surprising. What is unexpected is how well they weave in some genuinely scary jolts in between the laughs, keeping the audience on its toes. The mix of horror and comedy helps solve one of the biggest weaknesses of Rogen’s (and his mentor Apatow’s) previous films — the sometimes exhaustive pacing, hitting the same kind of joke again and again for over two hours. Here, you don’t know what’s coming around the next corner, and that gives the tighter “This is the End” much more momentum.

Even though we know how it’s going to end. In a summer where the world seems to be going up in flames over and over again, from “After Earth” to “World War Z,” “This is the End” seems perfectly timed to show that you don’t need to take the death and destruction of every single thing you’ve ever known or loved so darn seriously.