Pick of the week: “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (all week, Sundance) — Studio Ghibli’s latest hand-drawn masterpiece looks like a beloved storybook come to life, as Isao Takahata (“Grave of the Fireflies”) tells the ancient Japanese fable about a little girl found inside a bamboo shoot who grows into a mysterious princess. In a very nice idea, the 1:20 p.m. show each day will be dubbed into English with Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan and others providing voices, while the remaining shows will be subtitled. I’ll have a review up on Friday.
1. “The Homesman” (all week, Sundance) — I really liked Tommy Lee Jones’ last film as a director, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” and this Western also looks strong. Jones plays a drifter helping several women driven mad by pioneer life head back east, but the path is difficult and dangerous.
Pick of the week: “Citizenfour” (all week, Point) — If nothing else, I hope this blog lets people know about good movies that slip into Madison under the radar with no publicity. That’s certainly the case with “Citizenfour,” a much-anticipated documentary by Laura Poitras (“The Oath”) about a whistleblower she met who claimed to have exposive secrets about the U.S. spying on civilians. That whistleblower’s name was Edward Snowden.
1. “Rosewater” (all week, Point and Sundance) — Jon Stewart’s debut as a director is an earnest and fact-based tale of an Iran-born journalist who gets swept up and arrested while covering the 2009 protests, and endures a barrage of interrogation from his captor. But critics say Stewart has found the humor and heart in potentially heavy subject matter, and the film even has some moments of absurd comedy. There’s a special preview screening Thursday night at Point featuring a live broadcast Q&A with Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
1. “Nightcrawler” (all week, Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — Every generation gets the Rupert Pupkin it deserves, and ours apparently is Jake Gyllenhaal as a twisted freelance photographer whose thirst for grotesque crime scene photos takes him into some very dark places. No way he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for this.
1. “Fury” (all week, Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema, Sundance) — David Ayer is known for bruising L.A. cop movies like “End of Watch” and “Training Day,” but turns his attention to World War II with this “‘Saving Private Ryan’ in a tank” drama about a group of soldiers mopping up Germany at the end of the war. It looks great and is supposed to be brutally realistic — the question is whether Ayer can avoid the cliches in his screenplay.
1. “Kill the Messenger” (All week, Point) — Jeremy Renner plays journalist Gary Webb, who caught wind of a story that the CIA was complicit (or at least turning a blind eye) to drugs from Central America flooding urban cities. Webb was hounded by the government and his fellow journalists for holes in the story and eventually disgraced. It will be interesting to see how the film by Michael Cuesta plays such a nuanced tale.
Pick of the week: “A Walk Among The Tombstones” (all week, Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema) — I’ve been a fan of Lawrence Block’s novels since I was a teenager, especially the Matthew Scudder novels, about an unlicensed, alcoholic private investigator with a lot of baggage and a tarnished moral code. Hollywood didn’t do very well by Scudder the last time (“Eight Million Ways to Die”), but this one looks like it’s nailed it. Neeson looks every bit the part, and writer-director Scott Frank was responsible for writing two of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations, “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight.” I’ve got high hopes.
1. “The French Connection” (7 p.m. Friday, UW-Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall) — The car chase, sure. That iconic car chase, in which Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) is barrelling underneath a New York City subway train containing his prey, is one for the ages. But the rest of William Friedkin’s 1971 film (kicking off a Friedkin retrospective at the Cinematheque) is a stone-cold classic, from the driven, unlikable Doyle’s pursuit to that bravura cat-and-mouse game between Fernando Rey and the cops in midtown Manhattan. But, yes, also the car chase. FREE!
1. “Under the Skin”/”The Lego Movie” double feature (6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Union South Marquee Theatre, 1308 W. Dayton St.) — Oh, those crazy college kids. The UW Union South Marquee Theatre’s fall season starts this weekend, and the student programmers in charge clearly have a gleefully perverse sense of humor in their pairings. First on Friday, catch “Under the Skin,” Jonathan Glazer’s disturbing R-rated sci-fi film starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien hunting horny Scotsmen. Then stick around for the hilarious and inventive “The Lego Movie” starring everybody’s favorite plastic blocks. On Saturday night, the order is reversed. Both films are strong Top 10 of the year contenders for me — I just never thought to pair them together like that. FREE!