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!
“Boyhood” (all week, Sundance) — My full review is here. The long-awaited new film from Richard Linklater is finally here, and its a masterpiece of everyday life, following a boy as he grows from 6 to 18, Linklater and his actors filming a few scenes each year. As we see Mason and his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) grow older, becoming the sum of their choices, Linklater strings ordinary events together like Christmas lights to make an entrancing portrait of an extraordinary, average life. See it this weekend, or wait until Tuesday when the Mad Film Forum will host a special meetup for the 8 p.m. show, preceded by drinks and music from DJ The Real Jaguar up on the Rooftop at 6 p.m.
“American Movie” (7 p.m. Friday, Union South Marquee) — What could have been a sneering look at Mark Borchardt, a suburban Milwaukee man trying to make what will assuredly be a terrible horror movie, instead becomes wildly funny, oddly poignant, and in the end kind of inspiring. That Borchardt refuses to give up on his dream despite his dire circumstances underscores that, as the old man says, “It’s all right, it’s okay, there’s something to live for!” FREE!
“They Live” (7 p.m., Thursday, Chazen Museum of Art) — “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.” As John Moe pointed out on Twitter, why would anyone need to go to a special place to chew bubblegum? And, having gone there, why would they forget to stock up on gum? It just seems like poor planning. That detail aside, John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic is both a kick-ass sci-fi action movie (including a hilariously long Keith David-Roddy Piper fight scene) and a sly political satire, where the aliens enslave us not with laser guns, but by taking over as the one-percenters. It’s a highly entertaining film, maybe Carpenter’s last great film, and a fitting kickoff to the summer Cinematheque series, which will run Thursday through Saturdays this summer at the Chazen and Union South Marquee. FREE; see the full schedule at cinema.wisc.edu. Continue reading
“The Immigrant” (all week, Point Cinemas) — Harvey Weinstein still insists that there was no tension in the editing room between himself and “Immigrant” director James Gray. But the quiet rollout of the film (a press screening was scheduled in Milwaukee at the last minute, then cancelled without explanation at the laster minute) suggests that all is not well in Harveyland. The thought that the film is being woefully mistreated has rallied a lot of critics to its defense, but the proof is in the movie itself, a lush and grim 1920s drama about a Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) manipulated by men (Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner) after she arrives in New York. Guessing this won’t stick around long, so it’s a must see.