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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Fair
The Daily


Koch examines a New York City mayor's controversial legacy

Like any big-city mayor, Ed Koch was controversial. That is made clear by director Neil Barsky's Koch, a compelling, thoughtful documentary that hits high and low points of the mayor's tenure. Koch, who served from 1978 to 1989, struggled with urban poverty, racial politics and organized labor, even as New York teetered on chaos. The city had verged on bankruptcy. The subway cars were covered in graffiti, and Times Square was a red-light district. >More
 West of Memphis raises tough questions about filmmaking's role in criminal justice

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky saved Damien Echols' life. That wasn't their intent when they started making a documentary called Paradise Lost, about three murdered 8-year-old boys and the hasty trials where three teens were deemed responsible. Echols was sentenced to death at one of these trials. Thanks to the film, strangers spent years trying to clear his name. >More
 The Angels' Share is a heist movie soaked in class conflict

Ken Loach's rather wonderful The Angels' Share almost seems like two movies. It begins as a gritty urban drama about young people on Glasgow's margins, but midway through, it becomes a very funny caper comedy. At first I worried. Is the transition awkward? >More
 Renoir is a vibrant drama about the legendary painter and his filmmaker son

The film is called Renoir. Which Renoir? Pierre-Auguste, the great painter, or his son Jean, the great filmmaker? Answer: yes. This appealing, somewhat rambling drama, directed and co-written by Gilles Bourdos, takes place in 1915 on the Cte d'Azur. World War I rages in Europe, but as the film begins, calm prevails at the gorgeous home of Pierre-Auguste (Michel Bouquet). >More
 Four gems to admire at the UW's 2013 Mini Indie Film Festival

Craving another epic movie-watching experience after the Wisconsin Film Festival? The fifth annual Mini Indie Film Festival put on by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee is just the ticket. The event began with two screenings this evening and will feature 11 more film programs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. >More
 A reporter probes a lawyer's radical past in The Company You Keep

The Company You Keep is an engaging thriller. I wished for more. The film's topic is the Weather Underground, the band of radicals who committed violent crimes in the Vietnam War era. Some of them took it on the lam for years after. You'll recall that the Weather Underground was a campaign issue in 2008, when President Obama's foes attempted to link him to members of the group. >More
 In Room 237, obsessive Kubrick fans share elaborate theories about The Shining

Room 237 is like an Opposite Day version of That's Entertainment!, the 1974 film that gathered the best scenes from old MGM musicals. Director Rodney Ascher's documentary compiles the most mundane moments from Stanley Kubrick's horror film The Shining -- and declares them the most interesting moments. >More
 Upstream Color is an odd fantasy about a worm that facilitates mind control

I haven't forgotten what American Players Theatre actor Jonathan Smoots said about Harold Pinter. At a talkback after a performance of Old Times, Smoots remarked, "In Pinter, there are no ding-dong moments." What he meant is that the playwright doesn't introduce his characters conventionally -- by, for example, having other characters greet them at the door (ding-dong!). There likewise are no ding-dong moments in the enigmatic, rewarding drama Upstream Color. >More
 Ryan Gosling makes an alluring motorcycle bandit in The Place Beyond the Pines

Writer-director Derek Cianfrance has a flair for the sublimely saccharine. In his 2010 film, Blue Valentine, Ryan Gosling plays an overzealous lover who breaks out a ukulele and tells his girl he's going to reveal his "special talent" of "singing stupid." This announcement elicits a whole spectrum of gut reactions: He is winsome, pitiful, grating, mortifying, and then suddenly winsome again. His song is so surprisingly beautiful that you don't want it to stop. >More
 56 Up is reality TV's longest-running experiment

With the arrival of 56 Up, I think it's fair to ask if Michael Apted's legendary documentary series has become more fascinating in theory than in actuality. It is, after all, the only movie being screened four times at the Wisconsin Film Festival. >More
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