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Monday, December 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Overcast with Haze
The Daily


The police state corrupts East German citizens in Barbara

In case anyone's not sure what's at stake, there are the body cavity searches. The chilling drama Barbara stars Nina Hoss as an East German doctor who has been banished by the state to the provinces. It's 1980. The collapse of the Soviet empire is only a few years away, though no one knows that yet. >More
 Is The Incredible Burt Wonderstone a redemption tale or a raucous comedy?

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone offers a useful humor principle: Nothing can ruin a comedy faster than changing what the audience is supposed to laugh at. Unfortunately, the movie hasn't fully absorbed this lesson. >More
 Happy People is a striking portrait of Siberian fur trappers

Werner Herzog peered into the infinite with the recent documentaries Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about 20,000-year-old paintings; and the death-penalty-themed Into the Abyss. He's at it again with the marvelous Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, which he codirected with Dmitry Vasyukov. >More
 In Oz the Great and Powerful, a lowly trickster becomes a VIP

"If you can make them believe, then you're wizard enough," a witch named Glinda says to a con man in Oz the Great and Powerful. Though this scammer is supposed to be the savior of her people, she senses his discomfort. But the real question isn't whether he can play the part of a hero. It's whether he's "wizard enough" to satisfy viewers, most of whom are accustomed to MGM's 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. >More
 A Place at the Table illuminates America's hunger problem

Consider cutesy animations. These days, they're a cliché of hectoring documentaries that advocate for social or political change. In the crypto-conservative Waiting for Superman, cartoon people with lemons for heads dance, illustrating, um, something. Animations likewise jazz up overwrought lefty polemical films such as Food, Inc. and Under Our Skin. >More
 Jack the Giant Slayer is one messy, lazy fairy tale

When the closing credits for Jack the Giant Slayer began to roll, I knew I was in dangerous territory. Every one of my film-critic colleagues has been there. It's that place where you're about to dis big-budget escapist fare, and you know the people who leave comments on your review will play the "you snooty critics don't know how to appreciate fun" card. Then comes the kicker: "Lighten up." >More
 Snitch is an action film with an ax to grind

Snitch is a socially conscious action-adventure film that's also an indictment of the federal government's minimum-punishment guidelines for drug offenses. Though it criticizes drug gangs for being violent and corrupt, it slams the legal system even harder for punishing minor-level offenses with prison terms much harsher than those rapists and murders receive. >More
 Charlie Sheen, train wreck: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III crashes and burns

Films as spectacularly wrongheaded as the comedy A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III don't come along very often. It's bad. I hardly know where to start. I guess I'll start at the beginning. >More
 UW Cinematheque features Japanese works from Studio Ghibli that take cartoons to a new level

Whether you associate animation with Saturday mornings from your youth or the latest Disney creation, chances are good that you think of it as children's entertainment. Foreign-language films often come with the opposite assumption: that they're not suitable for kids, or that they can't hold kids' attention. >More
 Israeli and Palestinian babies get swapped in The Other Son

Two babies are switched at birth. One is born Palestinian but raised by an Israeli family; the other is in the reverse situation. Given the hackneyed premise of this film by French writer-director Lorraine Levy, many things could have gone wrong. But The Other Son is a triumph: It's a convincing drama rather than a comedy, a compelling story about family rather than a heavy-handed political allegory. >More
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