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Saturday, August 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 78.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Daily


John Carter gives familiar sci-fi material a spark of energy

John Carter could tip the scales over to silly, but it somehow manages to stay just on the right side of fun. Adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel A Princess of Mars, director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) and his co-screenwriters (including novelist Michael Chabon) introduce us to Capt. John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a Confederate Civil War veteran whose death in 1881 brings his nephew Ned (erstwhile Spy Kid Daryl Sabara) to New York for a reading of his will. >More
 A community comes together in Le Havre

A fulsome optimism has crept into the world of Aki Kaurismäki, the Finnish director whose films have always been marked by their distinctive blend of deadpan humor and quotidian melodrama. To Kaurismäki's panoply of underdogs, outsiders and bohemians, Le Havre now adds a sense of people's willingness to do good. >More
 Affluent New Yorkers duke it out in Carnage

Roman Polanski's entertaining Carnage gestures at sharp satire, but I'm not entirely satisfied with the big insight. The film begins with a bloody confrontation between kids on a playground. Later, a glib corporate lawyer named Alan (Christoph Waltz) says, "I believe in the god of carnage," and then he talks smugly about the horrific strife in Congo, where the combatants include child soldiers. >More
 We Need to Talk About Kevin profiles a demon child

Based on Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a hybrid, and not an appealing one. Lynne Ramsay's film has horror elements, but it lacks the gleeful, bloody guilelessness of that genre. At the same time, it's not the nuanced indie drama it aspires to be. >More
 Wisconsin's silent film era: The Badger State was home to a host of cinema pioneers

Despite critical and popular success for Oscar darling The Artist, the silent film era remains for many a dim, flickering curiosity. Perhaps those early Hollywood days would be more real if we knew that studio chiefs and countless silent stars were our neighbors. >More
 A Separation charts the despair of two families

Everything in A Separation hangs on one moment. It's very quick. An enraged man and woman are fighting. She is struggling to get into his apartment, and he is struggling to get her out. Then she is gone, the door is closed, and the moment is over. >More
 Act of Valor is authentic but uninvolving

Plenty of movies let you know fairly quickly that they're going to be excruciating. Far rarer is something that starts out excruciating, then becomes fascinating. And rarer still is a movie that, after making that 180-degree turn, pivots back to unbearable again. That's the curious experience of watching Act of Valor, a military thriller that prominently advertises that many of its "actors" are, in fact, active-duty Navy SEALs. >More
 Agents vie for romance in empty This Means War

It has taken decades of watching and writing about movies, but This Means War might have finally helped me articulate what feels like a fundamental rule about would-be escapist entertainment: The more preposterous the situation at the center, the more genuine the characters need to be. >More
 Unlike so many animated films, The Secret World of Arrietty takes its time

If your impression of animated features has been shaped entirely by the whiz-bang studio product of the CGI era, bring an open mind to The Secret World of Arrietty. That's not the way Japan's Studio Ghibli rolls. >More
 Shame is a harrowing story of sex addiction

All humans have habits, some of them bad. Brandon Sullivan's (Michael Fassbender) bad habits have curdled into full-bore addiction. The escorts with whom he politely negotiates terms, the workaday masturbation breaks, the Internet porn he watches to accompany a dinner of leftover takeout: This is Brandon's everyday landscape, as commonplace to him as another's crossword puzzle or nail-clipping. >More
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