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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 48.0° F  Overcast
The Daily

MOVIES

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
 Small worlds: Oscar-nominated 2012 shorts lack storytelling heft

It's always charming to watch obscure filmmakers as they receive Oscars for their short subjects. They look dazed and grateful as they accept their due in front of a massive television audience. But charm notwithstanding, viewers generally don't tune in for the shorts. >More
 Daniel Radcliffe never ignites in spooky The Woman in Black

Oh, where's that boy wizard from Hogwarts when you need him? It turns out that Daniel Radcliffe did not bring his sorcerer's wand with him when he graduated to his first adult film role since the conclusion of the Harry Potter series. Too bad. Magic powers would have come in handy when dealing with the malevolent ghost that haunts The Woman in Black, the first film in 35 years to be shot in Great Britain under the venerable Hammer banner. >More
 With great power comes great irresponsibility in telekinesis tale Chronicle

From out of left field comes Chronicle, a PG-13 thriller breathing new life into the found-footage formula that has become so popular in the dozen or so years since The Blair Witch Project. Like a marriage of Cloverfield and Carrie, Chronicle blends its faux nave techniques with a teen telekinesis plot to create something that feels fresh and authentic. >More
 Glenn Close plays a suffering cross-dresser in Albert Nobbs

There's a priceless moment in Albert Nobbs in which an alcoholic physician turns to his hotel's servant, the titular Nobbs, and utters the classic male complaint: "Women." The brief scene is a hoot because, unbeknown to the doctor, the singular Mr. Nobbs is in reality Miss Nobbs, played with permanently repressed panic by a remarkable Glenn Close. >More
 A Dangerous Method looks at the origins of psychoanalysis

Hear the words "David Cronenberg" paired with "erotic drama," and you might feel a sudden shudder of unease, thinking back on the Canadian filmmaker's earlier works like Crash or Dead Ringers. This isn't that kind of Cronenberg picture, however. In fact, it's a period piece about the origins of psychoanalysis and the sexual confusions of its progenitors. It's eloquent and handsomely made, if never quite revelatory. >More
 Haywire star Gina Carano is a knockout

Steven Soderbergh has a knack for finding talent in unlikely places. In casting The Girlfriend Experience, he looked to porn and found the appealing Sasha Grey. Now, with the action thriller Haywire, he has looked to mixed-martial-arts fighting and come up with Gina Carano, a glowering fighter who is a lovely, lively presence. >More
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