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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Daily


Unlikely spies trade secrets in Farewell

The number of people who mourn the collapse of the Soviet bloc is presumably small and dwindling. But I can't be the only one who mourns what went away along with it, Cold War dramas. From The Manchurian Candidate through WarGames and beyond, geopolitical conflict made for fine screen entertainment. So I cry a little tear of moviegoer nostalgia now that I have watched Farewell, the French film that tells an exciting and true story of Cold War espionage. >More
 Cairo Time is a screen romance that dares to be sad

I am moved by Patricia Clarkson's performance, in the fine film Cairo Time, as Juliette, a fashion magazine editor who is meeting her husband in the Egyptian capital. This is pleasingly understated acting. Walking in a vibrant, crowded, unfamiliar city, she reacts to much of what is going on around her with a series of little smiles. But Juliette also is sorrowful. That she mostly keeps to herself. >More
 A ballet star escapes from China in Mao's Last Dancer

I never expected this to be the year I glimpsed Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in two new movies. First I saw Parisians jeer the ballet's controversial 1913 debut in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. And now, at a climactic moment in Mao's Last Dancer, I have seen Texans rapturously greet a 1986 performance starring the Chinese dancer Li Cunxin (Chi Cao). >More
 Oliver Stone's South of the Border praises controversial Latin leaders

He has his detractors, his loud, angry detractors, but I enjoy films by Oliver Stone. I may not always agree with him, and he may even be a buffoon, but I salute him for using mainstream cinema to explore his dark, detailed vision. My favorite Stone film, Nixon, is a shattering, despairing aria about what's wrong with everything. >More
 Joaquin Phoenix either does or doesn't fall apart in I'm Still Here

Most clips on America's Funniest Home Videos are my ecstatic guilty pleasure -- the barfing brides, the collapsing Christmas trees. But I dread the practical jokes, as when the poor guy cries upon learning he hasn't really won the lottery. Hoaxes are cruel, and professional practical jokers, from Punk'd's Ashton Kutcher to the Yes Men, just depress me. >More
 Community Cinema at Madison Public Library, Spotlight Cinema at MMoCA

Although Madison lost the UW's beloved Starlight Cinema series earlier this year, local cinephiles are gaining two new series. >More
 The stakes aren't clear in Anton Chekhov's The Duel

Perhaps it's the exquisite boredom of lazy afternoons, or maybe it's just the effects of the warm weather, but summer has a way of breeding mischief. Mischief breaks out in Anton Chekhov's The Duel, a languorous costume drama set during a hot summer in the Caucasus. And then mischief leads to mayhem. >More
 Rob Reiner's gimmicky Flipped has its charms

That Flipped works at all is no small wonder, and if that sounds like a backhanded compliment, you're right on the money. So is this: It's Rob Reiner's best film in a decade. Just look at the competition: The Bucket List, Rumor Has It..., Alex & Emma. >More
 Danny Trejo is the new Bronson in Machete

Machete has been a long time coming, and the so-called Mexploitation film gets an extra kick from the American political climate. This revenge film's roots go back to co-director Robert Rodriguez's first employment of Danny Trejo, the titular Machete, on the film Desperado. >More
 A killer searches for his soul in The American

Usually, when people talk about a movie feeling "European," it's not exactly a compliment. It's shorthand for languid pacing, character-based drama, maybe a few casually naked boobs and a general lack of Hollywood conventionality. The American feels very much like the product of people who want to make a "European"-style movie. >More
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