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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 25.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Daily


Winter's Bone evokes a land of poverty and meth labs

Watching Winter's Bone, I kept wondering: Is this an exploitation film? Certainly it's easy to imagine filmmakers -- and audiences -- condescending to this material. Filmed in Missouri, Winter's Bone is set in a milieu of devastating rural poverty, complete with destroyed families, grungy homes, ancient cars, casual mayhem and those deadly meth labs we keep hearing about. >More
 Disney makes a comeback in Waking Sleeping Beauty

It's hard to believe that 30 years ago the Walt Disney Company -- corporate colossus of film, television, music, theater, real estate -- was all but forgotten in the entertainment world. But after Walt Disney died in 1966, the company drifted, so that by the late 1970s, Disney's film output was largely reduced to shlocky kiddie entertainments like The Cat From Outer Space. >More
 The Girl Who Played With Fire fights dirty

What makes a well-crafted mystery story? The case needs to be interesting, of course, but at least as important is a fascinating investigator. We want to be engrossed by the crime-solving but perhaps even more engrossed by Holmes or Marlowe or Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle, who turn out to be the biggest enigmas of all. >More
 The Kids Are All Right tells a too-familiar story about gay marriage

"You're an interloper," says Nic (Annette Bening) to Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the recently discovered sperm donor for the two teenage children she shares with her partner Jules (Julianne Moore) in The Kids Are All Right. It's an interesting choice of words -- "interloper" -- but a surprising one coming from filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko. In fact, she's inordinately fond of the concept. >More
 Found Footage Festival screens adorably terrible Computer Beach Party

What's so alluring about bad movies? Village Voice critic J. Hoberman once wrote that "[a bad movie] is a philosopher's stone that converts the incompetent mistakes of nave dross into modernist gold." >More
 Inception goes deep into the dreamscape

Writer/director Christopher Nolan is a brainy filmmaker, no doubt about it, but I'm not sure he's a terribly philosophical one. Inception, Nolan's first film since the eye-rollingly overpraised The Dark Knight, is a mindbender bearing superficial resemblance to other question-reality manifestos like The Matrix and Synecdoche, New York, only minus the giddy pop psychology of the former and the me-myself-and-I self-seeking of the latter. >More
 Wisconsin Wednesdays series at Orpheum Theatre features Dairyland films

For moviegoers, the Wisconsin Film Festival has many rewards. One is that it lets them see films made right here in the state. So why confine that experience to the festival? "Right now you only have April, and it's slam-packed," says local filmmaker Nicholas Langholff, referring to the festival's frenetic spring run. His solution: Wisconsin Wednesdays, a monthly series devoted to films with Wisconsin ties. >More
 Cyrus tells a comic tale of psychological incest

With Cyrus, the transition of brothers Jay and Mark Duplass from their Austin, Texas, filmmaking roots into full-blown Hollywood filmmakers is complete -- even though the new comedy they wrote and directed, Cyrus, will not be mistaken for any studio-generated yukfest. The addition in their work of an Oscar-tier cast raises the Duplasses' off-kilter material to a new high. >More
 A supervillain tries to one-up his peers in Despicable Me

Everyone knows that the villains are usually the most interesting characters in any movie. So the makers of Despicable Me were wise to cut to the chase and make the megalomaniacal Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) the central character in this animated film. >More
 A fisherman lands a beauty in Ondine

I delight in the eerie opening scene of the Irish film Ondine. A commercial fisherman (Colin Farrell) raises his trawl and is surprised to find it holds the limp body of a beautiful young woman. He is even more surprised when she stirs to life. That is Ondine (Alicja Bachleda), the mysterious woman at the center of this moving, assured romance written and directed by Neil Jordan. >More
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