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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 30.0° F  Fog/Mist
The Daily


Up the Yangtze: Big river

The opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics got awfully close to raising Leni Riefenstahl from the dead. Such pageantry! Such thinly veiled militarism! China is undoubtedly on the move these days, and perhaps the best symbol of its gargantuan plans is the Three Gorges Dam, which is five times the size of Hoover Dam and, when completed, could tilt the planet on its rotational axis by turning the Yangtze River into a vast inland sea. Talk about changing the world! >More
 Disaster Movie: On the brink of funny

I was worried about Disaster Movie. The early word-of-mouth was worse than President Bush's approval ratings. But I can't say it's not funny. Unfortunately, I can't say it's funny either, but it inhabits that nether region between funny and not-funny rather well. You don't laugh, or even smile, on the outside, but you do kind of smile, even laugh occasionally, on the inside. >More
 Man on Wire: Balancing act

"There is no why," Philippe Petit told reporters on his way to jail, back in 1974. Calm, yet ecstatic, the 24-year-old Frenchman had just spent 45 minutes on a wire suspended between the two towers of the World Trade Center. He'd crossed back and forth eight times, turning and running the other way when the police made a grab for him. At one point, he went down on one knee and raised an arm, bowing to the sky gods. Later, he reclined on the wire, head to toe, as if needing to catch his breath. >More
 Hamlet 2: The spoof's the thing

Something may be rotten in the state of Denmark, but that's nothing compared to the smell emanating from Tucson, Ariz., where high school drama instructor Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) is committing his latest crime against theater, a musical sequel to Hamlet. You may recall that nobody was left standing at the end of Hamlet. No worries: Marschz, who somehow manages to pronounce every single consonant at the end of his name, has come up with a time-travel gimmick involving no less a savior than Jesus Christ. >More
 Attention cineasts

Believe it or not, the UW Cinematheque is now 10 years old, a landmark that Henri Langlois, the founder of Paris' Cinémathèque Franaise, would surely propose a toast to, were he still alive. Instead, the folks at 4070 Vilas Hall will celebrate with a Friday night screening (7:30 p.m.) of what some of us consider the greatest Hollywood musical of all time, Singin' in the Rain. >More
 When Did You Last See Your Father?

Dear old dad takes another left hook to the chin in When Did You Last See Your Father? - well, not a hook so much as a series of jabs. Colin Firth, as handsomely dour as ever, stars in this adaptation of British writer Blake Morrison's memoir about having grown up with a man who never got around to growing up himself. >More
 Elegy: Hot for teacher

Old age is creeping up on David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), something that this New Yorker has managed to outrun until recently. In his 60s, with enviable work as a cultural critic and part-time academic, Kepesh remains strong in body and mind, but his illusory island of self-preservation begins to crumble once he becomes sexually involved with Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz). >More
 Flight of the Red Balloon: Up, up and away

I have only the faintest recollection of Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon -- just my own sense-memory sniff of children sweating through sweaters in an overheated room watching the near-silent 1956 classic short. Two decades from now, I suspect I'll have retained just as little from Flight of the Red Balloon, the homage by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien. >More
 Vicky Cristina Barcelona: The strain in Spain

Yes, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the new Woody Allen film widely hyped for a threesome, although it's not the configuration advertised in the ungainly title. Vicky (Rebecca Hall, indefinable but intriguing) is the smart, sensible brunette, and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) the amorous, free-thinking blond. Together, they are American best friends summering in Barcelona and falling, at a staggered clip, for a sultry Spanish painter named Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). >More
 Tropic Thunder: Heart of snarkness

Instead of entering the jungle to find the heart of darkness, Ben Stiller (the director, co-star, and co-writer of Tropic Thunder) goes in to take aim at the Achilles heel of Hollywood: its utter pomposity and self-importance. >More
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