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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 28.0° F  Overcast
The Daily


2 Guns hits the mark with a gripping tale about two undercover agents

When a movie starts with two guns, you know it's going to have a complicated, multihanded standoff by the end. Following the hail of bullets to the fiery conclusion of 2 Guns proves to be an entertainingly escapist journey. >More
 The To Do List portrays a filthy female sexual awakening

Teenage boys losing it at the movies? Been there, done that. But girls' losing their virginity? That is a tale less told, at least in American mainstream cinema. When the topic does come up, it's usually treated as a cautionary tale or with kid gloves and soft-focus squishiness. The only thing going squish in The To Do List is sexual fluid in service of a punchline, with the jokes consistently hitting in this gyno-centric gross-out comedy. >More
 Fruitvale Station's heavy-handed script undermines noteworthy acting

On New Year's Day 2009, Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African American man, was shot and killed by a transit officer at Oakland's Fruitvale train station. The officer spent less than a year in prison. The incident bears a certain resemblance to the Trayvon Martin case, which makes Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler's award-winning movie about Grant, especially timely and urgent. >More
 The Wolverine adds mutants and ninjas to an angst-ridden family drama

I wonder if The Wolverine will appeal to audiences who aren't deeply invested in the mythology of X-Men comic books. I'm talking about moviegoers who just want a pile-on of mutant action. I love the freshness of this movie's set pieces, but at its heart, the story is all about its protagonist, Logan, as a mutant and a man. >More
 '80s references disguise The Way, Way Back's lack of substance

The Way, Way Back taps into Generation X's nostalgia for the good ol' days, invoking Pac-Man and REO Speedwagon in a subtle homage to movies like The Flamingo Kid, in which teenage boys experience transformative summers on their way to adulthood. But these pop-culture signifiers contribute little to this contemporary coming-of-age tale set in a sleepy Cape Cod beach town. >More
 The Conjuring's lack of imagination is scarier than its demons

The Conjuring uses every parlor trick imaginable to scare up a scream: deafening door-slams, ghostly apparitions, demonic cackling, levitating chairs. But the seen-it-before elements of this supernatural thriller, directed by Saw's creator, are more hoary than horrific. It might as well be retitled The Amityville Exorcist. >More
 20 Feet From Stardom sings the praises of backup singers

20 Feet From Stardom is an extended hosanna to backup singers and the joyful noise they make. To chart the creative contributions of so-often-anonymous session vocalists, filmmaker Morgan Neville " a longtime music-doc director whose CV includes TV biographies of Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash and Stax Records " samples six decades of American pop-music history. >More
 Pacific Rim's humans aren't as awesome as its deep-sea monsters

Long ago in suburban California, a boy named Scott watched a TV station whose programming seemed to consist entirely of Lakers games and monster movies. He grew up with big names like Godzilla and lesser-known gems like War of the Gargantuas, which feature 50-foot-tall villains and heroes. It was for kids like him, grownup or not, that Guillermo Del Toro made Pacific Rim. >More
 The Lone Ranger spends two hours smirking at its own jokes

Johnny Depp used to have movie buffs in the palm of his hand. Here was a too-pretty-to-be-true movie star who, instead of gravitating toward safe choices, hid his face behind funky makeup and facial hair. Even when he starred in a blockbuster franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean, it was in a role that few other stars would touch, let alone play the way he did. >More
 Despicable Me 2 adopts some of Hollywood's worst tropes

What makes Despicable Me 2 so frustrating is that its predecessor was challenging. Not challenging in a hugely subversive way, but it doesn't take much to shake up a Hollywood paradigm. Casting a villain as the hero in a cartoon comedy is one way. Filling out a cast with three wild -- and wildly individual -- little girls is another way. >More
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