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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Overcast
The Daily


Moneyball thinks outside the batter's box

"Nobody reinvents this game," a baseball announcer smugly intones late in the deliciously entertaining Moneyball, and the same sentiment could apply to baseball movies. Hollywood keeps spitting out variations on James Earl Jones' swooning speech from Field of Dreams, even as the game itself has seen other sports trample it in true national-pastime popularity. >More
 Shut Up Little Man! disturbingly chronicles squabbling neighbors

The documentary Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure resembles Winnebago Man, the recent film about a volatile RV pitchman who became an unwitting Internet sensation. Both movies are about obnoxious people whose appalling behavior was recorded electronically, on videotape in Winnebago Man and on audiocassette in Shut Up Little Man! In both cases the clips were informally distributed and became the object of cultish, sniggering obsession. >More
 The documentary Shoah provokes strange reactions

Last January I spent a long Saturday at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center, where the newly rereleased Holocaust documentary Shoah was playing. Claude Lanzmann's landmark 1985 film is 10 hours long, and when it was over, I was exhausted. >More
 Rappers bicker in A Tribe Called Quest documentary

In the documentary Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, no one interviewed has any doubts about the musical importance of the titular hip-hop ensemble, famous for songs like "Can I Kick It." The same isn't quite true regarding the sartorial impact of the group, whose members now speak with wry ambivalence of the brightly colored, dashiki-inspired costumes they wore for a time in their 1990s heyday. >More
 A virus convulses the world in Contagion

With its dire scenario, all-star cast and multithreaded plot, Contagion resembles 1970s disaster flicks like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno (Henry Fonda as The Scientist! Helen Hayes as The Stowaway!). But those trashy old movies are enjoyable as camp and not much else. Contagion is a thoughtful, subtle film, a look at the global devastation wrought by a deadly virus people pick up from handshakes and subway rails. >More
 Cave of Forgotten Dreams takes prehistoric art personally

You know the old saw: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when you're one of the world's most thoughtful filmmakers, maybe everything looks like cinema. With Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog has taken material that could have made for a really spiffy episode of Nova and created a very personal documentary, one of the most moving, absorbing films I've seen in some time. >More
 Tabloid sneers at its strange subject

Here's a dilemma not many of us face. Given the choice, which one would you humiliate, the strange, sad, perhaps mentally ill woman unknown by most people, or the icy warmonger responsible for the deaths of many thousands of Americans and Southeast Asians? >More
 A unlikable hero holds our attention in The Guard

At first I had real concerns about the Irish action comedy The Guard, because its hero seemed so unlikable. The policeman Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) ingests drugs he steals from corpses. He romps with prostitutes. He drinks and plays videogames on the job. He tells racist jokes. But I worked through my concerns, and I'm glad, because The Guard is funny and rewarding. >More
 James Madison Park after dark

At first I was dubious about seeing a silent film in James Madison Park. The feature was to be a 1920 German Expressionist telling of The Golem, an ancient monster-morality tale set in the Jewish ghetto of Prague. It sounded like dark stuff. >More
 Crazy classic Scarface returns to the big screen

Did you ever notice the one-line bios in the Internet Movie Database? When you look up moviemaking professionals on that comprehensive website, next to their names you see the one work they're most noteworthy for, by someone's reckoning, anyway. Steven Spielberg: Director, Schindler's List (1994). Edith Head: Costume designer, Vertigo (1958). And there is this: Brian De Palma: Director, Scarface (1983). >More
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