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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 75.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily

MOVIES

Funky Rango features Johnny Depp's fun voice work

If you were operating under the impression that Rango might be your typical, formulaic computer-animated feature, take a moment to consider the involvement of Johnny Depp. When, over the course of a 25-year acting career, has this guy been known to take a role that could be called typical or formulaic? >More
 Join the Isthmus Oscars 2011 live blog

Join Isthmus film critic Kenneth Burns and a cast of freelancers, film buffs and your fellow Madisonians (along with James Franco and Anne Hathaway) right here for a live discussion of the Oscars telecast Sunday night. >More
 Mike Leigh examines friendship in Another Year

Mike Leigh has fashioned a typically absorbing drama in Another Year, about a content, middle-aged husband and wife and their unhappy single friend. Leigh famously develops his films by having his actors improvise in character, and what we have here is, chiefly, a set of vividly, subtly portrayed characters. >More
 Four Lions: Bomb squad

Take a Three Stooges short, add a black satire like Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, then mix in a heist movie like Rififi. What you've got is Four Lions, the uproariously funny British comedy that dares to make fun of the people who have changed our lives so profoundly over the last 10 years: Islamic terrorists of the suicide-bomber variety. >More
 The Illusionist: Magic man

The animated film The Illusionist, directed by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville), is based on a script by Jacques Tati. And if the new film doesn't have the searing quality of Tati masterworks like Playtime, it is pleasant enough. >More
 All Good Things tells a real crime story, unconvincingly

In his excellent collection of movie reviews Harlan Ellison's Watching, the science-fiction author gives this advice to writers attempting to base stories on real events: "It doesn't matter if it's true; it matters if we believe it's true. The question, thus, devolves not on authenticity, but on verisimilitude." I thought of that wisdom during the last act of All Good Things, the crime thriller based on the seamy life of the wealthy New York real estate developer Robert Durst. >More
 Paul Giamatti plays a complicated type in Barney's Version

Stories with jerks as protagonists can be challenging for an audience, but at least you should be able to count on a certain consistency to the jerkiness. Barney's Version presents us with a presumably redeemable a-hole, only it's never clear exactly what it is that should redeem him. >More
 Javier Bardem is extraordinary in Biutiful

I've always been fond of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, the glibly murderous gay couple who drift in and out of the old James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever. They're part of the cinema's grand tradition of malevolent homosexuals. Okay, troubling and offensive tradition, but I still like Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. >More
 A Roman general investigates a mystery in The Eagle

The Eagle is an old-fashioned boys' adventure tale that has nary a bloody battle injury or love interest (or even a female speaking part) to scar its PG-13 innocence. This sword-and-sandals epic is also a mildly engaging and roughly historical action picture. >More
 Tamara Drewe takes a novelistic approach to comedy

Tamara Drewe, generously entertaining, is based on Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, which was inspired by Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. (It first ran as a cartoon in the U.K.'s Guardian.) It's easy to see Hardy in the film's tricky love affairs and its English countryside setting, and one character is even writing a book about Hardy, in case anyone misses the connection. >More
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