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Friday, August 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 64.0° F  Fair
The Daily

MOVIES

Mars Needs Moms could use a more interesting story

For a technology intended to make animated humans look more real, motion-capture animation sure hasn't been used to tell stories that are more human. When Robert Zemeckis pioneered the idea for a feature-length motion-capture film in The Polar Express in 2004, plenty of critics picked on the creepy-looking characters. But even as Zemeckis fine-tuned the technology for Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, the narratives themselves remained remote and uninvolving. >More
 Battle: Los Angeles wallows in sci-fi obviousness

Your degree of fondness for the war and/or science fiction genres will make the marines vs. aliens movie Battle: Los Angeles either comfortingly familiar or gratingly obvious. Viewed as a war film, it's strictly standard run 'n' gun fare. Scripter Christopher Bertolini ticks off the particulars of the platoon's instant backstory with admirable ease but far too many shopworn clichés. >More
 Wisconsin Film Festival unveils 2011 schedule

Perusing the guide to this year's Wisconsin Film Festival this past week has left me wishing I had not one long weekend but a full week or perhaps a month to take in the 13th annual cinematic celebration, scheduled for March 30 through April 3. >More
 The Adjustment Bureau messes with destiny

Early in The Adjustment Bureau, there's a scene that in a romantic comedy would be the meet-cute. The guy is David Norris (Matt Damon), a U.S. Senate candidate for New York preparing his concession speech after an embarrassing revelation; the woman is Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), hiding out in a stall of the hotel men's room where David is rehearsing in the mirror. >More
 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
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