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Tuesday, January 27, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Fog/Mist
The Daily


Examined Life: Drive-by philosophy

For the purposes of movie-going, documentarian Astra Taylor poses the key question in the second sequence of Examined Life, as she strolls in a sunny park with New York University literature professor Avital Ronell. Books that are hundreds of pages long are an appropriate medium for exploring philosophy, notes Taylor, but what about feature-length films? The answer, based on this evidence: Um, not so much. >More
 The Great Buck Howard: The entertainer

I'm not quite old enough to remember firsthand the Tonight Show performances by the Amazing Kreskin, a.k.a. George Joseph Kresge Jr., the magician who appeared on the old Johnny Carson broadcast scores of times in the 1970s. But the poignant, funny, not wholly satisfying film The Great Buck Howard is based on Kreskin's life, so after I watched it I turned to YouTube to gather impressions from Kreskin clips. >More
 Winter of Frozen Dreams: Frozen concoction

The long-awaited film version, which played to a packed house at the Wisconsin Film Festival, comes nowhere near matching Harter's book in either drama or insight. The only thing both have in common is a certain seediness. >More
 Fast & Furious: The race is on

No one is giggling in Fast & Furious, the fourth installment in the series Vin Diesel kicked off eight years ago. The milieu is an underworld of casual murder, and it would be unsettling were this not the sort of goofy action movie in which a leering male character says, in an automotively themed pickup line, "I'm one of those boys who appreciate a fine body, regardless of the make." >More
 Alien Trespass: Strange invaders

I had hopes for Alien Trespass, which lampoons paranoid 1950s science fiction thrillers. It gets many particulars right, including the stilted dialogue and the silly rubber monster. Alien Trespass clearly is made with great affection for those old flicks. >More
 Desperate Brooklynites in Two Lovers

I'm perplexed by Gwyneth Paltrow. Since notching her Best Actress statuette for 1998's Shakespeare In Love, she has wandered. Not always unfruitfully: She thrives in potent small films like Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, in which she was still and sad. But she was merely incidental -- if indelible -- in eye candy like Iron Man and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. >More
 Sunshine Cleaning: Indie clichés

Rose Lorkowski, in other words, is the heroine of a Sundance-ready independent movie. Produced by the same team that scored a hit in 2006 with Little Miss Sunshine, Sunshine Cleaning isn't much more than an exercise in style and behavior, a blueprint for young filmmakers hoping to get their dark comedies about working-class despondency into Robert Redford's hands. >More
 Heartbreaking lessons in The Class

Franois' classroom is the claustrophobic setting for the moving, Oscar-nominated film The Class, which was co-written by Franois Bégaudeau and based on his novel. The film is lightly comic but mostly grueling, and it resembles noble-educator movies like Dead Poets Society and Stand and Deliver. >More
 Beauty in Trouble: Czech mates

It's a dilemma as old as love itself: Choose the stable dullard or the exciting loser? That's what Marcela (Ana Geislerová) is up against in the poignant, funny, not altogether satisfying Czech film Beauty in Trouble. As the film begins, Marcela and her two kids are fleeing Jarda (Roman Luknár), a steely-eyed auto mechanic who runs a chop shop out of the family's crumbling home. >More
 Testing religion's boundaries in The Secrets

The Secrets begins with a prayer. Standing at her mother's grave, Naomi (Ania Bukstein) reads, "Give me insight into thy righteousness." The request proves not merely rhetorical. Naomi's life is about to be torn apart over the question of what God wants, and in particular what God wants for women in the very religious, very conservative slice of Israel where Naomi lives. >More
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