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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily


There Will Be Blood: With greed on our side

If movies were judged by their themes alone, There Will Be Blood would be a masterpiece. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, adapting a 1927 novel by The Jungle's Upton Sinclair, has brought together the two most powerful forces that shaped this country -- business and religion, profits and prophets -- and allowed them to duke it out in the California desert. >More
 Cloverfield: I 8 NY

To say that Cloverfield picks up where I Am Legend left off is to ignore the fact that New York City is always being destroyed in our movie-fed imaginations. Who knows, maybe the 9/11 hijackers watched King Kong to psych themselves up for their flights of destiny. What Cloverfield adds to the pile, to great effect, is the camcorder, that ubiquitous tool for documenting the YouTube generation's every move. >More
 Lightning strikes twice in Youth Without Youth

The problem with going for broke is that you often wind up broke. I can't really recommend Youth Without Youth, Francis Ford Coppola's European-art-film-ish fantasia on such abstract ideas as the origins of language and the transmigration of souls. It's at best a folly, at worst an outright annoyance. >More
 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Mind over matter

The human spirit is always triumphing over something in the movies, but rarely with as much grace, wit and stringent charm as it does in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel's cinematic adaptation of the 1997 memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby. >More
 The Savages: Daddy dearest

"Refreshingly bleak" is how I would describe The Savages, Tamara Jenkins' cold, hard look at a brother and sister trying to escort their resentful father through the dying process. I can't say I enjoyed the movie, but I liked it a lot and admired the way it kept refusing to find a ray of light in all that midwinter darkness, at least until the end. >More
 Cassandra's Dream: Oh,brother

Woody Allen takes another look at morality and fate in Cassandra's Dream, which stars Ewan McGregor and Colin Ferrell as a pair of brothers who surprise themselves in how far they're willing to go to get ahead in the world. And I wish I could say I believed a single word either one of them spoke - the actors, I mean. The script is so amateurish it turns the entire cast into scam artists, trying to sell us a bill of goods even they must know is worthless. >More
 Sundance Shorts: The magnificent seven

Most of us think about short films only when it comes time to fill out our Oscar ballots, and even then we have to resort to various eeny-meeny-miny-moe methods to distinguish among nominees we haven't actually seen. But shorts are an art form of their own, capable of doing things in 10 or 20 minutes that many feature films fail to pull off in two hours. >More
 Starting Out in the Evening: Happy ending?

Like old soldiers, old authors never die, they just fade away, often well before they're through writing. Author Brian Morton, not quite old yet, built a novel around that sad fact. And against all odds, Morton's delicately shaded novel has been turned into a film. >More
 Atonement: The truth hurts

Imagination typically should be encouraged in children, but an excess of it leads to tragedy in Atonement, a more-than-worthy adaptation of Ian McEwan's 2002 novel. The child in question is 13-year-old Briony Tallis (the wonderfully unnerving novice Saoirse Ronan), a self-serious budding writer who takes her corners at the family's country estate at hard right angles and filters what little happens to her through a melodramatic sheen. >More

At the start of Juno, the 16-year-old title character (Ellen Page) pays for her pregnancy test with the stick - pink for positive - still in hand. The cashier wisecracks, "This is one diddle that can't be undid, homeskillet." That quip, care of screenwriter and freshly minted Hot New Thing Diablo Cody, almost had me audibly groaning: So it's gonna be like that, is it? Well, yes and no. >More
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