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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Overcast

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Exodus: Gods and Kings fails when it tries to humanize the spectacle

It's... big. Whatever else you might want to say about Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings, you can't deny that it's big. Big scale on the CGI-enhanced sets, big crowd scenes, big plagues, big acting -- they're all here. >More
 Space travelers scout a better home for humanity in Interstellar

Near the midpoint in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, there's a simple yet remarkable shot. A NASA spacecraft approaches its destination, a wormhole near Saturn. For a moment, the craft and its passengers aren't the center of the universe. >More
 Birdman is an enjoyable farce about an actor desperate to save his career

Well played, Alejandro González Iñárritu. You've dared critics not to roll their eyes at your latest film, Birdman, and you've almost succeeded. >More
 A seasoned tank commander mentors a terrified rookie in Fury

I wish I'd gotten to watch Fury without knowing it was written and directed by David Ayer. I like to think I would've been able to identify his handiwork without this information. >More
 A defense attorney must help his estranged dad fight a murder charge in The Judge

While watching The Judge, I found myself pondering how reviewing a movie resembles being a member of a trial jury. You know you're supposed to consider the matter at hand rationally and objectively. Yet filmmakers, like effective attorneys, often want to shift your sympathies by appealing to a particular emotional response. >More
 Gone Girl is a gripping drama about a man accused of murdering his wife

David Fincher knows how to keep audiences from zoning out during opening credits. The director shares them in an unsettling way in his adaptation of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. He immediately makes it clear what he's going to deliver: the cinematic equivalent of a page-turner. >More
 Happy birthday, Ghostbusters

Nostalgia can seem self-indulgent to those witnessing it rather than experiencing it. But age does things to our relationship with memory. As Ghostbusters rolls into theaters for a one-week-only 30th anniversary re-release, I can't help but wax rhapsodic about the summer of 1984. It's the reason I'm writing about movies today. >More
 A prodigy must decide whether to live or die in If I Stay

If I Stay is an adaptation of Gayle Forman's young adult novel about Mia Hall, an 18-year-old cello prodigy who must decide whether to live or die following a car accident. In addition to telling a story, the movie begs an important question: When should a filmmaker stray from his source material? >More
 A not-so-charming Magic in the Moonlight

Woody Allen. These are two of the most contentious words in contemporary movie-fan circles. From the scandals and accusations in his personal life to his homogenous character demographics, there is no neutral ground in conversations about the writer and director. >More
 Guardians of the Galaxy puts the 'comic' back in comic book characters

Heroes have been introduced to us in many ways since Marvel started to take over the multiplex over the last several years. They've been bad-asses and screw-ups and tormented scientists, but they've all more or less felt the way superheroes are supposed to feel. >More
 A tenderhearted woman tussles with an ornery widower in And So It Goes

In the opening moments of And So It Goes, Oren Little (Michael Douglas) visits the grave of his beloved wife, who has died of cancer. This scene is supposed to humanize Oren, who is horrible to most of the people he interacts with. Unfortunately, director Rob Reiner wants us to spend 90 more minutes figuring out that deep down, Oren's a sad guy, not a bad guy. >More
 A troubled record exec helps a shy musician find her voice in Begin Again

Back in 2007, there was a magical musical called Once. Set in Dublin, it was the tale of two emotionally damaged musicians whose lives intersected just enough for them to start healing through a collaborative project. >More
 The broken jukebox of Jersey Boys

In the opening credits of Jersey Boys, there's something unusual for a modern movie: an overture. And in the closing credits, the entire cast gathers in a curtain call. If you watched only these two moments, you might think director Clint Eastwood knows how to turn a Broadway musical into a movie, something few filmmakers have mastered. >More
 A young journalist contends with leukemia in Chasing Life

April (Italia Ricci) is an ambitious young reporter proving her mettle at a Boston newspaper. She has an eye on the publication's gorgeous, sensitive, super-cool arts-and-entertainment writer (Richard Brancatisano), and he seems to like her too. Given her talent and charm, it looks like April has it made. >More
 In Edge of Tomorrow, a man discovers how to fight and love by reliving an alien invasion

Doug Liman, director of the terrific new sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow, is best known for propulsive action movies like Go and the original Bourne Identity. But what he really wants to be, it seems, is contemporary cinema's foremost chronicler of relationships under pressure. >More
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