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Friday, October 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 54.0° F  Overcast


Gareth Edwards' Godzilla is a clever metaphor about climate change

It's been 60 years since Ishiro Honda unleashed Godzilla, his cinematic metaphor about the dangers of nuclear weapons. This year's Godzilla updates the lizard-like monster for the 21st century in ways that work beautifully. Hollywood's myopia prevents the movie from achieving masterpiece status, but not B-movie fabulousness. >More
 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is too silly for its own good

Two years after the first reboot of the Spider-Man story, an equally pointless sequel has arrived. By now we've had several years of smart, relevant Avengers dramas, so The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks like a campy Saturday-morning cartoon left over from the 1970s. >More
 The Quiet Ones favors spookiness over blood and guts

"Welcome to the experiment," says seedy-tweedy Professor Coupland to his new documentarian, AV geek Brian. He doesn't add "Bwahaha!" to the greeting, but you can almost hear it anyway. For we had already started to suspect that the academic is a little bit mad and a little bit sadistic, with his cold approach to some quite disturbing matters. >More
 Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a gripping adventure and a scathing critique of 21st-century surveillance

Movies about the Avengers keep getting bigger, smarter and more relevant. But none of Marvel Comics' other Avengers movies has stunned me the way Captain America: The Winter Soldier has with its scathing commentary on what's happening in the real world today. >More
 A woman falls for her captor in Labor Day

Single? Lonely? Starved for human touch? Why not get abducted by an escaped convict? Guaranteed relationship starter! That's basically what Labor Day tells its audience, without a whiff of irony. Writer-director Jason Reitman seems completely unaware this message might be a problem. >More
 An unwitting newlywed births Satan's spawn in Devil's Due

There are many lessons to be learned from Devil's Due, Hollywood's newest she's-having-Satan's-baby flick. Don't let taxi drivers take you someplace mysterious to celebrate the last night of your honeymoon. When you wake up the next morning with no memory of what happened, don't forget to check your camcorder, in case you left it running all night. And if you're going to do a found-footage movie, be sure it makes at least a little sense. >More
 Anchorman 2 is a smarter jab at TV news than its predecessor

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is like a mash-up of movies released in 2013. It's got self-delusion in '70s New York, just like American Hustle. It's got a shark fight that rivals the one in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with poor Kristen Wiig playing nearly the same part she plays in that film. It's also got a strong black character fighting for her place in the world, similar to 12 Years a Slave. >More
 In Philomena, a mother and a journalist search for a child the church stole

Be warned: Philomena will make you angry. This film takes place in the Magdalen laundries of Ireland, where the Catholic Church imprisoned young women for "crimes" like having sex, being raped, or even being too pretty. The last of these brutal places didn't close until 1996. >More
 In Frozen, Disney princesses solve problems instead of chasing boys

Frozen bears little resemblance to its supposed inspiration, Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. It sprang from the grand Disney tradition of animated, Broadway-style musicals. But unlike 2009's tired retread of The Princess and the Frog, it could very well be the start of a new era of fairy-tale films. >More
 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire asks thorny questions about heroism

Katniss Everdeen's life is over. The life she once knew, anyhow. The protagonist of The Hunger Games survived her country's eponymous battle to the death, but it's not cause for celebration. In Hunger Games: Catching Fire, we find her having a horrific flashback in her "safe" place: the secret hunting grounds on the fringes of the district where she grew up. >More
 An Avenger chases a villain through space and time in Thor: The Dark World

Here's a recipe for geek gumbo. Put some elves in a Marvel superhero movie. Sci-fi elves from the distant past, led by a badass named Malekith. He's after something called the Aether, which can be used to rule the universe and was supposed to be destroyed way back when. And put some immortal Vikings on distant planets. >More
 In Ender's Game, a teen tries to keep alien insects from destroying the planet

Set in the future and focused on outer-space warfare, the 1985 novel Ender's Game seems tailor-made for a movie treatment. But the book is better, as is often the case. For Orson Scott Card's novel to be as beloved as it is, there's gotta be some heart lurking somewhere in the story. The film Ender's Game engages the mind in some uncomfortable ways, but it does not engage the heart. >More
 The Wolverine adds mutants and ninjas to an angst-ridden family drama

I wonder if The Wolverine will appeal to audiences who aren't deeply invested in the mythology of X-Men comic books. I'm talking about moviegoers who just want a pile-on of mutant action. I love the freshness of this movie's set pieces, but at its heart, the story is all about its protagonist, Logan, as a mutant and a man. >More
 G.I. Joe: Retaliation

 Despicable Me 2 adopts some of Hollywood's worst tropes

What makes Despicable Me 2 so frustrating is that its predecessor was challenging. Not challenging in a hugely subversive way, but it doesn't take much to shake up a Hollywood paradigm. Casting a villain as the hero in a cartoon comedy is one way. Filling out a cast with three wild -- and wildly individual -- little girls is another way. >More
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