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Friday, Jan. 18, 2013

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Broken City R

NYPD cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) fouls up his promising future in a controversial shooting that costs him his badge. Luckily, New York's popular mayor (Russell Crowe) uses his influence to keep Taggart out of jail, asking only that the cop return the favor by investigating the extramarital affairs of his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Thriller-genre fans know Taggart should expect unexpected setbacks, including a scheme that sets him up for a mighty fall. Disinclined to be anyone's patsy, Taggart resolves to clear his name at any cost. For Wahlberg, this includes taking on a plot we've seen a dozen times before—but giving it his own Marky Mark twist. (Lisa Miller)

 

The Last Stand R

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the screen, and though he's a mite slower, Arnie packs the same sarcastic punch that is his calling card. Here he appears as Ray Owens, sheriff of Sommerton Junction, Ariz., a sleepy border town until a Mexican drug kingpin (Eduardo Noriega) escapes custody. Even as a crew of federal agents (led by Forest Whitaker) arrives to take control of the situation, Owens puts together his own crew of misfits (including Johnny Knoxville, wearing a medieval helmet and toting a 1939 Vickers machine gun) to confront the drug lord's goons and hopefully stop his Corvette capable of exceeding more than 200 miles per hour. Now that's a car chase! (L.M.)

 

Mama PG-13

After their parents are killed, two little girls (Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse) disappear. Five years later, they are miraculously found alive in a remote, decrepit cabin. Their guardianship is assigned to the girls’ enthusiastic Uncle Lucas and his longtime gal pal Annabel (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jessica Chastain). The couple is realistic about the difficult road faced by the girls, but can't know that the children are also accompanied by a malevolent, possessive spirit. Normally, another haunted kid movie would be just that, but Guillermo del Toro's presence in a producer role indicates creatively designed special effects and something more than by-the-numbers characters. Right about now any deviation from the Paranormal Activity craze strikes me as a step in the right direction. (L.M.)

 

Rust and Bone R

Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) comes from a subculture of violent sports and petty crime, which leads naturally enough to a job with a security firm doing illegal things. Stéphanie trains orcas at an aquarium—until losing her legs to one in a freak accident. Alain and Stéphanie had met at a club, where he defended her against a jerk guy; somehow they hook up. A long immersion in misery whose dingy cinematography highlights the drabness of everyday life, the French film Rust and Bone eventually congeals into a character study of flawed, uncertain people in a tangle of sex and friendship, pity and curiosity. Alain is a hard case, but some human sympathy can be found in the hardest of hearts. (David Luhrssen)

Opens Jan. 18, Oriental Theatre.




Gangster Squad R


Unstinting in its graphic brutality, Gangster Squad is “inspired” by the take-down of mobster Mickey Cohen by the LAPD in the late 1940s. Josh Brolin plays the cast-iron Sgt. O’Mara, a lawman that makes Joe Friday look soft; Ryan Gosling is his cool dude partner in a multi-ethnic clandestine squad determined to stop Cohen by any means; and sneering Sean Penn plays the psychotic mobster. Although Gangster Squad references Chinatown several times, wins points for period style and includes a couple of well-devised action scenes, all plausibility is drowned in pyrotechnic outbursts of violence. (David Luhrssen)

A Haunted House R

A Haunted House
attempts to skewer Paranormal Activity and other recent horror films, but this Marlon Wayans vehicle fails to scare up laughs. Wayans appears as Malcolm, thrilled that girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) agrees to move into his house. Malcolm sets home video cameras to record the couple's hot sex life, but his plan is ruined by a demon wanting Kisha all to itself. Frustrated and determined to make whoopee with Kisha, Malcolm enlists the aid of a prison minister (Cedric The Entertainer), a pair of paranormal documentarians (David Koechner, Dave Sheridan), along with a sexually aggressive gay psychic (Nick Swardson)—all to no avail. Unfunny potty jokes and juvenile humor send viewers straight to movie purgatory. (L.M.)

 

 



Texas Chainsaw 3D R

Adopted as an infant, Heather (Alexandra Daddario) knows nothing of her family history when she inherits a home from her biological grandmother. Accompanied by friends and boyfriend (Trey Songz), Heather arrives to claim a lovely, isolated Victorian home in Texas, unaware that a secret apartment inside the house hosts her murderous cousin, Leatherface, who hasn't changed a bit. Director John Luessenhop cast 6-foot, 6-inch, 270-pound Dan Yeager as the chainsaw-wielding killer because he felt a sense of menace emanating from the actor's "brooding brow" and "farm boy arms." Clint Eastwood's youngest son Scott shows up as the town deputy nursing a crush on Heather, while Shaun Sipos appears as a hitchhiker who knows more about Heather's family than he lets on. Although positioning its story to ignore the five films between this one and the 1974 original, Texas Chainsaw 3D casts four of the original cast members in small roles, including Gunnar Hansen, whose Leatherface spawned an industry. (Lisa Miller)



Chasing Ice PG-13

National Geographic photographer James Balog set out to document the retreat of glaciers in Iceland, Greenland and Alaska and was startled to see how rapidly the ice flows have diminished in recent years. While Rush Limbaugh and other blabbermouths continue to deny massive global climate change from carbon emissions, Balog brought back photographic evidence and has campaigned to increase public awareness of what the glaciers tell us. As Balog points out in this Sundance award-winning documentary, shrinking glaciers are like the dead canary in the coalmine—a sign of impending disaster. (David Luhrssen)

Opens Dec. 21 at the Oriental Theatre.

 

Jack Reacher PG-13

It seems a stretch to cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, a pulp-fiction tough guy. Adapted from One Shot, the ninth novel in Lee Child's bestselling series, Reacher is an Iraq war vet and ex-military cop known for showing up when a murder suspect is wrongly accused. That's precisely what happens after detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) arrests Reacher's wartime buddy, James Barr (Joseph Sikora), for gunning down five people in a killing spree that opens the film. To prove Barr's innocence, Reacher teams up with Barr's attorney (Rosamund Pike), but the pair must overcome a sinister villain (Werner Herzog). The script's terse dialog skews 1950s trite, but Cruise's hand-to-hand confrontations showcase the actor's up-to-date skills and a physicality that may launch a new franchise. (Lisa Miller)

 

Monsters, Inc. 3D G

Disney re-releases Pixar’s monster animated hit from 2001, now in 3D. The Monsters, Inc. corporation hails from an alternate universe, powered by the screams of frightened children that serve as its energy source. Problem is that sophisticated kids don't scare as easily as they used to, forcing the creatures working at the firm to ramp up the fear factor. Then an adorable little girl follows good-hearted, furry-blue Sully (voiced by John Goodman) through a portal in her closet. Determined to save the girl, Sully enlists help from one-eyed Mike (Billy Crystal) to hide the child until they can sneak her back to the human world. Colorful, inventive and lively, this computer animation won't frighten its target audience away. (L.M.)

 

This is 40 R

“It takes some of the pressure off,” says Pete (Paul Rudd), haplessly explaining to his flabbergasted wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann), that he took Viagra before sex as a 40th birthday present for her. But Debbie is just as clueless in her own way in this sometimes funny, sometimes gross Judd Apatow jaunt through mid-life crisis. Pete and Debbie, who were supporting characters in Knocked Up, are back with two restless children, a house they can’t afford and a pair of floundering businesses. For them, adult life seems more pretense than reality, but the prospect of old age is almost as inescapable as death. Graham Parker is delightful, playing himself as a has-been rock star. (D.L.)



The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey PG-13

At age 111, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) recounts a tale to nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) that transports viewers back in time. We meet young Bilbo (Martin Freeman), an unusually curious hobbit recruited by Gandalf the Grey to join a company of dwarfs that are intent upon reclaiming their lost kingdom. Dwarf warrior Thorin (Richard Armitage) guides the company through goblin tunnels that house a suspicious creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis) who covets a powerful gold ring that comes into Bilbo's possession. Director Peter Jackson divides Tolkien's book into three parts, expanding the material with Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" appendices. Filmed at double the normal frames per second, the battles between dwarves, trolls, orcs and movable mountains come into sharp focus, but the production's sets and costumes don't necessarily bear up to this level of scrutiny. (Lisa Miller)



Hitchcock PG-13

Everyone warned Alfred Hitchcock against making Psycho, but his stubborn perseverance resulted in a sharp turning point in cinema—for better or worse. Anthony Hopkins ably inhabits the title role of Hitchcock, a fictionalized but emotionally accurate account of the great director during the making of Psycho. Helen Mirren is outstanding as his under-acknowledged wife and collaborator, Alma Reville and Scarlett Johansson stands in for the director’s fantasy blonde, Janet Leigh. Some will call Hopkins’ iteration of Hitchcock more charming than the real man, but to those who knew Hitchcock best, he was a charmer. Hopkins’ characterization reveals the roiling turbulence Hitchcock transmuted into memorable motion pictures. (David Luhrssen)

Opens Dec. 7 at the Oriental Theatre.

 

Playing for Keeps PG-13

Gerard Butler produces and stars in a romantic comedy that casts him as one-time soccer star George. Jessica Biel appears as Stacie, George's ex-wife, and mother to his only child, young Lewis (Noah Lomax). Hoping to reconnect with Lewis prior to Stacie's impeding remarriage, George agrees to coach Lewis' soccer team. Fun and funny, he easily wins over the kids while his boyish charms attract a trio of love-starved women (played by Uma Thurman, Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones). Although George enjoys his new female admirers, his heart belongs to Stacie, who is watching to see whether her ex has what it takes to parent their son. (Lisa Miller)

 

Valley of the Saints Not Rated

Straddling India and Pakistan, Kashmir was once among the most alluring places on Earth. In Valley of the Saints, the beauty of those hills covered in pine and mist continues to shine through the tin-roofed poverty and pollution. It’s a story of two young men who plan their escape to the big city, only to be stranded by a curfew and clashes between the restive Muslim population and the Indian army. There is a girl from a rich family visiting from afar, but the plot doesn’t turn the way it would in Hollywood, or even Bollywood. Director Musa Syeed has fashioned a lovely, leisurely story from such bittersweet contrasts—a hand that reaches through barbed wire to pluck a water lily. (D.L.)

9 p.m. Dec. 7, 7 p.m. Dec. 8 and 7 p.m. Dec. 9, UWM Union Theatre. Free admission.

(Updated Dec. 6)



Anna Karenina R

In the 1870s, Anna Karenina (a firm-jawed Keira Knightley) is a charming member of Russia’s high society. She is trapped in a loveless marriage to respected Russian Government official Karenin (Jude Law) when she meets Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a handsome aristocrat who confesses to being smitten with her. Soon, they are consumed by an illicit affair. Anna is indiscreet and finds herself banished from society. Meanwhile, Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), a young man from a wealthy family, ignores his family's expectations to pursue marriage to Kitty (Alicia Vikander), a young woman beneath his social station. Seen from 150 years in the future, the double standards are stunning. Tom Stoppard's screenplay condenses this adaptation of Tolstoy into just over two hours. The film makes several bold choices, though none are bolder than its highly stylized sets that rise from a theatrical stage with no attempt to hide the cables that hold these facades upright. (Lisa Miller)

(Updated Nov. 29)



Life of Pi PG


As a young man, Pi, the son of a South Indian zookeeper, is shipwrecked while accompanying his family and their animals on a freighter headed for Canada. Swept away in a well-provisioned 26-foot lifeboat, Pi is joined by a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a fearsome Bengal tiger. His strategies, calculated to save both himself and his animal companions, comprise the main storyline of a tale that encompasses Pi's pantheist views. Visually stunning and filmed in 3D, director Ang Lee’s film explores the meaning of life, though at times it feels formulaic. (Lisa Miller)

 

Red Dawn PG-13

Having been driven from their homes by foreign invaders, a group of hidden teens witness family members and friends killed or captured. Director Dan Bradley remakes the 1984 film with new villains, this time casting North Korea as the enemy that manages to knock out our computer grid and then spring a surprise takeover on U.S. soil. A group of American teens, played by Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas and Connor Cruise, rally behind a young veteran (Chris Hemsworth) and a seasoned military commander (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to stand against the invaders using guerilla warfare. The premise and action are preposterous while the film's rah-rah dialog is so poorly written that it amounts to a parody of a Michael Bay film. (L.M.)

 

Rise of the Guardians PG

A quintet of characters join forces to prevent the diabolical bogeyman Pitch (voiced by Jude Law) from plunging the world into everlasting darkness. Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is kidnapped by a force for good that includes Santa Claus, a.k.a. "North" (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the nonspeaking Sandman. While each brings his own special powers to the mix, Jack Frost's participation is the key to defeating Pitch. The problem is that Jack's traumatic past has left him with unresolved issues, making his ability to help uncertain. The film's excellent voice cast works overtime to create an enchanting world rendered in colorful 3D. However, the hyperactive action often feels like an endurance test. (L.M.)

 

Silver Linings Playbook R

This well-written screenplay is based on Matthew Quick's novel. Recently released following eight months in a mental hospital, Pat (Bradley Cooper) remains obsessed with his estranged wife Nikki (Brea Bee). Although she has a restraining order against him, Pat is determined to win her back, thus restoring "life's silver lining." His plan is waylaid when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an attractive young widow whose husband's death has left her precariously unbalanced. Comparing the effectiveness of their psychotropic drugs, the two begin a comical romance filled with witty dialog and complimented by the odd people in their lives. Tiffany's efforts to prepare them for a dance competition are equally funny and reflect their efforts to rejoin the world. (L.M.)

(Updated Nov. 20)



The Sessions R

John Hawkes gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Mark O’Brien, stricken by polio when young and able to leave the shelter of his iron lung for only hours at a time. A talented poet, his essay “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate” is the basis for The Sessions, an oddly heart-warming true story about a severely disabled man seeking fulfillment. Helen Hunt co-stars as Cheryl Cohen Greene, the caring sex therapist who finds him to be a challenging case emotionally more than physically. William H. Macy plays the tolerant if flummoxed Catholic priest who supports O’Brien’s quest. “His deeper emotional needs are outside the scope of my involvement,” Greene notes in her clinical report. Learning the distinctions between arousal and love, not to mention loving someone and being in love, are hard lesions. Driven by the humorous tone of O’Brien’s narrative, The Sessions grips its subject with an admirably light touch. (D.L.)


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 PG-13

In the previous chapter, vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) impregnated his human wife, Bella (Kristen Stewart), compelling her to become a vampire in order to deliver their daughter, Renesmee. Having survived the ordeal, Bella enjoys her newfound vampire strengths nearly as much as she enjoys watching beautiful Renesmee grow at an accelerated rate. Unfortunately, the family's happiness offers no protection from the Volturi, a vampire coven that declares Renesmee to be an abomination. Led by Aro (Michael Sheen), the coven marshals forces to vanquish the Cullens. Bella recruits her pal Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and his werewolf Native Americans to fight the Volturi. After faithfully following Stephenie Meyer's novel, the film offers an ending that differs from the book, giving fans one more reason to buy tickets—as if they needed an excuse. (Lisa Miller)

(Updated Nov. 15)


Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film Not Rated

Self-consciously avant-garde film dates at least as far back as 1920s Europe, but the war and repression that overtook the continent drove that vanguard to New York by the 1940s. Pip Chodorov’s documentary focuses mainly (but not entirely) on the scene that grew up there, overlooked by Hollywood and ignored at first by the art world, even though most of the filmmakers were visual artists working by other means. The angel was Lithuanian refugee Jonas Mekas, who organized screenings, distribution networks and the Anthology archive of independent film and critiqued experimental movies for the Village Voice. The interviews are usually fascinating, as are the short films themselves, which often led the way to breakthroughs in commercial film and television. See the influence of Stan Vanderbeek’s montages on Terry Gilliam’s imagery for Monty Python. (David Luhrssen)

7 p.m. Nov. 8 at UW-Milwaukee Union Theatre. Free admission.

 

Skyfall PG-13

Within minutes, James Bond (Daniel Craig) hurtles into a multi-vehicle car chase that winds up on top of a moving train as M (Judi Dench) desperately tries to direct his Istanbul operation from MI6 in London. Bond appears to die, but he returns months later out of shape (by his impossible standards) and ready to hunt down the cyber-terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem), an effete villain seeking vengeance on M. The theme of this inevitably entertaining, Sam Mendes-directed installment on Bond’s 50th anniversary in film is the continued relevance of Bond himself. Is he hopelessly old school in the Twitter world of the moment, or does guest star Albert Finney get it right: “Sometimes the old ways are best.” (D.L.)

 


Smashed R

Kate and Charlie seem like a freewheeling, fun-loving couple, but the good times come with a high price tag. They are alcoholics. Trying to hold down a responsible job as a grade-school teacher, Kate makes stumbling steps toward freedom from addiction by joining A.A., only to find a chasm widening between her and her husband. Smashed is unsparing in depicting Kate’s disorienting blackouts, dishonesty and desperate thirst. It’s an admirable performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who lurches from sobriety to drunkenness, satisfaction to anxiousness and calmness to anger. (D.L.)

Opens Nov. 9 at the Downer Theatre.





Here Comes the Boom PG

Kevin James co-wrote the script for this Adam Sandler-produced film that ought to be the poster child for mediocre comedies everywhere. Scott Voss (Kevin James) is an underachieving high-school biology teacher when he learns that the school's music department, run by his friend and co-worker Marty (Henry Winkler), will be cut in response to the school's shrinking budget. To save his friend's job, Voss sets out to raise $50,000. With Marty serving as his trainer and Voss' experience as a college wrestler to bolster his ego, the 42-year-old couch potato enters a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition. In addition to earning the respect of his students, Voss hopes to score a date with the school's pretty nurse (Salma Hayek), who spends most of her time rebutting his advances. MMA devotees can only hope their sport gets the attention it deserves from a better film. (Lisa Miller)

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower PG-13

Stephen Chbosky adapts and directs his young-adult novel for the screen in this pleasant and predictable ode to awkward youth. The film's protagonist, Charlie (Logan Lerman), moves to town in his freshman year of high school. Petrified that he won't fit in, Charlie is given classic novels about outcasts by his sympathetic English teacher (Paul Rudd), but the lad's school career picks up in earnest when Charlie is noticed by a pretty senior, reformed bad-girl Sam (Emma Watson), whose crowd includes her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) and party-girl Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman). Charlie, adopted by the trio, crushes hard on Sam even as he accepts Mary Elizabeth's sexual advances. Most wallflowers can only wish they had it so good. (L.M.)

Opens Oct. 12 at the Oriental Theatre.

 

Samsara PG-13

Pallbearers hoist a giant gun—the deceased’s bizarre coffin—through a graveyard. This solemn visual joke comments on cultural choices and demonstrates how far director Ron Fricke has traveled rhetorically. He travels the world to film sense-gorging, wordless cinematic symphonies, documenting humanity’s oft-dubious role in the ineffable spectacle of Earth’s glories, wonders and destructiveness. With Samsara (Sanskrit for “ever-turning wheel of life”), he discovers the shrewdness of tracing life's comic intertwining with the myriad turns of fate. (Kevin Lynch)

Opens Oct. 12 at the Downer Theatre.

(Updated Oct. 12)


Fixing the Future Not Rated

“Can Main Street give Wall Street a run for its money?” That’s one of the questions asked by NPR’s David Brancaccio, who went on a road trip in search of grassroots efforts to redirect the economy. He found “hour banks” where people swap time for services, community banks investing locally, worker-owned co-ops and, in Baltimore, a local scrip used as money in participating stores. He finds that in recent years, big corporations that benefited most from tax breaks are not the “job creators.” Brancaccio, host of the popular “Marketplace” radio program, hopes that capitalism can take a better turn by directing its vision toward the long term and that even economists will come to realize that GDP is not the best measure for social well-being. (David Luhrssen)

6:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse.

Frankenweenie PG

Young Victor (voice of Charlie Tahan) is heartbroken after his beloved dog Sparky is hit by a car and dies, until a science class experiment gives him the bright idea to reanimate Sparky via a mega-jolt of electricity. After bringing his pooch back to life, Victor attempts to hide the dog from view, but it isn't long before the lad's classmates learn of Victor's success and use his method to reanimate their own dead pets. Filmed in high-contrast black and white, this 3-D project marks Tim Burton's return to stop-motion animation. The director's visual acuity can't be denied, but his story lacks the menace and humor that are the hallmarks of his best work. (Lisa Miller)

No God, No Master Not Rated

Terry Green’s No God, No Master showcases venerable neighborhoods such as Brady Street and the Third Ward in a gripping tale of 19th-century labor unrest. The thriller utilizes Milwaukee acting notables Dan Mooney as revolutionary Luigi Galleani and James Pickering as Judge Thayer. No Master brings to mind Milwaukee’s brush with anarchy in our own police headquarters bombing of 1917. (Martin Hintz)

7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Oriental Theatre; 7:15 p.m. Oct. 9 at Fox-Bay Cinema, Milwaukee Film Festival.

Pitch Perfect PG-13

Pitch Perfect
's framework of a collegiate a cappella competition likely wouldn't exist without the popularity of “Glee” (certainly the movie's soundtrack wouldn't). This young-adult girl-power romp likely owes some of its existence to the chutzpah of Bring It On's cheerleader pluck and the positive response to Bridesmaids and other female ensemble comedies. Though the film’s description makes it sound like another teen franchise that’s heavy on focus groups, the characters engage our interest in a fairly natural way. Some dramatic elements and subplots are handled a bit too hastily, but there are enough honestly achieved laughs, choreography and vocal inventiveness to redeem Pitch Perfect, at least for its primary audience. (Jamie Lee Rake)

Searching for Sugar Man PG-13

It sounds like some sort of fairy tale, but it’s true: American recording artist Rodriguez was unknown at home, but bigger than the Beatles in apartheid South Africa. The problem: No one ever told him until years later. Rodriguez’s strange story is told in Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul’s beautifully filmed, compellingly told documentary. A mysterious figure at the edge of Detroit’s early-’70s music scene, Rodriguez’s evocative lyrics inspired many white South Africans to imagine a freer world. Given the cultural barriers and economic embargo fencing South Africa from the outside, the Afrikaners were genuinely startled to learn that Americans had never heard of Rodriguez and that the songwriter continued to work construction and live in a shack in a rundown section of Detroit. A social activist unashamed of physical labor, Rodriguez seems unconcerned in interviews about being ripped off and uninterested in altering his modest way of life—even after a belated, sold-out tour of the faraway country where his records (and his words) were gold. (D.L.)

Taken 2 PG-13

It's been four years since ex-spy Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) rescued his only child, Kim (Maggie Grace), from a Eurotrash sex-trafficking ring. Now reunited with his wife (Famke Janssen), Mills is in Istanbul, where members of that same syndicate take him captive. Using his "particular set of skills," Mills manages a daring escape, only to learn that the relentless gang has also taken his wife hostage. Neeson's talent for combat at close quarters is sanitized and over-edited by Olivier Megaton, a director who fails to understand what made the first Taken a hit with viewers. The film's chase scenes through narrow Turkish streets are heart-pounding, but elsewhere they lack the momentum and tension of the first film. (L.M.)




Death by China Not Rated


Peter Navarro’s documentary Death by China shows the fragility of the current economic and geopolitical relations between the United States and China. The film tackles China’s tainted toys and environmental offenses, while also providing a critique of the U.S. government (both Democrats and Republicans) and big business. Navarro, who frequently provides analysis of world news on cable TV shows, has created a disturbing documentary, despite its pushy visuals and lack of solutions. (Daniel Gaitan)

Showing 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Rosebud Cinema, with Peter Navarro in attendance for a Q&A.

Hotel Transylvania 3D PG


Sony miscasts its go-to comedy guy, Adam Sandler, in the voice role of Count Dracula. The misguided vampire tries to shield his only child, Mavis (Selena Gomez), from humans because they killed the girl's mother a century earlier. As the proprietor of a hotel for vampires and other monsters, Dracula carves out a safe but predictable existence for Mavis, who is thrilled when their first human guest arrives at the hotel. She quickly becomes smitten with the appealing, if somewhat daft, young man (Andy Samberg). Determined to prevent his daughter from making a mistake, the vampire chases the lad through his dusty hotel. Sandler tries to add comedy to the film through an unsteady Transylvanian accent. (Lisa Miller)

Looper R

Writer-director Rian Johnson scores a home run with this science-fiction action-thriller. In the year 2072, time travel is perfected—and outlawed. But this doesn't stop the mob from sending those it wants killed back to 2044, where assassins, known as loopers, await the arrival of their targets. Joe, a looper played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is unprepared when his next target turns out to be an older version of himself (played by Bruce Willis). Since the older Joe executed his older self 30 years earlier, he is prepared when sent back in time, and escapes execution. The older Joe sets out to find and kill the boy who will grow into the man responsible for plotting his murder. Mind-bending twists and turns, as well as unexpected conflicts, add up to a sci-fi tale as fascinating to contemplate as it is fun to watch. (L.M.)

Mourning Not Rated

During the first minutes of Mourning, the rancorous arguing voices of a married couple are heard against a black screen. In the next segment, a car is seen from an aerial shot, winding along country roads through a bleak landscape, with the conversation inside (between another married couple) visible as subtitles. And then the camera watches through the windshield as that couple argues in sign language about the boy in the back seat, who was abandoned by the unseen arguing couple in the opening scene. Iranian director Morteza Farshbaf takes filmmaking to unfamiliar places in his story of unhappy relationships, yet much of Mourning follows the neo-realist pattern of recent Iranian film, shot in long takes with few edits in an approximation of real time. Mourning is a fascinating effort at finding new ways of depicting reality in cinema. (David Luhrssen)

Showing 4:30 p.m. Sept. 28 and noon Oct. 8 at the Oriental Theatre; 7:45 p.m. Oct. 10 at Fox-Bay Cinema, Milwaukee Film Festival.



Restless City R


An immigrant hustling after the American Dream falls in love with a good-hearted prostitute and tries to save her from herself—and the gangster who owns her life. It's a plot as old as Hollywood, but the story has seldom been told this way before. Director Andrew Dosunmu's Restless City is one of the best-made indie films of recent years, a reminder of the power of images in an art form that usually relies too much on talking. Djibril (Sy Alassane) is a serious-eyed immigrant from Senegal, a musician who can't get a break, dressed sharp and tooling around Harlem on his Vespa through streets of bustle, crime and disappointment. A visual rhapsody, bold in design and stunning in composition, Restless City is a vivid demonstration of how a filmmaker who marries inspiration with skill can overcome a slender budget. (David Luhrssen)

7 p.m. Sept. 7-9 at UW-Milwaukee Union Theatre.


Robot & Frank PG-13

This low-budget sci-fi drama banks on a script that takes full advantage of its leading man's talents. In the near future, aging cat burglar Frank (Frank Langella) lives alone and is losing touch with reality. To help Frank retain his independence, son Hunter (James Marsden) makes his dad accept a mechanical health-care aide (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). Peeved by the robot's efforts to involve him in vegetable gardening, Frank instead teaches his mechanical companion to pick locks. Naturally, Frank's scheme goes awry, but by then he's attached to his robot cohort and takes it with him, on the lam. By turns crotchety and charming, Langella pulls us in, making the story his own. Liv Tyler appears as Frank's indulgent daughter, with Susan Sarandon stepping in as the cat burglar's love interest. (Lisa Miller)

Sleepwalk With Me Not Rated

Mike Birbiglia directs, writes and stars as Matt Pandamiglio, an aspiring stand-up comedian living with Abby (Lauren Ambrose), his girlfriend of eight years. Birbiglia's portrait of the cutthroat stand-up comedy world paints a comedian paying his dues in front of small, unappreciative crowds. But then Matt accidentally hits upon a subject that elicits laughs—his uncertainty over whether he's ready to marry Abby. Despite his father's objections, Matt quits his bartending job to take his act, centering on his romance, on the road. Something unexpected happens when Matt begins to sleepwalk, a symptom of growing fear and anxiety. Poignant and sometimes amusing, Matt's hardscrabble existence is thought-provoking cinema. (L.M.)

The Words PG-13

The problem plaguing The Words is that its primary story, documenting the effect of plagiarism on the offending author, is contained within another book. As the film opens, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reads his latest novel to a throng of admirers. As his narrative unfolds, he introduces us to wannabe author Rory Hansen (Bradley Cooper), a broke writer who lives with his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana). When Hansen finds a manuscript tucked into an old valise, he leaps at the chance to claim its authorship as his own. The book is a hit, heaping money and acclaim on its false author, who privately wrestles with his theft. Then a mysterious man (Jeremy Irons) who knows the truth about Hansen's book insinuates himself into Hansen's life. The man cryptically encourages the young writer to do the right thing. Told as a story within a story, Hammond's tale fails to capture our imagination despite an abundance of words. (L.M.)

(Updated Sept. 5)


The Apparition PG-13

Too-cute couple Ben (Sebastian Stan) and Kelly (Ashley Greene) discover their home is haunted by an apparition conjured during a parapsychology experiment. The murderous presence kills several of those responsible for its awakening before turning its focus to the lovebirds. Hoping to escape a gruesome fate, Ben and Kelly consult Patrick (Tom Felton), an expert in the supernatural. Patrick senses that the spirit gathers power from their fear, so the couple must remain calm in order to survive. But the apparition knows what scares them and ups the ante by changing its appearance and whisking the pair into alternate realities. The film creates several spooky moments, but writer-director Todd Lincoln seems to know less about what scares viewers than the apparition he created. (Lisa Miller)

Celeste and Jesse Forever R

Thirty-something married couple Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) have just separated, but they're out together every night and continue to finish each other's sentences in the shared vocabulary of private jokes and references. Best friends since high school, they're having trouble pulling apart, not only because they've been so tightly intertwined, but also because they like each other so much. Written by Jones and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, this tart-smart romantic comedy is a knowing study in human emotions and contemporary social relations. Celeste and Jesse are splitting mainly because she is an entrepreneurial "trend spotter" tired of supporting her slacker artist husband. The film could have lost at least 10 minutes of silly digressions, but the main points are well put and the acting is fresh and sympathetic. Melancholy postmodern moment: gazing at your ex's Facebook page and the happy pictures of him with his new girlfriend. Celeste and Jesse Forever wonders whether real love comes down to intensely enjoying each other's company. (David Luhrssen)

Opens Aug. 24 at the Oriental Theatre.


Hit and Run R

Getaway driver Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) brings out his easily spotted vintage Continental to drive his new girlfriend Annie (Kristen Bell) to her job opportunity in faraway Los Angeles. However, Bronson neglects to tell her that he's in witness protection after testifying against his gangland cohorts for killing a bank security guard. Meanwhile, Annie's ex-boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), still stinging over their breakup, learns of his rival's past and tips off the revenge-minded leader (Bradley Cooper) of Bronson's old gang. What follows is a cross-country pursuit during which the couple is joined by the accident-prone marshal (Tom Arnold) responsible for Charlie's welfare. Cue the bickering and make-up sex, and you've got a comedy-action-romance filled with fast talking, faster cars and really big guns. (L.M.)

Lawless R

Lawless
is the fictionalized account of the Bondurant brothers' Prohibition-era bootlegging enterprise. Howard (Jason Clarke) and his younger brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) produce and sell a popular brew that lands them in the sights of transplanted Chicago lawman Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce). Jack (Shia LaBeouf), youngest of the Bondurants and barely grown, tries brewing his own brand of moonshine and begins to prosper. Through grit and loyalty, the brothers keep Franklin County, Va., well fortified with spirits until two fetching young women (Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska) capture Forrest and Jack's attention, causing the brothers' enterprise to unravel. (L.M.)

Premium Rush PG-13

The chase genre reinvents itself by placing a Manhattan courier at the center of a conspiracy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a New York bike messenger assigned to a "premium rush run" that must be completed in just 90 minutes (the film's approximate length). Dodging angry motorists, crazed cabbies and hordes of inattentive pedestrians is par for the course, but Wilee doesn't know he's delivering sensitive documents that have attracted an organization determined to steal his cargo by any means necessary. Atop a lightweight, fixed-gear, brakeless cycle, Wilee pulls out every bike trick in the book—plus a few new ones—to save his skin, evade his assailants and make his delivery on time. Just thinking about it leaves me breathless. (L.M.)

(Updated Aug. 23)


The Expendables 2 R


Sylvester Stallone co-writes another chapter featuring a group of over-the-hill action heroes intent on proving they've still got what it takes to defeat unstoppable villains. Jean-Claude Van Damme steps in as a European baddie plotting to wreak havoc by using 5 tons of plutonium stored in an abandoned Russian mine. Explosions and gunfights are nearly as integral to the film as the constant bickering between mercenary team leader Barney Ross (Stallone), second-in-command Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), dimwitted underling Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and other team members. Barney's team briefly butts heads with rival operative Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and mercenary contractor Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), but at the end of the day it's all hands on deck to save the world while reinvigorating the careers of these aging action stars. (Lisa Miller)

Neil Young Journeys PG

"I feel there's something in the air," sings Neil Young in "Sign of Love," one of the recent songs featured in his new film. Directed by Jonathan Demme, who helped Young's previous concert documentary, Heart of Gold, Journeys echoes the anxious slump toward the apocalypse of Young's recent albums. The solo concert was recorded at Toronto's Massey Hall, with Young (often shot in extreme close-up) prowling between guitar, piano and church organ. A few old favorites are in the set ("Ohio," "Down by the River"), but much of the music comes from his 2010 album, Le Noise. Demme interjects footage of Young's road trip from his hometown, Omemee, Ontario, to Toronto—a journey through the past in which the rock legend finds that many landmarks are missing. Neil Young Journeys is well staged and captures Young untethered to a band, drifting melodically and rhythmically while singing in an angry mix with sadness and resignation about a world going to waste. (David Luhrssen)

Opens Aug. 17 at the Oriental Theatre.


The Odd Life of Timothy Green PG

Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) attempt to make peace with their inability to have a child by writing a list of the exceptional qualities their offspring would surely possess. Several glasses of wine later, they put their list "to rest" in a box they bury in their backyard. The next morning, 10-year-old Timothy (C.J. Adams) appears on their doorstep, covered in mud. The pair soon realizes the boy has sprung from their garden and exhibits all the qualities they'd hoped for. More importantly, Timothy teaches Cindy and Jim the secrets of being good parents and brings out the best in everyone he meets. Sure, it's sappy, but this fantasy is also sufficiently whimsical and humorous to satisfy those seeking a feel-good movie experience. (L.M.)

ParaNorman PG

This creepy, snarky and humorous film focuses on the relationship of young Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) with ghosts that he alone can see and hear. Considered a freak by classmates, Norman is singled out for persecution by the school bully. He's equally misunderstood by his well-meaning parents. He remains close to his grandmother's spirit, so he heeds her warning that a witch's curse is about to bring a zombie plague upon their small town. Hoping to stop the invasion, Norman teams with friendly restless spirits, his chubby classmate Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) and his older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck). Filmed in stop-motion 3-D, the animation is too spooky for the littlest ones, but it should entertain the preteen set while spoofing parents' memories of favorite horrors from their youth. (L.M.)

RiffTrax Presents Manos: The Hands Of Fate Not Rated

"Mystery Science Theater 3000" made a mark for its genius pop-culture extemporizing on the dregs of atrocious B cinema. Three of the cult TV show's principals supply snark for movies old and new via RiffTrax, commentaries that complement your own videos on disc or download. Occasionally, they bring their sarcastic fun live to the big screen. On Thursday, Aug. 16, the Riff'sters revisit Mystery Science's horror flick favorite Manos: The Hands of Fate for fresh disparagement and denigration. There are no robot puppet silhouettes this time around, but no one's stopping you from dressing like Crow, Tom Servo or Gypsy. (Jamie Lee Rake)

7 p.m. Aug. 16 at Majestic and South Shore cinemas


Sparkle PG-13

This remake of a '70s film should improve upon the mediocre original with a better script, better music and a winsome cast. The story is a thinly veiled, fictionalized account of Diana Ross and the Supremes during the Motown era. Sparkle, played by Jordin Sparks, hooks up with a music producer while battling her increasing dependence on drugs and marginalizing her two singing co-stars. In the mid-1990s, Whitney Houston secured the remake rights from Warner Bros. and planned to star singer Aaliyah as Sparkle. Aaliyah was killed in a 2001 plane crash. Ten years later, Houston revived the remake, executive producing and appearing as Sparkle's troubled, single mother. Houston's fans will be glad to know she does sing, in this, her final film performance. (L.M.)

(Updated Aug. 16)


The Bourne Legacy PG-13

Jeremy Renner appears as Aaron Cross, a spy in the final stages of his training to become a Treadstone super-operative. Dispatched to the wilds of Alaska for a test of his survival skills, Cross is poised to pass with flying colors when Jason Bourne suddenly reappears in New York City, prompting Cross' superiors to order all Treadstone operatives killed, Cross included. Those in charge underestimate Cross' strengths, as the spy smartly uses his remote location to fake his own death. To maintain his enhanced performance, Cross requires genetic drugs developed by Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who herself has barely survived Treadstone's cleaning spree. The action heats up when Dr. Shearing teams with Cross on his globe-trotting dash to Chicago, Washington, D.C., Seoul, Karachi and, ultimately, Manila. Like its predecessors, the story profits from clever twists and exciting chases, although audiences are primed to expect these—along with something more that never materializes. (Lisa Miller)

Hope Springs PG-13

Feeling under-appreciated after 30 years of marriage to Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), Nebraska housewife Kay (Meryl Streep) insists they go to Great Hope Springs, Maine, for a week of expensive couple's therapy with marriage counselor Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). To reignite that old spark, both Kay and Feld work to break down walls put up by seemingly unromantic Arnold. Kay faithfully follows Feld's instructions, courageously leading herself and Arnold on a sexual odyssey that frequently makes her as uncomfortable as it does her husband. Director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) captures the range of Streep's emotions for maximum impact, but he also shows a deft hand with Jones, whose nonverbal expressions are highly effective. The film carefully avoids breaking conventional boundaries, declining to dig too deeply into a topic that is certain to resonate with couples of all ages. (L.M.)

(Updated Aug. 8)


Beasts of the Southern Wild PG-13

Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) is a little black girl from the other side of the New Orleans levy, a lowland community strewn with old tires, rotted posts, the rusted innards of automobiles and the foundations for buildings no longer there. Like most of the mixed-race residents, Hushpuppy and her dad live in a tin-roofed shack on stilts and get around on a jerry-rigged raft. One of the film's first sounds is the rumble of thunder and, soon enough, the rains will fall. Director Benh Zeitlin tells the story through the voice-over narration of the precocious Hushpuppy and shows the world as she experiences it—not just by lowering the camera tripod to a child's level, but also by reproducing an imaginative realm where the voice of Hushpuppy's dead mom is heard and prehistoric beasts roam the rubble. All of this is set against the backdrop of family tension, ecological failure and a marginal community under pressure of catastrophe in a universe that seems to be unraveling. The clumsy, if well meaning, intervention of outsiders is shown from the community's perspective. (David Luhrssen)

Screening at the Downer Theatre.


Step Up Revolution PG-13

The dance is rad, but the hackneyed plot of this fourth Step Up film makes it for die-hard fans only—and there must be plenty of those, since these films are consistent box-office winners. It's a little bit Romeo and Juliet when rich girl Emily (Kathryn McCormick) arrives in Miami with her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Before long she meets and becomes smitten with Sean (Ryan Guzman), a poor boy but a great dancer. Sean is the leader of a dance crew known as "The Mob." Sean's crew has big aspirations, but while they are honing their moves and planning their next showcase, Emily learns that her wealthy dad plans to redevelop The Mob's neighborhood and stomping grounds, wiping out their homes. To stop him, The Mob decides to turn their performance art into protest art. It's a good excuse for inventive dance, but apparently not good enough to invest in credible dialogue or characters. (Lisa Miller)

Take This Waltz R

Take This Waltz
opens at a cheesy tourist attraction, complete with a historical re-enactment of an adulterer being scourged. It's where freelance writer Margot (Michelle Williams) first encounters Daniel (Luke Kirby), an artist working as a Toronto rickshaw driver. Directed by Canada's Sarah Polley (Away from Her), this indie film is an unblinking, closely observed slice of everyday life. Margot has a loving marriage with Lou (Seth Rogen), but somehow attraction-repulsion draws her to the more exciting Daniel. Some of the most powerful scenes involve the acute eroticism of curbed desire. Romantic love can flare unexpectedly and die just the same. Sarah Silverman plays Lou's alcoholic sister and Leonard Cohen provides the movie's melancholy, mood-setting title song. (D.L.)

Opens July 27 at the Downer Theatre.


The Watch R

The latest jokey science-fiction flick features Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, all banking on their previous box-office wins to bolster ticket sales for this endeavor. The plot finds four friends (Richard Ayoade joins the aforementioned trio) who form a neighborhood watch as a means to escape their humdrum family lives. Soon enough, their weekly boys' night takes on unexpected urgency when the buddies discover their town is overrun with extraterrestrials posing as everyday suburbanites. Many of the gags seem uninspired, with the highlight being when these four turn an alien-made death-ray on an unsuspecting bovine. A confrontation with a lizard-like alien recalls rubber costumes from the '50s. We'll happily overlook special effects made on the cheap if the script overflows with laughs and originality. (L.M.)

(Updated July 26)



The Girl Who Played with Fire R

A nightmare awakens Lisbeth Salander at the start of The Girl Who Played With Fire. Horrific images from the previous episode of the Swedish trilogy that began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—Lisbeth's rape at the hands of her legal guardian—jolt her into consciousness. Clearly, the young woman has unfinished business with the predatory, sadistic lawyer, Bjurman. But she soon learns that someone is trying to frame her for a trio of murders, including the brutal execution of Bjurman in his own bed. Based on Stieg Larsson's second novel, The Girl WhoPlayed With Fire continues the story with a new set of villains. The Hollywood remake of the first installment was the better film technically, but the original Swedish series had a certain authenticity, thanks in large part to Noomi Rapace's startling performance as Lisbeth. (David Luhrssen)

July 12-14, UW-Parkside
Student Center Cinema, 900 Wood Rd., Kenosha.

Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D
PG

Forget the "butterfly effect." In the fourth Ice Age flick, the sabre tooth squirrel Scrat causes an earthquake while pursuing his "precious" acorn. The quake tears apart earth's supercontinent, Pangea, setting adrift the franchise's core trio of heroes. They are Manny the Wooly Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid the goofy sloth (John Leguizamo) and the Diego the somber sabre tooth tiger (Denis Leary). As the three drift further and further from home on a large chunk of ice, they are boarded and taken over by simian pirate king Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), whose crew includes beautiful white tiger Shira (Jennifer Lopez) who steals Diego's heart. Despite its raft of new characters, number four never reach's the original's comedic heights, but its imaginative visuals and captivating action will easily amuse the little ones. (Lisa Miller)

Katy Perry: Part of Me
PG

The documentary of the singer's elaborate 2011 world tour digresses into biography. Perry's parents are itinerant Pentecostal preachers; she was raised in a bubble of evangelical religiosity penetrated in her teens by exposure to Alanis Morissette. Perry went from the Christian pop subculture to an abortive career among Los Angeles's musical hopefuls before her album One of the Boys (2008) launched a batch of hits and rocketed her from obscurity to platinum stardom. And yes, she married British comedian Russell Brand and yes, their marriage unraveled during the course of her year-long tour. Perry learned that romance can be hard to sustain over long distances. (D.L.)

(Updated July 10)



The Amazing Spider-Man PG-13


This Spider-Man reboot targets girls with its central romance unfolding from the perspective of Gwen (Emma Stone), girlfriend of young Peter Parker/Spider-Man  (Andrew Garfield). The lad's problems include physical changes resulting from the bite of a genetically altered spider and the disappearance of his parents. However, it is Parker's love for Gwen that occupies most of his thoughts, along with the knowledge that Gwen's police captain dad has declared war on Spider-Man the vigilante and Spidey's archenemy, The Lizard. The villainous Lizard (Rhys Ifans) was once the research partner of Parker's father, but he has embraced the dark side after splicing his own DNA with a reptile's. Shot in Red Digital Cinema Camera Co.'s "RED Epic," the movie's exciting action sequences are captured in crisp visuals that hardly benefit from the addition of price-boosting 3-D. The colors are darker, but the handsome Garfield softens the tone. (Lisa Miller)

Savages R

Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) are best friends and high-end marijuana dealers. They sell Ben's pricey designer weed and share a swanky Laguna Beach home, as well as O (Blake Lively), the girl who completes their dreamlike existence. Thanks to the DEA agent in their pocket (John Travolta), the pair doesn't worry about getting arrested. However, the agent can't protect them from Elena (Salma Hayek) when she decides to expand her Mexican drug cartel into their territory. Displaying her ruthless streak via brutal enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro), Elena kidnaps O and demands control of Ben's weed and its sales. Ex-Navy SEAL Chon is determined to rescue O and take Elena down, but he'll need the support and smarts that Ben brings to the table, along with the DEA agent's information pipeline. Oliver Stone directs this adaptation of Don Winslow's best-selling crime novel in a manner that encourages veteran actors to steal scenes. Travolta makes crazy look good, Hayek shows the many dimensions of a femme fatale and Del Toro projects menace in a dozen shades of gray. (L.M.)

(Updated July 3)


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter R


Adapted from the imaginative 2010 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, this story purports to reveal Abe Lincoln's secret journals. The tale begins when young Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) learns that a vampire killed his mother. He bravely avenges her death and is sought out by Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), an ethical vampire eager to exterminate evil vampires. By day Lincoln pursues his political aspirations, while by night he slays bloodsuckers. Lincoln becomes an abolitionist after he learns that vampires have come to America to purchase slaves and use them as a food source. Visionary horror director Timur Bekmambetov uses well-rendered special effects to illuminate Lincoln's nocturnal battles, making the revered president into something of a superhero. (Lisa Miller)

Brave PG

During Medieval times, Scottish princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is an expert archer determined not to marry the sons of three noblemen who are presented as suitors to her royal parents (Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson). To thwart the young men, Merida outshoots and humiliates them at an archery tournament. Her mother, Elinor, is angry, prompting the princess to seek out a witch (Julie Walters) and purchase a spell that will change her mother's mind. Instead, the spell transforms the queen into a black bear—an animal that would be killed on sight by Merida's bear-hating countrymen. The princess and her mother make their escape into the forest, where Merida has just two days to undo the curse before her mother loses all human memory and the spell becomes permanent. This Pixar film, presented in 3-D, is visually astounding, incorporating both real and imaginary creatures into a verdant Scottish landscape. (L.M.)

Lola Versus R

Lola Versus
is unique in that all the characters are unlikable. Lola (Greta Gerwig) is a 29-year-old doctoral candidate whose perfect life gets upended. Her boyish fiancé (Joel Kinnaman) calls off their engagement, while her mother (Debra Winger) reminds Lola of her biological clock. Alice (Zoe Lister Jones), one of Lola's best friends, is also unhappy because she, too, is single. In between theater and concerts, pseudo-religious experiences and expensive lofts, the characters complain. Lola copes by drinking and sleeping around. The actors do their best, but one may leave this film more apathetic than entertained. (Daniel Gaitan)

Safety Not Guaranteed R

Just out of college, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a downbeat outcast and a bit too smart for the world around her. Taking an internship at a Seattle magazine, she's assigned to assist a smarmy, shallow reporter investigating a kooky classified ad: Seeking a Fellow Adventurer for Time Travel. A tart indie comedy tempering the sharp edge of June with romantic whimsy, Safety Not Guaranteed follows Darius as she gradually gets to know the ad's author, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), an outcast with a fascination for quantum mechanics and martial arts. He's paranoid about being followed by government agents and, in fact, mysterious men in dark gray are following him. Director Colin Trevorrow maintains uncertainty through the final scene. Is Kenneth a good soulmate for the sweetly cynical Darius or a dangerous wing nut? (David Luhrssen)

Opens June 22 at the Oriental Theatre.


Seeking a Friend for the End of the World R

Last year saw the release of two films about planetary objects veering catastrophically toward the Earth, Melancholia and Another Earth. The apocalyptic anxiety continues with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell as Dodge, a poker-faced insurance salesman, and Keira Knightley as Penny, a flighty romantic. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria's best bits come early as she satirizes the probable media response to a speeding asteroid, weeks away from demolishing our world ("Bringing you the countdown to the end of days along with all your classic rock favorites," the radio announces). She nails the way society might fall apart in different pieces (Dodge's Hispanic maid carries on gladly while insurance executives jump from the ledge), but the plot and pace bog down in too many episodes as Dodge and Penny hit the road to fulfill their final wishes. Sporadically touching as well as funny, Seeking a Friend is sustained on the strength of its stars.  (D.L.)

(Updated June 20)



48 Hour Film Project Not Rated


The world's most unique film competition returned to Milwaukee earlier this month, as 18 filmmaking teams accepted a challenge: Could they make a film in 48 hours that is worthy of being screened at the Oriental Theatre? The screenwriting, rehearsing, shooting, costume designing, editing—virtually everything—had to be accomplished within that narrow time frame. The resulting movies will be screened at Milwaukee's most majestic cinema, and the winners will go on to compete with 48-hour films from around the world. (Morton Shlabotnik)

7 p.m. and 9 p.m. June 14 at the Oriental Theatre.


Rock of Ages PG-13

The Broadway play Rock of Ages has been adapted into a film. Julianne Hough portrays Sherri, an Oklahoma hick chasing musical stardom when she arrives by bus in Los Angeles and meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a city boy seeking the same. The pair's subsequent on-and-off romance constitutes the story's through line, but these are cardboard characters trapped in a production that fails to incorporate the stage play's satire. Tom Cruise appears as egomaniacal rocker Stacee Jaxx, a showman and heavily tattooed ladies' man whose intense presence chips away at the lighthearted energy brought by Lonny, a party-hearty technician played by Russell Brand. Alec Baldwin dons an ugly wig as wise-cracking club owner Dennis Dupree, and Catherine Zeta-Jones steps in as a Tipper Gore-like opponent of musical free speech. Various icons of the period show up in a handful of cameos. The '80s fashions are a hoot and Sunset Strip's sleaze factor is on the money. (Lisa Miller)

That's My Boy R

After impregnating his schoolteacher, who is subsequently sent to prison, 13-year-old Donny is ordered to raise Todd, the child he fathered. Money should be plentiful since Donny is paid handsomely for his story. Alas, he squanders it and fails to earn his son's respect. At 18, Todd leaves home with the intention of never seeing his irresponsible father again. Fast-forward 12 years. Donny's best hope of avoiding tax evasion charges is to get his hands on the $50,000 promised by a television network in exchange for footage of Todd and his mother reuniting. To make the reunion happen, Donny tracks down his now-successful son. The setup echoes the real-life coupling of schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her 13-year-old student Vili Fualaau, a situation ripe for a comedic "what-if" twist. The strategy could have worked had Adam Sandler avoided the same vulgar, unfunny approach that has defined his recent comedies. But, despite an increasingly loud critical outcry, his films have continued to make money for Sony Studios. (L.M.)

(Updated June 13)




The Intouchables R


The best description for Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's The Intouchables is sweet. Philippe (François Cluzet), a maturing, rich quadriplegic Parisian, hires Driss (Omar Sy), a rough young man of African heritage, to be his in-house caretaker. Philippe is bored with his repetitive lifestyle and detests being handled by caretakers and nurses. The loud, outspoken and crude Driss needs work. Both men need each other—Philippe needs the abrasive reminders that he's still human and Driss needs the direction and compassion of Philippe. The film follows their friendship through life's adventures. Sy's sprightly performance helps to make The Intouchables, based on a true story, feel fresh. (Daniel Gaitan)

Opens June 8 at the Downer Theatre.


Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted PG

Though they've had happy times in Africa, Alex the stouthearted lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) feels that he, Marty the extroverted zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the nervous giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the sassy hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) must return home to their beloved zoo in the Big Apple. The quartet scubas across the Mediterranean to reach the penguins and their plane, but before they can fly away they are found by a vicious animal control officer (Frances McDormand). To make their escape, the friends become stowaways with a circus on a tour that will take them to the United States. However, to earn their ride home, the foursome must create and star in a circus act. This colorful, 3-D chapter is the silliest Madagascar to date. (Lisa Miller)

Prometheus R

Set in 2093, this cousin to Alien shares that film's director, Ridley Scott. The story imagines a private company funding the search for the origins of life. A promising moon in another solar system prompts the company to send a crew. Charlize Theron portrays the firm's rep, who places corporate interests above the lives of the crew. Michael Fassbender appears as a cyborg, Idris Elba plays the ship's captain, Logan Marshall-Green stands in as an archaeologist and Noomi Rapace is Elizabeth, the film's moral center. After reaching the moon, Elizabeth finds cave paintings linking the moon's inhabitants to Earth. Soon enough, they find the extraterrestrials, murderous creatures that quickly get the upper hand. (L.M.)

(Updated June 7)



Battlefield America PG-13


In Battlefield America, Marques Houston (You Got Served) returns to the soap-opera dance genre as slick businessman Sean. Sentenced to community service for his latest speeding ticket, Sean must tutor a band of misfit pipsqueaks to compete on the underground dance circuit. Rapid three-second cuts and a bouncy camera make it difficult to fully appreciate the choreography, but snappy music and little cuties dressed in fatigues make you want to try, providing you can get past the melodrama surrounding Sean's wake-up call. (Lisa Miller)

Snow White and the Huntsman PG-13

This adaptation of the famous Brothers Grimm tale finds Charlize Theron portraying Queen Ravenna, evil stepmother to Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart. The queen goes to great lengths to remain "the fairest of them all," extracting the life force from attractive young women. Ravenna finds Snow White to be threatening, so the queen dispatches a hard-drinking huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, also pretty) to bring Snow White to her. Instead, the Huntsman becomes infatuated with his quarry and vows to help her defeat the queen. Ian McShane, Ray Winstone and Bob Hoskins are among those appearing as an octet of savage, humorous dwarfs. The film's striking battles, monsters and special effects might make a guy forget that this is a tale of female empowerment. (L.M.)

(Updated May 29)


Chernobyl Diaries R


Let us pause a moment to consider what contemporary horror films would do without reckless young people—and Oren Peli, the writer-director behind Paranormal Activity. This time Peli's on hand to produce a horror featuring a handful of young adults determined to see Chernobyl, the site of a nuclear reactor meltdown in the former Soviet Union. They hire an extreme tour guide who comes equipped with an old Geiger counter, but his Soviet-made van strands them at the site. Once darkness falls, mysterious killers begin to whittle down the group's numbers. Setting the action in this desolate spot and then propelling the victims into decrepit buildings that offer up a frightening number of nooks and crannies isn't without its charm. (Lisa Miller)

Men in Black III PG-13

Rising above the sequel while failing to reach the dizzying heights of the original, the third chapter in the Men in Black franchise features a regretful Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who soon disappears because alien Boglodite Boris (Jemaine Clement) time-travels to the past and kills Agent K before he can corral the extraterrestrials on Earth. The act changes mankind's present, as an extraterrestrial contingent invades Earth and is poised to exterminate the human race. In an effort to restore the present created by Agent K, Agent J (Will Smith) travels back to 1969, where he meets a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) and attempts to save his life. Brolin steals Smith's thunder, and the script, incomplete when shooting began, fails to create enough snappy repartee to keep things lively between special-effects set pieces. (L.M.)

(Updated May 24)



Battleship PG-13

After NASA dispatches a message to a rocky Earth-like planet in another galaxy, the planet's inhabitants respond by sending warships filled with extraterrestrial fighters to Earth. The alien machines dive deep beneath the ocean, later emerging to engage our battleships and fighter jets in all-out war. Liam Neeson appears as Admiral Shane, whose fleet is seemingly outclassed by alien machines reminiscent of giant Transformers. The battles and explosions are the film's real stars, despite the presence of Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker. Little time and less effort is devoted to developing the characters in this latest film highlighting another Hasbro product. The soldiers-vs.-aliens premise bears scant resemblance to the familiar board game, but it should attract enough teen males to ensure the film receives that coveted blockbuster status. (Lisa Miller)

Darling Companion PG-13

Everyone knows that a good pet can be good for one's health—emotionally, physically, spiritually. In Darling Companion, that creature is a dog called Freeway, so named when Beth (Diane Keaton) discovers the bleeding and abandoned canine on the shoulder of an interstate. The animal's discovery prompts love-at-first-glance romance between Beth's daughter and the cute veterinarian who treats Freeway (cue the schmaltzy piano music) and tiffs between the emotional Beth and her coolly rational surgeon husband (Kevin Kline). The dog's disappearance causes all parties to come together and measure the meaning of their lives in a film that carefully sands away life's rough edges and buffs the surfaces to a glistening sheen. (David Luhrssen)

The Dictator R

Sacha Baron Cohen plays egomaniacal dictator Admiral General Aladeen of Wadiya, and his double, dispatched to a meeting of the United Nations in New York City. The double, tasked with signing a democratic constitution that will bring great wealth, busily attends official meetings while Aladeen, shorn of his trademark beard, tours New York City incognito. While investigating an anti-Aladeen rally, the dictator meets and falls for feminist vegan Zoey (Anna Faris), who manages the Free Earth Collective. Though the racist, gender-biased Aladeen rails against everything Zoey stands for, she is mostly unable to understand him. Eventually, Aladeen begins to open his eyes to her point of view. (L.M.)

What to Expect When You're Expecting PG-13

Inspired by Heidi Murkoff's book, this adaptation is the latest film employing the formula of interconnected stories showcasing different couples (in this case, five of them) having their first child. Two couples find themselves expecting by accident, while two others have planned their pregnancies—only to be confronted by surprises. The fifth couple is attempting to adopt. Pregnancy and fatherhood become a competitive sport between two of the expectant pairs, while the others seek peer-group support. The film, calibrated to attract a female audience, carefully treads the middle ground, seeking to comfort viewers by easily resolving everyone's problems to deliver a predictable, feel-good comedy. (L.M.)

(Updated May 16)



The Avengers PG-13


Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye to save Earth from an invading army of alien monsters led by Loki. The heroes quarrel and come to blows like siblings, but these confrontations teach them to integrate their superhero abilities when tackling Loki's army of seemingly unstoppable giants. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, each Marvel comic book character is explored within the confines of a two-and-a-half-hour movie that must dedicate its opening to the Avengers' origin story and its closing 30 minutes to a climactic us-against-them showdown. The film's post-production 3-D enhances gut-wrenching action set in the Big Apple, where the invaders take skyscrapers apart like Tinkertoys—deeds that cry out to be avenged. (Lisa Miller)


Damsels in Distress PG-13


The damsels of director Whit Stillman (Last Days of Disco) are a gaggle of haughty, pretentious girls from a second-tier Ivy League college whose extracurricular activities include running the campus Suicide Prevention Center (dispensing donuts and tap dance lessons) and trying to improve the hygiene of frat boys by introducing them to expensive soap. The script is dry and mordant ("I love clueless and hackneyed expressions because they're largely true," declares Violet, the ringleader), but the delivery is somehow off. Damsels in Distress suggests Evelyn Waugh in search of a good cast, as the deadbeat acting and rather slack pace work against the story's madcap potential. Damsels is a smart comedy that the Brits would make much better. Here's hoping for a Masterpiece Classic remake with a sparkling crew of quirky Oxford co-eds. (David Luhrssen)


Opens May 4 at the Oriental Theatre.


The Deep Blue Sea R

The Deep Blue Sea opens like a sad, wordless sonata of disappointed yearning and eros between Hester (Rachel Weisz), her illicit lover Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) and her sympathetic, cuckolded husband (Simon Russell Beale). Few words are spoken and none exchanged through the opening scene until Hester is jolted awake from her failed suicide by overdose. The circa-1950 London setting will remind film buffs of Neil Jordan's take on Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, although writer-director Terence Davies' new film (based on Terence Rattigan's play) is harder-edged in Hester's heedless pursuit of passion with a man who doesn't love her. Weisz's performance is fine, except that she's incapable of maintaining the aura of Englishness her character demands. Her Hester is more Borough of Queens than Knightsbridge. (D.L.)


Opens May 4 at the Oriental Theatre.


The Raven R


Edgar Allan Poe in pursuit of a serial killer? It's not a bad idea, given Poe's role in creating the modern detective story and casting the template for Arthur Conan Doyle and all who followed, but The Raven's execution borders on pathetic. The story drips from the hackneyed Hollywood mold of tone-deaf screenwriting, anachronistic dialogue, one-dimensional characters and softcore torture porn. John Cusack could have been a good Poe, but the film gives him little to do but try to maintain his dignity as he ponders, weak and weary. Thus quoth the Raven: Cusack, fire your agent! (D.L.)


The Five-Year Engagement R

Judd Apatow signed on as producer for this comedy about the fine line between compromising and feeling compromised. Tom (Jason Segel) proposes marriage one year after meeting Violet (Emily Blunt). She accepts, but before the couple can set a date, Violet's pregnant sister (Alison Brie) must rush down the aisle with her baby's daddy, Alex (Chris Pratt). Wedding plans are once again delayed when Violet accepts a postdoctoral position at Michigan and must leave immediately. A San Francisco sous chef, Tom quits to move across the country with Violet and finds himself stuck working at a sub shop. The resulting identity crisis finds Tom "going Michigander" by taking up hunting, smoking venison, beekeeping and brewing mead. Their families mount a growing wedding campaign, unaware the couple's relationship is in turmoil. Though the film is sufficiently amusing to attract an adult crowd, it often recycles its own jokes, sometimes resorts to vulgarity and is occasionally overly dramatic. (Lisa Miller)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits PG

In an adaptation of the first two books from the series by Gideon Defoe, Hugh Grant voices Pirate Captain, a vain, incompetent pirate with a kind heart. Determined to win the Pirate of the Year award, he attacks Charles Darwin's ship. The Captain is then informed that he already possesses a great treasure, since the pirate ship's "parrot," Polly, is actually a rare dodo. Planning to trade Polly for gold, the crew makes for London, where Queen Victoria's anti-pirate campaign means they must don absurd disguises. The script makes clever use of historical figures, putting equal effort into its humorous chase sequences. Models and Claymation characters are combined with realistic effects and detailed Victorian sets. (L.M.)

Think Like a Man PG-13

After reading a book explaining a man's thought process and what women must do to take control, three friends are determined to put that advice into action. Mya (Meagan Good) has fallen for a suave player (Romany Malco), Kristen (Gabrielle Union) wants a commitment from her longtime beau (Jerry Ferrara) and Lauren (Taraji Henson) hopes she's finally found a successful man (Michael Ealy) worthy of her time. Sensing they are being manipulated, the guys, all buddies, discover the women's secret playbook and use it to turn the tables on the huntresses. An appealing cast sells the double-crossing schemes while making it clear that true love is never more than a heartbeat away. (L.M.)



Blue Like Jazz PG-13

Donald Miller's 2003 memoir on which Blue Like Jazz is based spoke to many young Christians disaffected by church hypocrisy and subcultural kitsch. The story of a straight-laced Texas Baptist losing himself to the liberal atmosphere of Portland's Reed College, before reclaiming his faith on more grounded terms, translates into a linear story line with bittersweet humor and empathy. Surrealistic cartoon touches connect and comment upon the action, but the characters populating Reed's campus provide ample animation themselves. Former evangelical-market new wave singer Steve Taylor directs with an eye for brisk pacing and making the most of a colorful cityscape. (Jamie Lee Rake)

Chimpanzee G

It's impossible not to root for Chimpanzee, if only because Disney is donating a portion of the first week's ticket sales to the Jane Goodall Institute. The story follows a group of chimps living in the Ivory Coast's isolated Tai Forest, eventually zeroing in on young Oscar. When he is orphaned as a 3-year-old, Oscar's future appears grim. But kindly alpha male Freddy decides to parent the little guy. Remarkable footage captures chimps doing all the things chimps do best, but is diminished by narration that lumps their behaviors into "good" and "bad" categories—presumably because the story targets children. This flaw aside, introducing kids to chimps interacting with their natural habitat is a gratifying way to spend entertainment dollars. (Lisa Miller)

The Lucky One PG-13

As Logan (sad-eyed Zac Efron) bends to pick a stray photo of a beautiful woman from the rubble of an Iraqi street, a bomb explodes alongside his U.S. Marines platoon. The seemingly random act saved his life. The Lucky One wonders about destiny and touches on the awkwardness of veterans returning home from hell, but ultimately it chooses the path of romantic melodrama as Logan walks the back roads of America with his faithful German shepherd, somehow tracing the unidentified woman in the photo to a mossy town in Louisiana. And all this before the opening credits stop rolling! Small moments of reality and laughter bob along on the surface of an improbable plot carried by an irresistible tide of inevitability. (David Luhrssen)

The Red Kite Project Not Rated

An estimated 1.5 million Americans struggle with autism; this year, more children will be diagnosed with this disorder than with AIDS or cancer. The Red Kite Project is a feature documentary focusing on the Chicago Children's Theatre, co-founded by Jacqueline Russell as an immersive theater for children with autism. Director Kerry Shaw Brown, an Oconomowoc native, considers the documentary one of his most important projects. Tickets to the screening are free. (Daniel Gaitan)

7 p.m. April 21 at Oconomowoc Arts Center. Reserve free tickets by calling (262) 560-3172. A panel discussion will follow the screening.

Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up Not Rated

The United States was the victim of a terrorist conspiracy on 9/11, but the U.S. government has often worked with terrorists to achieve its foreign policy goals. Probably the best-known examples are the CIA'