Wednesday, Feb. 19: Captain Phillips & Lee Daniels' The Butler
5 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. @ UWM Union Theatre (FREE!)
Let's kick off the week with two pictures that were originally prognosticated to be much bigger factors in the Oscar race than they ended up being, with The Butler receiving precisely zero noms and Captain Phillips coming up empty in both the Best Actor and Best Director categories. Let's be honest, while you'll see this Wednesday just how stacked a category Best Actor is at this year's Oscars (upcoming article plug!), but it is absolutely bananas that Tom Hanks didn't net a nomination here – his work in the final 20 minutes of Captain Phillips is career-best work, which is to say it is some of the best acting you could possibly see on the big screen. And while I've yet to see The Butler, any movie gonzo enough to cast John Cusack as Nixon, Robin Williams as Eisenhower and Alan Rickman as Reagan is going to have some value, be it intentional or otherwise. A very worthy mid-week double feature.
Thursday & Friday, Feb. 20-21: Donnie Darko
10 p.m. 2/20 & Midnight 2/21 @ Times Cinema ($5!!)
There was a brief, shining period between Donnie Darko's initial DVD release and the subsequent release of its director's cut and Southland Tales where Richard Kelly was poised to become an equally popular and unique voice in American cinema. That time has passed (I would argue he's still phenomenally interesting as a filmmaker and point you towards this article), but let's all join hands and remember that halcyon moment by watching Donnie Darko this midnight at the Times. Before Kelly felt the unfortunate urge to over-explain his plot through the director's cut, we had this wonderful atmospheric tale of a boy, his adult male bunny companion and the oncoming apocalypse.
Friday, Feb. 21: Pompeii/Pompeii 3-D
Opens nationwide, check local listings
Paul W.S. Anderson is best known in film nerd circles for being the “bad” Paul Anderson, but that's not entirely fair. Moderately fair? Certainly. PWSA (not to be confused with PTA) has made his share of garish spectacle, but he can craft a dynamic image and uses 3-D as well as any filmmaker, which piques my interest ever so slightly in his new release, Pompeii. We all know how this story ends (and the film looks to be going for a hyper-masculine Titanic vibe, with doomed lovers, but plenty of non-disaster-related violence alongside it), so it's up to P-Dubs to bring the visual noise and give us a good old-fashioned disaster picture. Will he succeed? We'll soon find out.
Saturday, Feb. 22: -30-
7 p.m. @ The Church in the City, 2648 N. Hackett Ave. ($3)
The Focus Film Society is back with another deep cut, this time with one of Jack Webb's (of Dragnet fame) lesser known feature directorial efforts, following a particularly eventful day in the life of a newspaper editor as he works towards compiling that day's news. I'm a sucker for newspaper-set films (His Girl Friday, Park Row, Newsies), so I'm already hooked, but what if I were to tell you that one of the stories Webb's character is chasing for front-page material is a child lost in the L.A. Sewers? That's right, this is the rare double threat: both a tale of newsrooms and as tale of children in sewers. In lieu of a trailer, enjoy this brief selection from the film itself and check it out this Saturday.
Saturday & Sunday, Feb. 22-23: Camille Claudel 1915
7 p.m. 2/22 & 5 p.m. 2/23 @ UWM Union Theatre (FREE!)
Juliette Binoche is a national treasure. Yes, I realize she's French, but I'm giving her honorary cinematic citizenship. When she was saddled with the unfortunate role of dating Dane Cook in Dan in Real Life, I, like any red-blooded Frenchman, felt anguish at this coupling, the acting equivalent of drawing a Hitler mustache on the Mona Lisa, so let's rid our minds of that atrocity once and for all with a dazzling new performance from this amazing actress. Here, as famed sculptress Camille Claudel in the later stages of her life when she was confined to an asylum in the South of France, Binoche delivers another in a long career of mesmerizing work, crafting a wholly sympathetic portrait of the emotional tumult suffered by great artists. And not a Dane Cook anywhere to be found.