Tuesday, March 25: Wolf of Wall Street released on DVD/Blu-Ray
Available at all finer local media retailers
American Hustle is playing this week at the UWM Theatre (3/26 & 3/29 @ 5 p.m.), but I grow ever colder on that film the further away I get from it (luckily, it was shut out of the Oscars, so it won't forever be remembered as unworthy) so instead let me recommend to you a energetic and lively film from 71-year old Martin Scorcese that proved the real thing still beats pale imitations of the master. The Wolf of Wall Street feels like the vital work of a young man, a propulsive bacchanalian retelling of Jordan Belfort's memoir of the financial and moral deceits he committed while in pursuit of the American dream: absurd wealth. Leonardo DiCaprio gives the performance of a lifetime in the lead (displaying comedic chops I never knew he had), and for all of those who claimed the film lacks a moral center, pay special attention to the final scene and try and understand the point being made by Scorcese through it. It means something that we are entertained by these escapades, just like it means something that they are also horrifying and largely go unpunished in the grand scheme of things.
Wednesday, March 26: The Barkleys of Broadway
7:30 p.m. @ Charles Allis Art Museum ($7/$5/free for adults/seniors and students/museum members)
There's still a make-up date next week due to the one previous winter screening getting polar vortexed out of existence, so this is technically no longer the grand finale to the Charles Allis' winter musical programming. That said, this would certainly be a grand finale, as the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairing is perhaps the most potent in all of musical cinema. While I spent my early sojourns into the musical world becoming infatuated with the work of Gene Kelly, it's been Astaire's elegance and grace that has drawn me in since. He's one of cinema's greatest treasures, so the chance to see him perform that magic on screen is an opportunity that shouldn't be overlooked. In a gender reversal from Easter Parade where Astaire stepped in for Gene Kelly at the last second, here Rogers stepped in for Judy Garland making for the last pairing of this famous duo, and the film is all the better for it – drawing on their previous work together, there's a level of emotion built into the connection they made with audiences that just wouldn't have been there with Garland.
Thursday, March 27: The Goonies
10 p.m. @ Times Cinema ($10)
Space Jam is to Millenials as The Goonies is to Gen-X'ers. You'd do well to remember that, there's a good chance it could show up on a future SAT. Every generation has a movie that is largely poor that still struck a collective chord amongst its audience during their developmental years, and since I was not the target audience for The Goonies upon initial release it's hard for me to see the movie as anything other than kids yelling for an hour and 45 minutes. Luckily, you won't have to sit through The Goonies and allow it to entertain you via its own merit, this is the debut screening of a new Milwaukee venture known as “Stand-Up Cinema,” a sort of MST3K/sketch comedy hybrid that will comment on and add to the film experience throughout. A promising combination of cinema and live comedy, and a local film/performance option worth seeing develop.
Friday, March 28: Noah opens nationwide
Check local listings for showtimes
Generally speaking, it's not a strong vote of confidence for studios to withhold a screening from critics before release – but when the film in question is by Darren Aronofsky, and is a decades-in-the-making dream project no less – it's still a film worthy of your attention. A retelling of the biblical flood that elevates it to the level of popular myth, Noah has been holding back from audiences with all of its promotional material. Understandably wary of upsetting those who hold the source material dear, they've underplayed the weirdness that is in store for audiences – wars between men and fallen angels encased in the ground, a protagonist that essentially has to allow almost every man, woman and child on Earth to die horribly – and made the film look like generic, disaster porn instead of a philosophically challenging work of art from one of mainstream cinema's most important filmmakers. Unfortunately, I won't be able to review this film for you, but I will definitely be amongst the first in line to check it out – Aronofsky has earned that right with masterpieces such as Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain – and I highly recommend that you do the same, poor trailers be damned.
Friday, March 28: Bad Words opens locally
Check local listings for showtimes
Every time a movie comes out with a supposedly “naughty” hook or subversive lead character, I always become a little wary. Flashbacks to Wedding Crashers, a bawdy premise that turns into a toothless romcom for three-quarters of its runtime, always run through my head. I can assure you that Jason Bateman's lead performance and directorial debut in Bad Words doesn't succumb to schmaltz or grand emotional realizations – his character, a broken man who through a loophole in the rules is allowed to compete in children's spelling bees, remains caustic and downright mean throughout. There is room for a budding friendship between himself and a younger competitor, Chaitanya (the immensely charming Rohan Chand), but the film never loses its edge or verve throughout. And while I took issue with the film's portrayal of women (the options appear to be either shrew or sex object), it's hard to deny that there are plentiful laughs when the film allows Bateman to unleash his vitriol on all those around him.
Friday, March 28: Sabotage opens nationwide
Check local listings for showtimes
Listen all'a y'all – it's Sabotage: the newest film from Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback bid, directed and co-written by David Ayer (End of Watch). Very loosely based on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, the film follows Schwarzenegger's lead agent on a DEA task force who, along with the rest of his team, is being picked off one by one after a major bust on a drug cartel safe house. I'm an unabashed fan of Arnold, he's one of the last true movie stars, allowed to be himself in any role because we enjoy his presence on screen so much (I realize mileage may vary for some film fans there) – and his weird Hitler haircut here (not to mention Sam Worthington with a braided goatee) suggest there will be plenty for me to enjoy.
Friday, March 28 through Sunday, March 30: Norte, the End of History
3/28 & 3/29: 7 p.m., 3/30: 5 p.m. @ UWM Union Theatre ($6/5/4)
After receiving much acclaim at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, the latest work from Philippine director Lev Diaz makes its local bow at the UWM Theatre this weekend. Clocking in at a lean four hours and change, Norte definitely takes its time telling its loose retelling of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, but Diaz is a master of temporal manipulation onscreen, so if you give yourself over to his particular rhythms the passage of time will become felt and experienced instead of simulated. For the more adventurous among us, this is the film event of the week.