Tuesday, April 15: Philomena is released on
Available at all finer local media retailers.
Let's kick off the week with the only Best Picture nominee
that managed to escape my grasp last year. Based on the true story of Philomena
Lee, Judi Dench plays the titular lead who, at young age, was forced to
relinquish her child by the convent she was sent to. Steve Coogan, who also
wrote the picture, plays an unemployed journalist, telling Philomena's story to
the world while also helping her reunite with the son she's never known. I
avoided the film initially because it set off a ton of blaring klaxon horns for
sentimentality and what most would classify as "Oscar bait." However, the word
in the interim has been positive with particular praise for Coogan's work in
avoiding such pitfalls in his screenplay. It's time for me to take the plunge.
Wednesday, April 16: 12 Years a Slave
4:30 p.m. @ UWM Union Theatre (FREE!)
We move from a Best Picture nominee to the winner, as 12
Years a Slave plays as part of the Union Theatre's Hollywood Film
Series. I've talked a great deal on “Moviegoers” already about Steve McQueen's
harrowing piece, but I want to encourage any stragglers who haven’t yet
witnessed his vision of Solomon Northup's journey from free man to human
property to finally do so. While the subject matter is and will remain painful
for the entirety of human existence, the film is an important one. McQueen
imbues a horrific story with indelible beauty, crafting numerous, unforgettable
images throughout the picture while capturing the essence of the humanity lost
by both captive and captor alike.
Thursday, April 17: The Machinist
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Theatre (FREE!)
We move from degradation of the soul to degradation of the
mind and body as one of Christian Bale's most famous performances, The
Machinist, is brought to the Union for one night only. The film
is mostly famous for Bale having lost 62 pounds to play Trevor Reznik, the
machinist whose body and mind are eroding for reasons he can’t grasp. Director
Brad Anderson, who also crafted the genuinely unsettling Session 9,
does great work to show Reznik's wilting grasp on reality. The film is a rock
solid descent into madness. What better way to spend your Thursday?
Friday, April 18: Dom Hemingway, Jodorowsky's
Dune & Transcendence all open in Milwaukee area.
Check local listings for showtimes and pricing.
Before us, we have a busy week of local releases: one major
release hitting theaters and two others making their limited bow at the
Landmark Downer and Oriental. As noted in a previous column, it's never a sign
of confidence when studios choose not to screen a film for critics beforehand,
so the new Johnny Depp picture Transcendence comes with a bit of
a warning label. But first-time director, Wally Pfister, is a long-time
cinematographer and Christopher Nolan collaborator and looks to have made an
original sci-fi picture that wouldn't have felt out of place in the ‘70s or ‘80s.
It's a story of a genius scientist whose consciousness is uploaded into a computer
program, transcending humanity. The
cast is populated with ringers like Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, and Morgan
Freeman and looks pretty bananas. It will be hard to top the other big
blockbuster picture (also involving a human uploaded into a computer)
that was already released this year.
Also hitting theaters this week is the caper
comedy/character study Dom Hemingway, from the director of the similarly
character-based piece, The Matador. Jude Law has gotten good notices for his
work as the profane safecracker fresh out of a 12-year stint, looking to be
repaid for the loyalty to his crime boss that landed him there. He also aims to
reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke AKA KHALEESI, AKA DAENERYS
STORMBORN, AKA THE MOTHER OF DRAGONS) and the grandson he's never known. The
Matador feels like it came out a lifetime ago, but Richard Shepard kept
himself busy with TV work (including some of the best episodes of the TV series
Girls). Shepard appears to be returning to the fertile grounds of
his greatest successes with this work.
Last, but most certainly not least, is the tale of a sadly
unmade film. The film has nonetheless left its imprimatur on all science
fiction created in its wake. I'm speaking of Jodorowsky's Dune, a documentary
look at the infamous Chilean Director Alejandro Jodorowsky's efforts to bring
Frank Herbert's sci-fi opus Dune to the big screen. Creator of
such cult classics as El Topo and The Holy Mountain,
Jodorowsky was going to bring that same fevered, surreal sense to his work here
and enlisted an all-star cast and crew that worked tirelessly over two years to
bring his vision to life. Sadly, the film will never exist in the sense that we
all wish it could, but this documentary is a wonderful testament to blood and
sweat put into realizing his magnificent vision.