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On the Marquee for the week of April 14, 2014
A trio of new releases that make this Friday look good.
Tuesday, April 15: Philomena is released on Blu-Ray/DVD
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.





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