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On the Marquee for the week of May 19, 2014
A bevy of Friday releases, alongside a rare local premiere, make this week in Milwaukee moviegoing.


Tuesday, May 20 – Thursday, May 22: Under the Skin
@ Marcus Ridge Cinema (check review below for showtimes)

An absolute must-see movie for any adventurous cinemagoer and probably the only chance you’ll get to see it on the local big screen before you find it near the top of numerous year-end lists.  Highest recommendation!

Wednesday, May 21: The Normal Heart
7 p.m. @ Landmark Oriental (Only available to Milwaukee Film members and limited media giveaways)

Milwaukee is rarely thought of as a premiere destination for big-time movie screenings, so it’s incredible that through the efforts of Milwaukee Film that we’re being gifted (along with Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco) with this special advance screening of HBO Films’ The Normal Heart before its May 25th airdate.  From Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee and American Horror Story, The Normal Heart stars Wisconsin native Mark Ruffalo alongside Julia Roberts and The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons in this story of the early days of the AIDS epidemic and the struggle to bring the disease to the attention of mainstream America. An awesome opportunity for Milwaukee Film members and those lucky few who have obtained passes by others means. Hopefully a harbinger of screenings are in Milwaukee’s future.


Friday, May 23: Chef, Belle & X-Men: Days of Future Past open in Milwaukee
Check local listings for X-Men showtimes and landmarktheaters.com for Chef & Belle showtimes

Ignoring the movie with Adam Sandler astride an ostrich also being unleashed on an unwitting populace this weekend, there’s a host of releases coming to our fair city. Bryan Singer hasn’t made a movie worth seeing in quite a while (2008’s Valkyrie was OK, but 2013’s Jack the Giant Slayer was an abomination), but returning to the superhero franchise that gave him his greatest success might be the revitalizing move he needs (we’ll abstain from comment on his current legal struggles).  Adapting what is perhaps the most famous storyline in the history of the X-Men comics, we see a dystopian future that must be eradicated by venturing into the past. I’m not at all clear how something so inside baseball for comic nerds will play with the general populace, but this powerhouse cast (Fassbender, Jackman, Lawrence, DINKLAGE) should help iron over any deficiencies in its knotty time-travel plot.

Bringing a welcomed air of social awareness and modernity to the often stodgy historical drama, Amma Asante’s Belle makes its way to the Landmark Oriental. Equally lauded for its sumptuous cinematography and striking lead performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the film follows the life trajectory of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy admiral, whose portrait (on which this film is based) alongside her cousin is considered to be one of the first wherein a black subject is of an equal eye-line with a white aristocrat.  The film has garnered considerable positive word as it’s slowly been released throughout the country.

Although he’s spent the better part of a decade working on big-budget blockbusters (all solid save for the unfortunate Cowboys vs. Aliens) Jon Favreau finally finds himself returning to the smaller-stakes filmmaking he originally cut his teeth on with films like Made and Swingers with his newest creation Chef. Regardless of subject matter or budget, the great thing about Favreau’s work has always been the unbridled joy that the films themselves convey about whatever the subject is. Be it Elf’s Rankin & Bass-influenced set design or Iron Man sneakily segueing into screwball comedy territory in lieu of superheroics, Favreau always delivers solid entertainment that is a conduit for his varied enthusiasms and Chef is no different. Following an emotionally volatile confrontation with a restaurant critic that goes viral, Chef Carl Casper finds himself without a job and without direction for the first time in years. An opportunity to run and operate a food truck presents itself, alongside a chance to better get to know his son, freed from the shackles of his workaholic personality. There’s a sense that Favreau is not so thinly veiling the biographical elements of the story (an artist choosing to work in a smaller milieu for the creative freedom it affords him), and the relish with which he tears into the material as both an actor and director is infectious. The food looks delicious, the performers are all warm and amiable (nice turns from John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson and others dot the periphery), and while the plot may feel overly familiar, you’ll find yourself swept into its pleasant vibes anyhow. A low-key charmer that works as a nice antidote to the summer block-blusters that will clutter box offices in the coming months.

Saturday, May 24: Stage Fright

7 :30 p.m. @ The Church in the City ($3) 

The Focus Film Society brings us one of the most underrated gems from Hitchcock’s oeuvre this weekend, with a Jane Wyman/Marlene Dietrich-led thriller. Stage Fright centers on a murder mystery involving two actresses, one up-and-coming the other well-regarded. More pointedly humorous than much of Hitchcock’s other work, Stage Fright has taken some heat over the years for an early flashback and how it ties into the rest of the film. But make no mistake; this is a pithy gem from the master of suspense and an unheralded bit of quality work that is due a critical reassessment. 


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