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Blue Like Jazz PG-13 Donald Miller’s 2003 memoir on which Blue Like Jazz is based spoke to many young Christians disaffected by church hypocrisy and subcultural kitsch. The story of a straight-laced Texas Baptist losing himself to the liberal atmosphere of Portland’s Reed College, before reclaiming his faith on more grounded terms, translates into a linear story line with bittersweet humor and empathy. Surrealistic cartoon touches connect and comment upon the action, but the characters populating Reed’s campus provide ample animation themselves. Former evangelical-market new wave singer Steve Taylor directs with an eye for brisk pacing and making the most of a colorful cityscape. (Jamie Lee Rake)
Bully PG-13 Brutal rights of passage? You don’t need to travel to the hills of New Guinea to find children savaged on their way to adulthood, when it happens in the halls of most American schools. Lee Hirsch’s Bully has become a rallying point in the clamor over bullying, which includes verbal taunts, punches and cruel jabs on the Internet. Somehow, Hirsch captured evidence of schoolyard vileness on his often-out-of-focus Canon 5D Mark II (an inconspicuous digital camera) as well as the ineffectual response of school administrators, even well-meaning ones whose naiveté on human nature garners no better results than the old “boys will be boys” dictum. Two of the victims profiled in Bully resorted to suicide as an escape. The documentary’s good news is that many parents are organizing to pressure schools to finally address an age-old problem that has only grown nastier. (David Luhrssen)
Chimpanzee G It’s impossible not to root for Chimpanzee, if only because Disney is donating a portion of the first week’s ticket sales to the Jane Goodall Institute. The story follows a group of chimps living in the Ivory Coast’s isolated Tai Forest, eventually zeroing in on young Oscar. When he is orphaned as a 3-year-old, Oscar’s future appears grim. But kindly alpha male Freddy decides to parent the little guy. Remarkable footage captures chimps doing all the things chimps do best, but is diminished by narration that lumps their behaviors into “good” and “bad” categories—presumably because the story targets children. This flaw aside, introducing kids to chimps interacting with their natural habitat is a gratifying way to spend entertainment dollars. (Lisa Miller)
The Lucky One PG-13 As Logan (sad-eyed Zac Efron) bends to pick a stray photo of a beautiful woman from the rubble of an Iraqi street, a bomb explodes alongside his U.S. Marines platoon. The seemingly random act saved his life. The Lucky One wonders about destiny and touches on the awkwardness of veterans returning home from hell, but ultimately it chooses the path of romantic melodrama as Logan walks the back roads of America with his faithful German shepherd, somehow tracing the unidentified woman in the photo to a mossy town in Louisiana. And all this before the opening credits stop rolling! Small moments of reality and laughter bob along on the surface of an improbable plot carried by an irresistible tide of inevitability. (David Luhrssen)
The Red Kite Project Not Rated An estimated 1.5 million Americans struggle with autism; this year, more children will be diagnosed with this disorder than with AIDS or cancer. The Red Kite Project is a feature documentary focusing on the Chicago Children’s Theatre, co-founded by Jacqueline Russell as an immersive theater for children with autism. Director Kerry Shaw Brown, an Oconomowoc native, considers the documentary one of his most important projects. Tickets to the screening are free. (Daniel Gaitan) 7 p.m. April 21 at Oconomowoc Arts Center. Reserve free tickets by calling (262) 560-3172. A panel discussion will follow the screening.
Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up Not Rated The United States was the victim of a terrorist conspiracy on 9/11, but the U.S. government has often worked with terrorists to achieve its foreign policy goals. Probably the best-known examples are the CIA’s many failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and sabotage the Cuban economy. The aftermath of those policies is less understood. Saul Landau’s documentary focuses on the Cuban Five, a cadre of Cuban agents arrested in Miami and handed draconian sentences on seemingly trumped-up charges. They were in the United States to infiltrate the gaggle of extremist Cuban exile groups that have occasionally attacked Cuba in recent decades in addition to expending much of their energy terrorizing moderates in their own community. In 1968, they were responsible for an astonishing 44 bombings in Miami alone and continued their activities under the averted eyes of a succession of U.S. presidents from both parties. Admittedly, Landau has an ax to grind. In 1970, the New York City venue scheduled to show his film Fidel was bombed by right-wing Cubans. (D.L.) 7 p.m. April 23 at the UWM Union Theatre.