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‘Mark Felt’ convincingly revisits Watergate era

‘Too Much Light’ gets pretty hectic, confusing

Early reviews were less than stellar for the pretentiously titled “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.” Nonetheless, I found the cinematic story of the Watergate figure “Deep Throat” quite good and, while I’ll admit to a high regard for the historical movie genre, I feel no need to justify myself by labeling “Mark” a guilty pleasure.

WAUKESHA - Artists, whether they work in music, theater, film, sculpture or painting, are always pushing the envelope, looking for unique paths to express themselves in creative ways. There’s a certain degree of experimentation involved, and their efforts are not always well-received by the public.

2017 Milwaukee Film Festival redux
MILWAUKEE - The ninth annual Milwaukee Film Festival has ended. Now it’s postmortem time. First, the numbers. 

Like namesake Indiana city, film ‘Columbus’ is architecturally concerned
Long shots and silences. Lengthy takes, in the European tradition. Voices audible although their sources are not visible.

‘Stronger’ features strong language, even stronger performances
Actors in “Stronger,” the true story of a spectator who lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, spew language considerably stronger than necessary in an early barroom scene. 

Critic offers ‘personal microcosm’ of film festival
A picturesque Western. A big-screen blending of story and architecture. A kids’ movie, regularly referencing the stars and moon. A dramedy from India. A documentary considering the connection between rodents and the city of Baltimore.

Unconventional Wyle movie ‘Shot’ might be worth the sermon
“Shot” might be the shortest-titled movie of 2017, but that isn’t its only distinction. Directed, co-written and co-produced by Jeremy Kagan (“The Chosen,” “The Journey of Natty Gann”), “Shot” stars Noah Wyle, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. and Sharon Leal as a trio who constitute - as the film’s enticing tagline has it - “three lives changed forever” by “one bullet.” 

Magnetic Reese Witherspoon draws focus in ‘Home Again’
The romantic comedy “Home Again” represents Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s debut as a film director. You’d be right to contend that the 30-year-old’s inaugural effort doesn’t quite play in the same league with “Father of the Bride” and “Private Benjamin,”.

‘Patti Cake$’ more conventional than actually innovative
Helmsman hitherto for commercials and music videos, Geremy Jasper debuts as a feature filmmaker with a drama called “Patti Cake$.”

‘Menashe’: Mission accomplished
An estimable critic observed that a film succeeds if it accomplishes the filmmaker’s goals. 

Fall back to school, into movie theaters
While it’s always sad to see summer go - and you can easily verify that statement with your school-aged children - autumn brings the annual Milwaukee Film Festival (more about that subsequently) and usually, in tandem with the first couple weeks of winter, a given year’s best batch of motion pictures.

‘Bodyguard’ falls short of great, but registers good enough
While I won’t be putting “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” on my top 10 films list for 2017, I liked the Patrick Hughes-helmed comedy well enough. 

‘Brigsby Bear’ original, entertaining
Remindful  of “Being There” and “The Truman Show” as an intriguing amalgam of real life and reel life (and also a descendant of humans-who’ve-been-
isolated -from-the-world films like “The Room” and “Dogtooth”), “Brigsby” boasts a plot both believable and fantastic, peopled by likable actors portraying likable characters.

Area native’s ‘Ghost’ is ‘impressive’
It seems Milwaukee-born and (for eight years) Waukesha-reared filmmaker David Lowery, 36, just gets better at his trade. 

‘Dunkirk’ says lots with laconic script
“Dunkirk,” being shown in 70mm prints in relatively few venues across the country - among them Waukesha’s Marcus Majestic Cinema - begins with a simple declarative sentence displayed onscreen: “The enemy have driven the British and French armies to the sea.”

‘Girls Trip’ a perilous journey
In evaluating “Girls Trip,” I’m tempted to follow that old rule of benevolence and not say anything about the movie because I’m hard-pressed to say anything nice. 

‘Wish Upon’: Less enjoyable after first hour
I haven’t watched so many hourlong television dramas that I’ve come to believe 60 minutes is the ideal length for any show.   

‘Maudie’ wonderfully different
Early in the reality-rooted  “Maudie,” Ethan Hawke’s captivatingly conveyed character establishes a pecking order for the benefit of the “housemaid” he’s hired.

‘Beguiled’ proves less than beguiling
A redo of a 46-year-old, similarly titled Clint Eastwood flick (which I’ve never seen), the 2017 version has Colin Farrell in the Eastwood role, playing opposite Nicole Kidman. 

‘Baby Driver’: a whole new genre?
Its choreographer, Ryan Heffington, has been quoted as insisting “Baby Driver” is no mere musical, but “‘a new genre É a love story with action, car chases, violence and dance.’” 

‘Megan Leavey’ a top-flight flick —
at least for dog lovers
It’s not likely to capture any Oscars, but “Megan Leavey” would win hands down if there were a category for dog lovers’ movie of the year.

‘Mummy’ not mummified, but fails to engage
Let’s start with the cast. While I wouldn’t call the acting in Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” mummified, I’ve certainly seen more engaging movie performances.

No need to tell ‘It Comes at Night’ to ‘Get Out’
I’ve not been a lover of the horror genre and I didn’t exactly fall in love with writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ horror film “It Comes at Night.”

Poet’s biopic is 2017’s best so far
Having watched an enticing movie trailer, read an impressive resume of the movie’s writer-director, once seen an excellent one-woman play starring legendary Julie Harris as “The Belle of Amherst” and developed over the years a great respect for that belle  - the innovative poet Emily Dickinson - I expected “A Quiet Passion” to be the best 2017 film release I’d seen to date.

With humor, special effects, shades of Stevenson, fifth ‘Pirates’ nothing shabby
In the fifth installment of the movie series stemming from a Disneyland ride, unsavory Salazar and fellow escapees from the Devil’s Triangle - ghost sailors - aim to liquidate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), captain of the appropriately named Dying Gull, and Sparrow’s fellow pirates.

More dramedy than comedy, ‘Lovers’ is  impactful film
Azazel Jacobs’ “The Lovers” was a surprise. Its trailer had led me to anticipate a light comedy; what I got instead was a dramedy, sporadically humorous.

Summer means new movies - and here are 20 of ‘em
For Midwesterners, summer means more sun, more leisure time - and more movie debuts.  Following are 20 films scheduled for release between Memorial Day weekend (in one case, the Thursday preceding that weekend) and mid-August.

Schumer, Hawn keep ‘Snatched’ funny, but interesting
I’m not sure why Amy Schumer’s character in “Snatched,” Emily Middleton, chooses to vacation in Ecuador rather than, say, Hawaii. 

‘Dinner’ provides food for thought in fairly unappetizing plot
Poor U.S. Rep. Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) in “The Dinner.” Just as his bill to benefit the mentally ill is about to be voted upon in Congress - in the midst of his campaign for governor - an epic family crisis occurs. 

‘Norman’ deftly acted, creatively told
“Norman,” Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s first English-language film, is subtitled “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.” 

‘Fate’ is, with apologies to Yogi, 'déjàˆ vu all over again'
A teacher friend used to veto certain student-proposed term paper topics, reasoning that in his long career he’d already encountered every possible argument both for and against, say, capital punishment.

Dramedy ‘Gifted’ a one-trick pony
“Gifted” refers to 10-year-old Mckenna Grace’s character, Mary, in the new dramedy directed by Marc Webb from a Tom Flynn script. That word could be applied to the diminutive actress as well, for Grace definitely steals the show with perhaps the best performance by a preteen I’ve seen as a movie reviewer.

Third recent queen movie deserves patronage
Stories of literal and figurative queens have become something of a big screen staple over the past six months. “Queen of Katwe” (an unofficial designation) appeared first, early last fall.

‘Lost Village,’ pioneering Smurf film, hits theaters
Someone once said there’s nobody sadder than the person who’s failed to find his or her place in life. Apparently that’s as true for computer-animated Smurfs as it is for people. 

Springing into existence: a score of eclectic films
Spring has sprung, as they say - the season of Easter vacations, baseball’s rebirth and (hopefully, this being Wisconsin) a farewell to wintry weather.

‘T2: Trainspotting’ - call it inventive, call it fresh
“That was really fresh,” I heard a guy say in a theater lobby the other night. He might’ve been referring to any of several movies at the multiplex, or to something else entirely. But if he was talking about the dark comedy that was previewed - ”T2: Trainspotting” - I have to agree with him.

‘Land of Mine’ merits place among fine war films
The title “Land of Mine” is a play on words. It both summarizes the attitude of its central character, a Danish soldier who tells German prisoners of war “This is my country (and) you’re not welcome here,” and suggests a plot centering on landmines in the Danish countryside.

‘Table’ somewhat empty as comedy’s
only as funny as its material
“Table 19” is a comedy, but it’s not a very funny film.  That’s the fault of the screenplay (brothers Jay and Mark Duplass), I think, not the actors. 

‘Kingdom’ potential acting Oscar for Oyelowo?
David Oyelowo may not get a best actor Oscar for “A United Kingdom,” but his work in Amma Asante’s latest film will likely move Oyelowo a step or two closer to the coveted trophy. 

‘Red Turtle’ a good thing that abounds in the rule of threes
“Good things come in groups of three,” our English composition teacher told us 40-odd years back, when we were college freshmen. I doubt whether the Dutch-born director Michael Dudok de Wit had the same teacher, but maybe he received the same advice.

Profound ‘Paterson’ antithesis of ‘Fifty Shades’ sequel
There are two sides to every story. The gentle - and puzzlingly R-rated - dramedy “Paterson,” complete with a twins motif (identical twins of both genders and various ages appear in cameos throughout), bears that bromide out.

Time once more to test your Oscars knowledge
With the 89th annual Academy Awards gala on the horizon, it’s time again for what’s become our yearly Oscar quiz. Questions address happenings 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 25, 20 and 10 years ago. Hopefully they’ll get you in a Jimmy Kimmel, red-carpet mood for Sunday night. Good luck!

Little of ‘Wick’ goes long way, while lots of ‘Toni’ is welcome
In one of the unlikelier circumstances attached to an extremely unlikely movie, the title character of “John Wick: Chapter 2,” played with little range but lots of athleticism by Keanu Reeves, is summoned from retirement to make good on an old blood oath and function again as a hit man.

While more than a week out, it’s fun to predict winners
As an outsider (even as an insider, for that matter) one can never be sure how the Hollywood crowd will vote in the annual Academy Awards sweepstakes.

Spanish-language film ‘Julieta’ proves to be a guilty pleasure
“Julieta” (pronounced “hool-YET-ah”), a Spanish movie with English subtitles helmed by Oscar honoree Pedro Almodovar, has a lot to do with guilt: assuming and assessing guilt, attempting to assuage guilt, the advancement of guilt from generation to generation.

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ less guilty of audience cruelty than ‘Comedian’
Allegations of animal cruelty (denied by its director Lasse Hallstrom, its star Dennis Quaid and others) have been leveled against Hallstrom’s “A Dog’s Purpose.” My major concern as a critic is whether a film is guilty of audience cruelty - and “A Dog’s Purpose” is not. 

New flick starring Bening evokes Scorsese’s ‘Alice’
Mother-and-son movies are relatively rare. There’s Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” of course (a mother-son flick after a fashion).

Patel’s Saroo torn between two of this, two of that in ‘Lion’
Remember the old song “Torn Between Two Lovers”? In “Lion,” Dev Patel’s character is torn between two continents, two cultures, two families - “two different worlds,” in words from another erstwhile song. 

‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Fences’ come out as  signposts of African-American experience
How often nowadays can it be said about a movie that there’s virtually nothing objectionable in it and yet that it’s both entertaining and insightful? 

‘Elle,’ ‘Sing,’ ‘Manchester’: good, better, best
Casey Affleck’s virtuoso performance would be reason enough to see the Kenneth Lonergan-written and -directed drama “Manchester by the Sea.”

‘La La Land’ marks musical return; Natalie P mesmerizes as Jackie O
Searching for a movie with inoffensive dialogue and without nudity and violence? An old-fashioned love story with old-fashioned content, like footage from “Rebel Without a Cause” and an homage to Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain”?  

Winter means movies - here are 12 to consider
Watching movies is a time-honored method of coping with the winter doldrums. And so, with a new winter just about ready to make its appearance, we offer a dozen films scheduled for frigid-season premieres that sound promising (or look promising - I’ve taken in a few of them at advance press screenings).

Three-star ratings for pair of Amy Adams films
“It’s violent and it’s sad and he called it ‘Nocturnal Animals.’”  Amy Adams, as the literally somnambulistic, admittedly unhappy art gallery owner Susan Morrow, speaks those words regarding a book her ex-husband has written.

‘Moana’ memorable; ‘Bad Santa’? Forget it!
“Moana” is the story of a superhuman quest, involving an amulet, a goddess, turbulent waters and the salvation of an island, undertaken by a human adolescent - Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) - ill-prepared to cope with all of the above.

Good words for boxing biopic, fantasy film
“Bleed for This” is the stranger-than-fiction story of Vinny Pazienza, who broke his neck and nearly died in a car accident,  then managed to resume his boxing career.

It’s time for the turkeys
Once again, let’s mark Turkey Day by revisiting what may be the biggest movie turkeys of 2016. I realize the year still has five-plus weeks to go, and also realize I haven’t seen every movie released during 2016’s first 11 months.

‘Eagle Huntress’ and ‘Doctor’ electrify;  ‘Almost Christmas’ not as stimulating
A negative observation on “The Eagle Huntress”: the Mongolia-set movie’s yellow subtitles are difficult to read against light backgrounds. 

‘Moonlight’ shines; ‘Hacksaw’ a cut above average
Film is a form of literature - so maybe the names Scorsese and Spielberg will someday join Dylan on the roster of U.S. literary Nobel Prize winners. In any case, we’ve all heard (probably from some high school English teacher justifying including “The Scarlet Letter” or “Silas Marner” on a syllabus) that excellent literature need not be synonymous with entertainment. 

Animated ‘Trolls’ excellent; spy comedy ‘Keeping Up’ enjoyable
“Trolls” is, in part, an animated 3-D variation on the Cinderella story, with equivalents of the heroine and her glass slipper, Prince Charming and his palace, the wicked stepmother, and the fairy godmother.

‘Girl,’ ‘Kevin Hart,’ ‘Chronic’ a mixed bag
The Western has experienced a resurgence in the last year or so. Perhaps “The Girl on the Train” signals it’s now the whodunit’s turn. 

Horse switching doesn’t make horse sense in new ‘Birth’
I recall my high school Latin teacher’s repeating the old admonition, "Don’t change horses in the middle of a stream.
 

‘Deepwater,’  film festival’s  ‘Queen’
fit for king
MILWAUKEE - The elements that comprise “Deepwater Horizon” blend wonderfully, like the players in a talented orchestra.  Those elements include cinematography (an amalgam here of emotion-oozing extreme close-ups, cinéma vérité and plenty of quick takes paralleling the chaos aboard the titular oil rig 

‘Seven’ remake magnificent; ‘Snowden’ good as well
Right off the bat I’ll give in to temptation and say “The Magnificent Seven” (a remake of the similarly titled 1960 flick, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” from 1954) is a magnificent motion picture.

Encores  set  for  ‘Slenderman,’  two other films at festival
The Milwaukee Film Festival’s opening weekend including screenings of “Slenderman,” as well as a newspaper documentary and a story of romance from France. 

Gimmicks get old, but some sequels succeed
While “Gypsy” composer Stephen Sondheim insisted “you’ve gotta have a gimmick,” moviemakers need to realize gimmicks go out of style. Its “found footage” gimmick made “The Blair Witch Project” a big-screen hit in 1999.

‘Sully’: A deeper disaster travel film
We’ve seen this before from Tom Hanks: a disaster during travel. Remember “Apollo 13?” How about “Castaway?”

‘Hollars,’ ‘Sea of Trees’ hit emotional notes
“The Hollars” is part tearjerker, part zany comedy, part paean to that wonderful and wild institution we call family.  

‘Sister’ somewhat brighter than ‘The Light’
It’s pleasurable to view a preponderance of commendable characters on a movie screen, especially in these skeptical and self-centered times. 

Biopic, book adaptation both outstanding
I’m as much in awe as the next critic of Meryl Streep’s accomplishments, including record numbers of Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. 

‘Dragon’ more delectable than ‘Sausage’
Evidence of the expression “local boy makes good” is on display at area movie theaters. David Lowery, who was born in Milwaukee and did some of his growing up in Waukesha, is director and co-screenwriter of “Pete’s Dragon,” a solid 3-D Disney remake of a 1977 animated/live action picture by the same name, also by Disney.

‘Cafe Society’ Allen’s best since ‘Blue Jasmine’
“Not as cynical” as previous Woody Allen pictures, offered an audience member at “Cafe Society” last week. I don’t know about that.

Nerve,’ ‘Bourne’ ultimately turn out to be disappointing
“Nerve” concerns a faux cultural phenomenon: teenagers choosing to watch online, or actually play, a game on the order of Truth or Dare. In this ongoing competition known as Nerve, however, there are only dares. People pay to play, and to watch.

Comedy not quite ‘fabulous;’ ‘Equals’ sci fi movie
Following a relatively recent trend, the comedic “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” is based on an award-winning BBC series.  

Comedy-drama ‘Wilderpeople’ delightfully quirky
“Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” based on a book by Barry Crump, is a delightful dramedy from New Zealand with a quirky cast of characters. iker: Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby).

‘Secret Life of Pets’ funny twist on old cliché
Just about everyone is familiar with the cliché “While the cat’s away, the mice will play.” The plot of a new animated feature from the folks responsible for the “Despicable Me” movies might be summarized a wee bit differently: “While the owners are away, the cats will play.

Top 5 films for 2016 easy to rate, so far
Choosing my top five films of the year’s first half isn’t a daunting task, as the highest rating I gave  — 3 1/2 (out of 4) stars  — went to exactly five 2016 movies.

‘Election’ preferable to ribald comedy
Combining horror with politics, as “Purge: Election Year” does, may not be an original movie idea. But the more sarcastic among us will contend that, given the parade of presidential aspirants we’ve witnessed in the past year, the idea is at least an appropriate one.

‘BFG’ plain magical; ‘Swiss Army Man’ displays ‘magical realism’
The phrase “winning combination” applies to “The BFG,” a Disney 3D film based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 book. “The BFG” (for Big Friendly Giant) brings together children’s author Dahl (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), who was something of a giant himself at 6-foot-6, director Steven Spielberg, composer John Williams, Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter and Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.

‘Dory,’ Disney fish story, is fine family fare
Literally a fishy film, computer-animated “Finding Dory,” deals with a blue-tang title character.   This character, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, suffers from short-term memory loss and has become separated  from her loving parents, Jenny and Charlie (voices of Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy).  

‘Most controversial film’ debuts Friday
Opening  this weekend: a documentary its publicists are trumpeting as “the most controversial film in America” and “the film they don’t want you to see.”

Quite a bit to see in ‘Now You See Me 2’
Rapid-paced “Now You See Me 2” isn’t quite the movie that has everything. 

How do ‘Popstar’ and Lonely Island fare?
I’ll take The Three Stooges, if you please. I finished watching The Lonely Island comedy trio in “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” just an hour ago.

Like subject, ‘Dark Horse’ likely to please
Louise Osmond found the true story of a horse and his unlikely owners “a wonderful mash of genres, part classic British ‘Billy Elliot’/’Full Monty’ underdog tale, part ‘Lavender Hill Mob’ caper (and part) ‘Rocky.’”

Little to be said for new ‘Neighbors’
If little else can be said for recent movies starring the talented but misguided Seth Rogen, a case can at least be made for their ecumenism. Last year’s awful Christmas flick, “The Night Before,” used Catholic midnight Mass as a springboard for Rogen’s tasteless humor.

‘Lobster’ a long two hours; still has quality, appeal
“The Lobster’s” mundane opening scene, of a woman motoring through the rain, arguably runs too long. But then, the scene accurately foreshadows the movie as a whole. It, too, seems overly long at times.

‘Angry Birds Movie’ does indeed have silver lining
The above song excerpt is, more or less, how “The Angry Birds Movie” begins. The lyrics are from “Friends,” a ditty written and performed by Blake Shelton. 

Some summer movies add to franchises
Distributors have been sending the titles of, and additional information about, their summer films. Following are summaries of 15 movies slated to debut between Friday and the end of September, although dates should be regarded as tentative.

Imperfect ‘Meddler’ still has quality, appeal
“The Meddler,” written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), certainly falls short of perfection. 

‘Mother’s Day’ best way to spend Mother’s Day? 
Often in preparing to write a movie review, I find myself ignoring the studio-produced press notes. In the case of Garry Marshall’s “Mother’s Day,” however, I’ve elected to read what the publicists had to say.

‘Elvis & Nixon’ revisit poignantly funny, but ‘Adderall Diaries’ rough
It’s unthinkable Kevin Spacey would forsake screen acting.  However, if the unthinkable ever became actual, Spacey - based on his spot-on rendition of Richard Nixon in “Elvis & Nixon” - could easily earn his livelihood as an impersonator.

Bagwise, ‘Criminal’ is mixed while ‘Miles’ may, or may not, be yours
Advertised as “the story of the right man in the wrong body,” Ariel Vromen’s “Criminal” is a mixed bag. Positives about the espionage-sci-fi flick include excellent pacing, the curious ability to compel viewers to empathize with a character who himself has no empathy, and a cast featuring Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones - a trio that first worked together 25 years ago on Oliver Stone’s “JFK.”

Computer-generated ‘Jungle Book’ revisits 50-year-old cartoon
he magic of Disney combines - once again - with the creativity of Kipling to create “The Jungle Book” on screen. Producer-director Jon Favreau’s version is a live action/computer-generated retooling, in 3-D, of the animated “Jungle Book” from 1967.

‘Boss’ not up to last two McCarthy films
Melissa McCarthy is a gifted comedian, a talented actress.  Unfortunately, there’s also the raunchiness factor with her movies.   “St. Vincent” with Bill Murray two years back was an exception and McCarthy delivered an excellent performance.

‘Greek Wedding 2’: year’s No. 1 comedy
It’s taken Hollywood 14 years to come up with a sequel to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” So, was “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” worth the wait? I’m not sure. I saw bits and pieces of the first installment after it moved from big screen to television screen, but I remember very little about it. What I do know is that I found “2” enjoyable from start to finish.

R-rated comedy ‘Bronze’ has golden moments
“The Bronze,” which stars Melissa Rauch, is occasionally surprising, occasionally predictable.  Take that to mean the movie is contradictory, if you will. 

Fey’s effort highlights ‘Whiskey’
A yeoman’s job by star Tina Fey highlights “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” a dramedy based on Kim Barker’s book, “The Taliban Shuffle,” about her days as a war correspondent in Afghanistan.

‘Messiah’ better than it sounded
“The Young Messiah” didn’t sound too promising. SeveraI weeks ago I received notification of the new film that described it in part as “the inspiring story of seven-year-old Jesus Christ and his family.” 

Time for Oscar predictions - and lamentations
The annual Academy Awards gala is nearly upon us. With the nominees chosen, it’s time for predicting the winners - and lamenting others who’ve been left out of the race. 

‘Eagle’ soars; ‘Witch’ less than beguiling
“Feel-good film” is the cliché I thought of as I watched “Eddie the Eagle,” a pleasant flick about bona fide Olympic skier Eddie Edwards.

Critical kudos for ‘Lady,’ ‘Deadpool’
As narrator of “The Lady in the Van,” author Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) describes the title character (Maggie Smith) with a barrage of awful adjectives: “bigoted, cantankerous, devious, unforgiving, self-serving, rank and rude.”

‘Son of Saul’ finer than ‘Finest’
If Hollywood presented rookie of the year awards, the Hungarian Laszlo Nemes would definitely be in contention. Unfortunately for the 38-year-old “Son of Saul” director, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay, the rookie award remains a baseball phenomenon. 

Isaac captivates, but whither goes ‘Mojave’?
Written and directed by William Monahan (“The Departed”), “Mojave” stars Oscar Isaac, who’s become quite the prolific performer (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Ex Machina” and “A Most Violent Year”).

‘Ride Along 2’ nothing special, but then again ...
“Ride Along 2” is nothing special, particularly when compared to truly outstanding movies playing locally like “The Revenant” and “The Force Awakens.” Then again, the comedic “Ride Along 2” is infinitely better than the tasteless Christmas comedy “The Night Before” and certainly no worse than M.

Looking forward to cinema’s spring
Several distributors - Broad Green Pictures, A24 Films, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Classics and Universal Pictures - have released titles, and descriptions thereof, for the spring.

‘Revenant’ a Western ‘painfully realistic’
“The Revenant”  is a painfully realistic pre-Civil War Western with incongruously gorgeous photography.

2015 was a great year at the movies
It’s been an excellent year for motion pictures. Interestingly, most of the ones I’ve liked best - the top six of my top 10 - are reality-based. 

‘Concussion’ is a different but good gridiron movie
“Concussion” is a different sort of football film, one concerned with debilitating head injuries that have too frequently spelled death for ex-NFL players. It’s a movie with inventive casting. 

Hustle’ director Russell helms ‘Joy’ to behold
David O. Russell’s new movie “Joy” is a tantalizingly quirky comedy in the tradition of his 2013 ABSCAM-based endeavor “American Hustle.” 

Episode VII good, just not great
A friend hit the nail on the head when he predicted the seventh film in the “Star Wars” series “will be a good movie, (but) won’t be great.”

‘Episode VII’ awakens new hope
Franz Buchholtz didn’t care for the last three “Star Wars” movies. In an interview, the Bay View resident summarized those prequels as “poorly acted, poorly written, not very well thought-out.” He added that “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999), “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005) each “came off more like a video game than a movie.”

‘Letters’ inspirational, if not cutting-edge
It may be that Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun revered for her work among India’s impoverished and the subject of the newly released biopic “The Letters,” was from the day she joined the Sisters of Loreto at age 18 a saintly personage - chaste and obedient in accordance with the vows nuns take, prayerful, other-centered.

Patron’s harsh ‘Night Before’ assessment proves accurate
Minutes after a screening of “The Night Before,” I heard a woman comment, “I just wasted an hour and 45 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back again.”   

Well-paced drama’s heart in right place … or places
Home is where the heart is. But can the heart be in two places at once? That seems to be the basic question John Crowley’s “Brooklyn,” based on a novel by Colm Toibin, is asking. 

‘Spotlight’ up to ‘President’s Men’ but ‘My All American’ no ‘Rudy’ 
If it takes a village to raise a child,  an attorney for clerical sex abuse victims in the movie  “Spotlight”  remarks,  it takes a village to abuse one. 

‘Spectre’ has superior production values, but ‘Suffragette’ is superior film
As good as Carey Mulligan was as “Far From the Madding Crowd’s” leading lady last spring, the English actress is even better as a pre-World War I women’s rights activist in “Suffragette.

‘Room’ fascinating, if not flawless
“Room” is a well-cast movie, with emotionally wide-ranging performances by Brie Larson (also very good in the recent “Trainwreck”) and 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay (truly remarkable). Both actors could get Academy Award nominations, as could “Room’s” Irish director, Lenny Abrahamson.

Truth be told, Redford’s Rather credible
In one of “Truth’s” final scenes, Robert Redford as Dan Rather is cheered by a roomful of co-workers after signing off for the last time as “CBS Evening News” anchorman. While applauding Rather, the other actors could also have been applauding Redford, who, made up to resemble the newscaster, deserves kudos for capturing Rather’s voice and mannerisms in an appropriately low-key performance.

Stine-based ‘Goosebumps’ a bumpy ride, but Spielberg’s ‘Bridge’ worth negotiating
Amidst outsized monsters and a militia of evil-intentioned garden gnomes, the most interesting subjects in “Goosebumps” are human: three pretty sensible kids and a couple of kooky adults. 

‘Coming Home’ is great, but not in today’s 3-D adventure sense
“Coming Home” is an extraordinary film, but it’s hardly a bells and whistles film. Cops and a criminal may be at its center, but this Chinese movie with English subtitles and a 20th century time frame is no action-adventure picture, no breakneck-paced police procedural with bullet-dodging or madcap driving or other acts of derring-do.

Zemeckis’ ‘The Walk’ another fine fall flick
In my review a week ago, I exulted that several good movies had accompanied our new autumn movies like that review’s 3 1/2-star subject,  “The Martian.” Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure may or may not have been the best release since Labor Day; now, however, as quickly as it burst upon the scene,  “The Martian” has been overshadowed by Robert Zemeckis’   humor-spiked drama  “The Walk.” 

Ridley Scott’s ‘Martian’ looks to be among better autumn crop of movies
“The End of the Tour.” “Grandma.” And now, “The Martian.” History does seem to repeat itself: Autumn approaches; a better crop of feature films emerges.

Shyamalan’s latest: One ‘Visit’ you need not make
To the list of places you need not visit, feel free to add theaters showing “The Visit,” M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film. 

Tomlin terrific as ‘Grandma’ 
you wish you had
It may not be a technical trailblazer, but “Grandma” is a terrific motion picture: unfailingly amusing, poignant, very capably acted, a thorough - and thoroughly captivating - story in 79 short minutes.  

Maybe ‘Walk’ should take a hike
Robert Redford’s latest movie, “A Walk in the Woods,” has been done before, more or less, and done better. The previous rendition occurred last year, a drama with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern instead of a comedy starring the less impressive duo of Redford and Nick Nolte. 

Big screen keeps it real this fall
If reboots have figured prominently in this summer’s cinematic landscape, the fall season promises to place emphasis on movie art imitating life.

TV retread 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' passes muster as feature film
OK, I’ll add my thumb to those already thrust in the air in support of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” Guy Ritchie’s feature film based on the old TV series with the same handle.

Interview-based movie anything but dull
Nobody’s proposing David Foster Wallace, late author of the well-regarded novel “Infinite Jest” and subject of the feature film “The End of the Tour,” for canonization. 

‘Bell, Book and Candle”: A seasonal whodunit 
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee Entertainment Group has unearthed a delightful old comedy by John Van Druten. You may remember the 1958 movie “Bell, Book and Candle,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. It is still very engaging.

West Allis Players lends a good supporting cast to Sherlock Holmes in his ‘Final Adventure’
WEST ALLIS - We have all encountered the quintessential detective Sherlock Holmes in some venue or other  He is super smart, almost indomitable, very rational in his approach to solving a crime.

Lake Country delivers astonishing rendition of ‘Little Women’
“Little Women,” the semi-autobiographical novel by Louisa May Alcott, published in 1869, continues to speak to generation after generation. 

‘Hot Mikado’ stirs up Gilbert and Sullivan
MILWAUKEE - As one enters the theater, one notes the contrast of styles on stage (designer Sarah Bradner).

What’s better than Elvis? How about 3?
During Elvis Presley’s all-too-short life, he assuredly was an icon and a groundbreaker when it came to his music and his style. 

‘Guys and Dolls’ dazzles, but script keeps it from  rising to top of musical heap
MILWAUKEE - Most people love musicals - just ask any theater manager when their attendance spikes.  Some musicals have been around for decades, which is the case with “Guys and Dolls.” It debuted in the 1950s and is set in the ‘30s when gambling was a crime.

‘Frankie and Johnny’: Characters you can relate to
MILWAUKEE - ”Frankie and Johnny” is a story you may have encountered, if not on stage, perhaps in the 1991 film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino. 

‘Sex Please We’re 60’ plays tired refrain
WAUKESHA — There are certain periods in a person’s life cycle where they are targeted as sources of amusement. One seldom hears jokes about babies, children and people younger than 40. But as soon as we hit the big four-oh, duck!

The Rep, two stars deliver the perfect pitch on Florence Foster Jenkins in off-key ‘Souvenir’
MILWAUKEE - We probably all delude ourselves at times. We might think we have more talent than we have, or less. It is hard to see ourselves objectively.

Over the moon over Sunset Playhouse’s latest comedy
ELM GROVE - If Joe DiPietro had written only “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and “Over the River and Through the Woods,” he would still have made my list of favorite playwrights.

Gripping ‘Next to Normal’ casts light on mental health
MILWAUKEE - All In Productions, a company that made its debut less than three years ago, is making its presence felt in the Milwaukee theater scene. 

Maids role play, but boss isn’t one to idolize in ‘Maids’
Jean Genet, composer of “The Maids,” was born to a prostitute, raised by a foster family and had a rough childhood, including arrests for theft and vagrancy  that involved some prison time. 

Fall theater ranges from musicals to mysteries
Although many community theaters keep their doors open in the summer, most professional theater companies run their seasons from September through May. This year, the calendar is brimming with an enticing mix of musicals, dramas, comedies and mysteries. Take your pick or picks.

Teen drama, romance captured by ‘best Juliet’ with fantastic cast and crew
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Despite the chilly night, the production of “Romeo & Juliet,” surely one of Shakespeare’s favorite creations, kept us enthralled. The ease with which most of the actors delivered their lines was impressive

‘Three Sisters’ themes might be better in place other than ATP’s The Hill
SPRING GREEN - This year I chose to attend Arthur Miller’s “View from the Bridge” and Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” on my annual pilgrimage to the American Players Theatre.  

Carroll’s ‘Next to Normal’ dramatically reflects mental illness
WAUKESHA - Mental illness is a topic that is seldom addressed. It seems to raise people’s anxiety levels more than physical afflictions do. 

MCT stunningly opens murder-mystery season
MILWAUKEE - Most people love a good murder mystery.  Certain ones stand out as classics. Who can forget “Sleuth” or “Dial M for Murder” or “Wait Until Dark”? Agatha Christie alone has written many masterpieces. 

‘Once Upon A Mattress’ a delightful summer play for Lake Country
HARTLAND - Lake Country Playhouse attracts many young people in the summer to participate in workshops on acting and all aspects of theater. 

‘Church Basement Ladies’ mixes up Midwestern humor with the ‘60s
FORT ATKINSON - In “Church Basement Ladies,” a homey, Midwestern musical set in the 1960s, we find ourselves in the kitchen basement of a small Lutheran church in Cornucopia, Minn. 

WAP takes on intensity of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
MILWAUKEE — For a community theater to tackle the immensity and intensity of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” is impressive.

Summer Stage presents 'Present Laughter'
“Present Laughter” runs at SummerStage in Lapham Peak State Park through August 4. Performances at 7:30 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

‘Wayward Women’ humorously meanders at Alchemist
MILWAUKEE - There are times when reviewers are stumped for words after seeing a play. This is one of them for me.

‘This Other Love’ an engaging look at activist Dorothy Day
MEQUON - Part of Dorothy Day’s fascinating story is captured in the play “This Other Love” by Patty McCarty. 

‘Hello, Dolly!’ back where it belongs at Sunset
ELM GROVE - Occasionally a given role and a specific actor are a perfect fit. This is certainly the case in the present production of “Hello, Dolly!” at Sunset Playhouse 

Optimist’s ‘Much Ado’ best in memory with Shakespeare at the Peck
MILWAUKEE - The Optimist Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park could be called Shakespeare in the Peck this year. This year’s venue is lovely and very accessible.

Spirit of ‘1776’ remains relevant
HARTLAND - It’s that time of year when most of us give some thought to the founding of our country. 

Carroll grad’s production of ‘Bare’ lays bare issues facing teens today
MILWAUKEE - Ryan Albrechtson, an alumnus of Carroll University in Waukesha, started his own theater in 2014, and since then has managed to keep it alive with some very good productions.

‘Back to the 50s’ latest in Fireside’s successful musical nostalgia
FORT ATKINSON - ”Back to the 50s” is the third show at the Fireside featuring a decade of the most popular or most groundbreaking  music. Previous hit shows on the ‘60s and ‘70s spurred on the latest version.

‘Carole King Musical’ beautifully performed
MILWAUKEE — The last Broadway show of this season is a good one. The talented Carole King and her array of hits are featured along with some biographical material about her early life. 

Civil War-era play has message for today
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - For some reason, Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel “Little Women” has remained an appealing story.

When Agatha Christie counts down, count on clever plot twists, murder
ELM GROVE — Picture a beautiful resort on an isolated island, a group of eight strangers, a married couple that has been hired to be of service, and a man who brings in supplies by boat daily. 

Waukesha Civic delivers with ‘Barefoot’
WAUKESHA — Neil Simon’s works continue to draw and delight audiences. Along with his humor, he always has some insights to share concerning human relationships.

Summer theater returns
Most professional theaters close shop for the summer, but there are others that open their doors or outdoor spaces to welcome those who love live theater all year-round.  Here are the available options: * Through June 18 - “And Then There Were None,” Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove.

Grisly ‘Sweeney Todd’ has its few tender moments
MILWAUKEE - ”Sweeney Todd” by Stephen Sondheim is not for the fainthearted. It is a macabre story about revenge taken to the limit and the results that ensued. 

There’s nothing like ‘South Pacific’
FORT ATKINSON - At first glance, Rogers and Hammerstein’s prize-winning “South Pacific” seems like a story of two pairs of unlikely lovers. Set on a remote island in the South Pacific during World War II, it has an exotic flavor. What could be more romantic than “Bali Ha’I”?

First Stage’s ‘Animal Farm’ a meaty choice for young performers
MILWAUKEE - For some strange reason, human beings, despite their history, believe they can eliminate greed, inequality, poverty, sickness and create the perfect utopian society.

‘By Jeeves’ somehow misses; Windfall Theatre cast shines in roles
MILWAUKEE - When one hears that “By Jeeves” is a musical play by the musical genius Andrew Lloyd Webber and the prolific Alan Ayckbourn, one expects the best. 

‘Amateurs’ script falls short, but Lake Country nails touching moments
HARTLAND - Tom Griffin once wrote “The Boys Next Door,” an outstanding, sensitive play, one that has stood the test of time. 

New take on deep ‘Jane Eyre’ enjoyable
MILWAUKEE - ”Jane Eyre,” the Victorian novel by Charlotte Bronte, has been transformed into many film and stage versions. It continues to speak to people over 150 years after its inception. 

‘Junie B. Jones’ is a fun-filled delight
MILWAUKEE - Junie B. Jones is a beloved character in all of Barbara Park’s 28 books (1992-2013).

Waukesha Civic’s ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ keeps it light, lively
WAUKESHA - Composers Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison thought it might be fun to take apart and assess the American musical formula - a love story, large production numbers that suddenly spring into being, lavish costuming, a few exaggerated characters and, of course, often a happy ending that stretches our credulity.

In Tandem’s ‘Carnival’ soars with great  balance in acting, singing, production
MILWAUKEE — In Tandem went all out for this one, including turning their reception room into a veritable carnival display and reconfiguring their theater space into an in-the-round tent. Even the volunteers were in costume to add to the festive flavor.

‘Chicago’ packs a bunch of superlatives
MILWAUKEE - When the Tony-winning “Chicago” opens with the orchestra prominently on stage and “All That Jazz” explodes with its funky Bob Fosse choreography and the electric voice of Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly, we sense immediately that we’re in for a dazzling show. 

‘Getting Away With Murder’ not your usual Sondheim work
WEST ALLIS - One usually associates Stephen Sondheim with popular musicals with atonal harmonies and clever lyrics, but together with George Furth, he attempted a completely different genre and ended up with “Getting Away With Murder,” an amusing and rather unusual mystery play.

None shall laugh? ‘Spamalot’ dares audiences not to
MENOMONEE FALLS - ”Spamalot” is hard to classify, but it’s good entertainment, if you can handle the irreverence and absurdity.

Sunset’s ‘Dixie Swim Club’ retains interest as time goes by
ELM GROVE - The  “Dixie Swim Club” is a comedy where five women who comprised a winning swim team in college meet once a year at a beach house in North Carolina to catch up on each other’s lives.

‘Great Expectations’ lives up to its title
MILWAUKEE - It is no small feat to transform a sprawling novel into a play, but Gale Childs Daly has managed to do just that with her creative take on Charles Dickens’ classic work “Great Expectations.”

‘Violet Hour’ shines light on publishing, morality, ethics
MILWAUKEE - As I witnessed “The Violet Hour,” I was impressed with its broad appeal and the plethora of elements woven into several subplots. 

‘Bloomsday’ explores wisdom of years, perspective
MILWAUKEE - The passage of time is inexorable, but our capacity to rummage through the past and speculate about the future makes both accessible, despite the inaccuracies often involved in both these ruminations.

First Stage’s ‘Mockingbird’ takes flight as it takes on autism
MILWAUKEE - We have probably all known at least one autistic child, one who was born with a condition, more prevalent in boys than girls, that manifests itself early on in childhood.

A night at the Stackner with ‘Groucho’
MILWAUKEE - The Marx Brothers are among those legends that will never die. Of the four brothers - Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo - Groucho is the most famous because he went on to be a celebrity long after his brothers dropped out of the entertainment scene.

‘Tick, Tick ... Boom!’ surpasses ‘Rent’ in ways
HARTLAND - Jonathan Larson is a composer whose short life is best remembered for his highly regarded “Rent,” a rock musical based on the opera “La Boheme.” 

‘Cinderella’: The ultimate underdog tale flourishes
MILWAUKEE - We all love an underdog, whether it be the Elephant Man, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the kid that’s bullied or handicapped and beats the odds or the forlorn stepchild that gets the prince. 

‘Zémire et Azor’ an imaginative tour de force Skylight’s accessible, amazing tale not to be missed
MILWAUKEE - There are several versions of the classic fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” on deck at the moment. Besides the many film versions of this story, including the just-released record-setter for an opening weekend, two stage productions are in full swing within our grasp, and both are outstanding. 

‘Best of Enemies’ humanizes racial divide
MEQUON - You may remember “The God Committee” or “Freud’s Last Session,” two of Mark St. Germain’s plays produced by Acacia Theatre.

Fairy tale elements on full display as Disney’s version romances Fireside dinner audience
FORT ATKINSON - We all love a good romantic fairy tale, especially one with a happy ending.  “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” has all the essential ingredients - a bad guy, scary elements often occurring in forests, a beautiful woman, a curse or spell, and the triumph of good over evil. 

‘Glass Menagerie’ remindful of people’s illusions
MILWAUKEE - Tennessee Williams’ play “The Glass Menagerie,” though one of his earliest works, is one of his most frequently performed. It is a play that keeps on giving. 

‘33 Variations’ explores limits of life
WAUKESHA - A totally fascinating experience awaits you in “33 Variations” by MoisŽs Kaufman. Two lives are examined as each person living in different worlds faces the end of his life, making choices as to how to live out his final days.

Love triumphs over terror in UW-Waukesha’s moving rendition of ‘Women of Lockerbie’
WAUKESHA - On Dec. 21, 1988, Pam Am Flight 103 exploded in midair as it traveled from London to New York. A bomb had been planted on the plane, possibly by a Libyan agent in retaliation for an American bombing campaign in the capital city of Libya.

Taken with 'Taking Shakespeare'
MILWAUKEE - Sometimes we take Shakespeare; sometimes Shakespeare takes us. Such is the case in this beautiful little piece by John Murrell, a lovely 90-minute experience in the intimate setting of Plymouth Church.

‘Little Shop’ keeps ringing up laughs
ELM GROVE - When L. Thomas “Tommy” Lueck takes hold of anything, he does so with energy and passion. Whether it be teaching, acting, singing or directing, his zest and dedication are apparent. 

‘The Few’ gets personal exploring past wreckage
MILWAUKEE - People seem to have the need to make a connection, to have someone care about them, which probably accounts for why matchmaking companies are so successful. 

When ‘Time Stands Still’ in four lives 
MILWAUKEE - Three excellent productions hit the stages in Milwaukee last weekend, all engaging and thought-provoking.

Solo ‘Grounded’ covers a lot of ground
MILWAUKEE - “Grounded” is one woman’s story of her experience as a highly regarded fighter pilot.  After an unexpected pregnancy, she is reassigned to a “chair pilot” position, sitting for 12-hour stretches operating drones.  

Ignore any lingering snow; spring plays are in the air
Most professional theaters’ seasons run from September through May. Here are the many interesting offerings from the final third of the 2016-’17 productions. 

Fittingly, First Stage’s ‘Robin Hood’ has something for everybody
MILWAUKEE - The story of Robin Hood has been around for more than 800 years and is part of British folklore. Part of its continued appeal probably rests on some common themes that survive the many versions of this folk hero and his clashes with the law (Sheriff Nottingham), the wealthy class and the hypocritical clergy.

‘Metromaniacs’: A delightful spin around a French bard
MILWAUKEE - David Ives, known for his clever adaptations, has unearthed a  17th-century farce by Alexis Piron, written in rhyming verse, and has  brought us a complicated web of characters all looking for love and affirmation.

Visiting ‘The Other Place’ can be jarring to watch
MILWAUKEE - As we watch “The Other Place” unfold, we are somewhat confused until we realize that we are largely experiencing the narrative through the mind of Juliana Smithton, whose brilliant mind is rapidly deteriorating due to some form of dementia, which she interprets as brain cancer.

The Illusionists mesmerize
MILWAUKEE - We all love to watch an expert, whether it be an athlete, an artist, a dancer, a musician or anyone who has worked hard to perfect his or her skills.

Enchanted by Falls Patio Players’ transformative ‘Enchanted April’
MENOMONEE FALLS - It was like getting a bouquet of hope, a rarity in these times. The word “enchanted” almost seems reserved exclusively for children, but one of the strongest appeals of “Enchanted April” is that adults are allowed to experience it. 

Waukesha Civic’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ makes for spirited fun
Noel Coward is one of the most prolific British writers who ever lived. Besides his writing prowess, he also acted, directed, and produced movies and TV shows. 

‘Luna Gale’ offers telling look at life
MILWAUKEE - After witnessing the raw, wrenching story of “Luna Gale,” I was deeply struck by the complexity and vulnerability inherent in the human condition

‘Blind Dating at Happy Hour’ turns out to be highly enjoyable
HARTLAND - An enthusiastic packed house was ready for a comic ride through the messy maze of relationships in a low-end bar where anything could happen, and, as it turns out, does.

‘You Can’t Take It With You’ still accruing interest
ELM GROVE - Sunset Playhouse has taken on a chestnut comedy, George S. Kaufman’s and Moss Hart’s “You Can’t Take It With You.”  It first appeared on stage in 1936 and won a Pulitzer Prize, striking a chord with Americans during the throes of the Depression. It remains a favorite among professional and community theater companies. 

‘McGuire’ takes center stage, naturally
MILWAUKEE — Al McGuire was one of the most successful and colorful basketball coaches and TV announcers that ever graced the stages of a gym or a TV network. He was known for his brash style and his care for his players, insisting they work hard at the sport as well as leave Marquette University with a degree.

‘Disgraced’ proves provocative
MILWAUKEE - “Disgraced,” the most produced play in America during the 2015-’16 season, won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason. It is relevant, provocative, meaty and intense.

‘Bronzeville’ welcomes Wisconsin series, era of ethnic communities
“Welcome to Bronzeville,” written and directed by local playwright Sheri Williams Pannell with the assistance of John Tanner, is the first play in a series called The Wisconsin Cycle, highlighting Milwaukee’s history and ethnic diversity.

Anticipating a winter at play
Come cold, come wind, come snow, the shows must go on, and indeed they will.  Bundle up and take a chance on one.

‘Mamma Mia!’ is a madcap delight
FORT ATKINSON — “Mamma Mia!”, one of the longest-running Broadway shows, boasting a 14-year reign, has been given new life with the 2008 movie version starring the incredible Meryl Streep.

Touring ‘Sound of Music’ warms
hearts - even on a cold day
MILWAUKEE - Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” has been around for more than 50 years, and it still appeals to audiences for its music, its love story and its peek into a convent, always a bit of a mystery to many.

Breaking down the best plays of 2016 by category
After seeing more than 100 shows in the past year, it is hard sometimes to pick out the best. We have so many good professional, community and college theaters in the Greater Milwaukee area that it’s difficult to narrow them down to those that deserve special mention. 

Irreverence shines through in In Tandem’s ‘Holiday Hell’
MILWAUKEE - In Tandem Theatre has a tendency to offer alternate treatments of the Christmas season. No sentimental candy-coated versions here. Consider its long run with “A Cudahy Caroler Christmas” or “A Twisted Carol.” 

‘Best Christmas Pageant’? Most humorous, maybe 
ELM GROVE - Get ready for a bundle of laughs in Sunset’s production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” a staple during the Christmas season. 

‘Purely Elfish Reasons’ addresses labor shortage
WAUKESHA - For six years, the Waukesha Civic Theatre developed a tradition of offering its original “Candy Canes and Holiday Carols,” tweaking it every year to combine predictability and variety.

Re-energized Rep
MILWAUKEE - The revitalized traditional presentation of the Milwaukee Rep’s “A Christmas Carol,” which is celebrating its 41st year, served as a reminder of the changes instigated by Mark Clements in his short tenure with this iconic theater company.
>>The Rep Respins a Classic

Lake Country puts on good showing of Dickens’ classic
HARTLAND - The Lake Country Players are continuing their tradition for the sixth year by presenting the musical version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale of “A Christmas Carol” by Michael Koscinski and Ernest Brusubardis.

Skylight’s production of ‘La Cage’ takes the prize
MILWAUKEE - Get ready to be dazzled, amused and moved by Skylight’s present production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” the award-winning musical by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein, two giants in the theatrical industry.

‘Lobby Hero’ adds depth to comedic characters
MILWAUKEE - Kenneth Lonergan, though not a particularly prolific playwright and film script writer, is one of pristine quality. His film “You Can Count on Me” was a rave, and his upcoming film “Manchester by the Sea” is already receiving excellent reviews. 

‘The Foreigner’ might not be for xenophobes 
MILWAUKEE - Larry Shue’s work is back.  The actor and playwright who more than made his mark in the world of theater by the age of 39 when he met an untimely death in a plane crash continues to return to many stages throughout the world via “The Nerd” and “The Foreigner.” 

‘A Fireside Christmas’ is a melodious treat
FORT ATKINSON - Somehow, year after year, the Fireside Dinner Theatre attracts busloads of fans and many single patrons to its annual Christmas show. 

‘Unsilent Night’ takes unexpected turn
MILWAUKEE - For a very original Christmas show, you might want to wander down to Next Act’s premiere of “Unsilent Night,” written by Milwaukee actor and playwright John Kishline in collaboration with David Cecsarini and Edward Morgan. I

‘Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas’ revolves around family
MEQUON - Probably most people have been exposed to the Wilder books or, if not, to the TV series “Little House on the Prairie,” starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert.

Tin Pan Alley pounds, struts, wows in ‘I Love A Piano’
MILWAUKEE — I’m having a “Ragtime” moment, which translates to what I felt when experiencing that musical treat three years ago. I was almost beyond words after that show. The same is true of “I Love A Piano,” which features the music of Irving Berlin a la 50 songs and four dazzling performers.

The magic of working together comes alive in First Stage's 'Mole Hill'
MILWAUKEE - Lois Ehlert, who was born in Beaver Dam and lives in Milwaukee, is a renowned children's storyteller and illustrator, perhaps best-known for 'Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.' Her books, often about nature and its critters, are very colorfully illustrated, and have won many prestigious prizes.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ reminds us of racial road traveled and ahead
WAUKESHA - Harper Lee, a friend and neighbor of Truman Capote, enjoyed a one-book success until she recently published her second novel.

Fight choreography heightens battle of the sexes in pirate thriller ‘Bonny Anne Bonny’
WAUWATOSA - ”Bonny Anne Bonny” by local playwright Liz Shipe is an experience to behold. Directed by Christopher Elst, a master director and fight choreographer, this adventure story epitomizes the battle between the sexes.

Fine performances enhance Carroll’s ‘Glass Menagerie’
WAUKESHA - Tennessee Williams’ plays seldom make us happy, but they make us sad so beautifully that we don’t mind.  

Journey from ‘M’wauke’ to seldom-staged Sullivan work ‘The Zoo’
MILWAUKEE - The Boulevard Theatre, that small, long-lived and amazing theatrical company, linked up with the Plymouth Chorale, under the guidance of Donna Kummer, for this dual production.

‘Drowning Girls’ floods stage with uniqueness, willing brides
MILWAUKEE - It isn’t often that one sees three women emerge from bathtubs in wedding gowns. That’s just one of the many unusual happenings in the production of “The Drowning Girls.” 

Any way you say it, ‘Young Frankenstein’ comes out funny
HARTLAND - ”Young Frankenstein, the Musical” is a take-off on the 1974 movie starring Gene Wilder.  Its Mel Brooks flavor is evident throughout.  

UW-W’s ‘Good Doctor’ is perfect tonic for what ails the funny bone
“The Good Doctor” is a series of short plays based on Anton Chekhov’s works as interpreted by Neil Simon. The production uses narration as transitions between the vignettes.  

Timeless ‘Fiddler’ captures family, tradition
ELM GROVE - Since its inception in 1964, the collaborative musical venture “Fiddler on the Roof,” launched by Jerry Bock, Joseph Stein and Sheldon Harnick, continues to resonate with audiences for many reasons. 

‘Dracula vs. the Nazis’ mostly misses
Both Chris Flieller and Doug Jarecki have proven themselves over and over to be consummate comic actors.

Scheduling errors create surprise ending in ‘Suite Surrender’
This was a very farcical week in theatrical offerings in the Greater Milwaukee area — “Dracula vs. the Nazis,” “Lend Me a Tenor,” and now “Suite Surrender.”  People must enjoy farces, or there wouldn’t be so many successful ones.

‘Violet’ takes personal journey in turbulent ‘60s
MILWAUKEE - “Violet” will probably not enjoy the longevity of a classic musical, such as “Man of la Mancha” or “My Fair Lady,” but it provides an enjoyable couple of hours, many memorable scenes and some important themes. 

Just in time for political season: ‘The Taming’
MILWAUKEE - ”We the people, in order to form a more perfect union ... .”  It’s a very noble beginning with the best of intentions as a small body of determined men broke away from England to start an ambitious experiment called the United States.

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ electrifies Fireside
FORT ATKINSON - Based on a true story, the serendipitous event of four superstars jamming in the same studio, brings us the electric “Million Dollar Quartet,” now rocking the stage at the Fireside Dinner Theater. 

‘La Mancha’s’ idealism, execution merit standing applause
MILWAUKEE - I didn’t think I’d ever experience a match for “Ragtime,” a recent musical produced by the Milwaukee Rep, but “Man of La Mancha” lives up to that level of excellence. It delivers two uninterrupted hours of  glorious, captivating and inspiring artistry. 

‘Lovely Sunday’ shows Tennessee Williams’ humorous side
MILWAUKEE - Tennessee Williams is not known for his sense of humor, so his play “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur,” one of his later, less-well-known works, is a delightful surprise. 

Waukesha Civic’s ‘Gypsy’ wows with talent, music
WAUKESHA - ”Gypsy” is a fitting choice to herald in the 60th anniversary of Waukesha Civic Theatre’s inception, an accomplishment that only 100 of the 7,000-plus community theaters across the country can boast of.

‘Moon Over Buffalo’ cast skillfully pulls off farce
ELM GROVE - Once a big hit for Carol Burnett, “Moon over Buffalo”, a popular Ken Ludwig farce, is causing its share of chuckles at the Sunset Playhouse.

‘Lady Day’ delivers breathtaking performances
MILWAUKEE - Billie Holiday, in one of her last performances, returned to Emerson’s Bar and Grill in Philadelphia in 1959.  Although she had performed in large prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, she preferred the intimacy of spaces where she could get in touch with her audience.

‘The Wild Party’ serves up Roaring ‘20s morality tale
MILWAUKEE - ”The Wild Party” is based on a poem written by Joseph Moncure March in 1928.  The poem was initially banned because of its blatant narrative of sex, booze and drugs prevalent in The Roaring Twenties.  

SummerStage’s ‘Odd Couple’ stars shine nicely outdoors
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Neil Simon is probably one of the greatest American comedy writers of all time, and “The Odd Couple” still speaks to audiences even after 50 years. 

‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ uncovers humor
MILWAUKEE - Christopher Durang, a prolific, absurdist playwright, has combined a passing salute to Anton Chekhov for setting and themes, but one does not have to be familiar with his work to catch the humor of this piece. 

Lake Country Players take ‘A Walk into the Woods’
HARTLAND - Probably most of us have encountered “Into the Woods” as a stage musical or movie, but the junior version is a fairly recent addition to Sondheim’s clever conglomerate of fairy tales.  Last week, Waukesha Civic Theatre gave us the junior version of “Legally Blonde.” 

‘Secret’ should be out on SummerStage, community theater
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - The challenges of outdoor theaters are many - weather, people who let their children run around during the performance, patrons who distract others by eating nosily and the added demand on the actors to project their voices.

Young ‘Legally Blonde’ cast makes its case for determination
WAUKESHA - Two alternating casts of young actors burst onto the stage to tell the story of a young blonde, seen as ditzy by some, proving herself to be a strong, determined person who learns from her experience.