Crowd' packed with performances in a beautiful film
Shakespeare and Dickens, Thomas Hardy is an oft-filmed
British writer. Movies have been made of Hardy’s “Jude
the Obscure,” “Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” “The
Mayor of Casterbridge” and now, for the second time,
“Far from the Madding Crowd.”
Story' is actually two stories -
and both have been better told
movie “True Story,” like the 2005 book on which it’s
based, is actually two stories. One concerns Michael
Finkel’s reporter job loss. The second, and larger, story
deals with Finkel’s identity loss to a man accused of
murdering his wife and three children.
can't sing in 'Collins,' Isaac
can dance in 'Machina' but both can act
really liked “Danny Collins,” despite some
implausibilities. Agile and captivating, the picture stars
Al Pacino - still capable of commanding the screen - as a
pop singer who receives a letter, waylaid for 40-plus years,
from John Lennon.
worth 1,000 words, 'Woman' good as gold
old adage “One picture is worth 1,000 words” rings true,
time and again, in the documentary “The Salt of the
'Home' has endearing hero, J. Lo songs, memorable messages
DreamWorks, the company responsible for the “Shrek,”
“Madagascar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” series,
comes another example of stellar computer animation.
of Doubt' pits spin
doctors vs. climatologists
based on our last two Wisconsin winters, you’ve decided
global warming is a myth, the new documentary “Merchants
of Doubt” might just change your mind.
captures turbulent Belfast on many levels
nighttime footage and daytime scenes of a dark nature; evil
characters and good ones whose largesse stops slightly short
of heroism; long
takes and a relatively - and appropriately - skimpy musical
score in which a drum figures prominently.
'Red' than dead
Fetisov went from playing schoolboy hockey with flattened
cans for pucks to captaining what some considered the best
hockey team on earth, to building leagues and arenas - plus
bringing the 2014 Olympic Games to Sochi - as Russian
President Vladimir Putin’s minister of sport
'Leviathan' Worth Your Time
the Russian movie “Leviathan” in the worthwhile viewing
isn’t light fare, isn’t a happy story (it’s a drama
devoid of comic relief), but the subtitled “Leviathan”
is well-acted, well-directed, well-photographed and
definitely capable of holding an onlooker’s attention for
its two-plus hours.
likely to parallel Golden Globes
WAUKESHA - The
prediction here is that Academy Awards night Feb. 22 won’t
yield many surprises - at least not in the prominent
categories of leading and supporting actor and actress,
director and motion picture.
Year' tantalizingly cryptic
- Tantalizingly cryptic.
adverb-adjective combination came to mind as a description of
composer Alex Ebert’s jazzy-solemn score for “A Most Violent
'4' movie buffs to
brush up on Oscar history
- Now that the Golden Globe Awards have been distributed,
it’s time to turn our attention to the Oscars.
‘Selma’: How far have we come?
- “Selma,” the formidable screen story of the Martin Luther
King Jr.-led civil rights march between Selma and
Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, virtually ends with a rap number
'Foxcatcher' among 2014's best films
- Terrifying pipsqueak may be an oxymoron, but it also seems
a spot-on description of John du Pont - or least the du Pont
portrayed by Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher.”
Cabbie' mostly drives the wrong way
- Cast an engaging actor (Vinay Virmani) as the lead in your
comedic flick and a lovely actress (Adrianne Palicki) as his
significant other. Surround the pair with cartoonish
relatives and buffoonish current and former friends.
offers enough for animation fans
- “Penguins of Madagascar” opens on a snowy scene - a
meandering march (or should I say wintry waddle?) of the
titular creatures, who are generally unconcerned about an
egg hatching in their midst.
of the year on the silver screen
WAUKESHA - In
about a month, on the cusp of a new year, film reviewers
near and far will be offering their top 10 lists for 2014.
of Everything' at 'St. Vincent' winners; 'Beyond the Lights'
mired in mediocrity
Oscar buzz is attaching itself to “The Theory of
Everything,” a film about physicist Stephen Hawking.
boasts solid acting, story line
- Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan’s
“Interstellar,” this year’s marginal comparison to
last year’s “Gravity,” includes enough positive
elements to qualify as recommendable.
flies high; 'Before' needs more
and co-written by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”),
“Birdman” has everything from A to Z: A:
An apple - the Big Apple - provides “Birdman’s”
recalls classics; 'Judge' raises objections
I once knew a guy
who seemed happily married. He was even happier when he was
performing in amateur plays, however, so he opted to act
professionally. This new commitment, he decided, would
necessitate breaking up with his wife.
Best of Me' hardly a winner
- “The Best of Me” isn’t the best of movies and “The
Judge” raises some objections, as well. Here are more
bad day makes for so-so movie
- When I think of Judith Viorst, I think of an essay she
wrote regarding the several varieties of friends. Brilliant
as it was, that essay wouldn’t have made much of a movie.
Renner power worthwhile new films
- Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner star in recommendable new
movies. Here are the reviews. "Gone Girl"
“This movie will be big,” I thought after learning about
“Gone Girl’s” plot and pedigree and seeing the names
of some of the Hollywood types involved.
Hendrix film and filmmaker feted
MILWAUKEE - While
it qualifies for the biopic genre, “Jimi: All Is by My
Side,” doesn’t exactly tell the story of Jimi
Hendrix’s life. Rather, the new movie tells the story of a
single year in the life of the musician-singer-songwriter.
too heavy on Rambo,
too light on Robin Hood
- Two inscrutable individuals, a thoroughly bad man and a
basically good one, play a cat-and-mouse game on their way
to a lethal showdown.
festival encore presentations worth seeing
- There were a number of fine movies that debuted last
weekend at the Milwaukee Film Festival. Several are
highlighted below, along with encore times and venues.
has much to offer moviegoers young and old
was thinking about how far removed animated movies are from
real life as I walked away from a screening of the 3-D film
“The Boxtrolls” earlier this week.
is Strange,' 'Tusk,' contrast in quality
- If “Love Is Strange” isn’t the very best
American-made movie I’ve seen this year, it probably ranks
second or third. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine
“Tusk” could’ve been much worse. TimeOut reviews both
movies this week.
Man' evokes television's 'Mission: Impossible'
- First, let’s dispel any notions that “The November
Man” is some kind of baseball biopic.
sports film won't stand tall for all
- Jim Caviezel, portraying highly successful prep coach Bob
Ladouceur, spouts out, “It’s only a high school football
game” at one point of reality-based “When the Game Stands
I Stay' will give audiences
- As “If I Stay” is winding down, Mireille Enos, playing
a not altogether rehabilitated hippie, tells her mainstream
daughter, played by 17-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, “Life
is this big, fat, gigantic, stinking mess.”
and 'Land Ho!'
cut above their peers
- While “The Hundred-Foot Journey” and “Land Ho!”
won’t become cornerstones of the movie comedy genre, both
August releases are more amusing than many 2014
Latest Woody Allen film really is
Stanley Crawford (played by Colin Firth), a.k.a., Wei Ling
Soo, is “the greatest debunker of fake spiritualists in the
world,” in a fellow illusionist’s opinion.
source of that flattering quote, Howard Burkan (a very
watchable Simon McBurney), reports a fraud he’d like Stanley
comedic movies have varying values
WAUKESHA - Comedy takes the
spotlight as three new films hit the local cinema market:
“Sex Tape,” “And So It Goes” and “Wish I Was Here.”
'Fire & Rescue' too much
WAUKESHA - Enough, already, of the “Planes”
franchise. The second installment, “Planes: Fire & Rescue,”
isn’t bad and certainly isn’t offensive (It duplicates the
original’s PG rating).
to Echo,' 'Third Person'
share high ranking
- One is PG-rated science fiction, the other a very serious
R-rated film - and both “Earth to Echo” and “Third
Person” - have been found to merit
3 1/2 stars. The following paragraphs tell why.
stretches credulity, lacks substance
- For the record, Melissa McCarthy is 43 years old, Allison
Janney is 54 and
Susan Sarandon is 67.
Boys' vs. 'Obvious Child'?
Better to Listen to the Music!
probably comes down to this: if you enjoy the music of the
Four Seasons (and literally millions do), you’re likely to
enjoy “Jersey Boys,” the Clint Eastwood-directed film
version of the hit Broadway musical about the group.
films likely to attract audiences
- They say opposites attract. Maybe that means both “How
to Train Your Dragon 2” and “The Rover” will attract
large audiences, for the two June-premiering films are
dissimilar in several ways.
first-class film 'Million Ways' finds itself lost among
- In all honesty, “A Million Ways to Die in the West”
doesn’t contain anywhere near a million uses of the F
more cooking with
British 'Belle than 'Chef'
- Jon Favreau’s comedy “Chef” and the British period
drama “Belle” are movies now in area theaters. Here is a
look at each one: I think
I’m on to the “Chef” filmmaking strategy.
Dollar Arm' and 'Godzilla contrasting films, but good ones
- “Million Dollar Arm” and “Godzilla” both got off
to banner starts in the movie theater in terms of gross
earnings for the first weekend of their releases.
of Oz' has a few
strengths worth mentioning
- “This doesn’t look like the Oz I remember,” a
computer-animated Dorothy declares early in “Legends of
Oz: Dorothy’s Return.”
drama joined by
Spider-Man sequel in theaters
- The World War II drama “Walking with the Enemy” wraps
up its first week in area theaters Friday, the same day
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” premieres. The following are
reviews from both films:
move never made'
debuts in local cinemas Friday
- “Jodorowsky’s Dune” comes to area movie theaters
Friday following the release of three other films last week.
The following are reviews of each film:
'Words' among new film releases
WAUKESHA - On Friday, “The
Lunchbox,” a dramatic film, will join “Bad Words,” a
comedy released March 28, in local theaters. Both movies are
reviewed below with their ratings.
March: A month for different films
- The month of March is being marked in our area by the
release of three very different films: the comedy “The Grand
Budapest Hotel” on Friday, one week after the documentary
“Tim’s Vermeer” and two weeks after the graphic novel
adaptation “300: Rise of an Empire.”
predictions and omissions
- “12 Years a Slave” will win a few major awards - and
leave another acclaimed 2013 movie, “Gravity,” in the
lurch. That’s my take on Sunday’s Oscar festivities.
Days' different, but hardly a unique film
- It’s too bad they made a movie called “Shattered
Glass” a few years back. That would’ve been a great
title for the new Kevin Costner film that instead has been
dubbed “3 Days to Kill.”
for 'Her' is only faint
- Star Joaquin Phoenix, as Theodore Twombly, dances around
in his long underwear and accompanies a crooning computer on
his ukulele. A
Twombly co-worker (Chris Pratt) praises the sensitive
ghostwriter of personal letters as “part man and part
of films made for
a very good cinematic year
- In a fine year for cinema, such as 2013, it’s not all
that challenging to compile a list of excellent movies.
County' a must-see movie
- Put “August: Osage County” near the top of your
must-see movies list. The
plot of Tracy Letts’ screenplay, based on his 2008
Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning drama, revolves
around kinfolk in Oklahoma.
stories make for good December cinema
- Truth may or may not be stranger than fiction, but it can
be just as interesting. And it certainly can make for good
more than a worthy successor
- Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” is more than a worthy
successor to the director’s “About Schmidt” (2002),
“Sideways” (2004) and “The Descendants” (2011). For
my money, Payne’s latest picture is the best of the
Fish' reels in audience of all ages
“Big Fish,” based on a novel by Daniel Wallace, explores
the need for imagination as the path to making one’s life
fuller. First Stage Children’s Theatre gives the
production a lot of flair and a ton of heart.
and the Starcatcher' adds to Peter Pan lore
- The story of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up,
was created in 1902 by James M. Barrie. It has inspired
countless spin-off films, TV shows, novels, musicals and
interactive murder mystery that entertains
Prepare yourself for a different theatrical experience as
Brumder Mansion closes its production of “Murder is a Fine
Simon's 'Rumors' sparkles
on Lake Country Players stage
- Neil Simon, probably the greatest comic American
playwright, has written more than 30 plays and almost an
equal number of screenplays, many adaptations of his stage
productions. “Rumors,” one of his most successful
farces, is presently sparkling on stage in the intimate Lake
Country Playhose. It is a treat.
‘Les Miserables’ thrills from start to
In the past 20 years,
I have certainly witnessed some impressive musicals at
Waukesha Civic Theatre. “Miss Saigon” and “Sound of Music”
come to mind as the recent best. Their present production,
however, breaks all the former boundaries.
of Angels' offers a fun ride
Windfall Theatre in little Village Church on Juneau Avenue
has taken on an ambitious project in its production of Cy
Coleman and David Zippel’s musical creation, “City of
Angels.” Considering its length, its scope, its complexity
and the large cast required, the end result is quite
actors, 140-plus characters
make for frenzied mystery
GROVE - We don’t usually expect a comedy when we hear the
word “Hitchcock.” Not that the man didn’t have a sense
of wry humor, but his comical mystery “The 39 Steps”
doesn’t match the formula we’ve become accustomed to.
MENOMONEE FALLS -
With a cadre of talented artists and technical engineers, a
cast of enthusiastic, energized actors and vocalists, and an
accomplished director, “Hairspray”
exploded upon the stage via The Patio Players. Wow!
and Lovage' is sure to 'enlarge, enlighten and enliven'
- There is something about British wit that is easy to
recognize but hard to define. It usually appeals to
those who relish subtlety as well as outlandishness, who see
the blatant incongruities so prevalent in the human
Third time’s a clever charmer for
MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee
Chamber closes out its season with its third Jeeves show.
The British playwright P.G. Wodehouse created this famous
butler, who has become an iconic figure, appearing in
countless of Wodehouse’s short stories for 59 years.
Questions' explores common ground in debate on evolution versus creation
- There are issues that can be variously interpreted.
They usually involve science, religion or politics, and some
people feel so strongly about their position that they are
willing to denigrate, torture or demolish their
wrestles with gender roles for winning performance
- “Luchadora” is a premiere, an original work
commissioned and produced by First Stage Children’s
Theater. I’m sure it will find a market elsewhere for
playwright Alvaro Saar Rios, for it is a beautiful story
with an upbeat message for young people and their parents.
Down Dirty Blues' spotlights performers
- As soon as Felicia Fields saunters onto the stage in that
shimmery crimson gown and googles us with those big naughty
eyes, we sense the power of her presence, but when she opens
her mouth to sing “They Call Me Big Mama,” we know
we’re in for one unforgettable experience.
Man's Cell Phone' isn't ringing endorsement of technological
- Sarah Ruhl is a young American playwright who deserves our
is prolific and provocative and has already received her
share of awards for her rather quirky plays.
hard to see 'Wizard of Oz' too often
don’t think there’s another film I’ve seen more times
in my life than “The Wizard of Oz” since my first
thrilling experience of it in 1939, when as a child I
watched Dorothy’s world suddenly turn into a rainbow of
colors and a series of delicious adventures.
miss 'Five Presidents'
Emmy-winning playwright Rick Cleveland, having contributed
to many prominent TV shows such as “The West Wing,”
“Six Feet Under” and “Mad Men,” saw a sterling
opportunity to write about a rare gathering of four
ex-presidents and the one presently holding office in 1994
when all five men came together to attend Richard Nixon’s
OK to laugh at 'The Nerd'
Shue once acted and wrote for The Milwaukee Rep Theatre. In
the height of his career at age 39, he was killed in a plane
crash, leaving a legacy of three plays, two of which have
been staged hundreds of times - “The Nerd” and “The
of Ann Frank' poses introspective questions
Imagine what it
must have been like for a young girl of 13, teeming with
energy and hopes, to be trapped in a very confined space
with seven other people, four of whom she barely knew, for
almost two years.
Durst gets a rage on with baby boomers
Class of 1970 from Waukesha South High School might remember
Will Durst. Was
he the class clown, the most likely to succeed or just a
quiet guy you never expected to turn out to be one the best
political satirists of our time.
Have I Wings to Fly' will close this weekend
Decker, artistic director at the University of
Wisconsin-Waukesha, found a sweet-sad Irish play many years
ago when living in Chicago. Lucky for us, he never forgot
Neither Have I Wings to Fly” by Ann Noble is here for our
perusal and enjoyment.
Amish Project' is
a complex one-woman show
Staples has proved again that she is capable of handling the
complexity of a one-woman show.
a Pop Opera' tackles the struggle for acceptance
Northey makes his directorial debut with an electric
production of “Bare: a Pop Opera” at Soulstice Theatre
in St. Francis.
is a comic drama replete with memorable characters
Davies, a Welshman who early on settled in London, is best
known for his film and TV scripts and adaptations.
music show off the charts
- Along with jazz and spirituals, the American Musical is
said to be an original with us. It has often been called the
Money' cashes in on some laughter
- Ray Cooney is considered one of the best British
playwrights. He has even been called the British Neil Simon,
which I think is a stretch because their comedies are quite
Players' 'Mama' filled with hilarious moments
FALLS - The Patio Players has discovered an outlandish
comedy for our entertainment. A rather recent work by Jessie
Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, “Mama Won’t
Fly,” is enjoying success since its inception in 2011, and
I’m sure will continue to do so in many community theaters
across the country.
stages moving 'Once on this Island'
- The third production in Skylight Music Theatre’s fairy
tale season is the delightfully colorful and soulful story
of star-crossed lovers, set in the Caribbean French
Antilles, where there is a big divide between the
dark-skinned peasants and the lighter-skinned French
offers appreciation for American music
- Occasionally, one meets people that are hard to describe.
They’re often referred to as “characters.”
course, each person is unique, one of a kind, but some stand
out as being quite different from any others.
Act pulls at heart strings with 'No Child'
MILWAUKEE - It is
gratifying to encounter a play that praises teachers for
their grit and dedication. Having spent 35 years of my own
life teaching high school (and 10 teaching college, which is
a piece of cake by comparison), I often wanted to say to
those who were quick to criticize and thought we had a cushy
job and were overpaid, that they should try it sometime,
even for one year, and then we’d talk.
'Cuckoo's Nest' delivers
GROVE - The novel “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by
Ken Kesey was a very controversial one when it was published
in 1962. It poked its nose into mental institutions and
wrote a scathing story about the inhumane treatment afforded
the mentally ill.
taps into struggles of lower class
- I always look forward to seeing a play by David Lindsay-Abaire,
an American playwright with a quirky sense of humor, the
ability to create characters we care about, and a man with
many successes behind him, including a Pulitzer Prize for
stages engaging show based on Tolstoy
Tolstoy, best known for his lengthy “War and Peace,”
also wrote many lesser-known shorter pieces, one of which is
being featured in its adaptation by Nancy Harris.
brings 1970s music to life
ATKINSON - I wouldn’t have believed that the Fireside
Dinner Theatre could top its two recent musical revues from
issue put front and center
- The theme of bullying is still getting a lot of focus
these days, and well it should. Often the person who is
different is the one that’s bullied, whether it be a
difference in religion, ethnicity or cultural
'Macbeth' tackles greed and power
ST. FRANCIS -
Because the themes of greed and power continue to resonate
in the modern world, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” will
always have something to say to us.
Lake Country Players offer unusual twist
The Lake Country Playhouse has found an unusual offering to
ring in the new year. Presently playing is a quirky creation
by playwright Emily Schwartz, a writer who has garnered a
few awards from her Chicago site of operation.
Songs headline production
- Many older musicals have little substance and rather vapid
plots, but in “Anything Goes,” playing at the Marcus Center
for the Performing Arts, with so many memorable tunes by
Cole Porter, the production numbers compensate for the
overall literary sparseness. The precise and elaborate dance
numbers are also a visual and rhythmic treat.
shows that made an impression in 2014
WAUKESHA - Another year has
passed, and again we have been amused, instructed, inspired
and awed by many memorable theatrical productions at
professional, community and college theaters in the metro
fabulous holiday songs
The Waukesha Civic Theatre is staging its traditional
“Candy Canes” Christmas show for the sixth time.
brings back classic holiday favorite
- “Miracle on 34th Street” originated in a black and
white film in 1947. It has survived the ravages of time and
is still a Christmas favorite.
Country Players go above and beyond with Christmas classic
Charles Dickens, when in financial straits himself,
hurriedly wrote “A Christmas Carol.” It was an instant
hit and has been sending a strong message to millions of
people ever since its inception as a novella in 1843.
Stage brings back most
famous reindeer of them all
- It’s always fun to re-experience an old classic with
some new twists.
Stage Children’s Theater dusted off “Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer” and is offering the musical version
They’re back for the ninth time - the delicious mix of
beer, brats and bowling, ala Cudahy. This oxymoronic medley
of beautiful harmonies amid the dissonance of relationship
squabbles and unexpected lyrics is again gracing the stage
at the Tenth Street Theatre.
production for all to enjoy
- “Harvey,” the infamous imaginary rabbit, is back on
stage to celebrate his 70th anniversary on the illustrious
Milwaukee Rep stage.
Theatre sequel to Shakespeare amusing
Shakespeare is on the docket again, this time in an abridged
format, where a quartet of talented actors, all Whitewater
theater program graduates, unite to amuse us with a penchant
for parody, physical humor and expertise in rendering the
Bard’s words whenever they actually quote him.
shows why 'Oz' still captivates audiences
I recall so well when the film of “The Wizard of Oz”
came out. I think it was the first experience I had with
Technicolor. I still remember how awesome it was for me as a
little kid. There is something magic about the story as
well, and of course, the music
Disney's 'Lion King' dazzles
- It’s back in all its splendor - “The Lion King” -
ready to enrapture us again. If you love visual feasts and
technical miracles, the dazzling spectacle of the present
production of this popular musical will more than satisfy.
presents many societal cases and more
WAUKESHA - A.R.
Gurney is probably best known for his plays, “Love
Letters,” “The Dining Room” and “Sylvia.
- Excess fascinates us, whether it be money, power, talent,
daring, generosity or even evil.
Stage's 'Sherlock Holmes' a cluttered mystery
- Another mystery has hit the boards at First Stage
Children’s Theater on the heels of last season’s finale,
“Nancy Drew’s Greatest Case.”
aside, 'Lend Me A Tenor'
- I am not usually a big fan of farces, yet I can appreciate
the physical humor and the timing required to pull off their
Opera Theatre to stage 'Lucy'
MILWAUKEE - The
Milwaukee Opera Theatre is scheduled to open its first
offering of the season, a rather unusual world premiere of
an opera based on a true story.
numbers drives Sunset's 'Guys and Dolls'
“Guys and Dolls,” by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe
Burrows, first opened in the 1950s, but it is set in the
‘30s, a time when gambling was illegal in the United
examines harrowing times for women
- The Civil War continues to enthrall and appall us.
More than 50,000 books have been written about it
during the last 150 years.
Eyes' recalls why fishermen followed Christ
- Acacia Theatre Company describes itself as a group that
offers plays of substance and moral fiber.
'all the terrible things' well-crafted story
- J. Rey Pamatmat’s “after all the terrible things I
do,” now playing at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s
Steimke Studio, is a drama about shame and the ways we try
to deny and live with it.