Phoenix’ review: ‘X-Men’ mutant doesn’t start the
mean, whatever with the “X-Men” movies. It’s hard
to even rent an opinion on the discrete strengths and
weaknesses of a franchise that has devolved to the point
of “Dark Phoenix,” a lavishly brutal chore nearly as
violent as the Wolverine movie “Logan,” and a movie
featuring more death by impalement and whirling metal
than all the “Saw” movies put together.
Ali Wong and Randall Park continue rom-com revival with
'Always Be My Maybe'
'Always Be My Maybe'
of the brightest aspects of the rise of original films
on Netflix is its resuscitation of the romantic comedy.
review: A whole new same old world … this time with Will
quality cannot be measured by minutes, the new
live-action version of Disney’s “Aladdin” runs 37
minutes longer than the animated 1992 film famous for
Robin Williams’ inspired vocal riffs and the song “A
Whole New World.”
Dog’s Journey’ gives fantastical sequel emotional bite
critically with Dog Movies can be a challenge for a
critic. Who wants to be the crank who scoffs that the
heartwarming animal movie is just too contrived and
fails to open a window into the mind behind ‘The Lord of
What would J.R.R.
Tolkien have made of “Tolkien,” the touching, polished,
impeccably well-behaved new movie about his early life? The
author’s estate has already weighed in, distancing itself
from a project that moved ahead without its participation or
plush-filled ‘UglyDolls,’ the story is only skin-deep
Hollywood loves a
merchandising opportunity. And in recent years, there’s
been a trend of turning merchandise itself into movies,
which can then spawn more opportunities for merchandising,
therefore creating an infinite loop of merchandising
Endgame’ review: Marvel’s game of stones reaches a
gone for the head.” So uttered Josh Brolin as Thanos last
year, in “Avengers: Infinity War,” just before he
snapped his gloved fingers and cut the population of the
known universe in half.
review: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ schlocky add to
we call The Conjuring Universe has become a sprawling
franchise of big-budget horror-lite spookfests that pull
from every urban legend, folk tale and ghost story one
can think of, usually involving vengeful feminine
spirits and the women with whom they do
review: ‘Hellboy’ is a truly crazy monster mash, and it’s
… a lot
Perhaps it was
when Hellboy (David Harbour) chased a pig baby changeling in
a diaper up a chimney that it fully hit me. I couldn’t
help but wonder: What on earth am I watching?
review: Lightning strikes, Zachary Levi and a pretty good
bad, which by recent DC Comics movie standards (“Wonder
Woman” excepted) means it’s practically a masterwork. To
paraphrase Jack Lipnik, the studio head in “Barton Fink”:
Klayman’s ‘The Brink’ reveals emptiness of Steve
enemy.” It’s an aphorism that may come to mind for a
viewer of a certain political tendency while watching “The
Brink,” Alison Klayman’s engrossing documentary about
conservative operative and former Trump Svengali Steve
'Us' review: Jordan Peele
directs Lupita Nyong'o in an unnerving game of doubles
Peele’s “Us” begins so spectacularly well, and sustains
its game of doubles so cleverly for most of its two
hours, it’s an unusual sort of letdown when the story
doesn’t quite hang together and “deliver” the way Peele
managed with his 2017 debut feature, “Get Out.”
review: Post-WWII drama ‘The Aftermath’ feels empty,
With mislaid alliances and
stealthy maneuvering, the Kiera Knightley vehicle “The
Aftermath,” about an English woman’s affair with the
German man whose home she’s occupying in post-war Hamburg,
truly is a film that embodies the phrase “the war at home.”
Marvel’ review: Brie Larson suits up for duty in a
universe built on male swagger and bravado
pushes a rabid feminist agenda. Meaning: There’s a female
lead this time. So that’s one more white male out of work. It’s
‘Greta’ gets a boost from Isabelle Huppert’s freaky,
If one must be
stalked by a lonely, obsessive widow who loves barbiturates
and mind games, it might as well be Isabelle Huppert. That
seems to be the chief takeaway from “Greta,” a sleek,
derivative psychological thriller featuring this great
French actress in a rare and welcome English-speaking role.
with My Family’ review: Mum, Dad, the WWE and me
The more globally
famous the celebrity, the tougher audiences tend to be on a
biopic. Unless it’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” because, you
know. All those hits
It Romantic’ review: Rebel Wilson plus a concussion leads
to a romantic awakening
“Isn’t It Romantic”
gets by, barely, on its apparently inexhaustible comic
premise, and on Rebel Wilson’s stand-back-world-get-offa-my-runway
comic chops. Why isn’t it better?
review: Gender-flipped ‘What Men Want’ fails with its
something so wonderfully ironic about a black woman taking
over the sequel to a Mel Gibson vehicle.
Bala’ lacks courage to finish on dark note
The remake of the
2011 film “Miss Bala” by Gerardo Naranjo works until
writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer opts for an Americanized
Look Away’ is a masterpiece that confronts truth, Nazi
away, Kurt,” Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) implores her
young nephew. “Never look away — everything that’s
true is beautiful.”
‘Adult Life Skills’ stands out with resonant, grown-up
Whittaker) is having a terrible, no good, very bad week. She’s
about to turn 30 and her mom wants her out of the backyard
shed before her birthday
Takal’s horror film ‘New Year, New You’ explores the
sinister side of social media influencers
At a time when
women are making strides across the industries of film and
television, the horror genre remains primarily a boys’
club. Sophia Takal, Blumhouse’s first female horror
director, is one of the filmmakers aiming to change
Kidman’s relentless performance is no match for the
bleakness, savage amorality of ‘Destroyer’
work by Nicole Kidman is the defining feature of Karyn
Kusama’s “Destroyer,” but that doesn’t mean
you’d want to put it on a double bill with “The
Hours” or “To Die For.”
With 'Bumblebee,' John
Cena finds his stride in Hollywood
LOS ANGELES —
John Cena doesn't believe in ego. How could he when he's
used to tens of thousands of WWE fans chanting "John
Cena sucks" every time he walks out to the ring?
‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ and she really shouldn’t have
thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Keats
said it first, but it was Mary Poppins, being
practically perfect in every way, who found the right
occasion for it, shortly after pulling an improbably large
houseplant out of her carpetbag.
necessities of ‘Mowgli’ come up short
Andy Serkis (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) has gone
down a familiar path with his take on Rudyard
Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” tales with “Mowgli:
Legend of the Jungle.”
Bathurst went in different direction with ‘Robin Hood’
Otto Bathurst (“Peaky
Blinders”) had one question when the possibility arose for
him to direct a feature film based on the story of Robin
review: Riveting heist thriller finds Viola Davis taking on
every rat in Chicago — and winning
I can’t speak
for all of them, but Chicagoans will watch the terrific and
unexpectedly soulful crime drama “Widows” one way, while
everybody else experiences a separate but related movie.
and Now’ lifeless effort despite good cast
who primarily has been making documentary films over the
past decade, decided to try his hand at a feature film. The
result is “Here and Now,” a production that follows
listless characters on lifeless journeys through New York
review: Paul Dano directs Carey Mulligan in stirring
adaptation of a fractured marriage
curious happens when two actors share a confined space
in front of a camera.
review: ‘Indivisible’ a refreshing war story that
balances home and abroad stories
now and then, faith-based movie studio PureFlix gets it
right, releasing a film that feels like it might have
some crossover appeal.
review: ‘What They Had’ explores family expectations as
matriarch faces Alzheimer’s decline
can’t always get what you want — or expected to
have. But nevertheless, we try, and sometimes, we do get
what we need. This is the idea explored in Elizabeth
Chomko’s debut feature, “What They Had.”
Star Is Born’ dims in the shadow of Kavanaugh
a decade the last few weeks have been. After
a year that saw the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up
movements, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the
Supreme Court on Saturday despite multiple accusations of
sexual assault was just a bridge too far for some women.
School’ review: Reading, writing and roughhouse with Kevin
Hart and Tiffany Haddish
Am I asking too
much of “Night School”? It’s no big thing, this new
movie starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, and nobody’s
expecting a formula-, game- or life-changer.
Movie review: ‘Lizzie’
features some killer performances
The story of how
Lizzie Borden was accused in 1892 of taking an ax and
killing her father and stepmother has been fodder for films,
TV shows, a rock musical and a child’s jump rope game.
Although Borden was acquitted of the murders, the general
thinking is that she got away with murder.
Black’s ‘The Predator’ is a snarky, gory reboot with
some ugly baggage
More than once in “The
Predator,” a slicked-up, snarked-out piece of
action-comedy bloodletting from the writer-director Shane
Black, the characters pause to debate whether their enemy
really deserves the name he’s been given.
review: It’s fun to watch Jennifer Garner’s return to
action, but ‘Peppermint’ is no ‘Alias’
How to revive a
movie star’s flagging career? Take up guns, obviously.
Following in the time-honored tradition of “Taken,” “John
Wick,” “Atomic Blonde” and “Death Wish,” Jennifer
Garner arms up in the vigilante mom action-thriller “Peppermint.”
review: Dark, confounding ‘Kin’ defies genre
dates shouldn’t necessarily be a metric for evaluating
films, and yet, sometimes it’s the best way to
contextualize what’s going on with a movie. “Kin,”
a dark and confounding young adult thriller, written and
directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker, co-written by
Daniel Casey, is best described as a prototypical
uniquely unravels clever mystery
is hard enough to come up with a plausible mystery story
for a feature film that has enough legitimate twists and
turns to make it interesting without having to cheat on
flawed but vital milestone, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ pays
exuberant tribute to Singapore’s 1 percent
Before it whisks
you off on the sunniest, most extravagant Singaporean
holiday imaginable, “Crazy Rich Asians” begins on a
curiously dark and stormy night. When Eleanor Young (a
mesmerizing Michelle Yeoh) arrives dripping wet at an
exclusive London hotel, the snob at the front desk declines
her booking and advises her to stay elsewhere (“May I
Meg’ review: Jason Statham overmatched by clumsy shark
In “The Meg,”
Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who once
encountered a prehistoric shark that killed two of his
Who Dumped Me’ is so … so-so. Kate McKinnon: So good.
“The Spy Who
Dumped Me” gets by, barely, thanks mainly to Kate
McKinnon. Her crazily fluid and unpredictable comic timing,
and her willingness to go big — well past Madeline
Kahn-big and very near Eddie Cantor-big — has saved
Cruise delivers again in action-packed ‘Mission:
Impossible — Fallout’
“Mission: Impossible —
Fallout” is the perfect summer movie to cap off July,
a month where the movies in the annual summer derby at
least entertained. But
“Fallout” goes beyond mere entertainment.
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ improve on the original?
Everything old is
shockingly, stirringly new again in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go
Again,” the rare sequel so unexpectedly enchanting that it
plays less like a rehash than a reclamation.
Johnson scales the heights in the thrillingly dumb ‘Skyscraper’
structure at the heart of “Skyscraper” is something to
behold. An impeccably sculpted tower that dwarfs everything
in its path, it’s a symbol of physical might and
commercial supremacy recognized the world over.
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ to top the box office, continuing
Hollywood’s strong summer
once considered a superhero small fry next to such
Marvel heavyweights as the Incredible Hulk and Thor, is
poised to march atop the box office this weekend and
boost an already strong summer movie season.
World: Fallen Kingdom’ is expected to open big at the box
office, but won’t match its predecessor
Pictures and Amblin Entertainment are hoping to create
another box office monster from the DNA of the “Jurassic
is a flashy, violent and fitfully compelling remake of the
1972 blaxploitation hit
know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one the
Man left us to play.” With
those words, spoken by one weary drug dealer to another, the
1972 film “Super Fly” offered up a soulful lament to go
with its moody style, fabulous clothes and immortal Curtis
caper and its consequences in true-crime saga of ‘American
One of the many
allures of heist movies is the clockwork precision of seeing
an audacious idea conceived and executed according to
dukes it out with superhero blockbusters for box office
a summer box office season dominated by superhero
blockbusters, a small documentary about a diminutive
crime fighter is doing big numbers in limited release.
In taking on 'Solo,'
Ehrenreich faced an unenviable task
LOS ANGELES —
Thandie Newton jokes that there might be something off about
Alden Ehrenreich — because how else could he take on the
pressure-filled role of Han Solo with so much ease?
movies offer a mixed bag of genres
comedy, dramedy. Sci-fi and suspense. Mystery and
horror. All of these genres (and maybe more) are
represented in the dozen films summarized below, by way
of a preview of spring 2018 movies bound for area
movie one of Day-Lewis’ best
Thread,” supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ last movie before
the 60-year-old heads into retirement, deserves kudos on a
number of fronts.
From ingenious tale to typical sitcom
offers an ingenious concept: humans being reduced to finger
size as a means of both confronting overpopulation and -
since the new small fry get to keep their old money - easily
attaining a lavish lifestyle.
recalls wealthy but tightfisted Getty
J. Paul Getty
(Christopher Plummer) is the richest man in the world. In
fact, he may be the richest man who’s ever lived in the
But J. Paul is also notoriously cheap.
Showman’ solid, if not exactly ‘La La Land’
director Michael Gracey’s feature film debut, “The
Greatest Showman,” isn’t as good as last year’s “La
La Land,” but the new musical does have songs by “La La”
Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and I’m calling
it a solid three-star flick.
Hour’ summarizes Dunkirk story and more
May 1940 and Winston Churchill has just berated a young
secretary on her first day of work. Great Britain’s
First Lord of the Admiralty has, according to his wife,
Clementine, “become rough and sarcastic and
overbearing and rude.”
Artist’ may shine brighter if release didn’t fall
between great films
Artist,” produced by, directed by and starring James
Franco, isn’t a bad movie.
films, family fare making screens bright
As the old saying
goes, it’s that time of the year again. Time for holiday
movies and additional family film fare.
Billboards’ adds up to a fascinating dramedy
Remember the old
movie title “10 Things I Hate About You”? What follows
is an enumeration of 10 things I like - about
writer-director Martin McDonagh’s new dramedy “Three
Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”:
is simply wonderful
“Wonder” is a
wonderful movie: wholesome, instructive without being
preachy, engrossing the whole way through. Did I mention the
actors and their characters?
Bird’ a remarkable directorial debut
curious “Lady Bird” and “LBJ” are running in movie
theaters simultaneously, it’s only “LBJ” that concerns
a character whose last name is Johnson.
Life’ documentary to stream on Amazon Prime
Milwaukeean and Brookfield Central High School graduate’s
film will begin streaming on the Amazon Prime subscription
Stay put, ‘Kane’ — ‘Killing’ is no
for “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” — as is their job —
have colorfully exaggerated, calling the movie “a
sensational thriller brimming with unsettling humor and
creeping dread, steeped in Greek tragedy, existential
horror, Hitchcockian psychodrama and riveting suspense.”
Wow. Move over, “Citizen Kane.”
Project' a naturalistic gem
My wife says I’m probably the
only Disney World customer ever who hasn’t liked the
Maybe that’s why I liked “The Florida Project” so
much. Writer-director Sean Baker’s film offers a rather
jaded perspective on the amusement mecca.
of Portis’ novel likely to enjoy original ‘True Grit’
enjoyed the novel “True Grit” are likely to embrace
Henry Hathaway’s production of the same name, the first
(1969) of two Hollywood versions of Charles Portis’ novel.
Felt’ convincingly revisits Watergate era
were less than stellar for the pretentiously titled “Mark
Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.”
Milwaukee Film Festival redux
MILWAUKEE - The
ninth annual Milwaukee Film Festival has ended. Now it’s
postmortem time. First, the numbers.
namesake Indiana city, film ‘Columbus’ is
shots and silences. Lengthy takes, in the European
tradition. Voices audible although their sources are not
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.
offers ‘personal microcosm’ of film festival
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.
Wyle movie ‘Shot’ might be worth the sermon
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
Magnetic Reese Witherspoon draws focus in
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$’ more conventional than actually innovative
Helmsman hitherto for
commercials and music videos, Geremy Jasper debuts as a
feature filmmaker with a drama called “Patti Cake$.”
critic observed that a film succeeds if it accomplishes the
back to school, into movie theaters
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
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
Bear’ original, entertaining
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-
-from-the-world films like “The Room” and “Dogtooth”),
“Brigsby” boasts a plot both believable and fantastic,
peopled by likable actors portraying likable characters.
native’s ‘Ghost’ is ‘impressive’
Milwaukee-born and (for eight years) Waukesha-reared
filmmaker David Lowery, 36, just gets better at his
says lots with laconic script
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.”
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.
enjoyable after first hour
haven’t watched so many hourlong television dramas that I’ve
come to believe 60 minutes is the ideal length for any show.
Early in the
“Maudie,” Ethan Hawke’s captivatingly conveyed
character establishes a pecking order for the benefit of the
“housemaid” he’s hired.
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.
Driver’: a whole new genre?
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.
not mummified, but fails to engage
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
need to tell ‘It Comes at Night’ to ‘Get Out’
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.”
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
- the innovative poet Emily Dickinson - I
expected “A Quiet Passion” to be the best 2017 film
release I’d seen to date.
humor, special effects, shades of Stevenson, fifth ‘Pirates’
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.
dramedy than comedy, ‘Lovers’ is
“The Lovers” was a surprise. Its trailer had led me to
anticipate a light comedy; what I got instead was a dramedy,
means new movies - and here are 20 of ‘em
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.
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,
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.
deftly acted, creatively told
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
‘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.
recent queen movie deserves patronage
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.
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.
into existence: a score of eclectic films
sprung, as they say - the season of Easter vacations,
baseball’s rebirth and (hopefully, this being Wisconsin) a
farewell to wintry weather.
Trainspotting’ - call it inventive, call it fresh
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.
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.
Why Bump Off Barnaby?’ indeed
WAUKESHA - Billed
as a farcical mystery, a genre characterized as having an
improbable story, mistaken identities, and stereotypical
characters, “But Why Bump Off Barnaby?” nonetheless
lacks the usual inclusion of many slammed doors and a
generous supply of physical humor.
summer option to consider: the theater
2018-19 seasons have ended, but there is still a lot of
live theater in summer. So when you’re not attending a
fest, a picnic or dipping into a pool or lake, consider
going to an indoor or outdoor venue for a step into a
different world of comedy, drama or music.
Me, Kate’ by Skylight brings fight and delight
- The Skylight Music Theatre brings us Cole Porter’s
version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” in
“Kiss Me, Kate.”
Bee' bounces along unexpectedly
- A relatively recent musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam
County Spelling Bee” is not exactly what you would
expect from the title.
Heels' will raise issues worth pondering
- Playwright Theresa Rebeck doesn’t mess around. She
always has something significant to say whether it be
through her plays, film or TV scripts, or novels.
Tandem departs on a high note
MILWAUKEE - In
Tandem’s grand finale is indeed grand. A theater that
frequently delivered great comedy, often with an edge, does
it again with its clever “The Fabulous Lipitones,” a
production with lots of laughs, good harmonies and a good
dose of relevance on the subject of immigration and
acceptance of differences as well.
Giver’ gives lessons on dystopian society
- Imagine a world where there is no pain, where all
decisions are made for us, a world of utter
predictability and orderliness.
Country Playhouse takes a chance on ‘Mamma Mia’
HARTLAND - A
beautiful set greets us upon entering Lake Country
Playhouse’s theater for “Mamma Mia!” thanks to the
design of Terri Field and the hard work of Robert Hurd and
in a Canadian town revisited
MILWAUKEE - We
all remember where we were and what we were doing on Sept.
I remember that my first thought was of my daughter who
worked in Manhattan near the Twin Towers.
Patio Players vocally powerful in 'Wonderful Town'
FALLS - The Falls Patio Players cast takes audiences on
an authentic trip to “Wonderful Town.” One
of Leonard Bernstein’s lesser-known works and
seldom-produced, “Wonderful Town” first appeared in
Python’s irreverent 'Spamalot' given the royal
treatment by Sunset
ELM GROVE -
”Monty Python’s Spamalot” is hard to classify. Is it a
satirical farce, a farcical satire, a zany comedy? Perhaps
all of the above, but surely unusual entertainment. If you
can handle the irreverence, there’s much to enjoy.
Trains Running’ grades out high
- August Wilson tried to capture black history, decade
by decade in the 20th century, in his cycle of plays.
Milwaukee Rep has honored that history by presenting
many of his works over the years
'Ring of Fire' adeptly burns through
Johnny Cash library highlights
— The first two words that came to mind upon
experiencing this show were “versatile” and “vigorous.”
The five performers under the direction of the able Dan
Kazemi were all talented vocalists and string-specialist
musicians, and they all performed a series of 32 of
Johnny Cash’s songs with spirited liveliness.
and I’ beautifully revives cross-cultural musical
- A shimmering curtain with changing colors accompanies
the grand overture under the direction of David Aaron
Brown with all the memorable music in Richard Rodgers
and Oscar Hammerstein II’s beloved “The King and
I,” a story of culture clashes, a theme that will
probably be forever relevant.
Millie’ thoroughly enjoyable
- The winner of six Tony awards in 2002, “Thoroughly
Modern Millie,” based on an earlier movie, now playing
in Waukesha, gives us a look at what was happening in
New York City in the “Roaring Twenties.”
way more than fair with ‘My Fair Lady’
ATKINSON - The success of “My Fair Lady” hinges on
the casting of its complex main characters, Eliza
Doolittle and Henry Higgins, who must be capable of
expressing multiple emotions and capable vocalists.
- Carl Orff, a German musical composer whose works
combine music, dance and lyrics, is best known for his
“Carmina Burana,” published in 1937.
A mix of plays signals start of spring
It's easier to read a spring
preview after the recent thaw of the winter we emerged from.
Here are a few plays on the docket to cheer you.
dynamics play out dynamically in ‘Things I Know to be
- The set design by Scott Davis catches our attention as
we enter the theater. There is something fantastical
about it. The stage is dominated by a huge, unrealistic
oak tree and enhanced by three thriving rose bushes.
the rich serve as foils in ‘The Curious Savage’
GROVE - ”The Curious Savage,” now playing at The
Sunset Playhouse, takes place in The Cloisters, a home
for a group of mildly maladjusted adults
back from Vietnam travels through ‘Strange Snow’
”Strange Snow” recounts the story of how two men who
served in Vietnam transitioned back to civilian life.
talent plus comedy equal ‘Things that go Ding!’
- I was beyond amazed the first time I witnessed
“Things that go Ding!” in 2012 in the small Studio
Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center. This time
around, an expanded version is being performed in the
much bigger Cabot Theatre.
Chinese Lady’ delivers history lesson
- People who are different are often looked at with
suspicion. Because we have had little if any contact
with them, we feel that they are almost another species,
that we share no common ground. Such was the case of
Martin’s ‘The Underpants’ is over-the-top funny
- Steve Martin is considered one of the most
significant, multitalented comedians of our times.
Iowa' presented by the Falls Patio Players
all come from somewhere, and some of us will leave that
place as soon as we can, but there is always part of us
that is left behind and more often than not, we someday
realize that we also take some of our past with
us as well.
have rhythm walking away from ‘Five Guys Named Moe’
MILWAUKEE - If
anyone attending “Five Guys Named Moe,” Skylight Music
Theatre’s latest offering in the Cabot Theatre, does not
feel elated, they are hopelessly impervious to quality
a valuable glimpse at ‘80s financial shenanigans
- Money is certainly a complex and all-encompassing
topic. It is a motivator for getting training and
education, hard work, but also for stealing, cheating,
gambling and even, in some cases, killing.
51’ a revealing look into gender roles
MILWAUKEE - Human
greed and the desire for wealth, power and prestige seems to
show up everywhere - business, the entertainment industry,
politics, criminal ventures and academia.
Club’ worth a trip to Lake Country Playhouse
well-honed, clever script and a sterling cast while tucked
into the intimate little theater in Hartland, you’re in
for a delightful experience.
Murder is Announced’ sets stage for Christie mystery
GROVE - Agatha Christie always keeps us intrigued. The
mistress of mystery, she creates interesting characters,
injects some humor, and keeps us guessing until the
unpredictable revelation at the end.
Twain characters, the Mississippi spring to life in ‘River
MILWAUKEE - Mark
Twain is known for his writings about the Mississippi River,
but being the mightiest and most extensive river in North
America, it has certainly affected the lives of many.
the voices and looks of ‘Legends of Country’
ATKINSON - I have never been a huge country music fan,
though I do have several favorites, but the latest show
at the Fireside Dinner Theatre put me several steps
closer to becoming one.
Stage spreads its wings with full-out musical ‘Matilda’
MILWAUKEE - First
Stage Children’s Theatre has reached beyond its usual 75-
to 90-minute shows to produce its first full-length Broadway
it’s cold outside, the play’s the thing
When it’s cold
outside, you can always warm up in an inviting theater.
There are many interesting offerings to choose from in
the next three months.
look back at the area’s best plays in 2018
always fun to look back on the long list of shows I’ve
witnessed over the past year and re-enjoy the memories
Musical infuses pep into
'Best Christmas Pageant'
broken leg, an unexpected call to be the
director, and a surprise audition bring a good
bit of turmoil to Reverend Hopkins' little
parish school during the holiday season.
‘Merry Chris-Mess’ takes
audience on a wild ride
In Tandem Theatre has a
reputation for offering alternate shows at Christmas time.
After many years of success with the inimitable "A Cudahy
Caroler Christmas," the company has turned to a variety of
slightly or not-so-slightly bizarre holiday fare.
‘A Christmas Carol’ remains a treasure for whole family
- In its 65-year history, The Milwaukee Rep has produced
Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” 43 times.
on 34th Street’ still a charmer
- A classic story told with a new twist, “Miracle on
34th Street,” a live musical radio play, is a charmer.
in Babylon’ presents life-changing event
MILWAUKEE - What an
auspicious gathering of talent - an amazing, amusing
heartfelt script by the talented actor-director-writer
James DeVita, long associated with theater in Milwaukee
and Spring Green, a flawless cast, and an excellent
director, C. Michael Wright.
Country Playhouse sings beautiful ‘Christmas Carol’
- This is the eighth year that the lovely little theater
in Hartland has presented the musical version by Ernest
Brusubardis and Michael Koscinski of Charles Dickens’
famous “A Christmas Carol.”
rings out in ‘Christmas Belles’
ELM GROVE -
”Christmas Belles” opens at the florist shop where Miss
Geneva Musgrave (Beverly Sargent) is busily taking calls on
two phones in her business establishment.
Civic travels down ‘Candy Cane’ Lane
WAUKESHA - After
taking off a few years for a change of pace with different
shows, Waukesha Civic is back with a new version of “Candy
Cane Tales and Holiday Carols.” The seventh and revised
show is charming.
Family’ warms up the Christmas season
- It’s Dec. 24, 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor
and Roosevelt’s declaration of war.
Rep presents the comic drama 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen has been a classic
favorite for more than 200 years, so it’s no wonder that
some playwrights would want to take advantage of its success
and try to imagine an extension of the story and the fate of
the five daughters that Mrs. Bennet had set her life’s
work on trying to marry off.
cranks up the volume, energy
— The strong delivery of the opening number, “Good
Morning Baltimore,” by Maisie Rose as Tracy Turnblad with
all her power, confidence and zing, sets the tone for
what’s to follow.
Dates of Christmas’ a pleasant diversion
— Most of us have probably experienced a few
heartbreaks. A relationship that doesn’t work out, the
loss of a loved friend or relative, being passed over
for the job we wanted.
and Sons’ delivers message well as a reading
MILWAUKEE - When
perusing the body of work by Terrence McNally, one has to
marvel at this playwright’s virtuosity.
presents multitalented Buddy, impressive soloist
ATKINSON - Any director who wants “Elf, The Musical”
to be a success had better choose a strong
actor-singer-dancer to play the role of Buddy.
‘All Night Strut’ brings back ‘30s, ‘40s
MILWAUKEE - For
starters, “All Night Strut” has a snappy, energized
medley of music from the 1930s and ‘40s delivered by five
Watch’ keeps up interest through the end
ALLIS - Playwright Lucille Fletcher didn’t quite
repeat the eeriness of her “Sorry Wrong Number,” but
“Night Watch” is a puzzling, engaging thriller
Civic Theatre stuns with powerful musical
- With the infamous coalminers strike in England
(1984-85) under Margaret Thatcher’s regime as
backdrop, we see two parallel stories unfold - one of
men fighting for their survival, and another of a young
boy fighting for his right to choose his own life path.
Gardens’ plucks at thorny issue
- A new young couple with a baby on the way just bought
a fixer-upper in an established older neighborhood in
the Great’ a worthy show by First Stage
MILWAUKEE - Nate
the Great, a young man devoted to solving crimes and eating
pancakes with equal fervor offers to help his friend Annie
find her lost painting of her beloved dog Fang.
‘Something Rotten!’ is anything but
- The first thing I have to say about this new musical,
“Something Rotten!” by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick
with some help from John O’Farrell, is that it is NOT
Sunset Playhouse produces a magical
ELM GROVE — During
the curtain call, which followed this marvelous production
of “Mary Poppins,” I wish the director, Nate C. Adams, had
appeared so we could have given him his well-deserved
appeal in comedy ‘My Mother’s Italian’
MILWAUKEE - An
internationally acclaimed comic star, writer and author,
Peter Fogel, delivers on Steve Solomon’s amusing “My
Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, I’m in
Therapy” in the Cabot Theatre.
of cruelty explored by The Rep
playwright Rajiv Joseph took some liberties with the
history of the building of the Taj Mahal, an awesome
architectural phenomenon in Agra, India, built by the
Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 as a tomb to honor his
favorite wife, who died delivering their 14th
Herring’ a fine catch at Lake Country
HARTLAND - Spies,
FBI agents, a determined cop, lovers and a mysterious film
hidden in a box of Velveeta -all await you at Lake Country
on a Hot Tin Roof’ proves challenging
WEST ALLIS -
”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is an inspired name for this
Pulitzer-winning play by Tennessee Williams, where tension
and danger are palpable from the start as we meet Maggie and
Brick in their bedroom in the palatial plantation of Big
Daddy on the occasion of his 65th birthday.
Falls Patio Players hit with ‘Miss
FALLS — The Patio Players always do good work, but this
show was particularly engaging. Sherlock
Very Irish 'Mullingar' delivers
There is some danger in stereotyping, but there is also some
truth in these generalizations usually based on ethnicity,
religion, economic status or career.
'Red Herring' clearly spoofs nuclear era
MILWAUKEE - The drama of the McCarthy-Eisenhower era,
nuclear bombs, a profusion of spies and love affairs
dominate this hilarious spoof on politics, marriage and the
noir mystery genre by Michael Hollinger in his 'Red
‘Pippin’ shines ray of hope
MILWAUKEE - Most people have
aspirations of some sort, grandiose or down to earth, but
everyone is looking for meaning.
Rep takes immigration stories to new ‘Heights’
MILWAUKEE - A
combination of energy, electricity and heart characterizes
the Milwaukee Rep’s production of “In the Heights,” a
Tony favorite from 2008.
engages audience on many levels
- When I saw the playwright’s name, Christian O’Reilly,
I immediately anticipated a good script.
Bethany Thomas stunning
in Rep’s ‘Songs for Nobodies’
- A very rich narrative, beautifully scripted by Joanna
Murray-Smith and poignantly delivered by the
multitalented Bethany Thomas, left us thrilled at
Stackner’s seasonal opener, “Songs for Nobodies,”
now playing in the newly renovated cabaret theater. What
an event in every way.
American Players serve up saddening
GREEN - George Bernard Shaw had a way of poking fun at
the human race. His characters are always sympathetic
but always flawed.
‘Musical Comedy Murders’ a worthy whodunit
- Even Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie would have had
trouble unraveling these murders.
remains the one that audiences want
FORT ATKINSON - Opening in 1971
on stage and following that success in a film in 1978,
“Grease” has been a continuing hit.
classic comedic roles add up to just dessert in ‘Man Who
Came to Dinner’
ELM GROVE - They
are often called “old chestnuts,” plays that somehow
have appeal after many years. The one now playing at Sunset
was written in 1939.
performance pleasantly equal to creative script
I have learned in
the relatively short existence of All In Productions that
both their choice of plays and their execution usually pack
a memorable punch.
plays range from a new ‘Holmes’ to Cold War drama ‘Red
always something exciting when a season opens, whether
it is sports or the many theatrical arts.
of Booth family resumes with ‘In This Prison’
- When the renowned actor-director-playwright Angela
Ianonne researched the famed and troubled life of the
infamous actor Edwin Booth, she found herself fascinated
with the complexity of his life.
‘Pride & Prejudice’ issues
TOWN OF DELAFIELD
- I had so looked forward to seeing “Pride &
Prejudice” again, and having experienced the quality of
shows at SummerStage many times, I was somewhat disappointed
in the production.
figures sparkle in Milwaukee Chamber’s ‘Holmes’
- With wit, charm and a fascinating mix of fictional and
historical characters, playwright Katie Forgette weaves
together a tapestry of comedy and mystery in her
“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily.
Yesterday’ tackles several American issues
MILWAUKEE - After
a peaceful drive through southwestern Wisconsin, one comes
upon the picturesque setting where American Players Theatre
is located with its two theaters, The Hill and The
Touchstone, winding paths, picnic tables and grills, lovely
gift shops, and lots of wildflowers.
Carats’ shines light on relationships
has been a long time since I’ve attended one of the
former Wauwatosa Players productions, a company now
renaming itself as The Village Playhouse.
tension tightens in ‘Blood Knot’
SPRING GREEN -
Two brothers live in a cramped space in Port Elizabeth,
South Africa, in the years of Apartheid. As one experiences
their life together, one feels tense and trapped.
Little Mermaid’ a hit across the board
- In “The Little Mermaid” two worlds clash, and as
sometimes happens, love and acceptance of differences
bring about a happy ending.
cast nicely details ‘Trip to Bountiful’
OF DELAFIELD - Rain did not deter a few hearty patrons
and an inspired cast to complete a poignant rendition of
“A Trip to Bountiful” at SummerStage on Saturday
‘Evita’ strong in energy,
lacks quality sound
MILWAUKEE - Eva Peron has been immortalized for her brief,
checkered, influential life. She is regarded as a saint, a
devil, a phony or a sincere lover of the common people.
Despite era, ‘The
Children’s Hour’ still applies
MILWAUKEE - A rumor, if believed, can be an ugly thing. It
can ruin lives forever even when the rumor is proven to be
untrue. Suspicions always linger; reputations are hard to
spotlights Mel Brooks’ comic musical
GROVE - The present production of the award-winning
musical “The Producers” proves once again that
musicals with the right ingredients never die,
especially when well-executed.
Street’ takes many twists, turns
MEQUON - J. M.
Barrie, a Scottish writer of many books and plays, is
remembered almost exclusively for his creation of Peter Pan.
Theatre pours on powerful ‘King Lear’
- The Optimist Theatre brings us its annual production
of Shakespeare, this year featuring a searing rendition
of “King Lear,” with its themes of greed and cruelty
engaging ‘First Date’
Meeting a stranger can be an uncomfortable, awkward event.
One senses that it’s really a mutual assessment process,
which is about as much fun as being interviewed for a job.
night of celebration, recognition
- In two short years, the Footlights People’s Choice
Awards night has become a barometer and celebration of
theater in the Greater Milwaukee area.
‘American in Paris’
blends fluidly together
— “Fluid” is the first word that comes to mind in
reviewing “An American in Paris,” the
multi-award-winning musical that was revived in 2015.
message of ‘Tartuffe’ still rings true
a renowned French satirist, liked to use his wit to
expose hypocrisy. In
“Tartuffe,” probably his most famous comedy, he also
takes a shot at gullibility.
Church Ladies serve a fine ‘Second Helping’
FORT ATKINSON -
The Church Basement Ladies are back to give us a second
helping with their unique mix of humor and sentiment as they
adjust to the many changes inherent in the Sixties
‘Father Know Best’?
- I don’t know how young people will relate to
“Father Knows Best,” a popular TV show in the 1950s,
featuring the Anderson family, because times have
changed so much from its time frame, but there will
always be families and their inevitable conflicts and
schemes, acquaintances add up in ‘Any Number Can Die’
ELM GROVE - The
spoof on mysteries now being staged at Sunset Playhouse has
theater mix covers musicals, mysteries, Shakespeare
professional theaters close in May, but there is still
plenty of live theater to take advantage of, including
the nine plays being presented at The American Players
in Spring Green. Here’s a taste of what’s on the
brings across ‘Urinetown’ satirical points
- After the first few minutes, one quickly realizes that
this show with the rather surprising name of
“Urinetown” is a spoof on musicals but also a show
with a serious theme.
Country puts on a fine ‘Unnecessary Farce’
Somehow set designer Ron Ehrlich and company managed to
construct two adjoining motel rooms and a multitude of doors
on the tiny stage at Lake Country Playhouse.
Stage picked a bit of a stinker with story
- First Stage Children’s Theater has brought us many
stellar productions over the years. “Judy Moody and
Stink - the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt” pales by
comparison due chiefly to the story.
sticks as a much-loved musical
- It is hard to put your finger on the reason for the
incredible success of “The Fantasticks,” which broke
the record for longest-running show in Greenwich Village
in New York, but it has certainly charmed and continues
to charm many.
Theatre adroitly conducts ‘Celebration’ of life
MILWAUKEE - It is
rare to see two musicals by the same creative team in the
thriller ‘Wait Until Dark’ keeps audience in suspense
- We can probably all name the films that scared us the
Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ is well-staged fun
fluff about living a charmed life
MILWAUKEE - ”A
Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” has won its share
of accolades since entering the Broadway musical track in
‘Anything Goes’ a tribute to community theater
MENOMONEE FALLS -
“Anything goes” suggests carelessness, a lack of
This phrase was certainly not the motto for those assembling
the Falls Patio Players’ cast of “Anything Goes”.
Chamber Theatre beautifully executes 'Doubt'
- Doubt can be a very uncomfortable place to be, but
also a very healthy one at times.
It forces us to think things through and often
prevents snap judgments.
Dress for Dinner’ serves up plenty of laughs, good cast
ELM GROVE - Marc
Camoletti, also known for his hilarious “Boeing Boeing,”
updated a 233-year-old French farce in his “Don’t Dress
for Dinner,” now playing at Sunset Playhouse
Lutheran College presents 'Ring Around The Moon'
Christopher Fry’s translation of Jean Anouilh’s farcical
comedy of manners, “Ring Round the Moon,” is delighting
audiences at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Town’ captures the profound in everyday life
Town,” one of my all-time favorite plays, was penned
by a Wisconsin native, Thornton Wilder, whose classic
story has enjoyed immense success, having been
translated into 70 languages, made into a film and a TV
production, and attracted such stars as Paul Newman, Hal
Holbrook and Frank Sinatra to star in it.
Street’ strengths on full display at Fireside
ATKINSON - The musical “42nd Street” by Harry Warren
(music), Al Dubin (lyrics), and Michael Stewart and Mark
Bramble (book) has had a long successful history since its
inception as a film in 1933.
Girls’ gives plenty to think about on gender issues
- Gender disparity is an issue that has emerged once
again as a hot topic.
Renaissance Theaterworks’ present production of
“Top Girls,” under the direction of Suzan Fete,
gives us an unusual take on the subject.
and You’ delves skillfully into the lives of teens, Walt
Lauren Gunderson, the most produced living playwright in
America, has delivered up a gem in “I and You,”
presently playing at Next Act Theatre, a company that has
the reputation of staging thought-provoking dramas.
of Madison County’ is a don’t-miss musical
HARTLAND - Many
of us enjoyed the beloved movie “The Bridges of Madison
County,” starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
Cline’ is fine, but it could have used more backstory
- Patsy Cline, in a little more than a decade of
performing, was topping the charts when her life was
suddenly aborted by an untimely plane crash. She was a
mere 30 years old.
Greek tragedy told with some interesting twists
WAUKESHA - Myths
and fairy tales often deal with the themes of life and
death, good and evil, love and hate, and since they are not
copyrighted works, fictional writers can put their own spin
Awesome, powerful only begin to describe touring ‘Les
— Since its Broadway debut in 1987, “Les Miserables,”
the musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, has
toured the world, won more than 100 awards, been
translated into 22 languages, and delighted over 130
million people, including those of us at the Marcus
Center opening night.
One-woman show, many viewpoints
Will we ever know exactly what transpired between Michael
Brown and Officer Watson on Aug. 19, 2014, before Officer
Watson fired 12 shots and killed the unarmed young man?
tale of the Holocaust from one family’s perspective
- The Holocaust and its ramifications affected Jews and
non-Jews in many countries.
of Hoffman’ a musical masterpiece
MILWAUKEE - Under
the masterful touch of Skylight Music Theatre director Jill
Anna Ponasik and a score of creative musical artists and
talented artisans, “The Tales of Hoffmann” opens with a
sassy series of announcements sung by Jean Broekhuizen.