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MOVIE REVIEWS

'Penguins' offers enough
 for animation fans

Rep's 'Harvey' delightful 
production for all to enjoy

WAUKESHA - “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.  http://www.milwaukeerep.com/RepGlobal/img/harvey-guide-200x258.jpgMILWAUKEE - “Harvey,” the infamous imaginary rabbit, is back on stage to celebrate his 70th anniversary on the illustrious Milwaukee Rep stage. It is a delightful production that still manages to amuse and instruct audiences almost a century after its inception.   
 

Turkeys 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.

'Theory of Everything' at 'St. Vincent' winners; 'Beyond the Lights' mired in mediocrity
Considerable Oscar buzz is attaching itself to “The Theory of Everything,” a film about physicist Stephen Hawking.

'Interstellar' boasts solid acting, story line
WAUKESHA - 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.

'Birdman' flies high; 'Before' needs more
Directed and co-written by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”), “Birdman” has everything from A to Z: A: An apple - the Big Apple - provides “Birdman’s” setting. 

'Whiplash' 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.

'The Best of Me' hardly a winner
WAUKESHA - “The Best of Me” isn’t the best of movies and “The Judge” raises some objections, as well. Here are more detailed evaluations

Alexander's bad day makes for so-so movie
WAUKESHA - 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.

Affleck, Renner power worthwhile new films
WAUKESHA - 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.

Jimi 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.

'Equalizer' too heavy on Rambo,
 too light on Robin Hood
WAUKESHA - 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.

Film festival encore presentations worth seeing
WAUKESHA - 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.  

'Boxtrolls' has much to offer moviegoers young and old
I 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.

'Love is Strange,' 'Tusk,'  contrast in quality
WAUKESHA - 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.

'November Man' evokes television's 'Mission: Impossible'
WAUKESHA - First, let’s dispel any notions that “The November Man” is some kind of baseball biopic. 

Latest sports film won't stand tall for all
WAUKESHA - 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 Tall.”  

'If I Stay' will give audiences 
lukewarm feeling
WAUKESHA - 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.”

'Journey' and 'Land Ho!' 
cut above their peers
WAUKESHA - 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 counterparts.   

Latest Woody Allen film really is ‘Magic’
WAUKESHA - Magician 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. The source of that flattering quote, Howard Burkan (a very watchable Simon McBurney), reports a fraud he’d like Stanley to debunk. 

New 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 like 'Planes'
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).

'Earth to Echo,' 'Third Person' 
share high ranking

WAUKESHA - 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.

'Tammy' stretches credulity, lacks substance
WAUKESHA - For the record, Melissa McCarthy is 43 years old, Allison Janney is  54 and Susan Sarandon is 67. 

'Jersey Boys' vs. 'Obvious Child'?
Better to Listen to the Music!
It 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.  

Opposite films likely to attract audiences
WAUKESHA - 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. 

Promising first-class film 'Million Ways' finds itself lost among classless chatter
WAUKESHA - In all honesty, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” doesn’t contain anywhere near a million uses of the F word. 

Much more cooking with 
British 'Belle than 'Chef'
WAUKESHA - 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. 

'Million Dollar Arm' and 'Godzilla contrasting films, but good ones
WAUKESHA - “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.

'Legends of Oz' has a few 
strengths worth mentioning
WAUKESHA - “This doesn’t look like the Oz I remember,” a computer-animated Dorothy declares early in “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.”

Wartime drama joined by 
Spider-Man sequel in theaters
WAUKESHA - 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:

'Greatest move never made' 
debuts in local cinemas Friday
WAUKESHA - “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:

'Lunchbox,' '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
WAUKESHA - 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.”

Oscar predictions and omissions
WAUKESHA - “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.


'3 Days' different, but hardly a unique film
WAUKESHA - 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.”

Praise for 'Her' is only faint
WAUKESHA - 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 woman.

Collection of films made for 
a very good cinematic year
WAUKESHA - In a fine year for cinema, such as 2013, it’s not all that challenging to compile a list of excellent movies. 

'Osage County' a must-see movie
WAUKESHA - 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. 

Reality-based stories make for good December cinema
WAUKESHA - Truth may or may not be stranger than fiction, but it can be just as interesting. And it certainly can make for good cinema.  

'Nebraska' more than a worthy successor
WAUKESHA - 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 formidable bunch.

'Dallas Buyers Club' is worth joining
WAUKESHA - Welcome medical inroads have dulled the once cutting-edge nature of films about the AIDS crisis (are we even calling it a crisis anymore?). 

'Book Thief' redeemed by 
acting, cinematography
WAUKESHA - Preachers, one of their number claimed, should be able to reduce their messages to a single sentence. Movies are not sermons; arguably, though, the best of them can also be summarized quickly.

'Parkland' is no typical Kennedy film
WAUKESHA - “‘Parkland,’” a synopsis states in part, “weaves together the chaotic events following the tragedy (of John F. Kennedy’s assassination) from perspectives as diverse as the young doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital.

'Kill Your Darlings' concept good; movie about poet doesn't resonate
WAUKESHA - “Thor: The Dark World,” sequel to 2011’s “Thor,” is an intriguing movie mixture of adventure, 3-D-enhanced special effects and humor. 

'Thor' sequel an intriguing blend
WAUKESHA - “Thor: The Dark World,” sequel to 2011’s “Thor,” is an intriguing movie mixture of adventure, 3-D-enhanced special effects and humor. 

Animated 'Free Birds' could fly higher
WAUKESHA - The lengthy list of holiday features has grown a little longer with the Jimmy Hayward-directed “Free Birds.” 

'12 Years A Slave' narrative moving and powerful
WAUKESHA - Very good. Very moving. Very powerful. That’s what I told the guy with the clipboard who asked what I thought of “12 Years A Slave” as I left a preview screening one afternoon last week.

'Enough Said' takes sophisticated 
and subtle look at love
WAUKESHA - After a certain point, every one entering a romantic relationship carries some baggage with them and falling in love with someone involves accepting their quirks and flaws.

'Blue Jasmine' merits 
bouquet of red roses
WAUKESHA - Anne Bancroft in “The Miracle Worker.” Maggie Smith in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music.” Career-defining performances, all. 

'Spectacular Now' falls 
short of peak performance
WAUKESHA - Credits for the quirkily titled “The Spectacular Now” were still rolling when a guy sitting behind me in the theater offered his assessment. “A good movie,” he said.

'The Butler' serves up fairly 
good entertainment
WAUKESHA - All things considered, the rather pretentious-sounding “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is a good film. It’s not excellent, not Academy Award-worthy (although, with the considerably expanded number of films nominated in recent years, “The Butler” could end up as a best picture candidate on Oscar night 2014), but it’s good.

‘Planes' offers lessons, 
quips, but little originality
WAUKESHA - On the big screen, the character type has existed at least since Jimmy Stewart played it to perfection in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939). 

Chamber Theatre sequel to Shakespeare amusing
MILWAUKEE - 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.  

Skylight shows why 'Oz' still captivates audiences
MILWAUKEE - 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

In return engagement, 
Disney's 'Lion King' dazzles
WAUKESHA - 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.  

'Heresy' presents many societal cases and more
WAUKESHA - A.R. Gurney is probably best known for his plays, “Love Letters,” “The Dining Room” and “Sylvia.

Liberace impersonator spot-on
WAUKESHA - Excess fascinates us, whether it be money, power, talent, daring, generosity or even evil. 

First Stage's 'Sherlock Holmes' a cluttered mystery
MILWAUKEE - 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.”  

Farces aside, 'Lend Me A Tenor' 
clever, entertaining
WAUKESHA - I am not usually a big fan of farces, yet I can appreciate the physical humor and the timing required to pull off their successes.  

Milwaukee 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.  

Musical numbers drives Sunset's 'Guys and Dolls'
WAUKESHA - “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 States.  

'Amelia' examines harrowing times for women
 WAUKESHA - The Civil War continues to enthrall and appall us.  More than 50,000 books have been written about it during the last 150 years.  

'Fish Eyes' recalls why fishermen followed Christ
MILWAUKEE - Acacia Theatre Company describes itself as a group that offers plays of substance and moral fiber. 

Rep's 'all the terrible things' well-crafted story
WAUKESHA - 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. 

'The Diary of Anne Frank' compelling story of survival
WAUKESHA - Sometimes it is good to be reminded.   The Lake Country Players’ production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” does just that. This story was for many of us our first look at the Holocaust from a very personal viewpoint.   

'The Cupcake Killer' doesn't meet expectations
MILWAUKEE - “The Cupcake Killer,” written and directed by Katherine Beeson, opened at the West Allis Players on Oct. 3. 

Rep opens season with powerful 'The Color Purple'
MILWAUKEE - A searing production exploded onto the Quadracci Powerhouse stage last weekend.  

Underdog prevails in Skylight's 'Cinderella'
WAUKESHA - Everyone loves underdogs, especially when they win out over more powerful forces.  

Windfall Theatre's 'Indentita' features intriguing story
MILWAUKEE - I am not an historian. My knowledge of geography is also quite paltry. However, the present offering at the Windfall Theatre still intrigued me.  

Classic 'Glass Menagerie' rich with age
MILWAUKEE - Somehow I never tire of seeing “The Glass Menagerie,” one of Tennessee Williams’ first and best plays, and one which parallels his own life, reflecting his relationship with his younger  mentally ill sister, Rose.  

'Les Miserables' is brilliant
Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort Atkinson is known for its quality musicals. Their recent productions of “Annie Get Your Gun,” 

Next Act Theater presents 'Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter'
Next Act, with its usual provocative choices, opens its 25th season with a post-war play called “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter” by the prolific playwright, Julie Marie Myatt. The stage design by Maureen Chjavez-Kruger suggests an emptiness and aridity.  

'The Good Father' is a must-see
There are times when one is viewing live theater, that one feels privileged to be there. There are times when a theater critic feels doubly privileged to be able to tell others - GO SEE THIS PLAY

Four Guyz's newest tribute show serves up doo-wop, rock 'n' roll
WAUKESHA - The Sunset Playhouse’s Studio Theatre offers many musical confections along with their regular season in the Furlan Auditorium.  The popular Four Guyz in Dinner Jackets is filling the studio space with their harmonies and antics.

Stage comes alive with Civic Theatre's season opener
WAUKESHA - “The Sound of Music” by Rodgers and Hammerstein has been around for more than 50 years. 

Sunset Playhouse begins new season with classic Agatha Christie mystery
WAUKESHA - The Sunset Playhouse opened its season with a very famous mystery by the Grand Dame of mysteries, Agatha Christie, whose play “The Mousetrap” is running in London for the 60th year.  

'Doyle & Debbie Show' will get y'all in country mood
WAUKESHA - What a grand opening of the season at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret with its excruciatingly funny parody of the country music scene, “The Doyle and Debbie Show.” 

'Doctor's Dilemma' blends characters with complex story
WAUKESHA - George Bernard Shaw is just as much a philosopher as a playwright. Perhaps all writers reveal their biases and ethics in the stories they write, in the characters they create, but some are more obvious than others.

American Players render
touching classic love story
MILWAUKEE - The story of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare never dies. It is the ultimate expression of spontaneous, brash and often rash young love.

SummerStage's 'Cemetery Club' worth seeing again
WAUKESHA - A smart script, quality actors, a lovely summer evening and an ample audience all combined over the weekend in Lapham State Park in Delafield.  

Theater group gives you 
something to think about
WAUKESHA - Outskirts Theatre, an independent group that strives to “create experimental and thought-provoking theater that will both educate and entertain the community, as well as serve as a call to action against social and moral injustices” is staging the production of “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” in the Studio Theatre at Carroll University.

Young players hit the high
 notes in 'Wonderland
WAUKESHA - The musical version of “Alice in Wonderland” is the fruit of the labors of the Youth Players Summer Workshop at Lake Country Players in Hartland.

Angela Ianonne delivers masterful performance at Chamber Theatre
WAUKESHA - Angela Ianonne is reprising her role as the talented, controversial opera star Maria Callas to the delight of audiences at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s opening production in its 40th season - Terrence McNally’s “Master Class.”  

Soulstice debuts new venue with twist on classic tale
MILWAUKEE - It’s always fun to visit a new theater to see what a particular company is all about. I had that pleasure last weekend to attend Theatre Red and Soulstice Theatre’s premiere showing of Liz Shipe’s original version of the Robin Hood story.

Music dominates ‘Smokey Joe’s’ production
WAUKESHA — Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have written a ton of songs together, and they are featured in the Fireside Theatre’s present offering, “Smokey Joe’s Café.”

'Phantom' doles out plenty 
of visual and sound effects

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee opened its dazzling production last weekend to sellout crowds of appreciative patrons.

'Talley's Folly' doesn't fit 
with SummerStage venue
WAUKESHA - “Talley’s Folly,” a Pulitizer Prize-winning play by Lanford Wilson, is a sweet little love story, involving a pair of mismatched people having a 97-minute conversation in a dilapidated boathouse. 

Story and songs from 'Kiss Me, Kate' make for must-see productions
WAUKESHA - “Kiss Me, Kate,” which took the stage in 1948, is an example of Cole Porter’s genius and was honored with the first Tony Award for best musical in 1949.  

Choice of Martinsek as lead role in 'Gypsy' ideal
WAUKESHA - The musical “Gypsy” touts several well-known names in the world of American musicals - Arthur Laurents (libretto), Jules Styne (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics). 

'The Wedding Singer' is fun experience for all audiences
WEST ALLIS - Ever since I’ve started reviewing the West Allis Players, I’ve been impressed with the level of enthusiasm and broad participation among the performers and supporters of this theater group.

Talented duo spearheads
‘Bonnie & Clyde’
WAUKESHA - If you enjoyed “Legally Blonde” last summer starring Shannon Straka and Bryan Noll, get ready for an even more amazing performance by this talented duo in the Lake Country Players’ gritty production of “Bonnie & Clyde, The Musical” a much darker, more moving musical.

The Fireside presents 
'Driving Miss Daisy'

FORT ATKINSON - It is a rarity for a playwright to win an Oscar, a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize, but Alfred Uhry can boast of this triple honor.

SummerStage's 'Water' 
has some flow to it
WAUKESHA - SummerStage in the Town of Delafield opened its 2014 theatrical summer series with Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water,” one of the famous writer’s early stage plays, which was later converted into a film starring Jackie Gleason as the crotchety New Jersey caterer.

Carroll University's summer rep 
series stages 2 worthy shows
WAUKESHA - Carroll University launched a Summer Repertory Series with a pair of delightful plays, one by the mysterious playwright who hides behind the pen name of Jane Martin, and the other by the famous Oscar Wilde. 

'View from the Bridge' dramatic, moving production
WAUKESHA - Arthur Miller’s most famous plays are “The Crucible,” “Death of a Salesman” and “All My Sons,” but there is another one, which should join the ranks of this impressive triumvirate

Sunset meets the challenge with 'On Golden Pond'
WAUKESHA - We probably all remember the 1981 film “On Golden Pond” starring Henry and Jane Fonda and Katherine Hepburn.

Skylight's 'Hair' recalls 
revolutionary time in history
WAUKESHA - “Hair,” the controversial musical of the 1960s, is alive and well at Skylight Music Theatre’s finale of the 2013-2014 season, the first year of Viswa Subbaraman’s tutelage as artistic director.

First Stage Theatre captures 
spirit of Nancy Drew
WAUKESHA - Playwrights John Maclay and Jeff Frank studied 25 Nancy Drew novels and consulted with expert Jennifer Fisher of nancydrewsleuth.com to research their adaptation of this popular young detective’s achievements.

Stanley's 'Storefront Church' probes our choices
MILWAUKEE - John Patrick Shanley is probably best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Doubt,” which also received notice as a film starring Meryl Streep.  

Skylight's 'America Singing' doesn't meet expectations
MILWAUKEE - I suppose a person always has expectations when entering a theater, whether it is a show or a company one is familiar with or not. 

Sunset's 'I Hate Hamlet' 
show Shakespearean diversity
WAUKESHA - When most people hear the name Shakespeare, they have some sort of reaction. 

Lake Country Players peak with enjoyable comedy
WAUKESHA - The Lake Country Players in Hartland is staging an old romantic comedy that is still relevant and continues to generate much enjoyment.

Flesch returns to Fireside Theatre in 'Fiddler on the Roof'
WAUKESHA - Although Ed Flesch said he was doing his swan song in his role as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Fireside Theatre seven years ago, he decided to change his mind in honor of the dinner theater’s 15th anniversary