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Movie News & Reviews

Review: Thrilling and devastating, ‘Parasite’ is one of the year’s very best movies

Spirited title number reflects well on 'Oklahoma!'

The first thing you see in Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” a thriller of extraordinary cunning and emotional force, is an upper window in a tiny underground apartment. From this high, narrow vantage the Kims, a resilient family of four, peer onto a grubby Seoul street strewn with garbage bags and electrical wires — an ugly view made worse by a drunk who often turns up to relieve himself right outside.

MILWAUKEE - I vividly remember seeing my first musical, “Oklahoma!,” on my 16th birthday.  Considering that was in 1948, it tells you how long this show and I have survived. Recently hitting Broadway again, this 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration continues to entertain audiences.

Movie review: Controversy aside, ‘Joker’ is all setup, no punchline
With the amount of controversy surrounding it, “Joker” feels more like an idea and less like an actual movie.

Movie review: ‘Abominable’ offers familiar but delightful hero’s journey
It can be a rare occurrence to find a kid-friendly animated film these days that actually surprises and delights. 

Movie review: ‘Hustlers’: J. Lo’s fun but edgy crime comedy glamorizes stripping and drugs
Parents need to know that greed is portrayed as good in “Hustlers,” which mixes themes of female empowerment and friendship with criminal, unethical behavior. 

Movie review: ‘Monos’ examines messy darkness of war
The colors of “Monos” are rust and blue: rust like the earth, like the steady, but harsh mountains; like the mud smeared on the skin of young warriors creeping through the jungle not with spears, but machine guns. 

Movie review: Mesmerizing ‘Ms. Purple’ follows family drama in LA’s Koreatown
There’s never any question as to the identity of the titular “Ms. Purple” in Justin Chon’s third indie feature.

Movie review: Time-traveling ‘Don’t Let Go’ gets lost in convoluted plot
Movie magic has the power to give a hopeful spin to a murder mystery, and Jacob Estes’ somber thriller “Don’t Let Go” harnesses the elasticity of cinematic time to allow Detective Jack Radcliff (Jacob Oyelowo) to fight for the life of his beloved niece Ashley (Storm Reid) after her brutal murder.

‘Good Boys’ is the biggest original comedy opening of the year
LOS ANGELES — Despite five new wide releases opening this weekend, only one managed to make an impression at the box office.

Review: Exuberantly silly ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2' flies higher than the first
In the “Angry Birds” video games, you use a slingshot to lob flightless buzzards at wobbly fortresses stacked with snickering green pigs.

Movie review: Mob wives brutally take over the business in ‘The Kitchen’
It’s two-thirds of the way through “The Kitchen” before anyone asks Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) what, exactly, she wants.

Movie review: In ‘Fast and the Furious’ spinoff ‘Hobbs & Shaw,’ costars Kirby, Elba take the wheel
It’s pretty incredible how the humble beginnings of 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious,” a twist on “Point Break” with muscle cars instead of surfboards, have now spawned a nine-film franchise. And the souped-up series shows no signs of slowing down. 

Movie review: ‘The Lion King’: Visually stunning remake is darker and more violent than original
Parents need to know that “The Lion King” is an extremely realistic computer-animated remake of Disney’s beloved 1994 original. 

Movie review: David Crosby rattles the skeletons in his own closet
“Morrison, what a dork,” the crustily cantankerous (cantankerously crusty?) David Crosby opines while regarding a photo of The Doors frontman displayed in the Laurel Canyon Country Store. 

Review: 'Stuber' is a sloppy action-comedy that never surges to life
Stu is an Uber driver. Movies — and movie titles — have sprung from worse premises, and so now we have “Stuber,” a buddy action-comedy that stars Kumail Nanjiani as Stu and Dave Bautista as Vic, a belligerent L.A. cop he gets stuck with for a very noisy, very bloody 93 minutes.

Movie review: ‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love’ shines light on Cohen’s muse
The English documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield has established such a distinct signature style that it’s ridiculous that there has yet to be a “Documentary Now!” parody of his work.

‘Yesterday’ imagines a world without the Beatles — and doesn’t make you want to visit
How does a great piece of popular music come into being? The movies have never been especially good at answering that question, though lately there have been significant efforts to prove otherwise.

Scottish love letter to American country music ‘Wild Rose’ hits all the right notes
“Three chords and the truth.” It’s the tattoo that adorns spitfire Rose-Lynn Harlan’s (Jessie Buckley) forearm. And it’s the reason the Glaswegian lass proclaims she loves good-old American country music.

Movie review: In this troubling reboot, plot gets ‘Shaft’
In Hollywood, everything old is new again. As much as we whine and cry and gnash our teeth, intellectual property is king, simply because it’s there, available to be rebooted, rehashed, reheated.

‘Dark Phoenix’ review: ‘X-Men’ mutant doesn’t start the fire
I 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.

Review: Ali Wong and Randall Park continue rom-com revival with
'Always Be My Maybe' 'Always Be My Maybe'
One of the brightest aspects of the rise of original films on Netflix is its resuscitation of the romantic comedy. 

‘Aladdin’ review: A whole new same old world … this time with Will Smith
While 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.”  

‘A Dog’s Journey’ gives fantastical sequel emotional bite
Engaging 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 sentimental?  

‘Tolkien’ fails to open a window into the mind behind ‘The Lord of the Rings’
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 approval. 

In 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 opportunities.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ review: Marvel’s game of stones reaches a gratifying climax
“You should’ve 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.  

Movie review: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ schlocky add to Conjuring Universe
What 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 battle.  

Movie 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? 

‘Shazam!’ review: Lightning strikes, Zachary Levi and a pretty good time ensue
“Shazam!” isn’t 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”: 

Alison Klayman’s ‘The Brink’ reveals emptiness of Steve Bannon
“Know thine 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 Bannon.

'Us' review: Jordan Peele directs Lupita Nyong'o in an unnerving game of doubles
Jordan 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.”

Movie review: Post-WWII drama ‘The Aftermath’ feels empty, cold
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.”

‘Captain Marvel’ review: Brie Larson suits up for duty in a universe built on male swagger and bravado
“Captain Marvel” 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 fun.

Review: ‘Greta’ gets a boost from Isabelle Huppert’s freaky, funny performance
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.

‘Fighting 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

‘Isn’t 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? 

Movie review: Gender-flipped ‘What Men Want’ fails with its premise
There’s something so wonderfully ironic about a black woman taking over the sequel to a Mel Gibson vehicle. 

‘Miss 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 ending. 

‘Never Look Away’ is a masterpiece that confronts truth, Nazi history
“Don’t look away, Kurt,” Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) implores her young nephew. “Never look away — everything that’s true is beautiful.” 

Quirky ‘Adult Life Skills’ stands out with resonant, grown-up truths
Anna (Jodie 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

Sophia 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 that. 

Nicole Kidman’s relentless performance is no match for the bleakness, savage amorality of ‘Destroyer’
Bravura 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?

Review: ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ and she really shouldn’t have
“A 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.

Bare necessities of ‘Mowgli’ come up short
Director 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.”

Otto 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 Hood.

‘Widows’ 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.

‘Here and Now’ lifeless effort despite good cast
Fabien Constant, 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 City. 

‘Wildlife’ review: Paul Dano directs Carey Mulligan in stirring adaptation of a fractured marriage
Something curious happens when two actors share a confined space in front of a camera. 

Movie review: ‘Indivisible’ a refreshing war story that balances home and abroad stories
Every now and then, faith-based movie studio PureFlix gets it right, releasing a film that feels like it might have some crossover appeal.

Movie review: ‘What They Had’ explores family expectations as matriarch faces Alzheimer’s decline
You 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.”

‘A Star Is Born’ dims in the shadow of Kavanaugh confirmation 
What 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.

‘Night 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.

Shane 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.

Movie 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.” 

Movie review: Dark, confounding ‘Kin’ defies genre
Release 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 “August movie.”

‘Searching’ uniquely unravels clever mystery
It 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 the payoff. 

A 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 suggest Chinatown?”).

‘The Meg’ review: Jason Statham overmatched by clumsy shark tale
In “The Meg,” Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who once encountered a prehistoric shark that killed two of his buddies. 

‘Spy 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 several movies. 

Tom 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.

Does ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ improve on the original? ABBA-solutely!
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. 

Dwayne Johnson scales the heights in the thrillingly dumb ‘Skyscraper’
The steely 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.

Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ to top the box office, continuing Hollywood’s strong summer
Ant-Man, 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.

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ is expected to open big at the box office, but won’t match its predecessor
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment are hoping to create another box office monster from the DNA of the “Jurassic Park” franchise.

‘SuperFly’ is a flashy, violent and fitfully compelling remake of the 1972 blaxploitation hit
“I 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 Mayfield soundtrack.

A caper and its consequences in true-crime saga of ‘American Animals’
One of the many allures of heist movies is the clockwork precision of seeing an audacious idea conceived and executed according to plan. 

‘RBG’ dukes it out with superhero blockbusters for box office relevance
In 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? 

Upcoming movies offer a mixed bag of genres
Drama, 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 theaters.

Last movie one of Day-Lewis’ best
“Phantom Thread,” supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ last movie before the 60-year-old heads into retirement, deserves kudos on a number of fronts. 

‘Downsizing’: From ingenious tale to typical sitcom
“Downsizing” 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. 

Movie 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 world. But J. Paul is also notoriously cheap.

‘Greatest Showman’ solid, if not exactly ‘La La Land’
Australian 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.

‘Darkest Hour’ summarizes Dunkirk story and more
It’s 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.”

‘Disaster Artist’ may shine brighter if release didn’t fall between great films
“The Disaster Artist,” produced by, directed by and starring James Franco, isn’t a bad movie.

Holiday 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.

‘Three 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”:

‘Wonder’ 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?

Lady Bird’ a remarkable directorial debut
While it’s curious “Lady Bird” and “LBJ” are running in movie theaters simultaneously, it’s only “LBJ” that concerns a character whose last name is Johnson. 

‘Roller Life’ documentary to stream on Amazon Prime
A native Milwaukeean and Brookfield Central High School graduate’s film will begin streaming on the Amazon Prime subscription service Saturday

Stay put, ‘Kane’ — ‘Killing’ is no challenge
Publicists 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.”

'Florida Project' a naturalistic gem
My wife says I’m probably the only Disney World customer ever who hasn’t liked the experience.
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.

Fans of Portis’ novel likely to enjoy original ‘True Grit’ film
Readers who’ve 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.

‘Mark Felt’ convincingly revisits Watergate era
Early reviews were less than stellar for the pretentiously titled “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<<Older Reviews

Seeing 'Red' in a artistic and personal context
MILWAUKEE - The scene opens as we observe Mark Rothko contemplating his latest abstract expressionist paintings.

'Murder's Bad' pulls a couple twists on detective genre
WEST ALLIS - The West Allis Players open their 50th season with a spoof on mystery plays and also a light look at the split personality disorder.

'The Music Man' delivers on all counts
HARTLAND - It never ceases to amaze me what Lake Country Players can achieve with their limited space and resources.

Unlikely pairing of 'Revolutionists' illuminates historical roles in feminist light
MILWAUKEE - Laura Gunderson has a knack for taking some historical figures or events and illuminating them. Though she takes some liberties with facts, she is always faithful to the truth.  

Illusion, reality, pluck all blur to form a marvelous 'Glorious'
MENOMONEE FALLS - Some people are driven to follow their dream even though it is very unrealistic. 

'West Side Story' dazzles and disturbs
MILWAUKEE - The music sizzles, the dancing grabs us, as the Jets gang members open the show with a strong statement about their territory. Tension reigns in this edgy musical about love and hate.

Crown Heights riots in '91 serve as basis of 'Fires in the Mirror'
MILWAUKEE - Two actors, Elyse Gorens Edelman and Marti Gobel, play out this gripping re-creation of a disturbing riot that occurred in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 19, 1991, when a Hasidic rabbi lost control of his car and killed a young black boy, Gavin Cain.

Family frustrations play out in 'Dear Evan Hansen'
MILWAUKEE - The stage is filled with internet images, representing our age of technological communication. 

‘Little Prince’ instructs us how to hear with our hearts
WAUKESHA - Based on one of the most popular books of all time, “The Little Prince” opens with a flourish in Waukesha . It is hard to classify this book.

'The Book of Will' a rich, in-depth look at retaining Shakespeare's work
SPRING GREEN - Playwright Laura Gunderson, at the youthful age of 37, is the most performed playwright in America and has already written 21 plays. Her depth and sense of humor have both served her well in her phenomenal success.

'The Buddy Holly Story' comes to the Fireside
FORT ATKINSON - Some people’s lives are cut short with a dire accident, but they still impact others mightily during their limited span of years. 

Sunset's 'Comedy of Tenors' hits the right note
ELM GROVE - When Director Michael Pocaro is at the helm, you’re assured of a quality production, especially when it comes to comedy, and “A Comedy of Tenors” certainly fits that description. 

Review of 'Two Pianos and Four Hands'
MILWAUKEE - If you’ve ever taken lessons to learn to play a musical instrument or tried to master any skill that takes years of practice and discipline to perfect, you’ll appreciate the wonderfully entertaining and sometimes poignant show now playing at Stackner Cabaret Theatre.  

Fall ushers in much-awaited theater season
Most of the fests are over, the kids are headed back to school, the leaves are beginning to turn - time for all the theaters to start their 2019-2020 season. 

SummerStage’s ‘Rumors’ checks all the boxes for farce
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Neil Simon, the master of American comedy, is on full display at the lovely outdoor theater in Delafield in his funny, frothy farce, “Rumors.”

Review: 'A Doll's House'
SPRING GREEN - Plays about marriage are usually a big draw because most people engage in this venerable institution at least once in their life. 

Lesser-known Shaw play about Napoleon proves intriguing
SPRING GREEN - One of George Bernard Shaw’s lesser known, shorter plays, “The Man of Destiny,” takes a speculative look at a young Napoleon Bonaparte in his early career. 

MCT calls on agility, timing in spry 'Unnecessary Farce'
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee Chamber Theatre opens its 45th season with a rollicking, well-paced farce. 

Title star, cast deliver in Fireside's 'Annie'
FORT ATKINSON - ”Annie” is based on the comic strip of Little Orphan Annie and is set during the Great Depression when bread lines and Hoovervilles dotted the landscape, the unemployment numbers were high, and an air of cynicism permeated the atmosphere.

'Tartuffe' sends message on hypocrisy
WEST ALLIS - Taking on Richard Wilbur’s translation of Moliere’s “Tartuffe” with its rhyming couplets and long orations is no easy task, and it proved to be too challenging for some of the cast in Village Playhouse’s production of it.

‘On Golden Pond’ has many rich moments, performances
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Many of us remember the 1981 film starring Henry and Jane Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. It won its share of awards as it was the last of Henry Fonda’s performances and the only one in which he ever appeared with his daughter, with whom he had a very rocky relationship.

'Hairspray' brings home teen issues in '60s setting
ELM GROVE - ”Hairspray,” a musical set in the ‘60s, is all about change and the predictable resistance to it. In this case, several issues are addressed, including exclusions because of size, skin color, perceived talent or even style.

Preview of American Players Summer Offerings
The sequence of American Players 2019 offerings began on June 8 and will continue until Nov. 17.

Legend of 'Anastasia' captivates at Marcus Center
The story of Anastasia, the last of the Romanov dynasty, is one replete with controversy, but whether it is true or not, it is a fascinating tale.

'Dogfight' has its charm in gritty realism
HARTLAND - ”Dogfight, the Musical” is somewhat disturbing. It has its hopeful, even humorous moments, but by and large it emphasizes the toll that naivete and excessive ego can have on the perpetrators and the recipients they “use.” 

‘The Comedy of Errors’ shines in Shakespeare in the Park
MILWAUKEE - ”The Comedy of Errors,” Optimist Theater’s annual Shakespeare production, is laden with comedy and an array of errors.

Pros, amateurs share spotlight at Footlights People’s Choice Awards
BROOKFIELD - The Footlights organization began more than 30 years ago.  It was founded to promote the arts in the greater Milwaukee area and to print playbills for any theater company who solicited their professional services.

Fireside’s rock show spans time
FORT ATKINSON - Andrew Kindig, a smooth and well-informed narrator, sets the stage for the historical, nostalgic journey through rock ‘n’ roll music from the 1950s through the ‘80s at the Fireside Dinner Theatre.

Carroll’s ‘Spring Awakening’ an amazing production
WAUKESHA - First off, I have to say that this is one of the best productions I have ever seen on any stage, including the professional theaters. 

A cavalcade of misadventure well-played by SummerStage
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Shakespeare is always a challenge, and I admire any theater group that attempts to take on such a demanding venture.  SummerStage has produced some of The Bard’s works before -

Five one-act plays worthy of a festival
WEST ALLIS - It is rare to find a theater company that offers one-act plays. The only other one I know of is the Milwaukee Rep whose interns provide this delightful banquet of short features.

Lesser-known 'Leading Ladies' lends itself to really big laughs
ELM GROVE - Ken Ludwig, a prolific playwright, has garnered awards in both his native England and here in the United States. Two of his most popular plays are “Moon over Buffalo” and “Lend Me a Tenor,” both of which have played in the region frequently.  

‘But 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. 

Another summer option to consider: the theater
Many 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.

‘Kiss Me, Kate’ by Skylight brings fight and delight
MILWAUKEE - The Skylight Music Theatre brings us Cole Porter’s version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” in “Kiss Me, Kate.”

'Spelling Bee' bounces along unexpectedly
MILWAUKEE - A relatively recent musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is not exactly what you would expect from the title. 

'Spike Heels' will raise issues worth pondering
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

In 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.

‘The Giver’ gives lessons on dystopian society 
WAUKESHA - Imagine a world where there is no pain, where all decisions are made for us, a world of utter predictability and orderliness. 

Lake 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 James Skiba.

9/11 in a Canadian town revisited
MILWAUKEE - We all remember where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. 
I remember that my first thought was of my daughter who worked in Manhattan near the Twin Towers.

Falls Patio Players vocally powerful in 'Wonderful Town'
MENOMONEE 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 1953. 

Monty 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.

‘Two Trains Running’ grades out high
MILWAUKEE - August Wilson tried to capture black history, decade by decade in the 20th century, in his cycle of plays. The 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
MILWAUKEE — 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.

‘King and I’ beautifully revives cross-cultural musical
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

‘Modern Millie’ thoroughly enjoyable
WAUKESHA - 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.”

Fireside way more than fair with ‘My Fair Lady’
FORT 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.

'Carmina Burana' combines artistic talents
MILWAUKEE - 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.

Family dynamics play out dynamically in ‘Things I Know to be True’
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

Families, the rich serve as foils in ‘The Curious Savage’
ELM GROVE - ”The Curious Savage,” now playing at The Sunset Playhouse, takes place in The Cloisters, a home for a group of mildly maladjusted adults

Road back from Vietnam travels through ‘Strange Snow’
MILWAUKEE - ”Strange Snow” recounts the story of how two men who served in Vietnam transitioned back to civilian life. 

Sounds, talent plus comedy equal ‘Things that go Ding!’
MILWAUKEE - 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.

‘The Chinese Lady’ delivers history lesson
MILWAUKEE - 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 Afong Moy.

Steve Martin’s ‘The Underpants’ is over-the-top funny
WAUKESHA - Steve Martin is considered one of the most significant, multitalented comedians of our times.

'Leaving Iowa' presented by the Falls Patio Players
We 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.

You'll 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 entertainment. 

‘Junk’ a valuable glimpse at ‘80s financial shenanigans
MILWAUKEE - 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.

‘Photograph 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.  

‘Explorers Club’ worth a trip to Lake Country Playhouse
Given a well-honed, clever script and a sterling cast while tucked into the intimate little theater in Hartland, you’re in for a delightful experience.

‘A Murder is Announced’ sets stage for Christie mystery
ELM 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.

Mark Twain characters, the Mississippi spring to life in ‘River of Song’
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. 

Rockin’ the voices and looks of ‘Legends of Country’
FORT 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. 

First 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 musical.  

When 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.  

A look back at the area’s best plays in 2018
It’s always fun to look back on the long list of shows I’ve witnessed over the past year and re-enjoy the memories involved.

Musical infuses pep into 'Best Christmas Pageant'
A 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.

Rep’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ remains a treasure for whole family
MILWAUKEE - In its 65-year history, The Milwaukee Rep has produced Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” 43 times.

‘Miracle on 34th Street’ still a charmer
MILWAUKEE - A classic story told with a new twist, “Miracle on 34th Street,” a live musical radio play, is a charmer.  

‘Christmas 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.

Lake Country Playhouse sings beautiful ‘Christmas Carol’
HARTLAND - 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.” 

Laughter 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. 

Waukesha 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.

‘Sanders Family’ warms up the Christmas season
MEQUON - It’s Dec. 24, 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor and Roosevelt’s declaration of war.

Milwaukee Rep presents the comic drama 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly'
MILWAUKEE - “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.

‘Hairspray’ cranks up the volume, energy
MILWAUKEE — 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.

‘Twelve Dates of Christmas’ a pleasant diversion
MILWAUKEE — 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.  

‘Mothers 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.

‘Elf’ presents multitalented Buddy, impressive soloist
FORT 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. 

Fast-paced ‘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 talented musicians.

‘Night Watch’ keeps up interest through the end
WEST ALLIS - Playwright Lucille Fletcher didn’t quite repeat the eeriness of her “Sorry Wrong Number,” but “Night Watch” is a puzzling, engaging thriller nonetheless.

Waukesha Civic Theatre stuns with powerful musical
WAUKESHA - 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. 

‘Native Gardens’ plucks at thorny issue
MILWAUKEE - A new young couple with a baby on the way just bought a fixer-upper in an established older neighborhood in Washington, D.C. 

‘Nate 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.

Touring ‘Something Rotten!’ is anything but
MILWAUKEE - 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 something rotten.

Sunset Playhouse produces a magical ‘Mary Poppins’
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 accolades.

Universal 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. 

Depths of cruelty explored by The Rep
The 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 child. 

‘Red 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 Playhouse.  

‘Cat 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 Sherlock Holmes’
MENOMONEE FALLS — The Patio Players always do good work, but this show was particularly engaging. Sherlock 

Very Irish 'Mullingar' delivers touching story
MILWAUKEE - 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  Herring.'

Skylight’s ‘Pippin’ shines ray of hope
MILWAUKEE - Most people have aspirations of some sort, grandiose or down to earth, but everyone is looking for meaning.

The 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.

‘Chapatti’ engages audience on many levels
MILWAUKEE - 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’
MILWAUKEE - 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 ‘Heartbreak House’
SPRING 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
WAUKESHA - Even Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie would have had trouble unraveling these murders.

‘Grease’ 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.

Many 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.

‘Hedwig’ 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.

Fall plays range from a new ‘Holmes’ to Cold War drama ‘Red Herring’
There’s always something exciting when a season opens, whether it is sports or the many theatrical arts.

Tales of Booth family resumes with ‘In This Prison’
MILWAUKEE - 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.

Overcoming ‘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. 

Historical figures sparkle in Milwaukee Chamber’s ‘Holmes’
MILWAUKEE - 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.

‘Born 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.

‘Forty Carats’ shines light on relationships
It 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. 

Racial 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.

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