Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

“Lady Bird” A Bittersweet Mother-Daughter Tale

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Saoirise Ronan and Beanie Feldstein

“Lady Bird” is a mother-daughter story in the tough-love tradition of “Juno” and the bittersweet coming-of age story “Gregory’s Girl” by Scottish director (and romcom pioneer) Bill Forsyth.

The thing about kids is that when they learn to walk they begin walking away. Saoirise Ronan plays the title character, a senior at a Catholic high school taking her first defiantly wobbly steps toward becoming who she will be.

Spoiler alert: in real life she became Greta Gerwig, the actress-writer-director whose film is semi-autobiographical and has the sharply drawn details to prove it.

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Manufacturing Catholic Guilt In “Novitiate”

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It’s Roman Catholic week at the Oriental Theatre this week!

Say five Hail Marys.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed “Lady Bird,” about a 17-year old girl at a Catholic high school.

But today’s topic is “Novitiate” an intimate and terrifying look at a cloistered community of nuns in 1964 and the young girls who want to become them. Its writer-director Maggie Betts, described as a “one time New York socialite and daughter of a Manhattan developer,” was named breakthrough director at the Sundance Film Festival, for this her first fictional narrative.

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My Milwaukee Film Festival Dance Card

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I find it insulting, when writing about the Milwaukee Film Festival,  to tell people what to see.

You’re adults. You  know what is of interest to you better than I do.

And like you, and I, the people making such recommendations usually haven’t even seen the films they recommend.

Frankly, I don’t care what you want to see. I’m going to tell you what I want to see, barring a nuclear attack.

 “A Gray State.”

It is a #fakenews-timely documentary about an alt right filmmaker David Crowley. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan he went to film school and wrote a script about the future collapse of society under martial law.

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Milwaukee Film Fest includes Borchardt, “Manlife”

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The documentary “Manlife,” by local filmmakers Sue Kerns and Ryan Sarnowski, and Mark Borchardt’s “The Dundee Project” will be part of the Milwaukee Film Festival Cream City Lineup.

Also presented is Erik Ljung’s “Blood Is at the Doorstep,” about the Dontre Hamilton shooting.

“Manlife” is about the University of Lawsonomy, its founder aviation pioneer Alfred Lawson and his last follower Merle Hayden. Here is a link to my story on the film.

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Weightless “Life” Portrays Menace In A Vacuum

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“Life.” You’ve played the game and eaten the cereal. But should you watch the movie?

“Life” is a jeopardy-in-space B movie tale about a crew on the International Space Station that comes across a dormant form of life that wakes up and tries to kill them all, within the confines of their floating tin can.

The life form starts out looking like baby Groot but ends up a giant squid like thing that likes to eat you from the inside out.

Every dramatic beat is telegraphed in part because we’ve seen it all before, but also because of the ubiquitous commercials. “Life” even advertised on the Super Bowl.

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“T2 Trainspotting” A Ghostly Sequel With Subtitles

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What do you do after you’ve won an Oscar and produced the opening ceremonies at the Olympics?

“Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle chose to dangle his toes in “T2: Trainspotting,” a sequel to his 20 year old “A Hard Days Night” type cult romp about heroin addicts.

In the original Boyle’s jagged and disorienting style reflected the lives being chronicled and the culture around them.

The sequel also has a distinctive visual ebb and flow – in one quick scene a woman who has died is shown as a shadow at the dinner table. But while the first film felt cuttingly precise, the new one feels stagey.

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“The Salesman” Is A Bleak Iranian Allegory

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Beyond the best picture snafu Oscar night there was another upset – the Iranian film “The Salesman” winning best foreign language film over German language frontrunner “Toni Erdmann.”

It was only the third Iranian film nominated for the Oscar, two of which were directed by Asghar Farhadi, who won Oscars  for “The Salesman and “A Separation”  political and social allegories in the disguise of domestic dramas.

If all you know about Iran is what you hear on the news you have a right to be afraid.

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“La La Land” An Ambitious, Optimistic Dream World

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Peter Cushing isn’t the only venerable film institution revived this moviegoing season. Cushing, who died in 1994, is digitally recreated as the villainous Grand Moff Tarkin in the “Star Wars” film “Rogue One.”

It’s harder to say just when the movie musical died. Was it the 1960s, when bloated spectacles like “Paint Your Wagon” hit the screen?

When last sighted, movie musicals like “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Mama Mia,” “Hairspray,” were adaptations of stage plays.

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“Star Wars” Hits A Triple With “Rogue One”

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If “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a home run, “Rogue One” is a triple.

(Can you tell I miss baseball?)

It has been said that with the rebirth of the franchise a new Star Wars film will be released every year for the rest of your life.

If so, “Rogue One” is one of them. This latest chapter (fourth in chronological order, eighth total films released) in the saga by “Godzilla” director Gareth Edwards occurs just prior to the first original film.

The empire and Darth Vader, still, again and forever voiced by James Earl Jones, is already testing the planet killing Death Star. “Rogue One” tells the story of how Princess Leia and the Rebel Alliance got the plans that helped them destroy it in “A New Hope.”

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“Moonlight” Is A Desperately Needed Act Of Grace

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“Moonlight” is a desperately needed act of healing grace.

It’s a fluidly styled triptych portrait of flawed people facing character defining moments.

We are all more than we front – Hillary calls it public and private lives – and our behavior and actions hide as much as they reveal.

None more so than the troubled black youth who grows up in three chapters, from bullied grade school aged son of a crack addict and sexually confused adolescent with one friend into a drug dealer whose hyper masculine facade hides his secret pain.

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