Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Lumbering ‘Walk in the Woods’ Anything But ‘Wild’

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Robert Redford turns 80 next year. It’s an unbelievable statistic for anyone who grew up watching the virile and iconic golden boy in films like “All the President’s Men” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

And he looks every one of those years in “A Walk In the Woods.” Not just in close-ups but in the fish-out-of-water awkwardness that conveys a what-am-I-doing-here kind of weariness. In a wide-ranging 1992 conversation he told me he refused to appear in “mindless material.” But times change and so did he.

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The Debate That Changed TV: Vidal v. Buckley In “Best Of Enemies”

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Television standards have come a long way since William F. Buckley shocked the nation when he said “goddamn” on ABC. It was a peculiar phrase that über Catholic Buckley, father of the modern conservative movement, apparently favored since he says it more than once in the documentary “Best of Enemies.”

And he never meant it more than when he cursed at Gore Vidal as the pair faced off for ten days in 1968 during ABC’s coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

People of a certain age will recall the tumultuous time and perhaps even the broadcasts. The GOP nominated Richard Nixon over Ronald Reagan in Miami, Democrats picked Hubert Humphrey over George McGovern, as police and protestors clashed in Mayor Daley’s Chicago.

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In Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” politics are thick as the Irish accents

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“Jimmy’s Hall,” about an Irish expat who returns from exile to his small village and reopens a community hall is an Irish “Footloose.”

“We just want to dance,” a girl tells the ex-pat who returns from America with a Victrola and jazz records. So why not put on a show?

Because the same “masters and pastors” who caused James Gralton to flee to Depression era America ten years earlier see all non-church related activities as a communist ploy.

The hall is not just home to music and dance, jig and swing, there is boxing, art, literature and politics.

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‘Diary Of A Teenage Girl’ A One Person Cautionary Tale

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The diary is a three act storytelling device in which a physical item containing secrets is discovered and creates conflict and crisis.

In “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” the item is the latest in 1976 technology: a cassette tape recorder. It belongs to the girl of the title and chronicles her affair with her mother’s thirtysomething boyfriend.

There is a long troubling history of teenage girl coming-of-age sexuality in film: the predatory “Lolita,” a terrifying “thirteen” and the upbeat “Juno” with Ellen Page who gets revenge on a pedophile in the visceral “Hard Candy.”

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Segel Excels As David Foster Wallace In “End Of The Tour’

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I can’t say if Jason Segel’s thoughtful and persuasive performance in “The End of the Tour,” as David Foster Wallace the troubled writer of “Infinite Jest,” is accurate.

But I can vouch for one authentic thing: the utilitarian, dependable silver grey Sony cassette tape recorder used by the reporter, played Jesse Eisenberg, to interview Wallace and into which the reporter whispers his observations.

Turns out the film about Wallace by James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now,” “Smashed”) is equally about the personal and professional baggage of the reporter. And it is a demonstration of how attempts to bond with a source can be acts of both seduction and betrayal.

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“Stanford Prison Experiment” about power and violence

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Things spiral out of control rather quickly in “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” And while the lurch from zero to 60 feels narratively convenient, real life suggests this is how such things often play out.

This dramatic recreation of a 1971 psychology experiment is based on controversial research into human behavior in prison conducted by Professor Phillip Zombardo.

He paid students $15 a day to pose as prisoners or guards, put them in a mock jail in the basement of a campus building, and watched on camera as things escalated.

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Milwaukee Media Notes: Christian, Lion & the Spanish Inquisition.

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What an interesting week it’s been. For me at least.

My first full week behind the Milwaukee Magazine paywall experiment was dominated by coverage of the WKLH-FM story. Both sides were heard.

The next angles will be former morning show co-host Carole Caine getting a new job and the station hiring a new co-host for Dave Luczak, per Saga CEO Ed Christian.

Saga owns Milwaukee Radio Group which owns WKLH.

I was told a couple weeks ago when outcry over Caine’s departure was at its height, that Christian might call and prepared a list of questions that were nowhere to be found when he finally did this week before I had my morning coffee. Nicely played.

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Reviews of eight movies at theaters near you this weekend.

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Here’s are some of the movies worth seeing this weekend, with links to actual reviews.

“The Wolfpack” Documentary about how movies shaped a group of sheltered brothers.

“Southpaw”  Boxing film with Jake Gyllenhaal.

“Ant-Man” Marvel superhero film with Paul Rudd.

“Mr. Holmes” Ian McKellen as late in life sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

“Jurassic World” Remake, reboot or revival of dinosaur franchise.

“Infinitely Polar Bear” A tale of mental illness and family with Kenosha native Mark Ruffalo.

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Confessional intimacy of claustrophobic “Wolfpack”

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Quentin Tarantino may not have kids of his own but if he did, they might look like “The Wolfpack.”

Imagine a tribe of people for whom Tarantino’s films and any others they could get their hands on became the foundation of their sense of the world. “The Wolfpack” is one such group.

They are brothers, all in their older teens, who grew up on New York’s lower East side but left their apartment and experienced the outside world perhaps once a year.

Their shamanistic father had the only key and their mother home schooled them. They seem to enjoy each other’s company, as if they had any other choice.

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Gyllenhaal gets his raging bull on in “Southpaw”

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Describing something as Golden Globe caliber is damning it with faint praise.

It also means “not Oscar worthy.” Which can be said of the punch-drunk love story “Southpaw.”

It has all the right moves and pushes the right buttons but in pedantic and melodramatic service of past fight  films.

Jake Gyllenhaal is having a Matthew McConaughey year.

He was the creepily obsessive guy in last year’s “Nightcrawler” for which he WAS nominated for a Golden Globe. And he has his raging bull on here as a boxer who wins fights by taking a beating.

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