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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mama sorts them out

For me, ABBA was never a guilty pleasure. It was usually a pleasure, period. Most of the group’s hits were great little soap operas sung in Berlitz lesson English to irresistible melodies with unassailable arrangements. It was pure pop for now people in the ’70s. ABBA was never as big in benighted America as elsewhere, but that began to change with the 1999 Broadway debut of one of the most lucrative musicals ever, Mamma Mia! The plot, loosely strung together through a sequence of ABBA songs, concerns a fatherless 20-year-old girl about to be married. Reading her mother’s diary, Sophie gathers that mom was never certain of who fathered her.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Heath Ledger’s Gotham Nights

Life overtook art in January with the death of Heath Ledger, the Joker in The Dark Knight. Ledger was one of Hollywood’s rising actors and his role as the supervillain in the much-anticipated sequel to Batman Begins would cinch his stardom. Dead or alive, Ledger was destined to dominate The Dark Knight. An unspoken rule is in effect: The bad guys tend to get the best lines in Hollywood; they are usually more flamboyant than their opponents, more intriguing and mysterious. Poor Christian Bale never has a chance. As Batman (or “the Batman” as he’s often called in a nod to the earliest comic strips), he is left to brood . . .
Monday, July 21, 2008

Tonight @ the Times Cinema - 7 p.m.

Sweet Land returns to the Times Cinema for a yet another encore screening tonight. The 2005 indie film, which has proved popular enough with local audiences for the theater to keep bringing it back, is the subtle story about a German woman who immigrates to Minnesota in the 1920 to marry a young Norwegian . . .
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Remembering TV’s Caped Crusader

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear...” No, I’m not referring to the legendary “Lone Ranger” radio show of the 1940s and early ’50s, I’m talking about the twice-weekly “Batman” series on late-afternoon and primetime television in the late 1960s. It was high camp played to perfection—stunningly creative and outrageously funny. The hilarious simplicity of TV’s Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and a gaggle of veteran supporting thespians, trumps the foreboding vision and craven villains in Hollywood’s big star “Batman” films of the last few decades.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The great Norwegian novel?

Oslo must be a dull place, not only because the protagonists of Reprise dream of escaping it, but also because the city nurtured them. We meet Phillip and Erik, a pair of wannabe novelists, at a postal box, slipping their manuscript envelopes into the chute. After Phillip’s novel is accepted, he is anointed as Norway’s young literary lion, only to suffer an emotional breakdown. Erik’s is at first rejected, but he rebounds and embraces the acclaim that Phillip was unable to handle.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Enter Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan’s birthright was to captain a small, nomadic tribe across the grassy sea of Mongolia. He grew up and made a bid for the whole world. He conquered as far as his eyes could see: Central Asia, portions of China, Persia and Russia. His name became synonymous in the West with cruel tyranny, but his conquests were no bloodier than most campaigns of his era and his empire was more tolerant, more wisely governed, than many states in our time.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tonight @ the Times Cinema, Free

Milwaukee’s buy-local organization, Our Milwaukee, hosts a series of events and promotions this week to remind shoppers about the economic and cultural benefits of frequenting local businesses. Many of their points are mirrored in the 2005 documentary Independent America, which they’ll screen free...
Sunday, June 29, 2008

The final journey home

For the child named Blake, as for many boys, dad was invincible and immortal. But like many fathers and sons, problems began to mount along the way, especially as the boy passed through the thorny path of adolescence. When Did You Last See Your Father? concerns the inevitable decline of dad as witnessed by the now adult son. Diagnosed with inoperable cancer, dad is sent home to die, giving Blake time to ponder the many memories that rush from the hidden parts of his consciousness. Based on the novel by British author Blake Morrison, the story unfolds in the unhurried, not especially . . .
Sunday, June 29, 2008

Remaking the ’60s spy spoof

Would you believe they finally got around to making “Get Smart” into a movie? Would you believe they tried it once before? Well, scarcely anyone remembers The Nude Bomb (1980), starring Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, the bumbling spy struggling to make the world safe for democracy. Adams played Smart in the 1960s series, but no one was interested in seeing a remake of the spy spoof only 10 years after the show was canceled. Its creator, Mel Brooks, recently said that skipping a generation may help. He should know something about timing. A musical based on The Producers might not have flown in the ’80s, either.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spike Lee versus Clint Eastwood

I am an unabashed admirer of Spike Lee movies, especially Do the Right Thing (1989) and Malcolm X (1992). His achievements as a director are among the most notable of the last 20 years. Thus, I took to heart Lee’s recent criticism of Clint Eastwood for failing to use black actors in Flags of Our Fathers and its companion piece, Letters from Iwo Jima (both 2006). In fact, some 900 blacks participated in this bloody World War II battle, including my late uncle, Lonnie Brake, a U.S. Marine from Milwaukee. On the whole, though, Eastwood has an admirable record . . .

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