‘Boy Erased’ is cruel, but true—and that’s why you should see it

‘Boy Erased’ is cruel, but true—and that’s why you should see it

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“Boy Erased” review

The plot: Jared, the son of a small-town Baptist pastor must overcome the fallout after being outed as gay to his parents. His father and mother struggle to reconcile their love for their son with their beliefs. Fearing a loss of family, friends and community, he is pressured into attending a conversion therapy program. While there, Jared comes into conflict with its leader and begins his journey to finding his own voice and accepting his true self.

For us, this movie hit close to home and very far away from home at the same time. That’s what we loved about it.

Many of us (not just in the South) can relate to growing up in a town that is small in size…and small in mind. And to an extent, we think that almost everyone can relate to being 18 years old, struggling to find your identity while everyone is simultaneously trying to define you, telling you what to do and who you should be. Everyone goes through that journey, but not everyone goes through it as the gay son of a Baptist preacher. Even so, the film remains deeply relatable and treats the main character’s experience with care. It had us empathizing with him the whole way, even though it was very different than our personal lives—which we think is the exact purpose of stories like this.

At points the story is cruel and solemn, but it’s real. You might feel the temptation to avert your eyes at certain scenes, but you can’t, because this is something that real kids today live through.

With recent, more triumphing movies like “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” “Love, Simon” or even “Call Me By Your Name,” it can be hard to remember that not all coming out stories end with acceptance or reconciliation, even in 2018.

“Boy Erased” is the kind of story that needs to keep being told until we live in a world where everyone is accepted for who they are.

For more on “Boy Erased,” listen to the full podcast episode above. Watch the trailer below and see the movie in theaters now. And if you like this movie and want to hear more about the story, check out the podcast, “UnErased.”

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Milwaukee-made virtual reality film, ‘Ashe ’68’ is going to the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

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Viewers at the Ashe ’68 VR Experience space at the 2018 US Open. Credit: REXPIX MEDIA

Created by Milwaukee’s Custom Reality Studios and directed by Brad Lichtenstein, “Ashe 68′ Virtual Reality Experience” brings viewers into the intimate moments right before Arthur Ashe’s historic 1968 US Open win, weaving together 360 degree video re-creations, archival material and evocative, never-before-seen 360 degree stop-motion sand animation to tell the story.  “Ashe ’68” was first previewed at this year’s U.S. Open. Later, Sports Illustrated hosted the short film on their site.

Also check out our story on Milwaukee’s Custom Reality Studios featuring one of the collaborators on “Ashe ’68,” Maddy Power. You can view the  short film below in 360, but we recommend you try it with a virtual reality headset.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

‘Widows’ is the realistic heist drama that we’ve been waiting for

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“Widows” review

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The plot: A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows—Veronica, Linda, Alice and Belle—have nothing in common except a debt left behind by their spouses’ criminal activities. Hoping to forge a future on their own terms, Veronica joins forces with the other three women to pull off a heist that her husband was planning.

We had high expectations for both the lead actress, Viola Davis and the director, Steve McQueen. We adore Viola and as always, she brought her usual brilliance, boldness and strength to the role. Steve McQueen, however, didn’t exactly meet our expectations, but they might have been unrealistic.

Perhaps it was unfair, but we expected something more like “12 Years a Slave.” “Widows” has much less of the style that we know McQueen for, but is still an artfully crafted story where so many moving parts of the plot come together and transition in great synchronicity on screen.

There’s one scene in particular where we really have to hand it to him—it’s a scene of a politician driving in his car where the camera isn’t inside the car, but outside. As he’s talking and driving through neighborhoods, you see the low income district he represents turn into a much wealthier area, which is where he actually lives.

Scenes like that is what we love about McQueen.

The movie was also very well written. McQueen worked with Gillian Flynn, author of “Gone Girl” for the script. And in true Gillian Flynn fashion, there were plenty of plot twists and surprises.

The rest of the cast was also fantastic. It starred Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Brian Tyree Henry and so many more. Our only complaint about this cast is that we wish we could have seen all of their characters on screen for longer, but we know that’s unrealistic—there’s only so much time in a movie.

Speaking of things that are realistic, “Widows” was, even though most heist movies aren’t. We loved that this film was grounded in rules of real life and what would really happen if someone tried to pull this off. It is nothing like the rest of the action genre that borders on fantasy. This is the real heist movie we’ve been waiting for.

Overall, we’re glad we saw this movie. We think you will be too. “Widows” is now playing in Milwaukee.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

‘Give Me Liberty,’ a born and bred Milwaukee film, is going to Sundance 2019

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Give Me Liberty, Milwaukee film, Sundance

Directed by Kirill Mikhanovsky and written by Alice Austen, “Give Me Liberty” is a dark comedy that is set in Milwaukee. When a riot breaks out in America’s most segregated city, medical transport driver Vic is torn between his promise to get a group of elderly Russians to a funeral and his desire to help Tracy, a young black woman with ALS.

The film features locations from all over the city and local musicians like Lorde Fredd33.

Mikhanovsky, the director, says the team fought hard to represent Milwaukee in the film.

“We’ve been to hell and back with it and not once, sticking to our guns and sticking with Milwaukee,” he says. “And, finally, much blood sweat and tears later, we are doing what we’d set out to do, i.e. putting Milwaukee on the cinematic map—a feature narrative film generated in and made by Milwaukee. 99 percent of the cast is local and non-actors.”

“Give Me Liberty” was one of the recipients of the Brico Forward Fund in 2016 and it was recognized by Film Independent in 2015. You can learn more about the film and its creators on their website.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ doesn’t ‘Break Free’ from convention like Queen did

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“Bohemian Rhapsody” Review

bohemian rhapsody trailer

This movie did what we think it was trying to do—trigger nostalgia. If you’re a hardcore fan, it will get you excited about Queen all over again. And if you’re just a casual Queen listener, it’ll make you keep going—”Oh yeah, they did that song too!”

It’s a great foot-stomping celebration of Queen that will make you realize (again or for the first time) just how unstoppable the band was.

But for a group as unconventional and ground-breaking as Queen was, the movie failed to “Break Free” from convention.

It follows what’s become a pretty typical biopic formula—They start small, they get the big break, they have some fun, deal with fame (and often drugs and alcohol), they fight, it gets emotional and it all swells to a glorious end.

It makes us wonder how much was exaggerated, how much was downplayed, how much we actually learned about Queen and how much of that was even factual.

We went into the theater thinking that we didn’t really know a lot about Freddie Mercury. And we left still wanting to know a lot more about him, which could be a good or a bad thing.

But if we learned anything at all about Freddie Mercury in this movie, it was that he was a great performer. The last 20 minutes of the movie basically become a great concert film that made us leave inspired.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is now showing in Milwaukee.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

2018 ‘Suspiria’ is a completely different movie than 1977 ‘Suspiria’

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“Suspiria” review

We don’t usually like remakes at.all. So we went in with low expectations and came out with not only a love for Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 “Suspiria,” but a greater love for Dario Argento’s original 1977 horror masterpiece. And we didn’t think that was possible.

Like the original movie, this one is about a young American woman who arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Co. which holds sinister secrets, witches and gory surprises.

The original “Suspiria,” while being an iconic art house horror movie with an amazing dark aesthetic and groundbreaking horror visuals, lacks in a few areas—mainly, the pretty basic English script and a pretty hard to follow plot. That said, we wouldn’t really change a thing about the original.

The reason the 2018 version of this worked for us is that they weren’t really trying to “remake” the 1977 movie. It felt like they paid plenty of tasteful homage, took the bones of the plot, but completely developed a new movie.

The script and the plot seemed more fleshed out, though it still isn’t trying to reexplain the original. Rather, it asks to exist on its own while knowing where it came from.

The visuals and the story are all derived from “Suspiria,” but it is a completely different movie at the same time. That’s why we liked it.

Plus, it really turned it up several notches in every direction—especially on the horror.

The original was good at shocking you with a flash of horrible images, but the new movie is unrelenting with its imaginative body horror.

For some slightly more spolier-y takes and to hear us talk about our other favorite art house horror movies, listen to the full conversation above in the podcast episode.

“Suspiria” is now playing in theaters.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

The humanity behind the heist in ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

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“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” review

The plot: When celebrity biographer Lee Israel’s (Melissa McCarthy) work falls out of style, she turns to deception and uses her art form to forge letters from famous people to make money.

We love when comedians do drama (but not necessarily the other way around) and Melissa McCarthy nailed this role even though it was so different for her.

Her character of Lee Israel is very well developed. She’s a biographer who is embellishing and rewriting the letters of historic figures, essentially rewriting their autobiographies in turn. And throughout the film, she’s essentially telling her own autobiographical narrative about what she calls the most exciting time of her life. It’s poignant—and it’s a true story.

It’s a criminal drama but it’s not too high-stakes, too melodramatic or too funny. It’s kind of a grey area in the middle. Usually that’s not a good thing, but in this movie, we promise it is.

The film is oddly charming and it makes the early ’90s look oddly romantic. We think its partly due to colors of the film, which are very grey and brown because of McCarthy’s dowdy wardrobe and the countless library settings. All of this gives it an overall cozy feeling that matches the on-screen grandpa sweaters and used bookstores.

One of our favorite parts of the film was the difficult but gracious friendship between McCarthy’s character and Richard E. Grant’s characters. They make a sweet, funny and grumpy duo and even better conspirators. This relationship is one of the parts that show what this movie is really about—the complexity and humanity of loneliness.

And something about such a low-risk and low-reward small crime movie is endearing and hilarious.

See it in Milwaukee theaters now.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

These Milwaukee Film Fest movies are back at the Oriental Theatre by popular demand

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Best of the fest screenings

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“Free Solo”

The super secret member screening turned out to be “Free Solo.” And it was so good that Milwaukee Film is bringing it back to the Oriental for more non-secret screenings.

It’s a documentary about a man who wants to climb a really big rock. Without any harnesses or ropes. It is thrilling, anxiety-inducing and filled with stunning visuals and nature photography. People came out of the theater clutching their hearts. Some didn’t even make it to the end because they couldn’t take the intensity.

It’s a ride. You can see it at the Oriental through November 15.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Talking politics, stand up comedy and ‘Bridesmaids’ with director Judd Apatow

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An interview with Judd Apatow

Justin Barney: So you’re come to Milwaukee November 6, which is an election day.

Judd Apatow: That’s right.

Justin Barney: Are you gonna get political?

Judd Apatow: Well I guess I’ll have to it. I mean it’s an election day.

Justin Barney: It’s hard to avoid.

Judd Apatow: Well you know, people gotta go vote, then they can take a break for a couple hours then go home and watch the returns and whoever you’re rooting for I’m sure it’ll be an emotional night. And so it’s good to take a break.

Justin Barney: Yeah so are you gonna do a standup set or are we just chatting or what?

Judd Apatow: I’m doing stand up comedy you know, I have a special on Netflix this year called “The Return” and yes I’ve written a new show that I’m doing now and just about any people on those happening here in my world and a little political talk. I don’t know if that night people will want more political talk or none at all.

Justin Barney: What would you prefer? Because me, I’m wrapped up in it and so I am like, there are so many people that I know that are like “I want to just get out of it, I want to think about something else.” Where I am like, I want to dig in, I want to go harder. What is your persuasion there?

Judd Apatow: Generally when I’m home, when there are people on tv doing great political humor on the talk shows, most of the time I don’t want to watch it because I’ve watched so much news all day. For some reason I feel like everything is so serious I don’t want people to joke about it.

Justin Barney: Dude, I understand that.

Judd Apatow: I’m so exhausted from it. But every time I watch something like Seth Myers I’m always amazed at how funny and brilliant they are and I’m so impressed and I like writing jokes about it, and I like talking about it on stage but when I get home I’m usually watching so much that I need to shut down.

Justin Barney: Yeah I think it depends. Because if it’s really good, there’s like something that a couple comedians do where, it’s like, you find the humor in it and you also find the issue at its heart and you really expose that one thing and it’s like – wow that’s powerful. Then there are comedians who are just like ‘how crazy is this’ and I’m like that is not helping the cause, you know?

Judd Apatow: Yeah I don’t know if any of it helps the cause honestly. I do think we need to blow off steam but I don’t know how much of the satire is changing anyone’s mind. The people who disagree with certain comedians probably don’t watch them.

I don’t know if it moves the dial but for certain people, you at least like to hear people and go “okay I’m not crazy this person is explaining it and it’s kind of what I thought.”

Hopefully something positive will happen ‘cause I believe we just want a world that’s more compassionate and I’d like more people in the world to be kind and caring about our feelings. I feel like what’s happening, it’s almost like it’s meant to make us insane. I would like politicians to realize they’re also responsible for our spirit and I wasn’t a big Reagan fan, but a lot of what people liked about him was he tried to make people feel good about America.

You don’t really hear much of that, it’s pretty dark everyday. The one thing about Trump – and this isn’t a joke – he loves brawling, he loves fighting every day. I don’t think he cares that it really wears on people, all the conflicts. It’s tough, he’s a bare knuckle brawler and if there isn’t a brawl to have he’ll just be like ‘I don’t trust the FBI!’ and start one. We do need a break, we’re all frayed from it.

Justin Barney: I think he thinks that because fighting is the way that he wins, if he’s not in a fight like what’s he gonna, do be compassionate? It’s incapable you know, it’s like he’s floundering then. So it’s like when he’s got a fight he’s got a direction and people get riled up you know?

Judd Apatow You know it’s funny, making other people feel good if not his move.

Justin Barney: Definitely not.

Judd Apatow: His move might be to amuse people by calling someone an idiot. But he doesn’t really know how to make anyone feel good without hurting someone else.

Justin Barney: Yes, it is the laughing at, like “let’s have a villain.” So that is his making people feel good, is making someone else feel bad and getting other people to laugh. He’s just a big bully you know “like let’s pick on somebody” and everyone’s like “he’s picking on somebody, I don’t wanna be picked on. I’m gonna laugh with this guy at somebody.”

Judd Apatow: That’s why when we heard that he’s obsessed with Shark Week we’re like “Oh it makes total sense.” He loves that battle, he loves that dangerous character. Hopefully we’ll have some calmer times ahead, but it doesn’t look that way.

Justin Barney: And then for the show, you’re doing stand up. The thing that I love about your writing for shows and producing is you do this thing, or my favorite part is we have somebody that you don’t think is going to give really great advice. Suddenly this person that you’re supposed to not like does something and you’re like, “God, they’re great.” I think it’s this really great understanding of the human spirit. How do you get that character into your stand up, or how do you translate that to stand up?

Judd Apatow: Most my stand up is just about how, I just don’t know if I’m doing anything correctly. A lot of stand up is about people saying “This is how it should be done, and this is where everyone’s wrong, and here’s my ideas.” I think I mainly just say, I don’t know I’m screwing everything up.

Justin Barney: God, and isn’t that so refreshing?

Judd Apatow: I don’t know if I’m raising my kids right, I don’t know if I’ve made them crazy, you know, that’s the hard part. But like, I was talking about how my daughter went away to college so I just live my wife and my daughter and my daughter hates it. My daughter said, “Four people is a family and three people is just a child observing a weird couple.”

And I feel bad for her! I feel bad that she has to stare at me and my wife all day long. So a lot of what I’ve been talking about lately is just how you really don’t know if you’re raising your kids correctly. You know, in California, marijuana is legal. So it’s hard to be like, “Don’t smoke pot,” because it’s literally legal. So now, you’re not really teaching your kids to not do drugs, you’re actually trying to teach them to do it well.

You know, like “This is how much pot you should smoke, just have two puffs and see you’ve got a good buzz. And when you have mushrooms just have a half a cap and a little stem, just wait, it’s coming, just wait. Just do what dad does.”

It’s just a completely different world from when I was a kid and we just don’t know damage were doing.

Justin Barney: Yeah, but is it better to have this understanding because it’s more pragmatic, like looking at it and being like okay, well we got pot and it’s legal now instead of living in a world that is black and white there are things that are good and there are things that are bad. I think it’s scarier that it’s like, where is that in between? But don’t you think it’s like better than being like “don’t do this and do this” because then that creates some real issues.

Judd Apatow: Well, you don’t know. You tell your kids to get off the phone and then other people are like “Maybe that’s the future and you’re like an idiot telling them not to.”

Justin Barney: Maybe you’re holding them back severely because they’re gonna have a job and it’s something to do with that phone, right?

Judd Apatow: Yeah, but you know you’re like “Go read a book you’re supposed to read books that makes sense,” but then what if you have the one kid who just can’t use any of modern machinery because you forced him to play with Lincoln Logs. You just don’t know. That is what I find terrifying about it.

Justin Barney: I agree completely. Alright, I will get out of your hair in a second, but I wanted to let you know I saw “Hal”  this week, the documentary about Hal Ashby. I know that you must recorded that probably like a decade or years ago or something like that but,

Judd Apatow: Well my hair was dark and now it’s grey, so it was a while ago.

Justin Barney: But I loved your contribution to that and I loved it so much.

Judd Apatow: Well it’s funny because I didn’t even realize that when we were doing it, near the end of Hal Ashby’s life he worked on movies and a lot of studios would fight about the edit with him. There was one movie where he was literally hiding the print of the film at his house and wouldn’t give it back to the studio.

And I was talking about it in an interview and I said you know, the thing is, a lot of times the studios say “I’m gonna give you total freedom,” and then you start making the movie and they completely lied and they fight you on everything, and it makes you feel insane.    

I totally related to that. I’ve been through that, where people are like ‘I’m gonna back you up a hundred percent’ and then you say ‘hey I want to cast this person and they’re like “No Way!” It makes you lose your mind. So in the doc where I talk about it, I get more emotional but I realize. I watched it and I am like “Wow I look really furious.”

Justin Barney: That like, little tiny nugget of insight totally made me understand the whole thing. Where it’s like, why is this dude so upset at these people? Like I get why you’d be upset with with people trying to control you, but that made me really see it as (you know, working in entertainment as well), you get a bunch of people that are like “yeah we love you, you’re gonna be able to do this and this and this” and then there’s no way that they are going to do that. Then it is that series of lies, so that little bit of insight made me see that.

As a producer, what did you think about him hiding the film and stuff? Were you like “oh my god I would lose my mind if somebody did that?”

Judd Apatow: Well I have to say that for me, that’s the one area where I do get like nuts. If I have an edit of the movie and someone wants to make me change it against my will, that is where I’m like to looking for gasoline in matches.

There’s something about it that, it’s like Led Zeppelin  made “Stairway to Heaven” and someone was like “you gotta cut the bridge part in the middle, it’s too long” you would want Jimmy Page should go chase them down and beat them up.

It’s hard to control yourself because it’s so important to you and all you have is your vision but a lot of times other people are paying for the project and they have a contractual right to do whatever they want with your movie, like you actually don’t have control the movie, and that’s when it gets ugly.  

Justin Barney: Yeah and that’s the tough part because there’s a part of you that has to recognize and you can see their side.  

Judd Apatow: Oh sure yeah, because most of the time the director does do a terrible job.

Justin Barney: Right? Sometimes I think of that too where it’s like, we love the story where, especially Hal Ashby, he was on the right side of history, he was doing the right things, what ended up being produced was true art. We love that story, but you never hear the story of the executive that went in and cut the film and it changed everything and it was way better. Because they did that.

Judd Apatow: But also those movies that Hal Ashby’s fighting about, which are not strong movies, when you watch them you don’t think ‘he could have edited this a little bit longer it would have been great. Like, it doesn’t seem like there’s a good movie in that footage. So that’s where you want to be on his side, but he also might have been off his game on that one because, even the best filmmakers, if half their movies are great it’s a miracle. I mean, Scorsese’s got some clunker movies, everybody does.

So it happens and then the film executives are the ones that have to deal with it so I both hate them and have great love and compassion for them.

Justin Barney: I love that. I love “Crashing” as well I listen to Pete Holmes religiously and I think of him as like my personal friend that I never get to talk to but he talks to me for like two and half hours every week. So I love “Crashing” I just want to say that. And “Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” what is that? What’s going on?

Judd Apatow: Well, I made a documentary about Garry Shandling about his whole life and it’s a two-part four half hour documentary. It’s just a very deep dive into a complicated, hilarious, brilliant man who was also a bit tortured and you really learn why he was the way he was, you know we just won an Emmy for best documentary this year and people had a very strong reaction to him because he was someone who went through a lot of stuff in his childhood and he tried to take the pain of his life and turn it into art and comedy. He tried to lift people up by using his pain and suffering as father for his creative life.

Justin Barney: And what a genius I mean, I can’t wait to to dive into that because I love him.

And finally I will let you go but, “Bridesmaids,” parts were filmed in Milwaukee or it takes place here – pride of Milwaukee. I just want to tell you how stupidly were love that there was a movie where somebody was from Milwaukee. Were always kind of like, you know we’re next to Chicago we have like an inferiority complex and we love the choice. Why choose Milwaukee for that movie? And thank you.

Judd Apatow: Well you know, Kristen Wiig and Amy Mumolo the writers were very tuned into the idea that there was this rivalry between the people who live in the fancy big city you know being looked down on by those people if you live outside in the suburbs or in a smaller city and that to them was part of the psychology of the movie and of this character. It was something that they talk about from day one. You know, for there to be like this rich new friend from Chicago and I think it works great. There should be more movies that take place in the Midwest for sure.

Justin Barney: Yes. Amen. Alright thank you, that is it. You’re coming to town November 6 at Turner Hall. Thank you so much for being so generous with your with your time today and for everything, I super love literally everything that you do so, thank you.

Judd Apatow: Thank you I appreciate that. Excited to come to Milwaukee and people can get tickets at juddapatow.com/tour.

You can listen to the full conversation above and you can see Judd Apatow and his Midterms Tour at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, fittingly on election day.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Our Milwaukee Film Festival pick for Thursday, November 1

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Our pick for November 1: “Back At The Staircase”

Synopsis: In the midst of preparing for a celebration of charges being dropped against her youngest daughter, family matriarch Barbara suffers a violent tumble that leaves her hospitalized and comatose. So what originally was a coming together under the auspices of celebration instead becomes a tense vigil for the five relatives who connect at the family cabin: sisters Margaret and Trish (Mickey O’Hagan and Jennifer Lafleur), nephews Phillip and Ian (Stephen Plunkett and Logan Lark), and Ian’s girlfriend Jody (Leonora Pitts). Not knowing how long they’ll be forced to spend in each other’s company as they await news, we watch as the screws are slowly and expertly turned on this so-called family, bringing the tension to both unbearable and wholly believable levels in this expertly crafted, locally made chamber piece filled from top to bottom with astonishing performances.

See it at the Oriental Theatre on Thursday, November 1 at 7:30 p.m.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee