Friday, August 22, 2014

Movie Review: Paulette

The latest Milwaukee Film Member screening was the French comedy Paulette.  The movie will also screen during the Film Festival in the new program Film Feast.  It is a funny movie that will keep you laughing but at times it is an uncomfortable laugh as the main character is mostly just mean.

Paulette is a former baker who has fallen on tough times.  Her husband has died and she lost her bakery.  Now living by herself she is not able to make ends meet and scavenges garbage cans for food.  Paulette is also racist and does not have a problem telling people how she feels.  This racism has affected her relationship with her daughter who married a black guy and has a son.  She has a few friends that she plays cards with but isn’t real nice to them either.   One day her son-in-law comes over and asks about a drug  dealer in her  apartment complex and this gets her thinking.  She decides to find the dealer and convinces him to let her sell some drugs because no one will expect and grandmother of selling marijuana.  Eventually he lets her try and she does a decent job.  But after some run ins with other pot dealers she rethinks things and decides she can use her experience as a baker to her advantage and starts her own business baking food laced with marijuana and her business is a huge success. And of course the big wigs want a piece of her action.  If you ever wondered what Breaking Bad would have looked like if instead of Walter White cooking meth you had a racist grandmother cooking pot brownies this is your answer.

What makes the movie  so amusing is Paulette’s  unabashed way of talking.  She slings racial slurs at everyone she meets including her priest, son-in-law, and even her grandson.   No one is safe from her verbal abuse as she is unable to deal with the changing world and blames all the new people moving into her city.  It is funny to see a little old lady go up against a big Italian mafia type and lets him have it verbally.  Paulette is played by Bernadette Lafont in her last role before she died last year.  She is one of the reasons the movie works so well and isn’t just a complete failure.  Her performance gives the comedic edge that keeps Paulette likable despite being mean.  The other thing that works is the screenplay.  It is snappy and very funny and even the movie is somewhat predictable it is fun to go for the ride. 

What gives me mixed reactions to this movie is all the racist talk.  Should a racism be funny even if it is coming from  a grandmother?  I am not sure and it made me a little uncomfortable laughing at parts.  There are parts that are kind of sad and really makes you struggle feeling bad for her.  For example when she  ostracizes her grandson. When she is not ignoring him she is calling him names and refuses to be called his grandma.  The big question is does she ever learn anything and change her attitudes at the end? The answer is not really.  She seems to be changing at least  towards her grandson and maybe by the end even appreciates her son-in-law a little, but her world outlook never really seems to changes.  With  racism making the news a lot it does make one think about our attitudes toward racists and does make laughing at a racist a bit more uncomfortable.   

Overall 3/5 a very funny movie and if I had seen it any other time might have scored higher but in light of recent events it makes me question our attitudes toward racists even grandmother racists that cook pot brownies.  I do wish the movie made it clear she changed her attitude at the end and not just towards her grandson.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Review: Calvary

“Calvary” is a very Irish movie. And that means it features more than a few mainstays that have long since become clichés. Lots of liquor? Check. A wife with a black eye? Check. A good, yet conflicted, alcoholic priest? Check. The various abuses doled out by the church he represents? Check. And on and on. Why a movie stuffed with so many things we've seen before remains enjoyable is usually hard to define. What gives a film that magic touch that seems to flow effortlessly from the screen to the viewer?

But in “Calvary” there's a good reason for...well, the movie being watchable. Enjoyment is the wrong word for the experience here. This is modern Ireland at its bleakest, and all the humor is firmly rooted in this sensibility.

Anyway, the good reason is the always remarkable Brendan Gleeson, who plays Father James, a priest in a small Irish community whose life is threatened while he's hearing confessions. The confessee tells James that his life will end in one week, next Sunday as payment for the abuses he suffered as a child. He figures killing a bad priest doesn't harm the church, but killing a good, innocent one will deal it a heavy blow. Gleeson knows who his would-be murderer is. We do not. That gives quite the extra edge to the interactions with the various village characters that Father James desperately tries and mostly fails to counsel.

There's little sympathy for the church itself, or for its flock, most of whom seem lost after their collective disillusionment with it and their shepherds. But oh, what a flock. There's Chris O'Dowd of “Bridesmaids,” and “The IT Crowd” who plays against type as a butcher and cuckolded husband. Aidan Gillen, famed for playing Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger on “Game Of Thrones,” brings his comic, smarmy charm to his atheist doctor, and Dylan Moran of “Shaun Of The Dead” is a rich, amoral finance type. Some of their problems are comic, some darker, and most are downright disturbing.

Then there's Father James's estranged, troubled daughter, who has come to stay with him after a failed suicide attempt. Oh, and it seems like everyone in Ireland knows the proper procedure for a successful suicide. Maybe Father James is no exception, since his hesitation to take strong steps to preserve his own life could be seen as a suicide in itself.

Throughout it all, Gleeson has the rounded shoulders of a man who must be more than a man in order to bear the burden of an entire town's sins and somehow keep his faith in God and humanity.

But for all that, the lost sheep here do seem to need the guidance and greater meaning their church once provided in spite of its sins, even if none of them will admit to themselves. Many people aren't strong enough to bear the idea that we may be alone in the universe, and the village's residents are no exception. Father James may embody the best of what his church is capable of, but “Calvary” still refuses to allow its audience to forget that all of the church's wounds are of its own infliction.

The movie is all the more remarkable due to the fact that writer-director John Michael McDonagh previously did the same for “The Guard,” where Brendan Gleeson was also front and center on the other side of the spectrum as a charming, enjoyably corrupt and unorthodox cop. And if “Calvary” can get someone like me to root for a priest to keep his faith and purity, I don't see how anyone else could resist it. However, it could've used some characters that were more worth investing in, as well as a little less reliance on stories we've seen before.

Grade: A-

Sunday, August 17, 2014

“Let's Be Cops” Could've Put In Some More Man-Hours

Many of today's comedies have become incredibly predictable and uniform; they tend to have the same kind of plot, characters, jokes, and endings. They may not offer anything new, but they aren't particularly bad or offensive either, and they certainly deliver on their promise, which is to provide at least a few laughs. The latest offering, fresh off the assembly line, is “Let's Be Cops.”

The plot revolves around two friends, Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) who moved to LA to make it and found that they've hit thirty and don't have much to show for it. Ryan is a former athlete whose promising career was cut short by an injury, and is now a failed actor, while Justin is a video game designer who can't seem to get his ideas approved by his boss. But when they dress up as cops after they're invited to a friend's party, they find out that they like the attention and confidence they get when everyone mistakes them for the real thing.

This leads Ryan to take it further, and he decides to buy a cop car and taking it upon them both to assist real cops in taking down a dangerous crime boss. Will their incompetent antics and zany adventures lead to lessons learned, a bad guy defeated, jumpstarting their lives and Justin getting the hot love interest (Nina Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries”)? Hmm.

But there are a few good things to be found here. Two really. The movie's only saving grace is the chemistry between the two leads, who both manage to elevate this rather lazy effort through sheer talent and force of will, but just barely. They're the reason you actually laugh. I'd say this is another movie whose best scenes are in the trailer, but even that isn't possible, since bad editing means that even some of those are removed. But luckily, along with our two leads there are also a few side characters such as Rob Riggle and Keegan-Michael Key to take up the slack, as well as a few good action scenes that actually try to be realistic about how normal people might react under pressure.

Nothing special. But then, “Let's Be Cops” doesn't promise anything special. Must be why what it delivers doesn't feel like much of a letdown.

Grade: C-

“The Giver” Could Stand To Provide A Few More Ideas

Sometimes a good movie is in the wrong place at the wrong time. So it is with “The Giver.” Jeff Bridges, who plays the title role, had actually been trying to make a movie out of the beloved and controversial children's book for nearly twenty years. Now the environment is welcoming enough for it to happen, but it doesn't necessarily follow that a good movie will be the result. After all, the conditions that make audiences receptive almost guarantee that the resulting film won't live up to the source material.

Because while dystopian YA fiction is all the rage, “The Giver” was published in 1993, far before today's tropes became so embedded and uniform. This means that the genre's present staples will naturally be inserted in order to make the film a success, which didn't have to be a bad thing. Some changes are to be expected, due to the rapid changes in technology since the book's publication, and to make the material a bit more cinematic. But what was supposed to make for a good time at the movies actually makes for a dumber one, since the result is virtually indistinguishable from any other dystopian fare made in the last five years.

When “The Giver” begins in this particular dystopia, everything seems pretty great, until our hero, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites of “Oculus” and “Maleficent”) discovers it's not so great. In this world, people have divided into communities, where they embrace the principle of “sameness,” which pretty much works out like it sounds. Everyone has the same possessions, the same house, and things like race, religion, money, starvation, pain, and war are a thing of the past. However, people have also lost the ability to feel emotions such as love, and everything, from their clothes, jobs, spouses, and which children they will have, is determined for them. Medicines keep strong emotions at bay, and most people have even lost their ability to see in color. No one remembers what life was like before the communities, save for The Giver, who carries all of the memories of what society used to be.

When Jonas is chosen to take his place, he begins to receive these memories and experience emotions, and must choose to either leave society the way it is, or shake things up. Is there ever any doubt? Well, not much. Jonas embraces the rules of his society, has some cute scenes with his best friend Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and love interest Fiona (Odeya Rush) and just as quickly rebels against them. There's not much to discuss, but there are some great memory montages. “The Giver” keeps some of the book's most controversial scenes, but the result feels like almost any other YA adaptation, skimming the surface without delving deep into the questions it raises. The result is another very adequate, but ultimately forgettable ninety minutes. Such a great staple of children's literature deserves better.

Grade: C-

Friday, August 15, 2014

“Land Ho!” Flounders In Endlessly Drifting Waters

There's a reason many people wish that real life was more like the movies, but who really wants the movies to be just like real life? Really, what kind of person wants that? (Turns out, at least one of the writer-directors is from Portland. Enough said.)

Apparently the people responsible for “Land Ho!” believed this was what audiences wanted. The result is a movie that could've been enjoyable, but instead is akin to watching a montage of vacation photos. There's no point, no real overarching theme besides the location itself, and certainly nothing to take with you after leaving the theater.

It starts off promising enough. Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) are two senior citizens with a long friendship and some snappy dialogue (at first at least) between them. Mitch decides they're in something of a rut, and he insists on funding a trip to Iceland. Colin is reluctant, but agrees to go without too much of a fuss.

Mitch is really the only bright spot, as well as the only reason to keep even a minimal interest. He's old, but still very much alive, a humorous, lusty old womanizer with a soft underbelly, a stark contrast to the quieter, gentler Colin.

When they arrive, they do what old friends do when they're sightseeing: they take in the countryside, try some of the food, and chat a bit. They even quarrel a little. But there doesn't seem to be any point to any of it. It's as if the filmmakers forgot one of the major principles of filmmaking itself: that at least one thing in a movie should have a point. Sure, Mitch and Colin discuss their lives, but there's not any major revelations. They dine on exotic food, that at least one time is served on a rock, but we barely get to see it or know what it is. It's all part of the film's overall lack of any sort of focus that drags it down throughout. If these very promising leads were given more to work with, they'd be a genuine joy to watch. The chemistry seems to flow effortlessly from them, they're charming without being cute, yet remain firmly believable throughout.

But it actually gets worse the longer we stay with them. To watch this movie, you'd think that women simply disappear off the face of the planet when they turn 35, since there are no female characters that are the age of our two protagonists. If any had showed up, things would've felt a hell of a lot less sexist. That means Mitch's bawdy remarks to the few female characters are a lot less funny, and when one of the guys does get lucky, it feels that much more unnatural.

My personal background certainly doesn't help. As beautiful as the scenery is, it's also as empty and devoid of life as the movie's script. As someone who grew up in Wyoming, a lot of the sights, such as the hills, the geysers, the hot springs, are all things I'm actually familiar with, particularly around Yellowstone National Park. And its beautiful landscapes are teeming with wildlife such as bears, buffalo, and moose. And for all the wonderful Icelandic scenery on display, its wildlife is noticeably absent. It made me wonder why Mitch spent so much money to see something already available in the U.S. for much less cash.

A vacation movie that makes you want to stay home. Is there really anything worse?

Grade: D

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

We were very sad to hear about Robin Williams' death yesterday. And by now you have probably seen a million tributes and columns written about him. Well here is another one. What we wanted to do was highlight a few of our favorite movies of his. He had an amazing career and we couldn't list all of his movie but you will find some of his bigger ones and some smaller ones you may not recognize. Feel free to tell us what your favorites are.

Mork and Mindy 1978-While not a movie it was the show that put him on the map as an actor. 

The World According to Garp 1982- in one of his earliest roles he showed how much talent he had in both comedic and drama filled scenes. 

Good Morning Vietnam 1987- his first  Oscar nomination came from portraying war time radio DJ Adrian Cronauer. With the perfect mix of over the top comedy and serious wartime drama no one else could have pulled it off like he did.  

Dead Poets Society 1989-his second Oscar nomination came for playing a teacher that inspires his students. 

Awakinings 1990- this time in full serious mode Williams played a doctor who discovers a way to help Parkinson's patients. 

Aladdin 1992- not very often can a voice actor in an animated movie feel perfect but Williams' performance as the genie was the perfect fit and helped make that movie a classic. 

Toys 1992- Maybe one of his lesser known movies but one that I love. Here he plays the son of a toy maker who dies and his uncle takes over. Another movie filled with drama and comedy. 

Mrs Doubtfire 1993- what can you say about this movie except it is one of his most iconic roles. 

Good Will Hunting 1997- Williams finally won an Oscar for his role as a psychiatrist who helps Matt Damon's character get his life in order. 

Patch Adams 1998 - Another movie that showed Williams' ability to fuse comedy and drama.  Here he played a doctor who uses laughter to help his patients.  

One Hour Photo 2002 - Here he went a completely different direction and made one creepy movie.  Maybe not one of his best movies but we love that he went for the full creep mode.  .  

Insomnia 2002- Another movie where he played kind of a creepy role.  In Christopher Nolan's follow up to Memento he plays a murder suspect being pursued by a detective played by Al Pacino.  

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb 2014 - It hasn't come out yet but will be his last big movie and figured we had to end with it. His role as Theodore Roosevelt looks like it has been expanded which will make the movie that much more bittersweet. 

Of course movies were only a part of his career.  He was an amazing stand up comic with multiple hilarious specials. He also cohosted the Comic Relief specials for HBO to benefit those in need. 
For someone that brought people so much joy and laughter it's hard to imagine what kind of inner turmoil he was going through. And we just wanted to end by saying if you or someone you know is suffering from depression make sure to get the help needed. Depression is a serious and deadly disease.  
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  is 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

From the Collection: Stand by Me

One of my favorite movies as a kid was Stand by Me and I recently re-watched it.  Remarkably it holds up as an 80's classic.  Movies about kids going on an adventure were always some of my favorite movies as a kid.  Movies like The Goonies, The Explorers, The Neverending Story, and The Flight of the Navigator I could watch over and over again.   But Stand by Me is a different kind of movie and besides for the whole going on an adventure story line I am not sure why as a kid I knew this movie was special. Unlike the other movies Stand by Me is a darker movie and has more adult themes.  

To recap the movie centers on four 12 year old boys who learn the whereabouts of a dead boy who has been  missing.  Sensing that they could be famous if they find the body the four set out to look for him.  The four boys are Godrie Lachance (Wil wheaton), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), and Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell).  Each boy has their role in the group and their own tragic backstory. During  their journey  we learn more and more about each boy.  Gordie is the brain who after his football star older brother died has been mostly ignored by his parents.  Chris comes from a family of thieves and punks.  His older brother is always getting into trouble and everyone assumes he will be the same way but he wants to be different. Chris and Gordie are best friend and the two of them are pretty much the brains and the brawn of the crew. Teddy is the crazy risk taker who has been abused by his alcoholic dad and no one expects too much to come from him.  Vern is the fat kid who is a klutz and not very smart. 

I think one of the reasons this movies holds up so well over time is that each boy is relatable and the themes of friendship and growing up are universal.  From a screenwriting perspective it is amazing how well it works. I have been dabbling in screenwriting myself and many of the “rules” are seem to be  broken in this screenplay, yet it is still a very effective screenplay that even got nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. The first rule that seems to be broken is the “show it don’t say it” rule which pretty much says having a narrator doing voiceover is a no-no.   Yet it works in this movie.  As the older Gordie retells the story we get the emotion of a man reminiscing about his childhood. He reflects on what is happening and what will happen in the future.  There is something about time that makes things clearer and we get the sense that this story is more about catharsis for him than anything else and the voiceover works for that.

Another screenwriting “rule” that seems to be broken is “increasing tension”.  A movie is supposed to increase the tension with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  While the train bridge, barf-o-rama, and leaches scene all stand out the boys are never in increased peril as they continue.  For the most part they could turn around and go back at any point.  Each event brings tension but the obstacles are not what increases the tension overall in the movie.  The tension is all psychological and as they get closer it weighs more on their minds.  But that is the incredible thing about the screenplay because it  is hard to show on screen. Even with the voiceover explaining it to us there is still enough  unsaid that it doesn’t feel forced.  The movie is more about their emotional growth and figuring out who they then any actions.

While the writing was amazing we can’t forget the incredible job each actor did.  For a bunch of child actors their roles were very adult like and they nailed it.  Of course the stand out performance was River Phoenix as Chris.  It was clear from this role that he was a promising young actor.  He was able to be not only strong but also vulnerable.  It is hard to watch that movie now and not think of how big of a career he could have had.  But the other actors did a great job also and for most of them this is probably their best movie.  Corey Feldman went on to star in other movies and became a teen heartthrob but his portrayal of Teddy is unlike anything he has ever done. Wil Wheaton was perfect as the quiet kid who has a lot of inner turmoil.  While Vern was more of the comic relief in the movie Jerry O’Connell did a great job.   

I read a list at one point that listed movies that should have won best picture each year during the 80’s. For 1986 they selected Stand by Me.  Looking back now it seems like it is one of the movies that stood the test of time, but I'm not sure it would have ever beat Platoon for Best Picture.  It does seems clear that it should have won best adapted screenplay.

Overall: 5/5 stars  A movie that holds up incredibly well due to the writing, acting, and the universal theme of growing up and apart from friends.  It is even more relatable now that I am older and look back to the friends I had when I was 12 and those last lines "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" mean so much more.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Interview With "Letters To Ashleigh" Filmmmaker Kyle Olson

In 2009, 19-year-old Ashleigh Love was gunned down in her own home in the Milwaukee suburbs. Today, the killer or killers remain unknown. The documentary short “Letters To Ashleigh” is part of the effort to keep her memory alive, as well as a rallying cry for action. It premieres Saturday, August 9, at the Marcus Majestic at 7 p.m. The writer and director of the film, Kyle Olson, sat down to talk with me about it. This is the short version of our conversation.

Andrea Thompson: Kyle, you wrote and directed a documentary short about a local girl. And you grew up in Milwaukee correct?
Kyle Olson: That's correct. I grew up in South Milwaukee. Once I graduated high school, I moved from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, and I've been working there for the last seven years in the television and film industry.
Andrea Thompson: Always good when a local boy makes good. So why did you decide to come back here to do a documentary? Like the girl, Ashleigh, that the documentary is about, she was gunned down in her home, in her own bed, correct?
Kyle Olson: That's correct. This is a story that definitely took Milwaukee by surprise when it happened back in 2009. Basically, an intruder broke into Ashleigh's house, Ashleigh's family's house, and shot her point blank in the middle of the night while she was sleeping. And as you can imagine, there was a surplus of emotions that went with that. And one of the things that came about after this murder had occurred was a number of people from the Milwaukee community and then from outside of the Milwaukee community in the states in the Midwest or around the country, started sending letters to kind of give their condolences and give their well wishes, and that sort of thing to Ashleigh and the family. And so over time the family started to collect these letters to Ashleigh and they weren't quite ready to open them yet. So a lot of them sat in this box for a long period of time. And eventually, as time went on, the family kind of got stronger about the idea of well, maybe in fact we should open these letters and take an opportunity to read what people have said throughout the years. And they did just that in the movie, and we were lucky enough to let them do that on camera for the very first time for us.
AT: Wow. So you caught them on the very first time they read those letters on camera.
KO: Correct. Yeah, we went to them beforehand and said hey, this is something we'd really like to do. We'd really like to be able to watch you guys opening these letters for the first time on camera. We know it's going to be emotional, we know it's going to be a roller coaster of emotions. But we would like to be there to show people what that whole experience is like, all the emotions that you would expect to go with it.
AT: How exactly did you hear about this? And how did you get involved?
KO: My best friend to this day, who has been my best friend since middle school, is is Ashleigh's older brother. So naturally when this tragedy happened to the Love family, I was very much a part of hearing about (it) when this news first broke, and obviously being their friend when this happened during their time of grief. And we've obviously stayed close since then, and this kind of started stewing in the background through the years after Ashleigh's death. The family definitely wanted to get Ashleigh's word out there, Ashleigh's legacy, Ashleigh's memory, if you will. But of course that came (with) the idea that they didn't want to exploit themselves or anybody else. And so they wanted to make sure that if they did anything,that it would be done by somebody that they trusted. And so that is where I had to say look, I know you guys, I am familiar with you guys, I'm not going to be like every film crew in town, but at the same time, we're going to give you an opportunity to get the word out and to hopefully find the people that did this to Ashleigh on top of getting the word out about her legacy.
AT: That personal touch really showed. In a topic like this, it's really hard to avoid, being exploitative in one way or another. This felt very non-exploitative. One thing that I noticed is, you didn't show her through the crime scene like practically every other media (outlet) does when a young woman is killed. You barely address the details; you include the bare details. So do you think that personal connection with the family really influenced that?
KO: Yes and no in a way. I mean, to an extent obviously of course we wanted to look out for the family, but at the same time, transparency is important. We want to present the facts the way that they are to be presented. It is a documentary. Some of the time documentaries lean one way or the other way. The whole goal here was to make sure that we were as transparent as possible in showing any and all sides that were available to show. In this case, there were many sides to show because the killer has not been caught, has not been brought to justice, etc.
AT: There was no motive.
KO: No motive. Well, I mean, at this point there has been nothing. So I mean, I'm sure one day, whether it would be in the near future or the far, far away future something will come about this, and hopefully they will find the person and bring them to justice, or persons. But for now, I mean, this was a movie about Ashleigh's life, not about her death. So many movies that are done about these types of topics, go the other way. Like you were saying, they go the crime scene route. They go the tragic murder route. They push that angle. Because it's the angle gets us more angry. It's the angle that gets a more visceral reaction out of us. When you watch the news, we're not hearing about all these lovely things happening in the community. We're hearing about all the tragic things happening in the community. And there's a reason for that. But in this particular documentary, we said no, we can have the same kind of reaction, but by giving a different kind of storyline. We completely 180'ed what would be the normal route for a storyline in this type of situation and said we're still going to get the feeling, we're still going to get the emotion, we're still going to get the storyline, but without getting into the grim details because it's unnecessary. Everybody knows she was murdered. That's all they need to know. You know, there's nothing more that we have to say.
AT: Yeah, it really helped that they had all that personal footage That really hit home that this was a celebration of life, not an exploitation of her death.
KO: Right, exactly. I mean, having all that home video was essential. Being able to put together Ashleigh's life story and to make it feel as if Ashleigh was in fact alive again. We are lucky enough to be able to have seen a lot of great talents come together, to be able to put this together in a way that does bring across her incredible life story and afterlife story as well.
AT: Again, I keep on seeing the personal touch that can't really be overstated. I noticed the doc also refuses to go exploitative in the other way, making it maudlin. You didn't pretend that the people affected by Ashleigh's death would ever be fully okay with it, or ever fully heal, but it was also strangely hopeful. How do you balance that fine line as a filmmaker?
KO: There is a fine line, and it is a tragic story, it is an upsetting story. It is a story that draws a lot of emotion out of somebody. When we did the test screenings for this, we had a lot of people say, “I am emotionally drained after watching this movie.” And it is because the subject matter is intense. It is heavy. It is expected that that is what is going to be the case. But at the same time, you know, what is the point of making a movie? Is it to make somebody just feel sad or angry? Or is it to actually push a message out there as well? And the film's idea is in my opinion, if you're a good filmmaker, you're a good storyteller. And there is a story beyond just, here is a story about a girl who was murdered, you should all feel sad. A movie can do that, but what's the point? You know, in our film, we not only make you feel sad, but we make you feel excited, we make you feel happy, we make you laugh, we make you cry, we do balance all of that. But here's another story. You know, Ashleigh may be dead, but a lot of other people are still alive. And this is how they're dealing with it. And the family especially, and of course the friends and all those people as well, but the family, the mother especially, are the ones we are following throughout this journey. We are following her character. We're following her storyline and how she has the will and the courage and the strength to get out of bed in the morning and be able to live each day to the fullest and to find the people that did this to Ashleigh. But at the same time, there ares a lot of other pieces that really bring this together,
AT: If there is anything positive that came out of this, it's that so many people got so emotionally invested in her death and wanted to do something about it. Do you think this would happen in another city, or do you think perhaps it's the nature of Milwaukee, our location? (That) It's big enough for something really tragic like this to happen in a way, but it's small enough that people will still be shocked by it. Do you think if this had happened in a bigger city, that there would be this much support?
KO: You know, hard to say. I mean, there are certain advantages to being in a small town. Not only from the support angle, as far as what you were talking about, for the family, for the friends, for a tragedy like this to get that support afterwards. But honestly, there is the idea that from our perspective of releasing the film, the support, the publicity, that kind of thing, that we are receiving, it is own battle as well. If you are in LA, you are competing against every major feature film movie on the market. Here, you have a little bit of an advantage playing a slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond. You know, obviously, that's not the goal, but at the same time, it does help that we're not up against “The Avengers” or “The Ninja Turtles.” We can make a list of pros and cons or both to be honest. But I think that the way that it happened in Milwaukee is something that does attribute to the Milwaukee atmosphere, the Milwaukee scene, and the citizens of Milwaukee.
AT: Another striking thing about the documentary is so many strangers who didn't know her have been affected. You mention a songwriter in Austin who wrote a song about her. And I do believe there's an organization that sprung up from this event?
KO: Yeah. I mean, there's a number of things that are being done in honor of Ashleigh's death to keep her memory and her legacy alive. And that's half of what this story is about. Not only what have people done, but what can we as audience members do? What can I do besides just walk away from this movie with my bucket of popcorn feeling sad. So we give the audience suggestions. Here are some things that people have done. Now what can we go out and do?
AT: It's how the documentary ends. It's also a call to action. What will you do?
KO: Yeah exactly. And our call to action in the film has had a lot of interesting reactions, and I think it's for the better. Because without it again, you just walk out of the theater feeling sad and feeling angry because this hasn't been solved. But by putting in the what will you do, it spins everything in a completely new direction. And that's the goal. It's again, not to emphasize her death, it's to emphasize her life. So that was important to us, to make that decision.
AT: So do you think that's what you want to really come out of the documentary, like for people to see it and do something?
KO: Absolutely. This is not just a movie, this is a movement. And we said that from day one. We want to make sure to push the agenda as far as we can to not only get Ashleigh's face out, but to stop this from happening to other people. In the last month or so, here in the city of Milwaukee, there has been a complete outrage of senseless, violent acts in the community. More so than they have seen in years in Milwaukee. And people are wondering why. People are wondering how we can fix it, how we can stop it. Elected officials are finally coming to the table and saying we need to do something about this. So this is an interesting time to be having a conversation. And we are kind of coming in at the right time for that conversation. To use Ashleigh as a vehicle. It's not just Ashleigh's story, it's our story. It's anybody who's been affected by this type of tragedy. Unfortunately, in the Milwaukee area alone, there's been a lot. And getting that message out there is extremely important to us.

For more information about the film, go to To buy tickets, go to

Monday, August 4, 2014

Milwaukee Movie Talk's Top 10 Greatest Animated Movies of All Time

We asked you to send us your top 10 Animated films of all time.  Some people responded.  While we didn't have a whole lot of responses it became clear what movies were consistently in the top 10 and one movie stood out from the pack.  Besides for the top 2 the rest were sort of bunched up so there were lots of ties and we ended up with 11 movies on the list.

As expected most of the top 10 are Disney or Pixar movies with only 2 movies from other studios making the list. 

Few things that surprised us
None of the Disney classics like Cinderella, Snow White or Sleeping Beauty made the list. The Little Mermaid is the oldest movie on the list. 
Frozen is the newest movie on the list and it was trending toward the top for a while and finally settled in the middle.  Not sure if it just because it is recent and one of better recent Disney movies or if it really ranks up there as one of the best.

Without further ado here is the list as chosen by our fans.

1.  Finding Nemo
2.  The Little Mermaid
3.  The Lion King
     Toy Story
     Beauty and the Beast
7.  Shrek
8.  Monsters Inc.
9.  Aladdin
     Despicable Me
     The Incredibles