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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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Aubrey de Gray is one of the men fighting for everyone's life in "The Immortalists."
Aubrey de Gray is one of the men fighting for everyone's life in "The Immortalists."

"The Immortalists" finds cinematic life in the search for eternal life

Of all the ailments that plague the human species, age is the most trusted, diligent and effective soldier in death’s army. When death’s other agents – cancer, war, human callousness and cruelty – fall short, age is called in to finish the job. And though he takes his time, there’s no arguing with his success rate. No matter how much you try to dodge or avoid or fend him off, age comes for us all.

But what if it … didn’t? That’s the obvious yet unanswerable essential question driving Bill Andrews and Aubrey de Gray, the two scientists at the center of "The Immortalists," the thoroughly compelling new doc currently showing at the Milwaukee Film Festival.

Forget fountains of youth and holy grails; Andrews and de Gray are using genuine science, not mysticism or miracles, to tap into man’s potential for eternal life. Though their missions are the same, the two men and semi-rivals (a doctor’s visit can only be described as a health-off) share little else in common.

Straight-laced long distance marathon enthusiast Andrews thinks he’s found the key in telomerase, a substance that could potentially keep the little caps on the end of our chromosomes from deteriorating away – and therefore keep a human being from deteriorating away. The only, teeny tiny problem with his solution: Some believe it might cause cancer.

On the other hand, the sprawlingly bearded de Gray is one of those vehemently against Andrews’ solution. In fact, de Gray’s theory involves the complete opposite: cleaning up human cells entirely of telomerase, plus any other junk and damage that clogs it up. 

While the two of them hunt for answers – and funding, namely in Andrews’ case –there are those against their mission to solve the great mystery of human aging. For instance, there’s Dr. Leonard Hayflick, who uncovered a massive breakthrough back in the earliest days of cellular aging research but sees the current research into eternal life and essentially stopping time as a f…

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A real-life FBI break-in is chronicled in the documentary "1971," currently at the Milwaukee Film Festival.
A real-life FBI break-in is chronicled in the documentary "1971," currently at the Milwaukee Film Festival.

Past and present thrillingly intersect in opening night doc "1971"

There’s something charmingly retro about the tools of the thieving trade on display in "1971," Johanna Hamilton’s new documentary that opened the Milwaukee Film Festival last night. The film opens with a former political activist prying at some lock tumblers with some picks. Later, a crowbar makes a cameo when a deadbolted door needs a little extra encouragement. Gloves are a must at all times, and the big score – stolen FBI files – are, you know, actual files.

However, those tools, plus maybe a few pairs of oversized glasses and some playful period protest cheekiness, are the only things that feel dated about the thrilling, all too timely story "1971" comes to tell. The instruments may have changed, from lock picks to keyboards, but the key issue ­– the hidden reality of a government surveillance state – is as modern and omnipresent as an iPhone 6.

Their collective fuse is burned to its end by the sluggish progress of protests, the still fresh scars of 1968 and the FBI’s attempts (at their worst, devious, abusive and illegal; at their best, comically inept and still illegal) to crush them from the inside. First Amendment be damned, a band of eight ordinary protesters – self-dubbed the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI – decide to take drastic action. The plan: On the night of the ballyhooed Fight of the Century between Frazier and Ali, the daring activists would break into an unassuming – and bafflingly almost unguarded – nearby FBI office in Media, Penn. and snatch all of the files inside. Danny Ocean would be proud.

The amateur thieves’ haul – sent to three media outlets and published by one, the Washington Post – ends up revealing decades of illegal FBI snooping, wiretapping and intimidation tactics, all on American citizens and all brashly written down and catalogued as though no one would care or discover. While FBI agents flock over to Pennsylvania to find the whistleblowers, the rest of the government starts to look into…

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The cover of the Brewers' very well-timed children's book "Hank, The Ballpark Pup," coming out Thursday, Sept. 18.
The cover of the Brewers' very well-timed children's book "Hank, The Ballpark Pup," coming out Thursday, Sept. 18.

Hank the Dog comes to Brewers' rescue with new children's book

It's not exactly the best time to be a Brewers fan. 

The ol' ball club is desperately trying to pull themselves out of a devastating tailspin. Even when they win, they seem to lose, as evidenced by last night's Giancarlo Stanton debacle which left the Marlins' – and arguably the National League's – best player with a fractured face and one of the Brewers' most consistently impressive starting pitchers with a potentially fractured psyche.

Sounds like a good time to get baseball's favorite canine Hank the Dog (sorry, Hercules from "The Sandlot") back in the spotlight!

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers announced the release of "Hank, The Ballpark Pup," a new children's book chronicling the life, time and adventures of Hank the Dog. The 40-page hardcover book, written by Karen Winnick, will go on sale Thursday, Sept. 18 at 4 p.m. at the Brewers Team Store.

To celebrate the occasion, Winnick and Hank will be at the Team Store that Thursday from 4:30 until 5:30 p.m. The first 75 people in line will get a free copy of the book, as well as an opportunity to have it signed by the author and take a photo with Hank. Maybe you could talk Hank into signing the book, too.

The book retails for $19.95. However, as with all Hank-related items sold by the ball club, 20 percent of that price is donated to the Hank Fund, which benefits the Wisconsin Humane Society. 

The Hank the Dog book release comes quickly after the Hank the Dog bobblehead night tomorrow night. Now, considering the low preseason expectations for the Brewers, it made sense when they planned and came up with this date all the way back in March to have a bobblehead night for the wildly popular rescue dog/mascot near the end of the season with attention likely waning and Wisconsin's ultimate pastime – football – all started up. 

However, the Brewers could've never expected how much they desperately needed a distraction, preferably an adorably cute and cuddly one. 

It's insanely convenient timing that th…

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John Ridley's "Jimi: All Is By My Side" is the Milwaukee Film Festival's centerpiece selection.
John Ridley's "Jimi: All Is By My Side" is the Milwaukee Film Festival's centerpiece selection.

Milwaukee Film Festival announces its complete 2014 lineup

After slowly teasing its complete lineup for the past several weeks, the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival finally revealed the entire cinematic buffet it's assembled for film fans – both hardcore and casual – this morning. And my friends, it looks absolutely delicious (and not just because of the newly added Film Feast program).

In addition to the features and shorts previously announced, the festival's complete list includes a movie daringly filmed right here off the coast of Lake Michigan, Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley's much anticipated follow-up to "12 Years a Slave," a historical documentary all too relevant to today's surveillance-concerned times and the latest buzzy movie starring the improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch. 

And those are just a few of the many highlights. Here's the entire lineup:

Opening Night Film 

  • "1971," a documentary about The Citizens' Commission and their theft of incriminating FBI documents at the Vietnam War's apex. 

Festival Centerpiece 

Closing Night Film 

  • "The Surface," a locally filmed thriller about two men abandoned and lost on the unpredictable waters of Lake Michigan.

Spotlight Presentations 

  • "Alive Inside," a documentary about the musical treatment of dementia and Alzheimer's.
  • "Dear MKE," a short film compilation dedicated to the Cream City. 
  • "Family United," a Spanish comedy about a family coming together for a wedding – and the World Cup.
  • "The Imitation Game," a buzzy drama – starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong and Matthew Goode – about Alan Turing's mission to decrypt Nazi codes during World War II.
  • "Life Partners," a comedy starring Gillian Jacobs from "Community" about two best friends – one straight, one lesbian – whose lives just jostled after the introduction of a long-term boyfriend. 
  • "Man with a Movie Camera," the classic documentary – often named the …
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