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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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Greta Gerwig stars in "Lola Versus," in theaters now.
Greta Gerwig stars in "Lola Versus," in theaters now.

Greta Gerwig comes out a winner in "Lola Versus"

It's Greta Gerwig's time.

After about five years of piddling around micro-budget mumblecore films and a few minor appearances in forgettable in Hollywood romantic comedies (anyone out there remember "Arthur?"), the indie darling finally gets her chance to seize the spotlight in "Lola Versus." She owns it, and the movie greatly succeeds as a result.

Gerwig plays Lola, a late-20s grad student about to get married to Luke ("The Killing"'s Joel Kinnaman). However, with only a few weeks until their marriage, Luke breaks up with Lola, causing her life to spiral out of control. Her friends (Hamish Linklater and co-writer Zoe Lister Jones) and parents (Debra Winger and a rare Bill Pullman appearance) attempt to help Lola realign her life, but a series of flings makes matters more chaotic.

The movie's plot sounds eerily reminiscent of several other indie comedies, and many of "Lola Versus'" elements will have indie-weary audiences seeing déjà vu. Lister Jones' Alice is the typical wild and crazy single best friend who gives advice and quirky support, and Lola's hip lifestyle, featuring chic jobs (her boyfriend has the indie-approved occupation of painter) and various trendy health foods, feels more cliché than genuine.

Luckily, those are the only things in the movie that ring false. Director and co-writer Daryl Wein calmly handles the complex emotions on display in the story, a surprising feat for a director taking on his first big production (his only previous effort was a barely seen 2010 indie "Breaking Upwards," also co-written and starring Lister Jones). It's not a particularly flashy job, unlike "500 Days of Summer," the indie hit proudly touted on "Lola Versus'" poster, but Wein's little touches, such as swift cuts into Lola's mental images, go a long way.

The film is not about the style and direction; it's about its star and her hopefully star-making turn. Since her mainstream debut as Ben Stiller's girlfriend in Noah Baumbach's "Greenberg," Gerwig has shown …

Eugene Levy and Tyler Perry star in "Madea's Witness Protection," in theaters now.
Eugene Levy and Tyler Perry star in "Madea's Witness Protection," in theaters now.

"Madea's Witness Protection" a witless sell-out

Like him or hate him, Tyler Perry has become one of the most profitable and influential men working in Hollywood. He erupted onto the film scene in 2005 with the surprise hit, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," starring his most famous character, Madea. Seven years later, he's directed twelve films, created his own studio in Atlanta and started two successful television shows.

As the Perry brand has grown financially and in popularity, one would hope that the multi-talented showman would attempt to finesse his craft and push his creativity to higher levels. Instead, Perry's latest film, "Madea's Witness Protection," serves as an upsetting step back, featuring all of the flaws of his previous works with their few pleasures removed.

Surprisingly, the famed title character doesn't appear on screen for about 15 minutes and doesn't get involved in the actual story until a half hour in. For the most part, the film follows the wealthy Needleman family, who get thrown through a loop when their patriarch, George (Eugene Levy, the movie's saving grace), unknowingly becomes the fall guy for a Ponzi scheme with ties to the mafia.

The government investigation, led by prosecutor Brian Simmons (played by a non-drag Tyler Perry), offers George some leniency if he cooperates with them and helps to bring down the mob. While he searches through non-shredded documents, the family is placed in the safest place possible: Madea's inner city home in Atlanta (of course!). There, George's much younger wife (the reliably flat Denise Richards), their two kids (Danielle Campbell and Devan Leos), and his senile mother (Doris Roberts) can hide while also learning valuable life lessons.

It's best not to get hung up on the details of the movie's plot; writer/director Perry certainly doesn't. What isn't tediously trite and cliché is useless, forgotten or both. After dropping off a dead rat at the Needlemans' doorstep (an obvious symbol that the script needed to explain in dialogue), the mafia threat …


Ben Folds Five a manic blast from the past

It seems fitting that pop's coolest nerd would perform on the hottest day of the year. While it cooled down decently for Ben Folds Five's 90-minute set at the BMO Harris Pavilion, that didn't stop Folds' legendarily blazing piano skills from searing themselves into the crowd's ears.

Ben Folds Five became a pop sensation in the late '90s thanks to their melancholy 1997 hit song, "Brick." Since then, the band has been out of commission. A year after its 1999 album, "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner," the group broke up.

While the members went their separate ways, Folds grew in popularity, starting a solo career that led to a high-profile judging position on NBC's hit a cappella TV show "The Sing Off."

Over a decade later, however, the band has come back together not only for this summer tour, but also a new album scheduled for release in September (Folds told the audience during the concert that they had just finished tracking).

The time apart for Ben Folds Five hasn't tarnished their fun on-stage interactions with each other and the crowd. Folds and bassist Robert Sledge made goofy banter between numbers, settling a nerdy music debate about F sharps and G flats with an audience poll and dryly poking fun at the numerous signs for BMO Harris Bank and Miller Lite scattered around the brand new stage. Folds also got the best line of the night, describing the crowd reaction to Sledge's enthusiasm between songs as "furiously tepid."

Most importantly, though, Ben Folds Five's music hasn't suffered over the years. Starting almost immediately with their first song, "Jackson Cannery," the receptive audience, which filled about three-fourths of the blue seats and almost the entire regular seating area, was treated to Folds' famously frantic piano playing. His hands pounded on the keys with a beautifully controlled chaos and then bounced off as if they were made of small trampolines.

Audiences expecting Folds to deliver a visually inventive show, such as his …

The Fatty Acids made Milwaukee proud with their June 27 gig at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage.
The Fatty Acids made Milwaukee proud with their June 27 gig at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage.
Their energetic 30-minute set was well received by Summerfest's opening night crowd.
Their energetic 30-minute set was well received by Summerfest's opening night crowd.
Frontman Josh Evert played the piano and the beat machine while singing into one mic and occasionally two.
Frontman Josh Evert played the piano and the beat machine while singing into one mic and occasionally two.

The Fatty Acids make their hometown proud

It's hard to imagine a better homecoming than a performance at the world's largest music festival.

The Fatty Acids, a techno-infused rock band based in Milwaukee, topped off their American tour with the Sat. Nite Duets (who will also be performing at Summerfest on July 4) with an energetic show at the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage early Wednesday night. The opening day crowd, which respectably filled up about half of the stage's bench area, was more than eager to greet them back to Cream City.

The band, which formed in 2007, has grown wildly in popularity since their debut album, "Stop Berries, Berries and Berries, Berries," in June 2010. Since then, the Fatty Acids have not only been growing their name nationally with a robust tour (they noted in between songs that they had been potentially performing for 23 days straight), but also locally, where they've earned recognition and a few awards, including a 2011 88.9 Radio Milwaukee Music Award for Best Music Video.

After their performance Wednesday night, one could see where the praise was coming from.

The Fatty Acids started off their set with "Howl" and "Memory Banks," two energetic hits off of their first album. The two songs gave the group a chance to showcase some of the more unique elements of their sound, mainly a trumpet (played by Kurt Raether) and a beat machine, as well as their exuberant garage band-esque charisma.

Early, the variety of instruments created an unfortunately muddled blend of sound. Raether's trumpet was often lost in the mix, and lead singer Josh Evert's lyrics turned into an incomprehensible, yet pleasant sounding, blur of noise.

After some quick tweaks, the Fatty Acids songs quickly became audio gold, starting with the third song, "Astrovan." The song featured the group's lively energy while also showing off their musical skill, unhindered by muddled audio.

The biggest beneficiary of the perfected audio was Evert, who will never be confused for a lazy performer. The man played the …