There are less than 48 hours remaining of 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival. But even though you may be running out of days to dine exclusively on Sno Caps, skip work to catch a matinee and double your donated doubloons to Milwaukee Film via Donald and Donna's Double Up (I may or may not have that preroll ad well memorized by now), you're by no means running out of terrific movies to see.
And here are five options remaining in the final few days to prove it, ranging from insightful docs to potential awards season players and – because it bears emphasizing at least one more time – a bunch of bladed umbrellas.
The other upcoming Netflix release with Oscar ambitions that was too exciting to make the Milwaukee Film Festival program, Mati Diop's "Atlantics" starts as a sweet, delicate but wide-scoping story of young romance trapped in a love triangle and in a Senegal society moving forward while leaving the poor behind. Then Ada's impoverished secret boyfriend disappears on a boat trip to find better work opportunity and, along with the rest of the workers, never returns – or at least doesn't return as expected. The result is a growingly intense and haunted tale – aided significantly by a terrific score from Fatima Al Qadiri and Diop's subtle but striking and assured eye, evoking a lot with a little – that may have missed out on making the festival's original schedule but shouldn't be found missing on yours.
"Atlantics" screens on Thursday, Oct. 31 at 7:15 p.m. at the Times Cinema
For a documentary about interviews, "Mike Wallace is Here" is surprisingly low on interviews – or at least the kind you might expect.
Instead of resigning to the usual talking heads, dryly reciting history at the audience, Avi Belkin's doc about the famed and feared newsman lets the "60 Minutes" star's archived interviews – both with others and with himself in the hot seat – tell his story, going from a grinning pitchman tried to crack the early days of television to his evolution into one of the most influential (for better or worse) inquisitors in the news media, all while battling his own demons ranging from his son's death and his fight with depression to imposing imposter syndrome.
The result is a propulsive and thrillingly urgent documentary whose focus on Wallace's work puts the spotlight on why these interviews matter – finding the story, the humanity and the connective tissue to other people beyond just the "gotcha" moments – better than any stiff talking head could. Entertaining and informative? Wallace himself would be proud.
"Mike Wallace is Here" screens on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7:45 p.m. at the Rivoli Theatre
3. "In Fabric"
Near the end of an earlier festival screening of "In Fabric," one audience member took a moment to voice her quick thoughts on the movie thus far: a loud, exasperated "WHAT THE F*CK!?" It's maybe my favorite moment of the Milwaukee Film Festival – a moment this bizarre and beautiful horror throwback deserves.
Surreal, sensual and sumptuous, writer-director Peter Strickland's latest follows a lonely single mother (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) whose life goes to hell after she purchases a killer dress – quite literally – from an eerie department store, run by a bunch of very aggressive saleswomen. Also: a washing machine repairman shows up to hypnotize people with boring machinery talk. It's fully strange – and fully unmissable as Strickland's tale of consumer madness and image luxuriates in its gorgeous unpredictable giallo-hued weirdness, all with Jean-Baptiste serving perfectly as a human heartbeat underneath all the fashion madness. It's funny (don't feel bad about laughing; the movie owns its oddness too!) and freaky and smart and sexy – and some lush lunacy very much worthy of a WTF.
"In Fabric" screens on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre
We've talked about a killer dress, so why not a killer accessory to go with it: a bladed umbrella. That's the star of "Shadow," a gorgeous and giddily twisty return to form – at least when it comes to his work in the wuxia genre, the world of ancient Chinese martial arts epics – for famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou.
Fair warning: You will spend at least the first third of "Shadow" very confused. The movie's story is a convoluted web of rival kingdoms, secret twins and four-dimensional chess moves with motivations that Yimou takes his time uncovering. But thankfully, throughout that all, you have Yimou's spellbinding tai chi-inspired visuals to keep you busy, told almost entirely in black, white and sword metal silver. Eventually, he adds some startling splashes of blood red in the final half, as the political gamesmanship blows up into an all-out battle – complete with tense backstabbings and showdowns, more than a few thrilling action sequences and a whole army of bladed umbrellas sliding and slicing their way to war.
Even if, by the end, you still have no idea what's going on, you'll still have been thrilled by the breathtaking action and the even more breathtaking visuals working hand-in-severed-hand with the blood-soaked story to tell a tale not about black or white but about moral murky grey.
"Shadow" screens on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m. at the Jan Serr Studio Cinema
Filmmaker Mads Brügger comes from the Michael Moore school of documentary, telling his investigative stories with an entertaining prankster's edge. But in the case of "Cold Case Hammarskjöld," the joke's on him as he discovers far more than he could've bargained for: While on the half-hearted hunt for the truth behind the 1961 plane crash that killed UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, he stumbles upon a possible mysterious mercenary organization that's hauntingly up to even more nefarious deeds than murdering a United Nations official. Considering the heft of what he finds, the movie's oddball asides and showy framework, while entertaining, don't quite fit, but his compelling detective work and startling discoveries make this easily a rabbit hole worth falling down.
"Cold Case Hammarskjold" screens on Thursday, Oct. 31 at 7:15 p.m. at the Broadway Theatre Center
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.