2017 Milwaukee Film Festival alum "Big Sonia" is currently showing at The Times Cinema.
2017 Milwaukee Film Festival alum "Big Sonia" is currently showing at The Times Cinema.

Milwaukee Film Festival alum "Big Sonia" is a lovely little gem

Death surrounds 91-year-old Sonia Warshawski.

The tailor shop she’s run for more than three decades – inherited after her husband passed away from Alzheimer’s – is the lone remaining tenant in Metcalf South Shopping Center, a once-teeming mall turned into a "ghost palace." Those ghosts, however, pale in comparison to the ones that follow her from her harrowing experience as a young Polish girl, witnessing most of her family die in the Holocaust while suffering and narrowly holding onto her own life through three Nazi concentration camps.

Yet Warshawski still manages to sees the light and color above the dark clouds, to greet her customers with warmth (and her filmmakers with a breakfast of chocolate bars) and to turn her childhood horrors into hope and education for others as the last living, outspoken survivor of the Holocaust in the Kansas City area. And the documentary "Big Sonia" – an alum of the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival, now screening at The Times Cinema – warmly takes after that bright spirit, paying touching tribute to its haunted but unhindered petite powerhouse of a subject.

In addition to her tailor shop, Warshawski’s other work involves touring the area with her daughter Regina telling her story to others, and her documentary – co-directed by Leah Warshawski, Sonia’s granddaughter – follows in her family’s footsteps. Using interviews with Sonia, animation and her painfully clear-eyed memories, "Big Sonia" recounts her experience as a Polish teen, hiding from the Nazis in an attic before she and her mother were discovered and sent to Majdanek concentration camp.

Her mother would be murdered there (her only other surviving family was her younger sister, who now lives in Israel) while Sonia would be further condemned to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, surviving brutal beatings, bullets and the emotional trauma of the unfathomable.

Despite the rather blandly childish animation aiding her story (they’re prompted by its su…

Read more...
"AlphaGo" pits man against machine.
"AlphaGo" pits man against machine.

The man versus machine board game battle doc "AlphaGo" comes out a winner

In space. In the sky. In past, present and future Los Angeles. In video games – as well as literally inside video games. In beautifully designed modern forest getaways and in R-rated Western LARPs. Ever since the days of silent film, the movies have found new places to take the fight between man and machine – and not to send you into a tinfoil hat-crafting craze of paranoia, so has reality. In the entertaining and engaging new documentary "AlphaGo," director Greg Kohs finds the latest battleground in this epic conflict of human versus robot, this war for the future.

A board game.

Sure, maybe not the fiery robo-pocalypse hellscape you were expecting, but "AlphaGo" still packs plenty of big ideas for the future’s potential – both tantalizing and terrifying.

For years, the technology wizards at Google DeepMind have wanted to great an artificial intelligence program with one goal: to defeat a human being in a game of Go. (Have none of you seen a sci-fi movie? First, the robots dominate Chutes and Ladders – then, the world!)

Go is no simple little contest, however. It’s an ancient game of seemingly black-and-white simplicity but infinite complexity. For a computer to master the thousands upon thousands of potential moves and strategic concepts involved would be a significant step forward for A.I. – not to mention a massive humbling for the human species. And after years of high-tech tinkering and testing, the board game to end all board games finally put its pieces on the table in 2016, pitting the AlphaGo program against international champion Lee Sedol in South Korea.

For the first third of Kohs’s documentary, however, it seems like the story will be about a different earlier match, featuring the computer facing off against Fan Hui, a fellow pro Go player. Hui, with his bright voice and beaming sense of hopeful humor, even makes a perfect human foil for the cold computer algorithms on the other side of the board. However, he gets destroyed pretty qui…

Read more...
Here's the first trailer for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

Take a look at the first footage from "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

It may be Milwaukee Day, but 4/14 marks a pretty massive day for a galaxy far, far away, as well. 

This morning, at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, director Rian Johnson, producer Kathleen Kennedy and stars Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran revealed the first trailer for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." And as you can see above, it looks real good.

The panel – hosted by "Beauty and the Beast" star Josh Gad – also revealed this absolutely gorgeous first poster. I want it on my wall yesterday.

After getting two "Star Wars" in two years, I'll admit the rush of getting a new installment has lost a little of its special luster. That being said, as merely the premiere of a massive blockbuster trailer, one that's guaranteed to be one of the biggest of the year, "The Last Jedi" is looking really good – not a huge surprise considering Johnson is a much better writer and director than Abrams (come at me, fanboys).

There's not a whole lot in terms of plot to go on – judging by the trailer, it's going to be mostly a long Rey training montage – but it does feature Luke Skywalker actually speaking this time ... including a big "The Jedi must end" bombshell near the end. So that seems like a big deal. As for the rest of the story, considering the movie doesn't come out until Dec. 15, we'll have plenty of time to dissect and pore over every frame of this trailer in the hopes of finding out more. 

And judging by how good it looks – such beautiful, grand imagery – that's fine by me. 

Read more...
The premiere date for the next season of "Game of Thrones" was revealed today. Very ... very ... very slowly.
The premiere date for the next season of "Game of Thrones" was revealed today. Very ... very ... very slowly.

Thousands watched ice slowly melt because "Game of Thrones" hates its fans

It's not quite watching paint dry, but it's about as close to it as popular culture should get. 

Starting at 1 p.m. today, thousands upon thousands of people began watching a massive block of ice melt very, very, excruciatingly slowly on Facebook as a part of a big reveal for the new season of "Game of Thrones." Fans were to type either "FIRE" or "DRACARYS " into the comments to shoot flamethrowers at the ice, and by the end, the premiere date for the new season was supposed to reveal itself. Or maybe it would be a message saying "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

Apparently, however, nobody at HBO tested to see how long this would take. As it turns out?

Ice ...

... melts ...

... very ...

... slowly.

In other words, this is the most boring, laborious, self-serious and just overall worst thing HBO has done since "True Detective" season two. 

The process was even slower because of technical issues taking the stream offline for several minutes and splitting the broadcast between two different Facebook Live videos. But while watching ice barely melt may be terribly boring, watching people react on Twitter to people watching ice barely melt is tremendously entertaining.

By the way, in case you had better things to do today than watch ice turn into water while over-dramatic music played, "Game of Thrones" will debut on July 16.

Read more...