Dave Luhrssen

Film Critic

David Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, co-founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and co-author of A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. He is the winner of the Pace Setter Award for contributions to Milwaukee's film community from the Milwaukee Independent Film Society. David Luhrssen has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College.

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From 1942 to 1945, Hollywood created over 200 movies centered around World War II. Thus creating the genre of World War II films, which continued in its popularity even into the 21st Century.

In a new book, “World War II On Film”, author Dave Luhrssen examines the genre through 12 movies and explains how they painted a picture of the war that often blurred the lines of reality.

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Sophia Coppola has earned her place among Hollywood’s best directors with over two decades of filmmaking. Her unique style was most recently applied to writing and directing the comedy, On The Rocks.

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Screenwriter and filmmaker Charlie Kaufman isn’t afraid to ask the big, confusing questions about life. His previous work, including Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, takes somewhat of a surreal approach to answering questions about our collective humanity.

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues, more films have accepted their fate of digital-only releases.

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Campaign finance, dark money, Super PACs, political campaigning — sounds like a perfect comedy to be set in small town Wisconsin.

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Since going to a movie theater currently isn't an option, and may not be for a long time, most of us are turning to streaming services for entertainment. 

The motion picture distribution system was under stress before the coronavirus pandemic, but as services like Netflix grow worldwide, the future of the traditional film industry and movie theaters post-pandemic is uncertain, to say the least. 

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The 92nd Academy Awards takes place this Sunday, celebrating the best films and performances that the past year has had to offer. This year Joker, directed by Todd Phillips, leads with 11 total nominations.

The international feature film Parasite has become an audience favorite, and it competes for best picture top contenders including Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino and 1917 by Sam Mendes.

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Experiencing wars through film is often one of the few ways that audiences of all ages can connect with the tragedy of conflict. World War II and Vietnam War have had their share of films, but World War I has yet to get quite the same treatment. However, the film 1917 could change that.

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Louisa May Alcott released the first part of her novel Little Women in 1868, with the second volume published in 1869. The story follows the lives of the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their journeys from childhood to adulthood.

The novel — and it’s now eight film adaptations — address themes of domesticity, work, love, and women’s longing for independence and greater meaning during a time where little opportunity was given to them. The novel was an immediate success when it was first published, and the story still captures our attention today.

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Astronauts are members of a select club of people who've experienced life outside of Earth. Films over the decades have tried to capture what it is like to be in space and prepare for these missions. Few have effectively taken a deep, personal dive into the minds of the astronauts themselves.

The new film Lucy in the Sky tells the story of the fictional Lucy Cola (played by Natalie Portman) — one of the first female astronauts to venture into space — and her challenging return to Earth, readjusting to life beneath the stars.

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The musical Fiddler on the Roof is one of the most recognizable stories about the Jewish experience. The story of Tevye, a milkman, and his family and friends, opened on Broadway in 1964 and has seldom been out of production since.

"It went beyond Broadway. It has endured like the great musicals of earlier in the 20th century like Oklahoma and so on,"  notes film contributor Dave Luhrssen. "It's up there with them as something that's left a very lasting and ongoing impression on people."

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The zombie movie phenomenon and obsession has been part of film culture as early as 1932. But it was George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead that set the stage for our culture’s hunger for more.

The latest film in the zombie canon is from writer and director Jim Jarmusch — The Dead Don’t Die. Taking place in the small town of Centerville, odd things start to happen. Watches stop. The sun doesn't rise or set at the right time. And, most notably, zombies walk the streets.

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Rarely are there Hollywood-made films that focus on the so-called “mature” character — especially centering a plot on a female one. But the new film Gloria Bell not only does that, but succeeds in showing the challenges many people will face in their older adult lives, such as the complications of dating, identity and family.

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On Feb. 24, film lovers of all sorts will gather around their televisions to cringe, cry, laugh and cheer during the 91st Academy Awards. For the first time since 1989, the show will be hostless. However, this doesn't mean it won't be entertaining, as the show has already been the center of controversy after officially announcing the nominees. From Black Panther to BlacKKKlansman, to A Star is Born and Green Book, there is much to be said regarding the diverse films up for the golden statuette.

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There were hundreds of films released in 2018. But with awards season in full swing, it can be hard to remember any of the films that aren’t being talked about in terms of the Oscars. Thankfully, we have film contributors to remind us of some of the highlights from the past year — award-winning or not.

Ryan Jay, nationally syndicated radio host and TMJ4 resident reviewer, and David Luhrssen, of the Shepherd Express, share their top film picks, filmmaking trends, and the increasing competition between television and film:

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Queen Anne reigned over England, Scotland and Ireland for 12 years. But not a great deal of attention, historical or otherwise, has been paid to her. Plagued by ill health throughout most of her life, Queen Anne had few significant matters of state accomplished during her time in power. Plus, what little that was written about her was not very flattering or objective.

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The show "This is Us" has captured television audiences in vast numbers. Now in its third season, the show boosted producer Dan Fogelman to the big screen: Amazon Studios' film “Life Itself.”

Starring A-list actors (such as Antonio Banderas, Olivia Wilde and Annette Benning) the film follows a young couple’s journey and the twists of their life that impact generations and strangers from afar.

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Since releasing She's Gotta Have It in 1986, director Spike Lee has been a formidable name in the film landscape. His films challenge the status quo and highlight problems in America, and in black America, all while gripping audiences with heightened reality and strong casting to deliver his directorial voice.

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If you grew up watching public television, the sound of a piano's ascending chords and the ding of a trolley bell may take you back to the land of "Make Believe" and into the television home of Fred Rogers. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood began in 1968 and continuously aired first-run shows for more than 30 years.

You wouldn’t expect that a program with a soft-spoken and gentle man in a zip up cardigan playing with puppets would have touched so many people, but generations came to know Mr. Rogers as an essential part of their lives, early education, and childhood.

Photo by Jonathan Olley/Jonathan Olley /Lucasfilm Ltd. / 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.2018 - Lucasfilm Ltd.

Movie fans and film critics alike are perhaps feeling a little anxious for Solo: A Star Wars Story to be released on the big screen. During its rocky production, Solo saw a change of directors from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to veteran filmmaker Ron Howard (which came with months of re-shoots).

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With a title like Disobedience, you might expect a film full of intense conflict. And while there is certainly conflict, it's much more internal -  at times quietly reflected through the lives of the main characters.

 

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the 19th installment in the Marvel universe is on screens around the world.  Avengers: Infinity War recently became the fastest movie to earn one billion dollars.

It is jampacked with everyone’s favorite superheroes -  Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther...  But do those epic proportions work to the advantage or the detriment of the story at the heart of the film? 

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Many science fiction movies qualify as visual spectacles, but there are only a select few that bring up the essential question of what it means to be human.

Alex Garland has been a novelist since the 1980s and emerged to mainstream audiences as a formidable science fiction screenwriter and director with Ex Machina four years ago.

Both that film and his latest, Annihilation, leave audiences pondering far after the credits roll.

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This weekend marks the 90th Academy Awards – or what Lake Effect’s Audrey Nowakowski and Milwaukee film critics Ryan Jay and Dave Luhrssen call the Super Bowl of film!

Come Sunday evening, the Motion Picture Academy will announce their verdicts for best film, best actor, best actress, and best director of 2017. Among the top films up for awards are The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, and Lady Bird – a testament to how broad the genres and film topics are this year.

Who do you think will win best picture?

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A few years ago, the film The Post may have been simply another historical drama by director Steven Spielberg. However, today’s political climate has eerie parallels with the time surrounding the “Pentagon Papers” in the early 1970s. In fact, Spielberg thought making this movie was so important, he wrapped production in nine months.

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From Rebel Without a Cause, to The Breakfast Club, to 10 Things I Hate About You, coming-of-age movies have been around for almost as long as the film industry.

Warner Bros. Pictures

When Ridely Scott's Blade Runner hit theaters in 1982, its shocking, dystopian future world alienated audiences. It didn't do well at the box office and only years later did it become a cult favorite.

35 years later, Blade Runner 2049 expands the Los Angeles of the original as well as upon the basic question of the original film: what does it mean to be human?

Photograph by A24 / Everett

There are hundreds of heist films in cinematic history. From How to Steal A Million, to Reservoir Dogs, The Italian Job, and the aptly named film Heist.

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Over five days during the summer of 1967, rioting and civil unrest tore apart the city of Detroit, Michigan. The riots left 43 people dead, thousands injured, and more than 2,000 businesses burned or looted.

Detroit, a new film by Kathryn Bigelow, tells the story of the unrest, but in particular the events that transpired at the Algiers Motel. That’s where three young African American men were murdered by police and nine other people, seven black men and two white women, endured brutal beatings.

Sophia Coppola's latest film, "The Beguiled," is set at a Confederate girls school in Virginia, where a group of sheltered young women take in a union soldier during the Civil War. The film is a remake of a 1971 film of the same name starring Clint Eastwood and both are adaptations of the 1966 book "Painted Devil," by Thomas P. Cullinan. 

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