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Monday, March 18,2013

McConaughey gets his day in court

'The Lincoln Lawyer' has entertaining twists and tricks, but the characters really make the movie

by James Sanford
Matthew McConaughey originally made the leap to stardom as an idealistic Southern lawyer in the 1996 adaptation of John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill.” Fifteen years later, he’s back in the courtroom, playing a slicker, far less idealistic counselor in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” a highly entertaining tale, based on Michael Connelly’s best seller.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Extremely Loud' is this year's One Book, One Community selection

Jonathan Safran Foer's novel revisits 2001 Manhattan

by James Sanford
Jonathan Safran Foer's “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" has been selected as this year's novel in the One Book, One Community program, sponsored by the City of East Lansing and Michigan State University.
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Monday, March 18,2013

The definition of star power

Elizabeth Taylor was that rare screen legend who used her fame to help others

by James Sanford
When Jennifer Lopez was at her peak in 2002-03, I remember reading a gushy piece from an entertainment columnist who claimed Lopez and Ben Affleck were the modern-day equivalent of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. As Public Enemy once said, don’t believe the hype. Not only were Taylor and Burton more important figures in the 1960s than Lopez and Affleck would be in their day, but the allure of Taylor and Burton was inescapable and irresistible to fans worldwide. Lopez and Affleck co-starred in the box office dud “Jersey Girl” and the infamous “Gigli,” which made them laughingstocks; when Taylor and Burton made bad movies, like “Cleopatra” and “The Sandpiper,” everyone went to see them, and when they made great ones, like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” they became instant classics.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Serving up a deluxe drama

HBO's 'Mildred Pierce' has a world-class performance by Kate Winslet and an unexpected timeliness

by James Sanford
In the minds of most people, "Mildred Pierce" is a high-voltage soap opera from 1945, with Joan Crawford (in the role that earned her her only Academy Award as best actress) as a devoted mother and businesswoman with very sharp eyebrows and very bad luck. But director Todd Haynes' adaptation of "Mildred Pierce" tells a richer, far more complex story; although the five-part HBO miniseries is set in the 1930s, its themes are jarringly, even shockingly, timely.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Attack of the electro-zombie

Britney Spears' mostly feeble 'Femme Fatale' shows what happens when a superstar becomes a special effect in her own blockbuster

by James Sanford
The term "femme fatale" conjures up images of sultry, sinful sirens like Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner and Kathleen Turner, using their chilly charms and hot-blooded allure to turn foolish men into slaves eager to do their bidding. The typical ploy involved pretending to be helpless and desperate while secretly plotting to seduce, abandon and frame the unfortunate guy who tumbled into the trap.Apparently, Britney Spears hasn't spent much time watching the classics of film noir. Her idea of a "Femme Fatale" is a kind of electro-zombie that promises to fulfill every freaky Saturday night fever dream with no strings attached and, if this music is any indication, as little passion as possible. She's the audio equivalent of Magic Fingers: Drop in your quarter, and she'll do her best to shake you up for three or four minutes. But after that, you're on your own.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Stumbling down the bunny trail

A would-be hip Easter Bunny can't put much spring into 'Hop'

by James Sanford
“Hop” brings together two icons the world never thought of as a couple: the Easter Bunny and Courtney Love. Sadly, Courtney doesn’t turn up in her cheeriest Easter bonnet and a springtime-fresh pastel frock, although her 1998 scorcher “Celebrity Skin” makes a prominent appearance on the soundtrack. That’s only one of the peculiar surprises in this oddball holiday comedy, which combines (literally) sugary fantasy with supposedly hip jokes that are neither as up-to-the-minute or as funny as the filmmakers might have hoped.
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Monday, March 18,2013

A real round-trip ticket

Jake Gyllenhaal has to repeatedly relive a disaster in order to solve a mystery in tense 'Source Code'

by James Sanford
What is Source Code? In director Duncan Jones’ “Source Code,” it’s similar to the “reset” button on your game system — well, perhaps an extremely high-tech variation of that idea. It involves “quantum physics, parabolic calculus,” according to Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), the Army captain who tries to explain the project to understandably baffled Afghan war vet Colton Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). But, to boil it down to its basics, the process catapults a subject — in this case, Stevens — into the same situation again and again, in the hopes of solving a mystery and averting a catastrophe.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Making it without 'Mad Men'

Suffering from Don Draper deprivation? These '50s and '60s dramas may help get you through

by James Sanford
You’ve heard the news: “Mad Men” is on hiatus until sometime next year. No more illicit entanglements in the advertising world. No more early-‘60s fashions to ogle. No more flashbacks to the days of Mother’s Little Helpers and Daddy’s After-Work/Pre-Dinner Glass of Scotch.But don’t hang up your fedora or your pillbox hat just yet. You can survive the downtime. There’s plenty of “Mad Men”-style material out there — and much of it comes straight from the time period in which the show is set. To get you started, let me recommend a few films that will give you a little added perspective on the moods and attitudes that shaped the early 1960s.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Wright on target

Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett play an electrifying game of cat-and-mouse in director Joe Wright's stunningly stylish 'Hanna'

by James Sanford
“I just missed your heart,” huntress Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) says to a reindeer she’s hit with one of her arrows. Hanna doesn’t leave her work unfinished, and neither does director Joe Wright’s electrifying “Hanna,” which literally starts and ends with a bang.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Something to 'Scream' about

John Lepard recalls having a hot time on the set of 'Scream 4'

by James Sanford
“Scream 4” is certain to be a hot ticket this weekend — and it was definitely a sultry set as well, according to John Lepard. You’ll see Lepard about 15 minutes into the film. The Williamston Theatre executive director (and director of the theater’s current show “While We Were Bowling”) plays a Woodsboro High School English teacher, identified in the credits as Mr. Baker. One of his students is Jill Roberts (played by the winsome Emma Roberts of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “Nancy Drew” and Nickelodeon’s “Unfabulous”), the cousin of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the pivotal player — and frequent near-victim — in the first three “Scream” movies.
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