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Wednesday, March 13,2013

The plaything's the thing

The wicked wit of Seth MacFarlane turns 'Ted' into a comedy with sharp claws

by James Sanford
“Ted” begins with a lonely young boy’s magical holiday wish for a special friend being granted. “It’s a Christmas miracle!” Mom declares as the child’s teddy bear comes to life. But don’t believe for a moment that “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane — who directed, produced, co-wrote and provided the voice for the title character — has suddenly turned sentimental and sweet-natured. The kid grows up to be John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a 35-year-old Bostonian stoner, and his best buddy, Ted, matures into a tyrant of a toy, a foul-mouthed, drug-craving, hooker-hiring ne’er-do-well; Winnie the Pooh would wince.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

They shoot one-trick ponies, don’t they?

Sacha Baron Cohen wears out his welcome in record time in 'The Dictator'

by James Sanford
Perhaps you are old enough to remember the days when any “Saturday Night Live” sketch that got a few giggles suddenly became worthy of its own big-screen feature. Sure, “Wayne’s World” worked and “The Blues Brothers” long ago achieved cult classic status, but what about Al Franken’s “Stuart Saves His Family,” “Coneheads,” “Blues Brothers 2000,” Tim Meadows’ “The Ladies’ Man,” Molly Shannon’s “Superstar” and the almost unwatchable “It’s Pat: The Movie”? Talk about a lot of wasted money and wasted time.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

From Havana with love

'Chico & Rita' is a stylish, jazzy animated romance

by James Sanford
Wednesday, May 16 — It's not just love at first sight when musician Chico catches a glimpse of sultry songbird Rita in “Chico & Rita”: It's love at first sound, too. In a dingy bar in late-1940s Havana, Rita saunters onto the stage, wearing a form-fitting, butterscotch-yellow dress and a Mona Lisa smile. Seconds after she launches into a scintillating rendition of “Besame Mucho,” Chico's heart goes into orbit.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Endless Summer

More than the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer was a versatile vocalist who challenged her audience

by James Sanford
Thursday, May 17 — I cannot tell you where I was the first time I heard The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” or Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” or Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But I will always remember that day in May of 1979 when I was stuck at home with the flu, bundled up in bed and listening to WGRD-FM. The DJ excitedly announced he had just received the new Donna Summer single and promised something like “you’re gonna love this one!” Then he cued up “Hot Stuff” — and my little bedside radio practically exploded from the shock.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

That sinking feeling

Brainless, offensive 'Battleship' should drive audiences to mutiny

by James Sanford
Ugh, those surplus brain cells! You try drinking them away, bashing your skull against a brick wall, but still your I.Q. remains in the triple digits. Can anything help reduce your mind to mush? Well, take heart: A screening of “Battleship” is practically a cinematic lobotomy.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

It's raining Men in Black

Josh Brolin is a terrific addition to the team in a hit-or-miss sequel

by James Sanford
According to the Internet Movie Database, Will Smith's proposed upcoming projects include "Hancock II," "I, Robot II" and "Bad Boys III." That's two sequels to mediocre, utterly disposable films that were popular for a brief time and one follow-up to an unforgettably wretched movie that was immortalized (and mercilessly parodied) in Nick Frost and Simon Pegg's "Hot Fuzz." Perhaps, having missed out on Oscars for his dramatic work in "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Seven Pounds" (the latter one of Smith's few box office underachievers), Smith has decided to spend the rest of his career at the recycling center.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Spotlight on Rob Roznowski

Michigan State University associate professor of acting receives Distinguished Professor of the Year award

by James Sanford
Wednesday, May 30 — Michigan State University associate professor of acting Rob Roznowski was named Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. The award recognizes an educator at one of Michigan’s 15 public universities who has been nominated by his or her peers for outstanding contributions through classroom work and advising.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Slo-mo 'Snow' show no-go

It's almost laughable to see how seriously Kristen Stewart's 'Snow White and the Huntsman' takes itself

by James Sanford
How many makeovers does one girl need? Snow White, who has already been the subject of a lavish off-the-wall comedy (“Mirror Mirror,” with Julia Roberts and Lily Collins) a few months back, now becomes a sword-swinging, dagger-wielding Joan of Arc in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which attempts to turn the simple story of youth-must-be-served-a-poisoned-apple into “Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Braveheart.’” All that’s missing is the blue face paint — and the excitement, since writer Evan Daughtery’s misguided rewrite of “Snow” moves at an almost glacial pace.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Going back to his roots

Director Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' is an engrossing prequel to the 'Alien' saga

by James Sanford
"In space, no one can hear you scream." That's what the ads for "Alien" promised in the summer of 1979. It's a great tagline that, in most cases, would have been more memorable than the movie it was attached to. But director Ridley Scott's chronicle of the ill-fated voyage of the Nostromo, a spaceship that took a deadly detour on its way back to Earth, proved to be much more than a typical summer chiller: It spawned one of the most enduring franchises in science-fiction history, turning Sigourney Weaver (who had her first major film role in the original "Alien") into a cinematic icon and helping to launch the careers of directors like James Cameron and David Fincher along the way.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Coming soon to a theater near you

Forget the old AMC; Celebration! Cinema plans to reinvent the defunct Meridan Mall theater as Studio C!

by James Sanford
Thursday, June 7 — In Steve VanWagoner’s eyes, the shuttered AMC Meridian 6 Theatres complex could one day be an upscale cinema, with refreshments whipped up by chefs, plush stadium-style seating and possibly even a liquor license. He envisions an enormous difference between the old AMC, almost apologetically tucked away behind the Meridian Mall, and Celebration! Cinema’s latest venture, Studio C!, which VanWagoner hopes will be open before the end of the year.
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