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Monday, March 18,2013

Food for thought

Disturbing? Yes. Violent. Sure. But 'The Hunger Games' is also a smart, stylish crowd-pleaser

by James Sanford
What if they held a Hunger Games pageant and nobody watched? That's the question posed by Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), a young man who stands a strong chance of being recruited for the annual ritual held in the futuristic republic of Panem. His friend, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), laughs at the thought of people tuning out on the Hunger Games because if you're a citizen of Panem, you're expected to be glued to your TV.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Who's the fairly goodest one of all?

Julia Roberts is a very good sport when it comes to being bad in 'Mirror Mirror'

by James Sanford
Friday, March 30 — While there was Happy, Sneezy, Bashful and Dopey, the retinue of dwarfs in Disney’s “Snow White” did not include Snarky. Screenwriters Marc Klein and Jason Keller remedy that in “Mirror Mirror,” an attempt to rewrite Snow’s tale from the perspective of her tormenter, the power-mad queen, played with admirable comic zest by a hammily haughty Julia Roberts. Despite the title, the movie has no relation to Gregory Maguire’s compelling 2003 novel, which also tweaked and twisted the Brothers Grimm story; this “Mirror” seems to reflect the influences of “Shrek,” Drew Barrymore’s “Ever After” and, particularly when Roberts is around, “The Carol Burnett Show.”
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Monday, March 18,2013

Moe Better Blues

Contemporary 'Three Stooges' misses more often than it hits

by James Sanford
When I was a kid, the Three Stooges were taboo; my mother banned them from our house because their brand of eye-poking, head-slapping, stomach-punching horseplay was exactly the sort of roughhousing she dreaded seeing in the living room or the backyard. She also deep-sixed The Monkees as well, perhaps because she didn’t want her children to fall under the spell of Don Kirshner and start a boy-band.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Love is a many splintered thing

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt find humor in heartache in 'The Five-Year Engagement'

by James Sanford
In improvisational comedy workshops, there’s a two-person game called “Get the Donut,” in which one performer plays a hungry customer trying to buy a particular pastry and the other plays a bakery cashier who has to think up obstacles and distractions to prevent the purchase. The same set-up is used in Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel’s screenplay for “The Five-Year Engagement,” an often bittersweet romance about the pain of putting your dreams on hold. How much you enjoy the movie will depend on your tolerance for the escalating-frustration school of comedy, in which nice people with simple plans end up stuck in a labyrinth of unforeseen complications.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Are you ready for 'The Avengers'?

What you should know before you go

by James Sanford
Wednesday, May 2 — Do you want to see “The Avengers”? No, not that ill-fated Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman/Sean Connery sci-fi-spy mess from many summers ago — we’re talking about the Marvel Comics superhero mash-up that’s right up there with “The Dark Knight Rises” and director Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” as one of the year’s most-anticipated movies.
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Monday, March 18,2013

How many superheroes does it take to make a blockbuster?

It's been a long time coming, but 'The Avengers' is a terrific ride

by James Sanford
Midway through “The Avengers,” there’s an argument between feuding brothers Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who have met up on the cliffs above a forest. Power-mad Loki, who is tired of living in Thor’s towering shadow, wants to conquer Earth, while the congenial Thor wants to save the planet. “So you take the world I love as recompense for your imagined slights?” Thor bellows. That’s when Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) intrudes, eager to put Loki out of commission. “You have no idea what you’re dealing with!” Thor warns. Stark looks at the duo, both dressed in their traditional Nordic costumes, and fights off the urge to roll his eyes. “Shakespeare in the Park?” he cracks.
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Monday, March 18,2013

In full bloom

Writer-director Whit Stillman makes a delightful comeback with the witty 'Damsels in Distress'

by James Sanford
If you think you’ve waited a long time for “The Avengers” to hit the screen, imagine how fans of writer-director Whit Stillman must feel about “Damsels in Distress”: Stillman, who became an art-house darling with “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona” and “The Last Days of Disco” in the 1990s, has taken almost 14 years off from filmmaking. Even so, the long hiatus has not tarnished his talent for concocting deliciously witty, eccentric comedies, and “Damsels” shows Stillman returning to the game in high style.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Sucking in the Seventies

Tim Burton's fitfully funny 'Dark Shadows' spoofs and salutes the old horror soap opera

by James Sanford
Long before soap operas discovered the allure of extraterrestrials, evil clones and time travel, there was “Dark Shadows,” a supernatural series that haunted weekday afternoons from 1966 to 1971. While it may have been cheaply put together (if you listen carefully in some episodes, you can hear offstage coughs, sneezes and other noises, which would seem to signal that retakes were rare and that ABC valued speed over slickness when it came to the production), creator Dan Curtis’ saga of the vampire Barnabas Collins and the cursed estate of Collinwood captured the imaginations of housewives and just-home-from-school kids as well.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Shadows' of the '70s

Two 'Dark Shadows'-inspired movies brought Barnabas Collins and Angelique to the screen more than 40 years ago

by James Sanford
Friday, May 11 — Tim Burton isn’t the first director to bring “Dark Shadows” to the big screen. That honor goes to Dan Curtis, who created the TV series and went on to oversee the 1970 feature “House of Dark Shadows” and its 1971 sequel, “Night of Dark Shadows,” both of which opened in theaters while the popular soap opera was still running every weekday on ABC.
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Monday, March 18,2013

MSU alum campaigns via Facebook to save 'Detroit 1-8-7'

ABC crime drama, shot in the Motor City, may not see a second season

by KURT ANTHONY KRUG
The first season of ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7” may be over, but the battle fans are waging to bring back the police drama that is set and filmed in Detroit for a second season rages on.
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