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Monday, March 18,2013

Rrrrrrr! Grrrrrr!

Head out to see Nicolas Cage's 'Drive Angry' and you're on the road to ruin

by James Sanford
Nicolas Cage’s slow career suicide continues with “Drive Angry,” in which he revisits his less-than-classic “Ghost Rider,” reflects back on the glory days of “Gone in 60 Seconds” and puts one more coat of tarnish on that best actor Oscar he won for “Leaving Las Vegas” 15 long years ago.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Swan queens and stuttering kings

Tonight's Academy Awards are almost certain to include a couple of surprises

by James Sanford
If the buzz is to be believed, Natalie Portman's unstable Swan Queen and Colin Firth's stuttering King George VI will be crowned Oscar winners at tonight's Academy Awards. But there may well be some surprises and upsets in other categories, including a tough race among the best supporting actress contenders and, amazingly, a fierce battle for best picture as well.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Rapids'-fire humor

Ed Helms, Anne Heche and John C. Reilly excel in a bright, brisk comedy

by James Sanford
A small-town guy has a big-city adventure — well, it’s a bigger city than the one he’s from, anyway — in “Cedar Rapids,” a brisk, lively and often hilarious yarn with a bit of a bite to it. That shouldn’t be too surprising, considering it was directed by Miguel Arteta, a filmmaker who delights in taking seemingly conventional set-ups in unexpected directions.
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Monday, March 18,2013

It's a wonderful (carefully regulated) life

Clever 'Adjustment Bureau' is sparked by superb teaming of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt

by James Sanford
You have to give writer-director George Nolfi credit for being bold: He’s used a Philip K. Dick short story as the springboard for a movie with the soul of a 1940s romantic fantasy and the trappings of a 1970s paranoia picture. A peculiar combination, but “The Adjustment Bureau” plays out much more smoothly than it should, considering it’s something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing — a thoughtful, almost whimsical caper in which menace and danger linger in the background and lurk around on the sidelines without ever really taking center stage.
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Monday, March 18,2013

You are soooo Eddie Money, baby

'Take Me Home Tonight' tries to mine laughs from '80s kookiness. Its grand total: less than zero

by James Sanford
To listen to some of the recent tributes to Ronald Reagan, you might be led to believe that the 1980s were a shimmering gilded age, in which it regularly rained gold coins, love and happiness reigned supreme, and everyone was wealthy, healthy and carrying on like the Carringtons from “Dynasty.” A similarly fatuous view of the decade can be found in “Take Me Home Tonight,” an excruciating, would-be wacky comedy that knows almost nothing about the time in which it’s supposedly set. It’s as if Jeff Filgo and Jackie Filgo cooked up this putrid screenplay after flipping through a few back issues of Details and fast-forwarding through a random assortment of John Hughes movies. Call it “Some Kind of Horrible.”
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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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