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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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Monday, March 18,2013

Capital City Film Festival: 'Chasing Che' and 'Answer This!'

Features screen Sunday at Washington Street Armory

by James Sanford
What do you do after one of your relatives ruins your business and steals all your money? Many of us would seek revenge or wallow in self-pity, but Iranian Alireza Rofougaran chose another path: He decided to learn as much as he could about the life of Che Guevara.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Stunning 'Last Train Home' goes straight to the heart

East Lansing Film Society documentary examines Chinese family life — and emotional alienation

by James Sanford
We've all had to cope with the trials of holiday traffic, but few of us have ever faced the kinds of challenges encountered by the Chinese family at the center of the stunning documentary "Last Train Home"; they're battling 130 million other travelers who are trying to get somewhere during the pre-Chinese New Year rush.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Mighty -- and flighty

'Thor' soars, thanks to a smart screenplay, a great cast and director Kenneth Branagh's balancing of humor and heroism

by James Sanford
Bringing a superhero to the big screen is not unlike staging a Shakespeare play: You want to be faithful to the source material, of course, but there's also a temptation to do something a little different with the story, to find unusual angles on the characters and to make it accessible to viewers who aren't familiar with the original work.
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Monday, March 18,2013

It's a nice day for a Wiig wedding

The 'Saturday Night Live' star catches the bouquet as a memorably messed-up maid of honor in 'Bridesmaids'

by James Sanford
The royal wedding has come and gone. Now it’s time for a coronation and, in “Bridesmaids,” Kristen Wiig demonstrates she’s more than qualified to be the new queen of comedy.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Chicago' crackles intermittently — but where's the fire?

Latest version of the Kander/Ebb/Fosse classic has more polish than pizzazz

by James Sanford
Some shows are like wines: They need to be opened at just the right time. When "Chicago" debuted on Broadway in 1975, even the star power of Gwen Verdon and co-author and choreographer Bob Fosse could only do so much to sell a project that was completely out of tune with America's attitude. In the wake of Watergate and the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon, audiences were resistant to the John Kander/Fred Ebb musical that celebrates the glory of doing the crime without doing the time, of bamboozling the public into believing ridiculous, manufactured melodrama instead of looking for the truth.
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