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Monday, March 18,2013

Clown prince of 'Tides'

Johnny Depp swaggers and staggers again as Captain Jack Sparrow in an OK 'Pirates' spinoff

by James Sanford
Friday, May 20 -- It used to be that supporting characters were the ones who landed spinoffs of hit shows. Remember how Rhoda and Phyllis went from being Mary Tyler Moore’s quirky friends to having showcases of their own? Or when the outspoken Maude and the movin’-on-up Jeffersons made their marks on “All in the Family” and then made it big with self-titled series shortly thereafter? But it’s the ever-unsteady, bobble-headed Captain Jack Sparrow, unarguably the main attraction of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, who has been propelled out of the original trilogy and into — what should we call it?: A postscript? A sequel? A footnote? An afterword? — “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
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Monday, March 18,2013

Happy hour(s) at the Barn

Augusta summer theater returns with rousing revue that celebrates its history and looks into its future

by James Sanford
AUGUSTA — “Holey moley!” veteran Barn Theatre star Eric Parker gasped as he surveyed the crowd for Tuesday evening’s “The Great Big Bar Show.” “We’re here — and they’re here! The Barn Theatre is back, and it’s here to stay!” A year ago, those words might have been less convincing. The Barn, an Equity theater that had been in operation for 64 years, did not launch a 2010 season in the wake of what producer/owner Brendan Ragotzy called a “horrible” year in 2009 that left the theater approximately $200,000 in the hole. But if there were any hard feelings or misgivings among the patrons who crowded into the cozy Rehearsal Shed Lounge for the first night of the “Bar Show,” they weren’t evident: From the opening medley of “As If We’d Never Said Goodbye” (from “Sunset Blvd.,” which the Barn will produce in August) and “Another Openin’, Another Show” (from “Kiss Me, Kate”), the Barn received a rousing welcome back. Number after number was greeted with hearty applause, whistles and cheers.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Big trouble in a small town

Teen filmmakers get a lensful of frightening footage in the retro-creepy 'Super 8'

by James Sanford
Thursday, June 9 — Set in 1979, “Super 8” is a super-deluxe nostalgia trip, courtesy of writer-director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg. Anyone adventurous enough to try to keep track of all the movies, TV shows, commercials and celebrities referenced here had better watch very carefully and keep a running tally; otherwise, you’ll miss a Three Mile Island mention here or a “1941” homage there. But the movie is more than just an avalanche of pop-culture pop-ups — it’s also a very 1979 movie, infused with the high-impact visual effects and post-modern perspective of 2011.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Getting By' the easy way

Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts make a winning couple in a pleasantly mellow comedy-drama

by James Sanford
Moviegoers who need a vacation from superheroes, explosions, sub-standard sequels and 3D headaches can find a bit of solace in “The Art of Getting By,” an easygoing comedy-drama that takes its cues from the relaxed, no-nonsense performances of stars Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts. In a time when the term “romantic comedy” can either mean a strident, obnoxious mess like “Something Borrowed” or a raunchfest like “Bridesmaids,” “Art” goes its own way, providing quiet charm, appealing characters and that sort of 1990s off-the-cuff indie-film attitude that rarely seems to show up these days.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Strange fruit

Terrence Malick's visually stunning 'Tree of Life' is audacious, aggravating, powerful and pretentious

by James Sanford
Alternately powerful and pretentious, “The Tree of Life” is everything you love about Terrence Malick and everything that drives you crazy about Terrence Malick in one distinctively Malickian package. If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, you probably don’t want to read much further because if you’ve never been exposed to the work of this fascinating/frustrating/innovative/infuriating director, “Tree” is not the place to begin.
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Monday, March 18,2013

A date with destiny in the Forbidden Forest

'Deathly Hallows, Part Two' brings the Harry Potter series to a sensational finale

by James Sanford
“Join me in the Forbidden Forest, and confront your fate!” Talk about an offer you can’t refuse. The challenge, of course, comes from the supremely sinister sorcerer Lord Voldemort, who makes one final bid to do away with his archenemy, Harry Potter, in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two,” the suitably sensational finale to a series that has kept much of the world happily spellbound for the past 10 years.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Red, white and black and blue

Stylish and fun, 'Captain America' is a loving tribute to a 1940s superhero

by James Sanford
“I finally got everything I wanted,” announces former ectomorph-turned-extreme-hunk Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). “And I’m wearing tights.” That’s the downside to being “Captain America: The First Avenger,” but it seems like a small price to pay for having the ability to batter those nefarious Nazis into a red, white, black and blue pulp.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Strange 'Change'

How is 'The Change-Up' different from one of those 1980s 'body-switcher' movies? Well, for starters, it's incredibly raunchy

by James Sanford
In the 2010 drama “Every Day,” there’s a scene in which Ned, a TV show writer played by Liev Schreiber, has to pitch story ideas to his crass, ratings-hungry boss, Garrett (Eddie Izzard), who is dead-set on making his show as scandalous and shocking as possible. Ned eagerly throws out one disgusting concept after another, until even the amoral, anything-for-a-laugh Garrett is stunned into silence.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone clean up in 'The Help'

Thought-provoking adaptation of the best seller serves as a showcase for some strong performances

by James Sanford
At first, “The Help,” adapted from Kathryn Stockett's runaway best seller, seems like another trip to the Cinema of Self-Congratulation, in which we’re invited to sit back and feel good about how we’ve moved beyond the prejudices and narrow-minded thinking of an earlier era. In this case, it’s the mindset of 1963 Mississippi, where the Civil Rights movement is on the rise and well-to-do whites are anxiously clinging to the status quo.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Tickets, tickets and more tickets

Wharton Center puts individual tickets on sale Monday for dozens of shows

by James Sanford
Tuesday, Aug. 16 — Are you ready to rock? It's a question commonly heard at concerts, but it's also a question Wharton Center is asking the public. The venue has a full slate of rock, jazz, dance, theater and Broadway musicals, and individual tickets to most events (except "Wicked," which goes on sale at a date to be announced) go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday.
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