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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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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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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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Monday, March 18,2013

New worlds to conquer

Moody 'Another Earth' combines stark drama with elements of science-fiction

by James Sanford
Friday, Aug. 19 —The discovery of another planet identical to our own is the starting point for director Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth,” a moody drama that’s not so much science-fiction as it is an in-depth character study. Instead of concentrating on what’s out there in the cosmos, the screenplay by Cahill and star Brit Marling points its telescope instead at the human heart.
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Monday, March 18,2013

The shape of TV to come

WKAR's Fall Preview celebrated the past and looked into the future

by James Sanford
Thursday, Aug. 25 — TV from around the world — and foods from around the country — were served up at WKAR’s Fall Preview 2011 Wednesday evening.
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Monday, March 18,2013

It's all set

The new WLNS news set is unveiled tonight; expect to see some familiar sights

by James Sanford
Friday, Aug. 26 — Although the new WLNS news set makes its debut during tonight's 5 p.m. newscast, chances are excellent you've already seen some of its elements. The amber and blue backdrops of the main desk and the smaller "explainer" desk include images of such Lansing landmarks...
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Monday, March 18,2013

Toronto Madness!

by James Sanford
Wednesday, Sept. 14 — "I've got insanity in my entrails," laments a deeply disturbed mother in director Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In," one of the many high-profile films being rolled out during this week's Toronto International Film Festival.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Feel like getting 'Footloose'?

Limited numer of passes available for a sneak preview Thursday night

by James Sanford
Wednesday, Sept. 21 — If you'd like to be one of the first to see the new version of "Footloose" and you're free on Thursday night — you're in luck.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Diamonds are a boy's best friend

Brad Pitt leads a winning team in the engaging 'Moneyball'

by James Sanford
You’re the general manager of a baseball team. Three of your most notable players are leaving at the end of the season and you’ve got to find replacements. Unfortunately, you don’t have a bottomless well of money to pay out to potential superstars. What’s your strategy?
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Monday, March 18,2013

The best medicine

Beautifully balanced '50/50' reveals the lighter side of a life-threatening crisis

by James Sanford
In “50/50,” Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has to break some very bad news to his mother (Anjelica Huston) midway through dinner. There’s no easy way to start the discussion, but Adam has a strategy.“Have you ever seen ‘Terms of Endearment’?” he asks.Yes, the 27-year-old Adam has cancer, a malignant, rapidly growing tumor on his spine that, his physician has told him — with barely suppressed excitement — is the result of “an incredibly rare gene mutation.” Although Adam has about a 50/50 chance of survival, his doctor has a near-100 percent chance of getting a terrific paper out of the case.
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Monday, March 18,2013

It's party time

George Clooney directs and co-stars in entertaining 'Ides of March,' but he gives the central role to Ryan Gosling

by James Sanford
This is a great year to be Ryan Gosling.The Canadian-born actor has had a rather phenomenal run of late, starting with the national release of "Blue Valentine" earlier this year, in which he and Michelle Williams gave bruisingly real performances as a seemingly doomed couple. A few months later, Gosling was wowing audiences with his knack for light comedy, playing a pick-up artist who turns out to have a heart in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Gosling switched gears again weeks later to play the cryptic wheelman in the hypnotic thriller "Drive."
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Monday, March 18,2013

Almost paradise?

It's debatable whether or not we needed a new version of 'Footloose,' but director Craig Brewer's remake is energetic fun

by James Sanford
To the generation that grew up in the early days of MTV — a.k.a. back when the channel was still showing music videos instead of chronicling the travails of teen moms or celebrating the debauchery of the “Jersey Shore” gang — the idea of remaking “Footloose” ranks right up there with letting Rebecca Black do a cover version of “Bette Davis Eyes.” Some 1980s icons are not to be tampered with.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Crazy talk

Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin discuss long-distance love

by James Sanford
Friday, Dec. 16 — When it came to understanding the dynamics of long-distance love, “Like Crazy” stars Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin were already experts before the cameras rolled. “I’m an actor, so I’m always in a long-distance relationship,” Jones explained in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “So I definitely empathized with how it feels to be away from home and in transit.”
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Monday, March 18,2013

We're only in it for the money

'Where Soldiers Come From' takes a tough look at the realities of combat

by James Sanford
Friday, Nov. 4 -- Remember the days when young men enlisted in the military because they wanted to fight to preserve the American way of life, or defeat a foreign threat or simply see the world? Bodi, Dom and Cole, the trio of young men from Michigan's Upper Peninsula who are the central figures in "Where Soldiers Come From," didn't join the National Guard for any of those reasons. They did it for the money and, as two of them note, a feeling of "I might as well do something with my life."
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Monday, March 18,2013

City Pulse makes 'The Colbert Report'

Bullying article gets Comedy Central spotlight

by James Sanford
Thursday, Nov. 10 — Yes, that really was a City Pulse clip on last night's "The Colbert Report" episode on Comedy Central: The "Brushfire over bullying" story was shown in Stephen Colbert's introduction to a segment on the controversy over Michigan's anti-bullying legislation and Republican lawmakers' attempts to modify the language in the bill. The article in the current edition was used as a jumping-off point for its look at the measure that passed the state Senate last week with a provision that protected “statements of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”
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Monday, March 18,2013

To fetch a pail of (toilet) water

Adam Sandler tackles a dual role in the painfully puerile 'Jack and Jill'

by James Sanford
In the secret language shared by twins Jack and Jill Sadelstein, the phrase “polly wolly zoom golly golly” means “I want to choke on my own vomit.” And that’s precisely what Adam Sandler proceeds to do for 91 soul-crushing, stomach-churning, laugh-free minutes in “Jack and Jill,” yet another movie that was made primarily because the star needed a vacation (for no apparent reason, most of the last third of the film is essentially a commercial for Royal Caribbean International cruises). Sandler gives his audience a trip, too — a first-class ticket straight to Hollywood Hell.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Breaking down

Overwrought, unintentionally hilarious 'Breaking Dawn, Part One' kills off the 'Twilight' franchise

by James Sanford
Stephenie Meyer, the queen of supernatural teen romance, was faced with a rebellion in her kingdom when “Breaking Dawn,” the final installment of her phenomenally successful “Twilight” series, was published in 2008. Many readers were dissatisfied with the wrap-up of the love triangle between mortal Bella Swan, vampire Edward Cullen and werewolf Jacob Black, and they took their complaints to Facebook, Twitter and fan sites.Three years later, the griping can begin anew with “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part One,” which quickly vanquishes whatever good will might have been built up by the earlier films in the series. Sour, clunky and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, the cinematic “Dawn” drives a splintery stake straight through the heart of the franchise.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Flint Food Fighters' premieres at MSU

Documentary profiles five people involved in the urban farming movement

by James Sanford
Thursday, Nov. 17 — The documentary "The Kings of Flint" screened last Sunday as part of the East Lansing Film Festival — but it's already got a sequel. Michigan State University faculty members Geri Alumit Zeldes and Troy Hale host the premiere of “Flint Food Fighters” at 10 a.m. Friday in room 145 of the Communication Arts and Sciences Building on the MSU campus.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Running away from herself

A magnetic Elizabeth Olsen shows all her colors in 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'

by James Sanford
There are some women whose secrets shine in their eyes. Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is one of them. She seems to radiate uncertainty, dread and vulnerability. She’s on the run, both from a backwoods cult and, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” writer-director Sean Durkin convinces us, from herself.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Lame actually

Witless 'New Year's Eve' is nothing to celebrate

by James Sanford
If your holiday wish is for one more cruise aboard “The Love Boat,” director Garry Marshall may be your cinematic Santa: Although Captain Stubing and cruise director Julie McCoy may have missed the boat, “New Year’s Eve” managed to shanghai plenty of big (and not-so-big) names into appearing in a witless, thoroughly synthetic sitcom, albeit one you have to pay good money to watch.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Crazy' and thoughtful

Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin were made to be together — or were they? — in 'Like Crazy'

by James Sanford
You don’t have to have endured a long-distance relationship to appreciate “Like Crazy,” but if you have, you’ll have no trouble identifying with the yearning, the worrying and the loneliness that consume Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones), a couple separated — in a bitterly ironic twist of fate — by their desire to stay together.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Come spy with me

Tom Cruise hits a new high in the fourth — and best — 'Mission: Impossible' adventure

by James Sanford
Thursday, Dec. 15 — Apparently, nobody ever considered offering Tom Cruise the role of James Bond, which may be why the star launched the “Mission: Impossible” line. Based on a TV show that was more memorable for its urgent theme song and its tagline (“This message will self-destruct in five seconds”) than its content, the “Mission” movies have always seemed like afterthoughts in Cruise’s career: They are what he makes when he needs a sure-fire international success to reinforce his box office bankability — or when he wants to collect a major-league check for playing with cutting-edge gadgets, driving dreamy cars and strolling through exotic locales.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Tattoo' two

Rooney Mara is on fire in David Fincher's chilly adaptation of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

by James Sanford
Tuesday, Dec. 20 — Let’s start with the question everyone wants to ask: How does Rooney Mara compare to Noomi Rapace, the actress who became an international sensation in the trilogy of Swedish thrillers adapted from Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster novels?
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Monday, March 18,2013

The age of espionage

Tricky 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' revives a Cold War classic

by James Sanford
If you were mystified by “Memento” and driven to distraction by the mind games of “Inception,” just wait until you try to sort out “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” director Tomas Alfredson’s devilishly perplexing adaptation of John Le Carré’s Cold War classic. It’s a movie that ought to come with its own flow charts. And perhaps a few prerequisite classes. And heck, why not a Secret Decoder Ring as well?
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Monday, March 18,2013

Shake-up ahead in morning news?

Changes may be coming at WILX

by James Sanford
Wednesday, Dec. 21 —' Is David Andrews soon to become a morning man?Reports are circulating that the longtime WILX anchor, who handles the 5 and 6 p.m. news shows, will be moving to mornings in mid-January (the NBC affiliate begins its news coverage at 5 a.m.), with Ja...
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Monday, March 18,2013

Sawyer's Pancake House announces closing date

The Lansing restaurant will shut down Jan. 1

by James Sanford
Wednesday, Dec. 28 — A Lansing restaurant that specializes in using locally purchased organic ingredients in its dishes is shutting its doors at year’s end. Sawyer’s Pancake House has announced it will be closing as of Jan. 1.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Vive la diff'rence

American Crepes brings a French favorite to East Lansing

by James Sanford
Thursday, Jan. 5 — Crepes are a staple of French cuisine. But do they have a place in East Lansing? Mais oui, says Theresa Rice, owner of American Crepes, which opened Dec. 18 in the Trowbridge Plaza.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Top' taping

NPR classical music showcase records at Western Michigan University Sunday

by James Sanford
Wednesday, Jan. 11 — Classical music fans looking for a day trip this weekend might want to consider heading to Kalamazoo for a taping of National Public Radio’s “From the Top.” The program, hosted by renowned pianist Christopher O’Riley, will be recording an episode at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Dalton Center Recital Hall at Western Michigan University.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Give it a great big KISS

Mac's Bar sends you back to the 1970s with a showing of the wonderfully cheesy 'KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park'

by James Sanford
Wednesday, Jan. 11 — Let’s be honest: Some movies are easier to watch if you have a few drinks close at hand. And one excellent case-in-point would be “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park,” the 1978 camp classic that screens tonight at Mac’s Bar.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Serving up gospel with a side of glitz

Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah duel and duet in the proudly hokey 'Joyful Noise'

by James Sanford
"Joyful Noise" is set in one of those homey Georgia hamlets in which everyone over 35 is a country-fried Confucius, eagerly (and aggressively) dispensing the sort of wisdom that ought to come with a side of sausage gravy and a plate of waffles.
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Monday, March 18,2013

When people stop being polite

Words wound as Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz tear into each other in the savagely funny 'Carnage'

by James Sanford
The clafoutis has turned into cobbler, the rum has been traded out for scotch, a couple of names have been changed (to protect the guilty?) and the action sometimes leaves the living room, but otherwise director Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” is a faithful and often ferociously funny adaptation of Yasmina Raza‘s “God of Carnage,” the spiky black comedy that enjoyed highly successful runs on Broadway and in London’s West End.
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Monday, March 18,2013

In the wee small hours of the morning

WILX's David Andrews prepares for a schedule shift on Monday

by James Sanford
Getting up early in the morning is nothing new for WILX news anchor David Andrews. He’s been married to WFMK-FM morning-show DJ Monica Harris for 24 years, and she’s been starting work before sunrise the entire time they’ve been together. Beginning Monday, the couple will be working similar hours, as Andrews takes over WILX’s expanded morning news show, which starts at 4:30 a.m. every weekday.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Urban fairy tale fail

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' is a well-made, but ultimately unconvincing would-be tearjerker

by James Sanford
Stephen Daldry has something to brag about. Every one of the British-born director’s features to date — “Billy Elliot,” “The Hours” and “The Reader” — has received an Academy Award nomination as best picture. But all good things must come to an end, and as of Tuesday (when the next batch of Oscar contenders is announced) Daldry’s streak will almost certainly be broken: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” based on the Jonathan Safran Foer novel that some people adored and many people abhorred, is unlikely to wow the voters.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Silence is golden

'The Artist': Get ready to cheer for a silent movie

by James Sanford
“I won’t talk! I won’t say a word!” vows actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) in a climactic scene in “A Russian Affair,” one of several movies-within-a-movie in director Michael Hazanavicius' “The Artist.” For George, keeping that promise will be tricky; for Hazanavicius, working without many spoken words results in a quietly spectacular film.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Acclaim and shame

The Academy Award nominations include some solid choices and some mystifying slights

by James Sanford
Tuesday, Jan. 24 — There has never been — and will never be — a flawless crop of Academy Award nominations. But this year's roster, which was announced Tuesday morning, has more than its share of astonishing omissions.
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Monday, March 18,2013

A star vehicle gets hijacked

Glenn Close's subtle work is upstaged by the bolder Mia Wasikowska and Janet McTeer in 'Albert Nobbs'

by James Sanford
Over the years, we’ve seen many characters cross-dress in the movies for various reasons. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis pretended to be female musicians to escape gangsters in “Some Like It Hot.” Dustin Hoffman went dowdy to become a soap opera diva in “Tootsie.” Barbra Streisand concealed her femininity to become a Talmud scholar in “Yentl,” while Julie Andrews disguised herself as an upscale drag queen in “Victor/Victoria.” And let’s not forget Jaye Davidson playing “The Crying Game.”
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Monday, March 18,2013

Get your 'Money' back

Katherine Heigl takes a shot at playing Stephanie Plum in a movie that's dead on arrival

by James Sanford
In 1991, Kathleen Turner attempted to turn Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski thrillers into a franchise; unfortunately, the dream died the minute the dismal debut, “V.I. Warshawski,” began to unspool for audiences. A similarly sorry fate awaits Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, the bounty hunter who has strutted through 17 novels, but probably won’t make it to her second movie, once fans snooze through the slapdash “One for the Money.”
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Monday, March 18,2013

A return trip to 'Paris'

East Lansing Film Society screens Oscar-nominated comedy from Woody Allen

by James Sanford
Monday, Jan. 30 —The East Lansing Film Society screens writer-director Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" this week. The comic fantasy is nominated for three Academy Awards, including best picture and best director.
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Monday, March 18,2013

The spirit is willing — to do some killing

Daniel Radcliffe's 'Woman in Black' conjures up some old-fashioned chills

by James Sanford
One of the biggest shocks in “The Woman in Black” arrives in the first minutes, when you realize that Daniel Radcliffe, who seemed to be a child himself not so very long ago, is now playing the father of a 4-year-old. Granted, “Woman” is set in the Victorian era, when it was commonplace for teens to marry and start families, but even so the sight of a cherubic little boy calling Radcliffe “Daddy” is a bit jarring.
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Monday, March 18,2013

From bullied geek to supernatural freak

'Chronicle' isn't your standard superhero movie, but it isn't very good, either

by James Sanford
When Madonna hired a documentary crew to follow her around for her 1991 film “Truth or Dare,” many observers thought she’d scaled new heights of narcissism (even her then-boyfriend Warren Beatty brayed, “She doesn’t want to live off-camera!”). As it turned out, the high priestess of pop had once again seen the future: Twenty years later, anyone with a camera, a Facebook page or a Twitter account can be the star of his or her own show — he or she may also be the only truly interested member of the audience as well.
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Monday, March 18,2013

The layered look

Pedro Almodovar dresses up a twisted tale in stunning style in 'The Skin I Live In'

by James Sanford
Thursday, Feb. 23 — Before he was an international sex symbol, Antonio Banderas was a familiar face to fans of the films of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. More than 20 years since their last collaboration (“Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”), but they are reunited in “The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito),” an elegantly twisted science-fiction/psychological thriller/romance that’s utterly bizarre and stunningly stylish, even by Almodovar’s standards.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Fit to be tie-dyed

Zany 'Wanderlust' finds Manhattanites Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston communing with hippies

by James Sanford
George and Linda Gergenblatt (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) leave behind their Manhattan studio apartment — sorry: “microloft” — for a Georgia commune — oops: “intentional community” — in director David Wain’s “Wanderlust,” a fish-out-of-water comedy that manages to be both raunchy and surprisingly sweet-natured. And no, it's not always so genteel in its language.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Warm up for 'Moulin Rouge — The Ballet' with 'Moulin Rouge' the movie

The Nicole Kidman/Ewan McGregor musical returns to Celebration Cinema this weekend

by James Sanford
Wednesday, March 7 — Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents "Moulin Rouge — The Ballet" next Wednesday at the Wharton Center. You can get in the "Moulin" mood with the 2001 Nicole Kidman/Ewan McGregor movie, which screens this weekend at Celebration Cinema Lansing.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Flash Gordon' without the flash

Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'John Carter' series turns 100 this year; 'John Carter' the movie only seems to go on for 100 years

by James Sanford
Rip Van Winkle’s got nothing on John Carter, a Civil War vet who falls asleep in an Arizona cave in 1868 and awakens in an arid wasteland in which he finds himself able to jump half a mile into the sky and bound effortlessly across the plains. “Where on earth am I?” Carter wonders. It’s called Mars — or, as the natives say, Barsoom.
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Monday, March 18,2013

Let your 'Guard' down and laugh

Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle are a mismatched pair of cops in a politically incorrect comedy set in Ireland

by James Sanford
Tuesday, March 13 — Mismatched cop comedies are certainly nothing new, but leave it to writer-director John Michael McDonagh to put a bit of Irish spring into an all-too-familiar concept.
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Monday, March 18,2013

'Home'-spun humor

Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Susan Sarandon bring comic conviction to 'Jeff'

by James Sanford
“What do you do in the basement?” asks Jeff’s puzzled mom, Sharon (Susan Sarandon). “You’re not cleaning it.” “Do you really want to know?” Jeff (Jason Segel) answers. “You didn’t like the last time we had this conversation.” That’s not so surprising since the 30-year-old Jeff is a pothead, an M. Night Shyamalan fan and one of those “failure to launch” cases that never got his act together and took it on the road. Consequently, he remains “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”
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Monday, March 18,2013

Fast times at Rerun High

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill 'Jump' into action in a hilarious take-off

by James Sanford
What the world probably doesn’t need right now is one more big-screen adaptation of an all-but-forgotten TV series. Another buddy-cop flick? Yeah, we could get along just fine without that, too. But “21 Jump Street” qualifies as a happy surprise, a bad idea that turns out to be an often uproariously funny movie.
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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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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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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Oh, the movie never ends — it goes on and on and on and on

If you think 'Rock of Ages' is going to rock the house, you can stop believin'

by James Sanford
“Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to rock?” Perhaps predictably, these are the first words we hear in “Rock of Ages.” Surprisingly, the movie’s answer turns out to be a meek “ummm, maybe.”
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Bat-fans gather for 'Dark Knight Rises' tour

Bat-Pod and Tumbler vehicles bring big crowds to Delta Township event

by James Sanford
Friday, June 15 — Two of the most celebrated vehicles in movies — the Bat-Pod and Tumbler — arrived in Lansing Friday as part of a promotional tour for “The Dark Knight Rises,” director Christopher Nolan’s final “Batman” film; the movie opens July 20. Hundreds of fans gathered at the Delta Township WalMart Supercenter between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to take pictures and scoop up posters, temporary tattoos, free samples of Mountain Dew’s Batman-inspired flavor and T-shirts. But Deric Underhill made a slightly longer trip than most: He drove in from Erie, Penn.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Swept away — and there's hell to pay

Rachel Weisz navigates 'The Deep Blue Sea' of doomed love

by James Sanford
Tuesday, June 19 — "Beware of passion, Hester — it always leads to something ugly." The warning comes from Lady Hester Collyer's mother-in-law, a woman who nearly faints when Hester doesn’t pour the tea in the proper manner (“Oooh, you’ve put the milk in first!”). So it’s perhaps understandable that Hester (Rachel Weisz) would chose to ignore the cautionary comments of the snippy harpy (exceptionally well drawn by Barbara Jefford).
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Dare to be cuddly

In spite of the heat, Lansing Community College cast reminds us of why 'Charlie Brown' will always be cool

by James Sanford
Thursday, June 21 -- In the same week that Lansing made national headlines with an impromptu performance of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" comes a show that represents the exact opposite of the theatrical spectrum: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," in which the biggest shock comes from a flash of self-awareness on the part of the moody Lucy, who gasps, "I've done nothing but spread crabbiness everywhere I go -- I'm a super-crab!"
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

She shoots, she scores

Pixar's exciting, atmospheric 'Brave' salutes mothers and daughters

by James Sanford
In the past 17 years, Pixar has given us wonderful stories about fathers and sons (“Finding Nemo”) and the power of the family unit (“The Incredibles”), not to mention the “Toy Story” trilogy, made up of three outstanding “buddy” comedies. Finally, the bond between mothers and daughters gets its due in “Brave,” a beguiling, often exciting fable that unfolds in pastoral ancient Scotland.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

What a wonderful 'World'

MSU Summer Circle offers a jewel of a Jules Verne adaptation with the delightful 'Around the World in 80 Days'

by James Sanford
Friday, June 22 -- Director Michael Anderson's 1956 film of "Around the World in 80 Days" runs more than three hours and has a cast of hundreds (aside from leads David Niven, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton and Cantinflas, there are dozens of cameos from people like Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud, Charles Boyer, Cesar Romero and Noel Coward). Director Rob Roznowski's Michigan State University Summer Circle Theatre production of "Around the World in 80 Days" runs less than two hours and has a cast of five, plus a hard-working, top-hatted sound engineer. But if you suspect a scaled-down presentation means the Jules Verne classic gets short-changed, you'd better think twice: Roznowski and his team thoroughly rock this "World," making this fast-paced, high-energy adventure a complete delight.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Going for the 'Golden'

John Peakes makes his debut at Purple Rose in a role he played at BoarsHead 20 years ago

by James Sanford
Friday, June 22 — Please don't ask John Peakes about Henry Fonda and the fondly remembered 1981 film of “On Golden Pond.” Ernest Thompson‘s play, which begins previews Thursday at Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, is an entirely different animal, he insists.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Red, white and nude

There's more to Channing Tatum's 'Magic Mike' than meets the eye

by James Sanford
There are two rules at Club Xquisite: The show must go on — and the clothes must come off.So says impresario Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who presides over Tampa’s steamiest all-male dance revue, which is led by the charismatic heartthrob who goes by the name of “Magic...
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Stop stalking and start talking

Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks and Michelle Pfeiffer bring real fire to a warmed-over plot in 'People Like Us'

by James Sanford
Hey there, "People Like Us": What's a nice movie like you doing in a summer like this?After all, director Alex Kurtzman's based-on-a-true-story drama features no pyrotechnics, no eye-searing digital effects and not a single superhero. In fact, Sam (Chris Pine) and Frankie (Elizabeth Banks)...
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Web sight

Five years after director Sam Raimi's last Spider-Man epic, 'The Amazing Spider-Man' starts the series all over again

by James Sanford
Don’t get me wrong: I am all in favor of recycling. But when it comes to movies, that idea can go a little too far. Remember a few years ago, when it seemed like every TV show that ever made it to the airwaves was going to be turned into a major motion picture? Well, these days the strategy is not to remake but to reboot — to take a franchise that’s getting a little bit creaky and revitalize it with a new creative team.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Slumber party in Candyland — with a detour to Heartbreak Hotel

When it gets beyond the puffy-fluffy, 'Katy Perry: Part of Me' provides a few unexpected insights into the sour side of superstardom

by James Sanford
Katy Perry has been topping the charts and bringing crowds to the arena for almost four years. For some of us, that’s barely longer than our last visit to the emergency room, but it’s practically an eternity in contemporary pop circles, where multitudes of Hannah Montanas, Ashlee Simpsons, Hilary Duffs and Jojos are hyped as the Next Big Thing one week and exiled to the cut-out bin a few months later. Admittedly, Perry will have to pack in a few more decades of success under her dance belt before she can stand alongside Madonna, Cher or Streisand but, as “Katy Perry: Part of Me” reminds us, the singer-songwriter has already become the first female artist to cull five No. 1 hits from one album (2010’s “Teenage Dream”), so give the lady some credit.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Fashions with flavor

Katy Perry sports two of the dresses designed by LCC graduates Shawn and Claire Buitendorp in 'Part of Me'

by James Sanford
Friday, July 6 — “Katy Perry: Part of Me” is showing around the world in 3D. But for Shawn and Claire Buitendorp, the real thrill comes from 2D — as in Two Dresses. The 22-year-old twin sisters created two of the eye-popping outfits Perry wears in the documentary, which chronicles her “California Dreams” world tour.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

There's more than art in the Annex

Broad Art Museum announces events for July and August

by James Sanford
Wednesday, July 11 — There has not been much music in the former Chrome Cat space since the bar closed last year. That will change July 19 during “Dollar-Bin DJ Night,” one of the Broad Art Museum’s summer events in its Summer Annex.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Updated: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum sets a new opening date

Founding director Michael Rush sees the Broad as a place for 'an extended dialogue between the contemporary and the historical'

by James Sanford
THURSDAY, July 12 — The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University has announced a new dedication date.
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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Batman's swan song

Christopher Nolan brings his trilogy to a powerhouse conclusion in 'The Dark Knight Rises'

by James Sanford
Since “The Dark Knight Rises” is the concluding chapter in director Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, it’s not particularly startling to find the movie’s recurring theme is moving on and letting go of the past. But that’s not an easy task when you’re Bruce Wayne, a man enveloped in a cocoon of childhood trauma, violence and agonies over lost friends and lovers.
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Wednesday, October 17,2012

Screening Room

That '90s movie

by James Sanford
"Happy Days" used to make my mother crabby — it was a distinctly bittersweet experience to find the decade of her adolescence turned into a period piece. With that, I issue a warning to all of you who once rocked out to Jane's Addiction, counted down the days until the new Kevin Costner movie and wore your clothes backward as a salute to Kris Kross: You are now in the same place as my poor mom 38 years ago.
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Wednesday, October 3,2012

Screening Room

Twisty Willis/Gordon-Levitt actioiner throws audiences for a sci-fi loop

by James Sanford
Many science-fiction movies try to dazzle us with the high-tech sights of tomorrow. That's not the case with writer-director Rian Johnson's "Looper." Although it's set in the 2040s, the world it shows us isn't radically different from 2012.
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Wednesday, September 19,2012

The Screening Room

Missing pieces, disjointed performances fail to keep Anderson's latest film together

by James Sanford
Following World War II, Americans began to question the conventions of society as never before, explaining the enormous popularity of novels like Somerset Maugham’s "The Razor’s Edge" and the rise of the self-help book culture.
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Wednesday, September 5,2012

The screening room

Nick Cave's screenplay for 'Lawless' suggests he oughta stick to music

by James Sanford
They used to write backwoods ballads about men like the Bondurant brothers, the Virginia moonshiners who built their own little empire during Prohibition. Unfortunately, instead of picking up his guitar and cranking out a tune about them, alt-rocker Nick Cave turned to his word process...
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Wednesday, July 18,2012

Hey, Mr. Curator, put a record on

Broad Art Museum's Summer Annex hosts music and film events

by James Sanford
There has not been much music in the former Chrome Cat space since the bar closed last year. That will change Thursday during "Dollar-Bin DJ Night," one of the Broad Art Museum’s summer events in its Summer Annex.
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Wednesday, July 18,2012

See you in November

Broad Art Museum sets a Nov. 9 dedication date

by James Sanford
"Yes, finally!" said founding director Michael Rush, with a laugh. "It seems every day there are dramatic changes, and we will be fully ready and installed by then — probably, we’ll be ready earlier."
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Wednesday, July 18,2012

Getting a bit of 'North'-ern exposure

Lansing Community College cast tackles a whimsical Thornton Wilder story

by James Sanford
"He ends up in Newport, R.I., because he wants to find adventure," explained Andy Callis, who is directing Matthew Burnett's dramatization of "Theophilus North" for Lansing Community College's Summer Stage Under the Stars Festival.
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Wednesday, July 11,2012

Screening room

Katy Perry shows off creations from local designers

by James Sanford
The Buitendorps checked out the film last week (along with their older sister, Erin, a City Pulse Pulsar judge). They didn’t have to wait very long to see the first of their creations on the screen.
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Thursday, July 5,2012

Oz meets reality

BullyBust uses 'Wicked' to address bullying

by James Sanford
Faster is the chief operating officer of the National School Climate Center, which organized the BullyBust program three years ago in response to the problem of bullying in schools. In 2010, BullyBust began a partnership with "Wicked" to promote its efforts.
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Thursday, July 5,2012

His 'Golden' summer

BoarsHead Theater veteran John Peakes makes his Purple Rose debut in a role he played 20 years ago

by James Sanford
"They are saying goodbye to the lake, to the summer, to other people, but they're still hanging on. She calls him a tough old buzzard, and that's what they are: They're buzzards, hanging on, keeping the spirit and keeping the blood flowing."
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Wednesday, June 27,2012

The witch is back

Christine Dwyer had 'Wicked' dreams — they've come true

by James Sanford
Nine years ago, Christine Dwyer fell under the spell of Idina Menzel, the actress who originated the role of the green-skinned enchantress Elphaba in “Wicked.” The “Wicked” tour opens at the Wharton Center tonight.
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Wednesday, June 13,2012

Coming soon to a theater near you

Forget the old AMC: Celebration! Cinema will turn the defunct Meridan 6 theater into Studio C!

by James Sanford
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 shabby 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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Wednesday, June 6,2012

The world is a Circle

Michigan State University's summer theater season begins with kooky 'Macao' and a trilogy of folk tales

by James Sanford
Much of the action unfolds in locations like the Macao Surf and Turf Nightclub Gambling Casino, where characters such as the drifter Mitch Boonton ("I'm an expatriate American, 38 to 45, very masculine, sure of myself and a little bored with life") collide with lost souls and cryptic Asians.
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Wednesday, June 6,2012

Spotlight on Rob Roznowski

Michigan State University associate professor of acting receives Distinguished Professor award

by James Sanford
Rob Roznowski, Michigan State University associate professor of acting, 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, June 6,2012

Smith gets down to business

Lansing glass artist spent last Friday at Business Leaders Briefing in Washington

by James Sanford
Plenty of people insist that nothing gets accomplished in Washington these days. Craig Mitchell Smith is not among them. The Lansing glass artist took a quick trip to the nation's capital last Friday to attend the Michigan Business Leaders Briefing, hosted by the White House Business Council and Business Forward.
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Wednesday, May 30,2012

Home sweet (summer) home

Over the Ledge Theatre Co. moves to Ledges Playhouse with 'Apartment 3A'

by James Sanford
That’s the poisonous promise of Annie (Abby Murphy), a development director at a cash-strapped TV station. Annie’s not an assassin, though: She’s simply a woman who’s been knocked a bit off-balance by seismic shake-ups in her personal life (including a cheating husband, an abrupt move to a new home and a brush with a peculiar neighbor) that have turned a hectic pledge week into an over-the-edge week.
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Wednesday, May 30,2012

Those were the days

The past becomes a haunting refrain in 'Follies'

by James Sanford
With its tattered black curtains, chipped and dusty proscenium and an assortment of grungy props and scenery pieces strewn around the stage, the Riverwalk Theatre looks like it’s seen better days. That’s exactly how it’s meant to be for “Follies,” Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical psychodrama set in a soon-to-be-razed playhouse.
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Wednesday, May 30,2012

The screening room

'Comedian': Being Seinfeld is no laughing matter

by James Sanford
If you missed out on getting a ticket for Jerry Seinfeld´s Thursday show at the Wharton Center, you can get some idea of what goes into one of his shows from the 2002 documentary "Comedian," which documents Seinfeld's return to the world of standup comedy after he wrapped up his phenomenally successful sitcom. If you are not a comedian, "Comedian" will probably not inspire you to try breaking into the business.
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Wednesday, May 23,2012

The drama behind the drama

Williamston Theatre's 'Understudy' finds comedy amid chaos

by James Sanford
“It’s the most upsetting job in the world,” he said in a phone interview last week. He recalled understudying Evan Pappas, the lead in a 1993 production of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Neil Simon musical “Promises, Promises” at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn. As Tom Petty once sang, the waiting is the hardest part, a sentiment Roznowski can stand behind: He had to be prepared to take over at any time if Pappas was sick and, in keeping with the show’s title, there were plenty of promises Roznowski would get his shot.
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Wednesday, May 23,2012

The screening room

The summer movie season is off to a startling start

by James Sanford
More superheroes equal more money. By the end of the week, “The Avengers” — which brings together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — will have surpassed the total box office of the “Star Wars: A New Hope”; by the end of the month, it will have grossed over $500 million. It’s already No. 6 on the list of the biggest domestic blockbusters of all time.
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Wednesday, May 16,2012

Next stage for 'Backstage'

WKAR music series has a new performance space and a different look: It will now be in high-definition

by James Sanford
Zeko announced the series will be taping its first four episodes June 26 and 27 at the Albert White Performing Arts Theater in the Hannah Community Center instead of WKAR-TV’s Studio A of the Michigan State University’s Communication Arts and Sciences building.
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Wednesday, May 9,2012

And the nominees are...

by James Sanford
They've done it again. The City Pulse's tireless sextet of Pulsar Awards judges — Erin Buitendorp, Mary Cusack, Tom and Kathy Helma, Paul Wozniak and Ute Von Der Heyden — have turned in their final ballots, the results have been tabulated and we have a list of nominees, plus a brief explanation of the Pulsar nomination process.
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Wednesday, May 9,2012

The screening room

'Damsels in Distress' is a sparkling college comedy

by James Sanford
If you think you'euro;'ve waited a long time for 'euro;'The Avengers'euro;' to hit the screen, imagine how fans of writer-director Whit Stillman must feel about 'euro;'Damsels in Distress'euro;': Stillman, who became an art-house darling with 'euro;'Metropolitan,'euro;' 'euro;'Barcelona'euro;' and 'euro;'The Last Days of Disco'euro;' in the 1990s, has taken almost 14 years off from filmmaking.
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Wednesday, May 9,2012

Learn while you laugh

Wade Rouse talks about the 'fine line between humor and heartbreak'

by James Sanford
A couple of years ago, a journalist told actress Carey Mulligan (“Shame”) how much he admired her ability to express sadness so eloquently. “The emotional stuff is easier, actually,” Mulligan said. “I think it’s easier to get yourself in a state where you’re crying than a state where you’re laughing for half an hour.”
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Wednesday, April 25,2012

The screening room

Connect with the superb Oscar-winning 'Separation'

by James Sanford
(Note: After this week's City Pulse was published, the booking of "A Separation" at Celebration Lansing was canceled. We will let you know if the film is rescheduled.) The engrossing, fascinatingly detailed Iranian drama “A Separation” reminds us that pointing fingers can be very risky business indeed. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi argues that the workings of the world are so tricky that simple solutions and easy answers are often hard to find.
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Wednesday, April 25,2012

Congo lines

A brothel madam battles brutal realities in the Pulitzer-winning 'Ruined'

by James Sanford
But while Mama Nadi may be able to manipulate her customers and her employees, she can’t shut out the realities of what’s going on outside her door, nor can she turn away from the traumas her employees have experienced: broken families, sexual slavery and the disgrace of being “ruined” by rapists.
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Wednesday, April 18,2012

The screening room

Seek 'Shelter'; you'll find a great psychological thriller

by James Sanford
He wakes up screaming from nightmares in which hundreds of birds swoop down upon him, oily rain falls and a seismic jolt shakes his house, causing his living room furniture to hang suspended in mid-air, like something out of “Inception.” Could these terrifying visions be premonitions, or are they merely warning signs that he’s losing touch with reality?
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Wednesday, April 11,2012

When the Capital City becomes Cinema City

In its second year, the Capital City Film Festival reels in new ideas

by James Sanford
Sure, the Capital City Film Festival has movies. But it also includes a full day of speakers, courtesy of TedX Lansing and the Media Sandbox Capstone Series, as well as the dramatic poetry of Kinetic Affect and the retro rhythms of Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle.
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Wednesday, April 11,2012

The screening room

Capital City Film Festival rolls out the documentaries

by James Sanford
Part of the fun of a film festival is having the chance to make discoveries. The Capital City Film Festival is no exception. Here are a couple of the notable documentaries screening this weekend.
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Wednesday, April 11,2012

True blue

In Lansing Civic Players' 'Vino Veritas,' a weird Peruvian wine leads to shocking revelations

by James Sanford
Another man came up to MacGregor and his friend and said, “I’m a single. Can I join you?” MacGregor’s friend waved the guy away, telling him that they were in the midst of a “private talk.” In fact, they weren’t, but MacGregor’s friend knew the presence of a stranger would mean that the friends would have to tone down their conversation and censor themselves.
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Wednesday, March 28,2012

Love on the rocks

Take two hard-luck cases, add one wise bartender, throw in songs and shake it up: That's 'The Usual'

by James Sanford
Now through April 22 Williamston Theatre 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston Preview 8 p.m. Thursday, March 29; all seats $15 Friday, March 30 through April 22: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; 3 p.m.
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Wednesday, March 28,2012

The screening room

Snow White prompts a double-take from Hollywood

by James Sanford
Back in the late 1980s, Hollywood couldn’t get enough of those body-switching comedies, in which boys and men changed places. Ten years later, we had a rash of end-of-the-world flicks, in which tidal waves obliterated New York in "Deep Impact" and unlikely astronauts Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck had to avert a cataclysmic collision between our precious planet and a gigantic space rock in "Armageddon."
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Wednesday, March 21,2012

'Memphis' Belle

Meet the two Felicias: the fiery 1950s heroine of 'Memphis' and the actress who plays her

by James Sanford
When she was cast in "Memphis," the Tony-winning musical about the dawn of rock 'n' roll and the Civil Rights movement, Felicia Boswell insists she didn’t have to do much in the way of research. It was literally in her blood.
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Wednesday, March 14,2012

Au revoir to 'Oklahoma' and so long 'Hello, Dolly!'

This season’s high school musicals include ‘Hairspray,’ ‘9 to 5,’ ‘Chicago’ — and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

by James Sanford
To some, the term "high school musical' calls to mind visions of Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale. To others, it means wake-me-when-it’s-over productions of "H.M.S. Pinafore" or "Peter Pan."
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Wednesday, March 14,2012

The screening room

The humor is hard-hitting in Gleeson's 'Guard'

by James Sanford
"The Guard" teams dumpling-faced, plain-talking small-town police sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) with the considerably more polished and professional Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), an FBI agent assigned to track down international narcotics traffickers who are bringing a boat full of cocaine to the Emerald Isle.
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Wednesday, March 14,2012

Curtain Call

'Checking Out' checks in at LCP

by James Sanford
The Lansing Civic Players production unfolds inside The Lonely Pelican, located in fictitious Pepsicola, Fla., where manager George (Rick Wendorf) and his daughter, Karin (Brittney Benjamin), have to face their own reservations about life.
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Wednesday, March 7,2012

Something to talk about

In Riverwalk's 'Becky's New Car,' it's up to you to help out a chatty heroine who's juggling a husband and a new suitor

by James Sanford
“Audience members get invited to come up onstage and help Becky dress, she asks them to do some tasks — which they may or may not do — and she even asks them to vote at one point on whether she should do something or not.”
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Wednesday, March 7,2012

The screening room

Revealed: Eddie Murphy's secret to looking younger

by James Sanford
When this comedy about a sleazy literary agent who falls under a yogi’s curse was shot, Lehman Brothers was still open for business and Sarah Palin was talking about Joe Six-Pack and the hockey moms. Yes, all the way back in 2008.
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Wednesday, February 29,2012

He shoots, he sings

Cameraman. Karaoke host. Rocker. Who says Jamie Rohda can't have it all?

by James Sanford
A few weeks ago, you might have seen Jamie Rohda performing with his band, Nothin 2 Lose, at the Colonial Bar. Or maybe you’ve caught one of the karaoke nights he regularly hosts on Wednesdays at Old Town’s Esquire Bar or Thursdays at Buddies Pub and Grill in Okemos.
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Wednesday, February 29,2012

The screening room

Time for 'Celebrity Rehab: Academy Awards Edition'

by James Sanford
If last year’s Oscar ceremony — hosted by an all-too-eager-to-please Anne Hathaway and a nearly somnambulant James Franco — was a fascinatingly misguided mess, this year’s fiasco was almost as exciting as being served a TV dinner that had languished in the far recesses of the freezer since 1995.
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Wednesday, February 22,2012

Cast as an outcast

Edward O'Ryan spent years preparing for his role in the Irish black comedy 'The Cripple of Inishmaan'

by James Sanford
It’s common to hear actors complaining that they don't get as much work as they'd like. That's not Edward O'Ryan's problem, however.
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Wednesday, February 22,2012

Screening room

Who gets the gold — and who gets the cold shoulder?

by James Sanford
Sure things? For sure. Shocks? Distinctly possible. In other words, this year´s Academy Awards should be business as usual..
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Friday, February 17,2012

The screening room

'War': What is it good for? Absolute escapism

by James Sanford
A combination of star power and firepower can be a pretty good start when it comes to building a blockbuster, as the director known simply as McG demonstrated with his "Charlie's Angels" films almost a decade ago.
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Wednesday, February 1,2012

The screening room

Cronenberg tackles 'Dangerous' material with style

by James Sanford
Jung´s patient will become his secret lover, which jeopardizes his personal and professional relationship with his mentor, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). But when Freud and Spielrein finally meet, Freud´s stern stance is challenged.
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Wednesday, January 25,2012

The screening room

Cheers and jeers for this year's Oscar nominations

by James Sanford
There has never been — and will never be — a flawless crop of Academy Award nominations. But this year´s roster, which was announced Tuesday morning, has more than its share of astonishing omissions.
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Friday, January 20,2012

The screening room

Fassbender and Mulligan rock the Naked City in ‘Shame’

by James Sanford
Their eyes meet. They are seated across from each other on a New York subway train, but it´s immediately apparent each of them is imagining how much closer they could get. She smiles shyly while glancing at him slyly. He stares at her intently, almost — but not quite — smiling. In the silence, you can almost hear their blood boiling and the crackle of electricity in the stale air.
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Wednesday, January 18,2012

The song of David

Okemos native Michael Lluberes calls his show ‘The Boy in the Bathroom’ ‘an intimate musical’ about isolation

by James Sanford
The show in question is “The Boy in the Bathroom,” with book and lyrics by Okemos native Michael Lluberes and music and additional lyrics by Joe Maloney. Peppermint Creek Theatre Co. presents the Midwest premiere of “Boy,” starting Thursday.
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Wednesday, January 18,2012

Before sunrise

David Andrews anchors the expanded WILX morning newscast

by James Sanford
Getting up early in the morning is nothing new for WILX news anchor David Andrews. He’s been married to WFMK-FM morning-show DJ Monica Harris for 24 years, and she’s been starting work before sunrise the entire time they’ve been together.
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Wednesday, January 11,2012

The screening room

The typically superb Streep galvanizes 'The Iron Lady'

by James Sanford
Streep’s performance is, like most of her work, splendidly textured and multi-dimensional. When Streep is truly in her groove, she completely disappears into her character., and that´s what happens here: She gives herself over to Thatcher´s stern starchiness and conjures up that steely voice that, the movie tells us, was the result of intense vocal coaching.
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Monday, January 9,2012

Screening room

Here’s one ‘Trespass’ you shouldn’t forgive

by James Sanford
“Would you shut up?” one of the villains barks in “Trespass.” “You’re taking all the air out of the room ' air that other people could do good things with!” If you think that’s a clumsy and mindbogglingly lame line, wait until you hear the rest of...
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Monday, January 9,2012

The name behind 'Anonymous'

Screenwriter John Orloff never gave up on his dream project; now, it’s opening nationwide

by James Sanford
"Growing up, if you wanted to be part of the conversation, you had to be talking movies," he said, with a smile, during a visit to Ann Arbor last month.
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Monday, January 9,2012

Screening room

Nothing is as it seems in first-rate ’Descendants’

by James Sanford
Given his circumstances that may be one of the easier decisions Matt will have to make. His sportsloving daredevil of a wife, Elizabeth, is on life-support after a boating accident, and the prognosis is grim. His 17-year-old daughter, Alex superbly played.
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Wednesday, January 4,2012

No rest for Wes

MSU actor has a busy week ahead at Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival competition

by James Sanford
Haskell and the other cast members of Michigan State University’s “The Beaux’ Stratagem” are preparing for their three performances Thursday at the Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival Region III competition at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. They aren’t just rehearsing the comedy — they had to practice setting up and striking the set as well, because in addition to critiquing performances and direction, the festival judges also evaluate how quickly and smoothly the crew can assemble and pack up their show.
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Wednesday, December 28,2011

Screening room

Movies: Ten of the best — and a bunch of bad news

by James Sanford
After a somewhat slowish start, 2011 turned out to be a terrific year for movies, some of them coming from long-established artists (Woody Allen, Werner Herzog) and others from rising stars (Thomas McCarthy, Jeff Nichols).
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Wednesday, December 21,2011

Creativity in the kitchen

Familiar faces from Lansing’s art community contribute recipes for tasty holiday fun

by James Sanford
It's wonderful to reunite with friends and family during the holiday season. It's not always so wonderful, however, when you have to feed them. So we asked some of Lansing's most creative people to share their recipes for tasty, easy-to-make foods that will please your guests and won't keep you captive in the kitchen.
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Wednesday, December 21,2011

Ho, ho, holiday movies

This week, you get Steven Spielberg times two, while Matt Damon buys a zoo and Rooney Mara becomes 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

by James Sanford
The cineplex has already welcomed Sherlock Holmes, Charlize Theron, the Muppets and the Chipmunks. But there is even more to come this week, with the arrival of two Steven Spielberg epics and the eagerly awaited David Fincher remake of 'euro;'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
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Wednesday, December 21,2011

Screening room

Detroit Film Critics Society announces best of 2011

by James Sanford
Don'euro;'t be surprised if you haven'euro;'t seen some of the winners: Society members screen all the major films that are up for Academy Award consideration, including pictures that don'euro;'t go into national release until January or February..
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Wednesday, December 14,2011

Screening room

Charlize Theron is great at being grating in ‘Adult’

by James Sanford
Chances are you know someone like Mavis Gary, the woman Charlize Theron portrays in director Jason Reitman s scalding comedy Young Adult. She s been out of high school for 20 years, yet she still hungers for the days when she was idolized by her peers, worshiped by her friends and more to the point lusted after by guys like Buddy, her former flame (Patrick Wilson).
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Wednesday, December 7,2011

The gospel according to Whitesnake

’Rock of Ages’ revisits the heyday of hair-rock

by James Sanford
If you can name three big hits from Foreigner's "4" album, or if you can recite from memory all the dramatic dialogue from Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" video, the Wharton Center has the show for you.
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Wednesday, December 7,2011

Starting over again — again

Tony Sump returns as board president of Lansing Civic Players

by James Sanford
The billboard outside the firehouse that is home to the Lansing Civic Players’ offices is still touting A Family Christmas and Richard III: A Steampunk Musical.
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Wednesday, November 30,2011

Screening room

Diane Keaton’s memoir makes for lovely listening

by James Sanford
When should you choose the audiobook over the printed version of a new memoir? When the author is Oscar winner Diane Keaton. Reading her recently published Then Again, the endearing, feisty and sometimes remarkably frank star sounds as if she’s sharing these stories in an intimate conversation over tea and scones.
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Wednesday, November 23,2011

Screening room

Here’s a pair of ‘kid’ movies adults shouldn’t overlook

by James Sanford
Happy holidays, everybody. While children will enjoy The Muppets for the slapstick and perennially cuddly characters, like Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear, the heartiest laughter at the preview screening last week came from people over 30, the ones...
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Wednesday, November 23,2011

Lepard’s second ‘Life’

Williamston Theatre revives a holiday hit

by James Sanford
I started writing a stage version of It s a Wonderful Life, and I brought it to Tony, Lepard said. He said, This is great but we d need 18 people to play all these parts. So he went looking for another script, and that s when he found this one.
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Tuesday, November 22,2011

Too good for kids

'Muppets' and 'Hugo' prove 'family entertainment' can be fun for all ages

by James Sanford
For parents who regularly endure Justin Bieber videos and “Hannah Montana” repeats, the idea of “kid-friendly” entertainment can be hard to face. But what happens when you inject a touch of class and sophistication into a film that would seen to be designed for younger viewers? You get movies like “The Muppets” and “Hugo.” Happy holidays, everybody.
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Wednesday, November 16,2011

Screening room

Looking back on the career of a four-legged legend

by James Sanford
Prints of two of Rinty’s blockbusters,   "Jaws of Steel" and "Clash of the Wolves," were discovered a few years ago in the cabinet of a movie theater in South Africa. Orlean brought the 1925 "Clash" (released at the peak of the star’s career) on tour with.
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Wednesday, November 9,2011

The cinematic ‘Story’

Restored Oscar-winning 1961 film screens tonight

by James Sanford
For non-singer and non-dancer Natalie Wood, making West Side Story was such a grueling experience that she almost bowed out of the production. She felt bullied by director Robert Wise. She also had qualms about her inexperienced co-star, Richard Beymer, whom she tried to have fired.
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Wednesday, November 9,2011

Go ’West’

Touring cast freshens up classic ’West Side Story’

by James Sanford
Translating Stephen Sondheim lyrics into Spanish sounds like an experiment destined to end in disaster. But, for the most part, the slightly revised West Side Story at Wharton Center works extremely well, even though the show ultimately clicks because of the way it honors the original material, not because of the tweaking.
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Wednesday, November 2,2011

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way

Kevin McKillip lassos a legend in a one-man show at Stormfield Theatre

by James Sanford
(First Folio Theatre), which I m a member of in Chicago, came to me and said, We d like you to do a one-man show, McKillip said. I said, Wonderful. Can I see the script? The surprising reply: We don t have one yet. We were hoping you could write it.
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Wednesday, November 2,2011

Screening room

A bombed Johnny Depp bombs with moviegoers

by James Sanford
If you re Angelina Jolie, you can get the financing to direct In the Land of Blood and Honey, a love story set against the backdrop of the Bosnian war, featuring such major box office magnets as Goran Kostic, Zana Marjanovic and Dolya Gavanski. (Well, perhaps they re box office magnets somewhere.
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Wednesday, October 26,2011

Screening Room

‘Gattaca’: Looking back at a vision of the future

by James Sanford
New Zealand-born writer-director Andrew Niccol built his career on thoughtful dramas with science-fiction elements, such as Jim Carrey’s “The Truman Show,” in which a man spends his entire life on TV (when the movie was released in 1998,...
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Wednesday, October 26,2011

Tony Bennett: At 85, he's still winning over young fans

His chart-topping ‘Duets II’ CD includes teamings with Lady Gaga, John Mayer and the late Amy Winehouse

by James Sanford
“Do you have his new CD yet?” one asked her friends. “It’s so great!” another chirped. “I can’t wait to see him. Did you get tickets already?” If the face on the poster had belonged to Justin Timberlake or Justin Bieber or Eminem, there wouldn’t have been anything startling about the situation.
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Wednesday, October 12,2011

'I know what the hell side is'

As a teen, Patty Duke won an Oscar, had a TV series and starred on Broadway; away from the spotlight, she was battling the onset of bi-polar disorder

by James Sanford
One of the many difficulties in treating bi-polar disorder is that there is no single drug that works perfectly for everyone; it can take a lot of trial and error to determine what combination of medications works effectively for a patient.
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Wednesday, October 12,2011

Screening room

Craig Brewer gives ‘Footloose’ a foot massage

by James Sanford
“There was a really embarrassing moment in my life when my dad came from work to find me in my underwear, dancing to that Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney song ' what was it called? ' ‘Say Say Say,’” Brewer recalled during a stopover at Detroit’s MGM Grand last month.
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Wednesday, October 5,2011

Screening Room

Korean screen legend's performance is pure 'Poetry'

by James Sanford
She’s not sure she believes it, though. A 66-year-old South Korean trying to raise her surly 16-year-old grandson, Wook, while toiling as a maid for a wealthy stroke victim, Mija wants very badly to be a poet, but she’s frustrated by how difficult it is to find that elusive inspiration.
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Wednesday, September 28,2011

ArtPrize: Madness, money, multimedia and much more

by James Sanford
By JAMES SANFORD GRAND RAPIDS ' On this Saturday afternoon, there’s a 15-minute wait just to get into the Grand Rapids Art Museum. But the hundreds of people in line aren’t heading to see an Andy Warhol retrospective or new glassworks from Dale Chihuly.
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Wednesday, September 28,2011

The screening room

Craig and Weisz’s ‘Dream House’ might be a nightmare

by James Sanford
But the fate of the project that brought them together ' that may not be much of a cause for celebration. “Dream House,” in which Craig and Weisz play a couple spooked by weird goingson in their newly purchased New England home, began shooting in February 2010 and has since been what’s known in the film industry as a “problem picture.
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Wednesday, September 21,2011

Screening Room

If you want to get 'Footloose,' you're in the right town

by James Sanford
In my day, it was all about Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer and John Lithgow; in the 2011 version, Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid have taken on the lead roles. When it comes to remakes, it’s hard not to go along with the proposal made years ago by critic Roger Ebert:.
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Wednesday, September 7,2011

Screening Room

Electrifying drama 'Warrior' will knock you out

by James Sanford
Tom Hardy’s brilliance had already brought him a faithful following in his native England by the time director Christopher Nolan cast him as the delightfully deceiver forgery expert in “Inception,” last summer’s brainy blockbuster.
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Wednesday, September 7,2011

Girls, girls, girls

Riverwalk Theatre's 'Annie' features more orphans than ever

by James Sanford
“I’m very fortunate to have one of the funniest and most physically controlled actors around playing Miss Hannigan: Angela Dill,” Croff said. “She has this great, elongated form, and she’s really been putting her body into it. It’s hilarious watching the kids vacillate between wanting to laugh and wanting to run away from her.
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Wednesday, August 24,2011

The Screening Room

‘Another Earth’: Heavenly bodies, heavy hearts

by James Sanford
The discovery of another planet identical to our own is the starting point for director Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth,” a moody drama that’s not so much science fiction as it is an in-depth character study.
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Wednesday, August 24,2011

It's a new day at WLNS

Messing with success or making a good thing better?

by James Sanford
There’s the new news set, which will feature a 110-inch projection screen behind the anchor desk, a couple of new additions to the on-air team and the prospect of going to highdefinition in the fall.
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Wednesday, August 17,2011

The Screening Room

Clearing up fuzzy memories of ‘Conan the Barbarian’

by James Sanford
My memories of the 1982 “Conan” were fuzzy, so I took a look at it last weekend. When I say “fuzzy,” I mean literally fuzzy: The only times I had ever tried to watch the movie came when I was living with a roommate who was stealing HBO from our more affluent neighbors.
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Wednesday, August 3,2011

It takes two?

‘Strings’ vs. ‘Friends’: The same, yet different — sort of

by James Sanford
Although it may not look like it, “Friends With Benefits,” which opened in January and is now on DVD, and “No Strings Attached,” which is now in theaters, really are two different movies; they just share a lot of strange similarities. Remember “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon”? Kind of like that ' with a little more sex.
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Wednesday, August 3,2011

The Screening Room

’Snow Flower’: Chinese soap opera gets the gong

by James Sanford
A sort of Asian variation on “Fried Green Tomatoes,” director Wayne Wang’s “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” contrasts the lives of two pairs of lifelong friends. Snow Flower and Lily grew up together in 17thcentury China, while Nina and Sophia are very much 21st-century women.
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Wednesday, July 27,2011

The Screening Room

When very bad movies happen to very good actors

by James Sanford
I was thinking about this two weeks ago when I was watching an alleged comedy called “The Best and the Brightest” (the title, as it turned out, was a double lie).
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Wednesday, July 20,2011

The Screening Room

Bob Baldori found the keys to a rocking documentary

by James Sanford
No one can accuse Baldori of playing it safe on his first directorial project. “Boogie Stomp” ambitiously weaves together three plotlines: Baldori’s working relation' ship and friendship with his partner, Bob Seeley; Seeley’s background in the Detroit music scene; and the rise of the boogiewoogie form in American music.
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Wednesday, July 13,2011

The Screening Room

Closing the curtain on a decade of Pottermania

by James Sanford
“Go ahead. Read it. You know you want to.”  The boldly lettered posters were all over London, but I never bothered to notice exactly what they were promoting. Some sleazy celebrity tell-all, I guessed. I couldn’t have been more laughably offbase. The campaign was...
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Thursday, July 7,2011

The Screening Room

A message movie that's also a monster movie

by James Sanford
To connoisseurs of world cinema, the Criterion Collection has long been a treasure trove. The high-quality line of DVDs includes titles from Ingmar Bergman, Louis Malle, Roman Polanski, Charlie Chaplin, Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch and other legendary directors ' and, of course, "Goke:.
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Wednesday, June 29,2011

The Screening Room

Selena Gomez is growing up, along with her fans

by James Sanford
That’s because "Monte Carlo" (opening Friday) was initially based on a novel called "Headhunters," a story of four middle-aged Midwestern women on a jaunt through France. It’s now a tale of three Texas gals ' one is 18 and the other two (played by Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester) are 21 ' falling in love and getting in trouble on the Riviera.
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Wednesday, June 22,2011

The Screening Room

He said, she said, he said, the 'Transformers' way

by James Sanford
Most of America is now well aware that "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is opening nationwide next Wednesday (or Tuesday, if you’re willing to spend the extra bucks to see it in IMAX).
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Wednesday, June 15,2011

The Screening Room

Waterfront: Saugatuck's cinematic success story

by James Sanford
But that was exactly what Holland/ Saugatuck natives Tod Hopwood DePree, Dori DePree, Dana DePree, Kori Eldean and Judy Smith wanted to do in the summer of 1999 in the city of Saugatuck, a place where, if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to either drive 20 miles to Holland, rent a DVD or subscribe to cable.
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Wednesday, June 8,2011

A purr-fect job

’Cats’ tour keeps actress Ashley Travis on the go

by James Sanford
Ask Ashley Travis, a 2010 Western Michigan University graduate who is one of the “swing” performers on the current national tour. Typically, Travis hits the stage when one of the regular cast members has to take time off. Sometimes, that can mean going to work midway through a performance.
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Wednesday, June 8,2011

The Screening Room

Woody Allen is back on track in 'Paris'

by James Sanford
When it comes to comebacks, Woody Allen could probably teach Cher, Britney Spears and even Lazarus a few lessons by now.
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Wednesday, June 1,2011

Back to the Barn

’Great Big Bar Show’ relaunches venerable Augusta summer theater

by James Sanford
Hans Friedrichs spent three seasons at the Barn Theatre in Augusta as an Equity Membership Candidate. Then he took more than 20 years off.He’s back this summer as the director of “The Great Big Bar Show,” which opens the theater’s 65th season this week.
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Wednesday, June 1,2011

The Screening Room

The art of maintaining a little mystery in marketing

by James Sanford
We live in an era when too many movie trailers and commercials give away far too much ' including all the best jokes, all the biggest shocks and sometimes even the ending of the film. If you talk to marketing people, they’ll tell you this is what audiences demand: Everyone supposedly wants to know exactly what is coming before buying a ticket.
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Wednesday, May 25,2011

Badgero’s new role

Founder of Peppermint Creek Theatre is now on staff at the Arts Council

by James Sanford
"With Chad’s experience working through the Old Town Commercial Association, as well as his involvement in the community ' and especially his background in the arts and his enthusiasm for Lansing, he’s a great addition to our staff, and we’re thrilled to have him.
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Wednesday, May 25,2011

The Screening Room

The season of sequels starts with a double shot

by James Sanford
Not every mosquito bites ' and not every second or third installment of a series does either. Remember "The Godfather, Part II" and "Toy Story 2"? Sure, you may say, but what about "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Sex and the City 2"? Like the summer weather, you never know what you’re going to get.
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Wednesday, May 18,2011

Woman of letters

Ann Landers has her say in Stormfield’s ’Answers’

by James Sanford
I’ve been reading your column for years, and I never dreamed I’d be writing to you. But here in Lansing, a local theater is about to expose all your secrets. The play is called “The Lady With All the Answers,” and the actress portraying you is Diane Dorsey, who comes from Chicago (isn’t that your neck of the woods?).
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Wednesday, May 18,2011

The Screening room

A little spring cleaning before the summer storm

by James Sanford
The annual avalanche of summer blockbusters is beginning to rain down on theaters, with the opening of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" this weekend and "The Hangover 2" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" due to arrive for Memorial Day.
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Wednesday, May 11,2011

Repression and expression

’The Pride’ asks provocative questions about perceptions of homosexuality

by James Sanford
When Sylvia discovers her husband, Philip, is having an affair with Oliver, she can’t even say the term that defines their relationship. It’s 1958 in London and, as author Alexi Kaye Campbell’s “The Pride” reminds us, that sort of behavior wasn’t the sort of thing people talked about in what was called “polite conversation.
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Wednesday, May 11,2011

Curtain Call

Queen bees, dancing princesses

by James Sanford
Believe it or not, "Chicago" ' which has seen nearly 6,000 performances on Broadway ' was once considered a bit of a disappointment. When the John Kander/Fred Ebb musical opened in 1975, it was overshadowed by another Broadway newcomer: "A Chorus Line," which won more awards and brought in bigger audiences.
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Wednesday, May 11,2011

The Screening Room

’Le Concert’ celebrates a case of musical vengeance

by James Sanford
After your career as a maestro has been demolished and you’ve been branded an "enemy of the state" by no less than Leonid Brezhnev, what do you do for an encore?
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Wednesday, May 4,2011

It's the talk of the town

The women of WLNS have plenty to say about the new ’6 in the City’

by James Sanford
“And I’m stopping,” Aldrich said. But Aldrich and her fellow WLNS anchors and reporters ' Sheri Jones, Ann Emmerich, Lauren Thompson, Brittany Gray and Lisa Byington ' are actually starting something: a talk show that allows them to address issues they don’t usually have time to cover.
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Wednesday, May 4,2011

The Screening Room

Hollywood gets a jump on summer — once again

by James Sanford
It’s not your imagination: Summer really is getting earlier every year. At least the summer movie season is ' what used to begin around Memorial Day or mid-May has slowly crept up into late April, as evidenced by the launch of “Fast Five,” the latest entry in the “Fast and the Furious” series last weekend.
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Wednesday, April 20,2011

Broadway bonanza: ’Rock,’ soul and ’The Addams Family’

by James Sanford
The lineup features a couple of returning favorites and several premieres, including "Rock of Ages," which will warm the heart of any Bon Jovi/Def Leppard/Quiet Riot fans, and "The Addams Family," the musical based on the adventures of the macabre clan.
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Wednesday, April 20,2011

Easter egg hunt? Bring a shovel

Author Wade Rouse shares twisted holiday tales

by James Sanford
As the Saugatuck-based author notes in his latest book “It’s All Relative,” his father was an engineer with some unusual ideas about Easter egg hunts: Instead of being scattered around the lawn or tucked beneath the leaves of flowers in the garden, eggs at the Rouse house were buried in the ground.
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Wednesday, April 20,2011

The Screening Room

John Lepard has much to ’Scream’ about these days

by James Sanford
You’ll see Lepard about 15 minutes into the film. The Williamston Theatre executive director (and director of the theater’s recent hit “While We Were Bowling”) plays an English teacher, identified in the credits as Mr. Baker.
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Wednesday, April 13,2011

A citywide cinematic celebration

The Capital City Film Festival gets underway Thursday with shorts, features, music and a John Hughes tribute

by James Sanford
As far as Capital City Film Festival co-founder Dominic Cochran is concerned, there’s plenty of room in Lansing for more than one film fest. After all, this is not going to be a cinematic battle royale, with two organizations slugging it out for prime pictures.
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Wednesday, April 13,2011

The Screening Room

For director Tom McCarthy, it’s a ’Win Win’ situation

by James Sanford
BIRMINGHAM — His movie is called "Win Win." But this particular Friday morning had almost been a lose/lose for writer-director Tom McCarthy.
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Wednesday, April 6,2011

The Screening Room

'Mad Men' in limbo? Here are some alternatives

by James Sanford
You’ve heard the news: AMC’s “Mad Men” is on hiatus until sometime next year. No more flashbacks to the days of Mother’s Little Helpers and Daddy’s After- Work/Pre-Dinner Glass of Scotch.
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Thursday, March 24,2011

Taking it to the street — with style

’Exit Through the Gift Shop’ examines an ’art terrorist’ and his oddball admirer

by James Sanford
The term "street art" might have once triggered images of trains covered in psychedelic graffiti or slogans like "Thuggin’ ’Til The Casket Drops" spray-painted across an old fence. The Oscar-nominated "Exit Through the Gift Shop" tries to redefine that idea.
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Thursday, March 24,2011

’Bowling’ pins down 1950s nostalgia

by James Sanford
Melvin McGlauphlin (Joseph Albright) has sent his kids to Russian language classes as part of his “worst-case scenario” preparation. His wife, Frances (Suzi Regan), seems like the duchess of domesticity, although she is not always satisfied with her role.
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Wednesday, March 16,2011

The Screening Room

Sci-fi schlock fights a losing ’Battle’ with reality

by James Sanford
Last weekend, you could turn on any TV or access any Internet news site and see horrifying footage of Japanese cities crumbling or being pummeled by massive waves. Or you could go to the movies and watch the destruction of Southern California in “Battle Los Angeles,” an empty-headed attack-of-the-aliens flick.No prizes for guessing which sight was the more disturbing.
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Wednesday, February 23,2011

The Screening Room

Life has been a wild ride for a ’Winnebago Man’

by James Sanford
Many of those caustic clips turn up throughout documentarian Ben Steinbauer’s “Winnebago Man,” an attempt to chart the curious course of Rebney’s life from a career as a TV news producer to a Winnebago pitchman and, finally, as a recluse in the California mountains.
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Thursday, February 17,2011

Lansing Symphony Orchestra's Catherine Guarino steps down

The director of education and community engagement has been at the LSO for three and a half years

by James Sanford
After three and a half years, Catherine Guarino, Lansing Symphony Orchestra’s director of education and community engagement, will step down next Wednesday.
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Wednesday, February 16,2011

A blast from the past — that’s still timely

For ’Hairspray’ director Chad DeKatch, the 1960s musical is no period piece

by James Sanford
And he admits he’s been a bit jealous: "In the first dance rehearsals, I got up there and did the dances with them, because working with Karyn (Perry, the show’s choreographer) is so much fun.
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Wednesday, February 16,2011

Lansing Symphony and Happendance 'Connect'

’It’s a dream come true,’ says Happendance director Missy Lilje

by James Sanford
One thing you don’t hear much of in a Happendance rehearsal is music. There’s the voice of the choreographer, offering pointers and encouragement to the dancers, and there’s quite a lot of heavy breathing from the performers as they run through complicated, body-twisting numbers again and again.
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Wednesday, February 16,2011

The Screening Room

Is there Hope for Adam Sandler's future?

by James Sanford
The reviews are in on Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston’s “Just Go With It,” and — to put it mildly — they’re not kind.“Adam Sandler plays a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon in ‘Just Go With It,’ a fumbling comedy directed by Dennis Dugan that could have benefitted from surgical reconstruction,” sneered the Christian Science Monitor’s Peter Rainer.
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Friday, February 11,2011

Garden party

'Gnomeo and Juliet' celebrates love, lawn ornaments and all things Elton John

by James Sanford
Although “Gnomeo and Juliet” begins with the prologue of “Romeo and Juliet” and includes a cameo appearance by the spirit of Shakespeare, there’s far more levity than tragedy in this candy-colored, generally breezy animated variation on the Capulet/Montague feud. English teachers probably won’t approve, but Elton John fans will be tickled every shade of pink: In addition to a couple of new songs, there are snippets of at least a dozen of Captain Fantastic’s greatest hits cleverly woven into James Newton Howard’s buoyant score.
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Wednesday, February 9,2011

The Screening Room

’Blue Denim’: 16 and pregnant, circa 1959

by James Sanford
These days, if you’re an unmarried teen expecting a baby, you might be in negotiations with MTV to star in the next season of “16 and Pregnant.” But half a century ago, girls who “got in trouble” didn’t publicize their condition. Just ask Janet, the jittery heroine of “Blue Denim,” which raised many an eyebrow when it hit theaters in 1959.
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Sunday, February 6,2011

You're outta here!

Laughably ludicrous

by James Sanford
Everyone can use a few good laughs in January, and "The Roommate" delivers plenty -- although that was probably not director Christian E. Christiansen's intent. An inept attempt to mix thrills with PG-13-style sensuality, the movie is glossy garbage that would be offensive if it wasn't so absurd.
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Thursday, February 3,2011

Getting beneath the surface

Surprisingly witty and complex 'Rabbit Hole' is a triumph for Nicole Kidman and John Cameron Mitchell

by James Sanford
Considering how many plays are turned into movies -- and vice versa -- it might seem like the process is relatively simple. But look again at how many pieces that worked wonderfully on the stage have fallen apart on the screen. Plots and dialogue that crackle in a Broadway theater can fizzle in a movie theater, which makes John Cameron Mitchell's rich, resonate adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer-winning "Rabbit Hole" that much more impressive. Mitchell and Lindsay-Abaire, who penned the screenplay, have opened up and expanded the drama without diluting it and they've preserved, even enhanced, the essential humor that frequently pops up in unexpected places.
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Wednesday, February 2,2011

Off the screen and onto the stage

Alan Mingo Jr. follows in Eddie Murphy's famous hoofprints as Donkey in 'Shrek: The Musical'

by James Sanford
“I don’t do impersonations, and that was a struggle at first,” Mingo said. For millions of moviegoers, Donkey will always be associated with Eddie Murphy, who voiced the character in the quartet of “Shrek” features. Mingo’s strategy was to remain true to the character while putting his own spin on the performance.
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Wednesday, February 2,2011

The Screening Room

Overlooked by Oscar, but worth looking into

by James Sanford
There are only so many slots available in each Academy Awards category, which means there will always be worthy performances and notable films that will go unrecognized. Several of them have just been released on DVD and Blu-ray. The Academy voters may not have seen them, but you should.
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Friday, January 28,2011

The darkest shades of love

Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling hold back nothing in bruising 'Blue Valentine'

by James Sanford
“Have we become a habit? Do we distort the facts? Now, there’s no looking forward; now, there’s no turning back.” The words come from an old Pat Benatar hit, “We Belong,” but they perfectly express what’s going through the mind of Cindy (Michelle Williams) in “Blue Valentine.” Benatar’s ballad sounds like a fiery ode to the power of passion — until you pay close attention to the lyrics: “Whatever we deny or regret, for worse or for better, we belong together.” Perhaps Cindy is figuring out the underlying meaning of the song for the first time while she listens to it as she drives to work. She is slowly, reluctantly facing the realization that she can’t keep going down the same road.
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Wednesday, January 26,2011

The omnipresent John Lepard: On stage, on TV, at the movies

The actor shows up next week on an episode of 'Detroit 187'; after that, he's back on the big screen in 'Scream 4'

by James Sanford
In "Road to Nowhere," the episode of “Detroit 187” that airs Tuesday, Lepard (who turns 47 today)plays Cyrus Layton, who assists Detroit police officers Fitch (Michael Imperioli) and Washington (Jon Michael Hill) in the investigation of a multiple-murder case.
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Wednesday, January 26,2011

The Screening Room

Oscar nominations: A tale of prizes and surprises

by James Sanford
As expected, Annette Bening got a best actress nomination for “The Kids Are All Right,” in which she plays a lesbian mom trying to deal with her adolescent kids and the surrogate father (Mark Ruffalo) who has suddenly resurfaced in their lives.
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Wednesday, January 26,2011

Here comes the stinger

Lisbeth Salander saga builds to a climax in moody 'Hornets' Nest'

by James Sanford
A great heroine deserves a sensational send-off, and Lisbeth Salander ' that girl with the dragon tattoo who played with fire ' gets a fairly good one in "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest," the concluding chapter of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.
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Tuesday, January 25,2011

Oscar nominations: A tale of prizes and surprises

Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore among the unjustly overlooked

by James Sanford
Once the cheers die down and everyone gets a closer look at the annual Academy Award nominations, the questions begin popping up. This year’s crop of nominations, which were announced Tuesday morning, is no exception.
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Wednesday, January 19,2011

’Spiritual life is very fluid’

The lead character in ’Happy Holy Days’ examines her faith; author Rob Roznowski is way ahead of her

by James Sanford
“What is a tradition?” Roznowski wonders. “What is a community? Doesn’t everyone’s spiritual life evolve?” “Days,” which is getting its first full production at Michigan State University next week, charts Sherrie’s fluctuations in faith over the...
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Wednesday, January 19,2011

The Screening Room

Hook-ups lead to heartaches in Hollywood

by James Sanford
In the raunchy comedy "No Strings Attached," Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher will endeavor to enjoy a purely physical relationship with none of those messy emotional complications. If Hollywood history is any indication, it won’t work ' it never does.
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Monday, January 17,2011

Don't I know that guy?

John Lepard guest stars in Tuesday's 'Detroit 187'

by James Sanford
Don't be surprised if you see a familiar face on "Detroit 187" Tuesday night. John Lepard, Williamston Theatre's artistic director (and frequently a performer there as well), is one of the guest stars as Cyrus Layton, head of Detroit's violent crimes unit.
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Thursday, January 13,2011

Float like a butterfly, sting like a B-movie

'Green Hornet' tries so hard, it becomes a trying experience

by James Sanford
Much more of a Seth Rogen showcase than it is a costumed crime fighter flick or a Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") film, "The Green Hornet" transports the masked avenger from 1930s radio -- and 1960s TV -- into a new century. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say it drags him in: Although the movie aims for a playful, devil-may-care attitude, you can always hear the gears grinding, the belts squeaking and the engine rumbling.
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Wednesday, January 12,2011

The Screening Room

Silence says it all in 'Mademoiselle Chambon'

by James Sanford
Although “Mademoiselle Chambon” begins with a family discussing the mysteries of grammar, language is almost beside the point in director Stéphane Brizé’s tale of temptation in a small French town.
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Friday, December 31,2010

The bad and the beautiful

2010's 10 best and 10 worst movies

by James Sanford
Strange to think that at the beginning of 2010, I'm not sure I'd ever even heard the name Lisbeth Salander. Now, it's like she's practically a member of my own family. OK, well, maybe just a Facebook Friend.
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Wednesday, December 29,2010

Chad Badgero

Peppermint Creek Theatre founder sees opportunities for cooperation — not competition — among Lansing’s various theater companies.

by James Sanford
Many artists leave their hometowns for bigger cities. What has kept you in Lansing? I think what has kept me in Lansing is the ability to work on the kind of material I believe in, in a community that has proven to have a desire for that material. I’m thrilled Peppermint Creek has f...
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Wednesday, December 29,2010

Timothy Muffitt

Despite the economy, the beat goes on for the Lansing Symphony maestro.

by James Sanford
How would you characterize the state of symphony orchestras in 2010? Well, all the arts are generally very sensitive to the health of the economy because we rely largely on philanthropy for our survival. Only 30 percent of our operating expenses come from tickets sales, which means 70 per...
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Wednesday, December 29,2010

Kristine Thatcher

The actress/director/playwright now has a theater company of her own.

by James Sanford
When did you launch Stormfield Theatre? It’s been in existence since August 2009. It started with staged readings. The first was “Kimberly Akimbo,” with Carmen Decker (which Stormfield will produce as a full-scale production in 2011). In your years of performing and wri...
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Wednesday, December 29,2010

Leslie Donaldson

The executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing sees a brighter picture for 2011.

by James Sanford
What have been some of the major challenges the Arts Council has faced this year? Since 2001, arts funding in general has been cut. We work with 140 arts and cultural organizations and a good 100 individual artists, so we try to keep our finger on the pulse. Because of this, our agency ha...
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Tuesday, December 28,2010

The Screening Room

When studios play hide-and-seek

by James Sanford
Here’s what’s on the horizon at your local cineplex this Friday: the science-fiction thriller "Splice"; a live-action version of "Marmaduke"; a raunchy comedy called "Get Him to the Greek," starring Jonah Hill and Russell Brand; and the crime comedy "Killers," starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher.
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Wednesday, December 22,2010

Dolly Parton: Still on the clock

The country legend has a new title: Broadway composer

by James Sanford
Obviously, it’s a plan that’s worked for her. Since the mid- 1960s Parton has been a force to reckon with in the entertainment world, crossing over from country music to the pop charts, touring tirelessly throughout the decades, launching an...
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Wednesday, December 22,2010

A peach of a 'Speech'

Inspirational message comes through clearly in first-rate drama

by James Sanford
The term "the king’s speech" implies perfect pronunciation and exemplary deportment, the hallmarks of a masterful speaker who couldn’t be more comfortable with the intricacies of English. The man at the center of director Tom Hooper’s "The King’s Speech," however, is terrified of the sound of his own voice.
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Wednesday, December 22,2010

The Screening Room

Coen Brothers' 'True Grit' hits the mark

by James Sanford
Mattie Ross is looking for a man, preferably a man who can find a man. All of 14 years old ' but with the self-confidence of a seasoned woman of the world ' Mattie has decided to take it upon herself to find and punish the outlaw who murdered her father.
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Friday, December 17,2010

Requiem for a dream ballet

Natalie Portman drowns in 'Swan Lake' in Darren Aronofsky's shocker 'Black Swan'

by James Sanford
From the moment Nina (Natalie Portman) gets out of bed, she’s reminded of her mission in life. Her toes and feet crackle like splintering ice as she braces herself for another day in the realm of ballet, an environment dominated by myriad mirrors and an insatiable appetite for youthful energy. If you could listen to Nina’s psyche, you might hear the same unnerving sounds the rest of her body makes: Time is running out, opportunities are elusive and, even though Nina still lives with her mom (Barbara Hershey) and sleeps in a cotton-candy-pink bedroom full of stuffed animals and a ballerina music box, she’s not a child anymore.
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Friday, December 17,2010

Packing a wallop

Outstanding performances and fine writing make 'The Fighter' worth cheering

by James Sanford
The title of director David O. Russell’s film is simple enough — “The Fighter” — but which character it refers to is not so clear. It would seem to be Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), the welterweight who’s been battling his way through the fight game in the early 1990s. But it could just as easily be his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a former boxer who seemed to be a champion in the making more than a decade earlier, before giving in to drug addiction.
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Friday, December 17,2010

Packing a wallop

Outstanding performances and fine writing make 'The Fighter' worth cheering

by James Sanford
The title of director David O. Russell’s film is simple enough — “The Fighter” — but which character it refers to is not so clear. It would seem to be Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), the welterweight who’s been battling his way through the fight game in the early 1990s. But it could just as easily be his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a former boxer who seemed to be a champion in the making more than a decade earlier, before giving in to drug addiction.
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Friday, December 17,2010

Electronic eye candy

'Tron: Legacy' dazzles the eyes and ears, but the mind — eh, not so much

by James Sanford
In 1982, Pac Man Fever was sweeping the nation. But in the Magic Kingdom, Disney executives were feeling aches and pains of a different sort. The studio's designated summer blockbuster "Tron" (which cost approximately $20 million, an impressive budget for those days) had all but short-circuited at the box office, failing to become the next "Star Wars," much less the "2001: A Space Odyssey" of the Atari generation.
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Wednesday, December 15,2010

The Screening Room

Why Disney is keeping 1982 'Tron' out of sight

by James Sanford
What if someone announced plans to make a sequel to the Wachowski Brothers’ “Speed Racer,” or the infamous Ben Affleck/ Jennifer Lopez vehicle “Gigli”? If you were asked to help bankroll the eagerly awaited follow-up to Bruce Willis’ “Hudson Hawk,” would you reach for your checkbook?.
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Monday, December 13,2010

The Screening Room

Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are stars on the 'Go'

by James Sanford
(Wednesday, Oct. 13) In “Never Let Me Go,” based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s popular novel, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield play young adults facing a gloomy future. That is hardly the case for the two British actors in real life, however. Mulligan won a best actress Oscar nomination last year for “An Education” and she’s been singled out as one of the bright spots in director Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Garfield is getting strong notices of his own in “The Social Network,” and he’ll soon be donning the scarlet threads of Spider-Man in Sony Pictures’ reboot of the phenomenally successful series. Mulligan and Garfield sat down for interviews last month at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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Monday, December 13,2010

The Screening Room

'Burlesque' has become a box office surprise

by James Sanford
It’s not particularly shocking to see “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” and Disney’s “Tangled” slugging it out for the dominant position atop the box office rankings. But what’s in the No.
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Friday, December 10,2010

Detour to Dullsville

Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp can't make 'Tourist' worth the price of a ticket

by James Sanford
In “The Tourist,” Angelina Jolie is a woman of many faces — many of them familiar. Sashaying through the streets of Paris in a cream-colored dress and opera gloves, she’s Audrey Hepburn. Navigating the canals of Venice, she turns into Jacqueline Bisset, circa “The Deep.” Gliding through a glittering ballroom, she becomes Sophia Loren. Tough acts to follow, all of them, but Jolie confidently puts across each persona.
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Wednesday, November 24,2010

Hair affair

Disney puts a sweet spin on Rapunzel in engaging 'Tangled'

by James Sanford
The character of Rapunzel is much better known than her story is, which gives Team Disney a certain amount of license to sweeten up her saga in "Tangled," a buoyant, often uproarious musical comedy that already has a hallowed place in the studio's history: It is, as the opening title informs us, Disney's 50th animated feature.
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Wednesday, November 24,2010

The Screening Room

Danny Boyle's '127 Hours' unforgettably intense

by James Sanford
You might need it to mop away the sweat ' and possibly the tears ' triggered by director Danny Boyle’s electrifying, nervewracking portrayal of the perils of Aron Ralston (James Franco), the adventurer who set out to explore Utah’s Blue John Canyon...
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Wednesday, November 24,2010

Of pills and pillow talk

'Love and Other Drugs' has its ups and downs, but the stars remain steady

by James Sanford
For proof of how one outstanding performance can give elevate a middling movie, look no further than director Edward Zwick's "Love and Other Drugs." Based on Jamie Reidy's "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman," the film starts off as a reasonably raucous and raunchy comedy revolving around fast-talking Pfizer pharmaceutical peddler Jamie Randall (a vibrant, funny Jake Gyllenhaal), who isn't thrilled to be pushing Xanax in the Ohio River Valley in the late 1990s, until he meets bohemian artist Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway).
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Saturday, November 20,2010

Ani-malcontents

The fractured fables of David Sedaris are 'bedtime stories for children who drink'

by James Sanford
It all sounds perfectly innocuous. A lonely mouse befriends a snake. A stalwart rabbit stands guard at the gate to his forest. A chipmunk thinks she’s found Mr. Right in the form of a sophisticated squirrel.But despite its seemingly cuddly characters and an array of beguiling illustrations by Ian Falconer, David Sedaris’ “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” is probably not the best holiday gift for that special youngster on your shopping list.
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Wednesday, November 17,2010

Fishy tales

Williamston Theatre cooks up ’Tuna’

by James Sanford
In less than two hours, Aral Gribble and Wayne David Parker put themselves through a sort of acting aerobics workout, changing costumes and altering their voices every few minutes to portray an assortment of oddballs: a pair of garrulous radio disc...
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Wednesday, November 17,2010

The Screening Room

Capital City Film Festival kicks off in April

by James Sanford
With Michigan caught up in movie mania, the time seemed right for the launch of a new film festival. So Cochran, director of Lansing’s Office of Community Media, and his partners launched the Capital City Film Festival, scheduled for April 14 to 17. Submissions are being accepted.
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Friday, November 12,2010

Train-ing day

Unsubtle 'Unstoppable' delivers loud, flashy suspense

by James Sanford
Swoop! Swooosh! Swirl! Denzel Washington and Chris Pine may be the stars of “Unstoppable,” but it’s cinematographer Ben Seresin who gets the most taxing workout. Even when characters are simply standing around or engaged in tense conversations, the camera behaves like a first-grader that’s been force-fed Pixy Stix and Monster Energy Drinks. It circles, it spirals, it bobs and weaves: It’s as if poor Seresin spent his days strapped to a carousel from hell.
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Friday, November 12,2010

Ready to roll

Capital City Film Festival seeks submissions

by James Sanford
Looking for a place to screen your latest film? Dominic Cochran can help you out.Cochran, a partner of Lansing's Ahptic Film & Digital, has just announced the first Capital City Film Festival, to be held April 14-17 in downtown Lansing. It's open to everyone and submissions are now being accepted.
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Wednesday, November 10,2010

'Yeah! That’s the ticket!'

He may have been a latercomer to stand-up but Jon Lovitz is making up for lost time

by James Sanford
The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club opened last year in Universal City, near Hollywood. Although Lovitz is quick to admit his place (where he often performs on Wednesday nights) won’t be mistaken for the usual brick-wall, cabaret-style stand-up space.
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Wednesday, November 10,2010

The Screening Room

Expert cast brings ’Morning Glory’ to full bloom

by James Sanford
In writer-director James L. Brooks’ classic 1987 comedy-drama “Broadcast News,” dynamic, idealistic producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) spent much of her time fretting about the rise of puff-pieces in network newscasts.
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Saturday, November 6,2010

The Screening Room

A superhero spoof - and so much more

by James Sanford
True, that long-delayed “Spider-Man” musical may never make it to Broadway and the hyped-to-the-heavens “Watchmen” was something of a box office underachiever. But otherwise, superhero extravaganzas have a fairly impressive track record when it comes to making money.
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Wednesday, November 3,2010

The Screening Room

Race for Academy Awards begins ' now!

by James Sanford
The calendar may say November to you and I, but to film publicists, studio executives, moviemakers and actors it might as well say “Oscar Season, Part One.” Already, the drums are starting to beat, the buzz is beginning to rise and the names of various Academy Award contenders are being mentioned.
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Friday, October 29,2010

Brotherly love

Hilary Swank fights for justice in bittersweet 'Conviction'

by James Sanford
“Conviction” is the story of a man behind bars and a woman in a prison of her own creation. They’re siblings. Based on a true story — that was still unfolding while the movie was in production, interestingly enough — Pamela Gray’s screenplay is a bittersweet examination of how the ties that bind can also tie us down.
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Wednesday, October 27,2010

’I never stop sweating’

‘Mary Poppins’ turned Nicolas Dromard’s world upside down — literally

by James Sanford
“Bert is a more physically demanding role than Fiyero,” Dromard said. “So I’ve been going back to the gym and getting my stamina back up. I never stop sweating, which is great ' but my costume keeps getting bigger and bigger because I keep losing weight.
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Wednesday, October 27,2010

The Screening Room

Public schools are under scrutiny in ’Superman’

by James Sanford
Public schools are under scrutiny in ’Superman’In 2006, Davis Guggenheim directed the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which warned about global warming. Now, Guggenheim has turned his attention to something chilling: the sorry state of America’s public school system.
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Friday, October 22,2010

Deadly dull

'What-ev-er' is the only reaction for director Clint Eastwood's ponderous 'Hereafter'

by James Sanford
Belinda Carlisle once assured us heaven is a place on earth. Director Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" makes it clear that limbo is a place inside a movie theater. It’s a meditation on mortality that doesn’t overindulge in shocks or sentimentality, but when it comes to ponderousness, well, the sky’s the limit.
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Thursday, October 21,2010

School for scandal

'Waiting for Superman' looks for answers about our educational system

by James Sanford
“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” former President George W. Bush memorably mused a decade ago. That’s exactly what director Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “It Might Get Loud”) asks in “Waiting for Superman,” a film that ultimately raises more questions than it answers. That’s not a bad thing at all. Even if you object to Guggenheim’s findings or what he leaves in or leaves out, “Waiting” is a great conversation-starter about a topic we should all be discussing. In the wake of the much-ridiculed, much-vilified “No Child Left Behind” program, Guggenheim sees a system in which plenty of children are not only left behind, they’re left in the dust.
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Wednesday, October 20,2010

Which films will you fall for?

The 13th annual East Lansing Film Festival opens tonight with ’I Am Love’

by James Sanford
It’s an impressive assortment of features, documentaries, shorts and Michigan-made productions assembled by ELFF exceutive director Susan Woods. If it seems like it’s been a long time between festivals, it has: Now in its 13th year, ELFF has moved from March to October to avoid having to compete with the traditional March Madness hoopla.
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Wednesday, October 20,2010

The Screening Room

Laura Allen savors the flavors of ’Cherry’

by James Sanford
If education is power, Laura Allen must be a woman to reckon with.The actress graduated from Wellesley College in 1996, then returned to the campus to play a co-ed in Julia Roberts’ 2003 drama “Mona Lisa Smile.” Five years later, Allen went back to school one more time: In “Cherry,” shot in Kalamazoo two years ago and now opening around the country, she plays Linda, a mom in her early 30s, making an uneasy adjustment to academia.
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Saturday, October 16,2010

Whose life is it anyway?

'Never Let Me Go' is a provocative, chilling heartbreaker

by James Sanford
(Friday, Oct. 15) Kathy, Tommy and Ruth grew up within the confines of Hailsham, a secluded private academy in the English countryside. They weren't typical British schoolchildren, however.
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Friday, October 15,2010

Cracking jokes and cracking heads

Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman take their best shots in 'Red'

by James Sanford
(Friday, Oct. 15) Perhaps it’s oversimplifying things to say “Red” is the movie “Knight and Day” wanted to be. But it sure feels that way.
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Friday, October 8,2010

'Funny Story' tackles serious subjects

Well-acted comedy-drama looks at life in a mental hospital

by James Sanford
(Friday, Oct. 8) Forget those happy Prom Night memories and the fun of graduation: On a day-to-day basis, being a teenager is often tough, especially as you approach the brink of adulthood and have to think about where you're going to college, how you're going to score on the all-important admissions tests, what you want to study and what you're going to do with the rest of your life. In the case of Craig Gilner (the low-key but engaging Keir Gilchrist), the protagonist of "It's Kind of a Funny Story," the constant drive to succeed drives him into a mental hospital. But Craig isn't supremely sullen or self-destructive like the teenage patients in "Girl, Interrupted" or "Prozac Nation": He's merely self-aware enough to know he's losing his grip.
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Thursday, October 7,2010

The Screening Room

Sturdy 'Secretariat' is in it for the long run

by James Sanford
In horse racing, taking the Triple Crown requires winning the Preakness, the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. In Hollywood, there’s a similar sort of Triple Crown: winning the endorsement of critics, ticket buyers and, finally, Academy Award voters.
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Wednesday, October 6,2010

Games people play

Three buddies do some chatting and cheating in Stormfield Theatre's drama 'Among Friends'

by James Sanford
Off to the side, Kristine Thatcher watches them closely. If their conversation sounds familiar to her, it should: She wrote it.
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Wednesday, October 6,2010

Hamburger to go

Wharton marketing director headed for job in Phoenix

by James Sanford
The Lansing native and Michigan State University graduate is headed to Phoenix to be the director of marketing and commu nications at Arizona State University’s version of Wharton, Gammage, which provides music, dance and Broadway touring shows to a market of approximately 4 million.
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Wednesday, October 6,2010

Will the DSO show?

Strike may or may not affect Wharton concert

by James Sanford
According to the DSO website (www.detroitsymphony.com), "all concerts remain scheduled as planned." But ticketholders for the Chang/DSO concert might want to check the DSO’s concert hotline (313-576-5123) or the Wharton Center box office for updates..
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Tuesday, October 5,2010

Picture-perfect

Photographer Mikayla Spyker is only 10 years old, but she's already competing against professionals

by James Sanford
She was recommended for the competition by her instructor, Jeana-Dee Allen. “She’s the most dedicated student,” Allen said. “She’s come to every single class, and she wants to learn anything and everything. If you ask her what is an abstract shot and what is a wide-angle picture, she can tell you.
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Friday, October 1,2010

The Screening Room

The misunderstood message movie

by James Sanford
It must have seemed like a great idea to all concerned back in 1981. Paramount Pictures wanted a “’Jaws’ with paws” horror film; teen star Kristy McNichol was looking for a project that would help her make the transition to adult roles; director Sam Fuller (“Shock Corridor,” “The Naked Kiss”) needed a big hit to continue his comeback.
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Friday, October 1,2010

The Screening Room

Noomi Rapace sizzles while 'Playing With Fire'

by James Sanford
At the end of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” the brilliant computer hacker Lisbeth Salander seemed to be on her way to a life of luxury. Alas, the tables are turning as “The Girl Who Played With Fire” begins, and soon Lisbeth, who once tracked down a killer by operating on the outskirts of the law, will find herself hunted and harassed.
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Friday, October 1,2010

Pinsonnault is the king in the wings in 'Fortinbras'

by James Sanford
It’s not from a lack of coffee and it’s certainly not boredom. It’s the punishing schedule he’s set up for himself, which starts with a 2:15 a.m. wake-up call for his job as the morning and noon news anchor at WLNS-TV. Typically, he would stay up for a few hours after work ' “do some physical activity, maybe play golf” ' and then get to bed around 8 p.
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Friday, October 1,2010

The Screening Room

'Social Network': A slap in the Facebook

by James Sanford
Zuckerberg is the mastermind behind Facebook and the subject of director David Fincher’s outstanding “The Social Network” (opening nationwide on Friday). The movie asks if Zuckerberg also purloined the idea for Facebook from a couple of his classmates at Harvard, wealthy identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
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Friday, October 1,2010

Mother to mutha

Long-shelved 'Case 39' inspires chuckles, not chills

by James Sanford
(FRIDAY - Oct. 1) Maybe there's a sliver of truth in all those "Oscar curse" theories after all. Six years ago, Renee Zellweger took home a best supporting actress Academy Award for "Cold Mountain," in which she gave a memorably feisty performance as the tough farmwoman who teaches Civil War survival skills to lady of the manor Nicole Kidman. Since then, Zellweger has stayed busy, but her fans have stayed home.
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Friday, October 1,2010

Bloody marvelous

When the vampire next door says ‘Let Me In,’ do it

by James Sanford
Abby is one of those friends your parents warned you about. Sure, she looks nice enough — but there’s something, well, strange about her. She’s the new girl in town who doesn’t like to talk about herself. She says she’s 12, “more or less.” She walks around barefoot in the middle of winter, claiming, “I don’t really get cold.” She’s also hungry all the time, but not for candy or burgers or anything else that the typical junior high kids eat. She prefers fresh blood.
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Wednesday, September 15,2010

The Screening Room

’Conviction’ director credits Michigan's credits

by James Sanford
During an interview Sunday morning at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered this week, Goldwyn admitted it was "the incredible tax incentive" that first drew him to Michigan: The state offers a 40 percent refundable tax credit against Michigan Business Tax liability for qualified filmmakers.
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Wednesday, September 8,2010

Stormfield shelter

by James Sanford
When Stormfield Theatre artistic director Kristine Thatcher returns from her summer job at Wisconsin’s Dorr County Playhouse, she’ll have a new theater waiting for her.
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Wednesday, September 8,2010

The Screening Room

'Winter's Bone' is an atmospheric chiller

by James Sanford
Near the start of “Winter’s Bone” (opening Friday At Celebration!Lansing), we hear “Farther Along,” that old Southern hymn that asks why hard-working, faithful people often struggle while the wicked and crooked prosper: “Often I wonder why I must...
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Wednesday, September 1,2010

Double trouble

Double trouble Life gets complicated in drama ’Dying City’

by James Sanford
It was supposed to be a peaceful evening for psychologist Kelly: She just wanted to watch “Law and Order.” But the young widow is about to get some unexpected company: her late husband Craig’s identical twin brother — an actor named Peter — turns up at her door and plunges her into her own personal psychodrama.
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Wednesday, September 1,2010

Toronto becomes a treasure trove of movies

Annual film festival has everything from Knightley to Newton-John

by James Sanford
Approximately 300 movies will be screened Sept. 9 to Sept. 19, and the variety is truly staggering, from the premieres of directors Clint Eastwood’s supernatural shocker “Hereafter” and Davis Guggenheim’s much-anticipated documentary “Waiting for Superman” to “Little Sister,” a Chinese version of Cinderella, and the teen comedy “Easy A.
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Wednesday, August 25,2010

The Screening Room

Stars in your eyes

by James Sanford
“Hubble captured images so complex we can actually travel through them,” DiCaprio notes, and travel through them we do. In a breathtakingly beautiful sequence, the camera effortlessly sails into the “rose-colored cloud” of the Orion Nebula to discover what looks like a Grand Canyon made of magenta cotton candy.
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Wednesday, August 25,2010

Nanny McPhee-quel

Emma Thompson returns in a suitably zany adventure

by James Sanford
The question: When will Emma Thompson get around to making a sequel to “Nanny McPhee”? The answer: When pigs fly.But, as Eleanor of Aquitaine promised in “The Lion in Winter,” there is “pork in the treetops” in “Nanny McPhee Returns,” which transplants Thompson’s devious disciplinarian to the British countryside during World War II, a device that allows the star and screenwriter to incorporate a bit of “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” — Nanny even has a motorcycle — into the story.
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Wednesday, August 25,2010

Whoa, Daddy

So-so 'Switch' puts Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in a truly sticky situation

by James Sanford
It’s about time a film addressed a pressing problem that has been the secret shame of millions, a condition politicians never dare to address, a situation even the mouthiest TV pundits refuse to discuss. We’re talking, of course, about lice — and “The Switch” is the gutsy, no-holds-barred movie that tackles this burning (or should we say, crawling) issue.
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Wednesday, August 25,2010

The Screening Room

Coming soon to a backyard theater near you

by James Sanford
Matthew Jason would like to invite you to explore what he calls the “chicken underground.”No, our feathered friends have not formed a resistance movement to protect their precious eggs from omelet lovers or to save their drumsticks from the Thanksgiving table. Jason is one of the Lansing residents who’s been practicing “urban agriculture” by raising chickens in his backyard. He’ll be showcasing both fowl and
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Wednesday, August 25,2010

You be the judge

This year's crop of Stages of the Law shows are announced

by James Sanford
This year’s Stages of the Law Theatre Festival, sponsored by the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, will feature a quintet of plays dealing with legal issues.
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Wednesday, August 18,2010

Sandra Seaton brings a personal touch to 'Music History'

by James Sanford
Sandra Seaton recalls once seeing a film about Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall that celebrated his achievements while ignoring everything else.“The other attorneys (in the film) had personal lives,” Seaton said. “You saw (Marshall) in his judicial robes, but you didn’t learn anything about his personal life.”
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Friday, August 13,2010

The ex files

Love is truly a battlefield in hilarious

by James Sanford
We live in a world of pop-culture references, some old, some new. Check your Twitter feed: You’re as likely to find comments about a 1980s band or a 1990s TV series as you are discussions about the significance of the spinning top of “Inception” or the cultural impact of Pop-Tart Sushi.For unemployed Toronto native Scott Pilgrim, however, the world really is pop culture. Not only does he live in an environment that looks exactly like a comic book — every time his phone rings, an animated “R-I-I-I-N-G!” floats through the air; little commentaries and asides constantly materialize around him and his friends, just like VH1’s “Pop-Up Video” show — he is frequently plunged into frenzied fights that play out like a mad mash-up of “Mortal Kombat,” “Super Mario Brothers” and “Double Dragon.”
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Friday, August 13,2010

Slice of life

Julia Roberts suffers in style in glossy

by James Sanford
Who is the real star of “Eat Pray Love,” adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s spectacularly successful memoir about finding yourself through the magic of Italian cuisine, Indian gurus and the wisdom of Balinese medicine men? Is it Julia Roberts, who is in every scene of the film? Or is it Susan Spungen, the food stylist par excellence, who has created the movie’s jaw-droppingly perfect portraits of pasta?
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Wednesday, August 11,2010

Ex-rated

’Scott Pilgrim’ stars drew on real life while creating roles

by James Sanford
As she maneuvered her way through a full day of interviews in a suite at Detroit’s MGM Grand hotel/casino with a bottle of water and a cup of tea close at hand, Winstead didn’t look like she was ready to rumble.
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Wednesday, August 4,2010

Red, white and Greenwood

Country star plays Sept. 11 concert

by James Sanford
“We wanted to do more to involve the community, and the typical gala ' the way a lot of nonprofits do them ' is a black-tie, high-priced, high-end social event for businesspeople who want to network,” Sturdy said. “We said, ‘There’s enough of those; let’s tone ours down.
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Wednesday, August 4,2010

The Screening Room

Hollywood gets summer-schooled

by James Sanford
“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” burned brightly: It may yet reach $300 million. But the much-hyped, all-action, no-brains “A-Team” failed to get a passing grade from moviegoers; it’s brought in $76 million, about half of what it was projected to make.
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Friday, July 30,2010

Rudd and Carell add spice to 'Dinner'

by James Sanford
The 1998 French film “Le Diner de Cons (The Dinner of Fools)” was a modest farce about high-rolling Parisian Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) trying to take advantage of dorky Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret), whose odd hobbies make him a prime candidate for ridicule at the weekly banquets hosted by Brochant and his arrogant buddies.
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Wednesday, July 28,2010

A fresh coat of paint

The Deluxe Inn once put the ‘ho’ in ‘hotel.’ Can the site now put the ‘hot’ in ‘hotspot’? The revitalization begins this weekend — with the help of a few graffiti artists

by James Sanford
The Deluxe, at I-496 and Washington Street, could use a bit of touching up; to quote the old TLC song, it’s “damn unpretty.” Hundreds of windows are boarded up to discourage vandals. Many of the wooden numbers on the doors of the rooms are broken or missing.
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Thursday, July 22,2010

A Jolie good time

Angelina gets a high-impact workout as a spy on the run in ‘Salt’

by James Sanford
If you’ve never understood the appeal of Angelina Jolie, “Salt” may be required viewing. It’s a vehicle designed to show off its star in all her glory, and director Philip Noyce and director of photography Robert Elswit are obviously die-hard fans of their leading lady, who puts in overtime here to earn her paycheck (which was reportedly $20 million).Jolie has never been one to try to get by on a pretty face and some sex appeal. Like Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Pfeiffer and other beauties of the previous generation, she knows you need more than just good looks to carry a movie. Jolie’s spellbinding, swimming pool-deep eyes let us know she always has something cooking in her kitchen, and it’s usually worth waiting for.
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Thursday, July 15,2010

Brain sprain

Christopher Nolan's

by James Sanford
There are movies that wash over you, like a shower. There are movies that hit you in the face, like a blast of freezing rain. And then there’s writer-director Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” which hurls you into the center of a whirlpool and never gives you an opportunity to find your bearings for the next two and a half hours.
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Wednesday, July 14,2010

Hungry for ’Love’

Williamston Theatre has an appetite for musical comedy

by James Sanford
While that song isn’t included in the Williamston Theatre’s “Five Course Love,” Gregg Coffin’s script expresses similar sentiments as it showcases a quintet of miniature musical comedies, each set in a different restaurant/bistro/café/cantina/trattoria.
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Wednesday, July 14,2010

The Screening Room

Nicolas Cage takes up Mickey’s mantle

by James Sanford
It took producer Jerry Bruckheimer almost 20 years to cash in on the “Indiana Jones” series with his “National Treasure” franchise. He must be picking up the pace: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” arrives a mere nine years after the first “Harry Potter” film hit theaters.
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Thursday, July 8,2010

Art Alley opens its doors Friday

Photographer Lewis Smith will be showcased at REO Town gallery

by James Sanford
Tom Stewart is about to launch an incubator. But instead of hatching eggs, he hopes to launch a new era of opportunity for artists. Stewart is the president of the Center for New Enterprise Opportunity, the group behind Art Alley, which is holding an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday. Art Alley is located at 1133 S. Washington Avenue in the REO Town neighborhood.
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Thursday, July 1,2010

When 3D means dingy, dull and downright ugly

Hideous effects make

by James Sanford
It’s not just the presence of titles like “The Karate Kid” and “The A-Team”: If you’re heading to the movies this summer, it really is 1983 all over again. That was the last time we had this kind of an onslaught of 3D extravaganzas — with the accompanying headaches and eye-aches from sloppy filmmaking and sub-par projection.
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Thursday, July 1,2010

More than meets the eye

'Please Give' wraps complex characters in a deceptively simple story

by James Sanford
For Kate (Catherine Keener), charity does not begin at home but guilt begins in the workplace. She and her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt), own an upscale used-furniture store in Manhattan, one of those shops that will sell you a couch just like Grandma used to have for a mere $5,000 or so. To maintain their inventory of retro-chic furnishings, Kate and Alex travel around the city, cutting deals with the relatives of the recently deceased; these kids or grandkids are often eager to dispose of the belongings, and Kate and Alex are more than happy to write them a check.
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Wednesday, June 30,2010

Blood, sweat and tears

by James Sanford
It’s a scene we’ve all witnessed a thousand times before: “Marry me,” the hero asks his beloved. And she responds… “Change me.”Excuse me? Anyhow, that’s how it goes in “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the third installment — and, for those who don’t necessarily cherish every syllable Stephenie Meyer writes, easiest to watch — of the series detailing the difficulties of choosing between a well-mannered vampire and a lovesick teenage werewolf. Really, what’s a girl to do?
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Wednesday, June 30,2010

The Screening Room

’Airbender’ stars keep it in the family

by James Sanford
Sometimes, it takes a tag team to promote a movie properly. So Jackson Rathbone and Nicola Peltz have been hitting the road together to promote “The Last Airbender,” director M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action adaptation of the popular animated Nickelodeon network series.
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Thursday, June 24,2010

The Screening Room

Can 'Knight' rescue Cruise and Diaz?

by James Sanford
In 2001, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz played friends with benefits in director Cameron Crowe’s surrealistic psychodrama “Vanilla Sky.” At the time, both stars were riding high: Cruise had just starred in “Mission: Impossible II,” while Diaz was fresh from “Charlie’s Angels” and the first “Shrek."
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Wednesday, June 23,2010

’Dragon Tattoo’ leaves its mark

Spellbinding shocker is vicious, frightening and even touching

by James Sanford
Every year on his birthday, Swedish industrialist Henrik Vanger receives a package containing framed flowers. The gifts come from all over the world, but Vanger isn’t delighted: He suspects they are being sent by the person who did away with his beloved niece, Harriet, 40 years ago.
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Friday, June 18,2010

Woody and Buzz's last round-up

Delightful

by James Sanford
The fear of becoming obsolete. Abandonment issues. The threat of Death By Monkeys.They’re all part of the psychological backdrop of “Toy Story 3,” a first-rate — and long-overdue — sequel that both lives up to and builds on the legacy of 1995’s “Toy Story” and 1999’s “Toy Story 2.”
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Wednesday, June 16,2010

The Screening Room

The Pixar Generation

by James Sanford
Back in April, I received an invitation to a screening of “Toy Story 3” via Facebook. How exciting, I thought: Pixar Animation Studios is actually going to show the movie two months ahead of its release. So I set about trying to RSVP ' only to find I had been invited by accident.
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Wednesday, June 9,2010

’I don't have anything to cover up anymore’

Country star Chely Wright speaks out about being a lesbian — even though she knows it might cost her her career

by James Sanford
Chely Wright’s memoir, “Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer,” begins with what could easily have been the end of her story: It’s January 2006, and a tormented and heartbroken Wright stands in front of her bathroom mirror, with the barrel of a 9-mm handgun in her mouth.
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Wednesday, June 9,2010

The Screening Room

On the Waterfront

by James Sanford
There are plenty of reasons to go to the lakeshore in June, but every year around this time Saugatuck provides us with one more: the Waterfront Film Festival. Since 1999, this four-day event has brought filmmakers, actors, writers and movie fans to the resort town for screenings, Q
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Wednesday, June 9,2010

Big Apple boozing

Celebration and inebriation coexist in ’Drunken City’

by James Sanford
So does a chance meeting with a couple of guys, both of whom have been doing some celebrating of their own. The various connections between the out-of-towners linger long after last call and well into the messiness of the morning after..
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Wednesday, June 2,2010

Haunted by HUAC

’The Value of Names’: John Peakes stars in a look at life after the witch hunts

by James Sanford
To pave the way ' and raise some money ' Stormfield has been presenting a series of staged readings at various locations. “The Value of Names,” playing June 4 to 6 at Red Cedar Friends Meeting House, is the latest, and it has given Thatcher a chance to reconnect with some longtime friends and associates.
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Wednesday, May 26,2010

Wright on

Country star is grand marshal for Pride March June 12

by James Sanford
Wright will be grand marshal of the Pride March June 12 in downtown Lansing; it’s part of the Michigan Pride Diversity Festival. The march begins at noon at Grand Avenue along Riverfront Park and proceeds south on Grand, west on Shiawassee Street and south on Capitol Avenue to the Capitol steps.
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Wednesday, May 26,2010

Rattling the rafters, stirring the heart

’Phantom’ retains its allure at Wharton Center

by James Sanford
It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” made its debut in London’s West End and the show has remained a money-spinner ever since. That’s quite remarkable in the theater world, where today’s hot ticket can easily turn into tomorrow’s big yawn.
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Wednesday, May 26,2010

The Screening Room

'Sex' and the sandy: Fun is just a mirage

by James Sanford
Once upon a time ' way back in 1998 ' there was a fresh new HBO series about four single women slashing and sashaying their way through the Big Apple dating scene. It was called “Sex and the City,” and it was witty and sophisticated and steamy and, in some eyes, scandalous.
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Sunday, May 23,2010

Places, please - It's time for this year's Pulsar nominations

City Pulse theater judges honor the best of the best in their annual award ceremony June 14

by James Sanford
Over the course of the past year, judges Erin Buitendorp, Mary Cusack, Tom and Kathy Helma, Paul Wozniak and Ute Von Der Heyden have surveyed the local theater landscape to find the very best of the best. In order to qualify for a Pulsar award, a show must be seen and rated by at least three of the six judges.
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Saturday, May 22,2010

Which blockbuster will self-destruct?

by James Sanford
“Robin Hood” dodged the bullet. The Russell Crowe/Cate Blanchett epic (which received lukewarm reviews from critics) managed to take in $36 million at the box office last weekend ' not “Iron Man 2” numbers, perhaps, but good enough to save the film from wearing the badge of shame labeled The First Bomb of Summer.
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Saturday, May 22,2010

The man behind the mask

Tim Martin Gleason is the 'Phantom' menace

by James Sanford
So he stepped into the title role. By then, he’d already had plenty of preparation. “The whole time I was Raoul, I was the Phantom’s understudy as well,” Gleason said, calling from New York City. “On a two-show day, I could be Raoul at the matinee and then be the Phantom at night.
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Wednesday, May 19,2010

’Home’ is where the theater is

Families tell their stories in Williamston production

by James Sanford
In Muskegon, a frazzled family battles over whose turn it is to use the only bathroom in the house. In Madison, Wis., an elderly widow laments what she sees as the deterioration of her neighborhood. In Detroit, a babysitter is taken aback by the unusual lunch request of the boy she’s taking care of.
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Wednesday, May 19,2010

BoarsHead Theater faces final curtain

LCC trustees reject proposed partnership

by James Sanford
“Currently, BoarsHead is defunct, they are bankrupt. We’re not rescuing anyone,” he said. “The BoarsHead people are working hard to reconstitute themselves to once again be a viable theater company in Lansing. Without us, they’d have to go back to the drawing board.
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Wednesday, May 12,2010

Local artists get Live downtown

Two new concert series are in the works

by James Sanford
Lansing Live, a new concert series featuring local artists, kicks off May 20 on Washington Square, while Citadel Broadcasting prepares to launch a revamped version of the Blues on the Square series..
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Wednesday, May 12,2010

The Screening Room

Waiting for ’Eclipse’? Don’t forget ’Juliet’

by James Sanford
Summit Entertainment, which distributes the “Twilight” films, is hoping many of those eagerly awaiting “Eclipse” will use this weekend to check out “Letters to Juliet,” a romantic comedy-drama the studio is positioning as a kind of curtain-raiser for the “Twilight” juggernaut.
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Wednesday, May 5,2010

The Screening Room

'Babies': Cute is the universal language

by James Sanford
It’s not uncommon to hear a movie described as “cute.” Often, that’s not a compliment. But if there’s any film that truly deserves to be described with that particular adjective, it must be “Babies,” director Thomas Balmes’ documentary examining the first months in the lives of four infants.
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Wednesday, May 5,2010

A comeback or the final curtain?

The fate of the shuttered BoarsHead Theatre may be decided next week

by James Sanford
The building that once housed BoarsHead Theater is scheduled to be turned into a parking lot. Former BoarsHead artistic director Kristine Thatcher has already launched a new professional theater company called Stormfield. The rest of BoarsHead’s staff has moved on to other ventures.
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Wednesday, May 5,2010

Adam's eve: July 13

Common Ground books Lambert and Orianthi

by James Sanford
"American Idol" season eight runner-up Adam Lambert, whose eye-opening performance on last November's American Music Awards titillated some viewers and traumatized others, has been added to the lineup of performers for this year's Common Ground Festival. Lambert's concert is sche...
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Thursday, April 29,2010

The Screening Room

Down in the 'Valley'

by James Sanford
A recent letter on film critic Roger Ebert’s website asked Ebert if he knew when he was scripting it that “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” was an exploitation film. Ebert’s answer is succinct: “It was many things. It was above all a satirical comedy.”
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Wednesday, April 21,2010

LSO hosts ’home-grown talent’

Familiar local faces return during 2010-11 season

by James Sanford
“The purpose of music programs in school, of course, is to develop the person, not to make them into a professional musician,” Muffitt said. “But it’s a nice fringe benefit when we have these people who come through these programs and go on to become successful.
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Wednesday, April 21,2010

The Screening Room

Bringing down the 'Hausu'

by James Sanford
There are many strange and puzzling films you may encounter over the course of your lifetime. But I feel reasonably safe in saying that no matter where you may travel in this world, you will never find anything quite so flamboyantly bizarre as the...
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Wednesday, April 21,2010

Something in Common

Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Jimmy Cliff playing Common Ground

by James Sanford
Cooper burst onto the rock landscape in the 1970s with his ghoulish stage shows and radio-friendly hits, such as “Eighteen,” “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Only Women Bleed” and “How You Gonna See Me Now.
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Wednesday, April 14,2010

Renegotiating 'Rent'

Director Scott Burkell draws on his friendship with Jonathan Larson in shaping the show’s MSU production

by James Sanford
Scott Burkell met the late Jonathan Larson at the Barn Theatre in Augusta in the summer of 1980. Over the course of the season, Burkell, Larson and fellow Equity membership candidate Marin Mazzie ' then a student at Western Michigan University and...
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Wednesday, April 14,2010

LSO meets Elton John

‘Rocket’ puts classic rock into a symphonic setting

by James Sanford
After a long career as a guitarist, music producer and music director, Brennan began looking for ways to combine rock and symphonic music. His first project was a show built around the music of Elton John and performed by Orchestra London in London, Ontario.
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Wednesday, April 7,2010

The Screening Room

3D: Back to stay — or a high-tech fad?

by James Sanford
3D movies may be all the rage these days, but the craze is certainly nothing audiences haven’t seen before. Even as far back as the 1930s, filmmakers were testing the waters with novelty-short specialist Pete Smith’s “Audioskopics” and “Three-Dimensional Murde...
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Tuesday, April 6,2010

Living on the 'Line'

For 'Chorus' star Ashley Yeater, every night is an audition

by James Sanford
How does a “Chorus Line” star spend her spare time between shows? For Ashley Yeater, it’s about resting in her hotel room with her dog, while Nicole Kidman sings herself to death. “I’m watching ‘Moulin Rouge,’” Yeater said, calling from a tour stop in Hershey, Pa. That’s a movie musical she likes; the 1985 film version of “A Chorus Line” — uh, not so much.
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Friday, April 2,2010

Riverwalk Theatre announces 2010-11 season

'Caroline, or Change,' 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' among next season's offerings

by James Sanford
Musicals, fairy tales and a double dose of Edward Albee are in the forecast for Riverwalk Theatre, which just announced its 2010-11 season.
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Thursday, April 1,2010

This 'Clash' never gets Kraken

Stick with the original and give this pointless remake a myth — er, miss

by James Sanford
When it was released in 1981, “Clash of the Titans” represented a sort of last hurrah for the sword-and-sandal spectaculars of the “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” variety. The stop-motion animation creations of Ray Harryhausen were enchantingly old-fashioned and the mythological mash-up of the plot (involving displeased gods, curses, Medusa and Pegasus) wasn’t just old-school, it was ancient-academy.
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Wednesday, March 31,2010

'Song' sung blue

Miley Cyrus: Still a girl, not yet an actress in her dramatic debut 'The Last Song'

by James Sanford
Miley Cyrus fans, don’t say you weren’t warned. Remember how “The Hannah Montana Movie” took a serious turn in the last half-hour, with Miley suffering an identity crisis? Consider that a warm-up for “The Last Song,” in which Cyrus tackles her first straight dramatic role. Despite the title, she does very little singing in the film (aside from a scene in which she belts out Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” along with the radio); she also doesn’t do much in the way of persuasive emoting, either.
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Wednesday, March 31,2010

The Screening Room

Cyrus is still a girl, not yet an actress in ’The Last Song’

by James Sanford
Remember how “The Hannah Montana Movie” took a serious turn in the last halfhour, with Miley suffering an identity crisis? Consider that a warm-up for “The Last Song,” in which Cyrus tackles her first straight dramatic role.
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Sunday, March 28,2010

Wharton Center has everything from "Mary" to "Jersey"

2010-11 Broadway season also includes "Shrek the Musical," "9 to 5"

by James Sanford
It’s fresh, and yet it’s also familiar — that’s what you might think when you see the Wharton Center’s Broadway line-up for 2010-11.
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Saturday, March 27,2010

Wharton 2010-11 Season Schedule

by James Sanford
MSU FEDERAL CREDIT UNIONBROADWAY AT WHARTON CENTER: MaryPoppins *(Extendedrun) November3-21, 2010 9to 5 December14-19, 2010 Shrek February 8-13, 2011 Jersey Boys *(Extendedrun) Sept. 28-October 16, 2011 SPECIAL...
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Friday, March 26,2010

Putting the punch in punchline

The humor of "Greenberg" is acidic — and unexpectedly touching, too

by James Sanford
“Are you going to let me in?” That’s what Florence (Greta Gerwig) murmurs as she navigates the traffic on a busy Los Angeles street. She might ask the same question of the title character in “Greenberg,” writer-director Noah Baumbach’s acidic comedy, in which Ben Stiller plays a stubborn slacker who spends his days fashioning personal crusades out of minor inconveniences and wallowing in nostalgia, although it’s hard to imagine his supposed glory days were anymore glorious than his seemingly pointless present-day situation.
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Friday, March 26,2010

'How to Train Your Dragon': Fantasy battle reflects real-world wars

A beautifully animated, often funny adventure touches on some serious topics

by James Sanford
“Our parents’ war is about to become ours,” a young girl tells her friend in a new film. “Figure out what side you’re on.” All around them they see destruction and chaos, the result of being under siege by a culture they don’t understand. Some of these enemies set themselves on fire in order to kill more effectively. Many of the warriors who join in the battle come home with missing limbs. The rationale behind the fighting is vague. “They’ve killed hundreds of us!” a father warns his son. “And we’ve killed thousands of them!” the son replies. Given those kinds of details, you might think the movie is set in Iraq or Afghanistan or the Gaza Strip. It’s not
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Friday, March 26,2010

Identity crisis

Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore generate some steam in "Chloe," but a feeble finale spoils the mood

by James Sanford
The younger woman pours a steady stream of sugar into her coffee cup. Her life could use a little sweetening up: She’s Chloe, a call girl who lives out other people’s fantasies while shutting out her own. “I can become your first kiss, or a torn-out image from a Playboy magazine you saw when you were 9 years old,” she says. “I can become your living, breathing dream. Then I can disappear.”
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Wednesday, March 24,2010

Secrets of Cirque

’Language of performance’ unites an international cast

by James Sanford
“We have performers from 17 different countries,” senior artistic director Michael Smith noted as he observed his artists preparing for a stopover of the “Alegria” spectacular in Detroit in February. “We’re very multi-national. That’s the best part of working at Cirque.
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Thursday, March 18,2010

A quiet drink with friends

Director Claire Denis reveals the complex ties between four people in "35 Shots of Rum"

by James Sanford
It takes “35 Shots of Rum” for Lionel (Alex Descas) to mark a truly special occasion, and he doesn’t take that ritual lightly. There don’t seem to be many important moments in Lionel’s life: A handsome, thoughtful widower, he drives a metro train in Paris and lives with his college-age child, Josephine (Mati Diop), in a compact apartment. It’s a good thing he and Josephine get along; when they sit down to eat, there’s barely enough room at their tiny dinner table for a rice steamer, a salad bowl and a couple of plates.
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Wednesday, March 17,2010

'Zeitoun' selected for One Book, One Community

Author Dave Eggers visits East Lansing Aug. 29

by James Sanford
The City of East Lansing and Michigan State University have selected Dave Eggers’ 2009 novel “Zeitoun” as the 2010 One Book, One Community novel. Set in New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina has devastated the city, “Zeitoun” chronicles the journey of Syrian-American Abdulrahman Zeitoun, his wife, Kathy, and their four children as they face the storm’s terrifying aftermath.
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Wednesday, March 17,2010

The Screening Room

It’s ’80s redux: Remakes pour into cineplexes

by James Sanford
“I would love to see some new ideas come out of the big studios ' the remake thing is killing me,” one Facebook follower complained. “I think they have remade every cult horror movie and now they are going to remake every chees(y) ‘80s movie. I mean, what’s next.
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Wednesday, March 17,2010

'Cheatin','April' among this week's theater openings

by James Sanford
“Cheatin’” (Lansing Civic Players) — Wagging tongues and other wagging body parts stir up big trouble in a tiny Texas town where infidelity is inescapable. Leo Sell, Paul Levandowski, Bob Purosky, Kat Cooper, Sandy Vanlacker, Tim Cody and Tippy Canal star in a farce...
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Friday, March 12,2010

Isn't it woe-mantic?

Thinking about seeing "Remember Me"? Forget it

by James Sanford
“Remember Me” is a tearjerker that won’t make you cry. It will, however, make you groan and squirm and possibly snore as it painstakingly details the lackluster love story of a bitter rich-kid-turned-rebel and a sunny social-worker-to-be brought together by police brutality. That may sound a bit peculiar but, as Al Jolson once said, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.
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Thursday, March 11,2010

Something fishy

Friday fish fries abound during the season of Lent

by James Sanford
Ifyou want to adhere to the meatless Fridays of Lent, but you don’t want tosettle for a salad or fast-food fish sandwich, there are plenty of otheroptions available. Numerous churches and organizations in the area are offeringFriday evening fish fries through April. 2 The p...
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Thursday, March 11,2010

Something fishy

Friday fish fries abound during the season of Lent

by James Sanford
If you want to adhere to the meatless Fridays of Lent, but you don’t want to settle for a salad or fast-food fish sandwich, there are plenty of other options available. Numerous churches and organizations in the area are offering Friday evening fish fries through April. 2 The prices are rather appetizing, too: less than $10 for all-you-can-eat fish, fries and other menu items.
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Wednesday, March 10,2010

Wharton Center adds 'Jesus Christ Superstar'

Ted Neeley stars in touring production

by James Sanford
Ted Neeley, who starred in the film adaptation of "Jesus Christ Superstar," will reprise the role in a touring production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera coming to the Wharton Center at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 5. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. March 15.
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Wednesday, March 10,2010

The Screening Room

Lansing native Hughes gets Oscar attention - finally

by James Sanford
"I think that the best way to judge movies is, like, 10 years after they’re released," Damon told the Los Angeles Times. "I think they should actually do the awards that way. I think they should have done the Academy Awards this year for movies from 1998.
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Wednesday, March 10,2010

Mackerel Sky misses opening deadline

East Lansing art gallery settles in at new location Friday

by James Sanford
Mackerel Sky's grand re-opening in its new location at 211 M.A.C. Ave. is going to happen a couple days later than originally planned.
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Friday, March 5,2010

And the Oscar goes to...

Expect some close races in Sunday night's Academy Awards

by James Sanford
Forget Christmas: For filmmakers, the most wonderful time of the year is Oscar season, a time when they do everything they can (and sometimes more than they’re allowed to) in order to take home one of those prized statuettes. Making movies is all good and well, but making big money off of them — that’s the real work.
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Thursday, March 4,2010

Old-school 'Alice'

An elaborate 1933 adaptation is full of vintage stars and vivid images

by James Sanford
Search the title “Alice in Wonderland” at the Internet Movie Database, and you’ll find more than two dozen film and TV adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s freaky fantasy, ranging from the well-known Disney animated version to the obscure 1982 musical “Alice at the Palace,” in which Meryl Streep hurls herself down the rabbit hole.
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Wednesday, March 3,2010

The not-so-big 10

Many contenders vie for best picture at this year’s Oscars, but not all are worthy

by James Sanford
For the 2010 Academy Awards, the Motion Picture Academy decided to put 10 candidates in the running for best picture.Was it because 2009 brought us so many outstanding films that the usual five slots wouldn’t be enough? Or is this simply a gimmick designed to cater to people who gripe about how “artsy” the Oscars can be?
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Wednesday, February 24,2010

Sell-ebrate

Addy Awards honor top ads

by James Sanford
The agencies listed with the American Advertising Federation, which sponsors the awards, are divided up by state into districts: Michigan is in District 6, along with Indiana and Illinois. Within each district are various ad clubs and creative alliances, such as Lansing’s Mid-Michigan Creative Alliance, that host competitions.
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Wednesday, February 24,2010

Both sides now

Stroke of bad luck brought epiphany for neuroscientist

by James Sanford
“As soon as I sat up, I had a pulsating feeling behind my left eye,” Taylor said in a brief phone interview minutes before she was scheduled to get on a plane to her home in Bloomington, Ind. “In the next few hours, I watched my mind completely deteriorate through the eyes of a scientist.
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Friday, February 19,2010

Island of lost souls (and lost plots)

Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" is stunningly stylish, but it's tripped up by its own trickery

by James Sanford
“Seen any walking nightmares lately, marshal?” a woman asks deputy marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) late in director Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island." She’s a psychiatrist, although she might as well be a psychic: Daniels has been prowling around the creepy corridors of the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and he’s witnessed enough scary sights to fill a month’s worth of bad dreams.
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