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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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