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‘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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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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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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’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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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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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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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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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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'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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Is there Hope for Adam Sandler's future?

by James Sanford
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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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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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’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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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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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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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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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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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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Sunday will be ’Hell’ at Michigan Brewing Co.

by James Sanford

Michael McCallum has been a waiter “for a long time,” he says. “Longer than I want to admit.” He’s got dozens of stories about impatient, irrational, even borderline-insane customers. But he’s also a filmmaker and an actor, and in his “Waiter From Hell” trilogy, he gets his revenge ' at least on screen.

 
 
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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'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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’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.

 
 

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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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

 
 

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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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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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.

 
 
Arts and Culture

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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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’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.

 
 
Arts and Culture

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.

 
 
Arts and Culture

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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.

 
 
Arts and Culture

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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."

 
 
Arts and Culture

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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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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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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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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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