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Thursday, January 28, 2010

TWO LOCAL GROUPS WIN CASH IN FACEBBOOK COMPETITION

Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 2:21 PM

A few weeks back, we took a look at four metro-Detroit organizations competing for a cool million, thanks to an innovative, Facebook-fueled grant giveaway ("Chasing the buck," Jan. 13). Gathering votes from Facebook friends the world over, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Friendship Circle and Sikhcess, both from West Bloomfield,...

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Extra ordinary

Harrison Ford’s latest save-the-day turn is a blunt-edged ‘tear-jerker’ of sorts

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Inspired by journalist Geeta Anand’s book, director Tom Vaughan certainly has some meaty material to work with. And like most Hollywood movies, he fudges some of the facts and creates “composite” characters to better tell his story — all forgivable acts. What’s not forgivable is turning a fascinating portrait of a man who risked everything he spent his life building to save his kids into a cliché-riddled, blunt-edged family tearjerker with cardboard characters and hamfisted direction. John Crowley (a surprisingly pudgy Brendan Fraser) climbed up from his working-class roots to get into Harvard then ascended the corporate ladder at Bristol-Myers to become a highly successful executive. But all the drive and talent in the world couldn’t trump genetics. Two of his kids — Megan and Patrick — are stricken with Pompe, a rare neuromuscular disease like muscular dystrophy that takes the life of its victims before they reach their second birthday. None have seen their ninth. Crowley’s adorable kids are six and eight. There is no cure. With the clock ticking, John seeks out Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a curmudgeonly scientist whose work could lead to a vaccine — if he had the proper funding. So, putting his corporate skills to the test, John partners with Stonehill and struggles to build a life sciences company profitable enough to find a cure for his kids. It’s an unconventional tactic to be sure, and it should’ve made for a uniquely intriguing film. Too bad.

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Tooth Fairy

The sum total of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson stuffed into a tiny pink tutu

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Dwayne (don’t call him “Rock”) Johnson stars as faded hockey star Derek Thompson, now reduced to slogging it out thug-like in the minor leagues, where he’s nicknamed “Tooth Fairy” for his frequent knockouts of opposing players. Worse, he has been charged with babysitting a brash Gretzky-like upstart (skateboarder Ryan Sheckler) who’s a snot-nosed punk. Off ice, Johnson’s all anti-chemistry with girlfriend Carly — played by the harbinger of nothing good, Ashley Judd. Derek really wins when he tells Carly’s adorable 6-year-old that there’s no tooth fairy, leading to a summons to fairy land, and a sentence of community service for “disseminating disbelief.” What follows is a blur of sight gags and bad puns covered in a haze of pixie dust and desperate flailing by all involved.

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Chops

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Following a high school class of musicians from Jacksonville, Fla., as they practice and eventually compete in Lincoln Center’s 2007 Essentially Ellington Competition, Bruce Broder’s engaging doc skips the typical highly personal underdog profiles and nail-biting twists in the contest to instead examine the collaborative process of building a top-notch ensemble. Former Michiganian Broder lets the teens’ performance at the festival stand as its own triumph, bringing down the house with a truly memorable version of Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy.”

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Book of Eli

Bible burning! Ak-47s! Gnarly decapitations! Saint Denzel Washington!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The setup is pure Fox News Fantasy, only instead of Christmas, America goes after the Bible, angrily burning every copy in the fiery aftermath of the “Great War.” For those of you with a scorecard, that means six billion copies were remaindered in 30 short years. AK-47s, however, are in abundant supply. Enter Eli (Washington), who has been walking west all that time, toting the very last copy of the King James Bible. Guided by divine providence, he keeps his head down and finds small moments of peace listening to his still-functioning iPod (which prompts the question: What about e-books?). Denzel is playing Sergio Leone’s “Man With No Name,” a brutally efficient loner who is reluctantly drawn into the calamities of preyed-upon innocents. Only instead of villainous Lee Van Cleef, we’ve got Gary Oldman’s Carnegie, desperately seeking the “good book” to do bad deeds. See, Carnegie understands that a man with all those pretty words of faith will be able to charm the masses and build an empire — or some such nonsense.

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The Spy Next Door

Not even Jackie Chan’s ageless kick-stunts (or Amber Valletta) can save this abomination

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Chan plays “Bob Ho,” a Chinese covert ops ace implausibly on loan to the CIA. Even more implausibly, George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus are his best pals in the agency, forming a perfect union of inept line readings. When Ho’s not helping his bozo buds raise the security level to orange, he enjoys kicking it with the fetching MILF next door to his safe house, played by the statuesque Amber Valletta, which makes for a really odd couple. Not hip to his real day gig, her trio of yapping kids think Ho’s a total and complete nerd. Clearly, these brats have never seen Armor of God or Drunken Master 2.

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The Lovely Bones

A murdered girl views her death's aftermath from heaven

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The heroine is young Susie Salmon, played with ethereal grace and smarts by Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), a bright, gawky but otherwise normal ’70s suburban teen. Her world revolves around her new camera, homework, friends, the mall, and an all-consuming crush on a dashing older boy. All of those things are cruelly stolen from her one day when she takes a shortcut home through a cornfield, where an unassuming neighbor (Stanley Tucci) lures her into a bunker, and she descends down into the pit of hell. From that point on Susie becomes a ghostly observer, watching over her ruined family, and trying to gently nudge them to the truth from beyond. Jackson has the audacity to render exactly what a still-innocent girl’s heaven might be, a shimmering realm of lush cascading hills, quaint gazebo’s and twinkling rainbows, that looks like a million Trapper Keeper scribbles come alive.

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Youth in Revolt

It's subversive edge and inventive energy trumps other horny teen satires

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Saddled with the Dickensian name Nick Twisp, our hero’s a hyper-bright teen, painfully aware of his loser status, but too timid to do much about it. He lives in Oakland, Calif. with his floozy Mom (Jean Smart) and her string of deadbeat boyfriends, until her latest scuzzy beau (Zach Galifianakis in a plum part), pulls a scam that forces them all to split town for awhile. But the bum deal turns into a life-changing epiphany the moment Nick lays eyes on his pretty trailer-park neighbor Sheeni, played by the startlingly fresh-faced Portia Doubleday. She’s beautiful, whip smart, and confident with a casual attitude toward sex that drives virginal Nick crazy with lust. She’s a heartbreaker and he’s the sap to pedestalize her, telling a nerdy pal that she’s “a comely angel sent to teach me about all the good things in the world.”

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WR: Mysteries of the Organism

'Comrade-lovers, for your health's sake, fuck freely!'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Makavejev’s visit to the Reich Orgonon compound in Maine leads to some small-town moments straight out of Vernon, Florida, like a discussion with the town’s deputy sheriff-cum-barber regarding Reich’s distinctively gravity-defying coiffure. Reich’s son Peter remembers the townspeople’s hostile reaction to his dad, who, the Main Street rumor had it, spearheaded “a secret Jewish organization that was masturbating patients in orgone accumulators.” Scattered throughout, and appearing at opportune moments for the film’s radical montage, are interviews with some of Reich’s disciples, an appropriated 1946 drama about Stalin, the anti-authoritarian antics of Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, the plaster-casting of the penis of a Screw magazine editor, and transgendered Warhol star Jackie Curtis revealing intimate details about her love life.

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Big Money Rustlas

Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope return to torture old western heroics and the good name of Ron Jeremy!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Big Money Rustlas may be the year’s best clown-related sci-fi, revenge thriller, hillbilly kung-fu western action comedy, featuring the epic showdown between low-down crime baron Big Baby Chips (Violent J) and the baddest gunslinger in the west, Sheriff Sugar Wolf (Shaggy Two Dope). It’s all a bunch of silly, high-energy nonsense; loud, stupid, crude and sporadically hilarious. The script borders on incoherence, like something someone’s dumb little brother wrote, but also shows flashes of real wit and satiric punch. It’s also packed with allusions to all the junk culture genres that ICP clearly love, from spaghetti westerns, to WWF showmanship, ’80s sci-fi, ninjas and cartoon slapstick. If you don’t get all the inside jokes, or hoot when producer Mike E. Clark, or some ICP flunkies, pop up on screen, you just might learn to relax, realize that civilization isn’t over yet, and just let the clown love do what it does.

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