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Droll and Spectacular . . .

Movies: ‘The Avengers’
leong@lakevillejournal.com

But Wait, No Character Development?

Director Joss Whedon, who combines cerebral humor (“Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”) with a broad sentimental streak (“Toy Story 1”) and even a sense of parody (“Cabin in the Woods”), was not the first to come to mind for “The Avengers.” Yet in a logistical triumph, he has woven together a hectic story from a wide selection of Marvel Comics superheroes. The movie is like a bag of miniature chocolate bars: Your favorites are mingled with ones you don’t like so much, but you buy the bag anyway for the ones you like.

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Growing Up Is Hard To Do

Movies: ‘The Five-Year Engagement’

I am going to go out on a limb here and say “The Five-Year Engagement” is a worthy heir to “Annie Hall.” It’s a very funny relationship comedy that gently parodies a very specific place and the various subcultures of people who live there; and while the treatment of its female characters verges on
objectionable, it’s rescued by truly terrific actors. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jason Segel, the co-writer and star, is the next Woody Allen, but that’s OK. One is plenty.

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Mysticism, Romance And Also Great Pecs

Movies: ‘The Lucky One’

In the annals of movies about post-war experience and PTSD, as we now know it, “The Lucky One” will sink into the mire of forgettable films.
It’s a mainly tedious and mushy love story about a Marine, Logan (Zac Efron), returning home from his third tour of duty in Iraq, and the cute owner of a dog kennel in small-town Louisiana, Beth (Taylor Schilling), with whom Logan has a, let’s say, extrasensory connection.

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Deranged Gags for Fans Of Mad Magazine and Their Ilk

Movies: ‘The Three Stooges’
patricks@lakevillejournal.com

Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s “The Three Stooges” is a splendidly sophomoric flick.That’s high school sophomore.
The story begins at a Catholic orphanage in the mid 1970s, to judge by the muscle car — blasting “Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers — that whizzes by the entrance and dumps a duffel bag containing the infant Stooges on the doorstep.
They immediately assault Sister Mary-Mengele, played by Larry David, who, as co-creator of “Seinfeld,” cannot leave his Jewish schtick behind.

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Fathers and Sons, Truth and Honesty

Movies: ‘Footnote’
leong@lakevillejournal.com

After reading the words “The most difficult day in the life of Professor Shkolnik” on screen, we focus on a frozen-faced older man while a voice-over intones his impressive professorial credits: books, papers, international awards, peer respect.
Gradually — be patient — we learn that we are looking at Eliezer Shkolnik, a Talmudic scholar, who is gloomy because it is his son, Uriel, who is being extolled and inducted into the Israeli National Academy of Science, an honor long denied the father.

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Take a Quirky Idea . . . And Run With It

Movies: ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’

This could have been a sweet, quirky, romantic comedy, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” It could have been a tart satire of government officials and bungling bureaucracy. It could have been an inspirational tale of faith vs. science. Or it could have been the story of complicated adult relationships and the difficult choices people make to find happiness and avoid hurting people they care about. It tries to be all of these, and a fish tale besides — the kind of story in which people intone, “the fish doesn’t care if I’m brown or white.

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Just Another Day in Middle School

Movies: ‘The Hunger Games’

The popularity of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” trilogy is well-deserved. Though aimed at young adults, the dystopic drama is gripping for adults as well, with complex characters, a political backdrop that resonates at many levels and a fearless, go-for-broke plot. (The writing is pretty great too.) It was controversial when it came out, and the film, despite the huge public relations machine that propelled its opening night to new heights, raised hackles.

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Ambitious, Boring And in 3D

Movies: ‘John Carter’
patricks@lakevillejournal.com

An ambitious sci-fi flick, “John Carter” is a Western action adventure with four-armed green guys with tusks, princesses with expanding bustlines and steampunk flying machines. And hey — it’s in 3D!
John Carter, played by the aptly named Taylor Kitsch, is a renegade gold miner on Earth in the 1800s, a former Confederate cavalry officer now seeking treasure in Arizona.

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70 and Still Great

Movies: ‘Casablanca’

I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!”
“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”
“Round up the usual suspects.”
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
And of course: “Play it Sam.” (Not Play it again, Sam.)

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Raising, Not Answering, Provocative Questions

Movies: ‘A Separation’
leong@lakevillejournal.com

This stunning Iranian film, “A Separation,” by writer-director Asghar Farhadi, his fifth in nine years, won the 2012 Academy Award for best foreign film; but for my money it was simply the finest movie of the year.
It is so real that you feel you are watching life happening.
While our own politicians talk of bombing Iran, Farhadi reminds us that Iran is more than an abstraction or a problem in geopolitics. It is home to a people who endure the contradictions and absurdities of its theocracy while dealing with existential problems like people everywhere.

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