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Susan Granger Reviews
The Conspirator - Courtroom-Centric

After John Wilkes Booth's assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on a Good Friday, April 15, 1865, the search was on for the Southern sympathizers who not only planned his murder but also attempts on the lives of Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward.

Susan Granger Reviews
Review: Water For Elephants

Given the quality and popularity of its visually rich, romantic source material, this screen adaptation disappoints. But it's not a total loss.
Everyone knows that Steven Spielberg directed "E.T." and that Martin Scorsese directed "Taxi Driver." But I'll wager that virtually nobody knows who filmed either classic. (Answers: Ellen Daviau and Michael Chapman, respectively.) Craig McCall, who directs "Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff," wants us to know that second to the director, the person behind the camera is the most important figure on a crew. The lensing evokes the mood that the director wants, and no person equals Jack Cardiff as the premier artist to set that very mood. In one film he enhanced the mood by putting a glass in front of the lens which he painted. Cardiff was also an accomplished painter himself, expressing his works in the style of the greats like Degas.
Over 2400 years ago on the island of Kos, Hippocrates, the daddy of all doctors, said "Let food be your medicine." To an extent the human population did follow his advice. As a result, people may have died from diphtheria and typhoid and a host of other illnesses, but few suffered from cancers and heart disease. Things have changed with "progress," actually a regression from natural, healthful foods, to fast food, animal protein, and fat in general, which some believe have caused the current burgeoning of bypass surgery, chemotherapy and radiation-all of which could be greatly diminished if people followed a plant-based diet. Hippocrates would be dancing in his grave if he were able to see Lee Fulkerson's documentary, "Forks Over Knives," bearing a message that can be summed up in just a few words: Eat a plant-based diet.

Harvey Critic
FAST FIVE, Grade: B

You could travel to Rio, but it's a hassle. If you're leaving from New York, you'd be in the air for eleven hours and landing not in Rio but in Sao Paulo, then taking a connecting flight to your vacation spot. You're also going to limit yourself to Ipanema or the other beaches because you're not about to tour the favelas (slums), are you? There's a solution. Go to "Fast Five" and you'll see the slums close-up, you'll see the entire city from the air, you'll observe the famous Christ statue for which the city is famous, and it will cost you twelve bucks more or less. What's more you might even live in a town that has a big IMAX screen, and "Fast Five" is just the kind of movie that can benefit from tall. Thankfully it's in 2-D as well. So what are you waiting for? The picture is going to break the previous opening weekend record of $71 million, you'll observe Vin Diesel as he earns $15 million all for himself without having to act any more than Paul Walker can, and you'll be all set for "Fast Six" which was filmed back-to-back with this one.
Since the state legislature wrapped up its session this week and everyone is looking back to see what was accomplished, it's time to ask an often unasked question: what has the state done to improve our children's health? The answer, unfortunately, is nothing. That's not good enough.
Chandler, Ariz. - Weinberg Elementary will be awarded $15,000 by Bookmans Entertainment Exchange on April 27 for winning the fifth annual Bookmans' Reading Challenge, culminating the three-month challenge. Starting January 17, 2011 Bookmans challenged more than 28,000 Arizona kindergarten through fifth grade students in over 85 public elementary schools (including charter schools), to read as many books as possible by April 15, 2011 When the challenge ended, participating students all across Arizona had read over 1,244,221 books.
With great concern and empathy for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; and the unfortunate situation that occurred on January 8, 2011, many constituents in Arizona's 8th District have recently presented us a most difficult question.

Susan Granger Reviews
HOP - Family-Friendly Bunny Banter

Cleverly timed for the Easter holidays, this colorful combination live-action/animation comedy may divert youngsters, even though it is decidedly mediocre.
This report has me smiling and dreaming about big trout dancing on the end of the line (especially for my youngest boy and for the grandchildren). It's turning into a big fish year. First a 60-pound carp from Apache Lake. Then a 31-inch largemouth bass from Lake Pleasant. Now it's a 34-pound striper from Lake Havasu (picture on the left). The angler has submitted it for big fish of the year honors (see the Havasu fishing report below).

Susan Granger Reviews
RIO - Swaggering, Splashy

Among the flock of family films comes the fine-feathered saga of Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a rare blue macaw snatched from his exotic rainforest home by poachers before he can learn to use his wings. Winding up in a snowy Moose Lake, Minnesota, he's rescued by young, bespectacled Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann). Because he was so young when he was domesticated, Blu never learns to fly.

Susan Granger Reviews
The Bang Bang Club (Tribeca Film)

With the recent deaths of photojournalists in Libya, a film about the perils of that profession is certainly timely, but writer/director Steven Silver never digs below the surface to examine the ethics and psychology that propels these real-life thrill-seekers to risk life and limb on a daily, if not hourly basis. Instead, he romanticizes their reckless derring-do.

Harvey Critic
SUBMARINE, Grade: C+

There have been so many coming of age tales in the movies that one can't help wondering whether everything about teens has already been said. "Submarine" deals with a 15-year-old at the cusp of something or other, maybe adulthood, maybe insight, but probably neither. At the end of the movie, which is based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne and adapted for the screen by director Richard Ayoade, the intelligent, imaginative, but sometimes cruel Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) has not changed much. He is self-absorbed like every other teen, but so much into himself and his presumed ability to change the world around him that he succeeds only in making thing worse.
I trust that PETA is aware of this movie. That wonderful organization wants all circuses to close down because its leaders insist that even if elephants are not sadistically beaten, they, and most other four-footed creatures, are severely disciplined with physical force to train them for their acts. The majestic creatures do not fare well in Francis Lawrence's depression-age movie, scripted by Richard LaGravenese from Sara Gruen's novel written in 1929. In fact they are treated so badly that you just might agree with the policy-makers at PETA that circuses should be CLOSED DOWN.
PHOENIX - The father and son owners of a regional Mexican restaurant chain, along with the company's accountant, will be arraigned in federal court in Tucson Thursday on tax and immigration violations contained in a 19-count indictment stemming from a lengthy probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Not discussed in Koji Wakamatsu's film is any revelation of the medical experiments which Japanese officials conducted on prisoners of war, experiments that rival those of Germany's infamous Dr. Mengele. "To determine the treatment of frostbite, prisoners were taken outside in freezing weather and left with exposed arms, periodically drenched with water until frozen solid. The arms were amputated; the doctor would repeat the process on each victim's upper arm to the shoulder. After both arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs until only a head and torso remained. The victim was then used for plague and pathogens experiments." This from Wikipedia's article on Japanese War Crimes.
If Hollywood executives wonder why box-office receipts are down, this $50 million unmitigated disaster explains a lot. Reminiscent of Halle Berry's transitioning from an Oscar-caliber role to Catwoman, Natalie Portman follows her Academy Award-winning "Black Swan" with this dreadful adolescent fantasy. And if you thought James Franco looked dazed and confused as an Oscar-host, it may have been leftover lethargy from this R-rated stoner comedy.
Every so often it's a good idea for fans of arthouse fare like "The Princess of Montpensier" and "Jane Eyre" to take a break from movies that appeal to parts of our bodies that are above the neck and go see something that targeted to what's below. The aforementioned break involves "Hobo With a Shotgun," a blood-gore-guts "B" movie in the tradition of Robert Rodriguez and Eli Roth's "Grindhouse," which features a psycho who stalks and kills beautiful women with his car instead of a knife. Also included in that pic is a small-town sheriff's department that has to deal with an outbreak of murderous, infected people called "sickos." The term "grindhouse" comes from a movie theater that "grinds out" non-stop double-bill programs of "B" movies popular during the seventies and eighties.
Phoenix, AZ - Pet lovers in the Phoenix area should get their four-legged friends ready for the 2011 Phoenix Pet Expo, Saturday, May 7th, at University of Phoenix Stadium. This free indoor event attracts thousands of pet lovers looking to enjoy a day out with their furry, feathered or reptilian pals! Last year, more than 12,000 people - and their pets - spent the day at the expo.

Susan Granger Reviews
Scre4m - Stale, Silly

Back in 1996, when sardonic screenwriter Kevin Williamson and inventive director Wes Craven devised this humor-tinged concept, it was a new and totally different type of horror picture, as the characters rattled off self-reflective meta-commentaries, often in the form of rules. There were two sequels, one in 1999 and another in 2000 - and innumerable copycats. In the interim, the horror market has changed radically - favoring torture-porn and gory, graphic violence. As a result, this fourth installment of the franchise seems rather archaic.
Fishing is really busting loose right now from the high pines to the lower deserts. Full moon is Sunday. We have nice warm weather shooting up into the nineties this weekend in the deserts. This should definitely be the time for the crappie to spawn. Mini-jigs and live minnows should be the trick for most.

Harvey Critic
EARTHWORK, Grade: B

Crop Art consists of the creation of images on large areas of land, known as Earthworks: open country such as Montana comes to mind. One crop artist, Stan Herd (John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone") from Kansas, created such art in his home state over 160 acres with portraits of Kiowa War Chief Satanta and Will Rogers in 1981 and 1983 respectively. Associated with the Prairie Renaissance Movement Stan Herd got some media coverage in the Smithsonian Magazine in 1988. In Havana, Cuba, he created the Rosa Blanca in 2001. His work was seen on CBS, Fox, NBC, ABC and CNN.
Documentaries generally do not get the mass audience that dramas and comedies do, nor do many of them deserve to. The typical doc on a serious subject like the conflict between coal producers and environmentalists finds the humorless interviewer stiffly sitting in one chair popping questions to the subject, Q&A, Q&A. Often little dramatization takes place: the interviews become the principal prop to sustain interest. Two documentarians are exceptions: Michael Moore, who no matter how flawed his arguments (particularly in "Sicko") he is eminently watchable, even by right-wingers. He's entertaining. His movies are not harnessed to the term "documentary." The other film-maker is Morgan Spurlock, a New Yorker with a terrific sense of humor and knowledge of what would make people actually sit and watch what's going on without thinking "this is too slow-moving" or "the interviews are too serious."

Susan Granger Reviews
HANNA - Adolescent Assassin

Father Knows Best takes on a whole new meaning when a teenage warrior - played by ethereal-looking Saoirse Ronan ("The Lovely Bones," "Atonement") - ventures out into the cold, cruel world, where she's forced to fight for her life.
"This story is like a fairy tale, except it's entirely true - and we don't know how it will end," narrator Morgan Freeman begins this uplifting IMAX documentary adventure that revolves around two real-life fairy godmothers.

Susan Granger Reviews
Jane Eyre - Gothic Darkness

Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel has often been called the archetypal Victorian romance, so you have to give 33 year-old director Cary Joji Fukunaga ("Sin Nombre") credit for breathing new life into a story that's already been filmed at least 18 times, dating back to a 1910 silent movie, and nine made-for-television versions.
"You've got to realize that Thutmose III was on the throne just 3,000 years ago. Human beings were on this planet two million years (sorry, Ms. Palin). If we drew a time line representing all our time on earth, prehistoric people would take up 99% of the line. From Pharoah Thutmose to President Obama would be 1%. Or, another way, on a twenty-four clock, Thumose began his rule just one minute to midnight."
TUCSON - The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance and Title Sponsor, the Catalina Baptist Association to bring free, June events to the community. Expressions through art will stretch to all areas of the community this summer, as Crossover Southern Arizona Week delivers free concerts, films and festivals in all areas of Tucson and beyond.

Movie Reviews
REVIEW: ARTHUR, Grade: D

What a week of openings! The big dilemma is trying to decide which is more unfunny: "Arthur" or "Your Highness." This may have to be settled by a coin toss. Here's what the team that made "Arthur" might have been thinking in remaking the terrific 1981 version which starred Dudley Moore and John Gielgud: Our society has become more vulgar, less literate, more attuned to comedy that's shoved on them rather than to the wit and gentle humor that presumably fit in better with bygone days, like the seventies and early eighties.
It's easy to joke about handicapping conditions if you don't think about the reality. "I'd give an arm and a leg for a night with Keira Knightley," is one suggested trade-off, or "They charged me an arm and a leg for that 60-inch TV is another. Serious accidents that result in amputations, whether surgical or naturally caused, are traumatic. Yet on the other hand, some self-help book authors have studied the condition and found that after a while, people who are severely handicapped are no less happy than those with all of our human attributes. How could this be? According to Bethany Hamilton, who wrote a book about her dreadful meeting with a shark that tore off her left arm, a strong belief in God and the faith and support of her family were uppermost. Bethany was a thirteen-year-old girl who lived to surf-even taking considerable time off with her family in Hawaii and accepting home schooling-who not only refused to mope and whine and go through the usual psychological stages before accommodating herself to life without an arm. She went right back into the water, competing as fervently as always, stunning the surfing world with her ability to take a national championship despite the problem of balancing on the surfboard with a missing member.
Thanks to all of you who were patient this week waiting for the more fully updated report -- still missing a couple of regions, but fortunately with a few calls I was able to fill in the blanks. For those who weren't as patient or understanding, well, hopefully you'll get a chance to wet a line because fishing can teach patience and humility if you let it.
"Funny Like a Guy," an essay in the current New Yorker magazine about Anna Faris, holds that "Young women lap up nudity and sexual humor. Women over twenty-five are worried about it." For example in the movie "What's Your Number," a woman tells her uptight mother, "I'm a jobless slut who's slept with twenty guys and I want to be with somebody who appreciates that about me." Anna Faris's agent thinks "that line's going to rub older women the wrong way."

Susan Granger Reviews
Insidious - A Terrible Movie

As the malevolent story begins, Renais (Rose Byrne of "Damages") and Josh (Patrick Wilson of "Little Children") are moving into a new home with their three children. It's a creaky old house and when the older son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is exploring the attic, he falls off a broken ladder. He seems all right but then, inexplicably, lapses into what seems like a coma. But three months go by and he has still not awakened. In the meantime, increasingly hysterical Renais hears muffled voices on the baby monitor. Shadowy ghosts dart through the hallway and the imprint of a bloody claw appears on Dalton's sheet. Frantic Renais insists on moving to a new house which also seems to be haunted. By then, Josh's mother (Barbara Hershey of "Black Swan") has come to visit and she concurs that what Renais senses may be real, summoning an ‘old friend,' a clairvoyant (Lin Shayne), accompanied by her geeky assistants (Leigh Whannel, Angus Simpson), is determined to discover what evil exists within the walls, even if it means venturing into a dark realm she dubs "The Further."

Harvey Critic
REVIEW: HANNA, Grade: B+

Saoirse Ronan, a stunning sixteen-year-old performer, anchors Joe Wright's latest entry, "Hanna," a marked diversion from his more intellectual "Atonement," which also starred Ms. Ronan. Her name, pronounced SEERsha, meaning "freedom" in the Irish language, is a fitting one for Hanna, in that she races across the screen more times and perhaps even more quickly than Franka Potente, the title character in Tom Tykwer's "Run Lola Run." The blue-eyed beauty, well toned from months of preparation both in diet and in martial arts techniques to develop into a lass with almost superhuman strength, holds the screen as a model of female empowerment-if liberation has anything to do with the ability to knock small armies of men on their butts or dispatch a reindeer with bow and arrow in the frosty wilderness of Northern Finland.
Life is pretty confusing for Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). The last time he was conscious, he was a decorated combat helicopter pilot in Afghanistan - and then he wakes up inhabiting the body of an unknown man named Sean Fentress. Apparently, Capt. Colter has become an integral part of a government mission called 'Source Code,' and his objective is to find out who bombed a Chicago commuter train. For that reason, he's been transplanted back to re-live the final eight minutes of Sean Fentress' life - over and over again - gathering clues with each subsequent recurrence, so that he can identify the culprit and prevent the next terrorist attack in a metropolitan area. In this so-called "time reassignment" experiment, somewhat sinister Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) seems to be in charge, but Colter's contact person is Capt. Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who speaks to him on a video screen while he's encased in a metallic capsule.

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In Our Last Issue

  • 300: Rise of an Empire - Gore Filled Fantasy

    Told in the same distinctive visual style as Zack Snyder's "300," this contiguous saga pits Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) against attacking Persian forces, ruled by glistening God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), son/heir to King Darius, and led by his naval commander, cunning and vengeful Artemisia (Eva Green). The timeline is confusing since this occurs during and after the fall of Spartan King Leonidas at Thermopylae.
  • Mindfulness, Meditation and Malarkey

    If I guaranteed you would lower your anxiety, calm your mind, renew, recharge, think more clearly, reduce your fear response and enhance your creativity - just by investing two five-minute periods of time, twice-a-day - to meditate - would you commit to do it?
  • REVIEW, NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME I

    One can just imagine some shady-looking guy wearing a stained raincoat observing that a movie entitled "Nymphomaniac" is opening. He smacks his lips and figures it must be screening somewhere on West 42nd St (he's in a time warp and doesn't realize that those places are no more), then notes to his amazement that it's showing at the classy Landmark Sunshine Theater! He wonders, briefly, what is happening to our city that people like him can be accommodated there.
  • REVIEW, THE MONUMENTS MEN

    My fellow Americans who hear criticisms of our country from Frenchmen sometimes revert to the obnoxious retort, "Hey, Frenchie, we saved your butt in the war." Along comes "The Monuments Men," which rubs salt into that wound by making heroes of Americans brought into the service of recovering thousands of art works stolen by the Nazis from Jews and from museums around the German occupied countries. True, not all of the band of so-called monuments men are Americans. There are even one French guy and a Brit. Come to think of it, by looking at the group of seven who performed a service not well known to those unaware of Robert Edsel and Bret Witter's 2010 book "The Monuments Men," we may forget that 350 people from thirteen countries were pressed into the service of recovering such major works as Michelangelo's incredible sculpture "Madonna and Child."
  • REVIEW, ROB THE MOB

    "Rob the Mob," which is based on an actual adventure by two naive lovers who raided and ripped off money and jewelry from mafia "social clubs," is all the more amazing for being true. In the hands of director Raymond De Felitta, whose "City Island" is a delightfully funny tale of a dad whose poker nights are really spent going to an acting class, the tale reaches proportions that can be compared to the classic film "Bonnie and Clyde" with some aspects that could remind some of "American Hustle." The film includes a passionate romance of a couple that can make you believe the scene involving sex in a tiny phone booth, a rehash of the 1991 arrest of mafia chieftain John Gotti, and a family drama about a young man who makes too few visits to his mother and kid brother to impress them even though he offers them an envelope filled with more cash than they could make in five years. The story is filled with some fine actors, especially Michael Pitt, who starred in the extraordinary crime story "Funny Games," and Andy Garcia, who can make you believe that his character really is "Big Al," a mafia boss who rose from selling Italian rice balls on a cart to opening a popular Italian restaurant in New York.
  • NON-STOP - Grade: A-

    The year is young but already two movies will not likely increase its financial health by screenings on in-flight entertainment. The first, "The Wind Rises," a fictionalized biography of the man who developed the Zero planes used in the Pearl Harbor attack, is a Japanese animated feature. Planes crash before the engineer comes to the rescue. "Non-Stop" is animated in another way, a live-action thriller about an airline hijacker who demands $150 million or "one passenger will die every twenty minutes." Given that the villain, identity revealed near the conclusion, is aware that an armed air marshal is on board, one wonders how he thinks he would get away with killing more than one person before he is felled. But that's just one of the holes.
  • REVIEW - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

    In Jeff Buckley's song "Hymne a l'amour," a man sings to his partner, "When at last our life on earth is through/I will share eternity with you." That sounds like something a guy would say in the heat of passion when he's about twenty-five years old. To spend eternity with anyone, even your beloved pet terrier, is unlikely, but thanks to Jim Jarmusch, we know that love can last if not for eternity, then for about a thousand years and still counting.
  • 3 Days To Kill - A Two Hour Diversion

    Filmmaker Luc Besson ("The Professional," "The Transporter") is obviously obsessed with various permutations of the father-daughter relationship. So it's not surprising that Besson co-scripted this action thriller with Adi Hasak, leaving the direction to McG ("Charlie's Angels," "Terminator Salvation"). Problem is: they obviously couldn't decide whether this is an explosive espionage saga or madcap parental mayhem, revolving around balancing work and family. So they commit to neither.
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