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Giving ’Till It Hurts, Or Bores

Movies: ‘The Giver’

When Lois Lowry wrote “The Giver” in 1993, it won both the Newberry Medal and became a mainstay of middle-school reading lists around the country. Unlike so many other young adult novels, it dealt with a serious issue beyond just the agonies and uncertainties of adolescence: If human emotions cause war and suffering and pain, how far should humans go to control, even eliminate the power of emotions?

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Scarlett Johansson and Only 89 Minutes

Movies: ‘Lucy’

So, the last time we caught up with Scarlett Johansson she was mostly nekkid, until she molted into some kind of vampire space critter, in the incomprehensible “Under the Skin.” In the title role of Luc Besson’s “Lucy,” she stays clad.
And for those of you who worship the actress, this movie is a must-see, on account of she becomes God. Or pretty darn close.

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Spies, Intrigue and Hoffman, A Must-See Movie

Movies: ‘A Most Wanted Man’

The latest movie to be made from a John Le Carré espionage thriller, “A Most Wanted Man,” and the last starring role for Philip Seymour Hoffman, is more successful as the latter than the former. Hoffman is in almost every scene, a puffy, lumbering, disheveled yet fiercely passionate presence, and he elevates the movie to a must-see.

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Stars, D-Listers and CG Sharks, How Could the Syfy Channel Go Wrong?

TV Scene

It’s here! “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” with the most finely crafted movie title ever conceived. The Syfy channel’s masterful use of four simple words and a number explains every subtle detail of the film: It’s a sequel, and it features a tornado full of sharks.

If you’ve never seen the original “Sharknado,” don’t worry. Within its opening minutes, the second one sums up the plot (can we call it a plot?) of the first one, in which Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) saved Los Angeles from a Sharknado.

Watching Lives, and Actors, Change

Movies: ‘Boyhood’

The movie “Boyhood” is the fictional record of an average American boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he ages from 6 to 18. Living with his mother and sister in a series of Texas towns, we watch as Mason works out a relationship with his fly-by-night father, endures the bad stepfathers his mother chooses, moves from school to school, finds his passion, photography, and starts college.

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Hard To Watch, But a Marvel To See

Movies: ‘Life Itself’

Steve James’s “Life Itself,” a documentary about film critic Roger Ebert, is alternately funny, sad, cringeworthy, touching and nostalgic.
That’s a pretty good mix of emotions for a two-hour movie.
Ebert, who won a Pulizer for his film reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times and co-hosted “Sneak Previews” with Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel, died in 2013 after fighting thyroid cancer. Surgery associated with the cancer treatment meant the man had no jaw, and was unable, in his last years, to eat, drink, or speak.

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Violence and Revolution In a Richly Imagined World

Movies: ‘Snowpiercer’

The first English-language film, “Snowpiercer,” from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, bears all the hallmarks of his filmmaking: attention to detail, sudden shifts in mood, black humor. To these he has now added heavy-handed violence, shocking tales of what humans will do to survive, and a veneer of social commentary and allegory on wealth and political inequality.

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Single, Urban, Educated and Aimless

Movies: ‘Obvious Child’

This movie, “Obvious Child,” wants to be a gutsy, comedic film about a young woman who decides, rather quickly and without much agonizing, to have an abortion. Leaving behind the sad, shocking abortions of “Dirty Dancing” and “Cabaret,” and even the women who decide to give birth in “Juno” and “Knocked Up,” writer-director Gillian Robespierre's first feature-length movie is unburdened by social or political cant. It is also clumsily written, clichéd and self-indulgent.

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He’s Back . . . Again Again Again

Movies: ‘Godzilla’
patricks@lakevillejournal.com

Although I am a fan of B-movies (not to mention Z-movies), I have never given the “Man in Monster Suit Destroys Scale Model of Tokyo” genre of sci-fi flicks a lot of attention.
Part of this is because, after three decades spent systematically viewing movies like “Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS” and “The Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy,” I am so jaded that a mere monster stamping a city to bits just doesn’t get my dander up.

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The “Love Story” of Our Time

Movies: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

Beloved books come into your life in all sorts of ways — a librarian, a friend or sometimes an NPR recommendation your mom hears on the radio. When I heard the review of “The Fault in Our Stars” a few years back, I ran out and got it for my teenage daughter. As an aficionado of maudlin dying-teen books in my own adolescence, I had a feeling she was ready for the genre, especially if it was as smart and acerbic as John Greene’s hugely popular book. She loved it, and quickly lapped up the rest of his oeuvre, latching onto the smart/acerbic part, not the dying-teen part.

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