‘Smash’ season two: still a high gloss soap opera

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The NBC Broadway backstage drama “Smash” returns Tuesday night after a much-publicized end-of-season-one shake-up last year. Show creator and executive producer Theresa Rebeck was let go, but judging by the first new episode, it’s hard to see many changes in the series’ engaging mix of soap opera and good New York City color. As is […] [Read More]

‘Pioneers of Thirteen’: a flashback to the heyday of public TV

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Although the technology was still a little shaky you could make a strong argument for the 1970s being the peak years of public television in this country. A template for high-class, serialized drama was created by “Masterpiece Theatre” that no one other TV network emulated until the arrival of cable and HBO’s launch of late […] [Read More]

‘The Cloud’: a techno-thriller with heart

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Matt Richtel, the Pulitzer prize-winning technology reporter for The New York Times, has a provocative and thrilling new novel set for publication on Tuesday — “The Cloud” (Harper). The book raises troubling questions about the impact of our ever-multiplying electronic gizmos on the brain development of children in a tale set in the Bay Area […] [Read More]

Academy does the right thing by Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’

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Michael Haneke has made some of the most audience-dividing pictures of the modern era — “The Piano Teacher” and “The White Ribbon,” among them — but love him or hate him, you’ve got to respect a filmmaker who goes his own way in the current crushingly commercial movie marketplace. I’m a big fan of Haneke’s, […] [Read More]

‘The Woman Who Wasn’t There’: shades of Manti Te’o?

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The ease with which a good sob story generally will go unquestioned was demonstrated for the zillionth time last week with that bizarre tale out of South Bend, Indiana, about the football player and the imaginary (dead) girlfriend. Who would make up a story about his grandmother and his “girlfriend” dying within hours of each […] [Read More]

‘Collision’: a college trio under the influence

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If the legendary 1920s era “thrill killers” Leopold and Loeb lived today would they have limited their homicidal experiment to poor little Bobby Franks? The horror of what the Chicago academic duo did — killing in order to express their “superiority” to the rest of humanity — galvanized the nation at the time, and lived […] [Read More]

‘Struck by Lightning’: a fresh take on high school

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It’s not surprising that young actor Chris Colfer would write a juicy role for himself in the new independent film, “Struck by Lightning.” What is surprising is the sensitivity Colfer and director Brian Dannely bring to the other characters in this comedy-drama about an ambitious high school senior whose plans — and life — are […] [Read More]

‘The Staircase’: what killed Kathleen Peterson 12 years ago?

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The Sundance Channel is in the middle of a re-airing of its riveting 2004 documentary series, “The Staircase,” with the addition of two new episodes. The French production, written and directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (below), digs into the murder trial of the Durham, North Carolina novelist and newspaper columnist Michael Peterson two years after […] [Read More]

‘January Joiner’: fat & thin, funny & scary at Long Wharf

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The Connecticut theater year has gotten off to a great start with the world premiere production of Laura Jacqmin’s “January Joiner” at Long Wharf Theatre’s snug Stage II. The play is a hard-to-describe mixture of different genres used to examine our current obsession with being as thin and as beautiful as possible — in other […] [Read More]

‘Murder by Proxy’: is the whole country going ‘postal’?

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Director Emil Chiaberi never appears on camera in his subtly subversive documentary “Murder by Proxy: How America Went Postal” (RF Releasing) which could be one of the reasons why it has a lot more punch than most of the Michael Moore films. Moore is a showman who muddies his own left wing agenda by making […] [Read More]