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Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010
The enduring impact of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead might be the manner in which Stoppard takes on the Big Questions that philosophers, poets, priests and everyone else have agonized over for centuries.

Spoiler alert: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die.

They are, in fact, already dead. And they always have been.

But you knew that already, right?

Another spoiler: You, too, shall die one day.

Here’s the rub: they didn’t know when or why, and neither will you.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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Thursday, Dec 2, 2010
Anyone who can remember the era when Beta briefly held sway over VHS will surely remember seeing Nielsen in Airplane! (Don't call me Shirley). Impossible as it might be to believe, nobody from this generation had any idea who he was, which only made him funnier.

Real Leslie Nielsen fans will immediately understand the title of this tribute. It is as good as any of his iconic quotes, but it resonates for the way it applied to his career: if any actor held his breath, figuratively speaking, Nielsen waited patiently for his big break. He waited until his hair turned white, literally speaking.

Anyone who can remember the era when Beta briefly held sway over VHS will surely remember seeing Nielsen in Airplane! (Don’t call me Shirley). Impossible as it might be to believe, nobody from this generation had any idea who he was, which only made him funnier. As in: who is that old guy and holy shit, he’s hilarious! And he was. I’m sure you’ve already read more than a few career retrospective/obituaries that detail his long, patient struggle to make a mark—meaningful or otherwise—in Hollywood. (If you haven’t, they won’t be hard to find). It was, clearly, as unexpected for him as it was for audiences all around America when he ended up stealing the show in that low-budget 1980 movie.

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Monday, Nov 29, 2010
Many came to see the return of The Rock. What they got, instead was something unexpected - and by all accounts, unwanted.

So, you saw Faster this weekend, right? Actually, that’s a bit of a stretch, considering the new action film from former wrestler turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson failed to ignite the box office over the traditional Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Indeed, for the muscular star, his return to hard-R territory was an unmitigated disaster, failing to make the Top 5 for the five day accounting (it was 7th) and unable to outpace established titles like Unstoppable and Megamind. Indeed, all of the new releases for 24 November found their niche - from Disney’s delightful Tangled to the tacky and somewhat tacky Cher-tina musical Burlesque. Heck, even Jake Gyllenhaal’s Viagra-tinged adult romance Love and Other Drugs did better.

As with most flops, there are many compelling reasons for why it failed to connect. One of the most important is the sudden shift back to brawn and bombast for the genial genetic anomaly. Over the last few years, ever since the decent drama The Gridiron Gang, Johnson has dropped the steroid portion of his onscreen personality to play a more likable, somewhat lunkheaded version of his pumped up self. He especially excelled in family oriented films, titles like The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and most recently, Tooth Fairy.  Interestingly enough, each one of those movies took in more money on their opening weekends - $23 million, $24.4 million, and $14 million, respectively) - than Faster could muster ($12 million) over an extended stay.

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Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010
A look back at ten performances that helped turn Dickens seminal skinflint into a seasonal holiday tradition.

In a literary catalog that contains such brilliant masterworks as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, Charles Dickens remains best known for his early novella A Christmas Carol. A standard morality tale about mending one’s ways and enjoying the true pleasures in life, the famed author used the brief book as a means of doing what he did best - commenting on class, championing the poor, and deconstructing the severe social stigmas of his viable Victorian age. Though he would come up with far more complicated expressions of his views, A Christmas Carol‘s seemingly simplistic message continues to resonate, even 160 years after it was originally written.

Of course, it helps that Dickens created a classic antagonist/protagonist with the character of miserly moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the author forged a part so palpable that, immediately upon publication, actors were lining up to play the role. A Christmas Carol was such a huge hit that stage adaptations and other theatrical versions immediately sprang up - each with its own unique interpretation of the main role. In fact, Scrooge has become such a symbol of the holiday ‘spirit’ that we seemingly get new versions of the tale every year. From female-ccentric takes to radical rethinkings, A Christmas Carol always manages to maintain its timelessness.

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Thursday, Nov 11, 2010
Ten examples of evil cosmic conquerors and their eventual mash-up with mankind.

We’ve had killer klowns, pod people, and replicants. Earth has been overrun by predators, robots, and some manner of interstellar “vampire”.  Ever since cavemen noticed unexplained lights in the sky and marveled at where they could possibly come from, folklore (and their modern equivalent, films) have speculated on the very stars above, wondering if they are inhabited and the intentions of said unseen space dwellers. Sadly, most of our narratives have focused on evil ETs, beings and their advanced technologies bent on taking over the entire galaxy - with our planet directly in their path. While we have had the occasional visionary variation, most of the time its saucers, lasers, and lots and lots of carnage.

The latest version of this cosmic campfire tale - the unscreened for critics Skyline - arrives in theaters on 12 November, and in celebration of said end of the world scenario, SE&L has decided to fashion a Top 10 list of the Alien Invasion Films. Of course, this is a matter of opinion, not rote reality, and your mileage/choices/appreciation will - and definitely should - vary. In a genre overrun with middling to mediocre examples, our picks are not necessarily endemic.  Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on those films which tried something different - and on occasion, failed fabulously. We’ve also decided against numbering said entries, since position is a tangential issue at best.

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