Recent stories by Michael Sragow

Recent stories by Michael Sragow

Rotunda opens fourth screen Friday

3:12 PM EDT, June 28, 2012

Rotunda opens fourth screen Friday

A fourth theater at Rotunda Cinemas will open Friday, owner-operator Ira Miller announced today.

Movies under the stars for every day of the workweek

4:29 PM EDT, June 21, 2012

Movies under the stars for every day of the workweek

Baltimore is one city where crowds come out in the heat of the night to take in open-air movies.

'Health, Interrupted' led to assumptions, challenged

4:08 PM EDT, June 6, 2012

'Health, Interrupted' led to assumptions, challenged

The chance to chronicle a teacher's battle with multiple sclerosis while learning documentary movie-making and earning a slot in a new film competition — it all came together for 18 students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute with their nonfiction short "Health, Interrupted," selected for the first Baltimore High School Film Festival (4-6 p.m. Thursday at the Charles).

'Nutshell' murder dioramas arrive on film

2:40 PM EDT, June 2, 2012

'Nutshell' murder dioramas arrive on film

A man hangs from a rope connected to the beam of a barn, his feet smashing through a wooden crate so he looks like he's cut off at the knees. His wife explains that when he was angered or annoyed, he would go to that spot, get up on a bucket, put a noose around his neck and threaten suicide. On the fatal day, she placed the bucket elsewhere, so he grabbed the crate.

Heartbreaking horror, played close to the bone

7:16 AM EDT, May 18, 2012

Heartbreaking horror, played close to the bone

For much of its 99-minute running time, "Lovely Molly" brings heartbreaking psychological horror to the world of the 99 percent. This story of a young wife (Gretchen Lodge) who goes crazy or is possessed by a demon — or both — takes place in an America of limited opportunities.

Lacrosse film has a hook, but could dig deeper

7:08 AM EDT, May 18, 2012

Lacrosse film has a hook, but could dig deeper

The moviemakers behind "Crooked Arrows" take square aim at making a "Mighty Ducks with lacrosse." Is it fair to say a film hits the bull's-eye when the target is so easy? You wish this movie had focused on its fresh material about lacrosse's Native American roots and ditched its dark-horse cliches.

'Crooked Arrows,' the first lacrosse film, took a winding path

6:07 PM EDT, May 11, 2012

'Crooked Arrows,' the first lacrosse film, took a winding path

When it comes to lacrosse, all roads lead to Baltimore: That's key to the history of "Crooked Arrows," the first mainstream feature about the sport. It involves a stream of small investors and one genuine big-screen superhero — Brandon Routh, star of "Superman Returns."

Indie movie starring Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell to film in Md.

3:59 PM EDT, May 3, 2012

Indie movie starring Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell to film in Md.

"Better Living Through Chemistry," an independent movie about a pharmacist's life unraveling after he starts an affair with a trophy-wife customer, will film for five weeks in Maryland starting this month, Governor Martin O'Malley announced Thursday.

As Poe, John Cusack takes flights of fancy in 'The Raven'

10:08 AM EDT, April 25, 2012

As Poe, John Cusack takes flights of fancy in 'The Raven'

John Cusack didn't come to Baltimore when preparing to play Edgar Allan Poe in "The Raven."

Kevin Costner forges new frontiers with Modern West

5:43 PM EDT, March 30, 2012

Kevin Costner forges new frontiers with Modern West

Kevin Costner, a superstar for two dozen years, hasn't had a big film hit in years. But overseas and out of camera sight, he's been renewing connections with international fans — as a singer.

Finding shards of light 'In Darkness'

7:23 PM EDT, March 21, 2012

Finding shards of light 'In Darkness'

Agnieszka Holland's Holocaust movies, like "Angry Harvest" and "Europa Europa," are a world away from concentration camp tear-jerkers like Robert Benigni's Oscar-winning smash "Life Is Beautiful."

Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson discusses the late, iconic Apple leader

3:26 PM EDT, April 6, 2012

Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson discusses the late, iconic Apple leader

Few nonfiction writers think bigger than Walter Isaacson, who has taken on subjects like Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. But when Apple founder Steve Jobs invited him in 2004 to write a complete and frank biography, Isaacson held back.

Kevin Clash shines in new documentary 'Being Elmo'

November 13, 2011

Kevin Clash shines in new documentary 'Being Elmo'

When Kevin Clash was a boy in Baltimore County, he'd watch TV mere inches from the screen and wish he could walk right into "Sesame Street."

Tax credit to speed Senator Theatre renovations

5:59 PM EST, February 7, 2012

Tax credit to speed Senator Theatre renovations

If James "Buzz" Cusack and his daughter, Kathleen Lyon, have their way, they'll be cutting ribbons by Christmas for a restored Senator Theatre that will preserve the original cinema and add three screens and a small restaurant.

Magician Michael Cantor picks up the tools of the trade

November 5, 2011

Magician Michael Cantor picks up the tools of the trade

Magician Michael Cantor's studio is a cheerful, open space, on the top floor of a clean white building not far from Television Hill in Woodberry.

Michael Tucker draws on family cancer crisis for new novel

March 3, 2012

Michael Tucker draws on family cancer crisis for new novel

A man in a media dream-team marriage supports his wife during her breast cancer, then nearly buckles after her death. That's the reality-saturated plot of Michael Tucker's novel, "After Annie."

The Ron Paul campaign turns a new Page

10:39 AM EST, January 7, 2012

The Ron Paul campaign turns a new Page

When Jordan Page was a boy of 11 with a yen for acting, his greatest thrill was playing the Crown Prince in '"The King and I" onstage.

Baltimore Book Festival 2011: Tales of Mobtown boom, bust and bigotry energize fest

8:15 AM EDT, September 22, 2011

Baltimore Book Festival 2011: Tales of Mobtown boom, bust and bigotry energize fest

Among hundreds of books sure to be embraced or argued about at this weekend's Baltimore Book Festival, one potent group narrative leaps from the pages of the schedule.

Formula One driver Ayrton Senna is the high priest of speed in 'Senna'

3:50 PM EDT, September 2, 2011

Formula One driver Ayrton Senna is the high priest of speed in 'Senna'

This weekend, while drivers wheel around the Inner Harbor for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix, moviegoers a few blocks from downtown will be watching the story of a brave, imaginative man who was the Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan of auto racing.

Luke Murray, son of actor Bill, is helping turn around Towson's basketball team

11:08 AM EST, January 28, 2012

Luke Murray, son of actor Bill, is helping turn around Towson's basketball team

Earlier this month, assistant coach Luke Murray was traveling with Towson University's basketball team, psyching himself up for a win, when he got a text message from his dad.

Looking back at 'Diner,' 30 years later

3:35 PM EST, December 3, 2011

Looking back at 'Diner,' 30 years later

Few films in movie history — and maybe no other film by a first-time writer-director — proved to be the breakthrough moment for as many talents as a made-in-Baltimore comedy-drama called "Diner."

'Jeopardy!' champ keeps mum on his success

August 14, 2011

'Jeopardy!' champ keeps mum on his success

Justin Sausville of Mount Washington is a whiz at the brainy TV game show "Jeopardy!" — and he's proving just as stellar at "I've Got a Secret."

Laura Lippman's darker side of Dickeyville

8:15 PM EDT, August 26, 2011

Laura Lippman's darker side of Dickeyville

The pungent, haunting narrative of Laura Lippman's new novel, "The Most Dangerous Thing," kicks in with a group of kids arguing for dibs on a grassy kickball field near a cotton mill on "Wetheredsville Road."

John Waters, Ron Shelton, David Simon react to 'Diner'

5:14 PM EST, December 2, 2011

John Waters, Ron Shelton, David Simon react to 'Diner'

"Diner" has resonated with Baltimore-connected writers and moviemakers across the popular and literary spectrum. Here are some of their reactions to the movie's 30th anniversary.

The oddities of Otakon

3:25 PM EDT, July 29, 2011

The oddities of Otakon

A man in black wields an enormous hollow cross packed with phony handguns while checking out Barnes & Noble's graphic-novel racks. A futuristic Marie Antoinette, in a regal gown with bared cleavage and midriff, balances a huge rectangular headpiece with impeccable hauteur while navigating the steaming crowds on Pratt Street. An urban-cowboy assassin in fringed Daisy Dukes, with hippie-like straight hair hitting the small of her back and bandoleros crisscrossing her chest, eyes a burger at Five Guys.

Arts-donation website helps Matt Porterfield turn his new film into a cliffhanger

8:39 AM EDT, August 7, 2011

Arts-donation website helps Matt Porterfield turn his new film into a cliffhanger

"I Used to Be Darker" is meant to jump from the blocks at full speed: A 19-year-old discovers that she's pregnant, grabs a knife and exacts devastating revenge on the cad who knocked her up. After she loses her job overseeing bumper cars at an Ocean City arcade, she high-tails it to Baltimore.

'Diner' to be turned into Broadway musical

8:44 PM EDT, September 20, 2011

'Diner' to be turned into Broadway musical

Another classic American film set in Baltimore is headed for Broadway, but unlike "Hairspray" this one may be a less obvious fit.

Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and cocaine addiction

10:28 PM EDT, July 21, 2011

Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and cocaine addiction

Howard Markel's "An Anatomy of Addiction" starts, like a shot, on May 5,1884. A Bellevue Hospital orderly summons Dr. William Stewart Halsted to save the leg of a laborer who has fallen from a scaffolding.

The secret to Harry Potter's success

7:42 AM EDT, July 18, 2011

The secret to Harry Potter's success

At a screening in Columbia, a 16-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl emerged from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" blissed-out but also fighting because he wouldn't kiss her during the movie — he didn't want to miss a single second of the action.

'The Big Uneasy' taps into outrage over flooding of New Orleans

8:41 PM EDT, July 15, 2011

'The Big Uneasy' taps into outrage over flooding of New Orleans

Harry Shearer says his "head exploded" 20 months ago. That's when he heard President Barack Obama, during a town hall meeting in New Orleans, refer to the flooding of the city after Hurricane Katrina as "a natural disaster."

Moviegoers are showing signs of 3-D fatigue

6:59 PM EDT, June 24, 2011

Moviegoers are showing signs of 3-D fatigue

Debora Bell would be glad "if 3-D went away."

Baltimore's Lester Speight defends the human race in 'Transformers 3'

6:37 AM EDT, July 1, 2011

Baltimore's Lester Speight defends the human race in 'Transformers 3'

When "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" posted a casting call for "Hardcore Eddie," every muscleman-actor on the way up in Hollywood went out for the part.

Local boy makes good with 'Cars' and even better 'Cars 2'

2:40 PM EDT, June 23, 2011

Local boy makes good with 'Cars' and even better 'Cars 2'

Five years ago, pundits were quick to cast doubt on "Cars." A version of "Local Hero" or "Doc Hollywood" starring a high-speed auto? How misbegotten and outre!

AFI Silver showcases terrific made-in-Maryland documentaries

3:28 PM EDT, June 23, 2011

AFI Silver showcases terrific made-in-Maryland documentaries

If you missed Ramona Diaz's "The Learning" and Richard Chisolm's "Cafeteria Man" at the Maryland Film Festival, seize the chance to see them at the AFI Silverdocs festival. If you've seen them already, take my word for it: They're even better the second time around.

Revival of breaking brings a blast of new energy to Baltimore

10:25 PM EDT, June 17, 2011

Revival of breaking brings a blast of new energy to Baltimore

It's 10 o'clock on a Tuesday night on Baltimore's North Avenue, one building away from the Maryland Avenue bridge — not your typical party time or place.

Baltimore's outdoor summer film series overflow with personality

12:29 PM EDT, June 2, 2011

Baltimore's outdoor summer film series overflow with personality

What's the best way to fill an open space with smiles for a summer night?

5:05 PM EDT, June 2, 2011

These are a few of their favorite films

Programming for open-air festivals is like programming for neighborhood theaters: You've got to know your audience. The Little Italy Outdoor Film Festival almost started a mini-riot one year when organizers decided not to open with "Moonstruck." Never making that mistake again, they keep their surprises to the middle of the schedule. (They always close with "Cinema Paradiso.")

Author Karen Rose debuts new romantic suspense series set in Baltimore

6:40 PM EDT, June 3, 2011

Author Karen Rose debuts new romantic suspense series set in Baltimore

When Karen Rose enrolled at the University of Maryland, the one thing she knew was that she "didn't want to dissect."

Learning the tricks of Baltimore's 'Tradesmen'

May 26, 2011

Learning the tricks of Baltimore's 'Tradesmen'

Richard Yeagley fueled his punchy new film, "The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work," with a fierce hometown nostalgia.

Nicole Ari Parker gets laughs -- at last! -- in '35 and Ticking'

9:03 AM EDT, May 18, 2011

Nicole Ari Parker gets laughs -- at last! -- in '35 and Ticking'

Sharp and svelte but also funny, Nicole Ari Parker typically hits the screen as put-together characters like Eddie Murphy's ex-wife in "Imagine This." So she leapt at the chance to play Zenobia, the comically confused sportscaster heroine of "35 and Ticking."

Short, but sweet success

7:18 AM EDT, May 9, 2011

Short, but sweet success

Filmmaker Gregory Bryan says he was "sick and tired of seeing the same Hollywood films." What he came up with instead was "The Dark," an ethereal, 21/2-minute nightmare complete with crawling blackness, creaking skeletons and enough creepiness of all kinds to win the 2011 Sun Shorts film contest.

Maryland transplant recipient plays a role in 'The 5th Quarter'

2:12 PM EDT, April 28, 2011

Maryland transplant recipient plays a role in 'The 5th Quarter'

Casey Towers, then 20 and the mother of two babies, spent January and February of 2006 at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. She prayed for a gift that was a matter of life and death: a healthy heart to replace her broken one. She got it within weeks, on her daughter's first birthday.

After graduation, street artist Gaia takes flight

6:19 PM EDT, May 20, 2011

After graduation, street artist Gaia takes flight

If you want to experience the work of street artist Gaia in its full scruffy glory, see it in the wild.

Jason Winer creates a new Brand for 'Arthur'

7:23 AM EDT, April 7, 2011

Jason Winer creates a new Brand for 'Arthur'

To borrow from "A Hard Day's Night," Russell Brand is a mod, a rocker and a mocker.

Operators alter Senator plans in order to add three new screens

5:24 AM EDT, March 20, 2011

Operators alter Senator plans in order to add three new screens

The Senator Theatre's operators want to scrap plans for a small-plate restaurant and add more screens to the neighborhood theater that has become "Baltimore's movie palace."

2:44 PM EDT, September 30, 2010

Where to spot Baltimore in 'The Social Network'

The creators of "The Social Network" used the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus to double for Harvard because of its similar Georgian-style brick and marble. They did such a superb job you must look sharp to spot Hopkins in the finished film. That is, unless you go to school there.

1:36 PM EST, February 3, 2011

Black History Month movie: 'Intruder in the Dust'

Hollywood never provided a richer picture of the Jim Crow South than Clarence Brown's "Intruder in the Dust," a fresh, inspired adaptation of William Faulkner's 1948 novel.

2:15 PM EST, March 3, 2011

Anne Watts does 'Intolerance' at MICA

D. W. Griffith's overpowering 31/2 -hour epic, "Intolerance," gets the perfect showcase Saturday, 95 years after its premiere — a screening with live, original music during an event exploring, yes, intolerance.

'Sweet Smell of Success' has classic aroma

3:01 PM EST, January 20, 2011

'Sweet Smell of Success' has classic aroma

Louis B. Mayer warned anyone who made a movie at MGM: "Be smart, but never show it."

Salving psychological wounds with talk and food

7:03 AM EST, February 11, 2011

Salving psychological wounds with talk and food

In 1992, Paula Butturini and her husband, John Tagliabue, moved back to Rome, where they'd met, gotten engaged and were married in the '80s.

If you liked (or hated) 'Black Swan,' you'll love 'Red Shoes'

2:59 PM EST, February 24, 2011

If you liked (or hated) 'Black Swan,' you'll love 'Red Shoes'

Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky often tells interviewers that "The Red Shoes" (1948) is the one film comparable to his own "Black Swan." How modest of him!

'Alien' once again bursts onto the big screen, at the Charles

6:28 PM EST, January 20, 2011

'Alien' once again bursts onto the big screen, at the Charles

When Walter Hill was flipping through the first 40 pages of the science fiction/horror script that became "Alien," he considered it turgid, a snooze.

Edward Norton takes 'Stone' on a black-magical mystery tour

2:34 PM EDT, October 17, 2010

Edward Norton takes 'Stone' on a black-magical mystery tour

For Edward Norton making movies isn't just about giving a dynamite performance. It's about collaborating on a piece of entertainment that reflects his view of the world — and pulls that off without preaching to the audience.

End of an era at the Senator Theatre

10:26 AM EDT, July 22, 2010

End of an era at the Senator Theatre

It really was the last picture show.

The Senator hopes to head into the black starting with 'Red'

7:55 PM EDT, October 6, 2010

The Senator hopes to head into the black starting with 'Red'

"Coming Soon," reads the marquee at the Senator Theatre.

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