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“Extraordinary Measures” stars Brendan Fraser as John Crowley, the real-life dad who quit his job to raise money for research that could help his two children, critically ill with an incurable genetic disorder called Pompe disease. Here is a featurette with the real John and Aileen Crowley and their children.

For more information, read The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million–And Bucked the Medical Establishment–In a Quest to Save His Children and Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Stength, Hope, and Joy.

 

Less a movie than a mosaic, this remake of the 1980 classic with the Oscar-winning title anthem about the high school for the performing arts has been re-imagined for the hyper-linked and just plain hyper 21st century. As in the original, we follow the stories of aspiring performers from their first audition through four years of high school. But this time, so many characters are thrown at us that we never connect with any of them. This film is as much an artifact of its era as the dancing-in-the-streets first one, perhaps in ways it did not intend. It is a revealing reflection of its target audience: kids used to keeping up to date via tweets and Facebook status lines, the generation that cannot see the line between access to information and understanding the information’s context and import.

It indicates more than it shows, not because it is subtle, but because it is frantic, trying to follow the lives of ten students over four years in less than two hours. Narrative is pushed to one side. Even the too-brief but excellent musical numbers are chopped up and intercut not so much as an artistic statement as a recognition that society as a whole now meets the clinical definition of ADD.

The talented cast passes by so quickly it is like watching a 107-minute trailer. Naturi Naughton makes a strong impression in vocal numbers that include “Out Here on My Own” from the 1980 film. Kay Panabaker has a sweet honesty that comes across well on screen and more than any of the others she shows us the difference in her character as she grows up and gains confidence. An exceptionally strong cast of adults adds some depth to the faculty roles, including “Will and Grace’s” Megan Mullally and “Frasier’s” Bebe Neuwirth and Kelsey Grammer along with movie and theater veteran Charles S. Dutton. If only they had been able to sit down writer Alison Burnett and director Kevin Tancharoen to give them the kind of stern pep talk about craft and discipline that they give to their students, this would have been a better movie.

Miep Gies was a brave woman who tried to hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis. After they were discovered, it was she who found Anne Frank’s diary and kept it, hoping to give it back to her one day. Anne died in a concentration camp, but Gies gave the diary to her father. It is now one of the most widely read books in the world: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Gies appears in Anne Frank Remembered and is portrayed by Pat Carroll in the best scene in Freedom Writers.

Here, in a Dutch interview (no translation, sorry), Gies shows the bookcase that hid the secret annex.

Her memory will continue to be an inspiration and a blessing.

There is not one single thing in this movie that you don’t see or guess from the trailer, but for some audiences that means that it will deliver just what they are looking for.

Alexis Bledel plays Ryden, who thinks the hard part is over because she is graduating from a good school with an excellent record and has lined up an interview for the job of her dreams at a publishing house. But she discovers that, as her father says, “the world doesn’t play by the rules.” Everything is messier and harder to control than she thought. She soon finds herself living back at home with her parents and going on an excruciating series of job interviews only to be subjected to an even more excruciating series of rejections. And to make it all worse, her rival at school (played with zesty mean-girl brio by Catherine Reitman) seems to have effortlessly taken over the life she thought she was supposed to have.

To add to the confusion, there is a handsome and devoted friend who wants to be more (“Friday Night Lights'” Zach Gilford), a handsome next door neighbor who is accomplished, sophisticated, and exotic (Rodrigo Santoro), and an assortment of quirky family problems from her assorted quirky family members.

The most creative part of the film may be the opening credits, as we watch Ryden’s vlog and she tells about her plans. After that, it’s pretty much by the book.

It’s nice to see Michael Keaton back on screen, and the always-watchable Jane Lynch makes the most of the underwritten role of Ryden’s mother. Carol Burnett lugs around an oxygen tank as the irascible grandmother, with her face oddly stretched and kind of spooky. At times the film’s disjointed, almost random moments help to make it feel less formulaic. Santiago and Reitman are more vivid and interesting than any of the main characters, throwing it all off-kilter. And then it takes a predictable, but retro turn that will leave audiences feeling unsatisfied and even cheated. The folks who made this movie need to go back to school and study a little harder.

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