R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen, Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane

British actress Elisabeth Sladen, best known for her longtime role as Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who, has died from cancer. She was 63. 

Born in Liverpool, Sladen got her start as a stage actress before appearing in small roles on British TV in the early 1970s on shows like police drama Z-Cars and the long-running soap Coronation Street. She joined the cast of Doctor Who in 1973, staying on for four seasons as the companion of the Third and Fourth Doctors, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. Her character, Sarah Jane, was a young journalist whose bravery and intelligence reflected the burgeoning spirit of 1970s feminism. Smith’s independence and self-reliance made a marked contrast to more stereotypical previous roles for female co-stars on the show, although her curiosity and willingness to stand up to authority frequently got her into trouble. She remained on Doctor Who until 1976, appearing in many of the series’ best episodes, including "The Time Warrior," "Genesis Of The Daleks," "Pyramids Of Mars," and "The Seeds Of Doom."   

Along with the Brigadier (who also recently passed), Sladen became perhaps the Doctor’s most popular companion in the show’s history, returning in the 20th-anniversary special The Five Doctors, several Big Finish audio plays, and the 1981 spinoff K-9 And Company, which never went beyond the pilot stage. She made a more lasting, high-profile return in the series’ modern-day reincarnation with Tenth Doctor David Tennant in the episode "School Reunion," which led to a starring role in another, much more successful spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures. The show debuted in 2007 and has lasted for four seasons. She appeared in the main series again twice, in the double-episode "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey’s End," and a cameo in Tennant’s final swan song "The End Of Time." A fifth season of The Sarah Jane Adventures—approximately half of which Sladen had completed filming before her death, according to io9—was due to air in the fall, but has now been postponed. Sladen’s autobiography will be published in July.

Originally posted on avclub.com April 19, 2011. Read the complete article.

The A.V. Club’s MSPIFF shortlist

Without access to a time machine, there’s no way to see every film shown at MSPIFF, although this year’s expanded schedule means that, unlike previous festivals, each film will screen at least twice. A complete list of titles and showtimes can be found here, but if you need a little help making your own choices, here are 12 movies that seemed especially intriguing to us.

Originally published April 14, 2011 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Around The World And Home: The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival

In Jules Verne’s day, going around the world took 80 days. The space shuttle does it in 90 minutes now, but you don’t get to see much along the way. Luckily, there’s a third option, which does not even require leaving the St. Anthony Main multiplex: This week, the annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival returns with an expanded lineup, marking its largest year ever. This year’s slate includes 170 films, with more than 100 feature-length movies and 10 collections of short films, a heavy contingent of Minnesota-made movies, and a wide array of films made in countries from Peru to Tibet to Cuba to Kyrgyzstan. The festival includes themed programs of experimental and French cinema, movies about music, the kid-friendly Childish series, and a late-night horror/sci-fi series. To hold all that, MSPIFF is expanding to three full weeks, April 14-May 5, followed by the audience-chosen Best Of Fest series the week of May 6.

Thursday’s opening-night lineup includes a tent party and a trio of movies that all, in their way, should resonate with Minnesotans. The documentary Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times features former Twin Cities Reader editor David Carr, who’ll be attending; Trollhunter is a Blair Witch-esque mockumentary about a team of Norwegian monster-chasers; and then there’s the self-explanatory Score: A Hockey Musical. The closing-night film is equally Twin Citian: The romantic drama Stuck Between Stations stars locally born Josh Hartnett, was filmed in town, features a plethora of local bands, and even takes its title from a song by The Hold Steady.

The A.V. Club talked to festival programmers Ryan Oestreich and Jesse Bishop—who are part of a team led by venerable festival founder Al Milgrom and co-programmer Tim Grady—about this year’s films.

Originally published April 14, 2011 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Interview: The Sunny Era

Ironically, losing half the band was what led The Sunny Era to radically expand its sound. When its original guitarist and bassist left to start families, the local trio realized that the remaining musicians shared a love of world music. The result, last year’s This Darkness Of Love, was a seismic shift from the straight-up indie rock of its debut, adding Spanish, Middle Eastern, and particularly gypsy instrumentation. The band’s new disc, Gone Missing, pushes even further in that direction, cooking up a tasty indie-pop/gypsy fusion that should pique the interest of any DeVotchKa fans. The A.V. Club sat down with guitarist/vocalist Eric Stainbrook, multi-instrumentalist Laila Stainbrook, and percussionist Rob Foehl in advance of The Sunny Era’s CD release show on Saturday, April 16, at Loring Theater with Lucy Michelle & The Velvet Lapelles and Zoo Animal.

Originally published April 13, 2011 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Recap: Wire at First Avenue

Neither Wire or its audience are getting any younger, and the preponderance of greying and bald heads onstage was equalled at First Avenue on Sunday by the grizzled and gleaming domes in the crowd, most of which appeared to be atop bodies in their 40s or 50s. But age has hardly mellowed the English art-punks, who bookended their set with a pair of roaring rockers spanning their long career, kicking off with the poundingly aggressive “Comet” from 2003’s Send, and winding up with a volcanic version of the title track from their 1977 debut, Pink Flag, which built up into a storm of noise and feedback.

Originally published April 11, 2011 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

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