America is obsessed with Downton Abbey, the British series about a family so wealthy that they can't feed, clothe or care for themselves. Hugh Bonneville plays the patriarch of the family, and we've invited His Lordship to play a game we're calling, "Welcome to America, Lord Grantham."
In one of the greatest movies of all time, a World War I-era Englishman played by Peter O'Toole stops with his Arab guide at a well in the desert. As they drink, they look into the distance and see a lone figure in black, galloping toward them on a camel. The Arab man recognizes him and draws a gun. The lone figure brings him down with a single musket shot. Now that's an entrance.
The man on the camel was Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali.
Hollywood can make any actor look imposing by shooting from a low angle or building sets with short door frames. But the fact is that we want our heroes big and our villains bigger, and the average male actor is about the same size as the average American male — roughly 5 foot 9 1/2. And some very "big" stars have been a good deal less than that.
Bag-in-the-box wine doesn't have the classiest of reputations. It's usually cheap and in the past at least, has been aimed at less sophisticated consumers. But in recent years, boxed wine has tried to buck the stereotype, whether by gussying up the product packaging or simply putting higher-quality wine in the box.
In stories by four noted authors, this year's edition of Hanukkah Lights showcases some of the program's most touching and insightful moments: Two teenagers find the formula to bridge a bitter family divide; the life of a cynical young reporter is changed by a single mysterious encounter; a reluctant grade-school student stands up for his heritage, and is wounded in the line of duty; and a despairing mom reconnects with her distant yet devoted daughter. Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz bring these generation-spanning tales to life.
Our first topic on the show this week follows indirectly from a correction we received about the current status of Andrew McCarthy: we talk about second acts (they do exist in American lives, you know), from child actors who now make cool videos and write great books to the complex question of whether going from
Frederick Rickmeyer, our hats are off to you and your note-taking ways.
Shortly after the turn of the last century, Frederick started documenting his wife's recipes on the blank memoranda pages of a cookbook. He included titles like My Wife's Own Original Spanish Bun and comments like "as good as ever," along with the ingredients and dates.
There's nothing particularly special about Edward Burns' wry family drama The Fitzgerald Family Christmas –-- but that makes it something of a relief amid the avalanche of overlong, big-ticket prestige films that comes tumbling into theaters this time of year.
You've probably seen some version of this story before: A crotchety and unreliable old man, long estranged from most of his family, attempts desperately to reconnect with them on Christmas Day. It's urgent, because he's harboring a Secret with a capital S.
Based on Beth Raymer's memoir, Lay the Favorite has a cheeky, double-meaning title that sets up the story and the irreverent tone with impressive efficiency; the reference is both to the gambling practice of betting for the favorite and to the heroine's generous sexual proclivities.
Everyone gets roughed up pretty bad in Deadfall, a pop-Freudian thriller set in Michigan's north woods. But nobody comes off worse than the out-of-towners: Australian star Eric Bana and Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky.
As Hollywood movies increasingly strive for immaculate blankness, they have come to resemble Rorschach ink blots. For example, Playing for Keeps, a new movie about a divorced couple who just might reunite: Is it a heartwarming romantic drama? Or a cynical sex and sports comedy? There is no wrong answer, dear ticket buyer.
Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 8:24 am
Something like deja vu takes hold during the opening shots of Donald Rice's debut feature, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. With the insistent, urgent push of orchestral strings in the background, he offers up establishing shots of a bucolic English country manor, early 20th-century automobiles, and a bell ringing down in the servants' hall. That feeling of anticipation rising in many viewers' chests may be their hearts readying themselves for the tense post-Victorian drama of the popular TV series Downton Abbey, which is what that opening rather too directly recalls.
In Hyde Park on Hudson — a sly, modestly subversive dramedy about a crucial weekend meeting between England's King George VI and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of World War II — the diffident young monarch (Samuel West) confides his frustration over his lifelong stutter while the two men enjoy a postprandial drink expressly forbidden by their womenfolk.
Since earning a cult following for his acclaimed television show Freaks and Geeks, writer, producer, and director Judd Apatow has become a brand name. He has a new movie out this month — This Is 40 — and also guest-edits the January "Comedy Issue" of Vanity Fair.
He's an executive producer for the HBO show Girls and previously wrote, produced and directed the 2005 comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 10:04 am
Long dismissed as genre fiction, the historical novel has now established itself in the literary mainstream, thanks in part to heavyweight authors like two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel. For me, more than any other medium, historical fiction brings the past to life and makes it matter.
The director Francois Truffaut once remarked that it takes as much time and energy to make a bad movie as to make a good one. He was right, but I would add one thing: It takes extraordinary effort to make a truly memorable flop.
The best example is Heaven's Gate, the hugely expensive 1980 movie by Michael Cimino that is the most famous cinematic disaster of my lifetime. It's part of that film's legend that it not only took down a studio, United Artists, but was the nail in the coffin of Hollywood's auteur filmmaking of the 1970s.
[This piece contains information about the plots of lots of contemporary TV dramas, probably most notably a context-free discussion of an incident during the most recent season of Breaking Bad, as well as general comments on the plot of the film The Grey.]
This may be an exaggeration, but as I remember it, I spent all of the early '90s on the living room couch, drinking Diet Coke and diving into one book after another. I was 13, then 14, then 15, but even as the years progressed, the grown-up world made no more sense to me than it ever had.
This was a good year for cross-genre pollination. It was packed with brilliant books that stretched the boundaries of what counts as science fiction and fantasy — and even what counts as fiction itself. Authors like Ken MacLeod and G. Willow Wilson spun tales that begin as near-future dystopian science fiction, only to turn abruptly into fantastical tales of supernatural creatures. Call it magical cyberpunk realism.