Whenever James Stewart played a character, he was always a little bit James Stewart; that's a good thing. Cary Grant was always a little bit Cary Grant — also a good thing. But Tom Cruise, through a career that's spanned some 30 years, is almost always very much Tom Cruise. And that, particularly in Jack Reacher, can be a very tiresome thing.
Starring flying debris and surging walls of water, The Impossible takes the template of the old-timey disaster movie, strips it to the bone and pumps what's left up to 11.
Decades ago, perched in front of Earthquake and The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, audiences were rewarded with thrills that depended on fleshed-out characters (Steve McQueen as a fire chief!) and multiple interconnected storylines. How pampered we were.
Basically, Not Fade Away is the saga of a 1960s teenager who plans to become a rock star, but slowly realizes he won't. The movie is set mostly in the New York suburbs. So why does it open in South London, where two lads — you may know them as Mick and Keith — bond over imported blues LPs?
Consider the premises of writer-director Judd Apatow's first three comedies:
* A lonely tech salesman (Steve Carell) seeks to end a lifelong romantic drought in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. * A mismatched couple (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) gets pregnant after a regrettable one-night stand in Knocked Up. * A popular but self-centered comedian (Adam Sandler) finds perspective after a grim cancer diagnosis in Funny People.
Christian Petzold's Barbara, set in 1980 East Germany, is a film about watching and being watched. Its central character, the Barbara of the title — played, in a covertly spectacular performance, by the German actress Nina Hoss — is a doctor who's just been transferred by the government from Berlin to the provinces, as punishment for some undefined but easy-to-guess transgression.
For more than 35 years, riders on the New York City subways and buses during their daily commute were graced with posters of beaming young women. While the women featured in each poster — all New Yorkers — were billed as "average girls," they were also beauty queens in the nation's first integrated beauty contest: Miss Subways, selected each month starting in 1941 by the public and professionally photographed by the country's leading modeling agency.
This was a strange and wonderful year for young adult fiction — but also a confused and divisive one. We learned that 55 percent of young adult fiction was read by adults. Debates raged over what constituted a young adult novel versus an adult novel. Apologetic grown-ups sneaked into the teen section of the bookstore, passing subversive teens pattering into the adult paranormal and literature and mystery shelves.
For decades, Hollywood has been in the business of selling violence. But in the aftermath of Friday's school shooting in Connecticut, it's time to prove it's sensitive, too. NPR's Mandalit Del Barco reports that movie studios, TV networks and radio stations have shifted some programming and high profile premieres.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Quentin Tarantino's new spaghetti western "Django Unchained" stars Jamie Foxx as a freed slave in the Deep South working with a bounty hunter to find his wife.