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.
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 10:24 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.
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.
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 12:04 pm
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.
Now to a hundred-foot-long alligator in Miami. Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the nation's largest art fairs, opens today. It's a citywide event that has spawned dozens of satellite shows and art happenings that have transformed the area with gigantic installations, including, as NPR's Greg Allen tells us, a very big alligator.
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.]