September 30, 2006 The new film The Queen looks at England's royal family following the death of Princess Diana. It's directed by Stephen Frears and features Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. The movie opened the New York Film Festival on Friday. NPR critic Bob Mondello has a review.
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September 29, 2006 NPR's film critic Bob Mondello sees more movies than you do. Take whatever he says as the gospel. You'll be happier and less likely to demand a refund.
September 27, 2006 The Last King of Scotland stars Forrest Whitaker as charismatic -- and unfathomably murderous -- ruler Idi Amin. In the film adapted from a bestselling book by Giles Foden, the Ugandan dictator's bloody reign is seen through the eyes of a young Scottish doctor who finds himself thrust into Amin's inner circle.
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September 22, 2006 Tomorrow's the first day of fall -- a great time to sit in a dark theater and ignore the upcoming colder, shorter days. NPR's Bob Mondello's gives us the scoop on this weekend's openings...
September 22, 2006 The new film The Science of Sleep is director Michel Gondry's fantasy tale about a young man who begins to lose himself in the area between waking life and his dreams.
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September 15, 2006 Enough of the news already! What's good to see at the movies? NPR's Bob Mondello has some reviews. I'm a big Maggie Smith fan, so that's where I might be headed. The Black Dahlia: Brian De Palma is the sort of director who can't seem to help coming at stories from all kinds of angles -- in this case, a few too many angles -- but it's still gorgeous visually. The plot's so convoluted -- an invented story about two cops and all sorts of conspiracies, threaded around a real-life, unsolved Hollywood murder case -- that when all the threads come together, they're just a tangle. But the tracking shots and the bravura location work (Bulgaria stands in for '40s L.A.) offer plenty to watch. K.D. Lang shows up in one of a pair of lesbian bars, singing Cole Porter and framed by some decidedly unusual chorus girls. Still, the acting is all over the map -- high camp, low vamp and a couple of really blank performances where the leads should be. Josh Hartnett squints boyishly and mumbles, Scarlett Johansson looks like a '40s sweater ad. They're bland and unreadable, so there's not much reason to care about them -- or what's happening...
September 15, 2006 Director Brian De Palma's Black Dahlia is based upon James Ellroy's fictional take on a real-life 1947 L.A. murder case. Ellroy's novel L.A. Confidential was turned into a great movie, but don't expect the same of Dahlia.
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September 8, 2006 The American Film Institute has revealed its latest list: The top 25 movie musicals of all time. NPR's Bob Mondello sent along this musing about the ranking. Personal confession -- The Sound of Music can still make me cry. "There's a place for us… somewhere a place for us," unless that is, we have an ounce of camp. When the American Film Institute released its list of cinema's greatest musicals this week, who'd have guessed they'd skip the sort of musical that really gets musicals -- the satires, the goofs, the shows that indicate a real love of form. I mean, these lists are made to be argued over, and there were bound to be a few kvetches and cavils, but seriously, why so serious? I mean, no one's going to argue with choices like Singin' in the Rain (#1), Wizard of Oz (#3) and Mary Poppins (#6)...
September 4, 2006 Pirates, superheroes, and animated cars have collectively scared up some $3.9 billion at movie box offices since early May. But the Labor Day weekend is traditionally the end of the summer movie season, and now it's time for grown-up movies to reclaim the multiplex.
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September 1, 2006 The long (and for some of us, wet) weekend ahead is starting to look like a perfect time to head to the movies. Film guru Bob Mondello gives us two options. (And be sure to catch Bob Monday, on All Things Considered, when he'll have a full preview of this fall's upcoming movies.) Even if you’re fond of the movie ratings system -- and many parents understandably find it essential -- you’ll have no trouble seeing why Kirby Dick’s cinematic “gotcha,” This Film is Not Yet Rated, has been inspiring gleeful chatter in Hollywood. The filmmaker talked to many of the usual suspects -- directors who’ve been forced to alter films to avoid an NC-17 -- and got many of the usual criticisms about the system’s built-in prudishness about sex (especially gay sex) and laxity about violence. But he also engaged in some amusing behind-the-scenes subterfuge, hiring private detectives to track down the identities of the previously anonymous Ratings Board members and establishing that they’re mostly not the parents of young children the Motion Picture Association claims they are. Also that the clergy is involved in ways not previously revealed...
August 25, 2006 Idlewild, the new movie from hip-hop duo OutKast, opens today. NPR's Bob Mondello gives us the scoop. OutKast's new movie Idlewild gets off to such a sharp start -- swooping camera, black and white photos leaping to life, notes jumping off a music stand to dance in a juke joint -- that you barely notice for a while that the hip-hop stars it's all centered on are the least of it. They're not bad, they're just not actors, and for most of the movie, they're so protected by writer/director Bryan Barber that it doesn't really matter. During musical numbers, he knows they'll be right at home, and during non-musical moments, he surrounds them with old Hollywood pros like Terrence Howard, Ben Vereen, and Cicely Tyson who could probably make a scene work even if they were acting opposite cardboard cutouts. OutKast's "Andre 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton are not cardboard cutouts, of course. Benjamin's reticent composer/pianist is serviceably soulful (largely in voiceovers), and Patton's comic stage-star lives up to his character's name of Rooster (largely by strutting cock-o'-the-walk-style). The plot they're wrapped up in is as much a remix of 1930s gangster-movie conventions as the score is a remix of OutKast songs. The atmosphere is heady, the plot idiotic, and the movie a bit of a mess. But it's a lively, ambitious one, and likely to prove a crowd-pleaser.
August 25, 2006 You won't mistake Idlewild for Busby Berkeley's portrayal of Hollywood's golden age. But then, that was equally true of Martin Scorcese's New York New York and Francis Ford Coppolla's Cotton Club.
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August 18, 2006 The Illusionist -- Edward Norton plays a turn-of-the-last-century magician who’s willing to bring down the entire Hungarian Empire as long as it means he’ll get the girl. Considering that the girl is Jessica Biel, who could blame him? Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti is furrowed of brow and delectably wry as the magic-loving inspector who’s hot on nearly everyone’s heels. Director Neil Burger gets the period details right in his first costume epic and has a field day with showing how magic was managed back then (on one occasion, the folks who, for purposes of the script, are guessing wrong about how a trick is being done, are actually demonstrating how it WAS managed in 1900). In short, the illusions are smart, as is the script. The cinematography is gorgeous, as is Biel. Now it’s up to the marketing department to pull a rabbit out of its hat and make a period drama stand out among the summer blockbusters.
August 18, 2006 Hollywood does not regard summer as a time for costume epics, unless the costumes are made of spandex. Historical movies tend to be released in the fall. But The Illusionist, a romantic drama set in the early 1900s, is bucking that tradition.
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August 11, 2006 In our last post of the day Film critic Bob Mondello discovers Mel Brooks works in any language, and that good acting can be found in summer movies. Come back Monday when David Folkenflik takes the reigns. Si, si... I know. You're sick of hearing about Buenos Aires' Buster Keaton Fest, and except for the Russian print of Nuestra Hospitalidad (Our Hospitality), for which they gave the projectionist a microphone and had her read the original title cards translated into Spanish, it has mostly been uneventful.
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