For a Hollywood love story about a marriage on the rocks, Two for the Road is structurally complex: throughout the film, the story seamlessly cuts back and forth across four different time periods. These sometimes-abrupt shifts follow Joanna and Mark Wallace (Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney) during four road trips through the south of France spanning a twelve-year period. Frederic Raphael’s clever script uses this device to place the banter of early courtship alongside the pointed barbs of a troubled later marriage, and what emerges is a refreshingly multifaceted portrait of how both people and relationships can change over time. Supported by Raphael’s incisive dialogue and a novel editing scheme, Stanley Donen’s surehanded direction reveals an engaging chemistry between Hepburn and Finney in moments both comedic and dramatic.
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The anime and manga series Attack on Titan is an action-packed and unique story. Set in a world where huge man-eating giants called Titans terrorize the earth, this story follows a group of young people who are sick of living in fear.
A body is discovered lying across the border of Sweden and Denmark, and it’s only the first in a series of violent crimes designed to draw attention to social ills. A fascinating achievement of international television, Bron / Broen (The Bridge) straddles intersecting character arcs in a tension-filled series that examines the boundaries we cross.
Michael Cera plays one of those insufferable hangers-on, the type of guy who’s always the last to leave the party (long after the hosts have expressed their desire for sleep) in Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, a surprisingly poignant indie road-trip flick. On a single-minded quest to find, prepare, and consume the titular “magic cactus,” he hooks up with three sweet-natured Chilean brothers. Also on board is a free-spirited American girl named Crystal Fairy (a magnetic Gaby Hoffmann), who frustrates him with a goodness that he sees as an obstacle to his desired hallucinogenic journey. It’s an offbeat ride, for sure, but the dynamic that develops between these disparate characters is fascinating and leads to a heartbreaking revelation.
I was a member of the audience for the premier of Big Eden at the world famous Castro Theatre in June 2000 and happily joined in the thunderous 10 minute standing ovation. Big Eden is a winsome gay romantic comedy which turns stereotypes upside down with humor and a heart-warming romance.
Worth’s The Midwife tells the fascinating story of her life as a midwife in 1950’s London. Set in the East End, where she worked with nuns from St. Raymond Nonnatus, Worth chronicles the rigorous drama and inspiring magic of birth. It’s a captivating memoir. After reading, watch the excellent television series it inspired.
Kathleen Hanna, mother of the riot grrrl scene of the 1990s, is the titular subject of this biographical documentary that blends archival concert footage and old and new interviews. The Punk Singer is an engaging and provocative portrait of the artist. Hanna’s rise from feminist spoken word poet to leader of one of the decade’s most explosive and important bands is bumpy, exciting, and often inspiring. You’ll hear about her friendship with icons like Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, as well as her marriage to Beastie Boys‘ Adam Horowitz. But most compelling is her harrowing account of being diagnosed with Lyme Disease—an illness that threatened to end her career.
Ricky Jay is a world famous magician and actor. The documentary Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay examines his rise as a renowned stage illusionist and the elder statesmen of magic that helped him on the way. A talk show regular in the ‘70s, Jay wowed audiences with sleight of hand and piercing watermelons with thrown playing cards, but Jay has come a long way. He has studied and owns thousands of books on magic. His performances are half illusions and half entertaining lessons on eccentrics, con men, and magicians through the last several centuries. Deceptive Practices will fill your evening with both history and wonder.
Sweet Smell of Success features gorgeously stark black-and-white cinematography, a crackling Elmer Bernstein jazz score rife with jumpy energy, and muscular dialogue in a memorably hard-boiled style. Add two intensely powerful performances by Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, and you’ve got a masterful ode to blackhearted American ambition.
The winners of the 2014 Edgar Awards have been announced, and thrills and chills fill these top picks from the Mystery Writers of America, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2013.
Best Fact Crime: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower
Best Juvenile: One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Best Young Adult: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher