The A List: December 2006
A handy guide to movies, CDs, DVDs, TV shows, and books that made the grade (A -- or better) in EW during the past month
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Catherine O’Hara, Christopher Guest (PG-13)
Guest and his band of players strike again, this time turning their mockumentary eye on Hollywood and the hysterical buzz that surrounds Oscar season. From O’Hara’s spot-on turn as an aging actress (Academy voters take note!) to Jane Lynch’s Mary Hart-like shoulder-squaring on an infotainment program, Guest’s insider-y satire proves he is best in show (business).
COME EARLY MORNING
Ashley Judd, Jeffrey Donovan (R)
Stuck in a small town in Arkansas, Judd plays a young woman drowning in Coors and one-night stands. Judd, as always, is terrific, but the real find in this moving drama is the who-knew-she-had-it talent of actress-turned-writer-director Joey Lauren Adams.
Ricardo Darín (Unrated)
Director Fabiàn Bielinsky (Nine Queens) passed away last year, making this enigmatic drama — about an epileptic Argentinean taxidermist who becomes infatuated with imagining the perfect crime — that much more moving.
Orphans As a songwriter and Everyman biographer, Waits is every bit the equal of Bruce Springsteen. Over three discs — pulled from recordings new, old, and hard-to-find — Waits paints a panorama of America that is heartbreakingly unsentimental and pungently real.
Deliver Me From My Enemies A strange but utterly listenable album from 1977, in which the talented Jamaican vocalist somehow manages to fuse smoky Rastafarian island vibes with revival-tent Christianity. Glorious proof that mon does not live by bread alone.
More Fish Functioning as a sequel to last March’s well-regarded Fishscale, More Fish is a very welcome second serving of Ghost’s funky samples and even funkier rhymes. Fellow Wu-Tangers add a bit of flavor to yet another fine effort from the rapper whom we all now know to be the Clan’s best.
THE DB’s & FRIENDS
Christmas Time Again Twenty years after its release, a modest but much-loved seven-song EP from these college-rock avatars has turned into a 21-track new holiday classic that glows with yuletide charm.
If I Could Only Remember My Name
This 35-year-old gem — a, um, high point in the laid-back lushness of the ’70s-era West Coast sound — is remastered.
Pretty Little Stranger Creamy country-soul from the singer who made a fortune wondering if God was one of us.
ST. ELSEWHERE: SEASON ONE
(Unrated) What Hill Street Blues did for the modern cop show, St. Elsewhere did for today’s hospital dramas. With a cast that featured a young Denzel Washington (and guest-star turns by Doris Roberts and Tim Robbins), the series presented its doctors as complex and fallible characters.
Louise Brooks (Unrated)
What’s most remarkable about this 1929 silent-film classic is not the wondrously lurid story. Nor is it G.W. Pabst’s rich direction. No, what’s most remarkable is Brooks’ eerily modern performance as a young woman who understands all too well the tragic arc of her life.
WALT DISNEY’S TRUE-LIFE ADVENTURES (VOL. 1-4)
(Unrated) Parents who want to remind their kids (and themselves) that not all animals can talk, sing, or — as in the case of a cartoon hit now in theaters – dance should pick up any one of the films in this Oscar-winning series of nature docs made between 1948 and 1960.
Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell (R)
Perhaps burned out by too many big-screen remakes of mediocre TV shows that should’ve stayed on the small screen, audiences mostly stayed away from this summer release. So now’s your chance to check out director Michael Mann’s deliriously cool and kinetic — and slightly reworked — meditation on crime, ambition, and the sexy allure of cigarette boats.
(NBC, Thursdays, 9-9:30 p.m.)
The viewer-challenged medical comedy starring John C. McGinley and Zach Braff continues to administer guffaws and wacky non sequiturs (with a healthy dose of sentiment) in its sixth year. Just witness the season premiere, which referenced Pop Rocks and Tone Loc and featured the staff grooving to ‘N Sync’s ”Bye Bye Bye.” And that ain’t no lie.
TSUNAMI, THE AFTERMATH
(HBO) Based on the 2004 disaster, this two-parter — featuring an excellent cast including Toni Collette, Tim Roth, and Sophie Okonedo — provides faces to the many stories of loss and survival that occurred after the wave hit. Chiwetel Ejiofor is particularly affecting as a vacationer separated from his wife and child.
(BBC America, Thursdays, 9 – 10 p.m.) Alison sees dead people. Psychologist Robert is a skeptic. But when Robert discovers Alison can communicate with his dead son, the duo strike up an unlikely partnership in this spirited new series.
THE HANDMAID AND THE CARPENTER
by Elizabeth Berg
(Novel) In Berg’s fresh, modern telling of the couple who would raise Jesus, precocious teen Mary nabs eligible bachelor Joseph, and the love story that follows becomes its own miracle.
EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY
by Joanna Scott
(Stories) Vibrant, off-kilter portraits of life’s journeymen exhibit humanity at its most poignant and random.
RUMPOLE AND THE REIGN OF TERROR
by John Mortimer
(Mystery) Curmudgeonly barrister Rumpole is alienated when he defends a Pakistani jailed on overblown terrorism charges in this first-rate whodunit.
THE BOLEYN INHERITANCE
by Philippa Gregory
(Historical novel) Life with maniacal Henry VIII, as seen by three women close to him, is vividly imagined by this best-selling author.