Five Unexpectedly Great Philip Seymour Hoffman Performances

by Ethan Alter February 3, 2014 2:45 pm
Five Unexpectedly Great Philip Seymour Hoffman Performances

In recent years, it's been taken for granted that Philip Seymour Hoffman could do just about anything. That's the kind of trust a performer builds with both filmmakers and moviegoers when he or she is able to cultivate the kind of long and varied career that Hoffman enjoyed right up until his tragic passing on February 2.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

by Ethan Alter February 26, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We talk about PTA's The Master once more, with feeling. Read Full Entry »

Decoding <I>The Ides of March</i>: Who’s Who in George Clooney’s Political Drama

The new political drama The Ides of March, directed, co-written and starring George Clooney, is technically based on Beau Willimon's 2008 play, Farragut North, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's more of a ripped-from-the-headlines roman à clef. Almost everything about this moderately involving, but ultimately underwhelming film -- from the characters to the central story arc (which follows a presidential aspirant whose campaign is almost derailed by a sex scandal) -- seems to be modeled after real-life situations and individuals. That feeling is further driven home by the occasional appearance of recognizable figures like Charlie Rose and Rachel Maddow playing themselves in small cameos.

Moneyball: How to Succeed In Baseball Without Really Trying

by Ethan Alter September 23, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Moneyball</i>: How to Succeed In Baseball Without Really Trying

One of the perils that comes with this gig is that there are times where I walk into a theater armed with too much knowledge about what went down behind-the-scenes on the movie I'm about to see. Take Moneyball, for instance. This adaptation of Michael Lewis' best-selling baseball book -- which covered a season in the life (specifically the 2002 season) of the Oakland A's and their eccentric, wily GM Billy Beane -- has been on my radar since 2008, when one of my favorite directors, Steven Soderbergh, came onboard to shepherd the project to the big screen. As is often the case with Soderbergh, he had developed a fascinating angle he intended to bring to the proceedings, embellishing the central narrative with documentary segments featuring real-life ballplayers and casting actual members of that 2002 A's squad (including David Justice and Scott Hatteberg) as themselves in the dramatic scenes. This approach excited me, but unnerved the studio, which shut down the film just as shooting was going to start in earnest. Soderbergh quickly departed the project and Capote director Bennett Miller was eventually recruited to replace him.

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