News Article

The A List: October 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

MOVIES

THE DEPARTED
Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson (R)
A stellar cast — led by DiCaprio and Damon in career-defining roles — shines in this bruising crime drama set in the cold streets of Boston. With his restless camera work and gift for operatic staging, director Martin Scorsese gives the proceedings a giddy, exhilarating energy conspicuously missing from his recent foray into historical epics.

THE QUEEN
Helen Mirren, James Cromwell (PG-13)
In playing the institutionalized detachment expected of a monarch, Mirren shows how and why the House of Windsor belatedly — almost grudgingly — acknowledged Princess Di's untimely passing.

49 UP (Unrated)
In 1964, a British TV crew interviewed a group of 7-year-olds about their hopes and dreams. Every seven years since, Michael Apted has revisited those subjects and filmed these lives in the making. Almost 50 years later, their experiences are poignant and thrillingly real.


MUSIC

BECK
The Information With one hand taking the pulse of hipster America and the other working two turntables and a microphone, Beck fairly radiates zeitgeist cool. In his new CD — crammed with the sonic detritus of our information age — he tackles data overload.

SCISSOR SISTERS
Ta-Dah Just as they did on their party-tastic 2004 debut, the New York-based retro-rockers have sifted through the music of the '70s and reduced it to its oh-so-fabulous essence. But there's a sense of gloom here — a dark lining that perfectly sets off the album's disco clouds.

THE HOLD STEADY
Boys and Girls in America Also hailing from New York: The quintet known as the Hold Steady, who effortlessly drop literate, post-graduate musings on top of their two-fisted rock chops — without ever sounding pretentious.

ADEM
Love and Other Planets The album's title not-withstanding, the kind of space Adem Ilhan seems most interested in exploring is the farthest reaches of his fragile heart.

PERNICE BROTHERS
Live a Little Blessed with a Bacharachian sense of melody and a question-authority mind, New England's Joe Pernice writes songs that sparkle like moonshine — and pack the same fiery burn.

MY MORNING JACKET
Okonokos A double live CD that captures these indie space-rock avatars at their fuzzy — and heart-breakingly lonely — best.


DVDs

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline (PG-13)
The last broadcast of a long-running radio show (shut down by heartless suits) provides the neat metaphor for director Robert Altman: how creativity is losing the war to the bottom line. Where others might be shrill, the old master is rueful and folksy — the film has an elegiac glow.

SCRUBS: SEASON 4
Zach Braff, Donald Faison (Unrated)
A welcome palliative to the glut of hour-long hospital dramas, this engaging half-hour sitcom continues to induce laughs despite — or because of — its over-the-top acting, nonstop visual gags, and constant narration.

THE MALTESE FALCON: SPECIAL EDITION
Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor (Unrated)
John Huston's 1941 classic about a private detective on the hunt for an ancient relic practically defined the conventions of the modern film noir and introduced audiences to the tough PI swagger of one Humphrey Bogart. Consider this handsome three-DVD set an essential addition to any good movie library.

THE LITTLE MERMAID: PLATINUM EDITION (G)
The underwater fairy tale that revitalized Disney animation receives a two-disc makeover. Included here (and unimaginable a few years ago): the reminiscences of Disney expats Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy E. Disney.


TV

THE NINE
(ABC, Wednesdays, 10-11 p.m.) The title of this drama refers to a group of bank-robbery hostages who've formed a deep (and mysterious and now slowly unraveling) bond during their 52-hour ordeal. We love the sharp writing and superb cast — especially Tim Daly as a wisecracking cop and Kim Raver as a smart prosecutor. We're crossing our fingers that the show lives up to its terrific potential.

HELP ME HELP YOU
(ABC, Tuesdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) Ted Danson, so wondrously gifted at making grouchy self-absorption a likable trait, stars as a therapist happily picking at the wounds of his comically troubled patients.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
(Sci Fi, Fridays, 9-10 p.m.) The third season began with the unfortunate souls of New Caprica dealing with an occupying army of Cylons — and Admiral Adama contemplating various military options. So add sharp commentary to the reasons you should watch what might be television's most politically relevant show.


BOOKS

THE ROAD
by Cormac McCarthy
(Novel) Across the landscape of a postapocalyptic America, a man and his young son push a wobbly shopping cart toward an uncertain future. McCarthy's bleak tale is filled with unspeakable horrors and unbearable sadness.

THE TEXICANS
by Nina Vida
(Novel) A dry wind of magic realism blows through this thrilling novel that follows a young Mexican woman as she finds love and adventure in the Texas hill country of the 1840s.

AMERICAN GENIUS
by Lynne Tillman
(Novel) An unnamed narrator is in full neurotic bloom while apparently at some sort of New Age retreat. Hilarity that veers between the inane and the insane.

THE ECHOING GREEN
by Joshua Prager
(Nonfiction) A lively examination of the intrigue and subterfuge behind the 1951 World Series.

Originally posted Oct 27, 2006 Published in issue #905 Nov 03, 2006 Order article reprints