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Jonathan Taylor Thomas Surfaces Publicly for First Time in 2 Years

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Jonathan Taylor Thomas Surfaces Publicly for First Time in 2 Years

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In the mood for a sweet, off-beat murder mystery? 'Elsbeth' is on the case

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In the mood for a sweet, off-beat murder mystery? 'Elsbeth' is on the case

Carrie Preston stars an an astute but unconventional attorney in Elsbeth.

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Carrie Preston stars an an astute but unconventional attorney in Elsbeth.

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Carrie Preston won an Emmy Award in 2013, as outstanding guest actress, for her portrayal of a seemingly scatter-brained lawyer on the CBS series The Good Wife. Her character, Elsbeth Tascioni, really was a character. Her conversations tended to derail into unexpected directions. Her questions never seemed to follow any logical path, but they always had a purpose – and she was keenly, almost uncomfortably, observant.

Michelle and Robert King, the writing team that created The Good Wife to showcase the talent of Julianna Margulies, quickly recognized Preston’s Elsbeth as a valuable supporting player. She appeared in six of the seven seasons of The Good Wife, and won her Emmy there.

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Then she returned as the same character in The Good Fight, which the Kings wrote as a sequel series starring Christine Baranski. And now, there’s a third series, this time bringing Preston front and center. It’s called Elsbeth, and the series pilot was written by co-creators Michelle and Robert King, with him directing the premiere episode.

So what are they up to this time? They’ve transplanted Elsbeth from Chicago to New York City, where she’s been hired to officially observe, and secretly investigate, some of the police there. In her new job, she’s given so much latitude, she even can serve as an ad-hoc murder investigator.

Elsbeth, the series, is structured like Poker Face, or, even more obviously, Columbo. I’ve previewed three episodes, and each begins with viewers seeing the murderer commit the crime … and then, and only then, does Elsbeth enter the crime scene and start putting the puzzle pieces together.

As with Columbo, each episode features a prominent guest star as the killer of the week. For the premiere episode of Elsbeth — no spoiler alerts here, because the murder is shown in the opening moments — Stephen Moyer from True Blood is the special guest star. He plays an acting teacher and director who has found a way to dispose of his much younger former student and lover, by making it look like suicide. When Elsbeth arrives at the victim’s apartment, she ignores the dead body and heads straight for the bathroom – where she pokes around until a detective notices her and objects.

The police aren’t sure what to make of her, of course. Wendell Pierce, that wonderful actor from The Wire, plays Capt. Wagner, who is exasperated one moment, impressed the next — which is how everyone reacted to Elsbeth way back on The Good Wife. Carra Patterson plays Kaya Blanke, an officer who soon becomes a friend as well as a colleague.

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But as with Columbo, the most important dynamic is between the investigator and the killer. Elsbeth, like Columbo, is persistent and underestimated. But where Columbo kept his theories close to his vest, or his raincoat, Elsbeth almost delights in revealing her hole cards, to unsettle her prime suspect. Preston and Moyer worked together on HBO’s True Blood, and it’s fun to see them together again here – this time as adversaries.

Other episodes shown to critics feature, as the murderers of the week, Jane Krakowski from 30 Rock and Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family. Both of them bring a playful energy, sparring with Preston’s Elsbeth – and she really sparkles, with and without them, and carries the series with ease.

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Also, the show’s New York locations add even more to the flavor, and the enjoyment. All together, they make Elsbeth an undeniable throwback to an earlier TV era. But so is Poker Face, which I love for many of the same reasons: Great leading role; delightful guest stars; decent, clever mysteries that are solved by the end of each episode. And in an era where so much TV is so dark and depressing, Elsbeth stands out as a sweet, happy little treat.

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Moncler’s Plan to Take Back the Mountain (And Stay at Luxury’s Summit)

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Moncler’s Plan to Take Back the Mountain (And Stay at Luxury’s Summit)
After a year of industry-beating growth, CEO Remo Ruffini is leaning into promoting core lines like the Grenoble mountain sports range and bread-and-butter puffer jackets. But other ambitions always arise — from Stone Island’s repositioning to planning the next “Genius” event — in Ruffini’s spinning world.
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Storyboarding 'Dune' since he was 13, Denis Villeneuve is 'still pinching' himself

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Storyboarding 'Dune' since he was 13, Denis Villeneuve is 'still pinching' himself

Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica, mother to Paul Atreides, in Dune: Part Two.

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Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica, mother to Paul Atreides, in Dune: Part Two.

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After much anticipation and delay, Dune: Part Two is in theaters March 1. It’s been a long time coming for Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who remembers reading Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune for the first time when he was 13.

“The idea that a boy finds home in another culture, that he feels comfortable in a foreign country — that really moved me at that time,” Villeneuve says.

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As a kid, Villeneuve dreamed of making Dune into a movie. He and his best friend would write and draw stories from the book. Then, in 1984, David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune came out, and Villeneuve felt excited — but also slightly unsatisfied.

“There were some choices that were very far from my sensibility,” he says. “I remember watching the movie, saying to myself, someday someone else will do it again.”

Villeneuve went on to become a filmmaker himself, with a string of successful hits, including Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and Sicario. He was drawn to science fiction, which he describes as a “very poetic way” to digest and explore reality.

Throughout his career, Villeneuve kept expecting someone to revisit Dune — he just never imagined he would be the filmmaker tasked with the project.

“I’m still pinching myself,” he says, of making Dune: Part One, which came out to critical and commercial success in 2021, and now Dune: Part Two.

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Villeneuve describes Dune: Part One as a meditative film, centering on Paul Atreides, a young man (played by Timothée Chalamet) who finds himself stranded on a strange planet after his father is murdered by a rival family. In Dune: Part Two, the character becomes more active, taking control of his own destiny. “The second movie was meant to be more of an action movie,” Villeneuve explains.

Timothée Chalamet and Denis Villeneuve confer on the set of Dune: Part Two.

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Timothée Chalamet and Denis Villeneuve confer on the set of Dune: Part Two.

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Interview highlights

On why he prefers as little dialogue as possible

If I could’ve made movies without any dialogue, it would have been paradise. Dialogue for me belongs to theater or television. I’m not someone who remembers movies because of their lines. I remember movies because of their images, because of the ideas that unfold through images. That’s the power of cinema. For me, it’s not about dialogue. I hope one day I will be able to make a movie with as little dialogue as possible. That’s why silent movies were so powerful and … still today, the best movies. Normally, a great movie — you should be able to watch it without sound. And that’s the ultimate goal.

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On the complications of shooting in the desert with hundreds of crew members

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The heat was our enemy. I mean, there was a period of time in the middle of the day where it was the soup mode, you felt that your brain was cooking. I had to bring the crew away from the sun in the middle of the day. … I wanted to shoot the movie as much with natural light as possible. We shot exclusively with natural light in the desert, which meant that, in order to make no compromise aesthetically, it drove my first assistant crazy because it meant that you had to, according to sun positions, deconstruct the whole shooting schedule according to the sun’s position. And that was for my senior cinematographer and for the actors [and I] quite a crazy puzzle.

“I was in love with the idea that you could know the presence of the sandworms just by seeing suddenly the landscape shifting in the distance,” Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve says.

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“I was in love with the idea that you could know the presence of the sandworms just by seeing suddenly the landscape shifting in the distance,” Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve says.

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On figuring out how to portray the desert tribespeople known as the Fremen riding sandworms

I was in love with the idea that you could know the presence of the sandworms just by seeing suddenly the landscape shifting in the distance. You didn’t hear [anything], but just suddenly a sand dune appeared. I absolutely love how it’s more frightening not seeing the beast than actually seeing it. Jaws was a very important reference for the sandworm.

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This moment where someone rides a sandworm, it’s a very important moment in the book, but it’s kind of suggested. … [But it’s] quite vague how you actually get on the worm. So that was one of the first things I had to do [was] decide how I will make this believable. … First of all, I had to decide to think about the behavior of the beast. For me a sandworm is a powerful creature, but it’s a very shy creature … it’s a creature that doesn’t want to be at the surface … a creature from the underground. It wants to expose itself as little as possible. …

I studied extreme sports, like people who are jumping on skis … or a motorbike racer. And so I designed the way someone could jump on a worm. I did the diagrams, and I explained that to the crew. [It] was like a seminar where I explained to my crew how to ride the sandworm.

On the sandworm riding scenes requiring their own film unit

I didn’t want to make any compromises. I wanted to be as real as possible. And in order to do that, we had to use the most powerful tool that we had in our hands, which is natural light. It meant that this sequence would be shot over the course of many weeks. In order to do so, I had to figure out a way to split myself, because if I had [filmed] that worm ride myself, I would still be shooting right now. So it meant that I would need to be at two places at the same time. I was directing my main unit [and] there was what we called a worm unit. … That was the most difficult thing for me to do. Because cinema is an act of presence. I’m used to working with one camera at a time. I’m very old fashioned in that regard. And [having] to split myself in two was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

On how Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Duel inspired him to become a filmmaker

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There was always a name attached to these movies and this name was Steven Spielberg. And then I started to be more interested about what it meant to be a director. At 13 years old or something like, absolutely fascinated by the idea of, the power of, the tool of the camera. I didn’t have any camera in my life, but I was fascinated. There was something so romantic, so powerful about making movies. I became obsessed with the idea of [becoming a] filmmaker

Heidi Saman and Susan Nyakundi produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Beth Novey adapted it for the web.

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