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Tag Archive: Rob Reiner


Last week The Princess Bride turned 30 and it returned to theaters this week as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies partnership (more classics are on their way to your local theater so keep an eye on the Fathom Events website for updates).  We’re big fans of The Princess Bride here at borg.com–more than five years ago it made 3 of our 4 lists of all-time favorite fantasy films.  This week’s screenings included Ben Mankiewicz interviewing director and producer Rob Reiner, and what shines through is Reiner’s enthusiasm for the film, three decades later.  He’s had several hits, from This is Spinal Tap to A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and The American President, and more, and now in theaters is his latest–LBJ.  But so few films are beloved like The Princess Bride.

Why does it work so well?  Part of the film’s success is due to its sincerity.  It’s true to its source material, William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride–the favorite of the author’s works.  Reiner tells a story of the difficulty in getting novelist William Goldman to sign over the film rights.  After countless big names were denied, Reiner was successful by agreeing simply not to change the story.  Goldman, who won Oscars for his screenplays to All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, also penned the film adaptation, further ensuring his original vision.  The story is bookended as only a fairy tale could be told (with a few interruptions) by Peter Falk’s Grandpa and Fred Savage’s Grandson, just having storytime.  The Grandson’s 1980s room provides plenty of nostalgia for kids from the period–a “Refrigerator” Perry poster, a Cubs pennant, Burger King The Empire Strikes Back drinking glass, He-Man action figures–this Chicago kid had a fun room.  But the family bonding is the thing–an old book keeping a story that bridges generations, inside the movie and out, told by an old man with glasses, gray hair, and a fedora.  And the story is sweet and about love–nothing in the movie is embarrassing or gross or disturbing–it’s safe territory to kick back and have a good time–for everyone.

Rob Reiner’s humor must also be a big component of the film’s success and appeal.  His choices, his casting, his own humor comes through, no doubt influenced by a lifetime in film thanks to his comedy dad Carl Reiner.  Carl belonged to that classic comedy school that also includes Mel Brooks.  It’s Brooks’ Young Frankenstein that The Princess Bride reminded me of the most in the theater.  What Young Frankenstein was to classic monster movies, The Princess Bride was for the fantasy film genre.  Is The Princess Bride a parody?  It doesn’t have those obvious, direct ties to specific classic scenes like Young Frankenstein, but it’s an homage to several–from Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood to Zorro and from Ivanhoe to Captain Blood and Sleeping Beauty.  The Pit of Despair, where Cary Elwes’s Dread Pirate Roberts is tortured, looks as if it could have been designed by the same crew as the laboratory set in Young Frankenstein (it didn’t but it did share its set designer–Richard Holland–with fantasy classics Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal).  But Rob Reiner’s humor is his own.  He never sits on a joke like the old masters of Hollywood comedy.  He leaves a laugh and keeps moving, which keeps in step with classic fantasyland storytelling.  You can laugh but the goal is the goal:  Rescue the Princess!

The classic archetypes are there: the Princess (Robin Wright), the Farmboy Hero (Elwes), the Three Woodsmen (Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant), a Wizard (Billy Crystal), a Crone (Carol Kane), an Albino (Mel Smith), and plenty of Villains including the Evil King (Chris Sarandon)–with a classic “rescue the Princess” plot.  But the movie is also unique.  What else has Rodents of Unusual Size?  The accents of Wallace Shawn as Vizzini and Peter Cook as the Impressive Clergyman?  An ad-libbing Billy Crystal partnered with a wonderfully badgering Carol Kane (Humperdinck! Humperdinck!)?  A real giant?  Two brave, swashbuckling heroes and two key villains (don’t forget Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen).  And the quotable lines!  It surely has as many big lines as Caddyshack: As you wish… My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to die… Never get involved in a land war in Asia!…  Inconceivable!…  I do not think that word means what you think it means… Mawwiage! … And an endless litany of “boo”s.  The Pit of Despair!  The Cliffs of Insanity!

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Moviegoers will hear a different kind of “BOOooo!  BOOOooo!!!” in theaters this coming week.  The Princess Bride turned 30 this past week and TCM Big Screen Classics is back again partnering with Fathom Events to round out a major year of retrospective screenings.  You’ll have two days only to see Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, Fezzig, Miracle Max & Valerie, Prince Humperdinck, Vissini, and Grandpa back in theaters, tomorrow, October 15, and Wednesday, October 18.

The Princess Bride?  Back on the big screen?  Inconceivable!

You can also get in on a “twivia” contest for great prizes.  Check out the contest here.  Accompanying this return to theaters is a 30th anniversary home release of the film (which does not appear to offer any updates to prior versions), available in a Blu-ray and Digital HD combo and on DVD.  Fans of the film should take a look at one of the better behind the scenes looks at any movie in The Princess Bride–A Celebration, previously reviewed here at borg.com.  It has some great Polaroid photographs from director Rob Reiner.  And if you haven’t read the original story to your kids or grandkids, get William Goldman’s classic novel, still in print and available here.  Goldman won Oscars for two other all-time greats: All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

You can’t beat this cast and the actors who were all at great places in each of their careers–Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, André the Giant, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, and Fred Savage.  For the younger generation: yes–that is the same Robin Wright who starred in Wonder Woman earlier this year and Blade Runner 2049, in theaters now.  A true classic, last year The Princess Bride was added to the National Film Registry, which identifies and preserves select films typifying the American film heritage.

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princess-bride

The National Film Registry has grown to include 700 films this year with the addition this week of 25 films.  In accordance with the National Film Preservation Act, a film is eligible to be preserved under the registry if it is at least a decade old and recognized in the National Film Preservation Board’s view as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The Librarian of Congress makes the final determination, considering public nominations in the analysis.

The new list includes Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, possibly the most beloved of all live-action fantasy films.  The Howard Hawks/Billy Wilder classic, Snow White-inspired comedy Ball of Fire, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper also made the cut.  Robert Zemeckis’s live action/animated caper Who Framed Roger Rabbit is on this list, along with the John Hughes coming of age film The Breakfast Club. 

the-birds

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds increases the famous director’s horror film count on the preservation list along with the likes of Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho.  And Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s coming of age story East of Eden, starring James Dean, joins the list.  Now all three of the films Dean is known for are on the list, adding to prior registry films Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.

Below is the full list of films named to the registry for 2016:

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New Girl Season 2 DVD

If you want to know why three cast members of the Fox TV series New Girl were up for Emmys last year, just get a copy of New Girl: The Complete Second Season, now available on DVD.  With yet another episode last night, New Girl is still cranking out laughs in its third season every Tuesday night.  New Girl has become the surest way to get a quick dose of laugh-out-loud humor on network or cable television.  The only frustrating thing about New Girl is that each episode is less than half an hour, and it always feels like it is over too fast.  And that makes it that much more fun to watch 25 episodes at a few hours per viewing with the DVD set.

Jess models a car in New Girl episode Models

Season Two finally saw series star Zooey Deschanel’s Jess hook up with Jake Johnson’s Nick, the poster boy for the lazy post-college set.  Deschanel was nominated for leading actress in a comedy series for her work in Season Two and it’s no wonder–she’s fun, quirky, and smart.  Season Two also saw Max Greenfield’s performance as Schmidt nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy series.  It’s hard to think of the last actor that worked as hard as Greenfield does for a laugh, finding himself constantly in the most embarrassing and over-the-top circumstances.  Deschanel and Greenfield have made themselves actors to watch for whether in TV appearances (Deschanel in Bones and Weeds, Greenfield in Veronica Mars and Castle) or in movies (Deschanel in Elf and The Happening).

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Princess Bride Celebration Cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

When you see someone get a project just right sometimes you know it immediately.

Norman Lear and Rob Reiner’s 1987 fantasy fairy tale The Princess Bride is a classic movie in every sense.  Unforgettable scenes, quotable dialogue, and a superb story by William Goldman provided the recipe for a film that is not just a fun film to watch now and again but a film girls and boys and women and men alike will outright tell you they love.  If there is a more incredible single scene in all of fantasy films than Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya in his final confrontation with Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen, then I have no idea what it is.  “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Intrepid borg.com writers Jason McClain, Art Schmidt, and Elizabeth C. Bunce each listed The Princess Bride on their top fantasy films of all time and if you want to read some good fan commentary on the film’s resonance 25 years after its premiere check out their past discussions of the film here.

Celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary, Universe Publishing, known among other things for producing high quality coffee table books, has released a beautiful and exciting look at the making of the film and memorabilia compilation for fans.  The Princess Bride: A Celebration is the first companion book to the film ever created.  Which in itself is astounding–a movie so popular and yet no one thought to release something like this before.  The result is what any fan of any film would love to have–it’s the kind of book that has not even been done in this way for films like Star Wars or Star Trek, although many great varieties of books have looked behind the scenes at those franchises.  What stands out for The Princess Bride: A Celebration is its volume of quality reprinted Polaroid images taken during production for costume, make-up, hairstyle, scene and design continuity.  It is a collector’s dream to lay his/her hands on continuity Polaroids from a film production and this book gives the reader the feel that Rob Reiner let you browse a trunk in his attic that hasn’t been opened since 1987.

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By Elizabeth C. Bunce

If there’s one thing these lists demonstrate, it’s that great fantasy stories are enduring.  All four of us have named several films that reach deep into the literary and oral tradition of myths, legends, traditional bedtime stories, and classics of fantasy literature.  It’s not surprising that what makes a great fantasy movie is the same stuff that makes a great story, period: amazing worlds, epic quests, doomed romance, and soaring imagination.  More than half the movies on my list are direct retellings of well-known tales, and all of them are adapted in one way or another from earlier source material–be that a novel from the 1990s or a play by William Shakespeare, or anything in between.

It’s neither accidental nor surprising that my personal favorites list went this way, but there are plenty of contenders that just narrowly missed the cut and are worthy of mention, at least in passing.  I’ve been thoroughly impressed by recent films Stardust (adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel) and Prince Caspian (from CS Lewis’s beloved Chronicles of Narnia), but I haven’t seen either film often enough to declare it a favorite… yet.  Likewise, two classics from my childhood deserve a nod, and would have made the cut if this were a Favorite 15: the glorious Jim Henson/Brian Froud collaboration The Dark Crystal; and Willow, which is just as good as any other high fantasy film made in the last century.  Lastly, because I feel someone should mention it, yet it somehow gets overlooked whenever we start talking about great fantasy films, is one of the few mermaid movies ever made (surprisingly enough), 1984’s fantastic classic Splash.  It gets overshadowed by Hanks’s Big from a few years later, but it really is a wonderful movie that deserves to be better remembered for its contribution to the genre.

But. You’re looking for the ones that did make the cut, so here is my winnowed-down list of my ten alltime favorite fantasy films:

1.  The Princess Bride
Art has suggested that we define great fantasy by the age at which we’re introduced to our favorites, and I tend to agree.  This Rob Reiner masterpiece came out when I was thirteen, which is the ideal time to experience this wickedly smart, hilarious, and romantic fantasy romp.  But viewers can enjoy it at any age!  There are no roles in film history to rival Carey Elwes as Westley/The Dread Pirate Roberts or Mandy Patinkin’s iconic Inigo Montoya, but Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Billy Crystal, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Peter Falk, and all the others turn in perfect performances, too. T he memorable scenes and imminently-quotable catchphrases ensure this film’s status as a fantasy legend.

2.  Ever After
When you’re a fairy tale fan, the golden goose (so to speak) is, of course, Cinderella.  No other tale so captures our love of the genre and our hope for true love to lift us from the drudgery of our daily lives.  Everyone knows this story, and making it fresh and new and wonderful is hard!  But Ever After was up to the challenge, and more.  Set in the intensely naturalistic setting of early Renaissance France, this adaptation builds on the basic rags-to-riches framework to deliver a complex and deeply satisfying tale of smart lovers who complement one another, yet are set apart by a nearly unconquerable divide.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that Dougray Scott makes for a Prince Charming any woman would swoon over.

3.  A Knight’s Tale
Carrying on with the argument that retellings fit in the fantasy genre, magic or not, I’m sneaking one of my very favorite movies–period–onto this list.  Turned off by the truly dreadful previews, I nearly missed this one–and I’m so glad I didn’t.  From the ensemble cast (Heath Ledger!  Rufus Sewell!  Paul Bettany!  That guy from Firefly!) to the wacky rock soundtrack, Chaucer has never been so much fun (and he was no wet blanket to begin with).

4.  Mary Poppins
No film explores the power of childhood make-believe adventures better than this Disney classic.  Who didn’t want their toys to put themselves away?  Or spend an afternoon popping in and out of chalk drawings, riding magical carousel horses and winning the derby?  Or laugh themselves into flight?  A spoonful of sugar and the confident wink of a magical nanny makes it all possible.

5.  Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
Tales of King Arthur and the Holy Grail have been centerpieces of Western fantasy as long as we’ve been telling stories.  The third, and arguably the best, installment of the Indiana Jones franchise brings that classic quest to the screen better than any film, ever.  (I’m talking to YOU, da Vinci Code.  You too, Excalibur. *shudders*)  (The second-best film adaptation of the King Arthur legend is, of course, the 1960s classic Camelot with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave.)

6.  Portrait of Jennie
For pure romance and starcrossed lovers, you can’t ask for more than William Dieterle’s sweet Depression-era tale of a starving artist and the doomed model who shapes his career, and his life.  It has all the makings of a gothic mystery–but the tender performances of Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones make this instead a sweeping story of the power of love to reach beyond time and death.  Fans of Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve’s Somewhere in Time should look this one up.  (And fans of Portrait of Jennie should look up the marvelous children’s novel Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillippa Pearce.)

7.  Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
The best installment of one of the most beloved fantasy series of our age.  Need I say more?

8.  Beauty and the Beast
No one was surprised when this Disney adaptation of Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s classic French fairy tale became the first-ever animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (and thus changed the awards structure forever).  The lavish production, with its marvelous soundtrack, brought this tale as old as time to life with all the wonder and beauty we expect in our fairy tale films.

9.  Arabian Nights
I have expressed my love for these stories on borg.com before, and this made-for-TV miniseries starring Mili Avatal absolutely swept me away.  The production is gorgeous and epic, with a bold and brilliant cast that includes fine performances by Jason Scott Lee, John Leguizamo, Rufus Sewell (!), and Andy Serkis.  It offers up all our Arabian Nights favorites: Ali Baba, Aladdin, and, of course, Scheherazade and her deeply disturbed husband, played with heartbreaking madness by Dougray Scott (who, really, we could stand to see A LOT more of.  Just sayin’.).

10.  Much Ado About Nothing
This is last on my list not because it’s my least favorite of the ten; far from it–it’s actually my alltime favorite movie!  But of the ten, it’s the one that feels the least like fantasy to me, although it has neither more nor less magic than The Princess Bride, Ever After, or A Knight’s Tale.  Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh at the height of his early career, this utterly perfect adaptation of Shakespeare’s lusty romantic comedy is set against the breathtakingly beautiful Tuscan countryside and features fantastic performances by Emma Thompson, Brian Blessed, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton, and Denzel Washington.  I want to step inside this movie and live there, every time I watch Much Ado–and if that’s not the very definition of fantasy, than I don’t know what is.

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