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The Month Ahead

Tapping the lore of a classic watering hole in Paris; tuning in with Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding; exploring “Frozen Planet”; and everything else to watch, read and listen to this month

A new Discovery Channel series has serious cool factor

You’d think that after visiting every inhospitable corner of the globe for 2006’s “Planet Earth,” the award-winning series co-produced by the Discovery Channel and the BBC, the filmmakers might want to rest on their laurels for a bit. Maybe do a show on tropical fish. Not so. Instead, they upped the ante by focusing on some of the world’s most extreme environments: the polar regions. There, crews braved winds of up to 148 mph and spent 840 hours trapped in blizzards — but oh, was it worth it.

Four years in the making, “Frozen Planet” features, as did its predecessor, breathtaking, never-before-filmed displays of animal behavior, such as a pod of orca whales creating giant waves in order to knock seals office floes. Like the bellowing of male elephant seals battling it out over a beach full of females, narrator Alec Baldwin’s baritone lends added gravity — and occasional levity — to the footage. Not that it needs it: Every episode promises to be spectacular from start to finish. Problem is, where do they go from here? Seriously, people: tropical fish. PREMIERES MARCH 18

Toasting a legendary Paris bar on its 100th birthday

In 1911, with Prohibition on the horizon, a jockey named Tod Sloan convinced a friend who owned a struggling bar in Manhattan to ship the whole thing to Paris and reopen it as the New York Bar. The pair then hired Scottish bartender Harry MacElhone, who proved so popular that patrons began calling the establishment Harry’s Bar. MacElhone made it official by buying the joint in 1923, and subsequently saw it become the place for American expats in the Roaring ’20s. The story of Harry’s — which is still going strong — is richly chronicled in Isabelle MacElhone’s new book, Harry’s Bar, which draws upon her family’s photos and anecdotes to pay tribute to this most hallowed of watering holes. OUT MARCH 1

This month will bring a slate of movies that take a filmmaking axiom and turn it on its head. Gimmickry, or genius? Your call.

Rule: As audience attention spans get shorter, so should shot lengths.
For Silent House, a remake of the Uruguayan horror hit La Casa Muda, breakout star Elizabeth Olsen explores an old lakeside retreat in what appears to be a single, tension-building shot. OPENS MARCH 9

Rule: Mainstream comedies with Hollywood stars have to be in English.
Exception: All the dialogue in Casa de Mi Padre, a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Diego Luna as two brothers battling a drug lord in Mexico, is in Spanish. OPENS MARCH 16

Rule: America’s sweetheart should remain sweet.
Exception: In a devious bit of casting, the Evil Queen in Mirror Mirror (one of two forthcoming Snow White movies) is played by none other than Julia Roberts, whose last fairy-tale role was Tinkerbell. OPENS MARCH 16

A Grammy stunner on her favorite new acts

Bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding shocked everyone last year when she became the first jazz musician to win the Grammy for best new artist. To mark the release of her album Radio Music Society, out March 20, we asked her to name some can’t-miss up-and-comers.

Dan Blake, New York jazz saxophonist and composer. “I love his sensibility. The group interplay on his new release, Aquarian Suite, is amazing. His writing and the direction he is taking with his band are inspiring.”

Broken Robots, U.K.-based fuzz-pop group. “My favorite new band! They have a unique way of demonstrating their love for improvisation. They’re a true mystery. Only a few people know how to find their record!”

Jef Lee Johnson, soulful Philadelphia singer and guitarist. “He is an amazing, versatile multi-instrumentalist. On his new record, Black and Loud, he showcases all his skills, which are diverse and deep.”

King, smooth soul-pop vocal ensemble out of Los Angeles. “They’re the best! It’s exciting and inspiring to see composing, writing, producing and performing at such a high caliber.”


Before Rube Goldberg began doodling his signature cartoons of elaborate “inventions,” he earned an engineering degree and worked for the San Francisco Water and Sewers Department — which might explain why engineering students love trying to bring his ideas to life. Creators of gizmos that take hundreds of steps to brew coffee or cast election ballots face off in the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, set this year for March 24 at Purdue University. Here’s how some teams have taken home the trophy.


In John Carter, a revolution on Mars is led by a Confederate veteran. Anyone see that coming?

Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other action hero, John Carter, finally makes it to the big screen on March 9, performing feats of bravery in an alien civil war after he miraculously wakes up on Mars. No doubt Disney execs will be hoping Carter finds his way into viewers’ hearts like the legendary ape man himself (or at least like director Andrew Stanton’s other protagonists: Wall-E and a little clown fish named Nemo). Casting brooding yet vulnerable Taylor Kitsch of “Friday Night Lights” as Carter should help encourage moviegoers to root for this unexpected hero. He’ll need all the help he can get, considering young-adult juggernaut The Hunger Games also opens this month. Godspeed, John Carter, and may the odds be ever in your favor.


“It seemed wrong, a flaw of character if not a tragic presentiment, that a woman of her age had accumulated so little that was essential to her.” From Mudwoman, the latest novel from lauded American author and three-time Pulitzer nominee Joyce Carol Oates. OUT MARCH 20

One Response to “The Month Ahead”

  1. Correction Says:
    July 21st, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    The Broken Robots that Esperanza is referring to is actually a San Francisco-based jazz/avant garde band. You can get an idea of their sound here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3xtuZNlirE

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