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'Ask Dr. Ruth,' And 'Late Night' Expected To Be Sundance Favorites

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is a busy week for the movie industry. The Oscar nominations are out, and one of the industry's biggest film festivals kicks off today. Actors, directors, executives and, of course, critics are on their way to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. NPR film critic Kenneth Turan is among them. But before heading to the mountains, he talked with David Greene.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Hi there, Ken.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Hey, David. How you doing?

GREENE: I'm good. I'm sad to be missing you. I was there with you last year. I'm not going this time, so you'll have to send us stories.

TURAN: They're going to miss you. They're asking about you already, Dave.

GREENE: I'm sure they are. I'm sure. So I want to start with Dr. Ruth, the sex therapist. She has a movie here?

TURAN: Dr. Ruth. Well, she didn't make a movie. It's a documentary about her. But she is a trip, as they used to say. You know, she's 90 years old. She's still working. She's still great and funny and lively. But this tells her story. You know, she was a Holocaust refugee. She grew up in another country for - you know, her parents died. She ended up in Israel. She was a sniper for the Haganah.

GREENE: She was a sniper?

TURAN: Yes. I know.

GREENE: Wow.

TURAN: And she is 4-foot-7. I don't know if that's good or bad for a sniper.

GREENE: I don't either.

TURAN: But just how she got started, how the program caught on, how her personality just has kind of lit people up from the start to today - it's really a treat to be in her presence.

GREENE: It's a life that - it sounds like that's a lot to take on for one movie. I mean, there have been a bunch of different lives during her 90 years.

TURAN: They really have. That's why it's so interesting. I mean, again, this is one of those things where this is a person you think you know. You say Dr. Ruth, and everyone has a picture.

GREENE: Yeah.

TURAN: And that picture is true, but there's a lot more to it that nobody really has known until now.

GREENE: And Kenny, what's the name of the Dr. Ruth film?

TURAN: It's called "Ask Dr. Ruth."

GREENE: "Ask Dr. Ruth" - seems appropriate.

OK. Someone else I think many people think they know is Mindy Kaling. But it sounds like she's going to be in a film about having a late-night talk show. That sounds fun.

TURAN: It's a film about a late-night talk show. It's called "Late Night."

GREENE: OK.

TURAN: And it's a script that she wrote and she stars in. And she co-stars with Emma Thompson. And Emma Thompson plays the woman who's been the host of this late-night talk show for 28 years. And the lines that Mindy Kaling has written for Emma Thompson's character are hysterical. Mindy Kaling plays a diversity-hire intern who comes into an all-male comedy room and has to cope with that and cope with Emma Thompson's show, which is having some difficulties, needs to kind of find a new direction. So it's a very smart film. It's a funny film. It's an unexpected film. I think it's going to be a real crowd-pleaser, a real audience film.

GREENE: Might learn a lot about what late-night television is like.

TURAN: It's not a pretty picture.

GREENE: How interesting. But what a rise it's been for Mindy Kaling, too. I mean, from "The Office" to - she had her own show for a while. Now she's writing a film that you say is going to be a crowd-pleaser and probably, I imagine, one that distributors are going to be trying to grab at Sundance.

TURAN: Yeah. No, I think definitely the distributors are going to be lined up. It's got a key slot on Friday night, and everyone's going to be waiting for this. And you know, bids will be made.

GREENE: So what else are you excited to go see?

TURAN: You know, there's something called "Maiden" that I really enjoyed. It's a documentary that has already played at Toronto. But sometimes Sundance brings in films that it really likes, even if they've debuted somewhere else.

GREENE: Oh, interesting.

TURAN: And "Maiden" is about the first all-female crew on an around-the-world yacht race. And it's such a heartening story. You know, the women now - it's, like, 30 years after the fact - they talk about the experience. The men who didn't believe that this was possible for an all-women crew, they talk about kind of how foolish they were. It's just a wonderful story. It was - you know, it's one of these against-all-odds documentaries where people fight tremendous obstacles. I just felt so good watching this film. It was just wonderful.

GREENE: The fact you're excited to see something again. Or...

TURAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I look forward to the next time I see it.

GREENE: What's the weather supposed to be like, snow?

TURAN: I'm afraid to look, David (laughter).

GREENE: OK. Don't look. Just report back. That is Kenneth Turan. Ken, thanks a lot, as always.

TURAN: Oh, thank you, David.

GREENE: He reviews movies for the Los Angeles Times and for us here at MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.