Audio Review: AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden (Audible/Touchstone)

ElwesC-AsYouWishAn inconceivably good memoir

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets and backstage stories.

The Princess Bride is one of my favourite movies. Therefore it was with great anticipation that I awaited the publication of Elwes’s memoir of the making of the movie. Elwes, who played Westley, delivers here a superb book. It is witty, humble, and excellently performed. Elwes is joined on occasion by other members of the cast and crew, who contribute their own stories and favourite memories of the production. What struck me most was how clearly they all enjoyed the whole process — even when things became tough, painful (literally — there were a few injuries during filming). Elwes talks of the disappointment that the movie was original met with scratching of heads by many, and the amazement and gratitude that it went on to become a massive hit on video, not to mention a passed-down-the-generations classic. Elwes’s delivery is perfect, as one can expect, and the narration is welcoming and crystal clear. There are also many moving memories of Andre the Giant, who played Fezzik and sadly passed away in 1993.

Every fan of the movie should read or listen to this. Or probably both. This was thoroughly enjoyable, engaging and very difficult to stop listening to. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch the movie for the hundredth time. And order a copy of the book for everyone I know (including one for my own library)…

***

As You Wish is published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster. It is available in audio via Audible, who provided the review copy. Here’s a video clip of The Princess Bride cast being interviewed on Good Morning America (2011):

Audio Review: STILL FOOLIN’ ’EM by Billy Crystal (Audible/Macmillan)

CrystalB-StillFoolinEmA really good audiobook by a great comic

Billy Crystal is 65, and he’s not happy about it. With his trademark wit and heart, he outlines the absurdities and challenges that come with growing old, from insomnia to memory loss to leaving dinners with half your meal on your shirt. In humorous chapters like “Buying the Plot” and “Nodding Off,” Crystal not only catalogues his physical gripes, but offers a road map to his 77 million fellow baby boomers who are arriving at this milestone age with him. He also looks back at the most powerful and memorable moments of his long and storied life, from entertaining his relatives as a kid in Long Beach, Long Island, and his years doing stand-up in the Village, up through his legendary stint at Saturday Night Live, When Harry Met Sally, and his long run as host of the Academy Awards.

Listeners get a front-row seat to his one-day career with the New York Yankees (he was the first player to ever “test positive for Maalox”), his love affair with Sophia Loren, and his enduring friendships with several of his idols, including Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali. He lends a light touch to more serious topics like religion (“the aging friends I know have turned to the Holy Trinity: Advil, bourbon, and Prozac”); grandparenting; and, of course, dentistry. As wise and poignant as they are funny, Crystal’s reflections are an unforgettable look at an extraordinary life well lived.

I didn’t know this when I started Still Foolin’ ’Em, but this audio edition has won a number of awards (and was also nominated for a Grammy). Certainly, I can see why. This is a great audiobook, and I laughed out loud on a number of occasions. Crystal was a favourite in my household when I was growing up, so I was familiar with so many of the movies and moments Crystal mentions (his reminiscing about When Harry Met Sally is, of course, excellent and probably a stand-out).

I particularly liked that some chapters were performed and recorded live – this offered a nice change from the ‘normal’ format of just a reading from the book, and the added audience aspect of it brought to mind a live recording of a great stand up shows. If I had one quibble, it would be that some jokes and themes were rather drawn out and therefore lost impact. A minor issue, though.

All in all? I would definitely recommend this if you are a fan of the actor. Even if you are only somewhat familiar with his work, though, I think you’ll appreciate his humour and thoughts on growing older.

A fun, honest, humble, and generous memoir.