Friday, October 27, 2006

Fun, But Not Riveting

Question: How can I tell you about how disappointed I was in Ryan Murphy’s (TV’s Popular, Nip/Tuck) Running with Scissors while also letting you that I enjoyed it (some) and still urge to go see the movie?

Answer: By being as authentically me as possible.

After all, that was the advice that author Augusten Burroughs (on whose best-selling memoir the movie is based) gave the audience at a Miami screening a couple of days ago.

Running with Scissors gets off to a good start, but soon becomes the Deirdre Burroughs’ (Annette Bening) Show – which isn’t so terrible except for the fact that that particular show isn’t completely fleshed out – and delves into humorless territory. I can’t compare the movie to the book because I never read the book, but I can tell you this isn’t a great movie. But it has good acting.

I don’t mean to name-drop (yes, I do), but Transamerica director Duncan Tucker told me last year that Felicity Huffman told him that, “if it isn’t on the page then it isn’t on the stage.” This is one of the main problems with this movie: the character development and the feeling for young Burroughs’ journey wasn’t there. What is, however, is some top-notch acting.

I knew Bening would deliver a knock-out performance – she has been a lock in my Best Actress list for this year for a while…and I hadn’t even seen her or any other of the performances on that list yet (I’m so going to see The Queen this weekend – hint, hint). Bening is a force to be reckoned with, so I’m quite confident that her strong work in this otherwise mediocre movie will earn her an Academy Award nomination.

Also making the most of what was on the page were co-stars Joseph Cross (whose story arc was, surprisingly, much too passive), Evan Rachel Wood (The Upside of Anger), Alec Baldwin (TV’s 30 Rock), Jill Clayburgh, and an intense Gwyneth Paltrow.

But Running with Scissors is the Annette Bening Show – and what a show it is. So go see the movie, if anything to enjoy a superb performance. Sometimes, that is the most riveting thing a movie can offer.

My Rating **1/2

Photo: TriStar Pictures.

They Get Up and Do Their Thing

"Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

The year was 2003. The setting was a London Dixie Chicks concert. And that was the statement Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the then-very popular trio from Texas, made at the start of their sold-out international tour.

The comment was delivered on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq. It drew cheers from the decidedly anti-war and anti-Bush British crowd – and the ire of countless so-called patriots back home.

And now, three years later, the Dixie Chicks are not ready to make nice. But their documentary Shut Up & Sing is ready to revisit the statement heard ‘round the world, as it follows the band from national-anthem-singing darlings and top-selling female recording artists of all time, through the now infamous anti-Bush comment, and onto the days, months, and years of mayhem that followed.

It should be one of the most riveting, and controversial, films of the season – one that I trust will invite a good amount of dialogue and reflection.


Photo: The Weinstein Company.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tick Tock

The countdown to a new season of the Emmy Award winning 24 has begun.

As a treat, Fox has premiered a special extended ''Day Six'' trailer, which you can watch here.

Here’s what you’ll learn from this exhilarating teaser: This January, a new threat will rise. Fear will grow. And our only hope lies in the fact that Jack Bauer (Emmy Award winner Kiefer Sutherland)…must…die.

What the frak?

Find out on Jan. 14, at 8 p.m., when 24 premieres that Sunday with a four-hour premiere over two nights (to be continued on Jan. 15) before settling into its usual Monday nights at 9 p.m. time slot.

Photo: Fox Broadcasting Co.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Every Little Thing They Do Is Magic

Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige is a tale of two Victorian-era magicians (Christian Bale’s Alfred Borden and Hugh Jackman’s Robert Angier) who become lifelong rivals intensely obsessed with one-upping each other.

The film’s title refers to the third and final act of a magic trick, which incorporates shocking twists and turns.

The Prestige is full of these elements; the second you think you know something, it turns you really don’t.

Not surprisingly, it asks, from beginning to end, if you are watching closely. This might prove too difficult a task since Bale and Jackman (as well as co-stars Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson, playing a stage producer and a magician's assistant who becomes involved with both Angier and Borden, respectively) prove delightfully magnetic.

The story (co-written by Jonathan Nolan, on whose short story the director based Memento) is a sophisticated, non-linear one – oftentimes and edge-of-your-seater – that will have you wondering for what exactly you have been set up: a magic trick film or a magical trick of a film.

Yes, The Prestige is this season’s second magic-themed film (The Illusionist would be the first), yet it is just as enjoyable.

My Rating ***

Photo: Touchstone Pictures.

Friday, October 20, 2006

More Than a Queen

Marie Antoinette is perhaps best remembered for her legendary (and, some modern historians say, exaggerated) excesses. I don’t suppose this is entirely true, but from the looks of Marie Antoinette I believe that Academy Award winning writer and director Sofia Coppola remembers the last Queen of France as quite the rock star.

Coppola’s liberated take on the life of “l'autrichienne” who married into the French royal family in 1770 and was imprisoned and beheaded when the monarchy was overthrown in the French Revolution 20 years later – starring Kirsten Dunst in the title role and Jason Schwartzman as King Louis XVI – is a film of whimsy.

It is a highly stylized (i.e., spectacularly beautiful) interpretation of the monarch’s life – by way of a hipster Fabulous Life Of…, featuring a soundtrack of, among others, Bow Wow Wow, the New Order, and Siouxsie & the Banshees.

According to what Dunst told Conan O’Brien a couple of nights ago, this choice was made as a way to bridge the period the film covers with the sentiment the visuals and the music would evoke among audience members.

Obviously, the mood of the film is anything but typical: in this 18th-century France, Marie Antoinette and Co. speak and party as if they lived in the Hollywood Hills, not Versailles (OK…it’s not that bad, but no one affects a Period Film Accent). Oh, and the queen also sports pink hair and owns a pair of blue Converse sneakers.

All of Coppola’s choices work, though. I didn’t love them, but I enjoyed them and recognize their merit because, for the most part, they worked with the storytelling.


Marie Antoinette takes on a rather sympathetic view of the queen's life, as the 14-year-old arrived in Versailles after marrying 15-year-old King Louis XVI and learned to cope with the pressure of her duties. For the first two acts of the film, we see Marie Antoinette grow up, but not grow up. She tames her ways some after becoming a mother, but her fate is sealed (a life of unabashed indulgences would get her guillotined).

I never knew much about what the queen stood for (other than living it up), and I can’t say Coppola did much to inform me of anything new – and I sort of hoped she would. I know Marie Antoinette was more than just a queen, but what exactly je ne sais pas.

My Rating ***

Photo: Columbia Pictures.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Grand Theft Designer

I just wanted to say, as a new fan of Project Runway (thank goodness for all-day repeats of previous seasons to catch up on all the fun that was and get to know the process is all I have to say) that Uli was sooo robbed on last night’s season finale.

Not only did she have a superior final collection – she was a better designer than winner Jeffrey throughout the season. Not to mention a better person...although, granted, the show's not called Project Person.

She took the advice of Heidi Klum and Co. and stepped out of her comfort zone to deliver a collection that was versatile yet thoroughly her. And what did that get her (and the show’s breakout star model Nazri – at right in one of Uli’s final runway designs)?


The No. 2 spot, that’s what.

Not in at all!

Photo: BravoTV.com.
Anticipation

Two of my longtime favorite performers, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, are going on tour next year (she with her “Back to Basics Tour” and he with his “FutureSex/LoveShow Tour”).

The news has me giddy with lots of anticipation, especially because I missed them when they toured together three years ago.


The best part is they will make their way to my neck of the woods – so guess what I’m doing next Feb. 24 and May 5.

Photo: JustinTimberlake.com.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Nostalgia, Pt. 2

Ten summers ago, an immediately catchy single made its debut across the pond, though the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” wouldn’t hit it big stateside until later in the fall.

I miss the Spice Girls. I’m glad they had the run that they had…at least the run the group had with its original lineup. I'll have you know I was a proud owner of both Spice and Spiceworld, thank you very much.

So here’s to hoping there is some truth to the rumors that Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty are thinking about reuniting because I “wanna really really really wanna zig-a-zig ah.”

Photo: Sony Pictures.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Simply Irresistible, Pt. 5

Two words: Lauren Graham.

Enough said.

On second thought, a few more words for good measure: Watch Gilmore Girls on The CW so you really understand. Rent all the DVDs if you have to.

Thank me later.

P.S.: And watch Veronica Mars right after while you’re at it, already!


Photo: RottenTomatoes.com.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Simply Irresistible, Pt. 4

Now, this entry is not just about the obviously hot addition of Eric Dane to the already hot cast of TV’s Grey’s Anatomy – it’s about…towels.

Yes, towels.

For the past couple of seasons towels have made the most simply irresistible cameos on TV. The return of Dane’s Dr. Mark “McSteamy” Sloan to the show’s Seattle Grace Hospital would not have had the same impact had he not made his grand entrance in a cloud of steam – what else! – wearing nothing more than a towel.


(Surely, co-star Kate Walsh only looks bummed out in the picture at right because she has to.)

Anyway, Teri Hatcher’s clumsy Susan on Desperate Housewives would not have been established so had it not been because of what transpired after she chased – fresh out of the shower – her ex-husband out of the house and he sped away in a first-season episode.

And, of course, nothing compares to Jamie Bamber’s tantalizing towel dance on Battlestar Galactica last season. That alone has put me on a mission that I hope to accomplish before year’s end, which is to catch up, on DVD, with what I understand to be one the best frakkin’ shows on TV, already.


Photo: ÉcranLarge.com.
Extras, Extras!

I don’t know when exactly, but HBO’s little gem of a comedy series Extras will be soon premiering its second series (as the Brits call TV seasons), and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Admittedly, I could – if Madonna's guest-starring hopes had, uh, Materialized. Actually…did they? Time will tell.

In the showbiz satire, Ricky Gervais (the mastermind of the BBC’s The Office) plays Andy Millman, an ambitious if somewhat non-descript Englishman, who gives up his day job to pursue fame in the movies, only to find he just can't land the big parts.

The show’s first season guest starred as Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller, and X-Men: The Last Stand’s Patrick Stewart. New episodes will feature appearance from, among others David Bowie and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Photo: HBO.com.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Simply Irresistible, Pt. 3

Next week’s Running with Scissors may be a showcase of Annette Bening’s tremendous talent, but it should also prove to be a breakthrough vehicle for up-and-comer Joseph Cross (Strangers with Candy).

Trust me when I tell you that any young man (Cross turned 20 this year) who can hold his own alongside Bening the way I hear he does in the adaptation of Augusten Burroughs’ memoir – not to mention the rest of its fantastically appealing cast – is meant for great things.

Clint Eastwood seems to think so, too. And no, I’m not comparing myself to Dirty Harry. That was just a (less than polished) way for me to say that Cross will also appear in Flags of Our Fathers (which, coincidentally, opens Oct. 20 as well).


Photo: TriStar Pictures (Running with Scissors).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Making a Little History

A third previously unreleased Madonna track from the Confessions on a Dance Floor sessions will go down in history as eventually released once the CD-single for “Jump” finally comes out this Nov. 7.

The track, aptly named “History” (you can sample the Icon remix here), joins a fun (for fans) list of songs that the Queen of Pop recorded over the years, but never used – such as “Fighting Spirit,” “Super Pop,” “Liquid Love,” and “Your Honesty.”

After having a listen all I can say is that “History” is that sexy. Have at it if you don’t believe me.


Photo: Style.com.

Update: A week after she was first said to have adopted a child in Malawi, CNN.com reported today that Madonna has indeed added a one-year-old Malawian boy, whose mother died a month after childbirth, to her family. (This, according to the baby's father, who said yesterday he was happy his son was escaping poverty.) The singer's publicist has yet to respond to today's report.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Solid Actor for a Solid Movie

How cool is this?
My pick for Most Deserving of Getting to the A-List last year, Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), has joined the cast of the upcoming Iron Man, which will star Robert Downey Jr. in the title role.

Howard will play Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, the best friend of Tony Stark, the billionaire industrialist who becomes the superhero known as Iron Man.

The actor – the new Denzel Washington according to…well, me – was also featured in Crash and appeared in Four Brothers. He recently completed production on next year’s The Brave One with Jodie Foster.


Photo: Paramount Classics (Hustle & Flow).

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Girls Are Back in Town (Together)

At long last, we can all exhale: E! Online reported this morning that Simple Life co-stars Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie ended their 18-month feud over dinner (at a restaurant filled with paparazzi, of course) last night…a dinner that was followed by a more intimate “two-person, multi-dog sleepover” at Hilton’s Hollywood Hills home.

Why is this news? It isn’t – this is news…unless, of course, Hilton used Richie as a toothpick or something – but the reunion is that sexy.

Photo: Side2.no.

Who’s That Girl?

There’s definitely something to Saturday Night Live this season, huh.

Not only is the 32-year-old show having one heck of a zeitgeisty moment (what with the SNL-inspired Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock hitting the tube), this past Saturday it introduced me to the phenomenal Corrine Bailey Rae.

This British blues-soul import could not have made a better first impression on me as she evoked early Nelly Furtado and Norah Jones and commanded the stage with simplicity and grace.

Her sweetly harmonious debut CD, Corrine Bailey Rae, is so on my wish list.

Photo: Amazon.com.

Friday, October 06, 2006

So Do I

Entertainment Weekly hearts Adrian Pasdar, one of the stars of the highly addictive new TV show, Heroes.

The great thing is I do, too!

He’s one of the main reasons I enjoy the show so very much – him and Masi Oka, actually.

Now, if only people had hearted these shows, too.

Photo: EW.com.





Dangerous Game

Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, a remake of the hit 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, is a pot boiler of a film featuring an all-star cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson (in full scenery-chewing mode), and Mark Wahlberg.

Set in South Boston, where the police are waging war on organized crime, the film follows the travails of a joint FBI-Massachusetts State Police task force that is hunting down Irish mobster Frank Costello (Nicholson) with the help of deep undercover cop Billy Costigan (DiCaprio).

In the first of an interesting series of twists and turns, Costello has golden-boy detective Colin Sullivan (Damon) inside the police department as a way to ensure that his operation always stays a step ahead of the law.

Both Costigan and Sullivan are tasked with sabotaging the sides they’ve infiltrated, and, obviously, it soon becomes apparent to their respective (and oblivious) camps that something is wrong.

This is when the film is at its best – when the two rats are desperately trying to smoke each other out. Alas, this is easier said than done, and as the stakes (and body count) get higher, so does the urgency of the thrills.

In the end…well, you’ll just have to watch and see because that’s the payoff for you as a viewer. I could not have seen all the twists and turns that were coming had I been standing on top of the highest mountain on the clearest of days.

The Departed is, quite possibly, one of the best films I’ve seen so far in 2006. (I know such a generous statement is going to come back and hunt me later this year, all things considered, but so be it – it was that good.)

The acting is fantastic (if Meryl Streep is to get a nomination for her turn in The Devil Wears Prada, then Nicholson had better get one, too), the script is taut with anticipation, and Scorsese’s direction is confident and effective (the climatic shoot-out is exhilarating – it rivals the one in Heat, IMHO).

My Rating ***1/2

Photo: Warner Bros.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Nine Hits the Trifecta

ABC’s new show, The Nine, which premiered last night at 10 p.m. after Lost's riveting third season premiere, has humanity, intrigue, and sex appeal.

The show follows the lives of nine strangers (among them Tim Daly, 24's Kim Raver, and Everwood's Scott Wolf) who end up in a Los Angeles bank and find themselves taken hostage for 52 hours after two men try to pull a robbery, and are banded together as an unlikely family as they re-enter their lives and grapple with how this seminal event has changed them forever.

I’m hooked.


Photo: ABC.com.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Like a Mother

Reuters has reported that Madonna adopted a young boy in Malawi earlier today. The Queen of Pop is in the Pennsylvania-sized African nation on a mission to help AIDS orphan.

Earlier this summer, Madonna announced plans to spend at least $3 million on programs to support nearly 1,000 orphans in Malawi, and another $1 million to fund a documentary about the plight of children in the country.

Government officials said the 48-year-old singer, already a mother to Lourdes, 9, and Rocco, 5, chose the one-year-old orphan (whose name has yet to be disclosed) from among 12 children. She is said to have wanted to adopt a girl at first, but that she changed her mind two weeks ago.

Critics have described the project as a publicity stunt that follows in the footsteps of other celebrities – namely Angelina Jolie – who have taken up causes on the world's poorest continent.

I say congratulations, and keep up the good work! (I'm loving what I've seen so far of the "Jump" video.)

Photo: People.com.

Update: A few hours after Reuters announced the adoption, People.com. reported that Madonna's publicist had denied it. So let's just file this one under Wait and See.

Game Over

It looks like we’re going to have to wait for that reunion from the co-stars of The Mask a little longer.

I just read that Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz have pulled of the dramedy A Little Game Without Consequence due to "substantive creative differences," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Uh…not ssssssssssssssssssmokin’!

Oh, well. Diaz will next be seen in December’s The Holiday – and heard in Shrek the Third – while Carrey will star in the 2007 thriller The Number 23, co-starring Virginia Madsen (TV’s Smith).


Photo: Film.org (The Mask).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Seriously?

Page Six reported last week that Lindsay Lohan (soon to be seen in countless gossip shows, tabloids, and Bobby) was “recently whacked by the mean-spirited tongue of Nicky Hilton, who's squarely in sister Paris' camp in the ongoing Paris-Lindsay feud.”

The gossip page claimed the younger Hilton went over to La Lohan – with Brandon Davis in tow – at a Teen Vogue party in L.A. and bellowed, "Let's make up. We don't want to fight anymore…firecrotch! Hahahahahaha!"


I don’t think I’ve read anything more hilarious (and ridiculous) in the past few weeks.

Photo: The Weinstein Company (Bobby).