Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Top Story: Britney Spears Responds to Fred Durst's Comments
Semi-retired pop princess Britney Spears, whom Glamour magazine named woman of the year, has shed some light on her alleged relationship with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. According to People.com, British Glamour asked Spears if she and Durst really had a thing for each other. "I think him for me, but not me for him." Spears added that she was ticked off at Durst's claims on The Howard Stern Show that she tried to seduce him by arriving at his Los Angeles studio in a see-through blouse. In other Britney news, The Associated Press reports a lawyer for the singer's alleged stalker, 41-year-old Masahiko Shizawa of Yokohama, Japan, argued in Los Angeles Superior Court Friday that his client is simply "an avid fan" and his actions were misinterpreted by the pop star. Spears is seeking a restraining order against Shizawa, claiming he sent her hundreds of love letters and photographs and tracked her to her homes in Louisiana and Hollywood.
Madonna Goes From "Sex" to Children's Books
Madonna has signed a publishing deal with Penguin to write five children's books, Reuters reports. Her first book, The English Roses, based on the adventures of a red fox and a little prince, will be published in September. Penguin did not reveal how much it was paying Madonna to write the books, which will feature illustrations by a well-known artist. Aimed at children aged six and over, the books are a stark contrast to Madonna's previous publishing effort. In the early 1990s, her book Sex featured the pop star and her celebrity friends, including Naomi Campbell, Vanilla Ice and Isabella Rossellini, in various stages of undress.
P. Diddy Expands Restaurant Chain
Hip-hop entrepreneur Sean "P. Diddy" Combs plans to open a third Justin's restaurant in four to eight months in downtown Detroit, the AP reports. The original Justin's--named after Combs's oldest son--is in New York with a second location in Atlanta. The restaurants offer soul and Caribbean food.
The Clash Will Not Perform at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction
The Clash bassist Paul Simonon said the surviving members of the band will not perform when they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month. Lead singer Joe Strummer died of a heart attack in December and had mentioned performing just before he died. But Simonon said he never got the chance to reply and was actually opposed to the idea. According to Reuters, Simonon told British Broadcasting Corp. radio he thought it would be better for the Clash to play in front of their public audience rather than "a seated and booted (crowd)." The Clash, one of the most influential bands to emerge from the British punk movement of the 1970s, split up in the mid-1980s and never reformed.
Anthony Hopkins Weds Again
Anthony Hopkins, best known as Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter, married antiques dealer Stella Arroyave in a private ceremony, Reuters reports. Hopkins, 65, and Arroyave, 46, tied the knot Saturday in a ceremony in Malibu attended by friends and family. The two had been dating for about two years. This is the actor's third marriage.
"The Twist" Songwriter Dies
Hank Ballard, the singer and songwriter whose hit "The Twist" ushered a nationwide dance craze in the 1960s, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, the AP reports. Ballard had been suffering from throat cancer. In 1958, Ballard wrote and recorded "The Twist," which was only released on the "B" side of a record. Chubby Checker debuted his own version of "The Twist" on Dick Clark's television show one year later. The song topped the charts and launched a dance craze. Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Role Call: Bonnie Hunt; Johnny Knoxville; "Lupin the Third"
Writer-director-actress Bonnie Hunt will appear on the big screen alongside Steve Martin in 20th Century Fox's remake of Cheaper by the Dozen for director Shawn Levy. Hunt and Martin are the first two actor deals to close on the project, with production scheduled to begin March 31.
Jackass mastermind Johnny Knoxville, meanwhile, has joined the cast of Hating Her, a $10 million comedy that starts production next month. Selma Blair, Bridget Moynahan, Donald Sutherland, Maura Tierney, Blythe Danner and Logan Marshall-Green are already set to star in the project for helmer Thomas Bezucha. Finally, master thief Lupin the Third, a 1960s Japanese comic book anti-hero, will soon make his Hollywood debut. Gerald R. Molen, producer of the Oscar-winning Schindler's List, has acquired the movie rights to the work.