Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
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Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
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More Dead Bodies: CSI lives on! Though the show features many unfortunate victims, it has consistently killed (ha!) in the ratings, and so a Season 14 is set in stone. Ted Danson will return, as well as Elisabeth Shue, George Eads, Jorja Fox, Eric Szmanda, Paul Guilfoyle and Robert David Hall, along with Wallace Langham, Elisabeth Harnois, David Berman and John Wellner. [EW]
ABC Sets Finale Dates: It's that time! ABC announced via release today the finales of its primetime offerings — March 27 we'll say goodbye to The Neighbors, April 17 Suburgatory, May 2 Wife Swap, May 5 Red Widow, May 7 Splash, May 12 Once Upon a Time and Revenge, May 13 Castle, May 16 Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, May 17 Shark Tank, May 19 America's Funniest Home Videos, May 21 Dancing With the Stars, May 22 The Middle, Modern Family, and Nashville, and May 28 Body of Proof.
It's Showtime for James Woods: James Woods has joined Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight in the new Showtime drama Ray Donovan, the network announced. The series will focus on Schreiber, a "fixer" who runs into trouble when his father (Voight) is released from prison. Woods will play a family friend.
Hot in Herre: Betty White can't retire yet, now that TV Land has picked up a fifth season of her sitcom, Hot in Cleveland. The new season will start filming in the fall, and will bring the comedy past the ever-important 100-episode milestone.
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[PHOTO CREDIT: CBS]
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Top Story: Student Sues Prince Over Photo Taken at Airport
Prince wants a fan to "Gett Off"! A college student from Edina, Minn., has filed a lawsuit against Prince and his bodyguard for allegedly assaulting him after he took a picture of the musician getting off a flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, The Associated Press reports. According to papers filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, Anthony Fitzgerald claims that on Dec. 29 Prince's bodyguard lunged at him "in an aggressive, threatening manner," then grabbed his digital camera, leaving him "stunned and humiliated." Fitzgerald's attorney Frank Berman said the lawsuit, dated Jan. 14, was filed Wednesday because Prince's "people" wouldn't accept a copy of it. The lawsuit alleges assault and battery, loss of the camera and intentional infliction of emotional distress that left Fitzgerald anxious and unable to sleep, the AP reports. A spokeswoman for Prince told the Star-Tribune Thursday she was not familiar with the lawsuit.
Warrant Issued for Eminem's Ex-Wife
An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for rapper Eminem's ex-wife after she failed to return to a court-ordered drug treatment program. In February, a Macomb County judge ordered Kimberly Mathers to serve 30 days in the county jail and then be transferred to an inpatient substance abuse treatment program for 90 days. She was taken to a doctor's appointment Tuesday and was supposed to attend a nearby Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meeting and then return to the treatment facility, but she never returned. Mathers, 28, was sentenced in January to two years' probation after pleading guilty to charges of cocaine possession and failing to give adequate space to an emergency vehicle. The charges came from a June traffic stop. Mathers and Eminem, whose legal name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III, have an 8-year-old daughter, Hailie.
Trump's Claims Anger Rival Networks
Donald Trump's declaration that his NBC reality show The Apprentice is tops in the ratings, a claim he made while hosting Saturday Night Live last weekend, has upset rival networks, which retaliated with press releases disputing The Donald's claim. Fox pointed out that American Idol was No. 1 in virtually every demo, "except perhaps among certain real estate moguls aged 50-plus." CBS, meanwhile, said that season-to-date, both CSI and Survivor All-Stars lead The Apprentice in viewers. But Trump had the last word. "Ultimately, my statements always become accurate," Trump told Variety.
Judge Dismisses Battery Case Against Vince Neil
Superior Court Judge Richard Stone dismissed one misdemeanor battery case against former Motley Crue singer Vince Neil Wednesday while another case against him still waits in the wings, the AP reports. The 43-year-old rocker completed more than 100 hours of community service, allowing the judge to drop charges stemming from an April 2002 altercation with record producer Michael Schuman outside a Los Angeles nightclub. Schuman, who had never met Neil before, alleged the singer struck him several times in the face. Neilis not in the clear yet, as he must still stand trial later this month on misdemeanor battery charges stemming from an incident in which he allegedly grabbed and threw a prostitute against the wall of a Nevada brothel.
FCC May Fine Howard Stern Show
U.S. regulators are considering fines totaling $495,000 against six Clear Channel Communications Inc. radio stations that aired indecent comments made on the Howard Stern show, Reuters reports. If members of the Federal Communications Commission voted to propose the fines, it would mark the first time the agency had counted as a separate violation each indecent comment uttered on air. In February, Clear Channel dropped Stern from its six stations after a discussion on his show that included explicit sex talk and a racist remark. Stern has railed against the FCC and the Bush administration for trying to get him off the air.
Janet Jackson's Chart-Topping Streak Over
Janet Jackson's newest album Damita Jo failed to top the charts its first week in stores and marks the first time since the singer's 1989 Rhythm Nation that one of her albums did not debut at No. 1, Reuters reports. Jackson's new album sold an estimated 381,000 units in its first week ended April 4, ranking No. 2 to R&B star Usher's Confessions, which remained at No. 1 for a second week running, selling 486,000 units, according to sales tracker Nielsen SoundScan.
Turner Gets His Own Star
Media mogul Ted Turner got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Wednesday, Reuters reports. Some of those in attendance included old-time Hollywood stars Esther Williams, Betty Garrett and child star Margaret O'Brien, thanking Turner for replaying their classic films and reviving their faded fame on his Turner Classic Movies cable channel. "I'm almost at a loss for words," Turner said. "I'm really excited about it," he said. "I love show business."
Role Call: Dafoe Joins von Trier's Manderlay; Berry, Winfrey Look To God
Willem Dafoe has been cast in Lars von Trier's Manderlay, the followup to Dogville, the first of three installments in the quirky director's USA--Land of Opportunities trilogy. Like Dogville, Manderlay will be shot entirely on a stage and is set in the American South during the 1930s and explores the repression of blacks. It also stars Lauren Bacall, Jeremy Davies, Danny Glover and Chloe Sevigny…Halle Berry and Oprah Winfrey will join forces in an ABC-TV movie Their Eyes Were Watching God
Top Story: Splendor Tops Nat'l Film Critics List
The National Society of Film Critics named the cult indie fave American Splendor--a film about the life of file clerk-turned-comic creator Harvey Pekar--as 2003's best picture at its annual best-of Saturday in New York at the showbiz haunt Sardi's, Reuters reports. They also tapped the film's creators Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini as best screenwriters. Bill Murray picked up another award as best actor for his work in Lost in Translation, while Charlize Theron took best actress honors for her portrayal as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Splendor narrowly beat out Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, Reuters reports, but Eastwood took home the best director prize, in a decisive vote that left The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King helmer Peter Jackson and Translation's director Sofia Coppola as runners-up.
In More Awards News…
Meanwhile, the Broadcast Film Critics will give Eastwood a lifetime achievement award at their awards ceremony Saturday in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Mystic River earned a record eight nominations from the group, including nods for Eastwood both as director and composer. The group will also bestow its Passion in Film Award on Peter Weir, director of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which received three nominations.
In More Spears News…
Pop princess Britney Spears, who isn't in the news enough what with her spur-of-the-moment Las Vegas wedding/annulment, is among the hundreds of celebrities, organizations and companies on the National Rifle Association's roster of entities it considers hostile to gun ownership rights, The Associated Press reports. The Fairfax-based NRA has compiled a 15-page list of supporters of the Brady law--which requires federally licensed gun dealers to do background checks on gun buyers--and other gun control measures. NRA spokesman Ted Novin told AP the list was solely for "informational purposes and that it's nothing new." Others on the list included Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, Michael Moore, the St. Louis Rams and Cardinals sports teams, and Hallmark Cards.
Irwin Defends How He's Bringing Up Baby
Steve Irwin, the wacky host of Animal Planet's Crocodile Hunter, snapped back at critics who have accused him of endangering his month-old son's life by holding the baby while feeding a crocodile. Proclaiming he'd do it again, AP reports Irwin told the Australia's Network Nine TV show A Current Affair, "What I would do differently is I would make sure there were no cameras around." Child welfare advocates have said the TV hero endangered his son, Robert, in the incident Friday, drawing comparisons with pop star Michael Jackson who dangled his infant out of a hotel window in Berlin in November 2002, AP reports. "To hear people say that it was a publicity stunt, that I'm just like Michael Jackson, well, it just tears me up. It makes me sick to my stomach to be compared in that way." Irwin told Australia's Sunday Telegraph. Police told AP Sunday that Irwin would not be charged with violating any laws.
And Speaking of Jackson...
Finding a fair and impartial jury of one's peers may prove to be difficult in the child molestation case against Michael Jackson. AP reports that due to the lack of racial minorities being summoned and low response to the jury summonses, Jackson's lawyer may decide to challenge Santa Barbara County's jury-selection process. For example, Hispanics, who work as farm laborers around the Santa Maria, where the case is being tried, do not return jury summons because they can't afford to take time off for jury duty. As well, the problem is compounded by the demographic of Santa Maria, where census figures show blacks represent just 2.3 percent of Santa Barbara County's population. "You wind up with a self-selecting jury pool," Santa Barbara attorney James Herman told AP.
Jolie Donates Money to Cambodian Farmers
Actress Angelina Jolie is donating $1.5 million to a program to help poverty-stricken Cambodian farmers, AP reports. About 300 families will get one cow each to help them earn money and dissuade them from logging and hunting wildlife for a living. The program is being organized by the Cambodian Vision in Development in its efforts to protect the environment.
Singer Hospitalized After Accident
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Daniel Bedingfield, best known for his dance album Gotta Get Thru This, is in stable condition after his car rolled off a rural road Friday in a remote area near Whangarei, New Zealand, AP reports. "He won't be well enough to travel, so he'll be recuperating in New Zealand for two or three months," Alison Lees, a Whangarei Base Hospital spokeswoman told reporters. "He's damaged vertebrae in his neck but it hasn't affected his motor or sensory capabilities. He's a fairly lucky guy." Bedingfield was driving back from a music festival in Whangarei, AP reports.
Southwest Airlines Subject of New Reality Show
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a popular airlines? A&E Network thinks enough people do to justify Airline, a new reality show which gives audiences an inside look at Southwest Airlines, following employees as they deal with weather delays, blackouts and passengers who are running late or too drunk or too smelly to board the plane, AP reports. "Everyone…wants to share their travel stories--the love-hate relationship we have with air travel," Nancy Dubuc, vice president of documentary programming at A&E, told AP. "It's that common connection." The show begins Monday night on A&E, which plans to air 18 half-hour episodes.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.