Based on H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's bestselling book of the same name Friday Night Lights tells the true story of the dusty West Texas town of Odessa where nothing much happens until September rolls around. That's when the town's 20 000 or so denizens pour into Ratliff Stadium the country's biggest high school football field every Friday night to watch the Permian Panthers Odessa's "boys in black " take to the field. All the town's hope and dreams are pinned on the padded shoulders of these young gridiron heroes--including insecure quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black); cocky self-assured running back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke); headstrong self-destructive tailback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) who must contend with an overbearing abusive dad (Tim McGraw--yes that Tim McGraw the country singer); and the team's spiritual leader middle linebacker Ivory Christian (newcomer Lee Jackson). The Panthers begin their season with one thing on their minds--winning their fifth straight championship for the first time in the team's 30-year history--but for their coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) it also means instilling a love and joy of the game in the boys' hearts amidst tremendous pressures and expectations. Easier said than done.
There isn't a false note in any of the performances and no one falls back on clichéd versions of their characters as is so easy to do in rah-rah sports movies. Thornton does a particularly good job as Gaines keeping you guessing whether he's going to be a hardass insensitive to his players' emotional needs (like so many movie football coaches before him) or if he truly means to coach his boys in a fair and decent way. Gaines too has to deal with his own pressures especially from the townsfolk who are likely to string him up if the team loses the championship. As for Gaines' players Black (the oh-so-serious kid from Thornton's Sling Blade) is all grown up and buffed out and still very serious. It works for the young actor though as the beleaguered Winchell struggles with the love-hate relationship he has with his chosen sport. Other standouts include Luke (Antwone Fisher) as the star player Boobie whose cocksureness leads him to an injury; Hedlund as the volatile Billingsley trying desperately to please his father; and McGraw making his film debut as the father a former Permian Panther champion who sure hasn't given up his competitive spirit basically beating it into his son. First Faith Hill (McGraw's real-life wife) in The Stepford Wives and now McGraw--who knew country singers could act?
From All the Right Moves to Varsity Blues to Remember the Titans Friday Night Lights unfortunately doesn't completely distinguish itself from the pack of football movies before it--like those this is all about how the young players--be they underdogs second-string nobodies or stars--rising above the mounting pressure and playing the best they can bless their hearts. Still there's no question the sports genre--particularly football--always gets the juices pumping with FNL being no exception. It might have something to do with our sick fascination with watching bone-crunching hits and body-punishing tackles. It's dangerous out there for these guys; no other sport (besides maybe hockey) can elicit such wince-inducing emotion and actor/director Peter Berg (The Rundown) exploits that. Obviously influenced by Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday Berg effectively paints his own gritty documentary-style picture of the competitive sport without relying on too many trite gushy over-the-top moments. And to give it credit the film does not necessarily have a feel-good "let's win one for the Gipper" ending; it is based on a true story after all and as we know real life isn't all sunshine and roses especially in the bloodthirsty world of Texas high school football.
In the late 19th century Dr. Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) a misunderstood monster hunter is summoned to Transylvania to ferret out Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and kill him once and for all. When Van Helsing gets to the small village where the vampire was last spotted he discovers he also must contend with Dracula's three seriously twisted vampire brides Dracula's angry henchman/werewolf--and a lovely gypsy princess named Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) who is hell-bent on eradicating Dracula and his bloodsucking kind for slaughtering her entire family. Oh and let's not forget Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) who holds the key to Dracula's evil master plan--something about releasing his minions of unborn bat-like children from their goo-filled cocoons so they can wreck havoc on the world. Yuck. Sounds like our resident monster stomper and his sword-swinging gal pal have their work cut out for them. If Van Helsing does manage to kill all his monster foes does that mean he's out of a job?
Jackman has the whole antihero thing down pat. He adequately embodies the younger more virile Van Helsing dishing out as much pain and torture as he can on the undead--but the Aussie actor isn't given nearly as much meat to chew on as he did say delving into the complicated Wolverine in X-Men. Instead the monster hunter is relegated to carrying big weapons wearing a big hat and muttering something about having bad dreams to a past he can't remember. Same goes for Beckinsale. The British actress was oh-so-cool on the other side of the fence playing the chic vampire Selene in Underworld cutting her way through a myriad of werewolves. As Van Helsing's heavily accented female counterpart Anna however she just runs around with her sword blurting out such pathetic dialogue such as "Dracula took everything away from me and now I'm alone in the world" while Roxburgh's Dracula--who can't hold a candle to other far more charismatic Draculas before him--wails about being so very alone as his luscious brides hang upside down in front of him. Give me a break. At least Australian actor David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings) provides much-needed comic relief as Van Helsing's sidekick Carl a Catholic friar who doesn't much like playing hero.
With the requisite dark mood and tone action sequences and snazzy CGI-creations including the winged vampire brides and formidable werewolves you can see exactly where writer/director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) spent Van Helsing's nearly $150 million budget. But even all the bells and whistles can't tie together the film's vacuous nonsensical mumbo jumbo as Sommers attempts to bring classic movie monsters together in the same movie. Maybe in a tongue-in-cheek Abbott and Costello movie it could work but as a serious action-packed thriller clearly Dracula Frankenstein and the Wolf Man do not need to meet. On top of that Sommers steals from other movies as well such as recent films Underworld (the whole vampire vs. werewolf conflict) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (Van Helsing defeats a rather familiar-looking Mr. Hyde at one point). Whatever originality there is in the film leaves you either scratching your head--Dracula has kids?--or rolling your eyes--Anna needs to kill Dracula so her nine-generations of family can reunite in Heaven? Please.
December 11, 2003 1:48pm EST
Remember that movie about a high school geek who gets the most popular girl in school to be his girlfriend to boost his own image only to discover that fitting in isn't worth sacrificing his individuality? Or was that a Saved by the Bell episode? Love Don't Cost a Thing is the latest teen comedy to follow that formula to a fault: Alvin Johnson (Nick Cannon) is an outcast teen with no style and he's ready to do anything to shed his nerdy image. Even his father (Steve Harvey) an old-school ladies' man wishes the boy would get out and socialize more. So when the popular Paris Morgan (Christina Millian) wrecks her mother's Cadillac Escalade Alvin an amateur mechanic offers to fix the vehicle and pay for the parts if she will pretend to be his girlfriend for two weeks. A haircut and several Sean John warm-up suits later Alvin becomes "Al " an ultra-smooth guy who's "got all the 411s." Of course Paris starts to fall for Al who's too busy keeping up his "big pimpin'" facade to notice. But after alienating everyone close to him including his childhood friends stylin' Al learns a valuable lesson about being himself.
Cannon's performance in Love Don't Cost a Thing falls short of the impressive one he delivered in the musical drama Drumline--his first lead role in a feature film. Here it's impossible to sympathize with the 23-year-old Cannon's clownish character even when he is needlessly bullied by jocks. With his crazy uneven Afro and spastic walk even Molly Ringwald's goody-good character Samantha in Sixteen Candles might be tempted to point and laugh. But while the movie's hero doesn't score many points other characters do notably Al's gal pal Paris played by songwriter/actress Millian who has written songs for Ja Rule and appeared as a guest on several TV shows including Charmed and The Steve Harvey Show. She delivers a very sincere performance as the "frappuccino with hips " and although audiences should despise her character for prostituting her popularity and lying to just about everybody Millian manages to morph Paris into a likeable personality--and we can't help but go along for the ride. But mustachioed comic Harvey steals the show as Al's loveable father Clarence a man who still boogies to his 8-track collection and gives his son very valuable life advice including how to open a condom wrapper using only one hand.
Writer/director Troy Beyer's Love Don't Cost a Thing is so visually horrendous that it should have been called This Film Didn't Cost a Thing. Beyer who directed the dire 1998 comedy Let's Talk About Sex and penned the even worse 1997 B.A.P.S. doesn't much improve her track record in 2003. Her guidance here including sound light and action is so amateurish that the film seems unfinished. An outdoor party scene for example is so dark it's difficult to make out the characters on screen and in another scene inside the school the sound is so muffled the character's lines are barely audible. Beyer's screenplay adapted from the mind-numbingly bad 1987 comedy Can't Buy Me Love doesn't help matters either; most of the characters remain as shallow and label-obsessed as they were 15 years ago. And while there have been countless Hollywood films revolving around the same theme many have done so successfully including the aforementioned oldie Sixteen Candles and more recently The New Guy.
Who made off with Sharon Stone's stones?
A 48-year-old ex-housekeeper of the "Basic Instinct" star was due to be arraigned in a Los Angeles court today on charges she purloined more than $300,000 in jewelry and other items from the actress' West L.A. home, authorities said.
Socorro Del Carmen Membrano faces one count of grand theft. She was arrested Tuesday following a police investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.
Membrano worked for Stone for three years, prosecutors said. It was not known what was allegedly stolen -- or when.
Stone's camp declined comment.
SEEING RED? The Halle Berry hit-and-run saga unfolds, as Los Angeles deputies now believe the actress ran a red light before striking a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Feb. 23 and fleeing the scene in West Hollywood.
On the heels of this update comes news that Berry was involved in a similar incident three years ago in which no charges were filed. Berry and the other driver "worked out a settlement on their own," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Rob Kenessey said of the prior incident.
Berry's case has been turned over to prosecutors, who are reviewing 911 tapes. Investigators reportedly have recommended the filing of criminal charges.
CRABBY APPLE: Singer Fiona Apple gave New York fans quite a show Tuesday when she stormed off the stage 40 minutes into her concert.
According to MTV, the 22-year-old, who recently contributed music to boyfriend Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," was plagued by sound-equipment problems and couldn't hear herself sing. After complaining and apologizing for the poor quality, she began to cry. The cry snowballed into a meltdown, and the singer reportedly yelled, "All you critics out there better not [expletive] tear me apart or I'll [expletive] kill you."
Finally, Apple announced that the band was leaving for five minutes so the monitors could be fixed. But after 20 minutes, a representative appeared and said Apple would not finish the show and asked fans to save their ticket stubs, saying another -- and better -- New York show would be scheduled.
Apple, whose latest album title, "When the Pawn ..." is longer than a Barbra Streisand acceptance speech, appeared on David Letterman's CBS show the night after the incident. We're happy to say the sound was working fine, and she made it through without incident.
MUSIC BEAT: Surprise, surprise -- Santana's multiple-Grammy-winning "Supernatural" stayed at the top of the Billboard charts this week, hitting the nine-times-platinum mark. It's followed by Dr. Dre's "Dr. Dre 2001." Christina Aguilera's self-titled album also received a Grammy boost to No. 3; Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" and Eiffel 65's "Europop" rounded out the Top Five.
The Top Five singles in the country are as follows: 1. "Amazed," Lonestar; 2. "Maria Maria," Santana featuring The Product G&B; "Breathe," Faith Hill; "I Knew I Loved You," Savage Garden; 5. "Get it on Tonite," Montell Jordan.
OBITS: The Oscar-nominated composer for such films as "From Here to Eternity" died Sunday in a San Diego hospital of cardiovascular disease. George Duning was 92. Duning picked up five career Academy Award nominations. He never won. ...
... David Levy, a former network executive who helped birth the TV version of "The Addams Family," died Jan. 25 in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness, it has been learned. He was 87. During his run as an NBC programming exec, Levy was also instrumental in bringing "Dr. Kildare" and "Bonanza" to the Peacock network ...
... Begona Palacios, actress and widow of director Sam Peckinpah, died Wednesday of a liver disorder. She was 58. Palacios was best known in Mexico for action movies such as "The Saint Against the Strangler" in 1963. Peckinpah died in 1984 ...
QUICK TAKES: Is it over for The Cure? It might be. The alt-rock band's 13th studio album, "Bloodflowers," deals with finality, and lead singer Robert Smith -- a k a the Well-Lipsticked One -- says the song "Maybe Someday" is a specific farewell. "I just feel that it would be good to stop while we're still good," Smith told Reuters ...
... Pee Wee King, the singer, bandleader and songwriter who co-wrote "Tennessee Waltz," is in guarded condition after suffering a heart attack, a spokeswoman for Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., told Reuters. King is 86 ...
... Cameron Diaz, who went frumpy in "Being John Malkovich," will return to glam (hopefully) as a presenter for the 72nd Academy Awards, to be held March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium ...
... "Go" director Doug Liman has lost his dog, Jackson, and is offering a combined reward of $1,000 and a part in his next film to whoever finds the Australian shepherd, last seen Feb. 18 in Washington. Liman tells the New York Post: "I keep hearing from actors who are out there looking."
--With additional reporting by Joal Ryan.