The story of the late great Johnny Cash depicted in Walk the Line is not quite all encompassing. The film dramatizes just one moment in Cash's life: his tumultuous 20s and rise to fame. The young Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) married and straight out of the army struggles with his music finally finding his patented blend of country blues and rock music. Haunted by a troubled childhood Cash sings songs about death love treachery and sin--and shoots straight to the top of the charts. On tour he also meets and falls for his future wife June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) whose refusal to meddle with a married man only further fuels the fire and contributes to his eventual drug addiction. Their cat-and-mouse love story provides the film’s core but unfortunately can’t quite overcome Walk the Line’s formulaic nature. Biopics are generally good to actors. Phoenix and Witherspoon could easily each walk away with Oscar statuettes for turning in two of the most jaw-dropping spellbinding performances since well Jamie Foxx in Ray. Neither actor had any musical background whatsoever but they both underwent painstaking transformations for the sake of authenticity doing all of their own singing as well as guitar-playing for Phoenix. The actor's performance is purely raw and visceral; his vulnerability is aptly palpable at first but then he becomes the Cash with the unflinching swagger. Witherspoon's Carter is Cash's temptress and she'll be yours too by movie's end. She eerily reincarnates Carter as if she was born to play the part. If Walk the Line is the ultimate actor's canvas then Phoenix and Witherspoon make priceless art-and music-together. While good for the actors biopics can prove to be difficult for the director. It’s hard to highlight a person’s life without it coming off like a TV movie of the week. Unfortunately director James Mangold (Copland) plays it safe with Walk the Line. The duets between Johnny and June on stage are about the only electrifying moments of the film. The rest is pretty stereotypical. And it isn’t because the film only focuses on certain years of Cash's life. It's simply not possible to fit a lifetime into the short duration of a film. The problem instead is that Mangold's presentation of Cash's life would lead one to believe that Cash actually exorcised his demons. But in reality his lifelong demons are what endeared him to the layperson. There was nothing cut and dry about the Cash story--and adding a little grit would have given Walk the Line the edge it needed.
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
Hardened by years of brutal but loyal military service special ops officer Robert Scott (Val Kilmer) is assigned to find the president's apparently kidnapped daughter Laura Newton (Kristen Bell). Pairing up with his protégé Curtis (Derek Luke) Scott works diligently with a task force of presidential advisors the Secret Service the FBI and the CIA to find her and through their investigation they stumble upon a white slavery ring in the Middle East which may--or may not--have some connection to Laura's disappearance. The straightforward search-and-rescue mission is soon bogged down in political machinations and the girl's abduction starts to look even more suspicious than it did at first. In fact the mission comes to an abrupt halt altogether when the girl is supposedly found drowned from a boating accident. Scott returns to his quiet life until Curtis shows up and proves that Laura is still alive and most likely trapped in the white slavery ring. In a race against time Scott and Curtis embark on their own unofficial rescue mission--and put themselves at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the U.S. government.
Val Kilmer probably won't be joining Mamet's dedicated circle of players--which includes Joe Mantegna William H. Macy and Mamet's wife actress Rebecca Pidgeon--any time soon. While it's clear Kilmer took the role to work with the talented writer/director he isn't well suited to deliver "Mamet-speak"--the rapid fire delivery of terse dialogue the writer is known for--and Kilmer looks uncomfortable trying to do it. The gifted actor who can't help but bring in his own quirky sensibilities to the part still hits the nail on the head as steely resolute Scott. But the minute he starts dispensing sage advice--Mamet-style--Kilmer sticks out like a sore thumb. Same goes for Luke (Antwone Fisher) who is entirely miscast as Scott's sidekick. Others in the ensemble however handle the Mamet chores more adeptly including Macy and Ed O'Neill (yes the guy from TV's Married ... With Children) as presidential aides.
Spartan's real problem however is that it's a thriller without much thrill. Mamet's expertise is in creating scenarios within a microcosm whether it's a world of con artists (House of Games; The Spanish Prisoner) salesmen (Glengarry Glen Ross) or even showbiz (State and Main). These Mamet films are even-keeled--almost devoid of emotion. He sets up characters and actions relevant to that particular world so when characters spout lines in Mamet's distinctive style it comes off as perfectly natural. Yet with Spartan Mamet is tackling a bigger grander picture and when his style is applied to the world as a whole it doesn't work. Plus in the thriller genre the audience needs to feel invested in the characters and Mamet's distant unemotional style doesn't lend itself to sending the audience's collective hearts racing. The only poignant moment in the film belongs to Bell as the wounded daughter who just wants a little attention from Daddy and the only truly exciting moments are during her rescue. That said however Spartan proves Mamet still knows how to craft a story. Although the script is at times vague and convoluted it thankfully never falls into any of the genre's usual patterns and it throws in enough twists to keep you on your toes.