Drab prim and more than a little prudish Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) isn't a very good governess--her rigid personal beliefs keep getting in the way of her ability to hold a job. Homeless and hungry on the streets of 1939 London she's on the verge of despair when fate sends her to Delysia Lafosse's door. Flighty enthusiastic and impulsive Delysia (Amy Adams) is a club singer with aspirations of becoming a serious actress; to achieve her goals she'll literally charm the pants off of any man who can help her--even at the risk of losing her one true love forever. Equally shocked and fascinated by Delysia's sophisticated fast-paced colorful lifestyle Miss Pettigrew uses her brief time as the young woman's faux social secretary to try to save her from herself. At the same time she begins to let go of old fears and finds the way to her own happiness. Miss Pettigrew benefits immensely from the strengths of its two stars. McDormand is both funny and affecting as the title character; she plays a recurring gag in which Miss Pettigrew almost gets to eat with just the right notes of humor and pathos. The twinkle in her eye as she takes the measure of Delysia's world is convincingly conspiratorial and her scenes with co-star Ciaran Hinds who plays courtly lingerie mogul Joe are both sweet and realistic. Adams meanwhile is just as captivating as she was in Enchanted. Delysia's perky effervescence hides both determination and vulnerability and Adams mixes all three elements expertly. The ladies get strong support from their fellas particularly Hinds and Pushing Daisies' Lee Pace who plays Delysia's poor-but-ardent suitor Michael. And Shirley Henderson is perfectly poisonous as socialite/salon owner Edythe. Parts of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day have a distinctly screwball feel -- particularly the early scenes in which Miss P. arrives at Delysia's and must immediately juggle four or five different crises for her new client. The brink-of-World War II setting with its cocktail parties jazz clubs and dames in bright red lipstick encourages that association. But director Bharat Nalluri's movie is also a touching romance with scenes of true poignancy that centers on a complex mature heroine who knows life isn't all roses. His ability to balance the two yields a genuinely funny accessible comedy that has some real depth to back up its lighthearted romping. Even if like Delysia Miss Pettigrew is only a passing presence in your life you'll likely remember her quite fondly.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action revisits an age-old Tunes question: Why does the affable Bugs reap all the fame and glory while the egocentric Daffy gets shafted again and again? Our duck friend quite frankly has had it up to his skinny neck playing second fiddle to the carrot muncher. All Daffy wants is a little recognition from the studio but the brothers Warner (actual twin brothers as we come to find out) decide instead to let Daffy out of his contract on the advice of their no-nonsense VP of comedy Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). Bugs however knows they're making a mistake. Even though Daff bears the brunt of the abuse Looney Tunes would fail without him and Bugs convinces the powers that be they need the nutty mallard. If the plot had only followed this thread--perhaps showing Daffy on the skids--then maybe the film wouldn't have spiraled into Looneyville. Unfortunately Daffy ends up hooking up with the hunky D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) a studio security guard who finds out that his famous movie star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) is really a secret agent hunting for a mysterious diamond known as the Blue Monkey a supernatural gem that can turn the planet's population into monkeys. The evil head of the Acme Corporation Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) wants the diamond for his own diabolical plans and he's kidnapped D.J.'s dad in an effort to get it. Now the gang has to get the diamond save D.J.'s dad and of course save the world.
It might be a little hard to act subtly around cartoon characters but these aren't your ordinary cutesy Mickey Mouse types. Bugs Daffy Porky Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn are pros at comic timing able to spar with the best of them throw out zingers without a second thought and slay you with a droll glance at the camera. It isn't really necessary for the human actors to match their madcap-ness; just reacting would have sufficed. Fraser comes off the best of the human bunch; since he's had practice (Monkeybone) he easily interacts with his animated co-stars and deftly handles the doubletakes and jabs at pop culture. Elfman on the other hand sputters and goes bug-eyed every time she encounters silliness. She looks uncomfortable doing the green screen thing especially when she's trying to look natural when peeling a distraught duck from around her waist. Martin's highly anticipated turn as Mr. Chairman turns out to be the biggest disappointment. The over-the-top character is reminiscent of Martin's hysterically funny Rupert the Monkeyboy in 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but Martin turns Mr. Chairman--an angry schoolboy with knee socks and matted-down hair who never grew up--into a caricature of ridiculous proportions and unlike Rupert who came in small hilarious doses Mr. Chairman gets very tiresome very quickly.
Back in Action's animation is well done more engaging and ambitious than its 1996 predecessor Space Jam in which the action mostly took place in Looney Tunes land; here animated characters go the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? route and Bugs Daffy and the rest coexist harmoniously with humans in the real world. But despite its aspirations Back in Action leaves out vital elements that made Space Jam appealing. While the earlier film stuck to a simple plot Back in Action guided by director Joe Dante (Small Soldiers The 'Burbs) tries too hard to keep things wild and wacky while incorporating elements of '60s heist pics and action-adventure scenes and in the process loses sight of the most important ingredient in any kids movie: the story. Tykes may have limited attention spans but if the story's good they will watch. Granted some individual bits are laugh-out-loud funny particularly the scene in the Warner Bros. commissary where a stuttering Porky Pig complains about being politically incorrect with Speedy Gonzales while an animated Shaggy and Scooby-Doo berate actor Matthew Lillard for playing Shaggy as such a bonehead in the live-action Scooby-Doo. These scenes prove that if any cartoon characters could pass themselves off as real celebrities in the entertainment industry the gang from Looney Tunes could but moments like these simply can't overcome a contrived plot and juvenile antics.
As the opening song belts out fast cars champagne and caviar are what professional basketball player Jamal Jeffries (played by Miguel A. Nunez Jr.) is all about. In fact Jeffries is so taken by his own success that he doesn't sign autographs but uses a stamp. His Dennis Rodman-style antics however reach a breaking point when he strips during a game in front of millions of fans and flings his jock strap into the seats. The stunt gets him thrown out of the league and before he can say "slam-dunk " Jeffries loses his house his cars and his girlfriend. Desperate to work again at the one thing he does best Jeffries comes up with the mother of all schemes: He shaves his legs dabs on mascara and tries out for the women's league--and it works. But as he builds friendships and gains the trust of the women on his team he feels torn between his obligation to his team the Banshees and his need to return to a normal life. If you've seen the 1982 comedy Tootsie you know exactly how this film plays out. Surprisingly Juwanna Mann is not crammed with bad slapstick humor but is an entertaining twist on an old classic with a delightfully sweet storyline.
Nunez (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) not only pulls off the Jamal/Juwanna character with ease but he pretty much steals the show here. His character comes off as endearing rather than obnoxious because he takes his role as a woman seriously and is never condescending about playing in the women's league. Nunez also delivers some great one-liners the best being when he is fighting off advances from the gold-toothed Puff Smokey Smoke. Vivica A. Fox (Two Can Play That Game) plays Michelle a fellow player whom Jeffries develops feelings for. Although it's hard to buy the sweet and almost delicate Fox in such an athletic role she pulls it off--but there is not all that much chemistry between her and Nunez. As Jeffries' crass sports agent Lorne Daniels Kevin Pollak (3000 Miles to Graceland) is seedy with just the right touch of humanity so his character is not completely despicable. The most cartoonish and unlikable character is Tommy Davidson's (Bamboozled) Puff Smokey Smoke. He has some funny lines but is too far-fetched to be believable.
Jesse Vaughan who directed a season of In Living Color makes his directorial debut with Juwanna Mann. Judging from the trailer I thought the film would be a low-brow comedy with a lot of overdone men-in-heels humor. I was instead pleasantly surprised by the film's storyline which--although it is a complete take on Tootsie--is short sweet and non-offensive. While some characters like Puff Smokey Smoke are a bit over the top Nunez's Jamal/Juwanna character is never clownish and well developed enough that you can't help but feel for his/her predicament. Some scenes appear to have a Klumps influence like the scene in which Jeffries is playing cards with his aunt and a gang of her senior friends but the overall effect is a moderately funny film peppered with some slightly funnier moments. Newcomer Bradley Allenstein had the sense to deliver a sweet comedy screenplay that was short enough and knew when to quit.
The Bond fans' Web site, www.bond20.com, dedicated to provide information about the latest James Bond movie, has failed in its mission, the producers told Reuters on Wednesday.
Eon Productions, responsible for the upcoming Bond film, said the script featured on the Web site does not belong to them. The production company added that the plot was the product of a fan's overactive imagination.
"The film hasn't got a name yet. It's only in the very beginning of pre-production," a spokeswoman for Eon Productions said.
Controversial Nazi-era film maker Leni Riefenstahl, recently told German magazine Bunte that she was taking morphine to relieve the pain for her severe back pain. She survived a helicopter crash in 2000 while vacationing in Sudan, Africa where she was taking photographs. Riefenstahl turns 99 on Wednesday.
The Early Show host Bryant Gumbel and his wife June Gumbel, ended their 27-year marriage on Tuesday. Accusations that the talk-show host cheated on his wife with a series of mistresses surround the proceedings, the Associated Press reports. Details on the agreement were sealed.
Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie will be named United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in Geneva next Monday, the U.N. refugee agency told Reuters on Wednesday. Jolie has already visited refugee camps in Sierra Leone and Cambodia, and is currently in Pakistan.
Former Survivor contestant Richard Hatch was arrested in Middletown, R.I. on Tuesday for a domestic dispute with his boyfriend, reports television entertainment show Access Hollywood. After turning himself in, Hatch was released on his own recognizance and was ordered to be in court on Sept. 7 to face misdemeanor charges of assault.
Kate Hudson's former personal assistant, Margaret Miller, is planning to counter-sue the film star for wrongful termination and defamation, her lawyer Arthur Barens told Reuters on Tuesday. Hudson has sued her assistant for spending $63,000 on limousines, hotel rooms, plane tickets, and other personal expenses.
ABC anchorman Jack Ford says he is going elsewhere if the network doesn't make him a host of Good Morning America or give him another high-profile anchor slot, the Associated Press reports. During his initial negotiations with ABC, Ford was told co-host Charlie Gibson was going to be on the show with Diane Sawyer temporarily to increase ratings, but the coupling turned out to be a match made in ratings heaven, removing the temporary tag from Gibson's assignment.
Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell and his wife, Leighanne, have formed BriLeigh Prods., a music label and entertainment production company in association with Insight Entertainment Group, reports Reuters. The main focus is to launch a recording label, but the company has plans to produce both films and television shows by the end of 2002.
Pop group Destiny's Child recently purchased a recording studio in Houston from Texas Justice star Larry Joe Doherty. "This town is thirsty for something natinal and what Matthew Knowles [DC's manager] has going is international," Doherty told the Los Angeles Times last month.
Tony Danza will host the 81st annual Miss America Pageant, airing Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC. Bob Bain, the producer of the telecast, told The Associated Press that Danza's charm, enthusiasm and energy would complement the format changes of the show. This year the contest will feature quiz shows, reality TV, and an opportunity for contestants to vote for the winner.
Brendan Fraser will next be seen playing the role of Brick in the Tennessee Williams classic A Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, when the play opens in London next month, reports Reuters. Ned Beatty will join Fraser on the British stage.
Having closed in 1996 after Burt Reynolds lost the property due to bankruptcy, The Burt Reynolds Museum might come to life again. Florida town council members gave the museum a new, temporary home in an old bank building, says The Associated Press. Reynolds' 160-acre estate, which served as the old museum, was bought by a Palm Beach County school district for $3.85 million in 1999. All the memorabilia has been in storage ever since.
Did you know that Eminem has Scottish roots? Neither did we. But Betty Kresin, the controversial entertainer's grandmother, told the Daily Record (Kansas) newspaper that she was thrilled the rapper was giving a concert in the land of his forebears.
Steven Spielberg is set to direct and produce Catch Me, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. According to Reuters, the film is based on Frank Abagnale's 1980 memoir about the youngest man ever placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List. The project is eyeing a January production start.
Howard Stern is being considered for immortalization at the Madame Tussaud Wax Museum in New York City, the shock jock told his listeners on Tuesday's show. "Why would someone do this unless their ego is massive?" Stern said.