Dave Johnson’s (Morris Chestnut) dreams of playing in the major leagues have long been dashed and now he’s left to coach Little League and try to make a go of his modest construction firm. He’s a good guy but after more than a decade of marriage he’s is constantly harassed by his successful realtor/wife Clarice (Taraji P. Henson) and her obnoxious mother Mary (Jenifer Lewis). A tragic automobile accident brings things to a marital boiling point -- Clarice becomes housebound with severe leg injuries and Dave just might be attracted to the physical therapist Julie (Maeve Quinlan) a white single mother who has arrived to help out. Based on T.D. Jakes’ religious themed book Woman Thou Art Loosed this intense and old fashioned drama offers some meaty roles to some fine actors and they run with the opportunity -- particularly Chestnut who displays such warmth and likeability he seems almost too good to be true. Henson (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button Hustle and Flow) has had a few good screen outings of late but probably could have taken it down just a notch to make Clarice just a little more empathetic. You almost wonder how poor Dave has lasted so long with this woman. Ditto Lewis. On the other hand the warm and understanding Quinlan is the perfect counterpoint pointing out a real crisis of conscience for Dave. Welcome comic relief comes in the form of his buddies Eddie Cibrian and particularly the highly amusing Kevin Hart. And watch for a restaurant-scene cameo by Jakes. Fortunately actor turned director Bill Duke knows how to rein in this tricky marital story and make its most important message -- tolerance and perseverance in relationships --somehow ring true. There may not be a whole lot of subtlety in this particular tale (or many of Jakes books in general) but it’s an agreeable and engrossing affair that’s worthy of attention from anyone involved in a long term relationship. And it’s certainly refreshing for once to see this kind of romantic drama played out almost entirely from the male point of view.
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.
Randolph Smiley (Robin Williams) is on top of his game--he's the eponymous star of the highest rated kid's TV show Rainbow Randolph has his own Times Square billboard and makes lots of money. Until that is he gets caught taking bribes from stage parents. Suddenly he becomes the social pariah of the millennium and of course gets canned. Losing Rainbow Randolph however leaves the network in a bind. Now they have to find a squeaky-clean replacement pronto. Enter Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his alter-ego Smoochy an abnormally large fuschia rhino who sings children's songs about kicking drug habits and stepdads who aren't mean but simply adjusting. With his naivete unwavering ethics and unflagging ambition to make the world a better place he becomes the new number one show. Sheldon soon learns however how cutthroat children's entertainment can be as the powers that be try to corrupt his ideals. Meanwhile a homeless Randolph makes it his number-one priority to destroy the bastard who stole his life. Who's going to get Smoochy first the corrupt businessmen or crazy Rainbow Randy? Stay tuned...
When you hear the Smoochy cast list--Williams Danny DeVito Jon Stewart Catherine Keener--you automatically think mondo laughs. Added to the list is Norton who may not be known for his comedic talents but certainly adds credibility to the movie especially given that he rarely picks bad scripts. Luckily no one disappoints. Norton plays the straight guy with aplomb and shines brilliantly when singing his sappy yet lesson-filled songs. Keener whom we haven't seen since her Oscar-nominated turn in Being John Malkovich is also a standout as the jaded development VP who falls for Sheldon's sweet manner. She has an uncanny way of delivering lines that bite to the bone. And then there's Williams--as always he has extraordinary moments of sheer hilarity in the film. This isn't one of those films where the comedian has to attempt to act or simply be reined in by the director (as some have done) to give a good performance. Director DeVito (who also plays the greedy agent) is wise enough to simply turn the camera on the comedian and let him go. Just wish we could have seen more of him.
Ever wonder what it would be like to kill Barney? We're betting DeVito thought about it quite often--and things never turn out good for that purple dinosaur. The premise of Smoochy is one of the funnier ones in recent memory and seems to follow the dark comedic path DeVito has chosen in his other directorial efforts including War of the Roses and Throw Momma From the Train. Unfortunately Smoochy doesn't quite hold up to its hype (or its trailers) because basically it focuses on the wrong character. It's got some great moments granted especially when Smoochy is on his show. But instead of being about Randy's obsession to do away with his replacement the film chooses to follow Mopes and deal with the dirty business of making a kid's show which appears to involve the Mob (whatever). Smoochy would have been a lot funnier if Randolph could have finally succeeded in his quest instead of getting all sappy.
MGM is finalizing a deal to have Jackie Chan star in the remake of the 1960 comedy The Bellboy, Variety reports. The film will reportedly be set in Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel. The original The Bellboy starred Jerry Lewis.
Actor Ben Affleck, who checked himself into the Malibu Rehabilitation center Promises on July 31, is making progress, Entertainment Tonight reports. While Promises is not a "lock down" facility, it does monitor its patients 24-hours a day. ET also reports that Affleck was spotted on a casual shopping outing over the weekend.
Bobby Dall, the bassist for the 1980s rock band Poison, is recovering from back surgery, The Associated Press reports. Dall had several discs in his spine replaced and will need at least six months to recover. The injury occurred Sunday during a concert at the South Dakota State Fair. Poison has cancelled the rest of their tour dates through September.
Larry Adler, better known as the king of the harmonica, died Monday in a London hospital, Reuters reports. Adler, 87, had been ill for several months. His career spanned seven decades and he worked with artists such as George Gershwin and Elton John.
Debbie Mathers, Eminem's mother, will only receive $ 1,600 of a $25,000 settlement she won against the rap star, AP reports. Macomb County, Mich., Court Judge Mark Switalski ruled Monday that Mather's attorney, Fred Gibson, was entitled to $23,354.25 because they had made a deal entitling him to more than the standard one-third of the settlement. Mathers sued her son in 1999 for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress because of some lyrics on the rapper's CD The Slim Shady LP.
MGM is preparing to do a sequel to Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon, the Hollywood Reporter announced. Marc Platt, who produced the original film, also is in talks with the studio along with screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith. Witherspoon would reprise her role as Elle Woods subject to script approval.
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Madonna and Jason Alexander will voice DreamWorks animated feature Madagascar, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The film centers on four zoo animals that are shipped back to their homeland by animal rights activists. The foursome is left stranded in Madagascar after their ship capsizes. Madagascar will be directed by Eric Darnell (Antz) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek).
John Mellancamp is expected to finish up a musical he is working on with writer Stephen King in February, AP reports. So far, Mellancamp has written about five songs for the story, which he describes as anything but rock. The singer still has another 10 songs to write for the production.
Limp Bizkit have recorded a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" for the film Zoolander starring Ben Stiller, SonicNet.com reports. Electronic artist/producer BT is scoring the film. The only other track confirmed so far for the soundtrack is The Wiseguys' "Start the Commotion." BT described the score as "out of control." The Zoolander soundtrack is due out Sept. 25.
British pop star Robbie Williams said he would keep his promise to help a 23-year-old woman dying from leukemia, according to the BBC News. Williams provided a blood sample and has promised to donate bone marrow if he is a suitable donor. Williams. 27, met Johanna MacVicar after a concert in October.
In an effort to expand theater uses, the Texas-based Cinemark movie theater chain will screen a live concert by Sugar Ray in 14 locations across the Untied States, Reuters reports. The theater chain will broadcast the Aug. 15 concert in a live simulcast via satellite to locations in 21 states.
Alfred A. Knopf will publish the memoirs of former president Clinton, Reuters reports. While no amounts were disclosed, the figure is rumored to exceed $8 million for the deal. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Clinton's wife, reportedly received between $7 million and $8.5 million for her memoirs published by Simon & Schuster. According to Sonny Mehta, Knopf's president and editor-in-chief, the book would focus on Clinton's two-term presidency.