As Love Actually begins we are told that perhaps the world isn't such a dire and hateful place that "love actually is all around." Around London anyway. The film explores no less than seven different romantic scenarios within the bustling British capital--all of which interconnect and eventually resolve on Christmas Eve. There's the newly elected dashing Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who is smitten with his secretary the earthy Natalie (Martine McCutcheon); Karen (Emma Thompson) whose husband Harry (Alan Rickman) has strayed with his seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch); Sarah (Laura Linney) the American wallflower who has a crush on her colleague Carl (Rodrigo Santoro); Jamie (Colin Firth) who falls for his pretty Portuguese housekeeper Aurelia (Lucia Moniz)…there are lots more but you get the gist. As love goes things may not get tied up neatly in brightly colored packages for everyone but there's still enough good cheer to spread around.
Showcasing some of Britain's finest actors Love Actually doesn't have a bad banana in the bunch. Floppy-haired Hugh Grant turns in an endearing performance and proves there isn't a romantic comedy he can't handle. He has an uncanny knack for connecting with any actress he happens to be romancing; in this case it's the adorable McCutcheon best known for the hit British TV drama EastEnders. Rickman and Thompson are quite good as the couple whose long-term marriage is beginning to crack; Thompson especially does a nice job trying to hide her pain while being a happy mom. Linney too shines as Sarah who glows with excitement when she finally gets what she so ardently wished for. Veteran stage and film actor Bill Nighy (Underworld) however steals the show as a carefree aging rock star desperate for a comeback. His Billy Mack smacks of Mick Jagger Keith Richards and Rod Stewart all rolled into one.
"I'm worried that we don't have the word 'massacre' in the title " writer/director Richard Curtis fretted to Entertainment Weekly referring to how horror-loving American audiences might not take to his new romantic comedy that is already a huge hit in Britain. True perhaps a romantic comedy starring a multitude of A-list British actors might not bring in the required masses. But who cares about the money (did I just say that)? Curtis who has written some of the best romantic comedies of the last decade including Four Weddings and a Funeral Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary steps behind the camera for the first time here and is able to give each story a unique point of view from the lovesick to the wacky. There actually may be too many stories in Love Actually but it's a small gaffe. Love Actually is a refreshing good old fashioned warm and gushy movie that takes your mind off the bad things for the holiday season and Curtis should feel confident about his directing debut.
Top Story: Miramax Backs Michael Moore's 9/11 Film
Miramax films is stepping in to back Michael Moore's next project, Fahrenheit 911, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters Monday. The documentary, slated for release in the fall of 2004, will depict what has happened to America since the events of September 11, 2001. It will also touch on the personal relationship between President George H. W. Bush and the family of terrorist Osama bin Laden, as well as the events that led Bush and bin Laden to become mortal enemies. Actor Mel Gibson's Icon Productions originally paid an eight-figure sum plus potential backend for the rights to the documentary, but later dropped out of the financing deal. According to Reuters, Miramax will provide a few million dollars in temporary "bridge" funding, which offers the studio less risk and a lower return than longer-term financing. Moore's last film, Bowling for Columbine, won an Oscar in March for best documentary.
Director Claims To Have Blueprint for B.O. Hits
A British academic said she has found the perfect recipe to make a box office hit. London University's Sue Clayton told a crowd at the Cannes Film Festival Tuesday that the blueprint for the perfect film is 30 percent action, 17 percent comedy, 13 percent good-versus-evil, 12 percent sex/romance, 10 percent special effects, 10 percent plot and eight percent music. Clayton's study is based on watching and breaking down the components of a range of hit films. What film matched the recipe the closest? Pixar Animations' Toy Story 2.
Judge Restrains Bullock's Stalker
A Los Angeles judge Friday granted a restraining order sought by Sandra Bullock against a 34-year-old mentally ill man she says has stalked her in three states for more than a year. According to Reuters, Thomas James Weldon, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and refuses to take medication, has inundated Bullock's family, agent and production company with faxes, e-mails and voicemail messages, asking for money and intimacy with the actress. Weldon has been ordered not to contact Bullock and to stay at least 200 yards from her until a June 6 hearing in the matter.
NBC Seeks Huge Ad Rates for Friends Finale
NBC is asking for $2 million per 30-second advertisement spots for the two-hour series finale of Friends, set to air in May 2004. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network, which generally charges about $450,000 for a 30-second spot for the show, will likely come up with other promotional tie-in opportunities for advertisers who pay the hefty $2 million fee. NBC is shelling out $10 million per episode for the last 18 original episodes of Friends.
The Smoking Gun Coming to TV
Cabler Court TV is debuting a new show in August based on The Smoking Gun Web site, Reuters reports. TSG (www.thesmokinggun.com) is known for posting often embarrassing but public court documents in cases involving celebrities and the quasi-famous. The Smoking Gun TV will be hosted by Mo Roca, who is currently the senior political correspondent for Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The first two episodes will premiere on Court TV Aug. 20.
NBC, MTV Renew Daly Shows
NBC has picked up Carson Daly's talk show Last Call with Carson Daly for the next year, while MTV has renewed Total Request Live for the next two years, The Associated Press reports. Daly has been hosting the afternoon video countdown show TRL since 1998, but has appeared less frequently on the program since developing the late-night talker. The new contract at MTV calls for Daly to continue hosting and serving as an executive producer on TRL, as well as produce special events including Spring Break and Spankin' New Music Week.
George Lucas Leaps Into Digital Animation
Star Wars creator George Lucas is forming a new division, Lucasfilm Animation, to make computer-animated films. A spokeswoman for Lucas told Reuters the new unit, an offshoot of Lucas' special effects company Industrial Light & Magic, is still in its beginning stages and does not even have a project to talk about. Lucas, however, is no stranger to digital animation. In 1986, Lucas sold Lucasfilms' computer graphics division to Apple Computer's Steve Jobs for $10 million. The company, now known as Pixar Animation, has a market capitalization of roughly $3.2 billion and produced films such as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.
Michael Jackson Sues Universal Music
Pop oddity Michael Jackson filed a lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Universal Music Group, claiming the record company owes him royalties for the re-release of songs he made with the Jackson 5 and as a solo artist from 1969 to 1976. The recordings were made for Motown Records, which was later acquired by Universal Music Group. Jackson seeks an accounting of royalties owed and unspecified damages. He also wants a 1980 agreement that forfeited his right to royalties for songs released before that time voided and ownership of his Motown master recordings.
The film opens as teenagers Katie (Amber Tamblyn) and Becca (Rachael Bella) are having a sleepover and spooking each other with ghost stories. Trouble is the urban legend Becca retells is all too true as Katie is just about to find out in the most grisly of ways. The story centers on a mysterious videotape that should you be so unfortunate as to view it will kill you in seven days (you know this because someone calls right after you watch it to alert you that you're gonna kick). Katie and her friends watched it and sure enough they're all dead a week later--sparking Katie's aunt an investigative journalist named Rachel (Naomi Watts) to uncover what happened and why. When the trail leads her to the sinister tape she watches it receives the foreboding phone call and consequently sets off on a race against time to somehow save her life by finding out the meaning of what she's seen. She enlists the help of Noah (Martin Henderson) the father of her rather strange and solitary young son Aidan (David Dorfman)--who like all kids in horror movies these days is seeing frightening visions too--and over the course of seven days the two find themselves embroiled in a mystery that involves the tape a twisted family and dying horses.
The acting by all involved is generally good. Naomi Watts who hit the radar with David Lynch's Mulholland Drive last year ably carries the film although there are times in close-up when she looks too self-aware with an almost smug expression as though she's about to smile when the situation isn't the least bit funny. Maybe it's because she knows her Rachel does some pretty mind-blowingly foolish things the most noteworthy among them leaving the deadly video out where her curious son (who annoyingly invokes Haley Joel Osment and looks absolutely nothing like either of the folks playing his parents) can pop it in the ol' VCR. Though Watts is a basically likeable fresh face any number of up-and-coming actresses could have done this role--as well or better.
It's been awhile since jaded horror fans have had something to get excited about. Gore Verbinski justifies his career after the miserable The Mexican with this taut thriller which opens with the teen girls in a truly terrifying sequence reminiscent of Scream. Verbinski is keenly aware of the value of keeping things just out of sight and not resorting to cheap horror movie shlock so there are genuine chills to be had (animal lovers will want to cover their eyes during one particularly horrifying scene). Although the moments that'll really make you jump out of your skin are few and far between the secret behind the videotape is compelling as is the imagery. Without overdoing it The Ring displays some fantastic cinematography particularly with the Buñuel-esque videotape (you could have heard a pin drop as engrossed as the audience was at this review screening) and the shots of gloomy mist-enshrouded Washington State are disquietingly atmospheric. However the last third of the movie is somewhat disappointing and contains several utterly ridiculous scenes--particularly one at the ending (which actually has a nice twist).
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.