Each year thousands of lovelorn women flock to Verona Italy the hometown of Shakespeare’s Juliet to solicit romantic advice from the tragic heroine. They deposit their pleading letters on a wall near the balcony where Romeo supposedly made his famous late-night visit and if they’re lucky receive a reply from one of Juliet’s crew of officially appointed ghostwriters known as the Secretaries of Juliet.
In Gary Winnick's Letters to Juliet young Sophie (the irresistible Amanda Seyfried) while working on a sort of temp assignment with the Secretaries winds up leading an elderly British widow (Vanessa Redgrave) on a quest to reunite her with the Italian boyfriend she abruptly — and regretfully — jilted nearly 50 years prior. It’s a contrived and far-fetched scenario to be sure but no more so than your average Hollywood rom-com and this one at least carries the pleasant side benefit of allowing the filmmakers to set most of the action in picturesque Verona where Seyfried and Redgrave traverse the countryside on their quixotic endeavor.
The charming mother-daughter dynamic that forms between Seyfried’s doe-eyed do-gooder and Redgrave’s wistful grandma carries Letters to Juliet and make its preposterous and unapologetically schmaltzy plot palpable. But their efforts are largely sabotaged by the mediocre men of Juliet Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel The Motorcycle Diaries) and Christopher Egan (Eragon TV's Kings).
The usually terrific Garcia Bernal is really more of a prop than a character in this film. As Seyfried’s future ex-fiance an ADD-addled restaurateur too preoccupied with procuring ingredients for his new menu to tend to his relationship he replays the same scene over and over as if in some sort of Twilight Zone sketch. His intended replacement played by Egan is an insufferable twit we’re meant to believe is some sort of hot-shot human rights lawyer back in his native England — a detail I wouldn’t believe if he held up his law school degree to the camera for us to see.
Equally incredulous is the romantic subplot that develops between him and Seyfried and when the story shifts to them the film rapidly loses steam. Male characters will always play second fiddle in a chick flick — even one written and directed by men — but in Letters to Juliet they’re almost an afterthought seemingly tossed in late in the game to bolster the film’s appeal to young female moviegoers. In the end even someone as talented as Seyfried can’t effectively sell us on her character's eventual pair-up with Egan’s whiny doofus no matter how loudly the Taylor Swift soundtrack presses her case.
Thousands of mourners gathered Friday in Manhattan for a funeral procession and memorial service for the late singer Aaliyah. Celebrities such as Sean "Puffy" Combs, Mike Tyson, Lil' Kim, Missy Elliot and Jay-Z attended. Aaliyah's casket was displayed in a horse-drawn carriage with glass sides, followed by five limousines draped in flower arrangements. Twenty-two white doves were released into the air following the service at St. Ignatius Loyola Church. Aaliyah died Aug. 25 in a plane crash in the Bahamas.
Walker, Texas Ranger star Chuck Norris and wife Gena welcomed twins on Thursday: a boy, Dakota Alan, and a girl, Danilee Kelley. Though the twins were born a month premature, there were no complications, according to The Associated Press.
Carson Daly's latest request: for Motorola to pay him $1 million. The MTV VJ, host of Total Request Live, Daly is suing the electronics company for allegedly backing out of an advertising deal for Daly to promote Motorola's line of cell phones. Motorola claims it could not pay Daly the sum due to economic woes within the company. A Motorola spokeswoman told AP that no contract between Daly and the company existed.
The five cast members of CBS' Becker who have disputed their contracts with the show's production company, Paramount Network Television, have settled their conflict out of court. According to Reuters, the fivesome--Terry Farrell, Alex Desert, Shawnee Smith, Saverio Guerra and Hattie Winston--filed suit against Paramount on Tuesday, but all parties have reached an undisclosed agreement. Paramount issued a statement on the matter, saying that the five actors simply suffered from "misunderstandings and miscommunication regarding Paramount policy."
Actress Anne Heche will speak about her long history of mental instability with Barbara Walters on Wednesday's installment of 20/20. According to ABC reports, Heche will reveal that she suffered traumatically from years of sexual abuse by her father and that she has an alter ego, named Celestia, who's from another planet and speaks to God. Heche also will reveal that she was insane during her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres.
Elizabeth Taylor, Nicole Kidman and model Claudia Schiffer scolded the world's young people Friday for turning their backs on the AIDS epidemic, according to Reuters. ``It is the most powerful thing in my life and I will fight until there is a cure,'' Taylor said at the Venice Film Festival. Speaking about today's youth, she said, "They don't like to use condoms because it doesn't feel so good. But death feels even worse." Kidman, however, soon let her thoughts turn to ex-hubby Tom Cruise. When reporters at the festival asked her what sort of man she's looking for now, the actress dissed Cruise by saying, "I'll take a tall man."
Singer Victoria Beckham, best known as Spice Girl "Posh," has told Reuters that she blames former Spice Girl Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell for instilling a weight-problem insecurity within her, going so far as to say: "Geri would say things such as don't put sauces on food, that low-fat things were just as good and that I could try not eating so much.'' Because of Halliwell's scrutiny, Beckham said she began to not eat altogether while the girl group was still together.
The article of clothing that embodied Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten's political philosophy--the famous "Anarchy" T-shirt--will go on the auction block Sept. 20 at Sotheby's. The white cotton shirt is expected to nab about $4,350. The shirt is part of a collection owned by Helen Wellington-Lloyd, who once lived with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, Reuters said.
The good, bad and the ugly on the tube this past week:
Alexander's finger lickin' good
Ex-Seinfeld star Jason Alexander appeared Sunday in the first of a series of new commercials for fast-food restaurant KFC. Good for him. While Alexander's raking in the bucks for the new national campaign--and starring in his own new sitcom, ABC's Bob Patterson, in the fall--his former Seinfeld cohorts seem to have vanished from the tube altogether.
Michael Richards made a half-hearted attempt last fall with his own new sitcom, but it appears he's taken the cancellation of that show to heart, lying low. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been planning a sitcom of her own, but can't seem to get it off the ground. Good ol' Jerry shows up now and then for talk show interviews--and has been toying with the idea of a new sitcom, as well-but just don't expect to see him on the small screen anytime soon.
At least Alexander's got his head on straight: even if his sitcom fails, as Richards' did in 2000, he's got a steady paycheck from the Colonel in his pocket.
The "Becker" bailout
So there's a new trend on the sets of TV's most-watched shows. Nope, it's not this "reality" business. It's not this gameshow craze either. It's a revolution among supporting cast members, and it's getting out of hand. On Wednesday, five supporting actors on CBS' hit show Becker were curiously absent from the first script read-through of the fall season, claiming they were all sick. The actors--Hattie Winston, Terry Farrell, Alex Desert, Shawnee Smith and Saverio Guerra--appeared to be protesting their contracts with Paramount TV, demanding a drastic pay hike, according to the actors' reps.
This tactic was used to perfection earlier this summer by four members of NBC's The West Wing. Four Emmy-nominated actors: Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford. Each more than doubled their salaries. However, the Becker five are not Emmy nominees. They are not recognizable. I could have spelled his or her names incorrectly and nobody would know the difference. Wise up, guys. Go to work.
A hipper Charlie Rose?
You hear the words Charlie Rose and instantly an image pops into your head. Nice suits, nice hair, a dramatic black backdrop, a dramatic politician sitting across the table. But Charlie's not as stiff as you'd think these days. On Tuesday, while interviewing talk show host/comedian Bill Maher, Rose passionately argued in favor of the Internet and all of its uses, while the usually hip Maher admitted he has no use for the Web at all--and doesn't even know how to use it. So the next time you see a fairly liberal Democrat in your next chatroom, well, ya just never know....
There was a time when watching a syndicated show on F/X meant you were watching Aaron Spelling drivel. Not anymore. The network recently announced that it has secured exclusive cable runs of three of TV's biggest shows: The Practice, Ally McBeal and Buffy. Score one for the little guys. The three shows begin running on Sept. 24.
New timeslot for "Big Brother II"
CBS will change timeslots for its struggling series Big Brother II: from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Eye Network execs attributed the move to the show's controversial content--including a knife-wielding incident that got one houseguest booted off the show--in an effort to keep younger viewers from seeing such occurrences. Very compassionate. However, earlier this year, when Survivor was airing (at 8 p.m., mind you), we saw pigs slaughtered, babes in bikinis and heard the word bitch about 80 times an episode. Is CBS really that concerned that Big Brother II's corrupting the minds of youngsters--or is this a last-ditch effort to attempt to better the show's flaccid ratings?
Wednesday night, the scent of aerosol filled the skies above New York City. The '80s had returned. As MTV celebrated its 20th anniversary on the tube, rockers such as Billy Idol and Bon Jovi cranked out their old-school hits to an adoring crowd. When's the last time you saw a group of fortysomethings chanting the lyrics to "Rebel Yell" and "You Give Love A Bad Name"? By Thursday morning, these audience members likely returned to their law offices and accountants' cubicles, but for a couple hours, they shed two decades of aging and adulthood. It was surreal, but strangely poignant.