In the tradition of Batman Begins and Casino Royale the clock is rolled back on the legendary icons the D—the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world—as the curtain is pulled back on their secret origins and the demons that drive them are unveiled… OK so it’s not really that deep. Though the heavy metal/comedy combo of Jack/JB/”Jabeles” (Jack Black) and Kyle/KB/”Kage” (Kyle Gass) have long played hip clubs cut an album starred in their own short-lived HBO series and amassed a devoted cult of fans their first feature film reveals how the pudgy duo first meet form the band meet their first fan (Jason Reed as TV holdover Lee) go questing the fabled Pick of Destiny—a shard of Satan’s tooth turned into a guitar pick passed among rock’s most accomplished shredders—and ultimately smack down with the devil himself. Believe it or not it’s a love story. Thanks to their long professional partnership Black and Gass comprise two perfectly crafted sides of a very polished comedy coin: Black is the wild-eyed uncontrolled id Gass is the low-energy manipulative slacker and they meet in the middle with an equal amount of unchecked delusion about their musical ability and potential. They both deftly pull off the trickiest types of comedy: smart jokes in the guise of dumb characters and it’s nice to see Black—obviously the bigger film star of the two—share the funniest bits equally with Gass. Of course all of this hinges on the audience’s tolerance for the ambitiously clueless ego-cases (and moviegoers who only love Black for his tamer version of the same persona in School of Rock should be warned—this is the cruder ruder and more profane incarnation) but we admit we’ve long had a taste for the D. They boys carry they movie squarely on their shoulders though longtime D supporters Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller stand out in cameos—the first Stiller cameo in ages that’s both amusing and non-gratuitous! Also appearing in small bits: SNL’s Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler Oscar-nominee Amy Adams Colin Hanks hard rock hero Ronnie James Dio Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Satan and an uncredited John C. Reilly though you’ll never ever recognize him when he’s onscreen. And kudos to whoever had the inspired notion to cast Meat Loaf as JB’s pious father and Troy Gentile as the young rockin’ JB (Gentile also played a junior version of Black in Nacho Libre). Helmer Liam Lynch who also collaborated on the screenplay with Black and Gass and directed their music video “Tribute ” understands the absurd world of the D completely and demonstrates a clever assured sense of straight-faced silliness. Indeed the first ten minutes of the film alone—a mini-rock opera in itself—announce him as a comedy director to watch. Although we’re sure the bandmates themselves would take full credit for the film’s success. After all they may not have made the greatest movie in the world but in D-speak they came up with a pretty rockin’ tribute version.
Top Story: Country Music Darlings No More
It's hard for those country music lovers to forgive and forget. The Dixie Chicks are still getting flack for their anti-war comments as audience members at the Academy of Country Music Awards Wednesday night booed at the mention of their names. Reuters reports that instead of showing up at the glitzy Las Vegas ceremony, the three-time nominees performed a song live via satellite from Austin, Texas, but they received a "pretty big negative response," the show's host, Reba McEntire , told reporters backstage afterward. The trio also walked away empty handed. The evening's winners did include Martina McBride for top female vocalist, Kenny Chesney for top male vocalist and record of the year, Toby Keith for entertainer of the year and Alan Jackson for album of the year.
Palme d'Or Race Muddled
As the 2003 Cannes Film Festival nears its end, critics are having a tough time figuring out who the frontrunners are to win the festival's coveted Palme d'Or. "I honestly don't have the slightest idea at this stage," Variety reporter Todd McCarthy told Reuters. "It's been very disappointing. Last year, in comparison, was very strong." Some strong contenders include Lars von Trier's three-hour saga Dogville, Hector Babenco's Carandiru about life in a Latin America jail and the French-Canadian tearjerker The Barbaric Invasions. The awards will be handed out Sunday.
Jackson Can't Handle the Pressure
Michael Jackson was briefly hospitalized Wednesday in Indianapolis for observation, the same day the pop oddity was scheduled to give a deposition in a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Jackson Five, The Associated Press reports. Brian Oxman, an attorney for the Jackson family, told AP the singer "was not feeling well." "He has, in some occasions in the past, not eaten when he should," Oxman said. "He can become very concerned and nervous at depositions. He doesn't like lawsuits, and it makes him ill to have to cope with litigation that people seem to heap on him."
Idol's Seacrest Gets His Own Show
Just as the second season of American Idol comes to an end, host Ryan Seacrest has signed on with 20th Television to develop a one-hour syndicated show, which will, as Seacrest described to The Hollywood Reporter, "marry the newsmagazine and variety show to bring a hybrid of entertainment and information to America." Oh boy!
Roseanne Gets Real
ABC announced Wednesday it will air a 13-episode reality show in July centering around comedian Roseanne Barr as she creates a cooking show, Reuters reports. "In terms of what is she really like now, you are going to get to see. You're going to see Roseanne--the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the everything," ABC Entertainment chairman Lloyd Braun told Reuters. The cooking series will actually be shown on cable network ABC Family.
Mine Workers Join Fight Against Hillbillies
There's even more pressure on CBS to rethink any plans to air the reality show The Real Beverly Hillbillies. AP reports mine workers from West Virginia and Kentucky have now joined the growing legions of protestors--including other major labor unions and 43 members of the House of Representatives from Florida to Texas--who are calling to halt the series which takes an Appalachian family and sets them up in a Beverly Hills mansion. "We think that's practicing bigotry. It's hurtful and painful. It's discrimination of an entire segment of our society," Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America told AP.
Barbie as Elle Woods
Even Barbie gets to be a movie star. Mattel and MGM have partnered to create an "Elle Woods" Barbie doll, patterning it after the Legally Blonde character which was made indelible by actress Reese Witherspoon and which will coincide with the release of the sequel Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde. Ria Freydl, a spokesperson (even Barbie has a publicist) told Newstream.com, "She is proud to be associated with the sequel and hopes her homage to a strong female character like Elle Woods will further the movie's message that you can have both substance--and style."
Role Call: Comic Book: The Movie is Coming!
Miramax Films plans to release the semi-fictional documentary Comic Book: The Movie, starring and directed by Star Wars star Mark Hamill. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Comic Book is an improvised film in the vein of Waiting for Guffman, which follows the antics of the world's biggest comic fan, who has been hired to direct a documentary about his favorite comic book heroes of all time.
The question buzzing around Hollywood today is: How could a little comedy that's been out for a while beat out the most anticipated sequel of the year? The surprise hit comedy "Meet the Parents" managed to hold "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" at bay and hold on to the No. 1 spot at the box office for the fourth week in a row. It also passed the $100 million mark at the box office. Could it be "Parents'" star power? It does, after all, star film veteran Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, who had a big comedic hit with "There's Something About Mary."
Highly unlikely say, some industry analysts. Word of mouth seems to be the culprit in this case.
"'Meet the Parents'" hit audiences in a good way," says Daily Variety film critic Todd McCarthy. "They think it's the funniest film they've seen in a long time, and I think word got out about that."
Such was the case this morning on Los Angeles alternative radio station KROQ/106.7-FM. Several listeners called in to rave about the film and how the story reminded them of the first time they met their in-laws.
In the film, Stiller plays Greg Focker, a young man who asks his girlfriend's overprotective father (De Niro) for her hand in marriage and is then put through the wringer with exhausting interrogation.
But word of mouth isn't always good for a film, especially if the film is a stinker, as some have said of "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2."
"It's a horrible film, and I think the word got out on that," McCarthy says. "I'm amazed that they screened it in advance it's so bad. I thought they would have at least played on people's curiosity until the last possible minute."
Banking on the popularity and media hype of last year's "The Blair Witch Project," the studio quickly went to work on its sequel, but the same formula doesn't always work twice, says Brian Fuson, box office analyst for The Hollywood Reporter.
"I think the anticipation of the second 'Blair Witch' film was due to the success of the first one. The marketing approach with the Internet really captured people's imagination before it came out. But you can't use the same approach twice. It wouldn't work," he says.
"I think 'Meet the Parents'" has been going very strong because it's had a great word of mouth. It only dropped 6 percent in attendance after its first week. That speaks to its strong word of mouth," Fuson says. "Word of mouth is what makes or breaks the film, especially after its first week."
Film critics seem to have all the fun, dishing out catchy blurbs and influencing the fate of the latest Hollywood offerings with a tilt of the thumb, while powerless actors, directors and producers have no recourse but to curse them from afar. But today, Hollywood has the last word.
Daily Variety surveyed four dozen filmmakers for their opinions on the nations' top movie reviewers and -- surprise! -- they're pretty darn critical of the critics. So critical, in fact, that almost nobody was willing to let their names be published in the trade newspaper's article, lest they incur the printed wrath of any pundit they decided to diss.
Variety didn't rank the critics from best to worst, nor did it give marks to individual critics for their (perceived) strengths and weaknesses. But the catty comments of those unidentified Hollywood types who took part in the survey revealed that: (a) critics from the print medium (newspapers, magazines) were regarded fairly positively, while (b) blurbmeisters working on TV are, well, not.
According to the survey, the Hollywood players consider Anthony Lane of the New Yorker magazine the doyen of movie writers, thanks to his "film literacy, reliability, verisimilitude and quality of writing." Roger Ebert and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times were also well respected as being passionate and informed, even if some consider them pompous.
David Denby of the New Yorker and David Ansen of Newsweek also seemed to be generally well regarded; Kevin Thomas, a longtime critic for the Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, "took a drubbing from filmmakers of all ages and disciplines," according to Variety.
But what's really interesting is how much dirt the filmmakers dished about the broadcast critics, ranging from the guys on local newscasts to the network morning news programs to entertainment news shows.
An unidentified Oscar-nominated actor said, "I cannot abide David Sheehan. Gene Shalit's not a dope, but he goes for the gag. And I cannot abide Joel Siegel. I can develop a real hatred for critics as I talk about these people!"
Sheehan is the perennial, I-like-everything critic for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles; Shalit, of course, is a resident of NBC's "Today" show. (Vocabulary lesson for today: "Abide" is synonymous with "tolerate.")
Another missive was fired by a director (also unnamed, natch), who called TV critics "the people who absolutely aggravate me. One guy who's very uneven and goes into ecstasy over mediocre pictures is Joel Siegel (of ABC's "Good Morning America" fame)."
But how reliable is Variety's survey, if no quantitative methodology, at least none that is apparent, was used? Is four dozen people enough of a survey to gauge prevailing Hollywood opinions? How thorough can it be, when it mentions that that Hollywood insiders consider Variety's own chief film critic, Todd McCarthy, to be "the only one contributing something worth listening to" but (tellingly) no mention is made of The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt?