Oh where to begin the insanity? Let’s start with a serial killer breaking into two young women’s apartment killing one of them but getting scared off before he can finish off the other one. At the trial of Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) the possible serial killer testimony from celebrated forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) sends the guy to the gas chamber--even though the lone witness didn’t get a clear look and all the other evidence is circumstantial. Jump to nine years later when Gramm is still celebrated--mostly by the females in his life including a few of his college students (Alicia Witt Leelee Sobieski) the dean of the college (Deborah Kara Unger) and especially his loyal assistant (Amy Brenneman). But Gramm’s cushy life is turned upside down when a woman he knows is found murdered by what looks to be the same serial killer Gramm thought he put away. Did the wrong man get accused? Oh and Gramm also receives a phone call that he has 88 minutes to live. Bad day for Gramm. Bad movie-going experience for us all. Al buddy what were you thinking? At least the over-the-top Pacino plays it to the hilt as only he can. His requisite screaming scene for example has his Gramm trying to “get into the head” of Forster (played by McDonough with all the malevolence he can muster) by yelling all his dialogue at him so the convict will crack. Right. The real kicker is Gramm describing his little sister’s murder years ago his voice cracking with emotion. It doesn’t even come close to sincerity. Pacino is also supported by a bevy of recognizable actresses who probably took the job just to work with the actor but who shouldn’t count this one on their resumes. Witt is reduced to playing wide-eyed terror as she follows Pacino around on his quest to find out who’s threatening him while Sobieski mostly moons over the professor. The usually good Brenneman’s super-assistant delivers all of Gramm’s CRAZY requests with much calm and precision. But all these women seem to have some kind of ulterior motive so which one has it in for the good doctor? I won’t tell. Director Jon Avnet whose best known for helming Fried Green Tomatoes and Red Corner does a fair enough job. There are enough jumps and starts to at the very least keep the action going. No truly the most laughable part of the film is the script by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious). From the moment Gramm gets the threatening phone call to how the killer can find him anywhere anytime with any communication device--none of it makes sense. You can’t even suspend disbelief just for a moment. And the dialogue? Wow. Thompson must have pilfered from all the bad thriller/cop/serial killer movies ever made. Rumor has it 88 Minutes was slated to go directly to DVD but somehow got the green light for a theatrical release. Let’s hope Al Pacino didn’t push for it--that would just be sad.
Top Story: Jewish Leader Wants Vatican Response on Gibson Film
A prominent Jewish leader has asked that the Vatican respond to Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of the Christ, Reuters reports. Abraham Foxman, the U.S. director of independent Jewish pressure group the Anti-Defamation League, met with several Vatican officials and urged them to instruct Catholic bishops around the world to issue statements locally telling their congregations that the film, which depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life and has been deemed anti-Semitic, is an artistic work and not a pure portrayal of gospel accounts. "It's Mel Gibson's version of the gospel, it's Mel's gospel. He's entitled but he's promoting it as the gospel truth," Foxman told Reuters. "He's promoting it as biblical, historical truth and I believe the Church has a responsibility to its teachings, its interpretation, and this is at variance with what the Church is all about." Foxman added, "I would hope that the Vatican and the Catholic Church would stand up to defend its teachings because in fact what the film is an interpretation that challenges what the Church has been teaching for the past 40 years." Foxman also challenged Gibson to appear in an on-screen postscript to tell viewers not to blame Jews for the death of Jesus Christ or else his "passion of love would turn into a passion of hate."
Jackson Honored for Charity Work
Making her first public appearance since Nipplegate, Janet Jackson received an award Friday for her humanitarian and charitable contributions from Behind the Bench, an association of NBA players's wives that has raised nearly $1 million for charities in Los Angeles. "She has done a wonderful job giving back to communities across America. That fact has not changed," Behind the Bench spokesman Vince McCaskill told The Associated Press. "She was on board with this seven months ago. We never even considered her not being here."
Canadians Decry Conan
Canadian politicians are up in arms over comments made about French Canadians on The Late Show with Conan O'Brien, AP reports. The NBC show, paid for partially by the Canadian government, was taped in Toronto last week in an effort to boost the city's tourist industry, still reverberating from the SARS outbreak last year. During a pre-taped skit, sock puppet Triumph the Insult Comic Dog hurled his usual repertoire of insults at visitors attending Quebec City's Winter Carnival, particularly at French Canadian separatists. Alexa McDonough, a member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party, said the sketch was "vile and vicious" and amounted to hate-mongering, AP reports. NBC has declined comment, and O'Brien mentioned the topic only in passing in his monologue during the taping of the final Toronto show on Friday afternoon.
Rings Picks Up Another Award
Along with winning the top prize at the BAFTA Awards over the weekend, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was also named the best period or fantasy film at the 8th annual Art Directors Guild Awards Saturday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Mystic River was awarded best art direction in a contemporary film.
Angel Gets the Axe
The WB has canceled the supernatural drama Angel, a spin-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, AP reports. "We did not want to contemplate this being the last year of Angel without giving the show the option of crafting their own destiny for this character and for this series," WB co-chairman Jordan Levin told AP. Angel has struggled in the ratings, but maintains a loyal cult-fan base and has had strong reissue sales on DVD.
View's Jones To Wed
TV correspondent Star Jones, co-host of ABC's daytime talk show The View, was surprised Sunday at the NBA's All-Star game when boyfriend Al Reynolds presented her with a ring and asked her to marry him, AP reports. Audience member Denzel Washington led the cheers as Jones covered her face in amazement.
LeBlanc, Wife Welcome First Child
Matt LeBlanc and his wife, Melissa, had their first child, a girl, Feb. 8, according to People.com. The couple married in May. Melissa has two children from a previous marriage.
Grunge Rocker Turned Politician?
Not quite. Former Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic will not be running for lieutenant governor in his home state of Washington as previously planned, but he does plan to remain active in politics, AP reports. Novoselic, who contemplated running for office in November, said he would keep working with Music for America to boost voter participation among young people and continue his efforts for election reform but concluded, "the whole thing about running a campaign and being a public servant isn't the way to do it."
Role Call: Tina Turner Goes Indian, Madonna Goes To Jail
Pop singer Tina Turner has signed on to play an Indian goddess in the new Ismail Merchant/James Ivory film The Goddess, AP reports. Details about the film are sketchy, other than that it will include classic Indian songs. "I think Ismail (Merchant) chose me because of my shakti (strength) within," said Turner, who is a Buddhist. "I'm special in that I've had a long run and I'm still here."…Meanwhile, Madonna and her production company, Maverick Films, are developing a movie based on the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the project follows the infamous experiment conducted by professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University to explore the psychology of evil by recruiting 12 college students to role-play prison guards and inmates. Zimbardo's experiment was discontinued when the participants began taking on their roles with harrowing results. No director or stars are attached as yet.