On the outside Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) couldn’t be further from the mold of a “normal teenager.” He wears a suit everywhere he is precocious and he has a spring in his step that suggests oblivion to his high school surroundings. Of course Charlie isn’t really at all oblivious and at his core is very much that “normal teenager”: He wants only to be popular. After starting anew at a public school--because he got kicked out of yet another private school for distributing fake IDs--Charlie is promptly pummeled for the way he dresses by the school’s bully (Tyler Hilton). He complains to his psychiatrist whom his mother (Hope Davis) keeps on retainer. The shrink decides to put Charlie on Ritalin. Ever the entrepreneur Charlie tries to parlay his easy access to drugs into popularity and it works like gangbusters. Before long “Dr. Charlie” is listening diagnosing and prescribing drugs to the entire student faculty. He’s got the popularity the trust and the girl (Kat Dennings) the latter of which just happens to be the principal’s (Robert Downey Jr.) daughter. And that relationship--not to mention the slight legality issue of prescribing controlled substances to minors--threatens to ruin his whole operation. Yelchin (Alpha Dog) is a Hollywood rarity: He’s an ‘it’ boy because of his acting not his looks (sorry Anton). Rarer still is the fact that Yelchin’s actual age is near that of Charlie Bartlett and not since the days of Freaks and Geeks has that industry taboo been broken so successfully. It’s all a credit to the young actor who in the span of Bartlett oozes everything from vulnerability and precociousness to Ritalin-induced mania and the theatricality of a much older actor. There’s nothing he can’t do in this movie; the same goes for his acting future. And the same goes for his adversary in Bartlett Downey Jr. although that’s been abundantly clear for decades now. Downey Jr. is famous for making seemingly effortless work of a complex character which is precisely what he does with Principal Gardner--a concerned parent recovering alcoholic and dutiful high school enforcer/villain. He’s a force to be reckoned with on screen and when Yelchin’s Charlie finally squares off with him the scene is a thing of beauty. As an essential link between those two characters Dennings (40-Year-Old Virgin) is a credible charmer and refreshingly the rare non-ditzy non-clichéd high school-portrayed girl we’re used to seeing. Rounding out the cast is Davis (American Splendor) aka Laura Linney-in-waiting. Her clueless alcoholic mom is a source of laughs and ultimately sobriety--for the character and us. For the first time in his decades-long career Jon Poll trades the editing room for the director’s chair. And after seeing Bartlett it makes sense that Poll who has edited movies like Austin Powers in Goldmember and Meet the Parents/Fockers is a behind-the-scenes veteran but a rookie helmer. His debut is fresh and loose but also very sure-handed. The movie is constantly a pleasant unclassifiable surprise spurning both the raunchiness of teen comedies and the pretention of psychology dramedies. The result is something far less precious and opaque than Wes Anderson’s Rushmore--to which Bartlett bears a broad thematic resemblance--yet a sharp commentary nonetheless. To that end Gustin Nash’s debut screenplay is just as impressive as his director’s rookie effort. His writing is clearly steeped in satire namely how loose today’s doctors are with the prescription pads--especially when it comes to our children--but it’s also able to be sweet and real when necessary. It’s the most impressive screenplay debut we’ve seen in a while--gold standard Juno notwithstanding--and the directorial one isn’t too shabby itself.
Top Story: Wanna Buy Don Johnson's Ranch?
Actor Don Johnson is selling his 17-acre ranch for $21 million in a bid to stave off creditors after the Los Angeles-based City National Bank sued the Miami Vice star in March over a $930,000 debt. Johnson's company, Timber Doodle Glade Equity Venture LLC, which holds title to the ranch, filed for Chapter 11 on April 14. According to The Associated Press, the ranch, located in the Woody Creek area of Aspen, Colo., includes a house, guesthouse, office studio, outbuildings and 1,250-square-foot swimming pool. It was once home to writer Hunter S. Thompson. Johnson, who also starred in TV's Nash Bridges and appeared in the comedy Tin Cup, bought the ranch 16 years ago. Johnson's publicist, Elliot Mintz, told AP the actor is refinancing the ranch and the bankruptcy filing will stave off creditors until so he can get the financing he needs
Jimmy Fallon Bids Adieu to SNL
Jimmy Fallon announced he was leaving Saturday Night Live at the end of his "Weekend Update" segment with Tina Fey on May 15--the show's last original episode of the season. "I'm Jimmy Fallon," he said during taping. "I might as well say thanks; this is my last show. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow." Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group, told the AP Monday the move came as no surprise since Fallon had made it clear that he wanted to move on. The 29-year-old comedian joined the comedy show in 1998. One of his one of his signature characters was a nasally voiced and obnoxious radio DJ.
Geena Davis Has Twin Boys
Geena Davis gave birth to twin boys in Los Angeles May 6. The boys, named Kian William and Kaiis Steven, are "doing beautifully," a spokesman for the actress told Reuters Monday. Davis, 48, and her husband, Dr. Reza Jarrahy, were married in 2001. They have a 2-year-old daughter, Alizeh Keshvar.
Fox Unveils Trailer T-Shirts
In the never-ending quest to win the attention of media-savvy consumers, 20th Century Fox has unveiled T-shirts embedded with video screens that play I, Robot trailers at the E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles last week. The T-shirts are embedded with 11-inch monitors and four stereo speakers and are able to play any type of media. Fox said that while the video T-shirts would work for any film trailers, they were a particularly good fit for I, Robot, which is set in the year 2035. Reuters reports Fox plans to use the video T-shirts, which are only for promo purposes, to market other films.
June Taylor Dies at 86
June Taylor, the Emmy-winning choreographer for Jackie Gleason's television variety show and later the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad, died Monday at the Miami Heart Institute. She was 86. A cause of death was not immediately announced, AP reports. Taylor had no children. Her husband of 42 years, Sol Lerner, a prominent theatrical lawyer, died in 1986. Taylor's sister, Marilyn, was Gleason's third and final wife. Officials at the Lithgow Funeral Home said services are scheduled for Wednesday in North Miami Beach, Fla.
Eminem Takes Bite Out of Apple
Rapper Eminem's copyright infringement lawsuit over use of his song "Lose Yourself" in a commercial for Apple Computer Inc. got the go ahead by a federal judge, AP reports. U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled Monday that the suit brought by Eminem's publishing company can proceed against several companies, including MTV parent company Viacom and advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day. Apple featured a 10-year-old boy singing the Oscar-winning theme song to the rapper's movie 8 Mile in an ad on MTV for the computer company's iPod music player and iTunes music service.
Black Sabbath Heads Back to Ozzfest
The metal band Black Sabbath, fronted by Ozzy Osbourne, will reunite for the first time since 2001 at Ozzfest, which begins July 10 in Hartford, Conn., Reuters reports. Along with three-quarters of the original Black Sabbath, Ozzfest will also feature four-fifths of the original Judas Priest, and other acts such as Slayer, Dimmu Borgir, Superjoint Ritual (fronted by former Pantera singer Phil Anselmo) and onetime Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society.
Role Call: Disney Boards Jungle Cruise, Costner Tackles Mr. Robinson
Disney is bringing yet another theme park ride to the big screen--this time it's the Jungle Cruise, in which riders travel the rivers of the jungle guided by a riverboat skipper, encountering wild animals along the way ... Kevin Costner is in negotiations to play a male equivalent to Mrs. Robinson in Warner Bros.' update of the '60s classic The Graduate. The story revolves around a young woman who discovers The Graduate was probably based on her family. Jennifer Aniston is already set to play the young woman seduced by Costner's character, while Shirley MacLaine will play her grandmother, the woman who inspired the character immortalized by Anne Bancroft.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.
August 07, 2003 11:41am EST
Top Story: Jen Supposedly Knew of Ben's Strip Bar Visit
Sources told Reuters Wednesday that Jennifer Lopez was aware that Ben Affleck had patronized a Vancouver, British Columbia strip club last month but shrugged off the entire incident. One source denied reports in British newspapers that Lopez had dumped Affleck over the episode, adding, "She knew he went to the strip club ... and her attitude is: 'What's the big deal?' Moving on." Adding fodder to the story is Ryan Haddon, the wife of actor Christian Slater, who was quoted in the current issue of Us Weekly magazine saying they and actress Tara Reid had joined Affleck at the club on July 17, the same night Dateline NBC aired a telecast of the duo talking about their relationship and new movie, Gigli. Haddon told the magazine their entourage, including several strippers, returned to Slater's rented home for a private after-hours party, but dismissed tabloid reports that Affleck had been unfaithful to Lopez.
DGA Sets New Date for Awards
The Directors Guild of America will hold its fourth annual DGA Awards Nov. 16 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, Variety reports. The event celebrates individuals, institutions and organizations that have made distinguished contributions to filmmaking and television. Nominees for this year's event will be announced after Labor Day. The DGA honors, which in the past have served as a near-perfect barometer for the Best Director Oscar, were traditionally handed out in March just weeks prior to the Academy Awards. Reasons for the date change were not given.
Is Wes Craven's Cursed Cursed?
Dimension Films, the horror genre arm of Miramax Films, shut down production on Wes Craven's Cursed last month--just four weeks before the film was set to wrap--because top executives at the studio weren't happy with the film's ending or how the special effects were progressing. According to Variety, production on Cursed, described as a contemporary werewolf tale, is now set to restart in September but it is unclear whether this will cause problems with the cast and crew's availability. Cursed stars Christina Ricci, Skeet Ulrich, Shannon Elizabeth, Omar Epps and Scott Foley.
Jennifer Connelly Has Baby Boy
Hulk star Jennifer Connelly and her husband, Paul Bettany, became proud parents of a baby boy Tuesday, The Associated Press reports. Connelly won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2002 for her role as the wife of schizophrenic math genius John Forbes Nash, played by Russell Crowe, in A Beautiful Mind. Bettany, also 32, played Nash's mysterious classmate but Connelly has said they didn't start dating until about a year after filming ended. They were married last December during a private ceremony in Scotland. Connelly, 32, has a 5-year-old son, Kai, from a previous relationship.
Marilyn Manson Banned From N.Y. Ozzfest Stop
Marilyn Manson has been banned from the Six Flags Darien Lake stop on the 2003 Ozzfest tour in Darien Center, N.Y., the AP reports. Manson is one of the headliners of the tour, which also includes artists Korn, Disturbed, Chevelle and Ozzy Osbourne. But the amusement park says the shock rocker's act is not appropriate for the venue. "Contractual agreement gives us the right to restrict artists from performing in our concert venue," Six Flags in a statement. "We decided to pass on the Marilyn Manson performance." Darien Lake, which is about 24 miles east of Buffalo,
is the only venue on the 30-city tour so far to refuse a performance by Manson, whose provocative stage show has made him the target of religious and conservative groups.
Dixie Chicks Draw $60 Million in Ticket Sales
The Dixie Chicks, now on the final leg of their North American Top of the World tour, are closing in on $60 million in gross revenues--enough to make them the top touring country act of 2003, Reuters reports. "The bottom line is, for all the so-called controversy, the Dixie Chicks' fans remained totally loyal throughout the tour," Chicks manager Simon Renshaw told Billboard. Renshaw said that after 56 shows, the trio has been averaging 15,878 in paid attendance, with an average gross of $980,337. The North America dates wrap Aug. 13 in Calgary. The Chicks begin a 10-day European run Sept. 6 in Stockholm, then play six Australian dates ending Oct. 5 in Sydney.
Madonna Publishes Children's Book
Madonna is planning a global assault on bookstores September 15 with the release of her first children's book, The English Roses, which will be published simultaneously in 30 languages and 100 countries, Reuters reports. Madonna will be in Paris to unveil the first of five volumes, the first published novel she has written. Details of the highly anticipated first book remain under wraps until the release date but media reports said the fables would contain elements from kabbalah, an esoteric, mystic offshoot of Judaism.
Lane, Broderick in Talks for Producers Run
Actors Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are in talks to return for a three-month stint of the Broadway production The Producers starting in January, Reuters reports. The news sent some 200 fans prematurely flocking to the St. James Theater before it opened at 10 a.m. Lane and Broderick played the roles of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom for a one-year run of Mel Brooks' The Producers, which won a record 12 Tony Awards in 2001. Tickets for The Producers are put on sale in three-month blocks, with the next batch slate
The vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Stuart Townsend) wakes from a hundred-year sleep to the rock 'n' roll present day and likes what he sees and hears. Tired of the vampire's solitary life he becomes the frontman for an unknown rock band and transforms it into the latest greatest thing gaining the adulation of millions. He also decides to disregard the unspoken rule that vampires must hide away from the rest of world and writes songs encoded with specifics of the secret life of vampires. As expected Lestat's lyrics draw the attention of both the bloodsuckers who want to destroy him and the human vampire scholars (called the Talamasca) who want to study him. One young Talamascan student Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau) becomes obsessed with Lestat after reading his journal from the 1800s. She learns that Lestat had a brief encounter with Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) the most ancient and dangerous vampire to ever exist and the mother of all who walk the Earth in search of blood. He gets his chance to meet Akasha again when his music awakens her from an ancient slumber. She rises and seeks out Lestat to become her king and join her in ruling the world.
The film truly belongs to Townsend and fans of the Anne Rice's novels will be happy to know he completely embodies the charismatic vampire Lestat. The little-known Irish actor who starred in last year's indie About Adam with Kate Hudson rules the screen whenever he is on it and luckily he's on it quite a lot. He's especially powerful when he is in rock star mode. Although Moreau's Jesse is fairly one dimensional she comes alive in her scenes with Townsend. Let's hope they keep asking him to play Lestat (when and if they make any more films from Rice's vampire novels) and next time give him an actress he can have some real chemistry with. The late R&B singer Aaliyah made her second film appearance in Damned as the queen. Even though she is only in the film a short time she possesses a certain charm as the ancient and evil Queen Akasha and makes a great first impression by destroying a vampire coven. Yet her acting skills are just not up to par with the rest of the cast including the charismatic Vincent Perez as the vampire Marius and Lena Olin as the kind-hearted vampire Maharet.
Damned was set to be released in the fall of last year but word of mouth had the film destined for the video shelf before it even made it to the big screen. Then tragedy struck and as the news of Aaliyah's untimely death echoed throughout the world of entertainment Warner Bros. wisely decided to hold onto it and release it in theaters at a more favorable time knowing there would be an audience who'd want to see the singer's last film. Yet for all the bad press surrounding it Damned actually pleasantly surprises you due largely in part to Townsend's mesmerizing performance. Michael Rymer's direction is not a masterpiece of filmmaking by any stretch of the imagination but it has a certain MTV quality about it which makes it appealing. That same quality however also makes it too slick glossing over the meatier parts of Rice's novel making the dialogue and action trite and sometimes downright silly. Come to think of it the 1994 Interview With the Vampire also suffered from the same thing. Maybe translating Rice's words is harder than it looks.