Johnny Doyle (the enviably named Mars Callahan who also wrote and directed) is a pool-playing wunderkind who as his shady mentor Joe (Chazz Palminteri) puts it makes an art out of the hustle not just by conning his victims but making them like it. Johnny's getting tired of the sharking game and his law-student girlfriend Tara (Alison Eastwood) is putting the press on him to get legit--or get out. When he finds out double-crossing Joe screwed him out of a chance to join the professionals 15 years ago so they could remain hustling partners Johnny dumps Joe in a violent confrontation and tries (unsuccessfully as it turns out) to go straight despite his love of the game the respect he gets from his younger brother and his friends and of course the astounding amount of money he can win. Plus Tara's millionaire uncle Mike (Christopher Walken) can run the table pretty well himself and he's taken a liking to rebel Johnny. Meanwhile Joe vowing to settle the score has taken on top-ranked pro Brad (Rick Schroder) as his new protégé to help him do just that.
Callahan looks a lot like Walken by default or by design--his hair expressions mannerisms could make him Walken's son--but the similarity ends there. Callahan's no weighty actor but his easy delivery and quippy one-liners balance the heft brought in by Walken (who steals the entire shebang with a few choice scenes) and Palminteri (who with his malevolent scowl and loathsome behavior chews up and spits out the scenery as if tasting a spoiled bar burger). Wan and vapid token chick Eastwood has zero presence on-screen and even less chemistry with Callahan. The scenes involving Johnny's young wannabe-grifter brother Danny (Michael Rosenbaum) and his pals are a hoot but many are unnecessary. Schroder has maybe two lines and gives a good butt-whuppin' but he mostly just does a lot of lip mashing to show his frustration satisfaction confusion…
How newbie director Callahan convinced this exceptional group (in addition to Palminteri and Walken Rod Steiger appears in his final role as an aged streetwise poolhall owner with an old saw for every unfortunate situation) to sign on is anyone's guess--this ain't no Paul Newman pool movie and everyone knows it. Thankfully Callahan's cast is skilled enough to rise above its corny diatribes and some stiff dialogue and the script does have some very funny lines and scenes that give the cast something to work with. However at a breezy 90-some minutes the movie could done away with a few of the scenes in favor of more character development and back story. Way too much time is wasted on a long party scene in which one of Johnny's young buddies tries to get laid more still on his brother's band's performance at some club and even more on the parts with Tara's bitchy friend--yet we never really find out what drives Joe to be such a jerk or why Johnny is such a loser other than a few lines about his neglectful parents.
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston can relax; they are now surpassed in the couples rumor mill by the betrothed Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. So we're here to quash some buzzings and entertain you with others.
The latest rumor is that Zeta-Jones wants to take Douglas' name after they wed, according to the New York Daily News. Does this make her Catherine Douglas or Catherine Zeta-Douglas? We're not sure. But while we find out, we can tell you that she's not converting to Judaism, according to Douglas.
"I have had no formal religious training myself, and there has never been any debate with Catherine about it. Religion has not entered into the equation. Our child will be raised the same way I was," Douglas, 55, told London's Mirror.
He also admits that he misplaced her engagement ring before he proposed New Year's Eve. When Douglas couldn't find the sparkler in his luggage, he was "sure someone had stolen it," but Zeta-Jones, 30, remembered seeing him fumbling with a box at their hotel room in Wales over Christmas. Douglas called the hotel and asked housekeeping if they'd found a box, and lo and behold, it was there. It was shipped to Aspen, Colo., where he proposed at his resort. Kudos to the FedEx people for going above and beyond the call of duty.
A SHAGADELIC LAUGH: "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me's" Mike Myers and "American Beauty's" Annette Bening took funniest film actor and actress honors at the American Comedy Awards on Sunday night at Los Angeles' Shrine Exposition Center. The awards will be telecast March 23 on Fox.
Funniest motion picture went to "Analyze This," a mob comedy starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, topping more offbeat nominees such as "American Beauty" and "Being John Malkovich."
Steve Martin was honored with a career achievement award. Said Myers, "I like Steve Martin because he's silly and smart, smart and silly."
MAKING PEACE: Before "Red Planet" opens Nov. 10 -- pushed back from June 16 -- Tom Sizemore would like to clear the air concerning reported rifts he had with co-star Val Kilmer.
"Val and I are friends," the 36-year-old actor told USA Today. "A lot of people say nasty things about him. ... We did 'Heat,' and he was sweet to me. We're together (in 'Red Planet') from Page 6 to the end, every day, for 16 hours. And we've had a really good time. "
Earlier reports said the two considered taking out restraining orders on the set. Kilmer says, "The idea that Tom and I have taken out restraining orders ... is completely untrue. I have known Tom for many years and have the utmost respect for him as a person and actor."
MAKING PEACE, PART II: Madonna, after giving some 65 interviews promoting her upcoming film "The Next Best Thing," finished her interview with Rosie O'Donnell and decided she had more good-doing to do. So the Material Girl popped on over to "Saturday Night Live" studios, where fellow diva Jennifer Lopez was rehearsing her musical number for this week's show. The two reportedly greeted each other warmly and laughed off rumors that Madonna snubbed Lopez at Donatella Versace's New Year's Eve bash over Lopez's criticism of her acting abilities in a Movieline.
OBITS: French director Claude Autant-Lara, known for his right-wing political stances and jabs at bourgeois society, died Saturday at age 98. Autant-Lara directed more than 30 films, many of them classics of 1940s and 1950s French cinema ...
John Vincent Imbragulio, a music executive who produced the rock 'n' roll single "Sea Cruise" among others, died Friday at age 74. Imbragulio owned Ace Records, Ace Music Publishers and Avanti Records ...
Todd Karns, who played James Stewart's younger brother in died Saturday of cancer at age 79. Karns' character, Harry Bailey, made the memorable toast in the film's final scene, saying "To my big brother, George. The richest man in town!" ...
Doris Kenner-Jackson, member of the Shirelles, died Friday of breast cancer. She was 58. The Shirelles, which also included Shirley Alston Reeves, Beverly Lee and the late Addie "Micki" Harris, had many hits in the early 1960s, including "Soldier Boy" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."
QUICK TAKES: Add Clint Eastwood to the roster of presenters at this year's Academy Awards on March 26 in Los Angeles. Eastwood picked up Best Picture and Best Director awards for 1992's "Unforgiven." ...
... Phylicia Rashad (CBS' "Cosby") has made plans to renovate the Brainerd Institute, a historic black school where her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, graduated ...
Paul Newman ran into a little car trouble at the 24 Hours of Daytona race Saturday. His Porsche blew an engine and was retired only eight hours into the race. Luckily, the 75-year-old Newman was not in the car when it blew; likely he was off hand-gliding or preparing for the running of the bulls.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge has finally revealed the identity of the man who fathered her two children -- and it's not Brad Pitt.
Etheridge has long talked about her crush on good friend Pitt, whom she once said was good-looking enough to make any woman switch teams. (Etheridge outed herself in 1992.) Anyway, the Pitt connection fueled rumors that the actor's DNA was involved when Etheridge's partner, Julie Cypher (ex-wife of Lou Diamond Phillips) became pregnant.
But alas, Pitt has not passed along his good-looking genes to Etheridge-Cypher. Surprisingly, Etheridge reveals to this month's Rolling Stone that the biological father is sorta the anti-Brad Pitt -- David Crosby, the balding, pudgy folkie best known for his hard-livin' days with 1960s stalwarts Crosby, Stills & Nash.
"He's musical, which means a lot to me," Etheridge says of Crosby in Rolling Stone, "and I admire his work."
Cypher became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to daughter Bailey, now 3, and son Beckett, who's 1. The entire, extended family appears on the cover of the new Rolling Stone, including Crosby, 58, and wife Jan, who recommended him for the paternity job.
"No kitchen implements were involved,'' assures Cypher.
Well, that's a relief.
EXODUS: Woody Allen leaving "Manhattan"?!?
The notorious New Yorker has decided to leave the Big Apple for London -- at least for a year, according to reports. Manhattan is, of course, the city in which nearly all Allen's films are set -- and not just the ones named after Manhattan ("Manhattan Murder Mystery", "Manhattan").
Allen, 65, wife Soon-Yi, 29, and their baby daughter, Bechet Dumaine, plan to move to Britain so Allen can direct one-act plays in the foggy city's fashionable "boutique" theaters, according to Sunday's London Times. Producers rejected a similar plan in New York because it was deemed too expensive.
OBLIGATORY DOUGLAS/ZETA-JONES ITEM OF THE DAY: Yes, the wedding is still on for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, -- in fact, Britain's Sun reports that the two will tie the knot in Majorca, a Spanish resort island.
Douglas owns a remote mountain villa there, and an unnamed source tells the tab, "They want to keep the wedding private. Michael's estate in Majorca is perfect because it is so isolated."
But not too private: The Welsh actress reportedly was considering holding the wedding in a chapel near her hometown but nixed it because the venue was too small.
The Sun, by the way, says the Douglas/Zeta-Jones nuptials will go down Sept. 25, which also happens to be the couple's shared birthday (he'll be turning 56, she'll be turning 31).
That would prove convenient; Douglas would only have to remember one date out of the year.
STUPID, BUT OK: Paul Newman suffered bruised ribs after crashing his racecar into a tire barrier at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
"I got overconfident on a fresh set of tires," Newman, 74, said. "The tires weren't warm enough, and I slipped."
Newman, an avid and accomplished racecar driver, was examined on the scene by a doctor and further evaluated at Hallifax Medical Center.
"I'm angry at myself," Newman said. "It was a stupid thing to do."
But it's not slowing him down: Newman still plans to run the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race next month.
GLOBAL PRESENCE: Steven Spielberg, who won a best director Golden Globe (and later the Oscar) for "Saving Private Ryan," and Gwyneth Paltrow, who scored a Globe and an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love," have been tapped as presenters for the 57th Annual Golden Globes on Jan. 23 in Beverly Hills.
Also presenting awards are Catherine Deneuve, Winona Ryder and the (very) aforementioned Michael Douglas.
THE WRITE STUFF: Michael Caine, currently seen in "The Cider House Rules," has decided to do a little John Irving of his own.
The Oscar-winning actor ("Hannah and Her Sisters") has completed his debut novel -- a thriller -- but says he must go back for rewrites after realizing he killed off one of his characters, er, twice.
"I've got to the end in a mad dash. Now I've got to go back and do it properly," Caine told reporters.