It means that what little plot there is will be formulaic and predictable. It means a dashing hero will spout pithy one-liners while his sidekicks will try to be funny and fail. But there will also be a cool helicopter crash and a lot of firepower and maybe even some blood and guts. Cool! On that basis S.W.A.T. does not disappoint. It doesn't much matter that the villain of the story a drug trafficker/murderer/arms dealer called Alex Montel (Olivier Martinez) only really comes on the scene in the last 45 minutes or so or that until then the villain is any criminal anywhere in the city that comes in contact with the newly formed yet much-maligned five-person S.W.A.T. team that's the center of the story. Led by Sgt. "Hondo" Harrelson (Samuel L. Jackson) the team is composed mostly of the force's unreliable renegades and unwanted rejects: Jim Street (Colin Farrell) T.J. McCabe (Josh Charles) Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) Michael Boxer (Brian Van Holt) and Deke Kaye (LL Cool J). After an intense training period and a few impressive successes the underdog team is called in to save the day when Montel makes a televised offer of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of jail--and L.A.'s criminal element comes out in force to do so.
The lack of a plot during the first hour and a half of this movie is probably why the studio is euphemistically billing it as "character-driven." It's kind of like saying that tiny efficiency apartment you're renting is "cozy." Don't let them get one over on you though; these characters are every bit as shallow as you expect gun-toting action heroes to be. If you want to know what drives somebody to tackle a profession that requires them to shoot people in cold blood on an almost daily basis you won't find out watching S.W.A.T.. Farrell at least seems to want to get at the underbelly of the S.W.A.T. psychology but his stereotypically heroic character lacks the complexity that would allow him to do it. So Farrell rolls those limpid brown eyes wildly in their sockets as if he's trying to let out his inner serial killer and mumbles his way through the lines. Jackson on the other hand doesn't even try to give us more. He simply phones this one in ("$20 million? Summer blockbuster? Sure I'll do it. What's it about again?"). Fortunately Rodriguez is more bearable as the tough Sanchez--she lights up the screen and has great timing--and Martinez makes a very sexy bad guy.
The amount of gun violence in S.W.A.T. is particularly startling even for a big blockbuster because the aforementioned shallow characters never really reflect on what they do. The film justifies its violence in one line of dialogue--"S.W.A.T. is a life saving organization not a life taking one"--yet we only meet one person whose life was saved and even she took a bullet in the process. But we do see an awful lot of nameless faceless criminals get blown to bits. Don't get me wrong; I'm no Joe Lieberman. I loved Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers and I think Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are among the best movies ever made. It's not that there's even anything wrong with a good ol' fashioned shoot-'em-up movie--although how S.W.A.T. ever got a PG-13 rating is beyond me. Just don't patronize the audience with some false justification for blowing away half the cast and most of the extras. We're really much smarter than that.
Yes, yes, we know Halle Berry has shown her "guns" before. That's why millions of people went to see the pretty awful film Swordfish. However, we're talking real guns this time. She's in negotiations to join Ben Affleck (if he can stay off the booze) in Gigli, directed by Martin Brest for Revolution Studios. The premise of the film--I've talked about this one before, and it's still a doozy--centers on a lowly hit man (Affleck) who kidnaps the mentally challenged brother of a prominent district attorney. Berry will play a free-spirited gunslinger (please, is there any other kind?) sent in, ostensibly, to supervise the kidnapping but ends up partnering with the guy and going on the lam with him. Of course, through the process, he falls in love with her. Let's hope, through another strange and wild process, the title is somehow explained.
Down on the "Farm"
The newest hunk-o-rama in Hollywood, Colin Farrell, is set to star with Al Pacino in The Farm, a CIA thriller about an agent trainee (Farrell) who suspects his seasoned CIA instructor (Pacino) is a double agent. Production is to begin Nov. 1. OK, first, I'll talk about the movie, which sounds pretty average considering who is in it. But, sometimes, that's a good thing. What I really want to talk about is Irish-born Farrell. He made a big splash last year in the indie Tigerland and has been steadily rising in the ranks ever since. His most recent movie American Outlaws, where he plays outlaw Jesse James, opens in theaters this week, and he just finished wrapping Minority Report opposite Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg. For Farm, Farrell will receive a whooping $5 million, nearly double his usual asking price. And did I mention that he was damn cute? I did? OK, just checking.
Bound by "Rules
It's the gang from the WB, together once again. Well, at least parts of them. Jessica Biel (WB's 7th Heaven and the upcoming film Summer Catch) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek) will join Kip Pardue (Driven), Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie 2) and Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight's Tale) in the Lions Gate film The Rules of Attraction. The story, based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero), is set at the height of Reagan's 1980s in a small, affluent, liberal arts college in New England. It follows three students as they sort out a romantic triangle and other such travails of--and this is Variety's description--the "self-consciously postmodern undergrad." Ah. This sounds suspiciously like another movie about three college students who have to sort out romantic problems. Anyone remember the 1994 Threesome with Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin and Josh Charles? Which was actually a pretty good movie. Well, Rules certainly sounds like it should be on the WB. And maybe not on the big screen. But, alas, I'm not the one running the show out there.
Jolie on "Border" patrol
If anyone is truly interested, the film Beyond Borders has had a long history of being on-again, off-again at Mandalay Pictures. Now it's on-again, with Angelina Jolie attached to star and Martin Campbell (Vertical Limit) to direct. It's a love story that takes place during the course of many years and set against the backdrop of humanitarian efforts worldwide. OK, so we don't know too much about the script so far, but I'm sure we will at some point. Here's the history lesson: In 1999, Kevin Costner and Catherine Zeta-Jones were attached to star, with Oliver Stone directing. But the actors had to drop out after awhile to do other stuff. Costner came back in the picture in the spring of 2000, with Meg Ryan as a possible costar. But Jolie wanted it and signed. Still, things were not moving very fast. Costner left for good in fall 2000 to be replaced by Ralph Fiennes. Then production halted at the beginning of the year, so Stone and Fiennes said so long. Jolie went on to do another project but said she was still interested if and when the film came to fruition. And here we are! Welcome to the wacky world of filmmaking.
Miramax has snagged the project My Baby's Mama after an intense bidding war last week. Bidding wars still happen? Remember that much talked about industry practice, where a script is sent to major studios on a Friday, with a lot of hype attached to it, and is frantically bid upon over the weekend by execs who just have to have it . Honestly, I thought that was a late '80s, '90s thing when the Joe Eszterhas' of the writing world ran things and demanded top dollar. Well, I guess I was wrong. Comedian Eddie Griffin's (Double Take) script, a cross between Three Men and a Baby and Soul Food, was bought by Miramax for Griffin to star along with John Leguizamo, LL Cool J and Lil' Kim. Apparently Miramax always had the upper hand in getting the project because of its alliances with several of the factions involved. But I wonder how much they paid for a script that seems less than spectacular.
Just call him "Sloppy Seconds" Frankenheimer
To be fair, the acclaimed director John Frankenheimer has made some action-packed and fascinating films in his career. Films such as the 1962 The Manchurian Candidate, 1966's Seconds and the 1977 Black Sunday. But lately he's been slipping, especially with last year's dismal Reindeer Games. And now he is set to direct the prequel to The Exorcist. What? We find out how the devil gets into little Reagan's attic? No, the story apparently revolves around what happened to Father Merrin during his missionary work in post-World War II Africa, where he first encounters the Big Red Horned One. One will remember Max Von Sydow's account in the original Exorcist, with brief flashbacks showing some poor African being possessed. Honestly, do we care? The most noteworthy part of this deal, however, is that Frankenheimer is once again following the footsteps of director William Friedkin. Most won't remember but Frankenheimer directed The French Connection II, a sequel to the original classic directed by Friedkin. Maybe those powers that be approached Friedkin about doing these sequels and he said, "Naw, I don't want to do it. But ask John. He'll go for it."
Four Weddings and a Funeral star Andie MacDowell accepted an engagement ring from her college sweetheart, Rhett Hartzog, 43, last week, The Associated Press reports. "I am very happy for her," said MacDowell's father, Marion McBride. The couple plans to marry in November in Asheville, N.C, where MacDowell lives, McBride said. This will be her second marriage. MacDowell is currently promoting her new HBO movie Dinner With Friends, starring Dennis Quaid and Greg Kinnear. The movie will begin airing Aug. 11.
Madonna settled a $5 million breach-of-oral contract last week involving a film that she had allegedly agreed to appear in but later backed out of making. According to court papers, the case dates back to 1998 when Madonna made an agreement with independent filmmaker Millennium Films to make a cameo appearance in the movie Going Down, Launch.com reported. In exchange, the singer and Madguy Entertainment, the production company that she oversees with Maverick Records partner Guy Oseary would receive a co-producer credit in the film. The settlement was reached after Madonna and her lawyers were sanctioned by the court for walking out on a court-ordered deposition. The lawsuit was dismissed once the settlement was reached.
Actors Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore will receive tributes at the 27th annual Deauville Festival Cinema, joining previously announced honoree producer Joel Silver. Among the movies in the competition are Bart Freundlich's World Traveler, starring Billy Crudup and Moore, as well as Reynolds' Tempted, directed by Bill Bennett and costarring Saffron Burrows. In addition to a Stanley Kubrick retrospective, and a sidebar programmed by Oliver Stone, the festival will honor James Dean's memory with screenings of the three features in his short filmography, capped by Mark Rydell's new biopic, James Dean, starring James Franco, Reuters reports. Among the artists confirmed to appear at the Aug. 31- Sept. 9 event include Steven Spielberg, Shannon Elizabeth, Johnny Deep, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
French Canadian diva Celine Dion and husband Rene Angelil, baptized their six-month-old son Rene-Charles on Wednesday at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Quebec, Reuters reports. Among 250 friends and members of the family attended the event while more than 1,500 onlookers and photographers cheered the singer outside of the church. The child, born Jan.25, was conceived through in vitro fertilization in New York. Dion, 33, is on a three-year sabbatical from show business to take care of her son. She will make a comeback in a musical in Las Vegas in 2003.
Russell Simmons, founder of the Def Jam record label, crashed a Senate hearing Wednesday on the entertainment industry and told Congress not to censor music or blame society's ills on violent and sexually explicit lyrics. Congress and entertainment figures have clashed over whether and how the industry targets explicit content to young people, Reuters reported. "Some of the songs you may find offensive, protest songs and other songs, are actually a reflection of the reality that needs to be expressed. The real issue is how do we address these issues," Simmons told members of the Congress. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee chairman, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), had rejected a request from Simmons earlier this week to speak to the committee, saying the witness list was full. The hip-hop recording mogul spoke his mind after having sat through actor William Baldwin's testimony, in which the actor said the media did not cause violent behavior.
The Recording Industry Association of America is launching a new campaign to attract attention to the Parental Advisory stickers placed on albums containing explicit sexual or violent content, Rolling Stone reports. The RIIA will produce public service announcements for TV and radio featuring legendary record producer Quincy Jones and print out a new Parental Advisory brochure to PTA groups, school principals, as well as local and federal officials involved with children's issues.
A trip to see Planet of the Apes this weekend could cost you as much as $10 a ticket if you live in Boston. Loews Cineplex recently opened its Boston Commons 19 megaplex movie theatre, with tickets costing $10 on weekends and $9.50 weekdays. According to Reuters, for a $15 ticket price, patrons can get reserved theater seating and the availability of valet parking, with $2 of the extra ticket charge refundable if moviegoers patronize the theater's bar.
Nicole Kidman will star in Danish director's Lars von Trier's new project Dogville, costarring Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgaard. The plot of the movie will be set in a small American mountain village in the 1930s and filmed in Sweden next year, has not been revealed, The Associated Press reported. Last year, von Trier won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for
For all the controversy and hype surrounding "Eyes Wide Shut," the film will most likely be remembered as director Stanley Kubrick's last opus -- finished just days before he died in his sleep March 7.
The 70-year-old eccentric filmmaker's career was founded on spectacle, from the shocking "A Clockwork Orange" to the profound "2001: A Space Odyssey." It somehow seemed fitting that "Eyes Wide Shut," despite the star talent of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, would make its mark by bearing the director's ghost.
The year that was marked the passing of other legends, as well -- from George C. Scott (Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" star) to singer Mel Tormé to movie critic Gene Siskel.
Some, like Sylvia Sidney and DeForest Kelley, died after long, rich careers; others, such as Dana Plato and David Strickland, succumbed in relative youth to their inner demons.
From marquee names to behind the sceners, Hollywood will mourn:
Kirk Alyn, 88, died March 14. In 1948, the first actor to play Superman on the big screen.
Hoyt Axton, 61, died Oct. 26, heart attack. Singer-actor who wrote hits such as Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World"; appeared in "Gremlins" and "The Black Stallion."
Ian Bannen, 71, died Nov. 3, car accident. Theater veteran who starred in "Waking Ned Devine," appeared in "Braveheart" and was nominated for an Oscar in 1965 for "Flight of the Phoenix."
Mary Kay Bergman, 38, died Nov. 11, suicide. Actress who voiced numerous "South Park" characters in the TV series and film.
Dirk Bogarde, 78, died May 8, heart attack. British veteran of more than 70 films, including "Death in Venice."
Rory Calhoun, 76, died April 28, emphysema and diabetes. Western film actor in the 1940s and '50s and star of CBS' "The Texan" series.
Allan Carr, 62, died June 29, cancer. Producer of the hit 1978 musical "Grease" and Tony Award winner for "La Cage aux Folles" on Broadway.
Iron Eyes Cody, about 90, died Jan 4, natural causes. American American actor best known as the "Crying Indian" in 1970s anti-litter public-service announcements.
Ellen Corby, 87, died April 14. Oscar nominee for the 1948 film "I Remember Mama"; Emmy winner for her grandmother role on TV's "The Waltons."
Harry Crane, 85, died Sept. 14, cancer. Co-created the TV sitcom "The Honeymooners''; wrote for entertainers such as the Marx Brothers, Red Skelton and Bing Crosby.
Charles Crichton, 89, died Sept. 14. Acclaimed British director of film comedies, including "The Lavender Hill Mob" and "A Fish Called Wanda."
Frank De Vol, 88, died Oct. 27, congestive heart failure. Film composer who received Oscar nominations for "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte," "Pillow Talk" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.'' Wrote the theme music for TV's "The Brady Bunch."
Edward Dmytryk, 90, died July 1, heart and kidney failure. Directed films such as "The Caine Mutiny"; one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten during the 1940s Red Scare.
Allen Funt, 84, died Sept. 5, complications from stroke. Hosted and created prankster TV show "Candid Camera."
Betty Lou Gerson, 84, died Jan. 12, stroke. Provided the voice for villainess Cruella De Vil in Disney's 1961 animated "One Hundred and One Dalmatians."
Ernest Gold, 77, died March 17, complications from stroke. Composer for films such as "It's a Man, Mad, Mad, Mad World"; won an Academy Award for "Exodus."
Sandra Gould, 73, died July 20, stroke. Played nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz on TV's "Bewitched."
Huntz Hall, 78, died Jan. 30, heart failure. Starred in more than 100 "Dead End Kids" and "Bowery Boys" films in the 1930s through the '50s.
Brion James, 54, died Aug. 7, heart attack. Played the murderous droid Leon in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."
Madeline Kahn Madeline Kahn, 57, died Dec. 3, ovarian cancer. Oscar-nominated actress-comedian who starred in "Blazing Saddles" and "Paper Moon."
Garson Kanin, 86, died March 13, heart failure. Oscar-nominated screenwriter ("Adam's Rib," "Pat and Mike"); penned hit play "Born Yesterday." DeForest Kelley
DeForest Kelley, 79, died June 11, long illness. Starred as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy on TV's original "Star Trek" series and in several of the franchise's big-screen movies.
Richard Kiley, 76, died March 5, bone marrow disease. Actor/singer best known for introducing audiences to original power ballad, "The Impossible Dream," via Broadway's "Man of La Mancha."
Stanley Kubrick, 70, died March 7 in his sleep. Acclaimed director of films such as "Dr. Strangelove," "Spartacus," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining."
Desmond Llewelyn, 85, died Dec. 19, car accident. British actor who played James Bond's gadget-guru Q through "From Russia With Love" (1963) to "The World Is Not Enough" (1999).
Victor Mature, 86, died Aug. 4, cancer. Hunky star of the 1940s and 50s, with leading roles in "Samson and Delilah" and "My Darling Clementine."
Jay Moloney, 35, died Nov. 16, suicide. Talent agent known as the "boy wonder," who once represented Hollywood heavies such as Steven Spielberg and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Clayton Moore, 85, died Dec. 28, heart attack. Longtime star of TV's "The Lone Ranger."
Dana Plato, 34, died May 8, apparent accidental drug overdose. Former child star of the 1970s sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes."
Abraham Polonsky, 88, died Oct. 26, heart attack. Oscar-nominated screenwriter ("Body and Soul"); one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten.
Mario Puzo, 78, died July 2, heart failure. Novelist/screenwriter ("The Godfather") who two Oscars for his screenplays for "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather Part II" (1974).
Irving Rapper, 101, died Dec. 20. Golden-era director best known for collaborating with Bette Davis on four films, including "Now, Voyager" (1942).
Oliver Reed, 61, died May 2, apparent heart attack. British actor best known for starring in "Oliver!" and "Women in Love."
Charles "Buddy" Rogers, 94, died April 21, natural causes. Starred in 1927's "Wings," the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar; widower of silent-star Mary Pickford.
George C. Scott George C. Scott, 71, died Sept. 22, ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. Gruff-voiced leading man who starred in "Dr. Strangelove" and "Anatomy of a Murder." Won (and refused) the Oscar for 1970's "Patton"; won Emmy and Golden Globe for 1997's Showtime film "12 Angry Men."
Sylvia Sidney, 88, died July 1, throat cancer. Veteran actress whose career spanned the 1930s through the 1990s. Nominated for an Oscar for 1973's "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams." Gene Siskel
Gene Siskel, 53, died Feb. 20, brain tumor. With Roger Ebert, the nation's most influential movie critic and purveyor of the "thumbs up/thumbs down" rating system on their syndicated TV series. Writer for Chicago Tribune.
Susan Strasberg, 60, died Jan. 21, breast cancer. Theater/TV/film actress ("The Diary of Anne Frank"); daughter of famed acting guru Lee Strasberg; cohort of Marilyn Monroe.
David Strickland, 29, died March 23, suicide. Co-star of the NBC sitcom "Suddenly Susan"; played a lovelorn ex-boyfriend in "Forces of Nature" (1999).
Mel Torme, 73, died June 5, complications from stroke. Velvety crooner of jazz and pop, who co-wrote "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)."
Norman Wexler, 73, died Aug. 23, heart attack. Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "Joe" and "Serpico." Also wrote "Saturday Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive."
John Woolf, 86, died June 28, heart failure. British producer of "Oliver!" and "The African Queen."