Think The Insider meets Erin Brockovich. George Clooney plays the title character a lawyer who instead of practicing law has become an in-house “fixer” at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. Any little nasty detail they want swept under the carpet Clayton is their man--from hit-and-runs and damaging stories in the press to shoplifting wives and crooked politicians. He’d like to quit but unfortunately he’s inextricably tied to the firm especially to partner Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack). But when the firm’s top litigator Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) has an apparent breakdown and exposes the underbelly of a huge class-action suit against U-North--an agrochemical company the firm is supposed to be representing--Clayton gets his toughest assignment to date. He is told to get Arthur under control before he sabotages the case any further but in tackling this unprecedented disaster Clayton realizes Arthur isn’t all that crazy. Suddenly Clayton comes face to face with the reality of who he has become. This is where Michael Clayton shines. All the performances are spot-on starting with Clooney as the title protagonist. It isn’t that Clooney has to really stretch in Clayton as he did in his Oscar-winning Syriana performance but that he plays damaged goods better than most. His Clayton is a study in conflicted behavior--a gambleholic burnt-out on having to cleaning up his firm’s messes divorced and trying to be a good dad to his precocious son. The best part? He isn’t necessarily “fixed” at the end of the movie. Then we have the two spectrums of good vs. evil: Wilkinson turns in another amazing performance as the film’s conscience. The veteran actor gets all the best Oscar-worthy speeches especially the one he gives off-camera explaining the moment he found “clarity.” And on the opposite end there's Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia) playing Karen Crowder one of U-North’s mucky mucks. Her insecurities and rash decisions fuel Michael Clayton’s action. In the end however no one comes off smelling sweet. Tony Gilroy certainly knows a thing or two about writing smart character-driven pieces having penned all three of the Bourne screenplays as well as films like Dolores Claiborne. Now with Michael Clayton he has finally decided to take the helm for the first time backed by the full support of executive producer George Clooney—and he couldn’t have picked a better choice for his debut film. Michael Clayton isn’t one of those legal thrillers in which you are looking for a twist to keep you guessing. There isn’t anything visually startling about it either--no shaky camera technique like Gilroy’s Bourne colleague Paul Greengrass. What Gilroy concentrates on instead is the power of his actors’ performances. For example the director cuts between a nervous Karen getting ready in her hotel room before a giving a presentation and her actual poised speech or intimately shows Clayton having a poignant conversation with his son in his car. Everything fits seamlessly within the context of the action. It's an absolute tour-de-force—and surefire Oscar contender.
Tom Cruise is set to be honored at New York City's Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) in November.
The Minority Report star, 45, follows in the footsteps of former honorees Sidney Lumet, Robert De Niro, Richard Gere, Al Pacino, Sidney Poitier, Julia Roberts and James Stewart.
MOMI director Rochelle Slovin said they chose Cruise for his outstanding 27-year film career, which started with Endless Love in 1981.
Slovin says, "Tom Cruise is one of the premier American actors of his generation. Working with the great directors of our time—(including) Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Sydney Pollack, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and now Robert Redford--Cruise has given us indelible characters and performances."
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Conan to replace Leno in 2009
During a special program Monday to mark the 50th anniversary of NBC's The Tonight Show, Jay Leno announced he will retire as the show's host in 2009 and pass the torch to fellow comedian Conan O'Brien. Late Night With Conan O'Brien currently airs directly after The Tonight Show, but the comic's contract with the network was due to expire this year. According to The Associated Press, NBC made the announcement five years in advance to hold on to the 41-year-old O'Brien, who was considered likely to jump to another network without a promise of advancement. Leno said NBC executives approached him about O'Brien shortly after he signed his latest contract extension. He said he endorsed the move and set his own 2009 exit date. Leno, 54, took over the show in 1992 from Johnny Carson, who hosted the show for 30 years. At the time, he beat out David Letterman, who then moved his late night chat show to rival CBS. "A lot of good friendships were permanently damaged," Leno said as he recalled the hostility during Monday's show. "Quite frankly, I don't want to see anybody go through that again." Leno, who was accused of overlooking Carson's 30-year legacy when he took over host duties 12 years ago, also offered a warm tribute to his predecessor by showing a lengthy clip package of Carson's funniest moments. "Johnny set the standard for how this job should be done," Leno said. "He was such a gentleman. He always had impeccable timing. He was the comedian's comedian. Those of us who do this for a living, we all owe him a tremendous debt."
Chaka Khan's son arrested
Damien Patrick Holland, the 25-year-old son of R&B singer Chaka Khan, has been arrested for investigation of murder stemming from the Friday night shooting of an 18-year-old man in Los Angeles, the AP reports. According to the police report, Holland and the victim were fighting and both struggled to control a gun, which fired and struck the teen, who died later at a nearby hospital. Holland was booked for investigation of first-degree murder and remained in custody on $1 million bail. The victim's identity was being withheld until his relatives could be notified.
Barenaked Ladies get variety show
Fox Broadcasting Co. has ordered a pilot for a comedy/variety show starring the popular Canadian band Barenaked Ladies, best known for their hit songs "One Week" and "Pinch Me." According to the Hollywood Reporter, the project, tentatively titled The Barenaked Ladies Variety Show, is set to expand upon the tongue-in-cheek stage banter as well as improv bits with the audience that have become a staple of Barenaked Ladies' concerts. The show will highlight band members Steven Page, Kevin Hearn, Tyler Stewart, Jim Creeggan and Ed Robertson in comedy skits as exaggerated versions of themselves and will include musical performances by the group and other musical guests.
Are Daily Show viewers just "stoned slackers"?
Whose audience is more intelligent, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor or Comedy Central's The Daily Show? The question begged to be answered after Daily Show host Jon Stewart's appeared on Bill O'Reilly's Factor. "You know what's really frightening?" O'Reilly told Stewart. "You actually have an influence on this presidential election ... you've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night and they can vote." Comedy Central said they didn't want this misconception to persist so they turned to Nielsen Media Research, whose research indicates viewers of Stewart's show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch The O'Reilly Factor. Comedy Central, however, added it had no statistics on how many people watch The Daily Show stoned.
Darrell Hammond wins Best Regis award
Comedian Darrell Hammond's impersonation of Live With Regis and Kelly host Regis Philbin was awarded Best Regis in the second annual Rellys. The mock awards, which include self-affirming categories such as Funniest Guest, were created to offset its lack of success in the Daytime Emmys, the AP reports. Hammond was up against Best Regis nominees Dana Carvey, Tom Hanks and Kevin Pollack. Winners, decided by viewer votes, receive the coveted Golden Stool, a trophy-size version of the seating that accommodates Live guests and co-hosts Philbin and Kelly Rippa. Philbin, meanwhile, took home a Golden Stool for Best Dressed for outfitting himself as Kid Rock.
Gilligan's Island resumes filming
Whew! Filming continued on The Real Gilligan's Island after the Gulf of Mexico island where the TBS reality show is being shot was evacuated for Hurricane Ivan last week. TBS spokeswoman Michelle Sisco told the AP this week the cast and crew had been evacuated Sept. 16 as a precaution and no one was injured by the hurricane. The exact location of the reality show, however, hasn't been revealed. The unscripted skein features seven castaways--a real-life skipper, a first mate, a millionaire couple, a movie star, a professor and an innocent farm girl--and pits them against the elements to see if they can devise a way to get off the island. The Real Gilligan's Island is set to premiere as scheduled Nov. 30.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.
This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?
Tom Hanks is turning into Jackie Chan. No, he isn't learning Chinese and studying to become a martial arts master--which I wouldn't put past him. Hanks is accepting everything being offered to him lately, like the hyper-busy Chan, with one exception: Hanks is only doing films with DreamWorks studio. At this moment, Hanks is either working or in negotiations on four films for the studio, having already made Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers for DreamWorks. Do you think Hanks owns stock in the company?
First up is Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, where Hanks will star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio as an FBI agent after the notorious Frank Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio), the youngest man to make the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Then comes Sam Mendes' The Road to Perdition, as Hanks plays a Chicago hitman nicknamed "The Angel of Death." (It's about time Hanks plays a bad guy). The two newest films to hit the street: Terminal, with Hanks as a Balkan refugee stuck living in an airport terminal and Comrade Rockstar, based on the life of the late rocker Dean Reed. Hanks is in negotiations to star as Reed, a musician/actor who wasn't able to make it big in the States but was a megastar in the Soviet Union and who died tragically either from suicide or homicide; no one is quite sure.
Rita Wilson sure isn't going to be seeing much of her husband over the next year and a half.
Cindy's second chance
Supermodel Cindy Crawford feels like she didn't give it her all in her 1995 debut Fair Game. Remember that truly spectacular piece of filmmaking? Crawford plays a lawyer (stay with me) who becomes an unwitting target to ex-KGB operatives and Billy Baldwin plays the cop trying to protect her. Coming back to you? Yeah, it stunk up the joint, but that doesn't mean it was Crawford's fault...right?
Six years later, Cindy's older, wiser, and hopefully has taken a few more acting classes. Yup, Cindy will tackle a new role, this time in a romantic drama called The Simian Line. The story revolves around three close-knit couples who are told by a psychic that one of them will break up by New Year's Eve. Oh, goody. At least she'll be joining a stellar cast, including William Hurt, Lynn Redgrave, Eric Stoltz and Harry Connick Jr., and should feel a little more comfortable given the good company.
Lane plays "The Great One"
Broadway/film star Nathan Lane is going to take on the awesome responsibility of portraying the legendary Jackie Gleason in the biopic To the Moon. Many fans will scrutinize Lane's performance, to see if he can pull it off. The good thing is the talent behind the film is as strong as its star. It's being written by Rob Festinger (In the Bedroom) and will be produced by Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella.
Lane told Variety, "Jackie Gleason has been a huge influence on me since I was a child. The thing that gets to me about him is that despite the bravado of his public persona and the broad hilarity of some of his comedy, there remains a tremendous amount of sadness and vulnerability in his eyes. Hopefully we will explore that in the film." I hope so, too.
Cage gets behind the camera
Actor Nicolas Cage has picked a rather edgy topic for his directorial debut. Would you expect anything less? According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film Sonny, which Cage will direct and produce, centers around "a male hustler who joins the Army in an attempt to get out of his family's gigolo lifestyle and get a real job. When he's discharged, Sonny stops by to visit his family in New Orleans and look for work, only to find that his mother is determined to bring him back to the family business." Well, that's sounds uplifting.
James Franco, the young stud who admirably portrayed James Dean in the TNT biopic of the same name, will take on the title role. Cage joins a very long list of actor-turned-directors; as we all know all actors really want to do is direct, and it's only a matter of time before they get the clout to do it.
Murphy is a "Shrinking Man"
Eddie Murphy has decided to take a look at the world from a small person's point of view. A very, very small person. He's going to star in the Keenen Ivory Wayans remake of the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man. Murphy will play Grant Williams, who begins to shrink after being exposed to a strange mist, and must battle for survival the smaller he becomes. The original wasn't a comedy. The poor guy had to battle cats, bugs and all kinds of awful things as he shrank to virtually nothing. Fun.
Lily Tomlin had enough sense to make a comedy about an incredible shrinking woman in 1981. Disney made the comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; a kid fell into bowl of Cheerios. That's just hysterical. I would think with Wayans and Murphy attached, this remake would be the mother of all comedies.
Author Charles Frazier's best seller Cold Mountain is coming to the big screen, and some familiar faces are attached to the project.
Tom Cruise is set to star in the project--a Civil War-era drama--and director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) has signed on to helm the picture, according to Reuters. Sydney Pollack (The Talented Mr. Ripley) will serve as executive producer.
"We're in deep preparation at the moment," Pollack told Reuters.
Filming is scheduled to begin in June 2002.
The Miramax film Heaven,
starring Cate Blanchett and produced by Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, is set to open the Berlin International film Festival on Feb. 6, Daily Variety reported today.
The trade paper remarked that landing the film, which marks the English-language debut of German director Tom Tykwer, is regarded as a major coup for the Berlinale's new chief, Dieter Kosslick. Variety also reported that Robert Altman will head the festival jury. (His Gosford Park is expected to screen out of competition.) A spokesman for the festival declined to comment on the Variety report.
Director Oliver Stone certainly doesn't shy away from the controversial.
Stone has proclaimed he wants to make a film about terrorism in the wake of what happened on Sept. 11. But the Hollywood-powers-that-be may not feel the same way and probably won't be bankrolling hard-edged films for quite awhile.
"I'd like to do a bullet of a movie about terrorism and how it works," Stone told a panel at the Lincoln Center yesterday, according to the New York Post. "It could be a fascinating thriller that would really entertain people."
"I don't buy into this concept that all people want to see right now is Zoolander. I think we can tie movies in to the attack. Let's make a big movie about terrorism and let's do a good job of it," Stone continued.
Tom Pollack, former CEO of Universal Pictures, however, told the panel it was going to be "ten times harder" to get these kinds of movies made.
"It's because it will be harder to figure out how to make money from them, and it will become harder for independent films with political content to get distribution," said Pollack.
A long-time conspiracy theorist, the JFKdirector also hinted that somehow the attacks were connected with the rise of multinational corporations that dominate filmmaking and banking.