Simon Cowell's The X Factor musical is to close after less than two months on stage. Spoof stage show I Can't Sing!, starring Downton Abbey actor Nigel Harman, opened in London's West End on 26 March (14) to mainly positive reviews from critics, but it failed to win over the British public and suffered slow ticket sales.
Bosses of the production, which received funding from The X Factor boss, have now confirmed the curtain will come down for the final time on 10 May (14), less than two months after opening night.
Rebecca Quigley of Stage Entertainment UK, the firm behind the show, says, "We are sad to be bringing I Can't Sing! to a close but are immensely proud to have co-produced the show. The West End can be an unpredictable place as the closure of a number of high profile productions recently has shown. I Can't Sing! has had audiences on their feet night after night, four and five star reviews from the critics and an amazing company and creative team, but it seems that isn't always enough."
Making an earnest cinematic argument for the immortality of the soul and the existence of an afterlife without delving into mushy sentimentality is a difficult task for even the most gifted and “serious” of filmmakers. Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson discovered as much last year when his sappy grandiose adaptation of the ethereal bestseller The Lovely Bones opened to scathing reviews. Critics by and large tend to bristle at movie renderings of what may or may not await them in that Great Arthouse in the Sky.
And yet filmmakers seem determined to keep trying. The latest to make the attempt is Clint Eastwood who throughout his celebrated directorial career has certainly demonstrated a firm grasp of the death part of the equation. His filmography with a few notable exceptions practically revels in it: of his recent oeuvre Invictus is the only work that doesn’t deal with mortality in some significant manner. With his new film Hereafter Eastwood hopes to add immortality to his thematic resume.
The film's narrative centers on three characters each of whom has intimate experience with death and loss. Their stories in true Eastwood fashion can ostensibly be labeled Sad Sadder and Saddest: Marie (Cecile de France) is a French TV news anchor who’s haunted by disturbing flashbacks after she loses consciousness — and briefly her life — during a natural disaster; George (Matt Damon looking credibly schlubby) is a former psychic whose skills as a medium are so potent (the slightest touch from another human being triggers an instant powerful psychic connection a la Rogue from X-Men) they’ve left him isolated and alone; Marcus is a London schoolboy who retreats into a somber shell after losing his twin brother in a tragic car accident (both brothers are played rather impressibly by real-life twins Frankie and George McLaren).
Humanity offers little help to these troubled souls surrounding them with skeptics charlatans users and deadbeats none of whom are particularly helpful with crises of an existential nature. Luckily there are otherworldly options. Peter Morgan's script assumes psychics out-of-body experiences and other such phenomena to be real and legitimate but in a non-denominational Coast-to-Coast AM kind of way. Unlike Jackson’s syrupy CGI-drenched glimpses of the afterlife Eastwood’s visions of the Other Side are vague and eery — dark fuzzy silhouettes of the departed set against a white background. Only Damon’s character George seems capable of drawing meaning from them which is why he’s constantly sought out by grief-stricken folks desperate to make contact with loved ones who’ve recently passed on. He’s John Edward only real (and not a douche).
Marie and Marcus appear destined to find him as well but only as the last stop on wearisome circuitous and often heartbreaking spiritual journeys that together with George’s hapless pursuit of a more temporal connection (psychic ability it turns out can be a wicked cock-blocker) consume the bulk of Hereafter’s running time. We know the three characters’ paths must inevitably intersect but Morgan’s script stubbornly forestalls this eventuality testing our patience for nearly two ponderous and maudlin hours and ultimately building up expectations for a climax Eastwood can’t deliver at least not without sacrificing any hope of credulity.
It should be noted that Hereafter features a handful of genuinely touching moments thanks in great part to the film's tremendous cast. And its finale is refreshingly upbeat. Unfortunately it also feels forced and terribly unsatisfying. Eastwood an established master of all things tragic and forlorn struggles mightily to mount a happy ending. (Which in my opinion is much more challenging than a sad or ambiguous one.) After prompting us to seriously ponder life’s ultimate question Eastwood’s final answer seems to be: Don’t worry about it.
Former cellmates Michael (Russell) and Murphy (Costner) are leaders of a posse that plans to pull off the heist of a lifetime: robbing the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during International Elvis Week. This means of course adopting full-on spangled jumpsuits sunglasses and "thank yuh thank yuh vurry much"-es. But when Murphy turns against the crew to keep all the loot for himself Michael escapes with it instead and heads for the border to launder it. He's sidelined along the way by a dalliance with a grifter (Courteney Cox) and her young son. Meanwhile Murphy's hot on his trail.
Costner turned down the chance to play Russell's part to take on the villain instead - and he looks like he's having the time of his life. Less filled out but more amoral than his baddie in the underrated "A Perfect World " Costner bats well as a foil to Russell who shows a barely visible vulnerability under the necessary roughness. Cox to her credit does a complete 180 from her uptight role on "Friends" as the sexually aggressive con-chick Cybil. Christian Slater David Arquette and Bokeem Woodbine make small appearances as part of the Elvis crew Howie Long and Ice-T kick some tail and Kevin Pollak and the long-absent Thomas Haden Church ("Wings") provide comic relief as bumbling lawmen.
"3000 Miles to Graceland" may seem like a caper reminiscent of last month's "Snatch " except there's a lot of bloodshed particularly during the casino robbery where machine gun blasts fling people across the room to land on cha-ching!-ing slot machines. Novice director Demian Lichtenstein's music video background is evident in his Guy Ritchie-esque cuts zooms and a way-bizarre computerized scorpion fight that kicks off the movie (what was that about?). His style and the Vegas ambience give the film a kitschy edge that disappears once the guys shed their Elvis garb. Stay for the credits - you'll see a costumed Russell lip-synching in his own music video as Costner Cox and crew dance about.
Top Story: It's a Boy for Kate
Kate Hudson and husband Chris Robinson gave birth to their first child yesterday, making her mom Goldie Hawn a proud grandmother, Reuters reports. Ryder Russell Robinson weighed in at a healthy 8 pounds, 11 ounces. Hudson, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Almost Famous, has been married to former Black Crowes frontman Robinson since 2000. This is the first child for both and Hawn's first grandchild.
Minnelli Begins First Leg of Divorce
Liza Minnelli and her lawyers attended the first pretrial hearing in her divorce case, but her soon-to-be ex, David Gest, was a no show, AP reports. According to Gest's lawyer, the producer and promoter is in Hawaii getting physical therapy treatments to resolve the injuries inflicted by Minnelli during their brief marriage. Gest is seeking $10 million in the civil assault case he has filed against her in addition to the petition for divorce. Minnelli is suing for $2 million in restitution, a financial accounting, legal fees and a court order requiring Gest to keep all financial records that may pertain to her. Minnelli is the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli.
Ford Officially Divorced
Harrison Ford and his wife of nearly 20 years have officially divorced after living apart for more than three years, AP reports. Ford and his wife, screenwriter Melissa Mathison, met on the set of Apocalypse Now and married several years later. Ford's current relationship with Calista Flockhart has caused a few raised eyebrows due to their nearly 20 year age gap.
Carrey Makes Bank
Jim Carrey is the top moneymaker of 2003, according to Quigley Publishing Co., a company which polls theaters on which stars made them the most profit over the last year, Associated Press reports. The poll, which has been taken by the publishing company every year since 1932, also named Ashton Kutcher and Scarlett Johansson as future big earners for theaters. Other stars who found box office success in 2003 were Nicole Kidman, who finished second behind Carrey, followed by Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell and Renee Zellweger.
Paltrow Defends Choices
Gwyneth Paltrow is tired of all the scrutiny surrounding her life and career, AP reports. The 31-year-old actress, who won an Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love and recently married Brit rocker Chris Martin of Coldplay, tells Vanity Fair in the February issue it doesn't matter to her if she's not number one in Hollywood--her heart's in London. "I feel like in L.A. everyone is looking over their shoulder, and in London nobody does that," Paltrow says. "I'm really (expletive) good at my job, and people who are interesting and good know that, and that's all that matters."
In America Wins Top Producers Award
Jim Sheridan's semi-autobiographical story of Irish immigrants trying to make it in New York City has been tapped for the Producers Guild of America's Stanley Kramer Award for excellence in portraying relevant social issues, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film, which has also been nominated for six Independent Spirit Awards, was co-written by Sheridan's daughters Naomi and Kirsten. The award celebrates the late director, who created such seminal works as Guess Who's Coming To Dinner and Inherit the Wind. The Guild will present the award January 17 in Los Angeles, California.
Nemo Swims to Top of Annie Noms
Last year's record breaking hit Finding Nemo leads the pack at the 31st Annual Annie Awards presented by the International Animated Film Society with 12 nominations, AP reports. The awards, doled out annually, recognize accomplishments in feature-length film, television, commercials and short subjects. Awards will be given for best directing, character design, and voice acting as well as many other categories during the February 7 ceremony in Glendale, California.
Simmons Leads Voter Registration Charge
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons will record public service announcements encouraging young people to register to vote as part of an effort to register 2 million new voters in 2004 and 18 million more over the next five years, AP reports. The announcements, which will feature a number of hip-hop stars and other celebrities, will air during syndicated radio personality Doug Banks' show as part of a deal with The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, founded by Simmons. The program, "One Mind. One Vote." will launch in Times Square January 19.
Role Call: Producers To Be Re-Reproduced
The Producers, which began as a Mel Brooks film in 1968, will return to the big screen in an adaptation based on the current Broadway hit, AP reports. The film will star Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, whose recent return to their Tony Award-winning roles to packed houses ends in April. Mel Brooks will produce the new film with the play's director Susan Stroman as director. The Producers is slated for a Christmas 2005 release.