In multicultural L.A. different households put their own spin on Turkey Day chaos: An African-American mom (Alfre Woodard) deals with her stubborn husband (Dennis Haysbert) nosy mother-in-law (Ann Weldon) and other irritants. Vietnamese immigrants (Joan Chen Francois Chau) worry that they've become alienated from their Americanized kids. A Latina matriarch (Mercedes Ruehl) faces the unwelcome return of her prodigal husband (Victor Rivers). Old-fashioned Jewish parents (Lainie Kazan Maury Chaykin) fret over a visit from their daughter (Kyra Sedgwick) and her irreverent lesbian lover (Julianna Margulies).
With substantial parts for more than a dozen actors in its diverse cast "What's Cooking?" has first-class character players spilling out of the cupboards. Ruehl criminally underused by Hollywood since her Oscar for 1991's "The Fisher King " is a stand-out delight in the juiciest of the four central mom roles. The Kazan-Chaykin-Sedgwick-Margulies team is particularly on target working the comedy in the Jewish quarter of the story.
Anglo-Indian director Gurinder Chadha ("Bhaji on the Beach") pulls off the challenging feat of weaving her mostly unrelated plotlines together without losing narrative tension - a factor that has shot down many a similarly ambitious ensemble drama. At first the modest family-movie scenarios seem to be heading in a hopelessly feel-good Hallmark Hall of Fame direction but the script (by Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges) starts to cook with some zinger plot twists in the second act. And the multistory format so often an arbitrary device in such films actually serves a thematic purpose in this case - though you'll have to wait for the cleverly set-up ending to find out what it is.
Stars approach the campaign trail
As the presidential election grows closer, stars are doing everything they can to use their power to persuade voters. The Associated Press reports Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio addressed over 400 young voters at the University of Central Florida on Tuesday, encouraging them to vote and stumping for DNC candidate John Kerry. "I believe, without a doubt, that this is the most important election of our lifetimes," the 29-year-old DiCaprio said. The other side of the campaign trail also holds some star power. Former U.S. Senator and a current star on the hit show Law and Order, Fred Thompson, believes that voters should be focusing more of their attention on George W. Bush. "The whole world is watching this election to see if the American people have what it takes to defend themselves," said Thompson. Other stars and musicians who are attempting to encourage young voters to get involved include Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard and musicians Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, and Pearl Jam.
ABC drops Miss America Pageant
After poor ratings from the September 18th airing of the Miss America Pageant, ABC declined the offer to carry the pageant for another year, the AP reports. The network has broadcasted the pageant since 1997 after NBC lost interest in 1996 after 30 years of pageant coverage. The 84-year-old pageant is also a nonprofit organization that makes over $40 million annually in scholarship aids, and oversees local pageants throughout the year. President and CEO Arthur McMaster is exploring the options the pageant has in potential networks, but does not plan to pick an option this year. "There's already been companies that have contacted us and expressed an interest," he said. I'm not going to say I'm not worried, but I think there's much more out there."
CBS holds casting call for Elvis
CBS is holding an open casting call for someone to play Elvis in an upcoming series about the former King of Rock n' Roll, Reuters reports. Those interested must be between the ages of 18 to 33 years of age, bring headshots and resumes, and be prepared to sing 10 bars of any Elvis song. The casting call will be held on November 10th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST at Sound Stage 46 at the CBS Television Studio complex in the city of Los Angeles.
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel renewed for another year
ABC announced Wednesday that Jimmy Kimmel Live has been renewed through 2005, the AP reports. The show debuted in January of 2003 and has been welcomed by late-night viewers. "I'm delighted that ABC has exhausted all other options and picked up mine for another year," Kimmel joked in a statement released by the network. Jimmy Kimmel Live has featured star guests such as Britney Spears and Billy Bob Thornton.
Band Aid planning new song for charity
The 1984 charity effort Band Aid is planning to create another version of the song "Do They Know It's Christmas", AP reports. Band Aid has approached top British acts like Coldplay, The Darkness, Dido and Robbie Williams to possibly add their musical talent to the project. Founders Bob Geldof and Midge Ure are optimistic about the project and it's success. "It's definitely going to happen. I'm very excited," Ure was quoted as saying. "This project is not just about raising money. It's about putting the focus back on Africa and the problem of famine which has not gone away." The original single helped raise over $9.4 million for famine relief in Ethiopia. The 1985 Live Aid concert also helped raise another $47 million. Almost 50 artists were to thank in making the 1980s charity effort a success.
Gilligan gets a new theme song
Grammy-nominated artists Bowling for Soup recently recorded a new theme song for the upcoming TBS reality series, The Real Gilligan's Island, The AP reports. Contestants in the upcoming reality series were cast as members of the former castaway crew in the 1960's sitcom Gilligan's Island, about a group of diverse people stranded on a tropical island. This reality series will include a real-life skipper, first mate, millionaire couple, farm girl, professor, and a movie star all working together to find their way off the deserted island. The series is set to air on TBS November 30th. Bowling for Soup was nominated in 2003 for best pop performance for "Girl All the Bad Guys Want."
Ricky Martin rallies to stop child sex abuse
Singer Ricky Martin met with U.N. ambassadors and activists Wednesday to rally against sexual exploitation of children, the AP reports. The Ricky Martin Foundation was founded 10 years ago to help children in need. "We have the voice. But we don't have the power. We cannot do it alone. ... We need you. This is slavery, and this is the year 2004," said Martin. Martin has taken up a cause championed by President Bush, who called for a global campaign to fight the trafficking and sexual abuse of children in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2003. The U.S. State Department said that millions of children are drawn into prostitution of some kind every year. "I am here to talk on behalf of the children," Martin said. "This is not about being Republican or Democrat. This is about the help that I need, that we as activists need from leaders." The luncheon was sponsored by the U.S. government and World Vision, a Christian relief organization that have just launched an ad campaign aimed at American tourists fighting against sexual tourism.