Set in the turbulent ‘60s each character in Across the Universe represents a different aspect to the unstable times. There’s naïve Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) whose eyes are opened to the possibilities of life beyond her WASPy sheltered upbringing; adventurous Jude (Jim Sturgess) who breaks away from his Liverpool working-class roots to make it as an artist in New York; and Lucy’s brother Max (Joe Anderson) a college dropout who eventually gets drafted and sent to Vietnam. There’s also Sadie (Dana Fuchs) a Janis Joplin-esque rock singer; her guitar-playing lover Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy) who hails from the riot-torn streets of Detroit; and even a burgeoning lesbian named Prudence (T.V. Carpio). They are all soon swept up into the '60s' emerging psychedelic anti-war and counterculture movements while Across the Universe lets the songs from one of the era’s most influential bands tell the story. But what drives the film is Jude and Lucy’s love for each other—and all you need is love right? You know you are in for something different when indie darling Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen) is the most recognizable star. Luckily for Across the Universe the cast of unknowns delivers--and then some. Making his film debut newcomer Sturgess is a particular standout looking very much like one of the Beatles boys in their heyday. His earnest performance as the love-struck Jude immediately hits a chord (pun intended) and he makes breaking out into a Beatles tune seem entirely natural. Wood doesn’t seem as comfortable with the vocals but the actress has a lovely voice--and of course handles Lucy’s emotional ups and downs with aplomb. All the rest of the supporting cast does a wonderful job adding their own unique reinterpretations to the songs (and yes both “Hey Jude” and “Dear Prudence” pop up). The big fun with Across the Universe however are the cameo appearances: Eddie Izzard sings “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” as a surreal circus ringleader; Joe Cocker sings “Come Together” alternating between a pimp bum and hippie; Salma Hayek takes nursing to a new level in a “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” number; and finally U2’s Bono sings “I Am the Walrus” as the Beat poet/counterculturist Dr. Robert. You haven’t experienced life until you've heard Bono sing “Goo goo g'joob.” In any original musical there is always something a little disconcerting when a character just breaks out into song even if it’s Julie Andrews standing on top of a mountain. But as with Moulin Rouge a character singing a song we all recognize--well that’s a little different. And honestly who doesn’t love Beatles music? Still director Julie Taymor (Frida) took a big chance creating a musical around the legacy that is Beatlemania. It must have been a daunting task searching through the annals of Beatles music to find just the right tunes for just the right moment--but her extremely inventive ways truly pay off. From Uncle Sam screaming “I Want You!” from a poster hanging in an Army recruiting office to Max and his college buddies running around campus belting out “With a Little Help from My Friends ” everything fits taking us on this journey of life love and self-enlightenment. Although Taymor’s forte clearly lies with the very wild and artistic most evident in Across the Universe’s psychedelic acid trips she also expertly highlights the stark reality of a turbulent time. Taymor is a romantic at heart though—a romantic who adores the Beatles. John Lennon would be proud.
Thank God, they're making it legal.
Amy Grant Christian superstar Amy Grant and country star Vince Gill, who challenged their respective squeaky-clean images when they split with their respective longtime spouses and took up with their respective selves, are set to wed, Gill's rep has confirmed. The private Nashville ceremony reportedly will take place Friday.
Grant, 39, is best known for selling boatloads of albums with reverential work such as "My Father's Eyes" and then selling boatloads of albums with the pop cross-over hit "Baby, Baby." Gill, 42, is best known for winning boatloads of awards for not-so-minor country classics such as "I Still Believe in You."
The two met in 1993. At the time, Grant was married to songwriter and talk-show host Gary Chapman; Gill was wed to Sweethearts of the Rodeo singer Janis Gill. By 1997, the Gills' marriage was over. And in June, the Grant-Chapman union officially went under.
Grant and Gill, who'd been rumored to be an item for years, went public with their relationship in the fall. It was a relationship, they said, that was strictly above board until they were both free.
Says Grant of Gill: "We got along like two peas in a pod and made no bones about it."
BURN, LEO, BURN: Isn't it enough that "The Beach" bombed? Not for environmentalists in Thailand. The tree-huggers, miffed for months over the way they said the Leonardo DiCaprio production messed with their beach, lit into the flick today at its Thai premiere.
The high point (low point?) of the event was the guy who donned a Leo mask and then pretended to commit suicide. Lest you think that the malcontents were being plain mean, let it be pointed out that they were really just trying to be, you know, symbolic. According to the environmentalists, the real Leo should be so ashamed of the way "The Beach" crew treated Thai beaches during last year's location shoot that he should want to hurt himself or something.
In the end, the charity screening did go on, and, as far as we know, the real Leo (who was not present) did not hurt himself or something. Of course, he might still want to if he gets a look at the box-office charts. Through last weekend, "The Beach" had earned an all-washed-up $36.9 million at domestic theaters.
JACKO WORLD: Michael Jackson isn't giving up his dream of providing fun and merriment to the children of Eastern Europe. The entertainer next week will visit Polish officials to renew talks about opening a theme park in Warsaw, it's been announced. Jackson has been circling Poland since 1996, but his initial plans to build a $500 million complex there were scrapped due to local protests.
BUST-ED: Now available for viewing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Earth, Wind & Fire ("Boogie Wonderland"), the Lovin' Spoonful ("Do You Believe in Magic") and the Moonglows ("Please Send Me Someone to Love"). All these artists and more, including legendary rock god, um, Nat King Cole, were inducted in ceremonies Monday in New York. (The actual hall is located in Cleveland.) Look for TV coverage of the all-star induction party Wednesday on cable's VH-1.