Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
Grammy winning R&B singer R. Kelly was arrested in Florida today on child pornography charges after investigators said they found 12 photographs of a nude girl at the singer's home, The Associated Press reports. He is being held at a Miami-Dade county jail on $12,000 bond. Kelly, whose first name is Robert, is already facing child pornography charges in Illinois. He has been out on bond and awaiting trial on 21 counts of child pornography in Chicago on charges stemming from a videotape authorities say shows him having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Kelly has denied that charge.
According to a report by the Bloomfield Township, Mich., police, Aretha Franklin did not cooperate with authorities investigating a fire that destroyed her 10,000-square-foot mansion on Oct. 25. The police document says officers were rebuffed repeatedly while trying to interview Franklin--who is not a suspect--after the fire occurred, Reuters reports. On the morning of the fire Franklin twice told detectives by phone that she was "too tired" to talk and would call back, according to the report. When she didn't call back, detectives left a message and were contacted by her attorney, who said Franklin declined to be interviewed because she "was upset with the way this matter was being handled." A publicist for the 60-year-old singer, however, said in a statement last week that Franklin and her attorneys have been "cooperative from the very beginning."
Bring on the junk food! Renée Zellweger, who won a Golden Globe award for her performance in Chicago, says she is prepared to gain weight to reprise her comic role as Londoner Bridget Jones in The Edge of Reason, the sequel to 2001's popular Bridget Jones's Diary. "I'm ready, willing and able," the 33-year-old actress told the London Times. "Bridget's a character I really identify with. I'll put the weight back on with pleasure." Zellweger gained about 20 pounds to play the role of Bridget in the first film.
Pop singer Anastacia said Tuesday that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, Reuters reports. "My doctor was insistent that I have a mammogram (during a routine checkup last week) even though it was not required," the 29-year-old singer said in a statement. "He saved my life." Anastacia, whose debut album, Not That Kind, was released in 2000 and became an international hit, also suffers from Crohn's disease, a chronic intestinal illness she was diagnosed with at age 13.
Warner Bros. announced Tuesday that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will be released on home video April 11. According to Variety, the studio will release the DVD version of the film in many countries on the same day, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. Chamber of Secrets has grossed more than $800 million at theaters worldwide.
Fox Broadcasting Co. will debut some of its new shows in the summer instead of fall, the AP reports. "One of the lessons that reality television has taught us is that summer is a really good time to launch big franchises," said Fox chairman Sandy Grushow. "It's a better time than all six networks launching within the same week or two in late September." Besides reality-based shows, the network will also launch new comedies and dramas in the summer, but new episodes of its more established shows such as 24 and Malcolm in the Middle will debut after the baseball season.
Although oldest Bee Gee Barry Gibb had said the band would go on as a tribute to brother Maurice, who died in Miami earlier this month, Maurice's twin Robin said Tuesday the Bee Gees are finished. "In Maurice's name we would respect that and not be the Bee Gees any more," Robin told Britain's GMTV television show. "Anything (Barry and I) do, we will do together, but it'll be as brothers and not under the name of the Bee Gees."
Capitol Records announced that Lisa Marie Presley will release her first solo album, To Whom It May Concern, in stores April 8, People.com reports. Presley, who first signed a deal with Capitol in 1998, wrote all the songs on the CD. According to a press release, Presley's songs will run the gamut from "the brutal self-analysis of 'S.O.B.,' with its sinewy rock imprint, to the broken-hearted loss of 'Nobody Noticed It.'.... And in the dusky textures of 'Lights Out,' she hauntedly [sic] confronts the dark side of her heritage."
DMC of the rap group Run-DMC said that although no arrests have been made nearly three months after the killing of DJ Jam Master Jay, he's glad police haven't given up on the investigation. "You know a lot of people think that cops are the enemy and they really don't care. But the police that are working on Jay's death are doing an excellent job," said DMC, whose real name is Darryl McDaniels, in an interview with MTV News Tuesday. "You got hope that if the cops don't catch them, the streets will."