The standard biopic plotline based on the life story of Carl Brashear follows the uneducated sharecropper's son (Gooding) as he braves 1950s-era racial discrimination for the right to risk his life in one of the most dangerous occupations in the armed services. At the Navy's elite salvage school in New Jersey master diver Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) gives Brashear the "Officer and a Gentleman" treatment singling him out for special punishment at the request of the base's insane racist commander (Hal Holbrook). Will the hero overcome the obstacles in his path to becoming a master diver himself?
Gooding's glowing likability is the main factor keeping the film's saintly conception of Brashear from getting annoying fast. The one-dimensional character lacks a single flaw for an actor to grab onto but Gooding's enthusiasm is contagious (remember that Oscar speech?) and he gets surprising mileage out of it. De Niro's trademark intensity is put to only minimal use in a variation of the cantankerous drill sergeant part familiar from half the military flicks ever made.
George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food") delivers some effective if obvious action-drama in the film's first half which chronicles Brashear's tireless efforts to earn his Navy flippers. Unfortunately Scott Marshall Smith's screenplay gets a bit water-logged dealing with the hero's subsequent career both above and below the waves. (One key development closely parallels John Wayne's role as a Navy flier in another true story 1957's "The Wings of Eagles.) All this sets up a particularly weak courtroom finale reminiscent of another slew of movies including "A Few Good Men" and "Rules of Engagement."
Top Story: Man Charged With Stalking Sheryl Crow
A former Navy diver was charged Wednesday with three counts of stalking and harassing singer Sheryl Crow, Reuters reports. Ambrose Kappos, 37, of New York, was also charged with burglary for breaking into the Hammerstein Ballroom near New York's Herald Square on Monday when Crow was rehearsing for a benefit show. Bail was set at $15,000 cash or a $45,000 bond but Kappos' court-appointed lawyer said it was doubtful his client would be able to raise the money to be released. He is due back in court on Friday to learn if he has been indicted on the charges. If convicted, Kappos could face seven years in prison.
Shyamalan Boards Pi Project
Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan could make his first film outside the Walt Disney Co. banner since his supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense in 1999. According to Variety, Shyamalan is looking to adapt the survival-at-sea tale Life of Pi, the prizewinning novel by Yann Martel, for 20th Century Fox. Pi is about a deeply religious 16-year-old Indian boy en route to a new life in Canada with a Noah's Ark of animals from his father's zoo in Pondicherry when the freighter transporting him sinks. The boy escapes in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, an orangutan, a zebra with a broken leg and a hyena, and becomes convinced that his own survival hinges on the wild cat. Shyamalan reportedly connected with the project because the protagonist, Pi, hails from his birthplace--Pondicherry, Tamil-Nadu province, in India. Fox is hoping Shyamalan will make Pi his next pic after wrapping The Village (previously titled The Woods), set for release in August. The pact breaks Disney's hold on the director, whose The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs have grossed $1.3 billion worldwide for the studio.
Siegfried: Tiger Was Protecting Horn
Speaking of one whose life was affected by a tiger, Siegfried Fischbacher, half of the Las Vegas performance duo "Siegfried & Roy," said in an interview on CNN's Larry King Live Wednesday that the 600-pound white tiger was trying to help Roy Horn after the magician took a fall in the middle of a performance on Friday at the Mirage hotel-casino. "I just saw that the tiger grabbed him on the sleeve ... and Roy said, 'Let go,' and the tiger let go and Roy bent back and he slipped," Fischbacher said. "The tiger (grabbed) Roy in the neck and he pulled him back on stage." Fischbacher added that the tiger sensed heightened danger when he and an animal trainer ran to Horn's aid and suggested the animal took him backstage to protect him. Horn is in critical but stable condition at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
Roger Moore Knighted
Former James Bond actor Roger Moore was knighted by Queen Elizabeth Thursday for his work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nation Children's Fund, Reuters reports. Moore took over the role of secret agent 007 from Sean Connery in the 1973 film Live and Let Die. His last Bond film was 1985's A View to a Kill. The 75-year-old actor also had a word for fellow actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will become California's next governor. "If he does all the things that he says he will, then California will be an even better place to live in," Moore said.
Tribeca Announces Dates for Third Fest
The third annual Tribeca Film Festival will run from May 1-9, 2004 in Lower Manhattan. According to Variety, the festival announced a call for screenplay submissions to the Tribeca/Sloan development program for feature projects with a scientific or technological theme. The screenplay program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, provides financial support and mentorship over a one-year period from an advisory panel of filmmakers and experts in science and technology. Submission information for both the festival and Tribeca/Sloan program is available at www.tribecafilminstitute.org.
McCartney, Starr Attend Premiere of Harrison Tribute Pic
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving members of the Beatles, joined family and friends of George Harrison for the British premiere Wednesday of Concert for George, a filmed tribute concert for their bandmate who died of cancer nearly two years ago. "It's a great film," McCartney told The Associated Press. "It was a great night and it was lovely to take part in it and to be here with all our friends." Other guests included Eric Clapton, Robbie Coltrane and former race driver Damon Hill. Concert for George, which was performed last year at Royal Albert Hall, will have a limited theatrical release Oct. 10, and will be available on DVD Nov. 17.
Napster 2.0 Debuts in Limited Release
A new pay version of Napster debuted today in limited release almost a year after the pioneer file-swapping service was salvaged from software maker Roxio Inc. The company shelved its former online music service, pressplay, and is moving subscribers to a beta version of Napster 2.0, the AP reports. Napster 2.0 will launch with more than a half-million songs from all the major music labels and offer individual song at $1 per song and album downloads for about $10. Monthly subscription services will also be available. Roxio is betting the Napster brand will help set its service apart from other digital music retailers, including Apple Computers' iTunes, Buy.com's BuyMusic.com, RealNetworks' Rhapsody, MusicNow and MusicNet.
ABC To Air Wife-Swapping Show
ABC has agreed to air a local version of the UK reality series Wife Swap for a six-week run next summer. The show follows women from different social backgrounds who switch families for two weeks. Wife Swap, which will be renamed Trading Moms in the United Sates, has been a hit on the UK's Channel 4, drawing 5 million viewers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC had previously commissioned a pilot show from the show's producer, RDF Media, which declined to provide further details.
Group Opposes Embedded Product Placement
When judge Simon Cowell takes a sip from a red Coca-Cola cup right in th