The first Santa Clause had a somewhat clever premise on how an ordinary guy can become Santa Claus just by putting on the red suit while the second Clause was about finding a Mrs. Claus. What’s the third clause? The Escape Clause which allows anyone who is Santa the option to give it all up and become a mortal man again. Of course Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) aka the current Santa has no intentions of leaving the job. But his lovely wife Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell) is expecting their first child and missing home a great deal so Scott has to juggle having his in-laws (Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret) come to the North Pole--which he has to disguise as Canada to keep the “Secret of Santa” alive--with getting ready for Christmas. It’s kind of hectic. And throwing a huge wrench in the whole deal is the envious Jack Frost (Martin Short). Relegated as the “opening act” to Christmas Frost wants his own gig and sabotages Scott at every turn in order to steal the job away from him. There’s no nipping at your nose with this guy; it’s all-out war. Allen makes no apologies for his career. Why should he? He’s been moderately successful playing everyday dads in Disney comedies displaying the right mix of milquetoast-iness and humor. Plus as Scott/Santa he also gets to be sentimental. I just wonder if he still wouldn’t like to do something more cutting edge? Short on the other hand never could find the right kind of starring vehicle for himself but instead has created some hilarious supporting characters (if you don’t believe me rent The Big Picture). Jack Frost is another one to add to the list. The comedian has way too much fun playing the nasty ice man with steely blue eyes a smart--if frosty--three-piece suit and who gets to say lines like “I invented ‘Chill!’” Mitchell (TV’s Lost) reprises her role as the sweet-as-pie Mrs. Claus and has some nice moments with Scott. And what a surprise to see Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret in this! They are perfect as the meddling in-laws especially Arkin who finds everything wrong with Scott and his “toy factory.” Buena Vista didn’t feel it was necessary to pre-screen Santa Clause 3 for critics. They probably believe the audiences for this franchise is already built in and they don’t need jaded critics slamming the film for being silly and meaningless. Smart. But as much as it pains me to say it Santa Clause 3 directed by Michael Lembeck (who did Santa Clause 2) really isn’t that awful. Yes it’s all terribly predictable with the schmaltz so thick you could cut it with a knife. But there’s also something surprisingly endearing about these movies. They have always provided a sort of warm family-friendly feel without too much forced circumstances—and most importantly they are legitimate Christmas movies--even its being released just as we are putting away the Halloween decorations. Honestly I’d take a Santa Clause 3 over a Christmas with the Kranks (sorry Tim Allen) any day.
Elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) who once served under the great Alexander (Colin Farrell) narrates the life story of the man the myth the legend--the son of the ambitious King Philip (Val Kilmer) who surpassed his father at every level and charged into the farthest reaches of the world. From early childhood in Macedonia we see where Alexander gets his drive--mostly from his vengeful snake-lovin' mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who urges her son to take charge as well from his tutor Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). Even in the taming of his unbreakable horse Bucephalas at 10 years old Alexander's destiny is evident. The heart of the film lies in Persia which Alexander conquers in one of the most studied military battles of all time. Alexander spends a great deal of time there--taking in the culture claiming its riches and marrying a Bactrian princess Roxane (Rosario Dawson)--much to the chagrin of his Macedonian generals who are stuck in this foreign land with their king. Despite this success Alexander grows restless and turns his attention to the rest of the world including the unexplored regions of India. With his army stretched thin and his Macedonian troops longing for home Alexander presses them one campaign too far. Succumbing to a mysterious illness at age 33 Alexander dies never quite finding what he so desperately searched for.
Although some may scoff at casting the Irish actor in the lead Farrell does an admirable job playing the tortured hero blond wig and all. He exudes plenty of wide-eyed fury and intensity as Alexander the warrior balanced by the controlled calculation of a hyper-effective military commander although he isn't nearly as effective as the idealistic pre-world-conqueror Alexander as he is spiraling down into the haunted angst-ridden Alexander at the end of his obsessive crusade. Casting Jolie as Olympias is a stroke of genius. Sure Jolie can play a smart and beautiful woman in her sleep but her beauty is surpassed only by the power she imbues as Alexander's bitter yet loving mother; she's as hypnotic as the snakes she carries around. Kilmer relishes his role as Alexander's father Philip in all of his grotesque wine-soaked glory. Powerful driven and battle-scarred Kilmer's Philip knows precisely what he wants and matches Jolie's quiet intensity with the raw aggressive masculinity of a warrior king who is far more comfortable in his armor than a toga. In the supporting roles Hopkins is great as always this time in the thankless role of the narrator while Dawson plays Roxane with a ferocity that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Standout Jared Leto also turns in a concentrated performance as Hephaestion Alexander's long-time companion boyhood friend and the person who loves Alexander the best. (And we do mean love.)
Alexander is Oliver Stone at his best. An Alexander nut for most of his life the director gives us a film that--even in its loooong three-hour form--continuously holds your attention especially its intense and bloody battle scenes. I mean honestly once you've fought against an elephant in armor the plain old sword-and-shield skirmishes pale in comparison. Alexander also possesses a great breadth of visuals: Alexandria's peace Pella's tension Babylon's opulence and India's richness. Yet as wonderful as the landscapes are it's personal interactions and internal politics that drive the story--and of course Stone's penchant for conspiracy theories as he more than insinuates Alexander was poisoned by his enemies rather than dying of an "unknown" illness. But a problem still remains: Alexander's life was so huge and he did so much that it's almost impossible to encapsulate it effectively into one film. Stone instead has to focus on what he thinks is the most important namely Alexander's renowned conquests while allowing the pressure cooker in which the young conqueror grew up--the triangle of mother father and son--come through in the decisions he makes later in life. For those few of us who have studied Alexander Stone has made this film especially for us. If you haven't spent any time reading Arrian and the other histories this excellent film might just inspire you to do so.
How do you sell a really big summer movie if all the good guys, including your major stars, die at the end? (At least Kate Winslet's Rose Dewitt Bukater, if not poor Leo, survived the "Titanic" !)
When the film is Warner Bros.' "The Perfect Storm," which opens later this month, stars George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg have to take a back seat to the movie's real star – the storm itself.
At least that's how Warner Bros.' marketing campaign has lined up its ducks. In the print ads, trailers, TV ads, Web and radio promotions, it's the storm, storm, storm (and loud she is!) they're pushing. There's barely a glimpse of George and Mark, who were seen together last year in "Three Kings."
This marketing manoeuvering for "The Perfect Storm" was surely tricky, especially since the huge marquee value of Clooney and Wahlberg had to be devalued. The film is based on Sebastian Junger's big bestseller of the same title about the real-life 1991 storm that claimed all six lives aboard the Gloucester, Mass. fishing vessel Andrea Gail. Millions of readers already know what happened to the fisherman.
So, while the storm may not have been as "perfect" and infamous as the iceberg that got the Titanic, there's plenty of awareness out there that "The Perfect Storm" has a bummer of an ending. Hence, the savvy marketing that has made The Storm the star (new Oscar category, Best Storm?).
When it blows into theaters June 30th, "The Perfect Storm," like the storm it depicts, will be huge. Director Wolfgang Petersen, who so brilliantly delivered life underwater in the German U-boat blockbuster "Das Boot," will show us what he can do above the waves. And those waves can be 100' high, a whole lot taller than Clooney and Wahlberg.
ALLEY SPAWNS STAR?:The New York New Media Assn.'s recent panel, "Entertainment Online: Are We Having Fun Yet?," made two things perfectly clear: No, we are not having fun yet, and, no, we are not making money yet.
Nor was there any consensus about what "entertainment" actually is. In fact, the real news last Tuesday was that high-profile Alley watcher and media maven Jason McCabe Calacanis, one of the evening's not-having-fun-yet panelists, might become a movie star. But more on that later.
Panel moderator and L.A. Times journo Leah Gentry kept hammering the distinguished panel, which included Calacanis, XM Satellite Radio President and CEO Hugh Panero, party animal and Pseudo founder Josh Harris, and gamester Greg Costikyan, with the question "How do you make money with entertainment content?" Only Panero's subscription-based venture, which will deliver a great variety of digitally-crisp radio channels to cars, suggested a viable business model, except that XM's "fun" is down the road, so to speak, since the venture has yet to launch its satellites.
Unfortunately, that knotty question of fun which was to be the focus of the evening's discussion never even got addressed until an audience member – no doubt wanting to get his money's worth (tickets began at $15 a pop) -- posed the embarrassing question during Q&A. Only one panelist, "fun" guy Harris, dared wrestle with the audacious inquiry by confessing that his idea of fun on the Net is playing Solitaire on his Windows desktop.
So what about all these short films, games, flash animations, etc. spinning around the Web? Gamemeister Costikyan, who wrote the book "The Future of Online Games," kept waxing enthusiastic about gaming's popularity and "stickiness" on the Web (So many people do it! The Web's interactive capabilities make games a natural! Players keep coming back!). Still, Greg didn't show us the money.
So while matters of money and fun were left in the dust as panelists kept emphasizing the new medium's infancy (Look how long cable took to catch on!), the real "entertainment" and "fun" news of the evening was broken by Calacanis, who announced that he has a speaking role in Wayne Wang's upcoming, digitally-captured feature "Center of the World."
Calacanis did not discuss plot or his role but allowed that he also contributed to the screenplay, which Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt wrote.
So what is "Center of the World" about? According to Artisan Entertainment, which is producing with Redeemable Features and gave us that little item known as "The Blair Witch Project," "Center..." is in the tradition of such ultra-steamy films as "Last Tango in Paris," "9 ½ Weeks," and "In the Realm of the Senses."
The story's hero, played by Peter Sarsgaard ("Boys Don't Cry"), is a young computer wizard in San Francisco who has just become an IPO multimillionaire. Apparently he drops some of this newly-won coin at a chic club where he meets a beautiful stripper. Immediately attracted to one another, they take off for three days in Las Vegas where they explore the limits of their sexuality and the nature of passion.
Hopefully they keep their cell phones off and hopefully ever-inquisitive Web Watcher Calacanis stays in character and doesn't ruin their offline onscreen fun.
A MATTER OF 'SURVIVAL'?: As the insatiable appetite for reality-based television becomes more of a, well, reality, producers are frantically scurrying for the Next Next Thing in this exploding genre. And Buzz/Saw radar may have picked up some news-breaking signals regarding a new series.
The reality craze derives from early TV's game shows, gained impetus with PBS's "American Family," and really got going with Court TV, MTV's "The Real World," Robin Leach's leering "Rich and Famous" series, and E! Entertainment's coverage of how we party and have fun.
Cable's growing hunger for things real is even taking us inside the human body as a number of shows feature actual medical procedures. And PBS is back in the game with "1900 House."
Now, comes reality's biggest audience-winning coup. CBS's new "Survivor" series, with its weekly look at a cross-section of regular folk marooned on a island and chowing down on rats or live worm-like bugs, just trounced ABC's "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire." This week marks the season premiere of "The Real World" and later this summer comes CBS's "Big Brother," another import from Europe, that keeps constant surveillance over a group of people packed into a house from which, except for one person, they will, one by one, be voted out by audiences.
But, could a mysterious new series called "Ship Mates" ("Noah's Love Ark" and "Shipboard Romance" are other titles under consideration), uh, blow "Survivor," "Big Brother," the lot of em out of the water?
The alleged series combines four of America's biggest crazes -- reality programming, luxury cruise ships, fast and easy money, and the Internet! -- with the profound human need to be loved, the omnipresent tingle of real paranoia, and that old perennial sex.
Throw in for good measure Big Stars and a whiff of an already proven TV classic ("The Love Boat") and, voila! You have "Noah's Love Ark" (our preferred title).
Quite simply, "Noah's Love Ark" brings twenty singles together in the sealed-off, totally opulent first class area of a mega-cruise ship for two weeks. The ten men and ten women, who do not use their real names and will be totally isolated from the outside world, will eat sumptuous meals, play a series of shipboard games and indulge in a variety of networking and entertainment activities until they pair off.
Audiences will participate by predicting the results on the Net. The first few to identify who pairs off with whom wins. And the twenty participants have a chance to win big if they can identify -- the Big Phony among them!
This is where the paranoia comes in. "Noah's Love Ark" pro ucers will recruit a budding actor to play one of the love-hungry singles. They will invent a character he or she will have to maintain throughout the trip. Whoever of the twenty first spots the actor and successfully "outs" him/her is the on-board winner.
Of course, the show's Big Stars will be flown in to a port city to be brought on board for a day or two to entertain the troops, just like on other major cruise ships. As the cruise industry gets more competitive, companies will be dying to show off their boats and will be happy to make them available to "Noah's..." producers for free. So even the show's producers come up winners!
And of course, the concept allows for tons of variations: gay cruises, ethnic cruises, yuppie cruises, cruises for antique lovers who are single, cruises for widows and widowers or Net junkies who'd have to give up their habit for a few weeks. In "reality," it could go on and on. And so could we...