Horton Hears a Who may not be as high-profile as say The Cat in the Hat or How the Grinch Stole Christmas but it is equally beloved. Thankfully the script doesn’t overcomplicate things but rather keeps to a basic theme of acceptance and staying true to yourself no matter what the consequences. The story centers on one particularly sweet and imaginative elephant named Horton (Jim Carrey) living in the jungle of Nool who hears a faint cry coming from a tiny speck of dust floating through the air. Since only he can hear it because of his super-giant ears Horton quickly finds out it’s an entire city called Whoville nestled deep within the speck. And because “a person’s a person no matter how small ” this gives Horton the justification for transporting said speck now resting on a clover to a safer spot despite the ridicule and threats from his fellow Nool denizens. Meanwhile the mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell) in constant communication with Horton is having difficulty convincing the town's people they might be in danger of being squashed--or eaten or blown away into the far reaches. But the mayor shouldn’t be worried; Horton’s motto--“an elephant’s faithful 100 percent”--means the kindly pachyderm will stop at nothing to accomplish his task. Jim Carrey as a childlike wildly imaginative elephant? Steve Carell as a furry figurehead who likes being everybody’s friend? Imagine that. They both probably could have played it straight without the animation and it would have worked--but the CGI certainly adds to their performances. As a Seuss regular Carrey’s usual manic behavior is well-harnessed within the extra folds of elephant skin and Horton’s optimistic outlook is infectious. For example he doesn’t exactly know what 'ASAP' means but he’s pretty sure it means “Act Swiftly Awesome Pachyderm!” That might just be a better acronym. Carell as Mr. Mayor of Whoville is also an upbeat fellow who cherishes his job his cute wife (Amy Poehler) his 96 daughters and especially his only son Jo Jo (Jesse McCartney) but when it comes time to save the town the mayor is all action. Also included in the A-list cast is Seth Rogen as a hyperactive rodent-type and Horton’s BFF; Will Arnett as a molting evil vulture; and Carol Burnett as the snooty Kangaroo Nool jungle’s resident naysayer and mob instigator. It’s just another collection of eclectic voices that work well together. Animating Dr. Seuss is a definitely the key to a successful big-screen adaptation which up to this point hasn’t been done before. One has to wonder why. Yes seeing Jim Carrey decked out in green fur as the Grinch was quite a spectacle--even Mike Myers as the Cat in the Hat took some initiative. But seriously what better way to re-create Dr. Seuss than with CGI? Veteran Pixar animator Jimmy Hayward (Monsters Inc. Toy Story 2) and newcomer Steve Martino take the helm with Horton Hears a Who and paint us all the wacky and wonderful sights and sounds of a Seuessian world. The animals in the jungle are certainly different with stripes and spots and colors not generally found in such an environ while Whoville finally looks like the real thing rather than a set design straight from an amusement park. There's even an homage to standard 2-D animation particularly Japanime when Horton fantasizes himself a martial arts hero. Classic stuff. Simply there’s really no way they could go back to live-action Dr. Seuss when there are no limits to the imagination he inspires with animation.
Martin Scorsese's gangster movie The Departed and road comedy Little Miss Sunshine walked away with the top prizes at the Writers Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles last night.
William Monahan won the Best Adapted Screenplay award for The Departed, while Michael Arndt collected Best Original Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine.
Best Documentary Screenplay went to Amy Berg for Deliver Us from Evil.
Elsewhere, The Sopranos writers Mitchell Burgess, David Chase, Diane Frolov, Robin Green, Andrew Schneider, Matthew Weiner and Terence Winter won the Best Dramatic Television Series award.
The Office writers Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Brent Forrester, Ricky Gervais, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, Stephen Merchant, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur and Gene Stupnitsky won the Best Comedy Television Series award.
Ugly Betty writers Veveronica Becker, Oliver Goldstick, Silvio Horta, Sarah Kucserka, Sheila Lawrence, Cameron Litvack, Myra Jo Martino, Jim Parriott, Marco Pennette, Dailyn Rodriguez and Don Todd won Best New Television Series.
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We meet the two very unlikely sisters while each are having sex. Rose Feller (Toni Collette) is a successful lawyer who is sleeping with her boss and thinking of ways it can improve her career. Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) is a party girl and at her 10-year high school reunion--after trying to have a fling in a bathroom stall--she ends up puking instead. Inevitably Maggie gets kicked out of her dad and stepmother's house and winds up on the doorstep of her sister. The Feller girls were close once when they were young girls especially after their mentally unstable mother died. But now their grown-up personalities clash rather dramatically. And when Maggie seriously crosses the line by seducing Rose's new boyfriend the straw is broken. Forced out Maggie stumbles upon some birthday cards from a long-lost grandmother and decides to go hit her up for cash. Turns out Grandma Ella (Shirley MacLaine) lives in a senior citizen's community in Florida that gets its humor from Golden Girls re-runs. Maggie may ingratiate herself within this new environment but isn't any more redeemed by reconnecting with Ella. She still acts like a petulant child. But rather than throwing her out Ella along with the gang of old folk forces Maggie to take some responsibility.
Collette (The Sixth Sense) is fantastic as the frumpy pudgy Philadelphia lawyer who gives up everything so she can walk dogs and lead a simpler life. But she's done this many times before--and honestly is so much better than Muriel's Wedding. Diaz (my personal favorite Charlie's Angel) doesn't need to stretch too far to play a conniving ditz with a heart. This is her There's Something About Mary role albeit a tad more screwed-up with a sister and lost grandma. So that leaves MacLaine as the saving grace for any worthwhile acting in this movie. Despite the obvious shuffleboard clichés--and the occasional leers at Diaz by the old guys around the pool--when the old folk are around the film gets lively and tolerable believe it or not. MacLaine leads the way with the quips and barbs but in a more subtle way than we are used to from this usually eccentric actress. The supporting cast of cranky cronies have some great moments especially veteran actor Norman Lloyd as the blind professor who teaches Maggie a thing or two about manners trust and family.
If this were Nora Ephron directing that would have been one thing but coming from Curtis Hanson the Oscar-winner who gave us L.A. Confidential it just doesn't mesh. Hanson can do quirky (Wonder Boys) he can do adventure (The River Wild) he can do hard-hittin' rap stories (8 Mile) and he can even do scary (Hand That Rocks the Cradle) but why in the world would he attempt a saccharine-soaked female family story that threatens to be a Crimes of the Heart tear-jerker? Screenwriter Susannah Grant who adapted In Her Shoes from Jennifer Weiner's popular bestseller of the same name also wrote Erin Brockovich and 28 Days. She understands strong female characters but there's still a major layer of sugar coating that Hanson can't scrape off. He doesn't tone anything down from Grant's script--not the overly cute dogs nor the embarrassing bridal shower nor the expected moments of guilt-tripping between the ladies. Instead he plods through the paint-by-number script and wraps it all up nicely into a crowd-pleasing film that is ultimately forgettable.
In a mechanized world an imaginative young inventor Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) wants to be as famous as his hero the greatest inventor of all time Mr. Bigweld (voiced by Mel Brooks). With his father's "follow your dreams and never give up" ringing in his ears Rodney leaves his small town and sets out to the big bad Robot City to meet his idol and show him his invention. Once there Rodney meets the Rusties a ragtag group of street-smart bots lead by the wacky Fender (voiced by Robin Williams) who know the ropes. Rodney finds out that Bigweld has gone into seclusion and Robot City is being taken over by an ambitious robot named Ratchet (voiced by Greg Kinnear) whose motto is "Why Be You When You Could Be New?" Ratchet soon halts production on parts for the older robots. If the bot folk can't afford the new stuff they are gathered up and sent to an underground chop shop where Rachet's hideous mother Madame Gasket (voiced by Jim Broadbent) melts them down and turns them into metal for new parts. But the evil duo's plan is soon spoiled when Rodney and the Rusties start fixing the older models and decide the must get the reclusive Bigweld back on track to fight back.
How can you go wrong with such a fabulous cast? They all do a great job including McGregor as the earnest Rodney Copperbottom; Brooks as the soft-hearted boss Big Weld; Kinnear as the vain and conniving Rachet; Broadbent as the repugnantly evil Gasket; Jennifer Coolidge as the hilarious and lovable big-booty bot Aunt Fanny; Halle Berry as the smart and seductive executive bot Cappy; and Amanda Bynes as the perky Piper determined to prove herself. But once again voice over veteran Robin Williams steals the show as the broke down and chaotic robot Fender. With his hundreds of voices and impersonations animated films fit the frenetic Williams to a tee making him the undisputed king.
Blue Sky Animation and Oscar-winning director Chris Wedge who brought us the delightful Ice Age are back turning in another stellar animated effort. Robots is rivet-ing transporting the audience into a world of mechanics electronics and robotics. The best scene is when Rodney gets to Robot City and goes on a roller coaster "cab" ride with Fender through a maze of whirligigs and gadgets. Good fun. Added into the mix is a groovin' soundtrack that makes you want to get up and dance with the characters while snickering at the songs' innuendos. Overall Robots incorporates vibrant colors above the ground with dark rusted images below to bring to life this lively world of metal folk.
Top Story: Madonna's Label Sues Warner Music
Madonna's Maverick Recording Co., who handles such artists as Michelle Branch and Alanis Morissette, has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Warner Music Thursday, seeking $200 million in damages, Reuters reports. The suit, which alleges fraud and false accounting, stems from a year-long dispute between Maverick and Warner and predates the recent sale of Warner Music to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. In the joint venture between the two companies, Warner has the option of buying out the 60 percent of Maverick it doesn't own when the partnership deal expires at the end of the year, but sources say negotiations broke down when Madonna's price was too steep for Warner, Reuters reports. Madonna's lawsuit also comes one day after Warner Music filed a claim in a Delaware court asking a judge to rule it had met its commitments in its deal with Maverick and that any claims to the contrary were without merit, Reuters reports. Calling the Delaware lawsuit a "sneak attack," Maverick's attorney Bert Fields told Reuters he was doubtful the issues would be resolved out of court. "We've been trying to get these people to settle for a year now and we don't think we'll have any success in the future," said Fields.
Spears Tops Aussie Mag's Sexy Women List
Britney Spears was named the No. 1 sexiest woman by the Australian and New Zealand magazine FHM, The Associated Press reports. The pop princess was followed by Australian singer/actress Delta Goodrem, while Aussie singer/actress Kylie Minogue came in fifth.
Swank-y Calvin Klein Ads
Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank has signed on to be the exclusive celebrity model for the Calvin Klein Sensual Support intimate apparel collection, AP reports. "Hilary is the perfect choice for this campaign. She looks absolutely beautiful and easily conveys the sensuality that we want," Kim Vernon, senior vice president of global advertising and communications for Calvin Klein Inc., said in a statement Wednesday. The new collection will be available in July.
Tribeca Film Fest Announces Slate
The Tribeca Film Festival unveiled its lineup for its third annual New York event, including six international premieres and 10 U.S. bows. The festival opens May 1 with Garry Marshall's Raising Helen, starring Kate Hudson and runs through May 9. Other films featured include Dear Frankie, starring Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler; Whore starring Daryl Hannah and Denise Richards; and Poster Boy, starring Karen Allen and Michael Lerner.
Alias' Garner Gets a Sister
Mia Maestro (Frida) is set to join ABC's Alias, playing star Jennifer Garner's sister. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Maestro will appear in the last three episodes of the show this season and is expected to return as a regular next season. In other pilot casting news, William Devane has joined an untitled ABC family comedy about a man (Tom Everett Scott) and his estranged father (Devane) who become dads at the same time.
Former Wiseguy To Host Wiseguy Show
Actor Vincent Pastore, best known for playing the ill-fated Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero on HBO's The Sopranos, will host The Wiseguy Show, a weekly celebration of Italian-American culture for Sirius Satellite Radio, AP reports. Pastore will interview guests from the Italian-American community, discuss world events, review movies, perform skits, give sex advice and interact with listeners as well as play music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Jerry Vale and other classic crooners. The show premieres Saturday.
Costello Writes the Books
Taking his popular song "Everyday I Write the Book" to heart, singer-songwriter Elvis Costello cinched a deal with publisher Simon & Schuster to write two books, Reuters reports. The first, due in the fall of 2005, promises to be a work of "intimate narrative chapters taking their cue from the styles, themes and characters" found in Costello's lyrics, the publisher said. The second book, titled How to Play the Guitar, Sing Loudly and Impress Girls ... or Boys, is described as a "work of comic philosophy," Reuters reports.
Role Call: Beckham Bends Panther; Bridges Becoming Mogul
Soccer star David Beckham is in negotiations to make his feature film debut in the upcoming comedy remake The Pink Panther. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the story follows bumbling French detective Inspector Clouseau (Steve Martin) as he investigates the murder of a famous soccer coach and the theft of the Pink Panther diamond and also stars Kevin Kline, Beyonce Knowles and Jean Reno. Beckham would play a cameo role as a soccer player, natch…Jeff Bridges is set to star in the indie The Moguls, a comedy about a small town that bands together to make a porno film. Writer Michael Traeger (Dead Man on Campus) will make his directorial debut.
October 19, 2001 5:57am EST
The film opens with prison warden Colonel Winter (Robert Redford) greeting the highly respected General Irwin (James Gandolfini) at the start of his 10-year sentence for disobeying a presidential order. When they meet Irwin makes a snide remark about Winter--a non combatant--proudly showcasing military trinkets and memorabilia in his office. The comment instantly touches off a power war between the two which ends with Irwin threatening to take over the prison and flying the American flag upside down--a symbol that the castle has fallen. Winter rises to the challenge and the two begin their strategic plotting. Irwin wins the respect of his fellow inmates in an overly drawn scene where he is forced to carry large stones from one pile to another in the prison courtyard and forms an army of inmates using clichéd chess tactics to demonstrate his assault plans. Winter meanwhile watches from his cozy office overlooking the courtyard as if he was watching a reality series on a big-screen TV.
The highly regarded General Irwin is a simple solemn type which unfortunately is what is fundamentally wrong with the film. While Redford does the brooding thing quite well the script never calls for him to do anything more than that. James Gandolfini takes on the role of prison warden Colonel Winter with fitting simplicity. He accentuates Winter's dumb-thug persona by over-enunciating his words and speaking in an unnaturally slow manner. Redford and Gandolfini both churn out great performances but it would have been more rewarding had the script called for their characters to be more well-rounded. Steve Burton plays Winter's right hand man Captain Peretz convincingly considering what few lines he has. His body language facial expressions and dialogue manage to convey his character's thoughts even when his lines don't.
Directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender) The Last Castle is a well-paced story without a dull moment. It concludes with a dramatic and exciting climax but the problem is it's just too simple. While it's easy to get caught up in the story it's hard to buy how easily the inmates are able to take control of such a heavily guarded maximum-security prison. Using cafeteria trays as shields is one thing but hurling stones using a giant catapult that somehow went unnoticed by prison security is hard to swallow. So is the fact that these inmates a group of hardened criminals cooperate so easily with hardly any friction. While it could have been a very emotional story it fails because the characters are one-dimensional and never really explored including the two main characters played by Redford and Gandolfini. One is a great strategist and the other draconian but viewers are left to guess why and how they got that way.