Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
New Oscar rules ban negative ad campaigns
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued some new rules yesterday aimed at curtailing negative Oscar campaigning, including a formal ban on ads by studios trashing the competition. According to The Associated Press, the move is a response to DreamWorks' full-page ad in Daily Variety last season pushing House of Sand and Fog's Shohreh Aghdashloo for best supporting actress in a way that was perceived as a slap at fellow nominee Renee Zellweger from Cold Mountain. The Academy denounced the ad, which included clips from newspaper and TV critics saying that Aghdashloo deserved to win the Oscar but that Zellweger was more likely to get it, as an attack. DreamWorks apologized and later bought a special ad congratulating Zellweger on her win. Another rule addressed complaints from Oscar voters outside of Los Angeles and New York who say they have trouble seeing all the films necessary for an informed ballot. AMPAS has now authorized studios to send voters free passes or coupons, which members will be able to redeem at commercial theaters. The issue was part of last season's debate over whether studios should discontinue sending voters screeners, or tapes and DVDs of current movies.
CSI stars let go from show
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation stars George Eads and Jorja Fox were fired from the show amid a salary dispute with the show's producers. Sources told Reuters Eads and Fox, who have been on the show since its debut four years ago, had approached CBS about a salary increase for the 2004-2005 season. CBS reportedly offered a modest take-it-or-leave-it raise, and asked the cast to send in a formal letter assuring the network they would report to work as scheduled for the start of production on the show's fifth season. It is unclear whether Eads and Fox had sent the letters, but both actors were sent a termination letter soon afterward. Sources said CBS brass stood their ground because of the growing number of cases where actors with contractual obligations to a show refuse to return to work until their salaries are renegotiated. Eads and Fox reportedly had two more seasons to go on their existing contracts.
Fox network denies ripping off rival network shows
Fox is denying allegations from rival networks NBC and ABC that it is copying their ideas for new reality shows, calling the accusations baseless and unacceptable. Fox came under fire after it unveiled a boxing reality series with Oscar de la Hoya after NBC announced its boxing series featuring Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone. Fox also announced a mate-swapping show after ABC said it would have a spouse-trading series. But Fox programming chief Gail Berman defended the network. "Just like scripted programming, the unscripted world has reached a point where multiple projects with similar themes are being pitched simultaneously," she said. "This is the way television works. There's nothing new about this. This is a competitive business."
Thought you were too old for American Idol? Think again
Fox TV announced Thursday the age limit for American Idol contenders has been raised from 26 to 28. The network said they were prompted to raise the maximum age after seeing too many impressive older people turned away during the audition process, the AP repprts. The minimum remains at 16. Auditions for the fourth season of American Idol begin Aug. 4 in Cleveland. Other tryouts, which will continue through Oct. 5, will be held in Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Fla.; St. Louis, Mo.; New Orleans, Las Vegas, Anchorage and San Francisco.
Media's appeal in Jackson case delayed
An appeal by 11 news media organizations requesting access to court information in the Michael Jackson child molestation case went unheard for a week because a clerk refused to place it on the court docket, the AP reports. Attorney Dominic Lanza said it took until Thursday to get the matter resolved. Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville has been keeping most evidence and documents in the case sealed, including a motion Wednesday in which Jackson's lawyers are asking to postpone the trial. Theodore Boutrous Jr., who is leading the legal team, asked that the concealment issues be resolved before hearings begin Aug. 16. "The public's First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings and documents is one that is exceedingly time-sensitive," he explained in a brief filed yesterday.
Critics say Nielsen meters undercount minorities
Critics of the way local TV audiences are measured told Congress Thursday that minorities are being undercounted, which could lead to the elimination of shows popular with blacks and Hispanics, the AP reports. Nielsen Media Research, an independent company based in New York, counts viewership on a national level by choosing a sample of homes and supplying "people meters" that record viewing habits. Nielsen chief executive Susan Whiting said the real problem is that some media companies fear the company's new counting method, which replaces handwritten diaries kept by "Nielsen families," will produce lower ratings for their shows, and in turn, less advertising money.
U2 tracks go missing in France
A CD of recordings from rock band U2's upcoming album has gone missing in France, raising concerns it will be pirated on the Internet ahead of the release date, Reuters reports. According to U2's official Web site, the CD disappeared from a recording studio in Nice, where the band was doing a photo shoot. "A large slice of two years' work lifted via a piece of round plastic. It doesn't seem credible but that's what's just happened to us," lead guitarist The Edge wrote on their Web site. French police have launched a major investigation to find the CD. Band manager Paul McGuinness told Reuters the band is excited about the album's release, but added: "It would be a shame if unfinished work fell into the wrong hands."
Prince's new lyrics to be less sexual
The artist currently known as Prince says he has turned a new leaf--one that doesn't contain sexually explicit lyrics. The 46-year-old singer/songwriter, whose songs include "Gett Off" and "Erotic City," says he's moving away from the erotic lyrics of the past. "I have a responsibility to (young fans) to perform in a manner that I would like my children to be performed in front of," he said in an interview to air Tuesday on CBS News' The Early Show. "I just want to be the best human being I can be ... on stage and off." Ironically, Prince is listed as the No. 1 "greatest rock frontman" of all time in the August issue of Spin magazine and, in a vote of editors, earned a 10 out of 10 for sex appeal and for singing like an "oversexed elf."
David Bowie tops mid-year touring grosses
David Bowie's North American A Reality tour was the top-grossing outfit for the first half of 2004, Reuters reports. According to numbers reported to Billboard Boxscore, Bowie took in $45.4 million from 82 shows that drew 722,158 fans. The veteran rock star was recently forced to cancel the final 10 dates on the European leg of his tour after receiving emergency heart surgery for a blocked artery. Other top tours between Nov. 19, 2003, and May 18, 2004, include Bette Midler ($40 million), Simon & Garfunkel ($36 million), Shania Twain ($34 million), Prince ($26 million), Rod Stewart ($25 million), Metallica ($22 million), Beyonce/Alicia Keys/Missy Elliott ($19 million), Britney Spears ($19 million) and George Strait ($16 million).
Who would have guessed that Bud Selig is a revolutionary thinker?
(Who would have guessed that Bud Selig of all people would give me fodder for an article?)
Baseball's commish has ratified the owners' vote to drop two Major League Baseball teams before the start of next season. (Never mind the myriad legal battles that stand in his way.)
Now that the nation's downsizing trend has made its way to baseball burgs, Hollywood.com has taken the "drop-two" concept to entertainment groupings that might need a trim.
And, unlike baseball, we're not afraid to name our two, either.
Group: Harry Potter characters
Which Two Get Canned: Professor Dumbledore and Hermione Granger
Why: Both are stuck-up, righteous, know-it-alls. Who needs 'em?
Group: ABC primetime shows
Which Two Get Canned: Dharma & Greg, America's Funniest Home Videos
Why: True, the whole lineup deserves to be canned, but these shows rotted on the vine a long time ago.
Group: 'N Sync
Which Two Get Canned: Lance and Joey
Why: For one, they can't sing. For two, they starred in that God-awful movie, On the Line.
Group: James Bond movies
Which Two Get Canned: The Living Daylights, License to Kill
Why: Even George Lazenby was a better Bond than the wooden Mr. Dalton.
Which Two Get Canned: Ross and Monica
Why: The other four--especially Chandler--are actually funny at times.
Group: Destiny's Child
Which Two Get Canned: The two who aren't Beyonce
Why: Because we don't even know the names of the two who aren't Beyonce.
Group: Jackson 5
Which Two Get Canned: Marlon, Randy
Why: As if we'd ever get rid of Tito...
Group: Star Trek
Which Two Get Canned: Sulu, Transporter Chief Kyle
Why: They're the first two to go when a recession finally hits the Federation.
Group: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Which Two Get Canned: Commander Riker, Wesley Crusher
Why: Extraneous. Captain Picard needs Riker like he needs a third leg, and the young Mr. Crusher is just a skinny snot rag.
Group: Led Zeppelin
Which Two Get Canned: John Bonham, John Paul Jones
Why: They aren't Robert Plant or Jimmy Paige. This was essentially a two-man band.
Group: The Brady Bunch
Which Two Get Canned: Jan, Sam
Why: Their names have three letters. And Jan is just a whiny little snot rag. Hmm, maybe she should date Wesley Crusher.
Group: Rocky Franchise
Which Two Get Canned: IV, V
Why: Five was way too many Rocky movies. Even Sugar Ray Leonard didn't un-retire this many times.
Group: Late night TV hosts
Which Two Get Canned: Conan O'Brien, Charles Grodin
Why: Can't get rid of Jay or David; they have too much money. And we like Craig Kilborn and Charlie Rose too much.
Group: Star Wars movies
Which Two Get Canned: Return of the Jedi, Phantom Menace
Why: Jedi was the weak link of the first trio, and Attack of the Clones--despite the inane title--will be infinitely better than Phantom Menace.
Which Two Get Canned: Chloe, Luka
Why: Both of them have lost that lovin' feeling.
Which Two Get Canned: Ringo, George
Why: (See comment above, re: Led Zeppelin.)
Group: The Simpsons
Which Two Get Canned: Skinner's mom, Rod Flanders
Why: Agnes had sex with the Comic Book Guy, which is unforgivable. Rod, the elder Flanders son, has already left the straight-and-narrow path set by his dad: How boring.
And an honorable mention goes to The Sopranos, who don't need to be on this list. They do a good enough job of contraction all by themselves.