Top Story: Depp Tagged as "Sexiest Man Alive"
Johnny Depp has been chosen by People magazine as this year's "Sexiest Man Alive" for its upcoming Dec. 1 issue, The Associated Press reports. The magazine says the actor, known for his "brooding eccentricities," has mellowed since becoming a father of two young children with his girlfriend, French actress and pop singer Vanessa Paradis. "Because he arrived at his new, happy place without selling out, without becoming slick or packaged or politically correct, he is a hero to his fans and an idol to his young co-stars," People says about the Pirates of the Caribbean star. People also picked its Top 10 sexiest men: Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, George Clooney, Lenny Kravitz, Justin Timberlake, Hugh Grant, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell.
Finding Nemo, Brother Bear Vie for Animation Oscar
Disney flicks top the list of movies competing for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar in the 76th Academy Awards competition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday. Of the 11 films in consideration, four are from the Mouse House, including Brother Bear, Finding Nemo, The Jungle Book 2 and Piglet's Big Movie. Other animated movies being considered include Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Rugrats Go Wild and Millenium Actress. Under the rules for this category, a maximum of three films can be nominated in a year in which the field of eligible entries numbers less than sixteen.
Cobain's Journals Reveals New Material
Late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain was a tortured soul, to say the least. The paperback release Nov. 10 of Cobain's Journals, a book of the late musician's writings and thoughts, has been bolstered with 14 pages of new material, Reuters reports, including a section of narrative detailing the exploits of a semi-fictional serial killer. "Frankly, we had this the first time around, but we chose not to include it, because it's disturbing and bizarre," Riverhead Books co-editorial director Julie Grau told Billboard.com of the serial killer-themed pages. "I think the first time, we thought it would skew the appreciation of all the material that was in here," Grau continues. "Now that the hardcover has come out and the journals have been judged and read, we thought people could handle it." The original hardcover edition was released November 2002.
Gibson's Passion Gets Unauthorized Preview
The New York Post managed to obtain an unauthorized video copy of Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of Christ three months before its release and screened it for its movie critic Lou Lumenick, as well as a priest, a rabbi, a religion professor and a "Post reader" picked at random, Variety reports. Claiming the coverage was strictly news-related rather than a review of the film, each panelist was asked to write a brief reaction to the film, especially on whether the depiction of Jews in Passion borders anti-Semitism. "A source provided us with the tape, no copies were made and we have returned the tape to Mr. Gibson's representatives," a Post spokesman told Variety.
Limbaugh Suspect in Laundering Probe
Authorities are investigating Rush Limbaugh on whether he illegally funneled money to buy prescription painkillers, a law enforcement source told AP on condition of anonymity. Limbaugh recently returned to the airwaves after a rehab stint to kick an addiction to painkillers and responded with a blanket denial of the allegations first reported Tuesday by ABC News, AP reports. "I was not laundering money. I was withdrawing money, for crying out loud," Limbaugh said during his three-hour broadcast Wednesday. "I know where the story comes from, I know who's behind it, and I know what the purpose of the story is, and I'll be able to tell you at some point," he added.
Fame Actor Dies
Gene Anthony Ray, best known for playing dancer Leroy in the 1980 film Fame, died Friday in Manhattan of complications from a stroke. He was 41.
A New Form of Film Financing: Movie Fans
It can be hard to finance an independent film, so director Keith Gordon (Waking the Dead) is trying a new way to generate funds for his next project; movie fans. AP reports online brokerage company Civilian Capital Inc. is underwriting an initial public offering to finance Gordon's next movie, Billy Dead, by posting the first chapter of the book and part of the screenplay on the company's Web site for potential investors to read. Investors can contribute funds, but will have neither voting control in the company nor a voice in casting the movie or approving script changes. "It's a joke that I've become a professional fund-raiser who directs as a hobby," Gordon said Wednesday during a news conference. "Independent films are breaking out of the system, so why shouldn't the financing as well?" Billy Dead is a dark tale of childhood violence and sexual abuse which is to star Ethan Hawke.
Role Call: Hayek and Farrell Go to Towne
Salma Hayek will join Colin Farrell in the Robert Towne-directed Ask the Dust, an adaptation of John Fante's Depression Era novel. Variety reports the movie follows Camilla (Hayek), a fiery Mexican beauty who hopes to rise above her station by marrying a wealthy American. It is complicated when she meets Arturo Bandini (Farrell), a first-generation Italian hoping to land a writing career and a blue-eyed blonde on his arm.
The Recruit wants us to believe the film's main thrust revolves around the Central Intelligence Agency's old maxim "nothing is what it seems." Had they stuck with this framework perhaps the film would have been more compelling. Instead it lapses into the expected and the implausible where you can pretty much guess exactly what's going to happen even if it really makes no sense. Our hapless protagonist James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is hustled by CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Al Pacino) who believes himself to be a "scary judge of talent" and sees James as prime CIA meat. When James hesitantly accepts the offer to come to The Farm he does so motivated less by helping his country and more by trying to find out what happened to his father who died mysteriously several years before and whom Burke alleges he knew. Once at The Farm James proves his mettle and is told again and again "it's in his blood." Ah then should we believe James' father who supposedly worked for Shell Oil really worked for the CIA as an NOC or Non-Official Cover agent one of the Agency's more prestigious--and dangerous--positions? The plot thickens. James also falls for fellow recruit Layla (Bridget Moynahan) but during an intense interrogation set-up he makes a serious error trying to save her and "washes out" of the program. Just when he thinks he's out forever James gets pulled back in by Burke who tells him all his trials and tribulations were just a test and that he is really NOC material and needed to root out a mole. Is it what it seems? Heavens no.
You'll be seeing a lot of Farrell in the coming months. Along with The Recruit this year alone he'll be in three major feature films including the upcoming comic-book actioner Daredevil; S.W.A.T. yet another feature based on a TV series; and the sniper movie Phone Booth. How has this 26-year-old Irish hunk risen so quickly in the ranks you might ask? Maybe it's because he has an uncanny ability to make the parts he plays completely believable. He slips easily into the Clayton character the quintessential CIA recruit with a daddy complex and fuels the film with the right amount of acting skills and smoldering good looks. Unfortunately his co-star the high and mighty Mr. Pacino is becoming a caricature of himself. Playing Burke is certainly no stretch for the actor and the film would not be complete without the requisite ranting scene where CIA veteran Burke tells the world all about it--voice booming words punctuated. It seems this has become the standard in any Pacino performance and frankly it's getting tiresome. Where's the quiet but powerful Michael Corleone when you need him? Moynahan (The Sum of All Fears) is somewhat bland as Clayton's love interest Layla. Word of advice: if Colin Farrell is making eyes at you go for it immediately. Don't waste any time.
For all its obviousness The Recruit does some things right. No stranger to the inner workings of our government agencies director Roger Donaldson who directed the Cuban Missile Crisis drama Thirteen Days and the Pentagon thriller No Way Out gives us access to the CIA training program or The Farm as its lovingly referred to--and it's one scary place. Obviously when making the film things had to be handled delicately as not to divulge too much so the film does take some creative liberties in showing the intense training the eager recruits have to face. That's fine with us--if we can't rely on death-defying stunts and car chases then outrageous mind games are generally good enough. But once The Recruit takes leave of The Farm the movie begins to fall apart. The inherent action set up for us in the first part--James finding out about his father the blossoming relationship between Layla and James who will be the NOC and the whole mole plot--just isn't as convincing to carry the film through its fruition. And being able to guess the next move isn't much fun either.
Brace yourself Dr. Laura. This clueless teen queen (Natasha Lyonne) has it all: good looks a football captain boyfriend and a popular pair of pom-poms. But her candy-colored world crumbles when her panicked parents stage an intervention after finding a Melissa Etheridge poster that leads them to conclude she's a friend of Ellen. After being carted off to an anti-gay rehab camp for teens the perky princess must choose between the straight and narrow-minded or the love that dare not speak its name.
The quirky ensemble casting is half this film's fun. Lyonne is charming as the pepster tempted by T&A and she sparks onscreen with swanky and sexy co-star Clea DuVall who plays the butch femme fatale suitor (alarmingly reminiscent of Nancy McKeon's Jo from "The Facts of Life.") Drag queen supreme RuPaul is unrecognizable out of his high heels and even higher blond wig wearing a "Straight is Great" T-shirt as a macho militant ex-gay counselor. Cathy Moriaty is sweetly sinister as the homophobic headmistress and Mink Stole steals scenes as the uptight upright meddling mom.
Kudos to Jamie Babbit for tackling this hot-potato topic but this well-intentioned film too often misses its mark turning potentially comical scenes into unbearably awkward moments. Babbit fouls when tugging at the heartstrings but hits home runs when the humor is at its broadest.