Based on the bestseller by co-writers Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus The Nanny Diaries paints a pretty dim picture of the wealthy Upper East Side folk who are too busy with their professional and/or social lives to raise the children they think they needed to have. As seen through the idealistic Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson) a 21-year-old New York University grad who has dreams of being an anthropologist being a nanny to a rich kid isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Annie takes the job of looking after the precocious 6-year-old son of a super-wealthy couple she calls “The X’s” as a way to clear her head before moving on with her life. In fact as she finds herself immersed in this elite and ritualistic culture she considers it a field study much like living in an Amazonian tribe. But Annie quickly learns that life is not very rosy on the other side of the tax bracket as she must cater to the every whim of Mrs. X (Laura Linney) and attempt to avoid the formidable Mr. X (Paul Giamatti)—and try to comfort a lonely little boy who just wants to be loved by his parents. With that Annie breaks the cardinal rule in the science of humans and their works: She goes native. Just as The Devil Wears Prada had Meryl Streep to raise it above its frivolity The Nanny Diaries has Laura Linney. Her Mrs. X is a brilliant case study in duality: On the one hand Mrs. X is carefully manicured an uptight high society dame planning fund raisers attending “Nanny Cam” seminars and ignoring her little boy; on the flipside she is just as lonely and wanting of love as her son. Linney’s vulnerable moments are the most heartbreaking especially when she sits through Annie’s chastisement about her parenting skills on a nanny-cam tape in front of a group of her high society friends. This performance probably won’t give Linney an Oscar nod but someday the actress should win that damn thing. Giamatti--as the distant hands-off husband--makes his presence known but it’s pretty much a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance. As for our leading lady Johansson fares well among the upper classes as the kindly Annie but doesn’t really do anything above and beyond the call of duty. And for the ladies there’s Chris Evans (Fantastic Four) as Annie’s would-be suitor whom she dubs “Havard Hottie.” Hottie indeed. Actually the comparisons between The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada are numerous: Both are adaptations from bestsellers written by women; both skew Manhattan’s highfalutin upper class with a Sex and the City sensibility; and both incorporate idealistic female college grads who face tough women and get caught up but somehow manage to ground themselves eventually. The difference this time is that Diaries is co-written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini the same wife-and-husband team who gave us 2003’s American Splendor the ultra-quirky but innately mesmerizing biopic of comic book creator Harvey Pekar. Talk about a change of pace. Maybe Berman and Pulcini were feeling romantic when they picked Diaries as their follow-up. The couple doesn’t use as much cinematic flair as they did with American Splendor but there is a certain charm to Diaries’ anthropological look and feel especially as Annie analyzes Manhattan’s denizens in their natural habitats. Still there’s some oomph lacking. As a Prada wannabe Diaries doesn’t quite make the cut.
As one of history's better sports stories Cinderella Man focuses on legendary prizefighter James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) who during the Great Depression became a common-man hero. Once a boxer on the rise Braddock hits rock bottom with the rest of the broken-down beaten-up and out-of-luck American populace and is forced to give up his dreams of being a world champion to find work. We get to sit around with Braddock his loving supportive but weepy wife Mae (Renee Zellweger) and their starving cold children for the first hour of the film feeling mightily depressed indeed. But then things pick up when Braddock gets a last-chance bid to make something of himself by returning to the ring. Spurred on by an inner determination--and his hardnosed manager Joe (Paul Giamatti)--Braddock miraculously makes an almost mythical rise to the top. The underdog to beat all underdogs--yes even topping a nobody horse named Seabiscuit--the pugilist ends up taking on the heavyweight champ of the world Max Baer (Craig Bierko) who's renowned for having killed two men in the ring. And wins. The roar from the people who look to their "Cinderella Man" as their champion is deafening.
Chris Rock said it the best: "If you're gonna do a movie about the past you best to get Russell's ass!" It's absolutely true. The Oscar-winning Crowe has an uncanny knack for taking anything period and making it seem contemporary be it clashing swords in the gladiator ring in ancient Rome or working out equations on a library window as a brilliant but trouble 1950s mathematician. So it seems natural Crowe would once again turn in a stellar performance as the Depression-era boxer who rallies from the depths of despair to become a world champion. Of course Crowe did have to learn how to box--and apparently injured his shoulder pretty severely during the process--but it was all in a day's work for this hardworking Method actor. He also is supported by a superlative cast including Zellweger as Braddock's devoted yet longsuffering wife. The actress may be a bit more pinched-face than usual having to play cold and hungry most of the time but she still does an admirable job. The biggest standout however is Giamatti as the beleaguered but sharp-as-a-tack manager who does everything in his power to get Braddock back in the ring--and keep him there. Someone just needs to give this man an Oscar. Pronto.
Of course everyone is calling Cinderella Man this summer's Seabiscuit. Granted the comparisons are numerous--underdog plot the Great Depression down-trodden men who need some kind of hope to get them back on their feet again a nation rallying behind them. But Seabiscuit didn't have the powerhouse duo of Crowe and director Ron Howard to back it up. Their special brand of mojo made A Beautiful Mind another rather staid biopic the Oscar winner of 2001. It only makes sense they would try for it again with Cinderella Man's inspirational story. While the first part of the film discourages you a bit it's necessary to set up Braddock's desperation and ultimate fortitude. Once we hit the ring however the action is nonstop and riveting making you shout from your seat. Howard now joins the handful of directors including Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby) and Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull) who can effectively cause this reaction by watching two men (or women in Eastwood's case) pummel each other. But as far as Cinderella's Oscar chances it's a tough call because: a) it is the beginning of summer and b) it's not a film you carry around with you once you leave the theater. Perhaps if the studio does a blitzkrieg Oscar marketing campaign similar to Seabiscuit it might work. We'll see.
Pop acts plan to perform at three benefits concerts this weekend to raise money for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press reports. The shows will kick off in New York at Madison Square Garden with the Backstreet Boys, Destiny's Child, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Billy Joel. The "United We Stand" concert Sunday in Washington will feature the Backstreet Boys and Destiny's Child, as well as 'N Sync, Michael Jackson, P. Diddy, KISS and Mick Jagger. Country stars Tim McGraw and Trisha Yearwood will also take to the stage Sunday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.
Someone claiming to represent Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeta network has asked both CNN and Al-Jazeera TV to submit six written questions for him, that he will then answer on video tape, Variety reports. The proposal came from Al-Jazeera, which then notified CNN. The news network submitted six questions on Tuesday.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show will reopen Oct. 30 at Broadway's Circle in the Square for a 10-week run ending January 6, The Associated Press reports. Bat Boy will also resume this week, with the hit London musical Mamma Mia! premiering Thursday.
Rowan Atkinson, who starred in the hit TV shows Blackadder and Mr. Bean, is worried that proposed anti-terror laws outlawing "incitement to religious hatred" could curb freedom of expression, Reuters reports. Atkinson said there should be no subject about which jokes should be banned, including religion.
Comedian Denis Leary is putting on a New York benefit Monday night to honor the firefighters who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, People.com reports. According to Leary, Harrison Ford has offered to help, as well as Matthew Broderick, and Nathan Lane. Leary hopes to raise $250,000.
Whoopi Goldberg has become the first woman to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, The Associated Press reports. Chris Rock, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal took part in the event, which will be televised on PBS Nov. 21 at 9 p.m.
A United Nations panel ruled Tuesday that actor Rip Torn has the rights to the Internet domain name riptorn.com, The Associated Press reports. Torn complained to the World Intellectual Property Organization after someone from Oakville, Ontario registered the domain name in March 2000.
Novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer, who is serving a four-year sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice, has been moved to a prison where security is less strict, The Associated Press reports. The North Sea in Lincolnshire allows inmates more freedom of movement.
Russell Crowe has been offered a role in The Cinderella Man, playing real-life heavyweight boxing champ Jim Braddock, Variety reports. Lasse Hallstorm will direct the movie, which has been in development for several years now.
Ted Turner will have a cameo role in the Civil War film Gods and Generals, The Associated Press reports. Turner will reprise his role as Col. Waller T. Patton from the 1993 film Gettysburg. Gods and Generals, which is being financed by Turner, is a prequel to Gettysburg.
ABC has canceled Jason Alexander's new sitcom, Bob Patterson, for its inability to spark Nielsen ratings before completing its initial 13-episode run, according to the Hollywood Reporter. After a rough start in the competitive Tuesday 9 p.m. slot against NBC's Frasier, Patterson, in which Alexander plays a motivational speaker with a messed-up personal life, was moved to the 9:30 p.m. slot in hopes to increase ratings, but it still flopped. Patterson is the second comedy series built around a former Seinfeld sidekick to be canceled. NBC dropped The Michael Richards Show in early December. Next at the bat is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose comedy series 23:12 is set to launch on NBC in March.
Bruce Springsteen won a legal battle in a London court on Tuesday against the British company Masquerade Music, which was appealing an earlier ruling that blocked the unauthorized use of his music, Reuters reports. It was argued that Springsteen's copyright was breached after the company expressed interest in releasing the album Before the Fame, which contained over two dozen songs composed by Springsteen between 1970 and 1972. Springsteen said he was defending the ownership of his music.
Leonardo DiCaprio has signed on to star as a twin in the upcoming drama Johnny Eck, Reuters reports. The film relates the story of twins Robert and Johnny Eckardt, who are identical in every way except that Johnny was born without the lower half of his body and learned to walk on his hands. When Johnny becomes a world famous sideshow performer called "the Half Boy," Robert becomes his manager. Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands) will write the screenplay for the film that is being produced by Pelagius Entertainment's Joe Fries and Mark Gordon.
Tom Cruise will narrate the new Imax film Space Station, taking viewers on a cinematic journey shot by 25 astronauts and cosmonauts from Florida's Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station. "Tom Cruise brings a special dimension to this exciting project, which takes the Imax 3D experience to even more spectacular heights," Greg Foster, president of filmed entertainment for Imax, told Reuters. The film is scheduled to debut early next spring.
Paul McCartney released his second charity single, "Freedom," on Monday after a huge public demand, his publicist told Reuters. Money raised by the new single will go to the Robin Hood Foundation, which helps the families of the victims of Sept. 11 and New York firemen and police. His previous charity single, "From a Lover to a Friend," entered the UK chart at number 45 on Sunday.
Kathleen Turner will play the seductive older woman Mrs. Robinson in the stage version of the 1967 film The Graduate. Jason Biggs of American Pie will portray Benjamin Braddock, the young man she seduces, and Alicia Silverstone will co-star as her daughter, Elaine. According to The Associated Press, the stage production will begin a pre-Broadway tour in January with shows in Baltimore, Toronto, Ontario and Boston. It will then begin preview performances in New York on March 15 with an April 4 opening at a theater yet to be announced.
Web research firm Webnoize confirmed that online music service use has risen since the shut own of Napster earlier this year. According to the report, users swapped a whopping 1.81 billion media files on alternative online services like Kaaza, MusicCity and Grosker in the month of October, Reuters reports. All three applications use software licensed from FastTrack, an Amsterdam-based peer-to-peer technology, and share the same network.
HBO has decided to pick up their Emmy-winning show Sex and the City for a fifth season, Reuters reports. The six remaining episodes from season four are set to bow Jan. 6 though Feb. 10. The cable network plans to premiere season five in June.
Public Broadcasting Corp. announced Monday that it will reduce its 565-person workforce by 10% and close its Midwest programming office due to tough economic times, Reuters reports. PBS president-CEO Pat Mitchell said the network regretted having to cut jobs, but that the move was necessary to preserve programming integrity.
Retiring SAG president Bill Daniels urged its members on Sunday to try to work with the newly elected president, Melissa Gilbert, rather than battling her, or she would face the same massive divisiveness that dogged him during his two-year term, Reuters reports. The controversy stems from the 25,000 New York ballots lacking a signature line and the discrepancies of making New York voters' deadline two days later then the rest of the country. Gilbert was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild on Nov. 2, beating veteran television star Valerie Harper in a bitter contest.
A Happy Place, the 11-month-old production company founded by 'N Sync's Lance Bass, producers Rich Hull and Wendy Thorlakson, music manager Johnny Wright and attorney Joe Anderson, has acquired the romantic comedy Mamma's Boy as their next project. Bass is also taking the starring role for the second time on the big screen. Written by first-time scribe Mark Hatmaker, the film follows the story and misadventures of a young professional who still lives at home with his mother while she attempts to find him a wife.