Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
Isabel Hernandez, who worked for Kardashian during her four-year marriage to music producer Damon Thomas, has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court accusing the former couple of failing to pay her her salary.
Hernandez claims she was forced to work for long periods of time and was only rewarded for her work in lump sums every few months.
She is angry after a $13,100 (£8,188) cheque she received in March, 2006 bounced, leaving her to rely on other funds to support herself. Hernandez is also requesting $300 (£188) for payment in 2009.
But Kardashian's lawyer Shawn Chapman Holley has hit back at the court papers, insisting the star isn't the person to sue for the missing pay cheques - because she had moved out of the marital home in Los Angeles prior to divorcing Thomas in 2004.
Hernandez is suing Thomas and Kardashian for breach of contract and is demanding $29,000 (£18,125) in damages, reports TMZ.com.
Kardashian - who was just 19 when she wed Thomas - has since moved on and is dating American footballer Reggie Bush.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
In the late '50s a group of elementary students put futuristic drawings in a time capsule that is then buried on school grounds. One overly obsessed kid Lucinda goes her own way by writing hundreds of mysterious seemingly non-sensical numbers on her entry. Fifty years later it’s dug up and comes into the possession of Caleb the young son of John Koestler a recent widower and astro-physics professor who becomes obsessed with the papers Caleb has brought home from class. He soon discovers the random digits are actually not-so-thinly disguised dates (including 91101 of course) for “future” disasters and there are clearly three of those dates yet to come. Although nobody believes his ramblings about this code for impending doom a nearby plane crash proves he is on to something so ominous the fate of the world could be in jeopardy. With all hell about to break loose the prof takes matters into his own hands.
WHO’S IN IT?
Just a couple of years ago Nicolas Cage starred in Next as a magician who could see into the future and had to prevent a nuclear attack. Now he’s at it again as an MIT professor who also has clues to future catastrophes and also is out to prevent the inevitable. And of course in the National Treasure films he latched on to maps that had contained similarly dark deeply held secrets. Nic clearly likes “knowing” stuff before the rest of us and he’s quite believable even if some of the circumstances in his latest sci-fi adventure are really out there -- literally. Cage somehow makes you buy into this stuff which is key to the ultimate success of the flick. As the key kids Chandler Canterbury as Caleb and Lara Robinson as Lucinda (and later Abby Lucinda’s granddaughter) are properly eerie and haunted-looking. Rose Byrne is also along for the ride as Lucinda’s grown daughter who is able to provide goosebump-inducing information that the numbers alone can’t. There’s also some dead-on creepy emoting from D.G. Maloney as a quietly foreboding stranger who seems to be following Caleb.
Unlike some recent movies of this type with nothing on the agenda but pure mayhem “Knowing” delves into the bigger issues of why we are all here providing something other than just big explosions to talk about on the way home from the multiplex. Director Alex Proyas (I Robot Dark City The Crow) certainly knows how to pull off complex action set-pieces but he and his screenwriters also seem to be genuinely interested in exploring the meaning behind the madness.
Some of the more pedantic dialogue Cage is given can be groan-inducing but since he plays John as a total believer we can forgive it. Also the film falls victim to a final act that veers into typical disaster movie territory and isn’t as compelling as the first two thirds which try to keep the premise at least marginally credible. At two hours it probably could have been tightened anyway.
The rain-soaked plane crash sequence with its gritty hand-held photography is riveting to watch and one of the most frightening depictions of a jetliner disaster put on film yet.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
If you are really squeamish it might be worth "knowing" that you should take breaks in the big disaster sequences as the CGI effects can get pretty violent and graphic particularly for a PG-13 movie.
Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, Eminem, Sean Paul, Missy Elliott, Kid Rock, Ashanti, Beyoncé, R. Kelly, Luther Vandross, Celine Dion, Norah Jones, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Shania Twain each received two nominations Tuesday for the 31st annual American Music Awards. But with two nominations going to a multitude of artists, no clear favorites emerged.
In the pop-rock category, Timberlake received nods for favorite male artist and favorite album for Justified. Kid Rock also received a nod for favorite male artist and album for Cocky in the same category.
Dion, Avril Levigne and Jennifer Lopez were all nominated for favorite female artist in the pop-rock category. Dion, however, also crossed over into the adult contemporary group, where she also earned a nod for favorite female artist.
Rapper 50 Cent and dancehall singer Sean Paul, meanwhile, will be duking it out for favorite male artist and favorite album in the rap-hip hop category. Rapper Eminem also received two nominations for favorite male rapper and for the soundtrack to 8 Mile.
Cold Play, Linkin Park and Metallica were nominated for favorite alternative artists.
The AMAs, hosted this year by Jimmy Kimmel, will be presented Nov. 16 at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium and broadcast live on ABC.
The nominations for the AMAs are based on sales figures and radio play, with winners selected by a survey of about 20,000 listeners. Here is a list of nominees:
Band, Duo or Group
3 Doors Down
Come Away With Me, Norah Jones
Cocky, Kid Rock
Justified, Justin Timberlake
Band, Duo or Group
The Isley Brothers
Chapter II, Ashanti
Dangerously In Love, Beyonce
Chocolate Factory, R. Kelly
Dance With My Father, Luther Vandross
Band, Duo or Group
Black Eyed Peas
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz
Under Construction, Missy Elliott
Get Rich Or Die Tryin, 50 Cent
Dutty Rock, Sean Paul
8 Mile, Soundtrack
Band, Duo or Group
Brooks & Dunn
Unleashed, Toby Keith
Tim McGraw & The Dancehall Doctors, Tim McGraw
Melt, Rascal Flatts
Up!, Shania Twain
Steven Curtis Chapman
In this innocuous PG comedy Charlie (Eddie Murphy) and his business partner Phil (Jeff Garlin) lose their jobs at an advertising company after their attempts to market a vile tasting vegetable cereal goes bust. Charlie's family could probably live comfortably on one income since his wife Kim (Regina King) is an attorney but they have become accustomed to a higher quality of living with their prized Mercedes-Benz in the driveway and their 4-year-old son Ben (Khamani Griffin) enrolled in the exclusive Chapman Academy. When Charlie and Kim contemplate enrolling Ben in a more affordable school they find the alternatives deplorable. Without a job and in desperate need of day care for Ben Charlie comes up with the idea of running a day care service out of their home. With a little help from his pal Phil Daddy Day Care gets underway. But when the Chapman Academy starts to lose students to this new rival taskmistress Mrs. Harridan (Anjelica Huston) does everything in her power to run Daddy Day Care out of business no matter how unethical.
This movie is a cakewalk for Murphy who in his later years has turned to somewhat softer comedy compared to his '80s heyday with 48 HRS Trading Places and Eddie Murphy Raw yet this type of comedy suits him just as well. But while it is nice to see the 42-year-old comedian playing more mature personas on screen Daddy Day Care does not give Murphy enough witty material for him to really sink his teeth into. In The Nutty Professor for example Murphy donned a fat suit and layers of special-effects makeup and brought to life a character that was hilarious yet incredibly endearing. Here Murphy's Charlie is a much simpler character and the actor gives most of the film's laughs to cast members under four feet tall. Out of the multitude of children who star in the film Griffin who plays Charlie's son Ben definitely outshines his little comrades. Sure he's over-the-top cute but this little boy is also pretty sharp. As Murphy's sidekick Garlin provides predictable slapstick humor but Steve Zahn who plays Marvin a Star Trek aficionado who comes on board to help run the day care center easily delivers some of the film's funniest moments.
Directed by Steve Carr Daddy Day Care is a guiltless straightforward comedy bound to make any parent chuckle a light and fluffy flick that nevertheless fails to take Murphy's comedic talent out of first gear. But while Murphy does not deliver the more vulgar laughs moviegoers have come to expect of him his character Charlie at least does not fall into the conventional stereotype of the diaper-phobic father; he may not be perfect but he is an affectionate parent who is genuinely involved in his son's life. And although scribe Geoff Rodkey's screenplay is peppered with predictable potty training humor and the obligatory kick-in-the-groin scene it wedges in a decent amount of funny moments as well. Some of the best scenes revolve around the kids. Take the boy that no one can understand--including his mother--until Marvin discovers that the 4-year-old is actually speaking Klingonese. (Turns out Marvin learned quite a bit from Dr. Spock's book on childcare which he was surprised to find out was not about Star Trek.) Carr's Daddy Day Care is not as clever his last pic Dr. Dolittle 2 and it's much tamer than his Next Friday but it is cute and harmless entertainment.