Given that The Score's motto seems to have been "been there stole that " it's hard to imagine why it would interest the likes of De Niro Norton and Brando. Perhaps the determining factor was the prospect of working with one another. Couldn't be the rather pedestrian and obvious story and script credited to Kario Salem Lem Dobbs Scott Marshall Smith and Daniel E. Taylor which is a basic rehashing of everything from Sexy Beast to The Thomas Crown Affair. See De Niro's safecracker wants to retire and live happily ever after with main squeeze Angela Bassett. Lo and behold longtime partner-in-crime Brando offers De Niro the chance of a lifetime: steal a 16th-century French scepter from a Montreal customs house and live like a king. The catch? The inside man is the brash disrespectful and untrustworthy Norton. De Niro hates risks. Working with Norton represents a risk. Risks land you in prison he tells Norton. So naturally De Niro takes the risk we expect him to take. Too bad the risks offer little in the way of intrigue or surprise.
De Niro's cool and calm but there's little effort to make his thief anything other than an old pro out to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. Norton has the flashier role. He poses as a mildly retarded janitor to infiltrate the customs house. Cue endless scenes of Norton's Rain Man cocking his head asking the same dumb question and smiling at jokes made at his expense. Outside of the customs house he exudes cockiness impudence and a willingness to underestimate his partners. A coherent Brando still proves a distraction by constantly scratching his jutting jaw whenever he parks himself on the nearest stool. The prospect of seeing the men who won Academy Awards for portraying Don Corleone is tantalizing but the lengthy conversations between De Niro and Brando seem listless and devoid of weight. The same applies to the scenes--a disappointing two--between De Niro Norton and Brando.
The Score marks a distinct change of pace for director Frank Oz. One of the creative forces behind The Muppets Oz's post-Miss Piggy career includes such frenetic farces as Little Shop of Horrors and Bowfinger. Almost as a complete rejection of his past achievements Oz keeps The Score as po-faced and static as possible. There's no time for any humor when there's a safe to be cracked. Oz keeps the cameras trained on his cast seemingly afaird to move it in case he misses a gesture borne out of genius. Bearing this in mind everything else seems secondary. Which is how the heist feels. De Niro breaks in. We knew he would. He manages to open the safe. We knew he would. There's never a moment that doesn't feel manufactured. Even the last-minute twist feels like the comeuppance we've been expecting since De Niro first gave Norton a look of monumental disdain.
Humble and sincere Bobby (Favreau) an aspiring boxer and Ricky (Vaughn) his obnoxious loser friend work construction for a two-bit mob boss named Max (Peter Falk). Bobby just wants to make a decent wage to support his stripper girlfriend (Famke Janssen) and her daughter but whether its his own temper or Ricky's big mouth these two guys can't stay out of trouble. Max gives them one last chance to prove they're good for something and assigns them to a mysterious job that takes them to New York City where they hook up with a slick gangsta named Ruiz (Sean Combs). The two try not to look like the fish out of water that they are and attempt to carry out Max's instructions. But to Bobby's consternation the insufferably cocky Ricky never fails to get them into hot water and what should be an easy job turns into a comedy of errors.
Friends in real life Favreau and Vaughn have an honest chemistry on-screen and their long-awaited reunion is a joy. Though they reprise similar characters as in Swingers (serious-guy Favreau smart-ass Vaughn) Favreau delves deeper into his role as the floundering honest good guy who somehow cares deeply about Ricky despite his incessantly infuriating behavior. Vaughn hits the bullseye as a strident volatile jerk who can't keep his mouth shut. You never really like him but you can't wait to see what he'll do next--his missteps and offenses are so unbelievable you wince but you can't look away. Though not on-screen very often Falk is a hoot as the take-no-bull mob boss who is sick of both schlubs. Combs surprisingly makes a more than adequate turn as the hardcore gangster who finds himself enmeshed in Bobby and Ricky's chaos. His sidekick Horace (Faizon Love) is pretty funny too.
First-time director Favreau shows real talent behind the camera keeping up the pace and allowing the story to unfold while developing the fleshed-out characters at a swift even tempo. In Made the journey is more important than the destination--the slim plot takes a back seat to the story's twists and turns. Favreau draws the viewer into his world so deeply it's easy to forget you're in a movie theater and not with the guys as they sit in Max's office or in a NYC cab (cinematographer Christopher Doyle helps keeps it interesting with a deft touch and a handheld camera). The locales juxtapose nicely with this uneasy escapade--Bobby and his wanna-be-a-player pal stick out like sore thumbs at both the slick clubs and posh hotels and the seedy low-rent neighborhoods of the Big Apple.
The fifth day of the Sundance Film Festival saw studios picking up the pace in what has been an unusually sluggish purchasing climate.
New Regency Films was in final negotiations to pick up distribution rights for “K-19: The Widowmaker.” Starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, the drama is based on the true story of a Soviet submarine crew’s attempt to keep the payload on their vessel from a nuclear meltdown. The film begins production in February and is budgeted for $80 million.
Lions Gate Films has also paid $1 million for North American distribution rights to “Double Whammy.” Written by Tom DiCillo, the comic thriller stars Denis Leary as a New York City homicide detective who manages to straighten out both his back and his career -- with a little help from a voluptuous chiropractor (Elizabeth Hurley). Steve Buscemi, Chris Noth, Luis Guzman and Victor Argo round out the cast.
Over the past fifteen years or so, a new type of labor force has exploded onto the scene. Traditional blue-collar unions--Teamsters, UAW, etc.--have made room for handmade, three-piece suit, designer unions. These guilds look out for the welfare and happiness of the truly oppressed: the affluent, multi-millionaire basketball and baseball players; the Armani-clad doctors and lawyers; and of course, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts.
So exploited and subjugated are La-la-land's thespians that the members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, their clenched fists resting dramatically on overwrought brows, are threatening to strike.
Actually, much like the rest of the beastly work schedule in Hollywood, negotiations are resuming today following the third hiatus--read: vacation break--of the short talks, with just 17 days left before the current actors' contract expires. Yet optimism remains high in Tinseltown, based largely on the Writers' deal that recently passed approval by the WGA's membership, not that any news has been forthcoming from either side.
The snail's pace of the negotiations hasn't worried Jack Kyser, senior economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.
"Once the writers settled, the possibility of a SAG/AFTRA strike became a non-issue for many people outside the industry," Kyser told Variety.
The Los Angeles mayor's office, however, remains concerned, and is actively tracking the negotiations. Mayor Riordan, despite his term ending the same day the actors' contract expires, has reportedly made numerous calls to negotiators, to keep abreast of developments.
Riordan has been low key thus far in his stance with the ongoing actors' discussions, but was very proactive during the writers' talks, often upstaging the negotiations by holding press conferences urging a compromise by both sides to get a deal done.
But while Riordan has been kept in the know by Hollywood honchos, the actors and studios have said nary a word to the public, abiding by a mutually agreed upon, self-imposed code of silence.
In fact, SAG has now said that they will not reveal the terms of the deal--if and when a deal is finalized--to the public. They will probably divulge key factors, including the total magnitude of the deal, but have no intention of revealing the total value of the updated contract, reports Variety.
"I have not heard of any plans to disclose the total contract value when negotiations conclude. We haven't done that in the past," SAG spokesman Greg Krizman told the venerated Hollywood paper.
SAG/AFTRA's initial proposal included a 5% increase for minimum rates, and the cognoscenti assume SAG/AFTRA is haggling for an extra $100 million or so.
SAG's silence over the total amount shouldn't be surprising, even given the WGA's complete disclosure over its deal. Neither the Directors Guild of America nor the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees make public the total cost of their contracts.
SAG was also remarkably tight-lipped on its deal with advertisers last fall that followed a six-month strike. Those talks were marked by bitter and acrimonious accusations on both sides. A total cost was never revealed, and SAG only offered numbers on certain cable payments and Internet jurisdiction.
Talks are not the only thing moving at a snail's pace in Hollywood at the moment, affected by the wave of negotiations. As Hollywood braced for a potential writers' strike in April and May, production companies stockpiled as much as they could in advance, and spent much of their production money.
Additionally, studios are unwilling to make deals with actors until negotiations are resolved with SAG/AFTRA, freeing actors to complete contracts that they sign.
The onslaught of summer heat may have movies exploding on screen, but it's brought a wilting effect on Hollywood denizens.
We're down to the wire in the May sweeps, and NBC really tightened this race up last week with yet another monster Thursday. With the Must See season finale triple-header coming this Thursday, do we smell a potential ABC upset in the offing? We certainly hope so. Because if that smell isn't "upset," then it must be us. And frankly, it's getting pretty unpleasant in here.
But we digress.
Here now is an annotated look at the Top 10 primetime shows for the TV week ended May 14, as determined by the fine folks at Nielsen Media Research. (Each rating point is worth a little more than 1 million viewers).
1. "ER," NBC - 22.1 This was Julianna Margulies' last episode as a regular. The show's rating probably would have been even higher had it not aired opposite an Arena Football game on TNN.
2. (TIE) "Frasier" (9 p.m., Thursday) NBC - 15.6 Seriously, these are all second-to-last episodes before the cliffhangers. Watch for NBC to be a beast this coming Thursday.
2. (TIE) "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Tuesday), ABC - 15.6 Obviously still very impressive, but maybe they should have filmed an extra week with the celebrities, just in case.
4. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Wednesday), ABC - 15.1
5. "Jesus" (Part I, Sunday), CBS - 15.0 This was a retelling of the life of Jesus that broke all the rules, defied convention and showed us a Jesus we haven't seen before. Call us old-fashioned, but four hours of Bible stuff and not even a cameo for Charlton Heston?! Is nothing sacred anymore?
6. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Sunday), ABC - 14.8 So, here it is: "Jesus" beat out Regis in the head-to-head battle Sunday night. Thank God Hey, wait a minute!
7. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Thursday), ABC - 14.5
8. "Friends" (8 p.m., Thursday), NBC - 14.4 Bruce Willis appeared in this episode; Tom Selleck shows up in the next episode … but remember the one with Charlton Heston? Now that was a good one. We're not saying an eighth place finish is bad or anything, but Mr. Heston definitely could have helped.
9. "Friends" (8:30 p.m., Thursday), NBC -- 14.0
10. "Frasier" (9:30 p.m., Thursday), NBC - 13.8 Sure, everybody loves the Niles/Daphne love story, but doesn't the rather obvious sexual orientation issue make it all a little hard to believe? Seriously, Daphne is just way too masculine, don't you think?
And in the overall battle for network supremacy, ABC held on to its lead with a 9.3 average rating. NBC got serious, grabbing second place with a just-off-the-pace 9.0. CBS is undoubtedly rethinking the Charlton Heston issue, as "Jesus" was only good enough to help the network limp to a third place 8.1 finish. Fox continued to show improvement as its consistent, if unspectacular lineup, pushed it to a 5.7.
As for the weblets, "WWF Smackdown!" continued to put up big numbers, making all the difference in the battle of UPN vs. the WB. The winner? The "Smackdown"-equipped UPN -- 2.8 to 2.3.