While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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.
With plans to record a fundraising song titled "What More Can I Give?" Michael Jackson has lined up support from today's hottest acts to aid survivors and families of victims of the recent terrorist attacks the United States suffered earlier this month.
The question is: Could Jackson recreate the success of his 1985 tribute tune "We Are the World"? Our answer: Definitely.
With support from Destiny's Child, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync and Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, Jackson is currently recording "What More Can I Give?" with the goal of raising $50 million for relief efforts, Jackson's spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, told ABCNews.com on Monday.
According to SonicNet.com, a Spanish-language version of the song is also in the works.
On Thursday, however, a spokeswoman for Jive Records told Hollywood.com that neither Spears nor Timberlake had confirmed their involvement in the upcoming Michael Jackson project.
"I believe in my heart that the music community will come together as one and rally to the aid of thousands of innocent victims," Jackson said on a press release. "There is a tremendous need for relief dollars right now and through this effort, each one of us can play an immediate role in helping comfort so many people."
Who would know better than to come up with a project like this than Jackson, who in 1985 co-wrote the tune "We Are the World" with Lionel Richie, a song that would raise $65 million for USA for Africa, a fund that helps victims of starvation in Africa.
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 on March 23, 1985 at No. 21 and won a Grammy for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
While some may think that Jackson's effort to record a new song is only intended to increase interest in his comeback efforts, the King of Pop has always been involved in charitable organizations.
In October 1998, tenor Luciano Pavarotti and Jackson's close friend Elizabeth Taylor joined the superstar in a series of concerts Jackson organized and headlined to benefit the World Peace Foundation for Children (WPFC), in hopes of providing aid to needy children and families around the world.
In Jackson's opinion, music is capable of touching people's souls, and it's "time we use that power to help us begin the process of healing immediately," he told ABCNews.com.
Jackson is not alone. Other musicians are doing their part to pay tribute to the victims by donating to different relief funds.
Music producer Phil Ramone and television producer Merv Griffin assembled several of the artists in Los Angeles to attend a fund raising event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sept. 16.
Stacey Wolf, publicist for actor Kevin Spacey, said that the event benefited the American Red Cross and featured a performance of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" sung by Spacey.
Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, are some of the confirmed participants at the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon being put together by the CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC networks. The event will be broadcast live from Los Angeles and New York Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern and Central. The show will be tape-delayed in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
Singer Whitney Houston is taking a similar approach by planning to re-release her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which she originally performed before the Super Bowl XXV in 1991, when the nation had ended the Persian Gulf War. Houston's label, Arista Records, told SonicNet the singer will split the proceeds between the New York Firefighters Disaster Relief Fun and the New York Fraternal Order of Police Fund.
Janet Jackson, James Taylor and R&B singer Maxwell have joined the band Earth, Wind & Fire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Backstreet Boys, and Sade with $10,000 each in donations to the ClearChannel.com Relief Fund.
Rebecca Allmon, director of public relations for Clear Channel World Wide, told Hollywood.com on Friday that the fund has raised $5.4 million through artist contributions, patron donations, and individuals around the country who can donate money over the phone or online through Clear Channel's official Web site.
"We are so overwhelmed with the generosity of Americans everywhere who are financially participating to express their outrage," Allmon said. "We are deeply fortunate to be in a position to make that happen."
Proceeds from the Clear Channel Relief Fund will benefit organizations including the New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania police, firefighters and emergency workers, the U.S. Military and National Guard personnel, and the national and local chapters of The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
By having access to media resources, such as radio stations and public service campaigns, Allmon said, billboards have been created across the nation with messages that read, "In God We Trust. United We Stand."
On Sept. 14 in Birmingham, Ala., Governor Don Siegelman, spoke and led an audience of 7,000 for a candle light vigil, where civil and religious entities had an opportunity to express their feelings on the tragedy, Allmon said.
Britney Spears, along with boyfriend Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync, have created The Giving Back Fund, a charity foundation to aid the families of victims of the attacks, Launch.com reports. The fund is gathering entertainers and athletes for a special event in the near future that will benefit victims.
Spears also plans to give $1 from each ticket sold for her upcoming fall tour, and hopes plans to raise $2 million in merchandise sales and by auctioning front-row seats at her shows, The Associated Press reported.
Janes Addiction's guitarist Dave Navarro had mobile units for blood for his Sept. 12 show in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Charlotte, N.C. show on Sept. 15. "Dave didn't feel comfortable with playing shows without doing something about it," Navarro's publicist, Bobbi Gale, told Hollywood.com on Friday.
Rock band Incubus donated the proceeds from their Sept. 15 and 16 shows in New York to relief efforts. Godsmack also donated their proceeds from the sale of their merchandise to the New York City Public and Private Initiative, a fund benefiting the families of police officers and firefighters.
After canceling her show on Sept. 11, the day of the attack, Madonna led a prayer for peace at her Staples Center performance in Los Angeles on Sept. 14. Other artists such as Aerosmith, Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson and Cake have canceled shows in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Finally, something to report from ShoWest!
Stars (lots of 'em) came out at noon today to do their time at the New Line/Fine Line luncheon, hyping (what else?) upcoming New Line/Fine Line flicks. The event, held at the multimedia-readied, projection-screen-laden Paris Ballroom, featured celebs prancing down a catwalk for all to see (if you could see), sitting down at their designated tables and, then, eating!
Yes, this is what passes for excitement at a movie-theater-owners trade show. Did we mention that not one of the stars said a single word?
No, we're not complaining. We're just worried about the talents. You know, they've got egos.
Anyway, here's a rundown of the spotted celebs:
Adam Sandler: Single-handedly brought the level of formality and decorum way down with his ultra-casual attire of Adidas tee, a zipper sweater and denims. There to hype his new frat-boy comedy "Little Nicky."
Patricia Arquette: Peroxide-bleached blonde. We couldn't really catch a good look at her face because her facial skin tone and her hair sorta bled into each other under the spotlight. (Another "Little Nicky" pusher.)
Jennifer Lopez: Yes, she still makes movies. She was here for the thriller "The Cell." Well, all right, she actually wasn't here here. Lopez has got the cushiest gig out of everyone. Instead of having to actually show up at this thing in person, she was teletransmitted via video. (Must be all those court-related matters that were tying her down.)
Dennis Quaid: A member of the "Frequency" contingent (the upcoming fantasy/thriller), he was the first person to be introduced, and we didn't know which way he'd be strolling down the catwalk. So to make a long explanation short, we, um, sort of didn't really see him.
Ali Larter: Female co-star of the studio's newest Gen-Next horror flick "Final Destination," this highly touted newcomer looked like she could be any 18- to 21-year-old from anywhere.
Devon Sawa: Male version of the above. (Conveniently, also featured in "Final Destination.")
Jimmy Smits: Well, you know, it's Jimmy Smits.
Jon Seda: The real-life boxer (coming soon to a theater near you as an aspiring boxer in "Price of Glory" with Smits) was doing the old one-two uppercut, right jab dance all the way to the table.
Vince Vaughn: Lopez's "Cell" co-star looked disheveled in that "Swingers" way. Hold on, isn't he always though?
Melina Kanakaredes: Er, we looked somewhere else again. But we did catch that the "Providence" lady is going to star opposite Robert De Niro in the thriller "Fifteen Minutes."
Omar Epps: The "Love and Basketball" star looking noticeably irate.
In other ShoWest happenings:
COMING (MAIN) ATTRACTION: As promised, the studio delivered promotional footage from that fan-boy fantasy also known as "The Lord of the Rings." More of a short making-of film rather than a true trailer, the reel alternated clips from the (still-in-the-making) epic film with interviews with director Peter Jackson and actors Sean Astin and Elijah Wood. And judging from the applause, this film is certainly one to watch for in the end of 2001.
OTHER TRAILERS THAT BUZZED: "Thirteen Days," the Kevin Costner vehicle about the Cuban missile crisis and Sandler's "Little Nicky."
TRAILERS WE LIKED, REGARDLESS OF THE BUZZ: (1) "The Cell." Vaughn plays a cop, Lopez plays the serial killer he's chasing. Other than that, there's no logical way we could piece together a coherent story line from the trailer. That said, the clip was still a snazzy and stylish piece that is at once perverse and surreal; (2) "State and Main." Now we really don't know what this one's about. But an auspicious ensemble cast certainly compensates for it. The David Mamet comedy reunites P.T. Anderson crewmates Philip Seymour Hoffman and William H. Macy, as well as piling on Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker.
OTHER NOTABLE SNEAKS: "Rush Hour 2" (a rearrangement of film clips from the 1998 original, save for a new voice-over and some new titles); "Bones" (an extremely minimal trailer for a horror movie that was so deliberately minimal it reminded us of another little horror flick name of, um, "The Blair Witch Something or Other"); and, "Town and Country," Warren Beatty's long, long, long delayed marital comedy, with Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.
The "Town and Country" clips were uncensored. And by uncensored, we specifically mean the F-bomb that co-star Garry Shandling dropped at the very end of the trailer -- a phrase that you can bet won't make it out to the public come actual release time. (At least not in trailer form.)
MORE TRAILERS!OK. By now you're probably thinking (hoping) that we've run out of trailers. Wrong.
Eleven more came our way via the Miramax shindig this evening. To make it fast and painless, the most notable sneaks included: the slasher film send-up "Scary Movie; an anachronistic adaptation of "Hamlet" with Ethan Hawke; "Boys and Girls," a teen flick with Freddie Prinze Jr.; "Birthday Girl," starring Nicole Kidman as a Russian woman with a past; and "Bounce," featuring ex-lovers Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck as lovers.
But really the coolest thing seen at the Miramax preview was the trailer for "The Yards." Mixing old-school and new-school bad boys James Caan, Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix, the film looks to be operating heavily on the generic codes of Mafia flicks.
OK, no more trailer talk. Until tomorrow.
WHERE'S HARVEY? Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein (a notable no-show at the Golden Globes and Sundance) was not the only notable MIA at tonight's Miramax shindig. There was also a total absence of Miramax stars to promote any of the Miramax films (OK, trailers) discussed above. No word on why.
WEDNESDAY'S EXPECTED STAR SIGHTINGS: The early sked-line on the Sony luncheon Wednesday reads a little something like this: Sandra Bullock, Brooke Shields, Mel Gibson, Elizabeth Shue, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Bill Murray. Experience tells us that they'll be doing pretty much the same dog-and-pony show as the stars at today's New Line/Fine Line luncheon.
PLUGGING AWAY: For most folks at ShoWest this morning, Hollywood was not merely a click away on the Internet but right there at their breakfast table. The day's events were kicked off with a portly breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes) at the majestic Champagne Ballroom hosted by our very own Hollywood.com. Representing the entertainment dot.com were Hollywood.com Chairman and CEO Mitchell Rubenstein and President Laurie S. Silvers, among others. The hands-down highlight was the sneak preview of a Hollywood.com theatrical trailer titled "Easy."