By both critical and commercial measures live-action anime adaptations boast a record of futility second perhaps only to videogame adaptations. Some essential aspect of the source material is irretrievably lost during the process of translating Japanese cartoon to Hollywood tentpole something that even the most bloated visual effects budget can’t conceal. Think Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer.
And yet Hollywood keeps trying lured by tantalizing visions of cash-cow franchises fed by loyal built-in — and most importantly international — audiences. The latest casualty of this misguided ambition is The Last Airbender based on the hit Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. To be fair Avatar isn’t anime in the orthodox sense in that it was conceived and produced in the States but its style and soul are almost exclusively anime-inspired. As such its big-screen fate is similarly sealed.
Who could possibly break such a rueful trend? For some reason the minds at Paramount thought M. Night Shyamalan that notorious purveyor of ponderous and increasingly shlocky supernatural thrillers might succeed where so many other directors had failed. Even worse they saw fit to hire him to pen the screenplay as well ensuring that every vital aspect of the film would feel the crushing weight of his heavy hand. With such a hacky burden to bear it comes as no surprise that The Last Airbender never really takes flight.
The film's story is set in a world divided into four tribes each aligned to an element: Air Earth Water and Fire. Certain gifted tribe members known as a “benders ” can manipulate the properties of their assigned element to suit their ends. In order to do so they must first perform an elaborate and utterly ridiculous kung fu dance after which a torrent of fire water or whatever arises to obey their command.
For the better part of a century the oppressive and warlike Firebenders have besieged the other nations gradually thinning their respective ranks. The Air Nomads have faired the worst of the lot and are presumed to be extinct until Water peeps Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) discover a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer) trapped in a giant ball of ice. Not only is Unfrozen Kung Fu Warrior the last remaining Airbender (thus the title) he is also an Avatar the only being on the planet capable of wielding all four elements. And only he can bring an end to the Firebenders’ evil reign.
Blessed with an opportunity to reinvent himself in a new genre and with a new demographic Shyamalan can’t avoid falling back on old habits most notably his penchant for awkward and cumbersome dialogue. It’s difficult enough for adults to deliver his lines but it’s absolute hell for The Last Airbender’s youthful protagonists whose not yet fully-developed temporal lobes can’t hope to adequately process the inanities of Shyamalan-speak. One can almost see the smoke coming from little Noah’s ears as he labors to complete each portentous sentence. Poor kid. Where are the Child Labor people when you need them?
But bad dialogue is only one of a litany of problems that plagues The Last Airbender which suffers from mediocre CGI inexplicable casting decisions (caucasians actors none of whom are especially talented are tabbed for asian roles when sufficiently mediocre race-appropriate actors were surely available) and a plot comprehensible only to the most ardent fans of the Nickelodeon series. Much as Aang bends the air Shyamalan tries to bend the laws of quality cinema to his will but they refuse to yield to the force of his ego. I only wish the execs at Paramount had been as stalwart.
Top Story: Mum's the Word on Nicole and Lenny's Romance
Nicole Kidman plans on keeping her romance with rocker Lenny Kravitz private. In an interview appearing in W magazine's December issue, The Associated Press reports the Oscar-winning actress says she learned a few things from her very public marriage to actor Tom Cruise. "I don't think I will ever put myself up for scrutiny, in terms of a personal relationship, ever again," she says. "It's too delicate, too ephemeral, too painful when it fails. So to have it on display terrifies me." Although she admits to being depressed after her divorce from Cruise in August 2001, Kidman seems to have found love again with Kravitz. "The idea of being able to give somebody something again, that's a nice thing," she said. "Being able to give a part of yourself again is a nice thing."
Rosie Mag Admits Losses
In the breach of contract suit between Rosie O'Donnell and Gruner + Jahr USA, the publisher of her now-defunct magazine Rosie, G+J chief financial officer Lawrence Diamond admitted Monday that his company reported false circulation figures to hide the magazine's losses, AP reports. Diamond said fudging the numbers enabled the magazine Rosie to keep running. "We did not want to shut down," Diamond testified under questioning by Matthew Fishbein, an O'Donnell lawyer. If the magazine lost more than $4.2 million in a fiscal year, O'Donnell would have been permitted to end her arrangement with G+J, AP reports.
Morrison Sued for Concert Cancellation
Veteran rocker Van Morrison was ordered by a British court to pay damages to a western England hotel for canceling a concert there last August, Reuters reports. The court heard testimony that Crown Hotel owner Gary Marlow had turned down "substantial offers" by Morrison to settle the case out of court but to no avail.
New Line Sets Up Rings Essay Contest
New Line Cinema will be generating a Lord of the Rings creative writing contest to a select group of high schools and middle schools in Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York in anticipation of the Dec. 17 release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The contest asks children to write a 200-word essay on the theme of the wizard Gandalf's quote: "All you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to you." The deadline for submitting an essay is Friday, with New Line selecting one winner out of each group in December. Four grand-prize winners will receive promotional items from the film, along with a private screening for the student's friends and family, and the prizes for all schools that participate include a $10,000 grant per city applied to the purchase of new books for the school library, as well as a complete set of The Lord of the Rings book series donated by publisher Houghton Mifflin.
Danza Tries Hand at Daytime TV
Who's the Boss? star Tony Danza and Buena Vista Television are developing a new talk show for Danza to host that is aimed at female audiences, Reuters reports. The program does not yet have an airdate or a title, but according to Reuters, Buena Vista said it would sell the show in the syndication market.
Singer Donates Serious Cash to University
Singer Ray Charles has donated $1 million to Dillard University in New Orleans, La., so the school can create a black culture program, AP reports. The donation will create an endowed faculty position and program devoted to the musical, culinary, artistic and linguistic contributions of black Americans, Dillard spokeswoman Maureen Larkins told AP. The 73-year-old singer received an honorary degree in May from Dillard, a private, predominantly black school associated with the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.
Williams Bids Adieu to CNBC
Brian Williams is leaving his anchor position at CNBC in January, Reuters reports, and will take over from Tom Brokaw at NBC Nightly News after the 2004 presidential election. In the down time between jobs, Williams is expected to contribute as a reporter for NBC, as well as fill in for Brokaw when necessary. "We are heading into an incredibly busy news cycle in 2004 with the primary season, the conventions, the Olympics and the elections," NBC News president Neal Shapiro said in a statement. "With the transition at Nightly on the horizon, it's more important than ever that Brian is able to turn his full attention to the network for the coverage of these stories."
Spike TV To Host Video Game Awards
Spike TV will play host to the inaugural Video Game Awards show in Las Vegas next month, hosted by actor-comedian David Spade, AP reports. "The VGAs celebrate those games that have blistered our fingers poised on the joystick and kept us up all night," Albie Hecht, president of Spike TV, said in a statement Monday. "We're throwing out all the boring and stagnant elements of traditional awards shows and focusing on what matters--the characters, game play, animation, music and performances that have made an impact on the video game community throughout the past year." The show will premiere on the "first network for men" on Dec. 4. Gaming industry experts, public opinion via Spike TV's Web site and the network's editorial board will determine the winners, AP reports.
The Writers Guild of America has announced its nominations for outstanding achievement in screen in 2002.
Antwone Fisher, Bowling for Columbine, Far From Heaven, Gangs of New York and My Big Fat Greek Wedding have been nominated for the WGA's best original screenplay award.
About a Boy, About Schmidt, Adaptation, Chicago and
The Hours meanwhile will contend for best adapted screenplay.
Antwone Fisher, Written by Antwone Fisher; Fox Searchlight
Bowling for Columbine, Written by Michael Moore; United Artists/Alliance Atlantis/Salter Street Films/Dog Eat Dog Films
Far From Heaven, Written by Todd Haynes; Focus Features
Gangs of New York, Screenplay by Jay Cocks and Steven Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan, story by Jay Cocks; Miramax Films
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Written by Nia Vardalos; Gold Circle Films/HBO/MPH Entertainment/Playtone
About a Boy, Screenplay by Peter Hedges and Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz, based on the novel by Nick Hornby; Universal Pictures/Studio Canal/Working Title Films/Tribeca Productions
About Schmidt, Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, based on the novel by Louis Begley; New Line Cinema
Adaptation, Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman, based on the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean; Columbia Pictures
Chicago, Screenplay by Bill Condon, based on the musical play, book by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb and the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins; Miramax Films
The Hours, Screenplay by David Hare, based on the novel by Michael Cunningham; Paramount Pictures/Miramax Films
Animation--any length--one airing time (new category)
"The Bart Wants What It Wants" (The Simpsons), Written by John Frink & Don Payne; Gracie Films in association with 20th Century Fox Television; Fox
"Blame It on Lisa" (The Simpsons), Written by Bob Bendetson; Gracie Films in association with 20th Century Fox Television; Fox
"Godfellas" (Futurama), Written by Ken Keeler; 20th Century Fox Television; Fox
"Jaws Wired Shut" (The Simpsons), Written by Matt Selman; Gracie Films in association with 20th Century Fox Television; Fox
"My Own Private Rodeo" (King of the Hill), Written by Alex Gregory & Peter Huyck; 20th Century Fox Television Productions in association with Deedle-Dee Productions, Judgmental Films and 3 Arts Entertainment; Fox
Santa Baby! Written by Peter Bakalian & Suzanne Collins; Rankin/Bass; Fox
Original Long Form--over one hour--one or two parts, one or two airing times
Dor to Door, Written by William H. Macy & Steven Schachter; Turner Pages, Inc.; TNT
The Gathering Storm, Teleplay by Hugh Whitemore, Story by Larry Ramin and Hugh Whitemore; a Scott Free Production in association with HBO Films; HBO
Sins of the Father Written by John Pielmeier, based on the magazine article that appeared in Texas Monthly by Pamela Colloff; Artisan; FX
Strange Relations, Written by Tim Kazurinsky; Showtime; Granada Entertainment; Showtime
Adapted Long Form--over one hour--one or two parts, one or two airing times
"Batogne" (Band of Brothers), Written by Bruce C. McKenna, based on the book by Stephen E. Ambrose; DreamWorks/Playtone/HBO; HBO
Hysterical Blindness, Teleplay by Laura Cahill, based on the play by Laura Cahill; Hysterical Films, Inc.; HBO
Last Call, Screenplay by Henry Bromell, based on the memoir Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald by Frances Kroll Ring; Room 520/Barnstorm Films; Showtime
Mark Twain's Roughing It, Teleplay by Steven H. Berman, based on the book Roughing It by Mark Twain; Larry Levinson Productions; Hallmark Channel
Episodic Drama--any length, one airing time
"Game On" (The West Wing), Written by Aaron Sorkin & Paul Redford; John Wells Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television; NBC
"In Place of Anger" (Six Feet Under), Written by Christian Taylor; Six Feet Productions; HBO
"Nino Del Polvo" (Resurrection Boulevard), Written by Robert Eisele; Showtime; Viacom Productions, Inc.; Patagonia House; Showtime
"On the Beach" (ER), Written by John Wells; Constant C Productions; Amblin Television; Warner Bros. Television; NBC
Pilot (The Education of Max Bickford), Written by Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin; 20th Century Fox Television; CBS
"Whoever Did This" (The Sopranos), Written by Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess; Soprano Productions, Inc.; HBO
Episodic Comedy--any length, one airing time
"Change of Address" (Sex and the City), Written by Julie Rottenberg & Elisa Zuritsky; Darren Star Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; HBO
"I Heart NY" (Sex and the City), Written by Michael Patrick King; Darren Star Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; HBO
Pilot (The Bernie Mac Show), Written by Larry Wilmore; Regency Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television; FOX
"My First Day", (pilot, Scrubs), Written by Bill Lawrence; Touchstone Television Productions; NBC
"Plus One is the Loneliest Number" (Sex and the City), Written by Cindy Chupack; Darren Star Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; HBO
"Rooms With a View" (Frasier), Written by Dan O' Shannon & Lori Kirkland & Bob Daily; Grub Street Productions in association with Paramount Pictures; NBC
"The Wedding" (Ed), Written by Rob Burnett & Jon Beckerman; Viacom Productions in association with Worldwide Pants, Inc. and NBC Studios; NBC
Comedy/Variety---Music, Awards, Tributes--Specials--any length
The Kennedy Center Honors Written by Don Baer and George Stevens, Jr., Film Sequences Written by Sara Lukinson; A George Stevens Jr. Presentation - Kennedy Center Television Productions, Inc.; CBS
NBC 75th Anniversary Special, Written by Doug Abeles, James Anderson, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Charlie Grandy, Steve Higgins, Lorne Michaels, Paula Pell, Herb Sargent, Michael Schur, Michael Shoemaker; Broadway Video in association with NBC Studios; NBC
Comedy/Variety--(including talk) Series
Dennis Miller Live, Written by Eddie Feldmann, Jose Arroyo, Richard Dahm, David Feldman, Jim Hanna, Rob Z. Kutner, Kirsten McFarland, Dennis Miller, Jacob Sager Weinstein; Happy Family Productions; HBO
Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Written by Mike Sweeney, Chris Albers, Andy Blitz, Kevin Dorff, Jonathan Glaser, Michael Gordon, Brian Kiley, Michael Koman, Brian McCann, Guy Nicolucci, Conan O'Brien, Andrew Secunda, Allison Silverman, Robert Smigel, Brian Stack, Andrew Weinberg; Broadway Video; NBC
Mad TV, Writing Supervised by Scott King, Written by Dick Blasucci, Garry Campbell, Lauren Dombrowski, Bryan Adams, Bruce McCoy, Michael Hitchcock, Steven Cragg, Chris Cluess, John Crane, Jennifer Joyce, Tami Sagher, Devon Shepard, Rich Talarico, Jim Wise, Kal Clarke, Sultan Pepper, Bill Kelley, Maiya Williams, Dino Stamatopoulos; QDE/Girl Group; FOX
Saturday Night Live, Written by Tina Fey, Doug Abeles, Leo Allen, James Anderson, Max Brooks, James Downey, James Eagan, Hugh Fink, Charlie Grandy, Jack Handey, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Dennis McNicholas, Lorne Michaels, Corwin Moore, Matt Murray, Paula Pell, Matt Piedmont, Ken Scarborough, Michael Schur, Frank Sebastiano, T. Sean Shannon, Eric Slovin, Robert Smigel, Emily Spivey, Andrew Steele, Scott Wainio, Jerry Collins, Tom David; Broadway Video in association with SNL Studios; NBC
Guiding Light, Written by Millee Taggart, Lucky Gold, Christopher Dunn, Tita Bell, Jill Lorie Hurst, Penelope Koechl, David Kreizman, Eleanor Labine, Alan Madison, Danielle Paige, A.J. Pierce, Janet Reed Ahearn, Susan Rice, David Rupel, Melissa Salmons, Eddie Sanchez, Lisa Seidman, David Smilow; Procter & Gamble; CBS
The Young and the Restless, Written by Kay Alden, Trent Jones, John F. Smith, Jerry Birn, Jim Houghton, Natalie Minardi, Janice Ferri, Eric Freiwald, Joshua McCaffrey, Michael Minnis, Rex M. Best; Columbia TriStar; CBS
Elmo's World: Happy Holidays!, Written by Christine Ferraro; Sesame Workshop; PBS
Off Season, Written by Glenn Gers; Showtime Networks, Inc.; Showtime
Our America, Teleplay by Gordon Rayfield, Based on the book "Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago" by Lealan Jones, Lloyd Newman and David Isay; Joseph Stern Productions; All Media, Inc.; Showtime
The Red Sneakers, Teleplay by Mark Saltzman, Story by Jeffrey Rubin; Lynch Entertainment, Tom Lynch Company, RS Productions, Ltd., Showtime Networks, Inc.; Showtime
Bioterror (Nova), Written by Matthew Collins; A Nova Production by the New York Times/ Granada Factuals USA and Lone Wolf Pictures, Inc., for WGBH/ Boston in association with Channel 4 Television; PBS
The Man Who Knew (Frontline), Written by Michael J. Kirk, Kirk Documentary Group; PBS
9/11, Written by Tom Forman & Greg Kandra; Goldfish Pictures, Inc.; CBS
Rollover: The Hidden Story of the SUV (Frontline), Written by Marc Shaffer & Barak Goodman; 10/20 Productions; PBS
Documentary--Other Than Current Events
America's First River, Part One, Written by Tom Spain; WNET/Educational Broadcasting Corp.; Public Affairs Television; PBS
Empire State Building Ironworker (A Day in their Lives), Written by Peter Hankoff; Termite Art Productions; History Channel; History Channel
Evolution of a Revolution (Founding Brothers), Written by Kelly McPherson and Melissa Jo Peltier & Allison MacEwan; MPH Entertainment Inc.; History Channel; History Channel
Monkey Trial (American Experience), Written by Christine Lesiak; WGBH Educational Foundation; PBS
News--Regularly Scheduled, Bulletin or Breaking Report
Attack on America Written by Jerry Cipriano, Paul Fischer, Thomas Harris, Hugh Heckman, Bruce Meyer; CBS Evening News; CBS
September 11th Controllers, Written by Jonathan W. Kaplan; CBS
Christopher "Play" Martin, of the rap group Kid N' Play, has been accused of failing to pay child support, The Associated Press reports. Martin, 38, was arraigned Friday in federal court in Central Islip, N.Y., on charges that he failed to pay $32,277 in child support to his 7-year-old son Skyler with former wife, actress Shari Headley. She told New York's Newsday that the rapper hasn't seen his son or paid child support since the couple split in 1995.
Late actor Anthony Quinn was honored Saturday with the Gabriel Figueroa Lifetime Achievement Award at the fifth annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. "As far as people who have given their lives to Latin cinema, he was one of the giants of all times," said actor Edward James Olmos, the festival's artistic director, said during the ceremony. Present at the event were former costars Kirk Douglas and Mickey Rooney. Quinn's widow, Katherine Quinn, accepted the award. Cinematographer Gabriel Figeroa and actor Raul Julia have been previous recipients of this award. Quinn died earlier this year.
Producer Aaron Spelling and his wife, Candy, are selling the house where the 1976 pilot for the television series Charlie's Angels was shot, AP reports. The home, built in 1936, has six bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a tennis court, and a master suite with a fireplace. The Spellings lived there for 16 years before they moved to their six-acre home that once belonged to Bing Crosby.
Actress Angelina Jolie paid a visit to Cambodia as a guest of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, AP reports. Jolie, 26, toured former Khmer Rouge zones where the UNHCR worked with displaced people and returned refugees. She also spent the last two nights in Anlong Veng; the last hangout of the communist rebel groups before the guerrillas killed them in 1998. Jolie stars in the action flick Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which includes scenes shot in Cambodia at Angkok Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, known for Buddhist and Hindu temples around Cambodia.
To mark Harry Potter's birthday on Tuesday, Warner Bros. has set up an electronic birthday card on its Web site for the upcoming movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, based on the first of the best-selling children's Potter's books by J.K. Rowling, The Associated Press reported. The CBS Early Show will televise a birthday party for the fictional character, including a Harry Potter lookalike contest, balloons, cake and a 6-foot birthday card.
Brad Pitt and wife Jennifer Aniston have bought a $13.5 million French Normandy-style house in Beverly Hills, AP reports. The 12,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house was built in the 1930s for actor Fredric March. The house has a rotunda foyer, a screening room, and a wine cellar.
Former 1980s heartthrob Luke Perry, from Beverly Hills 90210 will star in and executive produce Jeremiah, a sci-fi series for Showtime. Jeremiah is set in a future post-apocalyptic world, where a virus wiped all the adult population, leaving only those who hadn't reached puberty, Reuters reports. Perry will portray the title character. Malcolm-Jamal Warner (The Cosby Show) will costar. Perry is currently playing the role of Brad Majors in the Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show.
Lucy Lawless, the former Xena: Warrior Princess has signed on for a multi-episode gig on the upcoming season of The X-Files, Variety reports. The actress is set to appear on the show's first two episodes. Details about her character are being kept under wraps. The new season of The X-Files will premiere on Nov. 4.
Universal Pictures and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment are moving forward in their efforts to turn the children's book series Curious George into a movie. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the project, originally planned as a live-action feature, will now be a fully CGI project a la Shrek. Grazer also said that the studio's parent company, Vivendi Universal, which acquired Curious George book publisher Houghton Mifflin in June, is planning on turning the character into its unofficial corporate mascot.
Around 140 films will be screened during the 58th Venice Film Festival, running from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8, although not all will be entered into the competition, the BBC News reported. Among the competitors are Alejandro Amenabar's The Others, starring Nicole Kidman and Christopher Eccleston, Woody Allen's The Curse of Jade Scorpion, Richard Linklater's Waking Life and Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence. In addition, 20 films from the international competition will come from Spain, Italy, France, Hong Kong, Mexico, the Netherlands, India, Romania, and Brazil. French filmmaker Eric Rohmer will receive the Golden Lion lifetime achievement award.