Not to be confused with the 1979 ghost story The Changeling this Changeling is a horror story of a very different stripe. Based on a long forgotten case buried deep in the L.A. crime files this true tale revolves around the mysterious 1928 disappearance of 9-year-old Walter Collins. Set in an election year and with heavy political pressure on city officials and a corrupt LAPD they find a child five months later who they claim is Walter and arrange to reunite him with his mother Christine (Angelina Jolie). Only problem is she says this is not her kid. When she asks the police to continue trying to find her son she finds herself victimized and accused of being insane and unfit for not going along with the PR campaign informing the public that the police have solved the case. With the help of a community activist Reverend Briegleb (John Malkovich) she begins to fight the city and the police who try in every way to silence her even committing her to a mental institution. The film details not only her valiant quest to right a wrong and find her real son but serves as a probing indictment of the police state 1920’s Los Angeles had become. As in her searing portrayal of the pregnant Marianne Pearl in last year’s A Mighty Heart Angelina Jolie once again connects with her maternal side. In another challenging role she must exhibit a wide emotional range going from fear to anguish to anger to pure resolve in an effort to uncover the mystery of her son’s abduction. Splendidly outfitted in ‘20s garb Jolie delves deep into the soul of a woman who dared to go against the grain and challenge a corrupt police department in Prohibition-era L.A. She’s simply remarkable in the most intense determined and heartbreaking role of her career. As the man who helps out in her cause Malkovich is perfectly matched to Jolie. As the merciless Captain Jones who heads the investigation to find Walter Jeffrey Donovan (TV’s Burn Notice) is properly frustrating and imposing while Colm Feore gets the evil side of his LAPD police chief down pat. Nailing her few scenes Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) plays a fellow psycho-ward inmate who helps Christine when she is institutionalized. Particularly impressive is Eddie Alderson as the 15-year-old nephew of the serial killer who leads police to a grisly crime scene and his uncle played a bit over the top by Jason Butler Harner. And filling out their juvenile roles nicely are Gattlin Griffith as Walter and eerie Devon Conti as the young man impersonating him. Clint Eastwood knows his way around ominous foreboding material so it’s no wonder he was instantly attracted to J. Michael Stracynski’s immaculately researched script. After Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River Eastwood exhibits a strong understanding of the dark side of human nature. Changeling fits right in with his oeuvre and he delivers yet another superbly crafted and acted film -- one that exists on two separate levels as a look at the corruption that crept into the LAPD of the era and as an impassioned journey of a woman trying to find a happy ending for herself and her son. Shot with the director’s usual ease Eastwood seems comfortable letting the almost unbelievable facts of the story speak for themselves and remarkably didn’t change a word of Stracynski’s fascinating screenplay. He doesn’t have to. The fact that it’s a true story that all really happened is simply incredible by itself. This is an unforgettable triumph for everyone involved.
According to Reuters, the Backstreet Boys have filed a $100 million lawsuit against Zomba Music Group, claiming the record label misused the group's trademark by using it to send traffic to other Web sites and effectively barred the boy band from recording a new album while Zomba merged with German media giant Bertelsmann AG. The group's lawyer, Carla Christofferson, told Reuters the suit was asking for $75 million for the trademark violation, $5 million for the lost advance on the album and $20 million in punitive damages.
Michael Jackson sure is getting a lot of press in Berlin lately. Last week, he dangled his infant son from a hotel room balcony, causing an uproar with child advocates. This week, Reuters reports, he told the German magazine Bunte he doesn't like pop music. He was seen in a music store in Berlin, without a bodyguard, buying two CDs of classical music. And he's the king of what?
Online magazine Film Threat has come up with the polar opposite version of the ever-popular Hollywood hot list. Called the "Frigid 50," it's a tally of Hollywood's coldest celebrities--and Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe tops it. The Associated Press reports Film Threat calls Crowe "our favorite wild boor, whose bad-boy big mouth and Redwood-sized chip-on-the-shoulder easily cost him an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind." Others on the list include Winona Ryder, Barbra Streisand and Anna Nicole Smith.
Czech film director Karel Reisz, best known for helming the 1981 The French Lieutenant's Woman starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, died in London Monday. He was 76. Cause of death was not immediately available according to Variety.
Fox is having to do some schedule shuffling to prepare for the second season of its monster hit American Idol. The one-hour audition/performance special will air at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, with the subsequent half-hour shows airing Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. To make room, Fox is moving That '70s Show to Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. and pushing The Bernie Mac Show and Cedric The Entertainer Presents to the 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. slots, respectively.
The British Broadcast Advertising Clearance Center has banned a commercial for a new animated series called 2DTV because it pokes fun at President Bush. The British show mocks celebrities and politicians regularly, and is currently running ads where a cartoon Bush inserts a DVD into a toaster and burns it. The BACC's rules states that living people cannot be caricatured without their permission.
A woman who sued Limp Bizkit's frontman Fred Durst for $5 million, claiming he threw a microphone at her during the band's Anger Management tour, has settled for an undisclosed sum, Reuters reports. Lighting technician Connie Paulson claims Durst hurled the microphone at her "with no provocation," knocking out a tooth and breaking her nose while she was dismantling lights at the end of a show in Birmingham, Ala.
White Oleander focuses on teen beauty Astrid Magnusson (Alison Lohman) and her equally beautiful mother Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) an accomplished--if self-centered and manipulative--artist who tends to drag her daughter a budding artist in her own right into her own neuroses. To Astrid however her mother is a goddess--at least until police charge Ingrid with poisoning her lover in a fit of jealousy and she is sentenced to life imprisonment. Astrid is immediately placed into the foster care program and each new home presents a different set of rules for the young girl. There's life with Starr (Robin Wright Penn) an alcoholic-turned-born-again-Christian who becomes violently jealous of Astrid. There's life in a child-welfare institution where Astrid meets Paul (Patrick Fugit) a comic book artist with whom she immediately connects. Then there's life with Claire (Renee Zellweger) a lonely woman who can't have children of her own and whose husband (Noah Wyle) is never home. Claire shows Astrid the kind of genuine love the girl has never experienced but Ingrid haunts them needling and sabotaging her daughter's happiness at every turn. Astrid could simply go off the deep end but instead she becomes more resilient ultimately reaching a place where she can love her mother without letting her destroy her life. Sapville.
The acting talent in Oleander is definitely the movie's saving grace. The actresses make the film's trite dialogue almost palatable. Pfeiffer is amazingly beautiful and strong as Ingrid and she manages to burn the character into our brains even when she's not on the screen. Ingrid's relationship with her daughter is at times hard to watch: Ingrid digs at Astrid to try and control her but all this really does is expose Ingrid's own insecurities and failings as a mother. Pfeiffer relishes these moments and plays them to their full effect. Playing the other two "mothers" in Astrid's life the always good Penn takes the thankless part of Starr and turns it into something memorable while Zellweger's expert turn as Claire has a broken-doll quality that perfectly captures the character's fragility. The real dilemma for the film's producers was finding the right Astrid--an actress who could hold her own at the heart of the story--and whose talent would hold up opposite Pfieffer. Lohman was chosen from a cast of thousands and does a fine job playing Astrid; the camera clearly loves her. Still she needs a little more experience under her belt before she can truly shine. Fugit who was once the newcomer himself in Almost Famous (and did a much better job the first time out) manages to create a believable rapport with Lohman as her boyfriend Paul.
OK this is a gripe to all Hollywood executives: stop using sentimental material to make major motion pictures even if it is from a bestselling book. While Fitch's novel tells a moving story it does not necessarily translate into an inspiring film. Director Peter Kosminsky does his best with Oleander to create a haunting atmosphere and there are times when the material is elevated especially in the scenes between Zellweger and Lohman and those that explore the tragedy that befalls them. Yet ultimately the film plays like an after-school special. This isn't to say an intimate story can't make an interesting movie (The Good Girl and Igby Goes Down are just two examples of what's out there right now) but Oleander fails to engage its audience in any kind of meaningful way.