The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
Lansing to leave Paramount
Sherry Lansing, one of the most powerful figures in the movie business and the first woman ever to helm a major studio, plans to exit her position as chairwoman of Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures at the end of next year when her contract expires, according to the Los Angeles Times. Lansing, 60, a former actress and model, became the first female president of production for a Hollywood studio in 1980 when she took the job at 20th Century Fox Productions. She later partnered with producer Stanley Jaffe in 1983 and together they made such films as Fatal Attraction and The Accused. When Jaffe became the president of Paramount Communications in 1992, he brought Lansing with him, making her studio chief. Some of the films under her watch included the Oscar-winning blockbusters Titanic, Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan. According to a source familiar with the situation, The Times reports Lansing will stay long enough to help choose her successor and to aid in the transition. But after 12 years in one of the most high-pressure jobs in the business, Lansing has made it known that she does not plan to seek another entertainment industry job.
Brosnan thinks Colin Farrell would be good Bond
Pierce Brosnan, who played agent James Bond in the last four 007 films, said although several actors could fill the secret agent's shoes, he favored a certain fellow Irishman, AP reports. "I'll give it to Colin Farrell. He'll eat the head off them all," Brosnan, 51, said following an entertainment awards ceremony Saturday in Dublin. Brosnan, who concluded his franchise run with 2002's Die Another Day, also said he was discussing a possible collaboration with director Quentin Tarantino, who is considering adapting the Bond novel Casino Royale. "We have discussed things, Quentin and I, but I don't know if it's going to be that particular project," Brosnan said.
Wyclef Jean goes to Haiti to end violence
Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean visited Haiti Sunday to try to help end a wave of violence that has left at least 79 people dead, AP reports, stemming from the Sept. 30 anniversary of a 1991 coup against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The singer said he planned to talk to all sectors of Haitian society during his four-day visit to promote dialogue and plans for a peace concert in December. Jean also told AP the U.S. presidential election could help or hinder the process. "I think if (President) Bush comes in power then there's not too much of a negotiation with Haiti. It's more like whatever he wants to do he's just going to do it," Jean said in an interview Monday. "I think if (John) Kerry became president, he would bring peace. There would be a dialogue."
Dutch filmmaker shot dead
Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who outraged Muslims with his controversial films dealing with Islam after the Sept. 11 attacks, was stabbed and shot dead in Amsterdam Tuesday, Reuters reports. Van Gogh, 47, a distant relative of 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, was attacked near a park close to the center of the Dutch capital. Police arrested a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan citizenship at the scene, officials told Reuters, after an exchange of gunfire in which the suspect wounded a police officer. Van Gogh received many death threats stemming from his most recent film, Submission, about a Muslim woman forced into an arranged marriage who is abused by her husband and raped by her uncle, which aired on Dutch television earlier this year.
Cosby starts scholarship in Mass. school
Bill Cosby helped his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, raise $1.5 million for a new program aimed at giving scholarships to students from the poorer communities around the university, The Associated Press reports. The bulk of the money comes from a benefit concert that Cosby gave at the school Friday. "We want to say this is a place that reaches out to people living in depressed areas," Cosby said. "That this university has open arms for all Americans as a state school should." Cosby also said his hope is that students selected for the awards would teach in schools in economically depressed areas for at least two years after their graduation, AP reports.
McGraw joins AFL ranks
Tim McGraw, who plays a former high-school football player in the sports drama Friday Night Lights, has become a part owner of the Arena Football League's Nashville Kats, AP reports. The country singer joins Bud Adams, owner of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, and Mark Bloom as co-owners of the franchise. McGraw, who will perform for Kats' season ticket holders and sponsors next year in a bid to boost attendance, is not the only singer to head and AFL team. Jon Bon Jovi is part owner of the Philadelphia Soul. "If he gets out there, I'll get out there because I know I can cream him," McGraw joked, adding he'd do anything to help promote his own new team, even if it means getting on the field with Bon Jovi.
Movie musical star Peggy Ryan dies
Peggy Ryan, who teamed with dance partner Donald O'Connor in movie musicals such as This Is the Life and When Johnny Comes Marching Home, died Saturday in Las Vegas' Sunrise Hospital of complications from two strokes, AP reports. She was 80. Ryan and O'Connor became known for their routines in films such as Mister Big, Chip Off the Old Block and Bowery to Broadway. Her friend Dottie Fusch said Ryan had taught tap dancing and produced revues in Las Vegas for the last several years and was teaching and performing until several days before entering the hospital. Ryan is survived by her daughter, Kerry English, son, Sean Sherman, and five grandchildren.
Move over, Grinch, for Mel Gibson is in the house.
That said, looks like Jim Carrey's "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" will finally meet its match this weekend in the form of Gibson's romantic comedy "What Women Want."
With a big opening (playing on 3,000-plus screens) and "The Grinch's" natural decline, Mel and his "Women" should be able to take the box office crown this weekend.
Here's a look at the films opening this weekend .
"What Women Want"
THE SKINNY: After playing a stuffy revolutionary-type in this summer's "The Patriot," Mel Gibson switches gear in a comedy about a guy (Gibson) endowed with the ability to hear what women think. Helen Hunt plays one of those lucky females he mind-reads, and the cast also includes Marisa Tomei, Bette Midler and Delta Burke. THE UPSIDE: Pun intended: Women want Mel Gibson. And don't just take our word for it: "I think 'What Women Want' is pretty much guaranteed the No. 1 spot. The star and the premise should be strong enough to carry the picture. It's a high-concept movie, I say high teens to $20 million is quite feasible," Brandon Gray, editor of boxofficemojo.com, told Hollywood.com. THE DOWNSIDE: 'Tis the season not so jolly for the movies. Gray explains, "It very rare for a movie to have a huge opening at this time of the year, and that is what the film has going against it."
"The Emperor's New Groove"
THE SKINNY: Disney's newest venture to regain the crown in animated features. This particular one has to do with a young emperor who fights to return to human form after he is transformed into a (yes) llama in an act of treason committed by his adviser. THE UPSIDE: It's a Disney animated film. And everyone loves that! THE DOWNSIDE: Or, do they? Let's not forget that recent Disney flicks -- "Dinosaur," for one -- have not fared so well in the new animation game.
And then there's "The Grinch."
"The Grinch" is its only competition, but that's a behemoth," Gray said. "I will place my bet in the low teens, less than 'The Grinch' probably. It could be in the No. 3 spot, depending how 'Vertical Limit' do. We have a bunch of movies here that are very close this weekend, including this one, ''Vertical Limit' and 'Dude, Where's My Car?'"
"Dude, Where's My Car?"
THE SKINNY: "That '70s Show" hottie Ashton Kutcher and "Road Trip" and "American Pie" guy Seann William Scott are a couple of stoners a la "Beavis and Butthead" who wake up one day and can't remember where they parked their car. And yes, the rest of the film is about them looking for it by retracing the night's events. THE UPSIDE: It has got the dedication of a core audience, namely the type of boys embodied by lowbrow fare such as the "Bill and Ted" flicks, "Road Trip" and "American Pie." THE DOWNSIDE: "There's no indication that this would be another "Road Trip" and "American Pie," but it's certainly not going to be another 'Whatever It Takes," Gray says. "It could come within range with 'Vertical Limit' and 'Emperor.' It's definitely going to be in the Top Five, but which movie is going to do better is a flip of the coin. But I'm leaning toward the fifth place for this film."
Also, if you happen to be in Los Angeles or New York this weekend, check out Chocolat with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche, and Pollock, about the life of Abstract Expression painter Jackson Pollock, with Ed Harris as both the star and the director. Both films are opening in those cities today.
And don't forget holdovers such as "The Grinch," "Vertical Limit" and "Proof of Life."