This is one of those Rocky-style films in which the climax is built-in. We know there's going to be a fight where the underdog goes up against the big bad champ. It's the rest of the movie that needs to keep our attention and luckily Undisputed does a decent job save a few scenes that could have been cut. When the world heavyweight boxing champ George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames) is sentenced to 6 to 8 years for rape he is sent to the newly built Sweetwater Maximum Security Prison in the Mojave Desert. Of course he vehemently denies the charges rages at his lawyers to find a way out of this mess and is generally in a pretty foul mood. In fact he bullies and pushes people around just about wherever he goes including Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes) who as Chambers finds out is the reigning undisputed prison boxing champ--10 years running. Hutchens is a hero of sorts to the rest of the prisoners and this doesn't sit well with the Iceman. Seizing a glorious opportunity to make some serious cash longtime inmate and mob boss Mendy Ripstein (Peter Falk) sets up a boxing match between the two. He lures Hutchens into the ring on the promise of prize money to send home to his sister and three kids. For Iceman it's the chance to get out on special parole via mob ties to the parole board. For both it means a fight to the finish by London Prize Ring rules -- no referee lighter gloves and the last man standing wins. So who'll be king of the hill?
The fact that Rhames' Iceman is more than a little reminiscent of real-life boxing champ Mike Tyson and the legal woes he suffered a few years back is certainly not lost. Yet Rhames infuses his character with a certain intelligence and a lot of cocky bravado. When he is on the screen you can't take your eyes off him partly because he takes up half of it with his hulking mass. It's also kind of fun to see Rhames playing the baddie again although not quite as malevolent as Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. Snipes also puts in a compelling performance as Hutchens who was on his way to being a boxing champ himself before he lost his cool in a crime of passion and wound up in prison for murder. Hutchens doesn't say much but quietly waits out his sentence making Japanese temples out of toothpicks. His character however comes alive when he is in the ring and for a man of little words Snipes looks good dealing out the punches. The supporting characters are hit and miss. Falk seems sorely out of place among all the hoodlums and just a little too senile to be believable as a tough-nut gangster. Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) however as Hutchens' crony Ratbag lives up to his character's name nicely. Other inmates Jon Seda (Selena) as companion to Ripstein and Wes Studi (Last of the Mohicans) as the Iceman's only ally are also both memorable in small parts.
Action director Walter Hill best known for his '80s hits 48 Hrs. and The Long Riders seems to be trying out some new techniques in his older years. Without going for the typical opening credits Undisputed launches the audience right into a boxing match. Hill alternates between black and white and color to make his points but the most unique technique is how he introduces the characters. As each new character comes on screen they are immediately freeze-framed with titles detailing who they are when they were convicted and what they were convicted of. Doing this isn't necessarily a key to the story but you get to the point where you want it just because you are actually curious in finding out what crimes they've all committed. The film only drags when Rhames and Snipes are not on the screen and of course all the fancy camerawork really only pays off for the big finale. Watching these two animals duke it out in a cage is as exciting as you'd expect. Maybe not quite as bloody as say the ring action in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull but fun nonetheless.
One thing The Country Bears has in its favor is that the film keeps the plot simple. A convoluted storyline in which bears and humans interact would only make this even more painful to watch. Set in a music-video-type format where the bears and the humans sing and dance and have a grand old time the movie focuses on 11-year-old Beary Barrington (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) a young lad growing up with a very loving--and very human--family. Yet something doesn't feel right to Beary. Maybe it's because his jealous older brother Dex (Eli Marienthal) keeps telling him he has been adopted. Or maybe it's because he is a bear. Whatever the reason Beary feels connected only when he is playing his guitar and worshipping a hugely successful '60s rock band called The Country Bears--a quartet of big hairy fellows with names like Tennessee O'Neal Ted and Fred Bedderhead and Zeb Zoober who broke up over "creative differences" many moons ago. Beary decides to head out into the wild beyond to look for his true heroes--and find his place in the world. What he discovers is that the old Country Bear Hall where those wily bears used to perform is going to be torn down by the evil Reed Thimple (Christopher Walken. Yes we just said Christopher Walken.) Beary can't let this happen so he comes up with the plan to find the ex-Bears get them back together for a benefit concert and save the venue. Yee-haw.
Everyone associated with this film (from the actors to the long string of cameos by real-life musicians) surely believed they were making a fun-filled romp for the kiddies. You know "something to take the whole family to see " but they may not have realized how incredibly inane it would turn out to be. Or maybe Disney called in a lot of favors. Walken could have just lost a bet. The point is this--the human cast simply serves a purpose as the framework for the bears. Megan Fay and Stephen Tobolowsky are Beary's sugary-sweet mom and dad. Diedrich Bader and Daryl Mitchell play bumbling police officers looking for the hairy little fellow. Only Marienthal's Dex recognizes the absurdity of the situation--Beary is a bear and Marienthal gets to say probably all three of the best lines in the film. Cameos by artists such as Bonnie Raitt Don Henley and Elton John are fun but don't add much to the fray. Meanwhile the vocal talents are notable only when real-life singers like Raitt and Henley (who "sing" a duet as Tennessee and lady bear Trixie) and country singer John Hiatt (also as Tennessee) get to perform. Haley Joel Osment as the voice of Beary is more animated than the young actor has ever had the chance to be onscreen but there may be a reason for that--Osment is annoying as a chipper guy.
Most of us know about Disney theme parks and their most popular attractions--the Haunted House the Pirates of the Caribbean and of course the Country Bear Jamboree. Now Disney has gotten the bright idea to turn these attractions into movies--cashing in on the familiarity--and those singing dancing bears are the first guinea pigs. In other words Disney is grasping at straws. Granted the film is intended for children but let's not insult their intelligence as well. Besides a bad script so-so puppetry and sappy original songs the most bothersome thing about The Country Bears is that the bears walk and talk like their human counterparts have jobs eat in restaurants and play in rock-and-roll bands but there are only about six of them altogether. There aren't any other bears around. Or any other animals for that reason. At least in a Muppet movie the Muppets are everywhere and so it's understood they simply co-exist with humans. If you were to meet one of these Country Bears on the street you'd be very afraid.
The first rule of the cooking club is that you never, ever talk about the cooking club.
And the second rule of the cooking club is ... well, you get the point.
Sexy Brad Pitt might reunite with director David Fincher, whom the actor worked with in "Seven" and "Fight Club," to do a film called "Seared."
According to Daily Variety, the film is a loose reworking of chef Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential," which centers on the career of a New York celebrity chef.
'DEATH' TRAP: Variety says that Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal are considering taking the leads in "Till Death Do Us Part." The film is supposed to be a remake of 1979's "The In-Laws" which focuses on a dentist and a CIA agent in South America.
HE GOT 'GAME': Variety also reports that Gary Sinise will join Philip Baker Hall and Mason Gamble in the drama "A Gentleman's Game" about a group of men whose lives are changed forever one summer in a country club.
MACABRE TELEPATHY: "Stir of Echoes'" Kathryn Erbe will star opposite Kevin Costner in "Dragonfly," Variety reports. The film is about a widowed doctor who senses that his wife is communicating to him through his dead patients.
Anjelica Huston 'TIME' FACTOR: The Hollywood Reporter says that actress-director Anjelica Huston will direct "A Time to Be Born," a starring vehicle for Julia Roberts for Revolution Studios. Based on a Dawn Powell novel, the story follows a social climber who marries into New York high society.
Huston has a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Prizzi's Honor" alongside her acting and directing credits. She last appeared on the big screen in "Agnes Browne."
'HIGH' TIME: Actress Amanda Peet, who you may have seen in the little seen "Whipped," might join Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd in the thriller "High Crimes." The film is an adaptation of the novel by Joseph Finder about a high power lawyer (Judd) who must defend her husband in court. Peet will play the Judd character's younger sister. Freeman will play another attorney.
SHAGGY, WE'VE FOUND YOU: The Reporter says that "Scream" dude Matthew Lillard might play Shaggy in the upcoming "Scooby-Doo" project. And as we reported before, Freddie Prinze Jr. and galpal Sarah Michelle Gellar are also in talks to play teen detectives Fred and Daphne.
Madonna and Guy Ritchie have finally tied the knot.
Avoiding the hundreds-strong media pack, the couple took their solemn vows and exchanged rings in front of family and friends on Friday night, the Rev. Susan Brown, who presided over the ceremony, confirmed today.
It is believed that the couple wed at 6:30 p.m. London time.
Many guests arrived at Skibo Castle in Dornoch, Scotland, after dark, covering their faces. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Bryan Adams and Elton John were reportedly invited to join the celebration, but some reports said that Pitt and John were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
The marriage of the Queen of Pop and the British director has been reported on daily up to the actual nuptials, but strategic planning has ensured that Madonna would keep her big day private.
Security surrounding the castle was so tight that it was virtually impenetrable. Bodyguards protecting the wedding party brought in heat-seeking equipment to hunt down intruders on the grounds of the Highlands castle.
Two uninvited guests caught hiding in nearby 13th century Dornoch Cathedral, where the couple's 4-month-old son Rocco was christened Thursday night, have been arrested and released with court dates in their future. The unnamed men, one of whom reportedly hid in an organ, were not members of the news media, local police said.
Madonna ordered private security for her wedding day rather than turn over the arrangements to local police. The Rev. Brown, who conducted Friday's service in Skibo Castle, also presided over the baptism of Rocco on Thursday.
Former Police frontman Sting, who donned a kilt, and wife Trudie Styler were among the first guests to arrive for the wedding. They are guests of honor after introducing the couple at a dinner party two years ago. Sweeping into the driveway of the 76,000-acre estate in a navy blue Mercedes, Sting and Styler waved to the crowds of well wishers and media.
Designer Stella McCartney, the daughter of former Beatle Paul McCartney, was also an early guest. She has been secretly working on a wedding dress believed to be a stunning gothic design. The bride chose a sparkling $72,000 French diamond bracelet to complement the wedding gown, according to London jeweler Susy Lauder.
Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow was reportedly maid of honor at the ceremony. Other guests said to be in the Highlands today included Chris Ciccone, Madonna's brother; sister Melanie and father Silvio; Madonna's close girlfriend, fashion designer Ingrid Casares; rock star Jon Bon Jovi; fashion scion Donatella Versace; actor Rupert Everett; and Ritchie's family.
Carlos Leon, the father of Madonna's 4-year-old daughter Lourdes, was also on the guest list.
Other reported wedding details included:
The menu for the wedding breakfast included haggis, a spicy Scottish meat dish.
A Caillie band was booked for traditional Scottish dancing and music in the great hall of the stone castle.
Instead of jetting off to warmer climates for a honeymoon, the couple plans to stay in their suite at the castle.
The cake, prepared by a French baker, was flown to Scotland to a nearby Royal Air Force base after flights into the passenger airport were diverted due to fog.