Late stage and screen icon Elaine Stritch was honoured with a star-studded Broadway tribute by her famous friends including Nathan Lane and Bernadette Peters on Monday (17Nov14). Stage veterans gathered at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in New York City for Everybody, Rise! A Celebration of Elaine Stritch, to pay tribute to the life of the actress, who died in July (14) at the age of 89.
Lane was the first speaker at the event, noting that the brassy Stritch was "definitely proud of her gams, often treating pants as an overrated accessory."
Actress Holland Taylor and American gossip columnist Liz Smith offered up memories of their late pal, while Stritch's 30 Rock co-star Alec Baldwin and Cherry Jones shared their fond stories of the actress via video.
Hal Prince, who directed Stritch in her unforgettable role in the 1970 musical Company, also reminded the crowd that she was "a convent girl... as naive as she was sophisticated".
Throughout the two-hour tribute, stage stars including Peters, Betty Buckley, Christine Ebersole, Laura Benanti, Michael Feinstein and Lena Hall took the floor singing a few of the hits Stritch performed on Broadway.
Among those in the audience who wanted to pay a final tribute to the actress were Chita Rivera, Ellen Burstyn, Megan Mullally, Valerie Harper, Mare Winningham, Michael Kors, John Lithgow, Blythe Danner, Barbara Cook, and Tommy Tune.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
More than 10 000 people are smuggled into the United States for sexual exploitation per the nonprofit organization Free the Slaves. Inspired by a New York Times Magazine article Trade focuses on the attempts of traffickers to smuggle a group of women and children across the U.S.-Mexican border. Director Marco Kreuzpaintner wastes no time introducing us to the two victims he intends to follow from their kidnapping in Mexico to their auctioning off in the United States. Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is snatched from the street as she rides the bicycle she just received from her brother Jorge (Cesar Ramos) for her 13th birthday. Single mother Veronica (Alicja Bachleda) arrives in Mexico City from Poland believing she’s there to meet with the people she’s paid to arrange her with safe and legal passage to the United States. Only she’s been duped by the traffickers. Adriana Veronica and a handful of other abductees then begin their terrifying journey to the United States under the watchful eye of trafficker Manuelo (Marco Perez). On their trail is Jorge who feels responsible for Adriana’s kidnapping. He risks life and limb to follow the abductees across the border. Once on U.S. soil Jorge crosses paths with Ray (Kevin Kline) a Texas cop who’s trying to break up the trafficking ring for personal reasons. Ray reluctantly pairs up with Jorge to track down Adriana before she and Veronica are sold off to the highest bidder via the Internet. More gentleman than action hero Kevin Kline’s not the obvious choice to portray a police officer hailing from the Lone Star State. Ray’s the kind of law-enforcement bloodhound Tommy Lee Jones can play in his sleep. Heck Kline only halfheartedly attempts a Texas drawl and even then he drops it minutes after his late entrance. This could be overlooked if Kline lent Ray some intensity. For someone on a crusade Kline strolls through Trade without a care in the world. As Trade reaches its inevitable showdown between the traffickers and their pursuers Ray’s faced with a life-or-death choice that would compromise all he stands for. Kline though looks about as conflicted as someone trying to decide what he wants for lunch. Luckily Kline’s presence doesn’t negate the fine work done by Ramos Gaitan and Bachleda. Ramos perfectly captures the guilt of a troubled young man—one embarking on a life of crime—whose ill-gotten gains has cost him dearly. If Ramos offers a study in redemption Bachleda goes to great pains to show the ease with which someone with so much grit and determination can bend and break under the most extreme of circumstances. Gaitan doesn’t endure as much abuse but she’s still one tough cookie. Perez refuses to allow Manuelo to be a mere profit-minded monster—he provides Manuelo with a conscience or what passes for one in his business. Trade is a tale of two countries. While in Mexico director Marco Kreuzpaintner examines the sex-slave trade in an incisive and uncompromising manner. He sheds light on how these trafficking rings acquire their slaves and smuggle them across the border. He puts us on edge the moment Adriana and Veronica fall in their captors’ hands. We’re never sure as to what will happen to them. We know they need to be kept alive. But in what condition? Many of the abductees are drugged beaten and raped. The violence isn’t exploitative—Kreuzpaintner just needs to show the cruelty inflicted upon these victims of the modern-day slave trade. And it only makes us fear more for Adrian and Veronica’s safety. Once Trade reaches the United States Kreuzpaintner and screenwriter Jose Rivera start pulling their punches. Yes there are some moments that make you sick to your stomach. But the moment Kline arrives on the scene Trade gets weak at the knees. There are too many coincidences for Trade’s own good. The sudden death of one character is forced and absurd. And Kreuzpaintner doesn’t know how to extricate Kline from the untenable situation he’s placed in during Trade’s climax. This all leads up to a pat ending one that even the Lifetime TV crowd would find unbelievably spineless.
Top Story: Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston Top Best Dressed List
Actresses Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman were all recognized for their fashion flair in People magazine's best dressed of 2003 special issue, which hits newsstands Thursday. Singers, however, didn't fair so well. Taking top honors in the worst dressed categories went to Britney Spears, Lil' Kim and Mariah Carey. Almost Famous star Hudson was named "Free Spirit" tapping into her inner hippie, while Friends star Aniston was named "The Purist" for her no-frills style. Oscar-winner Berry was crowned "The Showstopper" for her ability to wow crowds with her figure-flaunting gowns, while fellow Oscar-winner Kidman was named "The Goddess" for her timeless elegance. Steven Cojocaru, People magazine's style editor, also awarded actresses Winona Ryder, Cynthia Nixon and singer Da Brat his "Sag" awards for their revealing tops.
Schwarzenegger Does Oprah, Stern
Actor-turned-Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger has booked an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show with his Democrat wife, Maria Shriver, on Monday's season premiere of the syndicated daytime talk show. The show, which will air live from Winfrey's studio in Chicago, will mark Schwarzenegger and Shriver's first joint TV interview since he announced his campaign for California governor. According to Reuters, Schwarzenegger is also slated for a guest spot on Howard Stern's morning radio show.
Chong's Bongs Land Him in Jail
Tommy Chong, of the dope-smoking comedy duo Cheech & Chong, was sentenced Thursday to nine months in prison and fined $20,000 for distributing marijuana pipes over the Internet, Reuters reports. The 65-year-old Canadian-born entertainer asked U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab for a sentence of community service, saying that while he has a problem with marijuana, he had overcome dependency through constructive hobbies such as salsa dancing. But the judge ruled that jail time was appropriate for a felony charge of conspiring to distribute drug paraphernalia, to which Chong pleaded guilty last May.
Bail in Diaz Photo Case Set
Superior Court Judge Ann Jones ruled Wednesday that Los Angeles photographer John Rutter, who is accused of trying to extort $3.3 million from Cameron Diaz for topless pics taken about 10 years ago, must remain jailed in place of $250,000 bail, The Associated Press reports. Rutter, 41, faces felony counts of attempted extortion, attempted grand theft, perjury and forgery. Last month, he was denied release on his own recognizance and a court commissioner ordered him to stay away from the 31-year-old actress. He was arrested Aug. 12 after authorities raided his apartment and seized the photos.
Film's Golden Year: 1939
Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, the John Wayne Western Stagecoach and Of Mice and Men contributed to 1939 being voted the golden year of Hollywood, according to a poll of British filmgoers. The survey, compiled from votes of 2,000 moviegoers by Internet pollster YouGov, gave second place to 1974, the year of the mob drama The Godfather, Part II and The Great Gatsby, while third spot went to 1946, which provided The Big Sleep, It's a Wonderful Life and The Postman Always Rings Twice. None of the past 29 years made it in to the Top Five list.
Kelly Osbourne Signs With Sanctuary
Kelly Osbourne has signed a multi-album recording contract with Sanctuary Records Group. According to Billboard, the label plans to re-release her 2002 Epic debut Shut Up under the name Changes on Sept. 30. The album's title track will feature a duet with her father, Ozzy Osbourne, a reworking of the Black Sabbath song of the same name, which appeared on the group's 1972 album, Black Sabbath, Vol. 4. Kelly split from Sony's Epic label shortly after the release of Shut Up, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and has sold 155,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Jewel Cancels Tour
Singer Jewel has canceled her North American tour due to the death of her bass player, the AP reports. Terome "T-Bone" Hannon died Sept. 4 after suffering a stroke. The 39-year-old Detroit native had played with Jewel for three years. The tour, to support her latest album, 0304, had been set to begin Sept. 19 in North Charleston, S.C. Atlantic Records said Jewel plans to perform alone at acoustic shows in the near future.
Role Call: Queen Latifah Plans Cookout
Queen Latifah has joined the cast of director Lance Rivera's The Cookout for Lions Gate Films. The film also stars Quran Pender, Ja Rule, Eve, Jonathan Silverman, Tim Meadows, Farrah Fawcett and Danny Glover. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cookout revolves around a basketball star who becomes the No. 1 NBA draft pick. To celebrate, he organi
Ashley Judd and auto racer Dario Franchitti have finally settled on a wedding date after 11 months of speculation, according to The Associated Press. Judd, 33, has decided to marry Franchitti on Dec. 12 in Dornoch, Scotland, near the castle where Madonna married director Guy Ritchie in 2000.
Tea Leoni, 35, and David Duchovny, 41, married since 1997, are expecting their second daughter in early 2001, according to the AP.
According to the Miami Herald, Miami law-enforcement officers are now combing O.J. Simpson's Kendall, Fla. home in search of evidence that the former football star/actor is involved in a free satellite-TV scam. Their findings are forthcoming, but Simpson is already in hot water after officers discovered he was involved in an ecstasy drug ring on Tuesday.
On Friday, Rapper Jay-Z was sentenced to three years of probation stemming from a stabbing incident that occured on Dec. 1, 1999. Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter) pleaded guilty to stabbing record producer Lance Rivera at a New York night club.
Pamela Anderson further distanced herself from ex-husband Tommy Lee on Friday by asking a Los Angeles court to nullify a joint-custody agreement that had previously been issued. Anderson stated that she believes Lee is an "unstable, dangerous man" who should not share custody of her two children. The court has yet to reach a ruling.
Hundreds of Beatles fans showed up at the Strawberry Fields section of New York's Central Park on Saturday, to honor the late George Harrison and commemorate the 21st anniversary of the death of John Lennon.
Christopher Tolkien, son of author J.R.R. Tolkien, is publicly blasting the new film The Lord of the Rings, telling Reuters that he believes the movie does not do justice to his father's tale. Literary critic Michael White, who wrote a biography about the elder Tolkien, agrees, saying that the author would have "hated" the adaptation.
Actor Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions) is bragging about his new role in the Robert Altman film Gosford Park, but for unusual reasons. Phillippe raves that his character--a man with a missing eye--may destroy his image as a cutie-pie teen dream, which makes him very, very happy, PageSix.com reports.
After 698 performances on Broadway, the hit revival The Music Man is closing shop on Dec. 30. Producers of the show cite financial woes as the reason for the shutdown.