Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Last week, Seth MacFarlane let it be known that the premiere episode was going to be all about the boys. From the juvenile jokes to skits on President Barack Obama and Ryan Lochte (hell Jeah!), it was a true boys-only club kind of a night. Well, perhaps with Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosting the second episode -- and for the second time -- the star of such lady-friendly flicks as 10 Things I Hate About You and 500 Days of Summer, women will be more of a focus. Kristen Wiig and Abbey Elliott may have moved on, but that's even more of a reason to make sure Saturday Night Live doesn't lose its funny female niche.
ONTO THE HIGHLIGHTS!
Off to a FINE Start: Things fired off a bit differently this time around as Kelly Ripa's (Nasim Pedrad) big blink-less eyes stared at audiences in the first skit. Yes, it was LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, and the Blind Sideyness of it all was enough to conjure a few belly laughs. Pharoah delivered a spot-on Strahan impersonation, especially when he squeaked through gapped front teeth about how amazing it is that HE GETS PAID to do essentially nothing! Their first guest was good ole' Robert Pattinson (Bill Hader). The smoldering scowl, the gentle hair toss, the brooding... oh it was glorious. I think it's safe to say we've made up for last week's boys show already.
Shirtless Gordon-Levitt!: What an opening monologue, you guys! The episode could have ended right here and it would have been just fine. More than fine! Because you know why? JGL heard a loud cry, a plea, to remove his shirt. And Lord did he listen. I should have known when he first walked on stage, chipper as ever and looking a bit pale in the face. The nerves, of course. And although his Looper line about Ashton Kutcher being the real life younger version of Bruce Willis, or something, I don't know it didn't really make sense, it was quickly forgotten when he segwayed into his Magic Mike number and RIPPED HIS SUIT OFF. At first, he didn't bare it all. He teased us a little keeping a tasteful vest on. But then, he ripped some more. And yes, HIS SHIRT CAME OFF. He has abs! And no hair! Who knew?! No one knew, no one until tonight. This changes everything.
Tres Equis: Or, The Son Of The Most Interesting Man In The World. Creative, catchy accent, manicured facial hair, it was all there! All you need to know: "He can make a woman cringe, just by entering the room." Overall, a short and sweet skit, though I fear JGL's gotten exceptionally attached to this character -- he's having way too much fun in all white. I don't think this is the last we'll see of TSOTMIMITW. I don't think so at all.
Tampons and Conservatives: We're back to the female portion of the evening. It doesn't get anymore estrogeny than a tampon commercial, and that is exactly what Vanessa Bayer owned. She was fantastic. I see Wiig in her, I do, and it's getting me all tingly. And what's better than spoofing a fluffy-haired, soft-voiced menstruating lady, you ask? Well, a clan of republicans handing out the latest brand: g.o.b. "Now with wings!", that's what.
Mumford & Sons: The musical entertainment of the night! They were everything you'd expect. The band rocked out, extremely aggressively actually, with "I Will Wait." It was super enjoyable, even for non-hipsters (though they really could have trimmed the facial hair just a bit). I was actually pleased to not hear "Little Lion Man," though let's be honest, an emo song is an emo song is an emo song.
Weekend Update: It's in good hands with Seth Myers, this I know to be true. The one negative thing I can say, it needs to be cut down a tad. Maybe a little more than a tad. I mean, it just seemed to take FOR-E-VER. But it was amusing. After ripping on Romney's tax return release and love of a good spray tan, he focuses on President Obama in a new segment "What Are You Doing?" Oh yeah, and comparing Romney's campaign to Lost was pretty amazing -- Is Clint Eastwood supposed to be the smoke monster? Then, Kate McKinnon enters as an impeccable Ann Romney. I just want to hear her say "Beyonce" over and over again. Is that possible yet? Yada yada, Pharoah is here -- God bless his impressions -- and tackles ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to discuss Tim Tebow and Marc Sanchez.
The Finer Things: This was Keenan Thompson's spotlight act. He and Pharoah, clad in cheetah and army print, are a perfect pair. Sipping out of champagne glasses, the two chitchat about, what else, fashion! JGL enters in Yankees gear for some Fashion Week banter. Actually, they carried on a conversation about Marc Jacobs and Helmut Lang that made complete sense. It was bizarre and pleasantly impressive. Again, getting back in good graces with the women.
Let's End on That Note:There were a few more skits after The Finer Things, but aside from Mumford & Sons back on stage, it was pretty bland. Tim Robinson finally made his appearance as a man being set up with his co-worker's daughter and it was fairly disappointing (for the record, JGL in a dress was not disappointing). What I can gather from this episode is that SNL appears to be JUST FINE. It's off to a great start, and Gordon-Levitt proved for the second time that he can in fact be funny on a whim. "Weekend Update" was the ultimate must-watch-on-repeat video, as was JGL's Tres Equis skit. What did you think of the latest episode? Let us know by sounding off in the comments section below.
[Image Credit: NBC]
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Saturday Night Live Recap: Seth MacFarlane Gets Laughs, and the Boys Take Over
Saturday Night Live Premiere: Ushering In a New Era?
Jay Pharoah Set to Take Over Obama Impression This Fall
Spider-Man 2 sets DVD release date
Fans anxious to get their hands on the Spider-Man 2 DVD will have to wait a bit longer than they did for the original Spider-Man's home release. Variety reported Thursday that Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is releasing Spider-Man 2 to DVD Nov. 30--a month later than the release of the original, back in 2002. Columbia is hoping to curb the problem it had two years ago when it shipped millions more Spider-Man DVDs than actually sold. The November release date also means Columbia can focus their attention on the Seinfield series DVD set, which will be released just before Thanksgiving. Fans will also be able to purchase a two-pack with DVDs of both Spider-Man movies for $39.95. The first DVD edition of Spider-Man 2, however, will have 10 hours' worth of bonus features and commentaries.
Publicist Lizzie Grubman gets reality show
MTV is launching a reality show starring infamous publicist-to-the-stars Lizzie Grubman, who is better know for serving 37 days in jail backing her sport utility vehicle into a crowd of Hamptons clubgoers three years ago. PoweR Girls will follow Grubman and her public relations team behind the velvet rope as they live, work and play in Manhattan, Los Angeles, the Hamptons and Miami, the AP reports. The series, picked up for six episodes, will premiere in spring 2005. "I'm looking forward to MTV viewers seeing the hard work and long hours it takes to run your own business," Grubman said in a statement Wednesday. According to her Web site, her celebrity clients include Britney Spears, Russell Simmons, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Gloria Estefan.
Regis Philbin sets world record
Regis Philbin has set a world record for the most hours logged on television, the AP reports. Friday's broadcast of Live with Regis and Kelly gives Philbin 15,188 hours on the tube-giving him the Guinness World Record for most hours on camera. According to Guinness World Records researcher Stuart Claxton, that's more than broadcaster Hugh Downs. "Now it's all a big blur," Philbin told the AP Thursday as he looked back on his career that began as a San Diego news anchor in 1958. "When you look back that's a lot of hours on TV." Philbin, 72, has hosted the nationally syndicated Live in all 16 of its seasons--previously with Kathy Lee Gifford and now with Kelly Ripa. In his 46-year career, Philbin has hosted numerous news and entertainment shows, including the hit prime-time ABC game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
Autographed guitars auctioned to help Charley victims
Clear Channel Communications Inc. is auctioning off guitars autographed by musicians such as Britney Spears,Tom Petty and Kenny Rogers to raise money for Hurricane Charley victims in Florida, the AP reports. The radio giant said the online auction of 43 guitars signed by celebrities started Thursday and will end Sept. 20. All proceeds will be split between displaced families and the American Red Cross. Linkin Park, Stone Temple Pilots, Nickelback, ZZ Top, Tim McGraw and Shakira are also participating in the auction, which also includes a non-musical with instruments signed by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and comedian Mike Myers. The guitars are being offered on Clear Channel's StormAid.com Web site.
Sheryl Crow joins Vote for Change tour
Sheryl Crow, Jack Johnson and Crosby, Stills & Nash have joined the willing-to-rock coalition of musicians trying to unseat President Bush in November. Crow and the rest were added to the Vote for Change tour, which boasts a lineup of nearly 20 artists including Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band. Concert promoters told the AP Thursday the musicians will perform at some 38 shows in 32 cities in election swing states over the course of 12 days in October. Money generated from the concerts will go to America Coming Together (ACT), which promises on its Web site to "derail the right-wing Republican agenda by defeating George W. Bush." The shows will be presented by MoveOn PAC, the electoral arm of the liberal interest group MoveOn.org.
N.C. governor declares Saturday Fantasia Barrino day
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has proclaimed Saturday as Fantasia Barrino Day to mark the day she makes her first major singing appearance in her home state since winning the American Idol crown in May, the AP reports. Barrino is "a true testament to what happens when you put your heart and soul into your dream," Easley said in a statement, adding the singer "has shown through her amazing talent and larger-than-life personality that goodness does really grow right here in North Carolina." Barrino, who is of High Point, will perform in Winston-Salem with fellow American Idol contestants Saturday night, on the American Idols Tour 2004.
Neverland manager testifies in pretrial hearing
The property manager of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch testified Friday that sheriff's deputies last year searched areas of the estate not specified in a warrant, The Associated Press reports. The testimony came at a pretrial hearing in which defense attorneys are trying to limit the evidence prosecutors can produce at Jackson's Jan. 31 trial. During the hearing, Joseph Marcus testified he initially cooperated when the horde of investigators arrived but objected when officers wanted to search areas that were not on the warrant. He said a deputy told him he would call and have the search warrant amended, but Marcus said that was not done as far as he knows, and the search went ahead anyway. Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded innocent and is free on $3 million bail.
Private eye testifies in Blake case
A 70-year-old private investigator is expected to testify before Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp on Friday--months ahead of time in Robert Blake's murder trial, the AP reports. The request was made by prosecutors who said that because of his age, William Jordan may be unavailable at the time of the trial, the AP reports. The Baretta star is charged with killing his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, in 2001. She was found shot to death in their car outside a restaurant where they had just eaten. Blake hired Jordan in September 2000, in anticipation of child custody proceedings and according to phone records included in court filings, spoke with the private eye frequently up to the time of Bakley's murder. The trial is now scheduled to start Nov. 1. Blake, meanwhile, is free on $1.5 million bail but remains under house arrest.
Comic book aficionado Nicolas Cage sold his personal collection for a cool $1.6 million at an auction in Los Angeles Thursday. The 400 items in the catalog included the 1938 rare Actions Comics No. 1 where Superman first debuted, which sold for $86,250, as well as the 1940 Detective No. 38, where Batman's sidekick Robin made his first appearance. That one went for $121,000. "He had a very good eye for quality," Heritage Auction chairman James Halperin told Reuters of Cage's meticulous collection. No explanation has been given as to why the Oscar-winning actor decided to auction off his comics.
Skynews.com reports that Brad Pitt and his wife Jennifer Aniston had to be rescued by the LAPD when they were trapped in an expensive Beverly Hills furniture shop. Seems throngs of press and adoring fans surrounded the store and the two couldn't get out. After the police escort got them back to their car, however, the fab couple discovered they had gotten a parking ticket, according to Sky News. Oh, the irony of it all.
Director Kevin Smith (Dogma; Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) will have a street named after him in Paulsboro, N. J. The Jersey native has been filming his off-beat love story Jersey Girl, starring real-life couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, in the small town, and as a show of appreciation, the mayor wants to rename a street in Smith's honor.
A London court of appeal today "reluctantly" found in favor of Vanessa Frisbee, Naomi Campbell's former personal assistant, according to court papers. This was Frisbee's second appeal of the summary judgement against her for breach of contract. A lower court found that Frisbee had breached her contract when she told the News of the World tabloid that Campbell had physically attacked her when she failed to cover up an alleged fling between Campbell and actor Joseph Fiennes. At the time, the court papers say, Campbell was still living with Formula One boss Flavio Briatore. Frisbee argued that Campbell had wrongfully terminated her contract and that Frisbee was therefore freed from her confidentiality clause. Frisbee also claims she was entitled to disclose the information because it was of "public interest."
WWII historian and author Stephen E. Ambrose, who worked as a consultant for Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and who was best known for his book Band of Brothers, which was made into an Emmy-winning HBO miniseries, died Sunday after a six-month battle with lung cancer. He was 66.
Several large-scale props worth nearly $55,000 were stolen from the set of Mike Myers' The Cat in the Hat, including an 8-foot-long pair of dark blue glasses, a 4-foot golf tee and a blue golf ball 7 feet in diameter and weighing nearly 200 pounds. The police do not have any suspects, but Sgt. Rod Baker of the LAPD quipped to the Associated Press, "We have ruled out the Grinch."
Fox has inked a deal with actress Shannon Elizabeth to develop a series for the 2003 fall schedule. The American Pie star is leaning toward doing a comedy.
Shrek may be heading toward Broadway's bright lights. Get the full story at our sister site, www.broadway.com.
A crowd of about 10,000 fans, music professionals and relatives filled the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., to bid farewell to TLC member Lisa Lopes. Reuters reported that before the service, the TLC hit song "Waterfalls" played softly in the background while images of Lopes played on two monitors. Among those in attendance were singers Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Keith Sweat, producer Kenneth "Baby Face" Edmonds and Marion "Suge" Knight, founder of Death Row Records.
Teen People magazine announced its 25 hottest stars under 25. Those who made the cut include those Attack of the Clones lovebirds Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, Spider-Man's Kirsten Dunst, songster Alicia Keys, cutie boys Josh Hartnett and Orlando Bloom, and martial arts butt-kicker Zhang Ziyi.
Britney Spears smokes! NewYorkPost.com reported the pop princess was caught by a cameraman with an offending butt in her hand as she sat on the balcony of her hotel room in Sydney, Australia. Now you might ask, who the heck cares? Well, two years ago she told the Knoxville, Tenn., News-Sentinel that she doesn't believe in drugs or even smoking. Only God. Ah, the hypocrisy of it all.
Sometimes it doesn't pay to get your face on television. Joseph Bakley, the brother of Robert Blake's slain wife, learned that the hard way when the state of Florida came after him for probation violation after seeing him on ABC's 20/20, talking about his sister's death. D'oh!
Angel's David Boreanaz and his wife, actress Jaime Bergman, welcomed their first child on May 1, boy Jaden Rayne Boreanaz, weighing in at 8 lbs., 9 oz. Mother and baby are doing fine.
Daily Variety's columnist Army Archerd reported the final scene being shot for Mike Myers' new Austin Powers film, Austin Powers in Goldmember, is set in the home of Ozzy Osbourne. Myers and director Jay Roach are big fans of the MTV show about the Osbourne family. Myers told Archerd that it will be only one of the "many surprises" in the movie.
Will Smith may enter back into the television arena. His company Overbrook Entertainment is looking to develop a syndicated half-hour newsmagazine pilot, Good News, to roll out in fall 2003. It will focus on inspirational individuals, including celebrities, public figures and everyday heroes.
Fox's Dark Angel may be no more. Series creator James Cameron told the New York Daily News that the show is on the verge of cancellation, but Fox will announce its final decision in the next two weeks. The finale of season two will air this Friday night, marking Cameron's TV directing debut.
Legendary rockers The Rolling Stones plan to announce their first tour in three years Tuesday in New York. The tour will coincide with the band's 40th anniversary of its first public appearance. They just don't know when to quit, do they?
Eminem donned a turban and played Osama bin Laden in his latest music video, for his single "Without Me." He also parodies the Survivor TV show, Elvis Presley and singer Moby. It premiered Wednesday on MTV's Making the Video.
Don't confuse the shock rock group Slipknot with the knitters' quarterly journal Slipknot. Apparently, irate fans of the American group sent threatening e-mails to the British knitters' Web site, telling the club not to call its publication Slipknot because it made their idols look bad.
Audrey Hepburn will be honored with a sculpture outside the UNICEF headquarters in New York. Called "Spirit of Audrey," the artwork of a tall, slender woman holding a child will commemorate Hepburn's years of tireless support of the children's organization before she died in 1993.
John Nathan-Turner, a producer of the British cult show Dr. Who, died in England at the Brighton's Hove Hospital on Wednesday following a short illness. He was 54.