It's 1972 in New Zealand and 13-year-old Janey and kid brother Jim are spending the summer with their parents Kate and Ed in a sunny bayside resort community not far from the water. Kate and Ed who both like their liquor and love to party have drifted apart. Kate as Janey observes is also drifting in the direction of vagabond photographer Cady whose boat is anchored nearby. Janey soon realizes that her mother and Cady are more than casual friends. The chemistry between the two adults triggers Janey's sexual awakening to the extent that she begins to flirt dangerously with Cady and even competes with her own mother. When Cady succumbs to the teen's request for a photo shoot in the nearby woods more than photos are snapped. But such irresponsible abandon leads to an unforeseen tragedy.
One of first-time feature film director Christine Jeffs' biggest coups is to get such convincing performances from all leads especially from Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki's Janey in a stunning feature debut and Aaron Murphy as younger brother Jim. Another New Zealand art film Heavenly Creatures put the then unknown Kate Winslet on the map. Coincidentally Sarah Peirse so excellent as Janey's restless mother also played a principle role in Heavenly Creatures an early effort from Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings). Marton Csokas is superb as the free-spirited randy photographer and Alistair Browning in the far more dreary role of passive husband Ed manages to bring compassion and dignity to a rather pathetic character.
Forecast: Mark Rain as an auspicious debut for feature director Christine Jeffs who adapted the screenplay from Kirsty Gunn's novel by the same name. Jeffs almost making her magical location another character miraculously evokes an atmosphere infused with so many familiar elements of the vacation neverland: the pervasive sun that dulls and transports; the refreshing beckoning water that lulls and seduces; the whimsical weather that parallels human desire and moods; and the boozy festive interludes that allow human folly to flourish with abandon in such near-surreal and intoxicating playgrounds far from the workaday world. A minor flaw here is that nothing convincingly sets up the horrible event that will end the summer. Although a feature directorial debut Rain is a thoroughly accomplished and entertaining art house entry.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney confessed last week that his late wife Linda helped him quit a yearlong cocaine addiction. McCartney told Q music magazine, "I was lucky to have Linda because there were certain things I was going off on and she could pull me back, like drinking and drugging and getting crazy." Linda McCartney died in 1998 after a three-year battle with cancer.
British army major Charles Ingram, who is under investigation for allegedly cheating when he won $1.4 million on the British version of the TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, was arrested Thursday with his wife, Diana, and college lecturer Tecwen Whittock, Variety reports. While the three were questioned over an allegation of conspiracy to defraud, none has been charged. Ingram insists he is innocent and is threatening to sue for the money.
Tjuan Hinojosa, the drummer and founding member of the band Tejano, and his 28-year old son Michael were killed in a traffic accident on Friday, The Associated Press reports. The two were driving in dense fog toward Corpus Christi on a rural road in Neuces County when their car was hit by another vehicle. Hinojosa, 51, died at the scene and his son died at the hospital three hours later. Officials are expected to cite the driver of the other vehicle for failure to stop at a stop sign.
Disney and 20th Century Fox will provide first-run films to U.S. troops on the front lines in Afghanistan, Variety reports. Fox staged the international premiere of Behind Enemy Lines on a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea over Thanksgiving, and Disney plans to ship some of its classic and first-run films to U.S. military installations overseas.
Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has become the top-selling video and DVD animated title of all time overseas, Variety reports. Snow White has sold 26 million copies since its release in 1994, surpassing The Lion King, which has sold 24 million units since 1995. The animated classic was released in foreign markets in October.
George Lucas' 1977 sci-fi action thriller Star Wars was voted the greatest movie of all time by viewers of Britain's Channel 4, Reuters reports. Scorned by film critics for ignoring the true cinematic classics, the poll attracted more than 20,000 votes from viewers. Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw found the results depressing. "When people are asked for their favorite film, they tend to go for something they view as a classic, and it's disturbing that people now think Star Wars is a classic."
Elton John will top the bill at Monday night's Royal Variety Performance in London, Reuters reports. Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip will attend the performance, which will be televised Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ITV. Other performers include Jennifer Lopez, Craig David and Cher.
Leslie Nielsen has landed a $250,000 deal to do commercials for the Ohio Lottery, AP reports. Lottery officials hope Nielsen will boost lottery profits, which subsidize state schools. It is the first time Ohio has used a celebrity to peddle its gambling games.
British tabloid The Sun launched "Mick Aid" on Friday to help Mick Jagger's new solo album Goddess in the Doorway, Reuters reports. Columnist Dominic Mohan said he started the tongue-in-cheek campaign "to help rescue the legend." The Sun bought 100 copies of the album, which has sold only 2,324 copies so far, to give away to its readers.
In what is likely to be regarded as a backlash to the buzz and
hype, few critics have welcomed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with unqualified praise -- and a several have expressed
growling complaints about it. "The most highly awaited movie of the year
has a dreary, literal- minded competence, following the letter of the
law as laid down by the author," writes the New York Times' Elvis
Mitchell."But it's all muted flourish, with momentary pleasures." His
critical flak aimed at the movie builds to the end of his review:
"Someone has cast a sleepwalker's spell over the proceedings, and at
nearly two and a half hours, you may go under, too." But Mitchell's
reaction is extreme. More typical is Jay Carr's in the Boston
Globe, who comments: "No, Harry Potter hasn't been ruined in
the move from the printed page to the big screen. There's more right
than wrong with it, at least visually. It looks great. Still, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, while having blockbuster written
all over it, remains a thing of calculation rather than inspiration."
Many critics have faulted the film for remaining too faithful to the
book. Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News writes, for
example: "It is powered solely by the book, and in this satellite role
lacks a beating heart of its own." She then quickly adds, however: "But
that is surely quibbling." Rita Kempley in the Washington Post
puts it this way: "Everything is just as you might expect. ...
Potter-philes are sure to get what they want -- if what they want
is, in fact, an exacting version of J.K. Rowling's charming children's
fantasy. If it's enchantment they are after, that's quite another
matter." And Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times complains
that the filmmakers have treated J.K. Rowling's text "like holy writ."
The problem, Turan concludes, is that the film merely copies the book
and "copies don't leave much to object to or get excited about." He then
reins himself in. "It won't do to be unyieldingly grumpy about Harry Potter," he comments, then remarks: "There are moments -- not nearly
as many as we'd like, but still moments -- when some of the magic of the
books rubs off on the screen." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street
Journal also complains of the "cautious approach" the filmmakers
have taken by remaining so faithful to the novel, but, he notes
tellingly, "the most magical part of the movie is what kids will bring
to it." Among the major newspaper reviews, there are two out-and-and-out
raves. Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, anticipating the
complaints of his colleagues, writes: "Scrupulous in design, faithful in
execution and boasting a near-perfect cast of faces new and old, it will
delight the many who want the big screen to match the images they have
in mind of boy wizard Harry and his friends and foes. ... It's a case
where giving the people what they want outweighs any grander artistic
pretensions." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times hails the
film as "triumphant," and goes on to describe it as "an enchanting
classic that does full justice to a story that was a daunting
challenge." Ebert puts it in a class with The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, Star Wars, and E.T. "It isn't just a movie," he
concludes, "but a world with its own magical rules."
Steven Spielberg's A.I. (the movie was conceived by the late Stanley Kubrick) is inspiring praise from some critics and censure from others, probably the most polarized reaction ever to a Spielberg film. It has also inspired a masterfully crafted (positive) review by A.O. Scott in the New York Times. A couple of samples: "Mr. Spielberg seems to be attempting the improbable feat of melding Kubrick's chilly, analytical style with his own warmer, needier sensibility. He tells the story slowly and films it with lucid, mesmerizing objectivity, creating a mood as layered, dissonant and strange as John Williams's unusually restrained, modernist score." Scott concludes: "The final scenes are likely to provoke argument, confusion and a good deal of resistance. For the second time the movie swerves away from where it seemed to be going, and Mr. Spielberg, with breathtaking poise and heroic conviction, risks absurdity in the pursuit of sublimity. ... [He] locates the unspoken moral of all our fairy tales. To be real is to be mortal; to be human is to love, to dream and to perish." Across town, Jack Mathews, the New York Daily News critic, will have none of it. "The ill-conceived final section is a sentimental coda recalling the 'awe' moments of both E.T. and Close Encounters," he writes, "But here is the real genius of Spielberg, whose Midas commercial touch fascinated Kubrick to the end: The very moment that will have viewers reaching for their hankies is the film's most artificial, even on its own terms. The emotion you feel may be real. But nothing else is." Compare that review to this one from Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune: "Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence is pure magic, a three-act movie fantasy that transports us -- as the best films do -- to a world of its own, a place of ambiguous joy and delirious terror." Or consider the review by Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, who calls the film "a genuine collaboration between a fading mentor [Kubrick] and a brilliant student [Spielberg] and the smartest thing likely to hit the multiplexes this summer. A.I. represents a unique union of mind and heart that no machine could ever understand, but could one day learn to envy." Just as enthusiastic about the film is Jay Carr in the Boston Globe: "In a season where most films seem devoted to artificial stupidity, the ambition and execution in A.I. make it a standout, quite apart from its guaranteed place in movie history." On the other hand Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal film critic, regards A.I as "a grim disappointment for grown-ups and far too violent for young kinds ... I found it to be clumsy, misanthropic and intractably lifeless." Numerous reviews express ambivalent reactions to the movie. "A.I. is always engrossing," writes Steve Murray in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, "but it never fully comes to grips with its central subject, the ethical and emotional question of the responsibility men have toward the machines they make." On a similar note, Roger Ebert writes in the Chicago Sun-Times: "A.I. is audacious, technically masterful, challenging, sometimes moving, ceaselessly watchable. What holds it back from greatness is a failure to really engage the ideas that it introduces. The movie's conclusion is too facile and sentimental, given what has gone before. It has mastered the artificial, but not the intelligence."
The author of a controversial book alleging that Survivor producer Mark Burnett manipulated the vote in the original series has told a Canadian newspaper that two other reality series have also been rigged. "One has aired already and one is about to air," Peter Lance, author of The Stingray: Lethal Tactics of the Sole Survivor, told the Toronto Sun. "This is a significant ongoing scandal that is not limited to Survivor." Lance, a former ABC-TV newsman, declined to name the shows, saying only that they would be revealed in his next book, tentatively titled Survivorgate: The Inside Story of How the Biggest TV Game Show Was Rigged.
Jackie Chan just won't sit down. The popular Hong Kong actor is lining up to star in not one, not two, but four feature films. First up is Highbinders, a Hong Kong movie about an immigration officer who's killed on the job but returns from the dead with superpowers--with some high-kickin' super-moves to be sure. Next is The Art of War, based on the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu's treatise, where you keep your friends close and your enemies even closer--with some high-kickin' super-moves added in. The budget is around $38.5 million, making it one of the most expensive movies made in Hong Kong. The film is looking to start production in 2003.
Then there's Chan's film Nosebleed, which MGM just bought from New Line, after it shelved the project in 1999. The story revolves around a window washer working at the World Trade Center who teams with a waitress at the Center's restaurant to stop another possible terrorist attack-during which Chan will use his high-kickin' super-moves. And last, but not necessarily least, Chan has agreed to make a sequel to last year's surprise hit Shanghai Noon with costar Owen Wilson. The wacky pair will travel to London to uncover a worldwide conspiracy to overthrow the British and Chinese empires. Rush Hour 2 is coming out this summer with costar Chris Tucker. Whew! Good luck, Jackie.
And following Chan's footsteps …
Just like Jackie Chan, Ben Affleck is loading himself up with film projects. His films, however, will most likely lack high-kickin' super-moves. He is in talks to star in Surviving Christmas, about a man who must overcome his depression on being alone on Christmas by visiting his childhood home and forcing the people who live there to take him in. This comes on the heels of his involvement in director Martin Brest's Gigli and his turn as CIA analyst Jack Ryan (played previously by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford) in The Sum of All Fears. Of course, we can currently see the hunky Affleck shooting down Japanese war planes in the soppy World War II epic Pearl Harbor.
Listen to the premise of this new movie. A local British man becomes a pop sensation on Liverpool's Cantonese karaoke circuit--Cantonese?--and even though he is white, he immerses himself in the Chinese history and culture, learning the language and taking the Cantonese pop scene by storm. Here's the catch--it's based on the true story of 22-year-old Barry Cox and producer Lawrence Bender and singer-songwriter, Peter Gabriel are going to make the film for Miramax. They are calling it a cross between Saturday Night Fever and The Full Monty. Of course they are. Cox is currently readying a trip to Hong Kong to meet with film and record companies to fulfill his dream on becoming a Chinese pop star. Think it'll happen for him?
Hopper's got a "Night Job"
Actor and Dennis Hopper is set to direct and star in The Night Job, a drama about an ex-con lured back into the underworld by a crooked cop trying to nab a mobster's global art smuggling ring. Hopper will play the cop; Val Kilmer is in negotiations to play the colorful mobster. Hmmm, Kilmer and Hopper together in a film? Certainly, they are two of the more eclectic actors out there, to say the least. This one sounds promising, especially since Hopper only directs interesting films such as Easy Rider and Colors.
The morning after the Golden Globes, the Directors Guild of America heated up the awards competition by announcing its nominees for director of the year.
This year's DGA nods went to Globe winner Sam Mendes for "American Beauty,"Spike Jonze for "Being John Malkovich," Frank Darabont for "The Green Mile," Michael Mann for "The Insider" and M. Night Shyamalan for "The Sixth Sense."All are first-time feature-film nominees except for Darabont, who was nominated in 1994 for "The Shawshank Redemption."
The winner of the DGA is practically guaranteed a win for Best Director in the Academy Award race. In its 50-year history, only four winners have not gone on to win the Oscar; Anthony Harvey (in 1968 for "The Lion Winter"), Francis Ford Coppola (in 1972 for "The Godfather"), Steven Spielberg (in 1985 for "The Color Purple") and Ron Howard (in 1995 for "Apollo 13." The winner will be announced March11.
SMOKED 'LAMB': Anthony Hopkins' London house caught on fire Sunday, and 75 percent of the second floor was destroyed. Hopkins no longer lives in the residence; he actually gave it to his wife after they split in 1998, according to London's Sun. But she should not worry; firefighters still managed to save Hopkins' Academy Award for "The Silence of the Lambs."
ÜBERENGAGED: German supermodel Claudia Schiffer is officially off the market again; she's just become engaged to British boyfriend Tim Jeffries.
Jeffries, 37, proposed on one knee during a recent Caribbean holiday, and the model immediately accepted, newspapers reported Monday. The Sun said Schiffer, 29, was displaying her diamond engagement ring at a Golden Globes party over the weekend.
Schiffer was engaged for some six years to magician David Copperfield (they split in September), while Jeffries, an art-gallery owner, was married once to photographer Koo Stark, ex-girlfriend of Britain's Prince Andrew. They hope to marry later this year. No word whether Copperfield will make an appearance -- or disappearance.
THEIR TWO CENTS: The Golden Globes is always a good time to get some scoop, and the stars did some chatting at Hollywood honcho Mike Medavoy's annual pre-Globes party Friday in Los Angeles. According to the New York Daily News, winner Peter Fonda reportedly discussed sister Jane's separation from Ted Turner. "I see a very positive change in Jane now," he said. "When she told me she was separating, her entire face seemed to relax. I think she's going to be a much happier person as a result of this." He added that he hopes his sister will return to acting...
Nominee Kevin Spacey revealed that he had plans to see "Man on the Moon" and "The Hurricane" to catch Jim Carrey and Denzel Washington's respective performances so he'd be able to speak more intelligently to his fellow nominees at the awards.
"I screen-tested for 'Man on the Moon,'" The "American Beauty" star told the paper. "I'm one of the guys who went for it. Then Milos [Forman, the director] called and said he was going with . I understood completely. knew Andy Kaufman. I think he even channeled him, too. How could I competewith that?"
The party also brought a surprise late guest: President Clinton.
GOODBYE, DOLLY: At the Golden Globes on Sunday night, Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award winner Barbra Streisand said she will no longer be doing concerts. The stage-shy Babs plans to do four scheduled concerts in Australia in March, "and maybe two more -- one in Los Angeles and one in New York before calling it quits on the concert stage."
"I just don't like it. I don't enjoy public performances being up on a stage,'' the 57-year-old star said. She also plans to concentrate on directing films, and has no current plans to act. Meanwhile, she and hubby James Brolin stay busy, taking road trips and walking into truck stops. How do the people react? Do they tell her she's like buttah? "They seem fine," Streisand responded.
QUICK TAKES: "American Beauty" picked up another accolade this morning, this time by the Broadcast Film Critics Association at its awards luncheon. The critics group had earlier named 10 top films but withheld its pick for the ceremony. The other contenders were "Being John Malkovich," "The Cider House Rules," "The Green Mile," "The Insider," "Magnolia," "Man on the Moon," "The Sixth Sense," "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Three Kings".
...Playwright Herb Gardner ("I'm Not Rappaport") has been named the recipient of the Writers Guild of America East's Ian McLellan Hunter Award, recognizing lifetime achievement in writing. The award is named in memory of WGAE Council member McLellan, who died in 1991. He will receive the prize at the guild's ceremony on March 5 ...
... Nicolas Cage's 1933 Ford hot rod sold for $77,500 at the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction on Sunday. It was purchased by publishing magnate Robert E. Petersen for display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Elvis Presley's 1972 Lincoln Continental sold for $45,000, and Richard Carpenter, half the 1970s singing duo the Carpenters, got $70,000 for his 1957 DeSoto convertible ...
... Rosie O'Donnell will be back for this year's Grammys. The talk-show host will repeat her stint, which earned the awards their second-highest rating in six years, on Feb. 23 in Los Angeles.