Sometimes the oldest stories are the most beautiful ones and that's certainly the case in Cold Mountain a relatively straightforward film about a couple in love during the Civil War. Momentous in its scope and stirring in its intimacy Cold Mountain powerfully weaves together the journeys of its two protagonists Inman (Jude Law) and Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) as they endure the hardships of war and await their reunion. Inman a Confederate soldier wounded in the Battle of the Crater (one of the most powerful cinematic battle scenes in recent memory) realizes as he lies in the hospital that he's had enough of fighting and he goes AWOL on a journey homeward that will take him through a series of trials not unlike those Odysseus faced in Homer's epic: He's tempted by sirens tended to by a mountain healer/shepherdess and betrayed by a mountain man he meets along the way. Through it all his thoughts are never far from the faithful Penelope whose picture he keeps with him always--the woman he left behind at the farm on Cold Mountain the beautiful Ada a true Southern belle. Regrettably Ada's schooling in the finer things in life has left her ill-prepared to care for the farm on her own as war rages across the country and the local militia known as the Home Guard wreaks havoc on the home front it's supposed to be protecting. Longing for Inman and weary of the struggle to survive Ada welcomes the help of Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger) a spunky hellcat of a farm girl whose friendship and common sense spark Ada's transformation into a self-reliant woman.
Law's Inman a man of few words is a study in silent intensity--there's not a woman alive who would question why Ada loves him despite his rough exterior and slightly odd ways. Kidman's Ada too has a quiet energy and a porcelain beauty that belies the tough stuff she eventually discovers under the ringlets and hoop skirts. Taken separately each performance is flawless; together the chemistry between Kidman and Law is breathtaking. There's no question the leads in this film deserve Academy Award nominations but Renee Zellweger absolutely steals the show with her magical Ruby--she should without doubt walk away statue in hand. Every moment her feisty loudmouthed character is on the screen is an absolute pleasure whether she's sharing her homespun wisdom threatening the Home Guard nasties or worrying about a cow's overfull udder. Philip Seymour Hoffman who's regrettably not getting much Oscar buzz also deserves a mention--he's a wicked hoot as Inman's traveling companion the defrocked (literally) preacher Veasey--and Brendan Gleeson has a nice turn as Ruby's fiddle-playing roustabout father Stobrod. Look also for the elfin Jack White of the trendy White Stripes who's featured prominently on the soundtrack as another of the musicians.
Anthony Minghella has developed a reputation as a director and screenwriter who can take a gorgeous literary book and make it an even better film. The trend started with his Oscar-winning 1996 version of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient continued with a rendition of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1999 (which also featured Law and Hoffman) and culminates with this masterful adaptation of Charles Frazier's critically acclaimed Cold Mountain which reunites Minghella with his production team from those films including director of photography John Seale costume designer Ann Roth and composer Gabriel Yared. From the opening battle scene--an expansive gut wrenching gorgeous piece of photography from Seale (The English Patient Mr. Ripley)--to the final snowy moments atop Cold Mountain the story captivates the characters seduce and the vast panoramic mountain landscapes (shot in Romania South Carolina and Virginia) inspire. Roth's rich costumes lend even more depth to the visual display and a fantastic score from Yared (produced by T-Bone Burnett of O Brother Where Art Thou? fame) perfectly punctuates the action. Listen too for Sting's moving song "You Will Be My Ain True Love " performed by Alison Krauss and Sting as the end credits roll.
Top Story: Naomi Campbell Sued
AP reports that Naomi Campbell is being sued by a former assistant who alleges that the British model attacked her two years ago in a Beverly Hills hotel. According to the lawsuit, Simone Craig, 29, claims Campbell grabbed her by the arms, threw her down onto a couch, and kept her prisoner in a room at the L'Hermitage Hotel, yelling, "You're going to stay here and do your job!" Campbell's lawyers have stated that the model completely denies the accusations. In February of 2000, Campbell pleaded guilty to an assault charge for beating an assistant in Canada while working on a film in 1998. After this incident however, she was released without punishment.
PETA Makes Fun of Clay Aiken
According to the Associated Press, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has delayed an ad campaign whose slogan is "Get Neutered, It Didn't Hurt Clay Aiken," stemming from an interview Aiken gave in the June issue of Rolling Stone, in which he made some negative comments about cats. The ad features Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a recurring puppet character from Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Angry letters from the pop singer's fans, as well as those applauding the ad slogan, have been flooding the animal rights organization. Matthews said that his organization sent a letter to Aiken after the Rolling Stone interview, but never received a response. If the issue goes unresolved, PETA will run their original ads next week. "If Clay Aiken intends on staying famous, he has to learn to take a joke," remarked Dan Matthews, vice president of PETA.
Robert Conrad Charged With DUI
On Tuesday, a judge ordered actor Robert Conrad to stand trial for driving under the influence of alcohol, AP reports. Back on March 31, Conrad crashed head on into another vehicle near his home in Calaveras County in northern California. According to police, his blood alcohol level at the time was nearly three times the legal limit, 0.22 percent. The television actor pleaded innocent to two felony counts of DUI. When Conrad failed to turn up on time for the preliminary hearing, a judge ordered that his lawyer find the former TV tough guy. Conrad later attributed his absence to physical therapy he has had to undergo. Kevin Burnett, the other driver in the accident, suffered a broken wrist and leg. He has filed a lawsuit against Conrad and his production company, Black Sheep Productions, seeking damages and compensation. The actor will be arraigned on Dec. 8.
Britney Fans Camp Out for CD; Critics Unimpressed
With the release of pop sensation Britney Spears' new album In the Zone, on Tuesday, hundreds of eager fans camped outside the Virgin Megastore in Times Square for the chance to have their copy of the CD signed by the young diva herself, Reuters reports. Though fans traveled across the country in some cases to meet Spears, many critics maintain that her fourth album is far from her best work. The New York Times described the CD as being "almost perversely devoid of personality." Other critics have pointed out that the pop star's vocals sound more like sex sounds than singing. The New York Times said that the 21-year-old singer "works hard to prove that she's hot blooded, although she sounds colder than ever."
Berry Feeling Better
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, 37, reports that she has recovered from the broken arm she suffered while filming Gothika, and is feeling better about her recent separation from husband Eric Benet, according to AP. The actress has a positive outlook about her romantic future. "I've made some bad choices in that area…I used to say that if there was a loser in town, I'd find him. But I don't say that anymore…I'm going to find the right man." Berry broke her arm in May while filming a scene for Gothika in which she struggles with a man who tries to sedate her. Because of the accident, filming for the new movie was delayed six weeks.
Eminem's Ex-Wife Finally in Court
On Tuesday, Kim Mathers, who was married to rap star Eminem until 2001, appeared in two Macomb County, Mich. courtrooms after missing two earlier scheduled hearings for drug charges. According to AP, a Macomb County Circuit judge ordered that Mathers be placed on an electronic tether that will alert authorities if she leaves her home, and that she undergo drug and alcohol testing, as well as attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Mathers was originally scheduled to attent a Nov. 4 hearing for violating the bond conditions of a St. Clair Shores, Mich. drug case. On Dec. 18, she is scheduled to attend a hearing regarding cocaine possession charges. Also on Tuesday, Mathers appeared before a Warren district court judge in connection with a separate drug charge.
AFI To Name 100 Greatest Movie Songs
The American Film Institute announced Tuesday that it will honor Hollywood's greatest movie songs in a June CBS special entitled, "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Songs: America's Greatest Music in the Movies," Reuters reports. AFI will enlist the help of some 1,500 directors, screenwriters, actors, editors, cinematographers, critics, and historians in making the final selections from a list of 400 nominated songs. Said AFI director and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg, "Great songs are a personal and unforgettable part of the storytelling experience, so combining music and film this year will undoubtedly provoke impassioned, heated debate and discord among even the closest friends." Nominees range from The Wizard of Oz's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to 8 Mile's "Lose Yourself."
Role Call: Anthony Anderson May Find "King's Ransom"
Reuters reports that actor Anthony Anderson of Scary Movie 3 has entered talks to star in the upcoming New Line Cinema comedy King's Ransom. The project focuses on the exploits of a wealthy and cocky businessman who could lose half his money to the obnoxious wife he is trying to divorce, so he arranges his own kidnapping, unaware of a separate plot to nab and ransom him for real. If he takes the role, Anderson will be one busy guy--he is to appear in the upcoming films My Baby's Daddy
Talk show guru Oprah Winfrey has decided to cut back on her book club recommendations, which have been known to send a book straight to the Top 10 best-sellers list, because she is finding it more difficult to find books she can rave about. "It has become harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share," Winfrey said in a statement on her show Friday. "I will continue featuring books on The Oprah Winfrey Show when I feel they merit my heartfelt recommendation."
Winfrey has also decided to cut back on traveling because she says she doesn't feel safe, recently postponing a trip to South Africa to promote the launch of her magazine, O. "My instinct says things aren't right in parts of the world. All parts--and to get from my part to your part, I'd have to travel over other parts," Winfrey told a South Africa newspaper Sunday Times.
Is it him or isn't it? Two-time Grammy winner R. Kelly is having to answer questions about allegations that he appeared in a sexually explicit videotape with a minor that is being sold illegally across the country and on the Internet. The R&B artist denies all claims but Chicago police are investigating. Meanwhile, some radio stations in the Chicago area are boycotting the singer's music.
Tony-winning actress Jane Alexander and her husband, director/producer Edwin Sherin, are taking up teaching positions at Florida State University in the fall as part of its Eppes Professor program, which invites high-profile professionals to join the academia.
John Ashcroft may be the U.S. attorney general, but his first love is music. To prove it, he is scheduled to make an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, during which he may sing a few songs for the audience. Letterman has been poking fun at the attorney general recently, showing clips of Ashcroft singing his own song, "Let the Eagles Soar," at a theological seminar in North Carolina. The Late Show segment is being taped Tuesday, AP reports.
Following on the heels of the successful Carol Burnett Show reunion special which aired last year, TV nostalgia will reign again when CBS airs a Mary Tyler Moore Show retrospective May 13 during the all-important "sweeps" month. The special will star members of the old cast, including Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod and Betty White.
Actor/singer Harry Belafonte will receive the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's lifetime achievement award. Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter, told AP, "Mr. Belafonte has been a great role model, possessing not only professional gifts and talents, but he also reflects the gift of social sacrifice and political consciousness that has helped African Americans in their struggle."
Roy Huggins, writer/producer of TV classics such as Maverick and The Fugitive, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., of natural causes. He was 87. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Adele Mara, and their three sons, Thomas, John and James.
Clearly lacking anything resembling a job or significant relationship, Star Wars fanatics began their vigil outside of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, six weeks prior to the movie's premiere. Variety reports that approximately half a dozen fans are already in line, guaranteeing them tickets to the initial public screening of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. These unwashed Star Wars faithful say they plan to pass the time talking about the sci-fi movie series with passers-by and talking to the media--from a distance, one hopes.
Well, shut my mouth and call me Sally: Apparently the tabloids are wrong! According to the Associated Press, Spider-Man co-stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are NOT an item. Vanity Fair, though, quotes the charismatic pair as being professionally in love with each other. Dunst praises Maguire's ability to cry on cue, and Maguire says that there's "no vanity" in Dunst's acting.
Looks like Russell Crowe may end up in court--but not for something the easily irritated Aussie was charged for. Rather, the Oscar-winning actor may be called to testify against three men accused of blackmailing him with a videotape that allegedly involves the thespian in a street fight, the BBC reports.
New mom Liz Hurley got more good news yesterday. Mere hours after giving birth, a man who has been accused of stalking the international beauty was remanded into custody, the BBC reports.
In the Biz
As if times for the beleaguered John Travolta couldn't get worse. Variety reports that a rumor is floating around that the Battlefield Earth and Domestic Disturbance star (duds, both) will split with his manger of 17 years, Jonathan Krane.
Miramax Films has grabbed the rights to the waning Pokemon film series away from Warner Bros. Although the first installment grossed more than $85 million, the third episode (and latest) brought in just $17 million. Still, according to a source quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Miramax shelled out a cool $1 million for the rights to the next two sequels in the continuing saga of the pocket monsters.
E.T. was a sonic boom the first time it was released, but mere signal noise this time around. Re-released 20 years after its debut--and after it grossed more than £500 million worldwide--Steven Spielberg's opus grossed a miniscule £4.6 million over Easter weekend (26 countries), Britain's Screen Daily reports.
John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich) has signed on to play the villain in the latest Rowan Atkinson comedy, Johnny English, a parody of spy films. Pop singer Natalie Imbruglia will join the boys in the film as a seductive temptress.
CBS is going back to the past one more time. Following last November's successful Carol Burnett Show special, next month the eye network will air a one-hour reunion with the cast from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Other networks are following CBS' lead: ABC is planning a Laverne & Shirley retrospective, Fox is looking into a Three's Company tribute and NBC is devoting the entire month of May to reunions and highlight shows as part of its 75th anniversary celebration.
Whew! R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was acquitted of all charges stemming from an alleged fit of rage while drunk on an airplane last April. Buck's successful defense was comprised almost wholly by the claims "It wasn't me" and "Free tickets for any juror who finds me innocent."
How cute: Kelly Osbourne is following in daddy's shoes, sort of. The daughter of shock-rocker Ozzy Osbourne is covering Madonna's hit song "Papa Don't Preach" with the help of Incubus band members Mike Einziger and Jose Pasillas II, the AP reports. Kelly told MTV News she's worried about the single's success "because I don't think I'm a very good singer." Ah, like father, like daughter.
The spy business is dangerous, very dangerous. The AP reports that a stuntman on the set of Vin Diesel's latest movie, XXX, died while doing a parasailing stunt when he hit a bridge in Prague. XXX isn't the salacious movie described by its title; it's an urban spy thriller revolving around extreme-sports athletes.
OK, let's get the burning question out of the way first: No, we still don't know who the last "Survivor" is. There were five of the blockbuster show's castoffs at CBS' fall press tour, interrogated under a hot spotlight by a roomful of overly air-conditioned journalists. But a happily reunited Sonja, B.B., Ramona, Joel and Gretchen (as well as the show's executive producer, Mark Burnett) didn't budge, although Gretchen did joke, "Everybody already knows who the winner is. It would be Mr. Burnett and CBS."
We reporters tried. We crept up from all sides, seeking clues and asking about those recent reports saying that a glitch in the CBS Web site had unwittingly revealed that the winner of "Survivor" is Gervase, the quarrelsome youth counselor.
In response, CBS Television President Les Moonves announced that the network will now post the show synopses only after each episode has aired, rather than prepare it ahead of time with system blockage (rather ineffective, since a computer hacker revealed the results prematurely).
Moonves also pledged that unused "Survivor" footage won't make its way into Blockbuster stores, a la "The Jerry Springer Show." In other words, "There will not be any more naked pictures of Richard than we already have out there," Moonves says.
By contrast, the press conference for CBS' other (and less successful) reality series, "Big Brother," was one of the most heated -- and torturous. William "Mega" Collins, the first houseguest to be voted off the show, was paraded before the press, and he was less-than-charming and confrontational as usual.
But that doesn't necessarily make him interesting. After the umpteenth roundabout spiritual oration in response to questions regarding his former association with the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a reporter scribbled his potential headline on a notepad and passed it to another to see: "Big Bore-ther."
The rest of the press tour (aka the unreality section) was mostly humdrum, as the Eye Network trotted out the stars and producers of three new sitcoms and four new dramas. Four, that is, if you count "The Fugitive," the remake of the popular 1960s David Janssen series that inspired the 1993 Harrison Ford film. This one stars Tim Daly in the title role and Mykelti Williamson ("Forrest Gump") as the chaser.
Most of the new shows read like a TV-vet reunion party: Craig T. Nelson ("Coach") as an underdog police chief in the crime drama "The District"; Christine Baranski ("Cybill") in the weatherman sitcom "Welcome to New York"; Marg Helgenberger ("China Beach") in "C.S.I.," a drama about forensic investigators.
The others are made up of short-lived sitcom refugees: The cast of "That's Life," a drama about a 30-something college student, stars Heather Paige Kent ("Jenny," "Stark Raving Mad"); and Anthony Clark, Mike O'Malley and Jean Louisa Kelly team up for the couple-y comedy "Yes, Dear." Anyone remember "Boston Common," "The Mike O'Malley Show" and "Cold Feet," respectively? We didn't think so.
The weary press were also treated to appearances by Tyne Daly and Blair Underwood for returning dramas "Judging Amy" and "City of Angels," respectively. Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames and Bruno Kirby discussed their still-filming miniseries "An American Tragedy," about the O.J. Simpson defense trial team. And let's not forget Bette Midler, who appeared via satellite to promote "Bette," a sitcom about a diva/wife/mother.
In between, the good people at CBS scheduled screenings, served fruit smoothies and root beer floats, and threw a star-filled party, without, as they said, "the island cuisine afforded the 16 castaways."
Translation? Not a fried rat in sight.
Smitten by a young woman (Ryder) celebrating her 22nd birthday in his chi-chi restaurant relentless womanizer Will Keane (Gere) sets his sights on this cherubic vision 27 years his junior. Against his better judgment the chiding of his friends and the fact that she's the daughter of a former flame Will invites Charlotte to a reception and sparks fly. The morning after Will recites his "Let's be friends" speech but Charlotte counters with an emotional challenge and a situation that will change his life -- and hers -- forever.
Why these A list stars chose this script might always remain a mystery but to their credit they make this unlikely romance border on the believable. Gere oozing his patented "Pretty Woman" and "Runaway Bride" romantic charm hits every trademark brood squint and exhale in his repertoire. Ryder continues to mine her kewpie doll blank expression punctuating her performance with intermittent anger and puppy dog eyes.
A lot of beautiful fall foliage can make any film watchable and director Joan Chen ("Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl") struggles admirably to construct a silk purse from a sow's ear script. Despite sappy set pieces and some painfully awkward lines Chen manages to exploit the beautiful seasonal locations and cuisine scenes to their fullest proving she can direct a sturdy picture.