Hardened by years of brutal but loyal military service special ops officer Robert Scott (Val Kilmer) is assigned to find the president's apparently kidnapped daughter Laura Newton (Kristen Bell). Pairing up with his protégé Curtis (Derek Luke) Scott works diligently with a task force of presidential advisors the Secret Service the FBI and the CIA to find her and through their investigation they stumble upon a white slavery ring in the Middle East which may--or may not--have some connection to Laura's disappearance. The straightforward search-and-rescue mission is soon bogged down in political machinations and the girl's abduction starts to look even more suspicious than it did at first. In fact the mission comes to an abrupt halt altogether when the girl is supposedly found drowned from a boating accident. Scott returns to his quiet life until Curtis shows up and proves that Laura is still alive and most likely trapped in the white slavery ring. In a race against time Scott and Curtis embark on their own unofficial rescue mission--and put themselves at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the U.S. government.
Val Kilmer probably won't be joining Mamet's dedicated circle of players--which includes Joe Mantegna William H. Macy and Mamet's wife actress Rebecca Pidgeon--any time soon. While it's clear Kilmer took the role to work with the talented writer/director he isn't well suited to deliver "Mamet-speak"--the rapid fire delivery of terse dialogue the writer is known for--and Kilmer looks uncomfortable trying to do it. The gifted actor who can't help but bring in his own quirky sensibilities to the part still hits the nail on the head as steely resolute Scott. But the minute he starts dispensing sage advice--Mamet-style--Kilmer sticks out like a sore thumb. Same goes for Luke (Antwone Fisher) who is entirely miscast as Scott's sidekick. Others in the ensemble however handle the Mamet chores more adeptly including Macy and Ed O'Neill (yes the guy from TV's Married ... With Children) as presidential aides.
Spartan's real problem however is that it's a thriller without much thrill. Mamet's expertise is in creating scenarios within a microcosm whether it's a world of con artists (House of Games; The Spanish Prisoner) salesmen (Glengarry Glen Ross) or even showbiz (State and Main). These Mamet films are even-keeled--almost devoid of emotion. He sets up characters and actions relevant to that particular world so when characters spout lines in Mamet's distinctive style it comes off as perfectly natural. Yet with Spartan Mamet is tackling a bigger grander picture and when his style is applied to the world as a whole it doesn't work. Plus in the thriller genre the audience needs to feel invested in the characters and Mamet's distant unemotional style doesn't lend itself to sending the audience's collective hearts racing. The only poignant moment in the film belongs to Bell as the wounded daughter who just wants a little attention from Daddy and the only truly exciting moments are during her rescue. That said however Spartan proves Mamet still knows how to craft a story. Although the script is at times vague and convoluted it thankfully never falls into any of the genre's usual patterns and it throws in enough twists to keep you on your toes.
October 28, 2003 9:08am EST
Top Story: Britney Spears Bitter About Men
Pop princess Britney Spears says she became bitter with men after her very public breakup with ex Justin Timberlake. In an interview with Newsweek magazine in its Nov. 3 issue, Spears says she swore off dating for a while after the experience. "There was a time when I was like, 'OK, I'm over men. They're mean,'" she says. "For like six months, not a single thing happened. Not like they weren't drawn to me, but there wasn't a single real attraction. I'm like, 'What's happening? I know I'm not a lesbian.'" Spears says she is still not involved with anyone and denies reports that she hooked up with 21-year-old Columbus Short, a married backup dancer. Spears also talks about her suggestive layouts for Rolling Stone, British Elle and Esquire magazines. "I did feel kind of weird after those photos," Spears says. "I was in a moment. I had, like, eight Red Bulls and said, 'OK, let's do it.' I learned my lesson and you won't see me like that for a while. I'm kinda over it myself. Not that it's dirty or tacky, but it is really revealing and I wouldn't want my kid, at 21, to be dressing like that."
Price Is Right Announcer Dies
Veteran television announcer Rod Roddy died Monday at Century City Hospital of colon and breast cancer at age 66, The Associated Press reports. For 17 years, Roddy's voice was familiar to fans of the television game show The Price Is Right for the legendary phrase: "Come on down!" Host Bob Barker said Monday that Roddy, who taped his last show two months ago, stayed with the CBS show as long as his health permitted. "The courage he showed during those difficult times was an inspiration to us all," Barker said. "He was quite a character. He was important to the success of the show." A private funeral service will be held in Texas, with a memorial service planned sometime later in Los Angeles.
California Fires Destroy Part of Aviator Set
The Southern California wildfires, which have destroyed at least 1,134 homes, killed 15 people, forced thousands to evacuate and disrupted auto and air traffic, also partially destroyed a set for Warner Bros.' Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator in the Simi Valley area over the weekend. According to Variety, the blaze at Big Sky Ranch forced the production to switch to interior shooting in Long Beach, Calif. Mike Dilorenzo of Santa Clarita Studios said his facility is operating at full capacity with CSI and Carnivale shooting, but added that the studio was on full alert with fires hoses hooked up and ready to go.
David Bowie and Iman To Appear in Hilfiger Ads
Rock icon David Bowie and his wife, supermodel Iman, will appear in their first ad campaign together. According to Billboard.com, the couple will be the new faces for designer Tommy Hilfiger's new H Hilfiger line, to be launched in spring 2004. The collection, described as "sophisticated, sexy and refined," will be part of Hilfiger's high-end line. The ad campaign, shot this month in Amsterdam by renowned photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, will debut in American magazines in April 2004.
Rosie O'Donnell, G+J Court Date Delayed
The court battle between Rosie O'Donnell and her ex-publishing partner, Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing, was put on temporary hold on yesterday as a scheduling conflict caused the judge to delay Tuesday's start date. G+J charges that everything unraveled at the now defunct Rosie magazine when O'Donnell shut down her daytime TV show in 2002 and went from being known as "fun-loving" to becoming a self-proclaimed "uber-bitch." O'Donnell, however, claims the publisher seized control of the magazine, fired editors who were loyal to her and tried to smear her reputation. Manhattan Supreme Court officials told Reuters the breach-of-contract case over the messy demise of the entertainer's namesake magazine will likely open later this week.
Fox Pulls Plug on Luis
After only four airings, Fox has decided to pull the plug on its freshman series Luis. The show starred feature character actor Luis Guzman as a doughnut shop owner in Spanish Harlem, but it opened to poor reviews and ratings, averaging 3.6 million viewers in its four airings. According to The Hollywood Reporter, production on the series, which aired Friday at 8:30 p.m., was shut down Monday. Ten episodes of the comedy were produced overall. For the next two Fridays, Fox will air original episodes of Wanda at Large at 8 and 8:30 p.m. The network had previously scheduled movies to run on the last two Fridays of the November sweep.
ABC News: Oswald Acted Alone
ABC said Monday that an in-depth investigation of the Kennedy assassination conducted by ABC News indisputably confirms that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The network said ABC News worked with an expert who created a computer-generated reconstruction of the shooting based on maps, blueprints, physical measurements, more than 500 photographs, films and autopsy reports. Through interviews and other documentation, ABC News also concludes that Jack Ruby, who later killed Oswald, acted simply out of his love for Kennedy, the AP reports. The two-hour special on the event is scheduled to air Nov. 20, two days before the 40th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Tim Robbins To Host Cash Tribute
Actor Tim Robbins will host the Nov. 10 musical tribute to country legend Johnny Cash, who died Sept. 12 at age 71 of complications from diabetes. According to the AP, The Bull Durham star did an audio interview with Cash for promotion of the singer's 2000 album, American III: Solitary Man. Cash also wrote and performed "In Your Mind" for the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking, a 1995 film Robbins directed. Tickets for the tribute concert, which will take place at the Ryman Auditorium, were free and distributed by lottery. John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams Jr., Jack Clement, Steve Earle, Larry Gatlin and Cash's daughter, Rosanne, are scheduled to perform.
"I wish!" That's what pop crooner Enrique Iglesias told The Mail on Sunday's Popworld magazine about his so-called romantic relationship with bawdy tennis player Anna Kournikova. Iglesias insists that they had a great time shooting the video for his new single "Escape," but that's where it ended. "She's crazy, but in a cool way. I heard rumors that I would not kiss her because she had a cold sore," he told the magazine, "but that's not true."
Who knew comedian Bill Murray was such a baseball aficionado? Murray has apparently taken an interest in the new minor league baseball team in Brockton, Mass., and showed up unannounced at the team's offices last month to tour its new $17 million stadium. The Brockton Rox's principal owner, Van Schley, told The Associated Press that Murray might become an owner in the future.
Former Miss America Pageant CEO Robert L. Beck, who was fired in the wake of a rules-change scandal that would have let women who had been divorced or had abortions compete for the Miss America title, is taking the organization to court. Blake is suing the Miss America Organization for several issues, including wrongful termination and severance pay, according to the AP.
Franz Reuther, the man behind the 1989 Milli Vanilli lip-synching debacle, is in hot water again. According to the AP, Reuther's company demolished a 1928 mansion in Miami Beach, Fla., despite being denied permission by city officials. His company could be fined as much as $120,000.
It looks as though Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling might have a case of writer's block. The popular children's author is late on delivering her fifth installment, entitled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The book was originally scheduled for publication for July 2002, but Scholastic, the book's publisher, told stockholders it now expects to publish before June 2003, The New York Times reports.
Four weeks into the filming of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, director Jonathan Mostow has replaced newcomer Sophia Bush with Claire Danes. According to Variety, Mostow felt Bush looked too young for the part.
In the Biz
Jennifer Lopez will star in and produce a film based on a modern version of Prosper Merimee's 19th-century short story Carmen for Universal Pictures, according to Variety. Craig Pearce, who co-wrote Moulin Rouge, will revamp the story, and Lopez will star as the Gypsy temptress.
The estate of late actor Walter Matthau has sued Columbia Pictures for breach of contract over profits on the films Cactus Flower and California Suite. The suit alleges Matthau was entitled to gross participation on the two films and claims Columbia reported only 20 percent of home video receipts, failed to report full cable receipts and obtained secret profits, according to Variety. The suit seeks at least $1 million in damages. Matthau died at age 79 in July 2000.
Emilio Estevez has written the script for and will likely star in a project tentatively entitled Bobby about the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy, Variety reports. Shooting is scheduled to begin in August.
More on the Kennedy front: CBS has commissioned a TV movie based on Richard Blow's biography of John F. Kennedy Jr., American Son. According to Variety, the network is currently looking for a writer to adapt the book, which hits bookstores this month.
The Price Is Right veteran Bob Barker will host the 29th annual Daytime Emmy Awards live from New York on May 17, Variety reports. Barker, whose Price Is Right is now in its 30th season, will also be competing in the game-show host category against Alex Trebek, Ben Stein and Nancy Pimental, and Pat Sajak. The Daytime Emmys will air from 9-11 p.m. on CBS.
Compensation, a film about black culture in Chicago, Ill., is one of four winners of the 2002 Paul Robeson Awards at the 28th annual Newark Black Film Festival in Newark, N.J., the AP reports. Other winners included the short narrative Monster, the documentary Keep on Walking and the experimental film In Check. The festival begins June 26 at the Newark Museum, and the award-winning films--chosen from 41 entries--will be screened Aug. 7.
George Sidney, who directed dozens of musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat and Kiss Me Kate, died at his home Sunday of complications from lymphoma. He was 85. The former child actor presided over the Screen Directors Guild for 16 years, founded Hanna-Barbera productions and worked with many legends--including Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Elvis Presley.
Roy Schatt, the photographer known for his photographs of actor James Dean, died Saturday at his Manhattan home of congestive heart failure. He was 92. Schatt photographed a multitude of celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Grace Kelly, Elia Kazan and Joanne Woodward. His photos are exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Chicago Art Institute.
Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub) is trying to keep his small family together after losing his wife and the mother of their kids Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) in a tragic fire that left them homeless. Out of nowhere one enigmatic Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) wills Arthur a bizarre yet dazzlingly beautiful mansion made almost entirely of glass and filled with priceless antiques. There's not much that could go unseen behind the transparent walls except for perhaps 12 pesky ghosts of disturbed folks like onetime mental patients and a kid whose head got in the way of an arrow. It just so happens old Cyrus with the help of his psychic phantom-wrangler Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) has been summoning up a few restless spirits so he can open the Eye of Hell and take over the world or something. They just need one more spirit to finish the job.
All right who's blackmailing Oscar-winner Abraham into taking roles like this? The man should have thrown the script out sight-unseen and then fired his agent. Rah Digga yet another rapper-turned-wanna-be-actress is there to offer some sassy comic relief as the kids' nanny--she's fun in a usual sort of way. Shalhoub-ho hum. Elizabeth? Yawn. She's not even in half the movie. Lillard it can be said is about the only bright spot in this otherwise not-silly-enough not-cheesy-enough not-funny-or-scary-enough horror movie. He's got the right idea as he tries to camp it up as a borderline hysterical psychic who has guilt issues about being able to see everyone's secrets with his "gift." But worst of all is the usually great Embeth Davidtz (um Schindler's List?!) as a--get this--ghost's rights activist who thinks she's channeling Zelda Rubenstein from Poltergeist as she hisses the obvious: "This house is not a house!"
The only thing scarier than F. Murray Abraham taking a role in this movie is that it ever got made at all--then again we have the Dark Castle folks (the same ones who brought us that masterpiece remake The Haunting a few years ago) to thank. They forgot to hire a director and a scriptwriter instead putting visual effects guy Steve Beck behind the camera to show us some semi-interesting special effects (it is a ghost movie after all and you better score some points there). Unfortunately the movie is uneven makes little sense and strives for both laughs and scares but achieves neither with cornball dialog and silly stereotypes; it's wildly gory to boot. Everyone's gonna say the ultra-modern haunted house is the star of Thirteen Ghosts and with good reason. The production design in this movie is amazing and the idea of ghosts hiding behind clear walls is an intriguing if ultimately wasted concept.