Mary (Jena Malone) -- born again at the age of 3 and an unquestioning bible thumper ever since -- is about to start her senior year at American Eagle Christian High School and God is smiling on her. She and her pretty devout friend Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) are popular she has a handsome boyfriend Dean (Chad Faust) and she religiously rocks out at Christian concerts. The first sign of trouble is when ice-skating chastity embracing Dean tells Mary he thinks he's gay. Determined to bring her man back to the Lord Mary makes a deal with Jesus: She'll seduce Dean if the Lamb of God then restores her "emotional" and "spiritual" virginity. Cut to a few weeks later: Dean-o's been packed off to sexuality rehab Mary can't keep her breakfast down and all of a sudden Jesus is looking a lot less like a pal and a lot more like a used car salesman. With the core of her faith shrinking as her belly is expanding Mary sees her peers in a whole new light -- "perfect" Hilary Faye has plenty of flaws and "bad girl" Cassandra (Eva Amurri) might not be the spawn of Satan after all. All of which helps Mary and company discover what being a Christian really means -- just in time for prom!
The cast of Saved! is almost as eclectic a mix as a real high school class. Malone Amurri (Susan Sarandon's daughter) Patrick Fugit (as alterna-cutie skateboarder Patrick) and Heather Matarazzo (as blunt hanger-on Tia) are all card-carrying members of the Hip Indie Actors club while Moore and Macaulay Culkin (as Hilary Faye's wheelchair-bound brother Roland) come from the Much-Mocked Pop Culture Icon school. All acquit themselves admirably with Moore and Amurri as particular standouts. Moore has Hilary Faye's mix of smug self-entitlement and hollow concern nailed: This is one pop tart who knows how to play a sugar-coated bitch. Her showy piousness is particularly amusing when you contrast it with her PAX-worthy performance as a doomed preacher's daughter in A Walk to Remember. Playing American Eagle's token Jewish student Amurri expertly offers glimpses of tough-talking Cassandra's inner vulnerability and warm heart; her scenes with Culkin's wryly cynical Roland are some of the movie's best. Malone is occasionally a bit tepid but her sparks with Fugit seem real. The token adult actors -- Mary-Louise Parker as Mary's trashy widowed mother Lillian and Martin Donovan as principal Pastor Skip (whose insecurity almost overwhelms his own faith) -- also turn in strong performances.
Saved! made its debut at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and it's not hard to see why: Brian Dannelly's film has "indie" written all over it. Dannelly deserves credit for pushing the envelope as far as he has -- suffice it to say that Saved! probably won't go over so well in the heartland (or even the suburbs) -- but the film isn't a total success. Its mix of dark humor and sincere sentiment is a bit jarring; just when you're guffawing at Dannelly's send-up of "hip Christianity" in the form of Pastor Skip's unbelievably lame attempts to connect with his young flock ("let's get our Christ on!") or Hilary Faye's forceful attempts to perform a drive-by saving on the wayward Mary you land with a bump as Mary and her mom share a quiet moment or Patrick and his dad exchange some tense words. It's obvious that Dannelly didn't want Saved! to be dismissed as mere parody but the film strays too far into spoof territory to be a drama and vice versa.
Ron Howard (the Oscar-nominated director of A Beautiful Mind) is currently scouting locations in Texas for his upcoming feature film based on the legendary, fateful battle at the Alamo. Howard says he plans to deal with some complex issues of the combatants at the Texas landmark heretofore untold on screen, including Jim Bowie's slave trading, Davy Crockett's bigotry and the alleged infighting between the NBA's David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
Madonna's been open about her sex life before, but now it's turning audiences off. Featured in hubby Guy Ritchie's new film based on 1974's Swept Away, Madonna gets beaten up as a prelude to lovemaking, which, according to thestar.com, is making viewers upset. Incredibly, this is an improvement for Madonna, whose acting in her previous movies made viewers VERY upset.
Not that you asked, but we have more from the world of Madonna. Seems the actress/pop diva, who demanded a cameo in return for singing the theme song of the latest James Bond flick, has withdrawn completely from any involvement in the movie. Given the last news item, perhaps the James Bond series just isn't misogynistic enough.
Kenneth Branagh, the man voted by his high-school class as most likely to channel Shakespeare, has returned to the bard's work on stage for the first time in 10 years. Branagh can be seen in the lead role of Shakespeare's Richard III at the Crucible Theater in the northern English town of Sheffield. No word if Branagh has yet been able to turn Sheffield's winter of discontent into a glorious summer, but word has it that he'd give up his kingdom for a horse.
Mary Tyler Moore's character from her eponymous hit TV show is to be honored May 8 with a bronze statue in Minneapolis, where the show's story was based. An eight-foot-high statue of newswoman Mary Richards tossing her hat into the air will grace the downtown corner of 7th Street and the Nicollet Mall, pleasing not only fans of the '70s sitcom, but also pigeons from both of the Twin Cities.
Bill Maher hosts a show called Politically Incorrect, and his latest statements to the Seattle Times prove that label true about himself, as well. "Look, I'm not gonna lie," Maher opined, "I knew back in September our days were numbered. But what is a little galling is that for six years on ABC, we had to live with Nightline as the ultimate sacred cow. You could never ask Ted Koppel to do anything. He never asked viewers to watch Politically Incorrect after his show; instead, he'd tell them to go to nightline.com. Suddenly, he's not a sacred cow--he's a slaughtered cow." If Koppel's a slaughtered cow, wouldn't that make Maher little more than gristle?
It's still signing season for TV pilots. Helen Mirren, nominated by the Academy for her work in Gosford Park, is set to star in CBS' Georgetown; The WB has gotten Jennie Garth, formerly of Beverly Hills, 90210, to relocate to New York for an untitled comedy with Amanda Bynes (Big Fat Liar), and Murphy Brown's Grant Shaud is heading to Fox for Oliver Beene. ABC's big move for the week was...nothing!
Fox is gonzo for eras past (That '70s Show, That '80s Show) and, according to EW.com, is planning a retrospective of seminal '70s sitcom Three's Company; just don't expect John Ritter to host. "I can't see sitting in rocking chairs and going, 'Remember the time we sat on that f---ing dog, and Mr. Furley came in and kicked you in the nuts?'" Ritter told EW.com. Ah, how we miss Don Knotts.
Billy Baldwin, star of Backdraft and brother to Alec, Stephen, Daniel, Jermaine and Tito, is jumping to the small screen in CBS' grammatically challenged R.U.S./H.. Yet another cop drama, R.U.S./H. is the story of a special L.A. unit that's based in the tough neighborhood of South Central.
Keys auction house in London has told Reuters that it expects letters hand-written by the late Princess Diana to her former housekeeper could go for as much as $28,430 (approximately), when they are auctioned off later this week. Princess Diana passed away in a Paris car crash in 1997. In related news, correspondence written by editor Noah Davis to his imaginary friend Fred was receently purchased for 42 cents. (Thanks, Mom!)
Music giant EMI Group is cutting almost 1,800 people from its worldwide workforce, the Associated Press reports. Contraction began in April 2001, when EMI had 9,338 employees. By September 2002, that number will be reduced to 7,600. No word if Mariah Carey's release is counted in this number, but we're willing to bet that not many other employees will receive the same $28 million golden parachute the sultry songbird did.
Food infected with sewage pollution has been blamed for the mystery illness that graced some attendees of the March 2 event in Beverly Hills honoring scientific and technical achievement in cinema. Investigators aren't sure how the virus spread, nor do they know what arugula really is.
Mary Poppins has settled her case, but don’t expect her to be singing from the rooftops. Julie Andrews announced Thursday that she has settled her 1997 malpractice suit against doctors who she says ruined her singing career after a botched throat operation.
The details of the settlement were not released, but the "Mary Poppins" and “The Sound of Music” songbird said she was satisfied with it.
Andrews’ publicist said that the award-winning singer and actress was devastated after the operation, which left the singer with hoarseness and permanent vocal chord damage.
She has been unable to sing professionally since then.