As one of history's better sports stories Cinderella Man focuses on legendary prizefighter James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) who during the Great Depression became a common-man hero. Once a boxer on the rise Braddock hits rock bottom with the rest of the broken-down beaten-up and out-of-luck American populace and is forced to give up his dreams of being a world champion to find work. We get to sit around with Braddock his loving supportive but weepy wife Mae (Renee Zellweger) and their starving cold children for the first hour of the film feeling mightily depressed indeed. But then things pick up when Braddock gets a last-chance bid to make something of himself by returning to the ring. Spurred on by an inner determination--and his hardnosed manager Joe (Paul Giamatti)--Braddock miraculously makes an almost mythical rise to the top. The underdog to beat all underdogs--yes even topping a nobody horse named Seabiscuit--the pugilist ends up taking on the heavyweight champ of the world Max Baer (Craig Bierko) who's renowned for having killed two men in the ring. And wins. The roar from the people who look to their "Cinderella Man" as their champion is deafening.
Chris Rock said it the best: "If you're gonna do a movie about the past you best to get Russell's ass!" It's absolutely true. The Oscar-winning Crowe has an uncanny knack for taking anything period and making it seem contemporary be it clashing swords in the gladiator ring in ancient Rome or working out equations on a library window as a brilliant but trouble 1950s mathematician. So it seems natural Crowe would once again turn in a stellar performance as the Depression-era boxer who rallies from the depths of despair to become a world champion. Of course Crowe did have to learn how to box--and apparently injured his shoulder pretty severely during the process--but it was all in a day's work for this hardworking Method actor. He also is supported by a superlative cast including Zellweger as Braddock's devoted yet longsuffering wife. The actress may be a bit more pinched-face than usual having to play cold and hungry most of the time but she still does an admirable job. The biggest standout however is Giamatti as the beleaguered but sharp-as-a-tack manager who does everything in his power to get Braddock back in the ring--and keep him there. Someone just needs to give this man an Oscar. Pronto.
Of course everyone is calling Cinderella Man this summer's Seabiscuit. Granted the comparisons are numerous--underdog plot the Great Depression down-trodden men who need some kind of hope to get them back on their feet again a nation rallying behind them. But Seabiscuit didn't have the powerhouse duo of Crowe and director Ron Howard to back it up. Their special brand of mojo made A Beautiful Mind another rather staid biopic the Oscar winner of 2001. It only makes sense they would try for it again with Cinderella Man's inspirational story. While the first part of the film discourages you a bit it's necessary to set up Braddock's desperation and ultimate fortitude. Once we hit the ring however the action is nonstop and riveting making you shout from your seat. Howard now joins the handful of directors including Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby) and Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull) who can effectively cause this reaction by watching two men (or women in Eastwood's case) pummel each other. But as far as Cinderella's Oscar chances it's a tough call because: a) it is the beginning of summer and b) it's not a film you carry around with you once you leave the theater. Perhaps if the studio does a blitzkrieg Oscar marketing campaign similar to Seabiscuit it might work. We'll see.
Top Story: Britney's No Virgin
Britney Spears is no longer a virgin, despite her oath she would remain one until marriage. In an upcoming interview in the August issue of W magazine, the pop princess confessed she had sex with her former boyfriend, singer Justin Timberlake, because she believed she'd marry him someday. "I've only slept with one person my whole life," she said in the interview. "It was two years into my relationship with Justin, and I thought he was the one. But I was wrong!" Spears continued, "The most painful thing I have ever experienced was that breakup. We were together so long and I had this vision. You think you're going to spend the rest of your life together. Where I come from, the woman is the homemaker, and that's how I was brought up--you cook for your kids. But now I realize I need my single time."
Jolie Talks About Sex, Self-Mutilation
Angelina Jolie is admitting she's done some pretty wild things in her past but has since changed her ways. In an interview with Barbara Walters set to air Friday on ABC's 20/20, the Oscar-winning actress talked about her brief but passionate marriage to ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton as well as her past fascination with knives and self-mutilation, Reuters reports. Describing her relationship with Thornton, Jolie said, "We're not friends, no. It's like we just changed." Jolie added she has been transformed by motherhood after adopting a Cambodian-born boy last year. "I think when you make a decision to have a child, you cannot think about suicide again and you can't be self-destructive." The interview will air Friday on ABC's 20/20.
Blake's Lawyer Wants New Witness's Testimony
Robert Blake's lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. has asked for a special pretrial session to question a new witness, Diane Mattson, in the murder case against Blake, The Associated Press reports. Mattson claims she overheard Christian Brando--the son of actor Marlon Brando, who had had a relationship with Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, before her shooting death in May 2001--tell two stuntmen that Bakely should be shot "in the head." Mesereau Jr. told AP Mattson is "scared to death" of Brando, fearing for her life, and wants to preserve her testimony now to discourage anyone from causing her injury or trying to prevent her from testifying at the trial, AP reports. A hearing to determine the urgency of this testimony has been set for Thursday. An official trial date has not been determined.
Angels Nonchalant About Box Office Numbers
Although their new film Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle hasn't met up to expectations at the U.S. box office, having taken in only $67 million in over two weeks, money apparently doesn't matter to stars Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore. On the film's press tour in Europe, the three best pals agreed Tuesday they didn't really care how much the film made, just so long as they were able to make the movie together, Reuters reports. "It doesn't mean anything to us," Diaz said in an interview with journalists in Berlin. "I'm not interested in breaking records." Full Throttle's debut weekend brought in $38 million, just below its predecessor Charlie's Angels, which opened in 2000 with $40 million.
Former Stripper Sues Stripperella Creators
An ex-stripper from Florida is suing over new TNN animated series Stripperella, about a tough lady who strips for a living but moonlights as a superhero, claiming she was the one who came up with the original idea, AP reports. Named in the suit are actress Pamela Anderson, the voice of the character; comic legend and Stripperella creator Stan Lee and TNN. Janet Clover, 37, claims she came up with the idea during a private dance session with Lee a year ago. "I'm just trying to get this off TV because it's not his idea," Clover told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. "I can't remember much about Mr. Lee, little bits and pieces come back. You know, I meet a lot of men."
Role Call: Zellweger and Crowe in Cinderella Story, Malkovich Is Found in the Street
Renee Zellweger and Russell Crowe are set to star in Ron Howard's Cinderella Man for Miramax Films and Universal Pictures. Variety reports Crowe will play Jim Braddock, the Depression-era boxer who became a folk hero by winning a brutal 15-round match against heavyweight champion Max Baer in 1935. Zellweger will play Braddock's wife…John Malkovich's production company, Mr. Mudd, has taken on the film project Found in the Street, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the indie film will be a psychological suspense thriller about a chance encounter between several people in New York's Greenwich Village, including a middle-aged security guard, an artist, his bisexual wife and a lesbian waitress/model. A series of events leads to murder and blame.
Whitney Houston's father John Houston died of cardiac arrest early Sunday morning in New York after struggling many years with diabetes and heart disease. He was 82. He and his famous daughter were recently embroiled in a lawsuit in which the elder Houston's theatrical management company claimed the pop diva owed the company $100 million for helping her through financial difficulties and securing a record contract. In December, he publicly urged his daughter from his hospital bed to "pay the money you owe me." The dispute did not keep Whitney away, however, as Reuters reports the singer flew to New York Sunday from Miami, where she was doing a shoot for a magazine cover, to be with her family.
Ben Affleck will not be marrying his fiancee Jennifer Lopez on Valentine's Day after all. Reuters reports the actor quelled the rumor by telling Vanity Fair in an interview published Monday that he and Lopez "don't have time!" and added they are shooting for the nuptials to take place sometime next summer.
Jude Law doesn't like rumors either. According to People.com, Law, who is married to actress Sadie Frost, insisted to Australia's Syndey Morning Herald that the rumor he and Nicole Kidman had an affair on the set of their movie Cold Mountain is categorically untrue and "to suggest otherwise is malicious, hurtful and libelous." It was reported by a few tabloids that Frost, who recently had to be treated for postnatal depression after giving birth to the couple's son, may have been also upset about the alleged affair. Law added, "I have been on to my lawyers and will follow all legal action necessary to ensure that these kind of vicious lies are put to a stop."
Pop star Michael Jackson, who allowed a British interviewer access to his personal life over an eight month period for a special television documentary, reveals, among other things, that he picked a surrogate mother to give birth to his third child, Prince Michael II. Jackson also told ITV1 reporter Martin Bashir having children sleep in his bed is perfectly innocent and admitted he had plastic surgery on his nose--twice. Riiight. The 90-minute TV-special aired on British television Monday and will air on ABC's 20/20 Thursday.
Meryl Streep doesn't buy into all the Oscar hullabaloo. The Oscar-winning actress told London's Daily Telegraph, "I find it alarming that all the campaigning for Oscars is getting like a political campaign. It really is distasteful.....It won't be long before they start paying for television commercials for best picture, best actor and all those things." The 53-year-old actress has been nominated 12 times, winning twice, and shares the nom record with Katharine Hepburn. Heavily touted this year for her performances in The Hours and Adaptation, Streep will most likely break that record when the Academy announces the nominations next week.
Russell Crowe is set to reunite with his A Beautiful Mind director Ron Howard for the boxing drama Cinderella Man. Variety reports the film focuses on Depression-era fighter and folk hero Jim Braddock, who defeated heavyweight champ Max Baer in a 15-round slugfest in 1935.
The Directors Guild of America has announced their nominees for the best television movie direction for 2002, including nods for the late John Frankenheimer for HBO's Path to War, Julie Dash for CBS' The Rosa Parks Story and Mick Jackson for HBO's Live From Baghdad.
NBC's new drama Kingpin has drawn criticism from the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Associated Press reports, for its depiction of Hispanics as "drug dealers, murderers and unpatriotic American citizens," the group said in a statement. They added the show "opens the door to more negative feelings towards Latinos in our community."