It’s Halloween Eve in suburbia and while most of the neighborhood kids are gearing up for a candy extravaganza two young‘uns--DJ (voiced by Mitchell Musso) and Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner)--are fretting and dreading. They’re convinced that the decrepit house across the street is in fact a monster house inhabited by an old hermit named Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi) that will lure kids in on Halloween night. But just as DJ’s parents who naturally don’t believe him to begin with leave for a vacation DJ inadvertently sends Nebbercracker to his death--or so he fears. Now DJ believes Nebbercracker’s monster house will seek revenge on him specifically and to make matters worse his negligent babysitter (voiced by Maggie Gyllenhaal) won’t hear of his yapping. After DJ and Chowder are forced to take action they along with a girl peddling candy (voiced by Spencer Locke) discover how the monster came to be and just how unforgiving she is. When it comes to animation acting the main goal is to make audiences forget that the actors are giving their performances in a studio possibly dressed in their PJs and sans makeup. That goal’s usually achieved but Monster House takes a gamble in supposing that child actors comprising the lead characters will be able to wrap their still-expanding brains around the concept. Somehow Lerner and Musso grasp this despite sounding like they haven’t even been in this world very long! The two are surrounded by a fail-proof supporting cast: it takes a while to recognize Buscemi’s voice as Nebbercracker but once it hits it fits and Gyllenhaal as the babysitter is great if unpredictable casting. Quasi-cameos from Jason Lee as Gyllenhaal’s punk boyfriend Jon Heder as a video-game god and Kevin James and Nick Cannon as slow-moving and -thinking cops garner the most laughs. Not only does it help a film’s box office performance to have Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis onboard as executive producers it helps a film’s director--in this case a rookie director named Gil Kenan. (Zemeckis directed ‘04’s somewhat similar-looking The Polar Express.) While the animation doesn’t quite stand up to say Pixar’s earth-shattering visuals Kenan makes up for it with a fun-filled story (from scripters Dan Harmon Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler) and an overall lively involved effort--and it’s not like the movie doesn’t still look gorgeous. Besides sometimes it’s refreshing to not be so entranced by the CGI that you lose sight of the actual movie at hand. Kenan’s film is one of the scarier animated movies in a while but that still doesn’t exclude many age groups. What the first-time director thrives on is stopping just shy of true horror moments at which point he reverts to feel-good mode without ever being sappy.
Jiminy Glick is a local TV news personality in Butte Montana. You know the type--an entertainment reporter who mostly interviews homegrown talent but occasionally jets to Hollywood to hobnob with the big wigs. Glick doesn't quite make it that far. His assignment is the Toronto Film Festival and he makes the trip with his wife Dixie (played with ferocious white trash bravery by an unrecognizable Jan Hooks) and his oddly silent twin boys Matthew and Modine (named after their father's favorite actor). Although Glick is a no-name a fact he's completely oblivious to his fortunes change when after falling asleep during a screening he unwittingly gives the atrocious movie a glowing review. Through a chain of events he becomes the hottest thing as stars line up to grant him interviews. Through an even more bizarre chain of events Glick gets caught up in a murder mystery as well after waking up in bed with an interview subject who has been stabbed. Before he knows it he is embroiled with the starlet Miranda Coolidge (Elizabeth Perkins) her daughter Natalie (Linda Cardellini) and her boorish Eurotrash husband Andre (John Michael Higgins).
Glick despite being a glutton is an acquired taste. He almost defies description--one part clueless star struck Hollywood wanna-be one part jaded interviewer. Short introduced Glick on his short-lived daily talk show before he was spun off in into his own series on Comedy Central. But the movie deftly shifts Glick's origins to the Midwest to make him more of a fish out of water. Stuck in the insular dated Hollywood of Rona Barrett and Tom Snyder Glick will often interrupt his guests if not correcting them on the details of their own lives if they don't gibe with his notes. Case in point he confidently asserts that Steve Martin is Jewish as a lead-in to a line of questions. And thankfully Short has called upon his friends in the improv and sketch comedy world to fill out Jiminy Glick's cast of characters who serve him well. John Michael Higgins most notable for his contributions to Christopher Guests' improv epics Best in Show and A Mighty Wind is a standout. Perkins and Cardellini (Velma of Scooby-Doo fame) are an appropriately brittle Hollywood mother and daughter. And not enough can be said of Hooks' turn as the repulsive Dixie a spot-on embodiment of confused Midwest entitlement. Rounding out the cast is DeRay Davis as Mario "Fa Real" Green a rapper turned movie actor and Corey Pearson as a stuck-up rising star who grants Jiminy that first interview.
Short and his writers must have feared that Glick would run out of things to do if he wasn't embroiled in a good old-fashioned murder mystery. It's the kind of noir that seems to lend itself to Hollywood perhaps loosely inspired by the likes of Sunset Boulevard but here the creaky storyline only grinds things to a halt. Maybe it just doesn't feel right since the story takes place in Canada and besides Glick is no sleuth. The plot seems like all boring business and you can't wait to get back to Glick doing what he does best. As far at the direction goes it can either be part of the fun with quick cuts hilarious non-sequitors and great timing--or it can get out of the way to let the comedian work his magic. For the most part the director Vadim Jean uses the latter technique. He keeps it all low-key and lets Short do his thing. That said--and maybe it's the drab overcast Toronto setting--the movie looks made for television.
August 24, 2004 10:24am EST
Judge admits evidence in Jackson case
Following a weeklong hearing in which prosecutors and attorneys in the Michael Jackson child molestation case clashed over what evidence could be used in trial, Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville ruled today that 39 items seized at the singer's Neverland Valley Ranch can be admitted, Reuters reports. Melville said he might suppress other items of evidence he had concerns about, but would not issue a final ruling until September to give attorneys for both sides time to file written arguments. It was unclear what much of the evidence in question was because of the secrecy that has surrounded the case, but search warrant data previously released indicated the evidence tentatively admitted included several computer hard drives and a cassette recorder and audio tape found in a safe in Jackson's bathroom. Jackson, who attended the first day of the hearing on Aug. 16 with his family, is scheduled to stand trial on January 31 in Santa Maria, Calif., on charges of child molestation and conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $3 million bail.
Test confirm Anthony didn't father child
A lawyer for Marc Anthony said a third paternity test has confirmed the Latin singer didn't father a child with a Cuban dancer as she has claimed, the AP reports. Miami resident Elizabeth Leyva brought a paternity lawsuit in a Florida court, alleging that Anthony is the father of her son, who was born late last year. Anthony refuted the claims and willingly volunteered to be DNA-tested. Orchid GeneScreen, which has labs in Dallas and Dayton, Ohio, conducted the most recent DNA test on Aug. 13. "The three leading paternity labs in the world have confirmed scientifically that he is not the father," lawyer Orin Snyder said Monday. "There is no reality to this claim whatsoever." Snyder said he has contacted Leyva's lawyers, asking her to drop the lawsuit. Anthony, who has two children with former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, reportedly married singer-actress Jennifer Lopez in June at the singer-actress' home in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Julia Roberts takes time off to be a mom
Julia Roberts, who is due to give birth to twins this winter, tells Newsweek magazine she plans to take a break from acting and make children her first priority. "I'm not planning anything. I can't imagine how big I'm going to get in the next three months, but ... you just kind of play it as it comes," Roberts said. "I'm allowed to do that, aren't I?" The twins will be the first children for Roberts and her husband, cinematographer Daniel Moder. The two were married in July 2002. Roberts, 36, tells the magazine her pregnancy has only just begun to show. "It does kind of happen overnight. You wake up and go, 'Oh my God!'" she said. Roberts has two films set for release in December, including the dramedy Closer and the sequel Ocean's 12.
DGA starts negotiations with studios
The Directors Guild of America, which reps about 12,500 members, started negotiations yesterday with studios and networks, Variety reports. The DGA's current contract doesn't expire until June 30, 2005, but all side are hoping a deal can be reached within the next few weeks in order to avoid a possible work stoppage should negotiations appear not to be moving toward an agreement. The DGA is one of Hollywood's most formidable guilds in terms of unity among its members and understanding the critical intricacies of feature film budgets. Key issues in the negotiations include home video residuals, producer pension and health contributions, and expanding Guild jurisdiction in the reality TV sector.
Celebs join MoveOn.org ad campaign
The Internet political group MoveOn.org premiered Tuesday 10 new anti-Bush ads created by award-winning directors and featuring Hollywood stars, the AP reports. One MoveOn ad teams Silver City director John Sayles with actor Martin Sheen, while another reunites The Bourne Identity helmer Doug Liman with star Matt Damon. Rob Reiner, who directed When Harry Met Sally and The American President, uses snippets from an April news conference in which President Bush struggled to answer whether he'd made mistakes as president, to form the core of his 30-second spot. A spokeswoman for the independent group said that while MoveOn has committed to a sizable national cable buy for its first ad, the rest could remain on the Internet.
MTV unveils Real World in Philadelphia
MTV will debut the 15th season of its reality series The Real World on Sept. 7. According to the AP, the 10,000-square-foot house, in the heart of Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood, was built at the turn of the century and was originally the Union National Bank of Philadelphia but still has the standard Real World amenities, including a hot tub, fitness equipment and pool table. The new season's cast includes Landon, 24, who is sensitive about being labeled a "dumb jock" and has a fear of rejection; Karamo, 23, who struggles with his feelings about interracial dating; Melanie, 22, who has a spontaneous wild streak; MJ, 23, who had dreamed of playing pro football; Sarah, 22, who uses her sex appeal to get what she wants; Shavonda, 22, who is the life of the party; and Willie, 23, who insists that it's his "way or the highway."
WWE looking for prospective wrestlers
World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon is launching a reality TV series that will see eight men battling for a four-year wrestling contract and a hefty $1 million prize. The format, however, will be more like Fox's American Idol competition then the WWE reality series Tough Enough, which will not be returning to the MTV airwaves this fall. According to the AP, the new WWE series will be integrated into UPN's Smackdown! beginning in October and ending in December. Each week, viewers will vote for the contestant they want to see win the $1 million contract, while the man with the lowest votes will be sent packing. WWE's Spike TV prime-time show RAW, meanwhile, will be searching for WWE women wrestlers in the RAW Diva Search with a much less substantial prize: a yearlong contract and $250,000 purse.
On Friday, a judge sided with filmmaker Woody Allen in his lawsuit against former business partner Jean Doumanian and her boyfriend and business partner, Jacqui Safra. Allen is suing both Doumanian and Safra, claiming they cheated him out of profits on eight movies since 1993, including Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, Everyone Says I Love You, Deconstructing Harry and Small Time Crooks. According to The Associated Press, Justice Ira Gammerman disagreed with the defendants' position that the films were an extension of a three-picture agreement they had with Allen in computing profits. The case is scheduled to resume today.
Newspapers reported Sunday that Rolling Stone frontman Mick Jagger could be headed for knighthood. The News of the World and the Sunday Times both reported that Jagger will be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in her honors list next weekend, but a spokeswoman for the British government told Reuters they never comment on honors until they are published.
Eminem reportedly brought in his old car, a purple Ford Mustang, for trade-in last week at a Detroit-area dealership. According to the AP, Eminem's uncle brought the car in to Russ Milne Ford while the rapper waited outside, where one of the workers recognized him. Russ Milne said it is considering selling the car and donating the proceeds to charity. Unfortunately, the car's $7,000 stereo system and Cobra tires were removed prior to the trade.
Former teen idol Johnny Depp is in talks to star in two action pics for producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The two-picture deal with the Walt Disney Co. would have Depp working with Bruckheimer on Takedown and Pirates of the Caribbean, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Depp last starred in the historical thriller From Hell by director Albert Hughes.
Fritz Lang's 1927 expressionist film Metropolis will premiere at the Film Forum in New York on July 12, Variety reports. The new version, a digitally restored 35mm print, premiered at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival as a work-in-progress, with the final reel of footage still unrestored.
It looks as though Brad Pitt's big-budget sci-fi epic The Fountain is set to begin production soon after a change of co-financiers. The film, budgeted at upwards of $70 million, will be directed by Darren Aronofsky from a script he co-wrote with Ari Handel. The film is being produced by New Regency and Warner Bros.
New Line Cinema is in talks with Antz scribe Todd Alcott to write the live-action adaptation of the adventure series Samurai Jack. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film will be directed by Rush Hour 2's Brett Ratner.
Two songwriters have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia against Britney Spears, her publishing company, Zomba, and her record company, Jive Records, claiming they own the copyright to a song on her Oops!...I Did It Again album. According to Sky News, Michael Cottrill and Larry Wnukowski say they wrote the song "What You See Is What You Get" in 1999 and want recognition for the tune.
Herman Cohen, the originator of the teen fright flick, died of throat cancer at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on June 2, Reuters reports. Cohen produced the 1957 cult classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which launched the late Michael Landon's career. Cohen went on to produce six more teen horror pictures, including I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and How to Make a Monster. Cohen is survived by a brother and sister.