Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Top Story: Thornton's Girlfriend in Family Way
Billy Bob Thornton and his girlfriend Connie Angland announced Thursday that they are expecting a child this fall, The Associated Press reports. "The due date is set for sometime in October," Thornton publicist Arnold Robinson said. Angland, 39, doesn't work in the entertainment industry. Thornton, who will be seen in the upcoming The Alamo, has three children from two previous marriages.
Rodriguez Resigns From DGA
Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez resigned from the Directors Guild of America, due to his desire to co-direct Sin City with novel series creator Frank Miller, Variety reports. DGA rules dictate that there be only one director assigned to direct a motion picture at any given time, although the guild occasionally grants a waiver, such as with the Coen brothers. "I didn't want Frank (Miller) to be treated as just a writer, because he is the only one who has actually been to Sin City, " Rodriguez told Variety. "I am making such a literal interpretation of his book that I'd have felt weird taking directing credit without him." Rodriguez also quit the DGA a decade ago so he could direct a segment in the Quentin Tarantino-orchestrated film Four Rooms. Rodriguez's resignation has also puts his other film project, Paramount Pictures' Princess of Mars, in jeopardy since Paramount is required to employ only guild directors.
Stern Dumped for Good by Clear Channel
Clear Channel Communications Inc. has severed all ties with shock jock Howard Stern, Reuters reports, after the FCC imposed a $495,000 fine for indecent comments on his show, John Hogan, president and chief executive of Clear Channel Radio, said the company was not willing to shoulder the "great liability" of broadcasting Stern's popular radio show. Stern issued a statement on his Web site calling the FCC's actions part of a "McCarthy-type 'witch hunt."' "It is pretty shocking that governmental interference into our rights and free speech takes place in the U.S.," Stern said in the statement.
Are They or Aren't They?
James Brown and his wife, Tomi Rae Brown, who apparently are not legally married, will likely have a second legitimate wedding if she's able to annul her previous marriage to Javed Ahmed of Pakistan, his lawyer told AP. Tomi Rae Brown filed a formal petition for annulment in December, saying the marriage lasted three days and was "done under the pretense of a man trying to stay in the country." Meanwhile, the Godfather of Soul himself filed for an annulment from Tomi Rae after he was charged with criminal domestic violence in January, but the couple has since reconciled. "The hope is once she gets the annulment from Mr. Ahmed finalized, we will be able to do the annulment [with James Brown] in Aiken County very swiftly, then it's my impression the parties would be able to enter into a marriage without these entanglements," Jim Huff, Brown's lawyer, said Wednesday.
Media Want Jackson Ban To Be Lifted
Representation for news organizations, including AP, have asked an appeals court to immediately lift a gag order that bars those involved in the Michael Jackson child molestation case from speaking about it publicly, AP reports. In a filing before the state Court of Appeals, attorney Theodore Boutrous said the order imposed unconstitutional "prior restraint" on attorneys and potential witnesses and blocked the media's ability to address false rumors and news reports. Jackson attorney Mark Geragos remained opposed. "Our position remains the same," he said.
Christians Offended by Madonna's Sunday Concert in Ireland
Madonna, whose Re-Invention tour stops in Ireland in August, has come under fire from Christians for booking her first ever concert in the country on a Sunday. The show is scheduled for Aug. 29 at Slane Castle, 30 miles north of Dublin, leading many to believe Madonna, who has developed an interest in Jewish mysticism, refused to play on Saturday because it is the Jewish Sabbath. Joe Deegan, Slane's parish priest, told Reuters Friday the decision was insensitive in a country where 90 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The last time Slane Castle hosted a major concert on a Sunday was in 1984 when Bob Dylan played, a show that sparked riots.
Embattled Singer Scott Weiland Set To Tour
California authorities will allow former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland to tour with his bandmates in their new group, Velvet Revolver, Billboard.com reports. Weiland has spent the past several months in a court-ordered drug rehabilitation center after pleading no contest last year to heroin possession. The band, which consists of Slash's former Guns N' Roses colleagues, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum, and guitarist David Kushner of Suicidal Tendencies, will play medium-sized venues leading up to the June 8 release of their RCA debut album Contraband.
Police Arrest Avril Lavigne's Stalker
Police in Lynnwood, Wash., arrested a man for allegedly stalking teen pop singer Avril Lavigne, the AP reports. Thirty-year-old James Speedy was booked into jail for investigation of stalking after police searched his home in suburban Seattle Wednesday--the same day Lavigne played a free concert at a mall south of Seattle. He later posted $5,000 bail and was released. Police have been investigating the case since last summer, when they were contacted by authorities in Ontario, Canada, about harassing letters and e-mails sent to the 19-year-old Canadian singer.
Eric Clapton Launches Tour
Guitarist Eric Clapton has confirmed a two-month North American tour of arenas and outdoor amphitheaters. According to Billboard.com, the tour kicks off June 9 in Oklahoma City and wraps Aug. 2 in Los Angeles. Clapton will be touring in support of his just-released Warner Bros. album Me and Mr. Johnson, which debuted at No. 6 Wednesday on the Billboard 200. The album features new interpretations of songs by Robert Johnson, the Mississippi Delta-bred, hard-living folk blues legend who died at age 27, just months after his only recording sessions in 1936-37.