With four days left before his execution notoriously reticent death row inmate David Gale (Kevin Spacey) decides at last to share his story with the press. He chooses as his vessel reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) who's just spent a week in the slammer for refusing to reveal her sources on a kiddie porn cover story. As Gale's story unfolds (and we see it in flashback) Bitsey becomes convinced he's innocent and she and her intern Zack (Gabriel Mann) begin a race against the clock to discover the truth that will save him. Sound like an overblown blurb from a movie studio's press files? Apologies for that but the best way to talk about this story's climactic points is to resort to hyperbolic clichés of this ilk--the movie's key moments are without exception melodramatic and overblown. Nonetheless most of the movie is suspenseful the story has several interesting (I wouldn't go so far as compelling) twists and there are plenty of reasons to root for Gale's cause especially if like him and admittedly like me you're a political liberal who fancies yourself at least somewhat intellectual.
If there's one thing that defines Kevin Spacey's acting style it's his unparalleled ability to discourse at length on philosophical minutiae a gift that undoubtedly contributed to his getting this role in the first place. But Spacey gets to stretch a bit more playing Gale--the professorial character in his pre-death row life was a loose cannon even by academia's standards: he partied with his students talked about fantasy and desire in class and belonged to Death Watch a liberal advocacy group opposed to the death penalty. Beyond that his personal life was a disaster. His wife was having an affair with a Spaniard Gale was a borderline alcoholic and his ego was the size of a generously proportioned watermelon. So there are plenty of challenges for Spacey in the part--both in the flashbacks and the death row sequences--and he obviously embraces them all; unfortunately sometimes he squeezes the life out of them in the process foregoing for example the tragic nuances of real alcoholism for the stumbling sobriquets of an overblown town-drunk philosopher. The equally gifted Laura Linney as Constance--Gale's stalwart friend fellow professor co-director of Death Watch and alleged murder victim--finds herself in less familiar territory. Her character is complex yet remarkably one-dimensional for most of the movie which leaves the talented actress turning--albeit reluctantly--to melodrama for support. Winslet too is on unfamiliar ground with an American accent (quite well done old chap-ette) a mission and a bitchiness that's too little seen from this pristine young girl.
It's truly unfortunate that director Alan Parker didn't keep a tighter handle on The Life of David Gale's more dramatic moments since had they come off better this would have been a more even and generally more watchable film. As it is each of the talented lead actors has a scene in which they really let loose on the hysterical wailing waterworks--Winslet lucky gal has two. They may not be bad enough to make you cringe necessarily but they're obviously overplayed. The film would have benefited from a wail-o-meter that would have allowed the bawling to go so far and only so far. All that aside though this film is ultimately less melodramatic than its equivalent TV movie version would have (and probably has) been--and that leads me to my final point. The Life of David Gale is about what TV pundits would call a hot-button issue and while the public is intelligent enough not to be emotionally swayed by the hue and cry of activists on either side of the argument we can--and by God we will--be entertained by it. So I just want to say thank you Hollywood for once again one-upping the 6 o'clock news and for showing that even discussions of the most important issues of our time can be squeezed into a two-hour movie and manipulated in the interests of suspense and drama.
September 06, 2002 3:17pm EST
Rob Lowe, once one of the biggest stars of the NBC drama The West Wing, announced in July he was leaving the show following a contract dispute, but that doesn't mean he's leaving for good. Series creator Aaron Sorkin said Thursday that Lowe's character on the show, White House Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, is not being killed off. "Sam Seaborn is not going to die," he said. "So the door is always open." Sorkin added that he wished Lowe didn't have to leave. "It's a difficult situation. There's no villain in this case, and it will be regrettable if it is portrayed that way," he said. Sorkin, however, would not reveal plans for writing Seaborn out of the series. The West Wing's two-hour season premiere airs Sept. 25.
The Los Angeles Times Friday reports that Notorious B.I.G. was a key player in the unsolved drive-by shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur six years ago in Las Vegas. A yearlong investigation by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Chuck Philips identifies Shakur's killer as Crips gang member Orlando Anderson, who was later killed in an unrelated shooting. Notorious B.I.G.--who was gunned down himself in Los Angeles a year later--reportedly supplied the .40-caliber Glock pistol used to shoot Shakur. The two had been part of a rivalry that split the rap community between the east and west coasts.
Heather Mills tells Vanity Fair magazine that she offered to sign a prenuptial agreement before marrying Paul McCartney, but the former Beatle wouldn't allow it. In an article in the October issue, McCartney said he knows some people will think he's been suckered by a gold digger. "I'm not stupid. Heather is a really nice person, or else I wouldn't be attracted in the least," he says. "But you're going to find people who are going to knock her because the better story is the negative one."
Winona Ryder did not appear at the courthouse Thursday for a conference between her attorney and the prosecutor to set a possible pretrial date for her shoplifting case, The Associated Press reports. Ryder's attorney Mark Geragos said outside the courthouse, "We have set a pretrial date and a trial date." Pretrial proceedings are expected to begin within 30 days of the Sept. 12 hearing.
Comeback kid Robert Evans announced Thursday during a tribute to him at the American Film Festival in Deauville, France, that he is working on a follow-up to his autobiographical documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Variety reports. Titled The Fat Lady Sang, Evans said his film would chronicle his recovery from a debilitating stroke in 1998.
Funnyman Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo's Happy Madison Prods. have inked a two-year deal to develop comedy series for Columbia TriStar Domestic Television, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The deal will provide Happy Madison with a discretionary fund and will pay for the company's overhead. The pact is the first deal for Sony's CTDT since shifting away from maintaining a high volume of long-term development deals with writers and producers.
Sandler is not the only one getting serious about small-screen comedy. National Lampoon, the comedy franchise behind, among others, the 1978 comedy Animal House, said Thursday it would buy Burly Bear Network, a defunct TV network that has distribution relationships with about 420 universities in the United States. According to Reuters, National Lampoon intends to develop live and animated programming for Burly Bear's college viewers aged 18 to 24.
The clock is ticking down. There are only a few more weeks to catch up on Hollywood's end-of-the-world flicks before life as we know it goes to ... well, you know.
Don't worry about whether you're prepared for armageddon, though. We've done the research and stocked the shelter with enough apocalyptic flicks to see anyone through a nuclear winter.
So grab your sunscreen, head for the hills and remember the remote. It's time for the final countdown:
20. "The Omega Man" -- Imagine your worst nightmare about the end of the world, and Charlton Heston probably suffers it in this adaptation of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend." He's the last guy on Earth, and as luck would have it, there are zombies spawned from germ warfare trying to tear his guts out.
19. "The Seventh Sign" -- Forget Ah-nuld in "End of Days." The true biblical blood curdler is this mid-'80s parable starring Demi Moore. She's the only one who can stop the rivers from forever running crimson. Michael Biehn, out of Terminator/Navy Seal mode, plays her low-key husband. Jurgen Prochnow is the ultra-creepy avenging angel.
18. "Strange Days" -- Nothing's more timely than this millennium murder mystery, which takes place on the eve of the 21st century. Ralph Fiennes is a cyberpeddler hawking memories of real experiences to sensory-deprived customers. When someone starts using his virtual addictions for real-life killing, the hustler finds it hard to keep partying like it's 1999.
17. "Night of the Comet" -- So bad it's great, this low-budget sci-fi quickie features a killer comet, valley girl heroines and a couple of hilarious, over-the-top villains. As the baddies chase the gals cross-country, the filmmakers forgo logic and effects and concentrate on making cheeky fun of the genre.
16. "Deep Impact" -- Last chance to clear those tear ducts before Y2K becomes reality. "Armageddon" may have the firepower, but when it comes to good old-fashioned emotion, even cynics agree that Morgan Freeman makes a first-rate president as the fate of all mankind rests in the balance.
15. "The Stand" -- Nobody does the good, the bad and the apocalypse quite like Stephen King. Clocking in at around six hours, this epic showdown between the forces of light and dark tempts viewers to figure out who'll be the last man or woman standing. Our bet: Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe, who have already survived their Brat Pack infamy.
14. "A Boy and His Dog" -- Before he lost his socks and collared shirts, "Miami Vice's" Don Johnson roamed the wasteland with a telekinetic dog in this smart and sassy cult favorite. On a mission that would make his '80s alter-ego proud, the young traveler and his trusty guide forage exclusively for two things: food and women.
13. "WarGames" -- It has no radioactive mutants, martians or supernatural boogeymen, and it's not rated R. But John Badham's "what if" scenario for world destruction is as tense and thrilling as cinema gets. In today's Internet-crazy universe, the prospect of a Matthew Broderick-like hacker accidentally setting off World War III is an apocalyptic possibility a little too close to reality.
12. "The Road Warrior" -- After the world goes boom, there's nothing like a harried Mel Gibson in shoulder pads and biker boots to raise hopes for a new savior. It wouldn't be the end of the world without Mad Mel dispatching a dozen or so mohawked punks who can't wait for their turn at the gas pump.
11. "Escape From New York" -- One look at Kurt Russell's scowl and eye patch, and director John Carpenter's message comes through loud and clear: The future could be very, very ugly. Nihilistic, dark and altogether winning, this action-adventure has hero Snake Plissken out to rescue the president in 24 hours, or else the world gets it.
10. "Ghostbusters" -- If the destructor of the universe really were a 100-foot Stay Puft Marshallow Man, who else to call than smart-ass Bill Murray and friends? The "Saturday Night Live" star knows how to handle millennial boogie woogies: Simply sit back and make fun of them. Dogs and cats living together? That's "mass hysteria."
9. "Planet of the Apes" -- Charlton Heston is in for an unforgettable surprise at the end of this classic sci-fi flick. He's a U.S. astronaut stranded on a planet where ape creatures walk and talk while humans wander about beast-like in loincloths. The first in the "Planet of the Apes" series offers plenty of action, intrigue and the best use of a New York monument in movie history.
8. "The Last Wave" -- "The Truman Show" director Peter Weir arrived on the scene with this frightening vision of the apocalypse. Richard Chamberlain of "Shogun" infamy stars as a lawyer assigned to defend a group of aborigines on trial for murder. His investigation leads to a series of scary, oddly fascinating discoveries.
7. "On the Beach" -- The bombs have landed, and the radioactive cloud is on the way. Submarine commander Gregory Peck surfaces long enough to search the barren Australian landscape for survivors. It's all in the name of superior drama that realistically explores the effects and true terror of nuclear holocaust.
6. "Last Night" -- Winner of multiple Genie Awards (Canada's equivalent of the Oscar), this low-key drama skips the Bruce Willis histrionics and focuses on regular people living through the last six hours of the planet. They eat, they talk, they fight, they even love a little. In the end, they do exactly what people might do on the last night of their lives.
5. "War of the Worlds" -- The granddaddy of martian invasion movies puts "ID4" and everything that followed to shame. The effects stand up, and the concept's sound. Based on H. G. Wells' famous story, this classic, featuring Gene Barry as a scientist who's on to the green beings' game, is truly one for the ages.
4. "12 Monkeys" -- Bruce Willis can't stop the world from coming to an end, but maybe he can figure out what pretty boy Brad Pitt has to do with it. As a psychologically damaged hero from the future, the action star finds himself trapped in a Terry Gilliamesque present that's flawed with all sorts of dark eccentricities.
3. "The Rapture" -- "The Player" screenwriter Michael Tolkin directs a singular motion picture that's unlike anything you've ever seen. Mimi Rogers stars as an L.A. swinger who trades in her hedonism for religious fanaticism just in time for an apocalypse literally straight out of the Book of Revelations. Expect the unexpected in this controversial mind-blower.
2. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" -- Klaatu barada nikto! That's the unforgettable phrase from Michael Rennie as a foreign visitor who comes to warn Earth about the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. This landmark science-fiction film is the best defense against the real apocalypse. If aliens can't stop us from playing mean, who can?
1. "Miracle Mile" -- Never heard of this gem from director Steve de Jarnatt? When it comes to end-of-the-world scenarios, this one's the absolute keeper. Before he donned his "ER" scrubs, Anthony Edwards had his best part to date as a modest, likable musician who finds the girl of his dreams ... 90 minutes before a nuclear bomb strike. As he demonstrates, when it comes to the end, it's not about quantity. It's all about quality.
The Academy Awards take note: An award show can be a lot of fun, without spending a lot of money.
At least, that was the feeling at the 16th Annual Independent Spirit Awards this Saturday. The ceremony, hosted by the cult director John Waters, was held under a tent at a Santa Monica beach, and attendees ate a California cuisine lunch out of cardboard boxes. Last year's winner for best actress, Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry), and her husband Chad Lowe arrived on matching mountain bikes. Designer gowns were decidedly absent.
Well-deserved awards were bestowed on the best in non-studio productions and talent, even as the lines between big studio productions and independent films are becoming increasingly blurred. This was most evident in the number of Spirit Award nominees who are also nominated for Academy Awards.
The night's top winner was the Taiwanese martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, winning best feature; best director, Ang Lee; and best supporting actress, Zhang Ziyi, who was a surprise winner over favorite Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock.
In his understated fashion, Lee was extremely appreciative, even though he was perplexed about what "independent" represented. "I don't really know what independent really means," he said. "I'm very confused. Nobody can really be independent in making movies; we all rely on each other. It is truly a collaborative process." Asked if he thinks he will win the Oscar, he replied to Reuters, "Why not?" Lee has already won the Golden Globe and the Directors Guild of America award for best director.
The award for best actor went to Spanish actor and Oscar nominee Javier Bardem for his intense portrayal of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls. Bardem thanked the portly director of his movie, Julian Schnabel, saying that "his heart was as big as his body," but added that the statuette in his hand was really for "Reinaldo Arenas, who gave his life for freedom."
Acting great Ellen Burstyn won for her gritty turn as a lonely and drug-addicted mother in Requiem for a Dream. After a standing ovation, the actress made an emotional speech. "I just can't tell you how much I wanted this," she said. "Thank you [director] Darren Aronofsky for your genius and for giving me the part of my career. I love my profession. It's an honor to reflect the spirit of humanity back into what we do."
Rounding out the list, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan won for best first feature and best original screenplay for his intimate sibling drama You Can Count on Me. Willem Dafoe won best supporting actor for his vampire with a sly sense of humor in Shadow of the Vampire.
First-time actress Michelle Rodriguez, who did not attend, won best debut performance for her portrayal of an angry young boxer in Girlfight. Best first screenplay went to director/writer Gina Prince-Bythewood for Love & Basketball, and best feature under $500,000 went to Miguel Arteta's Chuck and Buck.
The West Coast branch of the Independent Feature Project, a nonprofit support group for independent filmmakers, put on the Independent Spirit Awards, and a ballot of the group's 9,000 members nationwide determined the winners.