After 20 years with the LAPD Det. Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) just wants to catch the crooks finish the paperwork and retreat to his mundane life at home where he eats TV dinners and pursues his hobby of making bad pottery. Patrolman Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy) really wants to be an actor--he's only a cop because he made a lousy waiter. When Sellars bungles Preston's undercover case and media hounds catch it all on tape the irate Preston shoots up a news camera that gets in his face. Over-caffeinated network exec Chase Renzi (Rene Russo) upon seeing the damning evidence that could have killed her cameraman is captivated by Preston's complete lack of charm and convinces her superior she can save his crappy network by pairing Preston and Sellars up on a reality show. As expected Preston is reluctant--and even more so when he's forced to take the mugging Sellars as his partner. The two take impromptu acting lessons from iconic actor/director William Shatner (playing himself) and set off to attract an audience boost the ratings become celebrities and get the bad guys in a televised reality christened Showtime. Meanwhile the evil Cesar Vargas (Pedro Damian)--whom we know is evil 'cause he hides in the shadows he's flashy and well groomed and he mumbles in an unfathomable Third World/ European accent--is stockpiling guns powerful enough to knock down houses and blow the doors off a Brinks truck.
The movie offers a few good yuks--a coke-sniffing dog an unprecedented cameo by jive-rhyming lawyer Johnnie Cochran and William Shatner satirizing William Shatner (who does this better than anybody else satirizing William Shatner). Unfortunately we've seen a lot of his funniest stuff like the scene in which he demonstrates how to roll over a car hood cop-style in the previews. Rene Russo gives an effective souped-up Lethal Weapon-type performance with her hyper pushy fast-talking network exec desperate to make her name in the industry. De Niro's straight-man comedy is in his facial expressions--or lack thereof--and Murphy is…well Murphy. It's their first outing together and they play off each other like a foul-mouthed version of Abbott and Costello (guess who plays who?). We've seen De Niro play grumpy (Midnight Run) and Murphy play obnoxious (almost everything) before. But as you may suspect it's their grade-A chemistry that holds this badly stitched predictable though occasionally funny flick together--especially in regards to the jokes on Hollywood and the current bounty of reality TV.
You can smell the gags and The Odd Couple-versus-Goldfinger plot unfolding a million miles away. You just know Preston is hiding a gun inside that Big Gulp when he goes undercover to investigate a pawn shop and you know Vargas will make bad-guy errors in judgment like staging a robbery in downtown L.A. the day after he's confronted by our star cops in a populated disco. But that may lead you to wonder why the police--who are likewise not presented as being particularly bright in this movie--weren't trailing him as Vargas is the prime suspect in the gun-trafficking subplot. Some of the comedy borders on satire but isn't played up enough for you to tell if it was meant that way or not. The action scenes are so badly edited it's hard to tell who's chasing whom until the camera cuts back to Murphy's toothy grin and a cement-faced De Niro shooting out his car window. And speaking of commercial-laden reality TV the product placement in this movie is shameless--we get a full-length commercial for Apple Computers played not once but twice.
Packed with too much goodness and determined to push its platform of paranormal events A Rumor of Angels is an overwrought drama about friendship grief and the spiritual rebirth of a boy and his eccentric recluse neighbor. Twelve-year-old James Neubauer his father Nathan and his stepmother Mary are spending their summer vacation in the small seaside town where the boy's mother died years earlier in a car accident near a local bridge. Because James has been traumatized by her death he has problems connecting with his often absent father and new mother. When James wanders onto the property of eccentric elderly neighbor Maddy Bennett who lives in a decrepit shingled house overlooking the ocean she scares the boy by firing a rifle in his direction. After a showdown with the Neubauers Maddy succeeds in hiring James to rebuild and paint her fence. An unlikely friendship ensues when James becomes a kind of surrogate son to Maddy who lost her own son in the Vietnam War and the stern but caring Maddy becomes mother surrogate the boy so desperately needs. Maddy also beset by grief teaches James about the power of remembrance and imagination and the possibility of angels and communicating with those long gone. James also learns about the importance of family love friendship and spiritual awakening.
Vanessa Redgrave is terrific as usual as the eccentric recluse Maddy giving yet another powerful performance that dazzles delights and soars beyond the limitations of the character as written. Trevor Morgan is fine if not memorable as James. Catherine McCormack as the stepmother Ron Livingston as a slacker uncle and veteran actor George Coe as Maddy's oldest friend also turn in serviceable performances. Only Ray Liotta so memorable in edgier meatier roles like those in Something Wild and Goodfellas or the more recent Hannibal and Blow is out of his element as a frustrated often absent dad. In fact most of the actors are chewed up by the gorgeous evocative Nova Scotia locales that brilliantly stand in for the Maine village.
Director Peter O'Fallon's biggest obstacle in A Rumor of Angels appears to be his own screenplay which he co-wrote and adapted from the very old inspirational novel Thy Son Liveth. Most filmgoers won't get beyond the film's pile-up of hokum about communication with the dead. Also the horror and mystery elements that A Rumor of Angels plants early on dissipate into a cinematic sermon about familiar family values and faith. The messages may be poignant but the drama sending them isn't. O'Fallon relies instead on lovely cinematography scenes suggestive of paranormal reality (those lights those angels) and a soundtrack rich in classical music--all at the expense of delivering a credible story with flesh and blood characters who actually sound like they just might be real New Englanders. His direction is style over substance scenery over psychological truths.
October 10, 2001 11:37am EST
Jay Leno is auctioning off one of his Harley-Davidson motorcycles on eBay's Auction for America, The Associated Press reports. The 2001 Harley has been autographed by stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Pamela Anderson. Bidding started at $20,000; at press time, the highest bid had already reached more than $80,000--with more than a week left in the auction. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Twin Towers Fund.
Spike Lee is also getting into the game, auctioning off a courtside seat next to him at the New York Knicks' Oct. 30 opener at Madison Square Garden against the Washington Wizards. According to AP, the auction will benefit the UFA Widows and Children Fund, which was created by the New York Fire Department. Bidding for the ticket began Tuesday through the NBA and Yahoo. The game will mark Michael Jordan's return to basketball following three years of retirement.
Wheel of Fortune will tape a week of shows paying tribute to New York City in Los Angeles, PageSix.com reports. According to the show's executive producer, taping in New York would prove too difficult and take too much time to plan. The shows, which will air the week of Dec. 31, will feature prizes including Broadway show tickets and deluxe New York vacations.
Harvey Keitel married director and actress Daphna Kastner in Jerusalem on Oct. 7, Reuters reports. Keitel was previously married to actress Lorraine Bracco of The Sopranos from 1982 to 1993.
Porn star Kathryn Gannon's extradition hearing will be postponed until Dec. 10 because the regulators' offices in New York were destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, Reuters reports. Gonnon fled to Canada last year before she could be arrested on charges of trading on information illegally given to her during an affair with a New York investment banker.
George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic will provide computer-generated visuals for Universal's action film The Hulk and Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Variety reports. This year, ILM's work was seen in Pearl Harbor, Planet of the Apes, Jurassic Park III and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed, but most large-scale films allocate 20% or more of a picture's budget to computer-generated visuals.
Music publishers and recording companies have reached a deal for the use of songs online, Reuters reports. The deal was reached after months of talks between the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Music Publishers' Association and the Harry Fox Agency Inc. Under the deal, labels will pay a $1 million advance for music over two years until the rates are determined, after which royalties will be paid retroactively.
Quentin Tarantino said on Monday that his next film Kill Bill will unite two Asian cinema giants. According to Reuters, Hong Kong's Yuen Woo Ping would choreograph the Chinese kung fu action and Japan's Sonny Chiba would choreograph the samurai action. The film stars Uma Thurman as a female assassin who tries to leave a group of professional killers.
Garth Brooks unveiled his new album Scarecrow at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday, Reuters reports. This is Brooks's last album with Capitol Records, but the singer said it was not meant as a farewell.