London bachelor John (Jack) Worthing who has a murky background and his roguish spendthrift friend Algernon (Algy) Moncrieff pursue romance but are each deceitful in their own ways. Jack who is guardian of his beloved niece Cecily Cardew at an estate outside London invents a brother named Ernest so he can escape to London whenever the whim hits and hook up with pal Algy. Both bachelors are suitors but their lies and the rampant snobbery of the day get in the way. Jack hopes to marry Gwendolen Fairfax but her rigidly elitist and dominating mother Lady Bracknell is put off by Jack's lowly origins. (Parents unknown he was found as a package at Victoria Station.) While Jack locks horns with Bracknell in London Algy journeys to Jack's country home to woo Cecily and gains entree by claiming to be Ernest Jack's invented brother. When Jack returns to the country to announce that the fictive Ernest is dead he must confront pal Algy who has successfully re-invented himself as Ernest and a host of deceits. But delicious revelations unleashed by the devoted nanny-turned-tutor Miss Prism save the day for both fib-prone suitors. Happily Cecily and Gwendolen share their suitors' romantic inclinations and tolerance for tall tales.
The burning question in many minds is no doubt whether Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde) the only American in this veddy Brit film can carry an English accent. The answer is a resounding "yes." Her success as privileged ingenue Cecily in both accent and overall performance is all the more commendable because she is surrounded by some of the brightest and best of Brit acting talent. Colin Firth as Jack and Rupert Everett as Algy are seductively charming and appealing as the spoiled but smitten bachelors. Frances O'Connor as Gwendolyn convinces as the very "upper " but rebellious daughter of the imperious Lady Bracknell. And Dame Judi Dench as the formidably snotty and harsh Bracknell is scary enough for a horror film. Tom Wilkinson recently nominated for his role in In the Bedroom is appropriately genteel as the clergyman with a soft spot for Miss Prism sweetly portrayed by vet English actress Anna Massey brother of Donald and daughter of Raymond both legendary thesps. Art house fans will most appreciate the fine cast that armed with Wilde's words and ideas valiantly battles the film's excesses in a mission to entertain. As a dream ensemble they help put across Wilde's amusing story of mistaken identity naughty habits and laughable upper-crust foibles.
Oliver Parker was obviously on a shorter leash when he earlier directed his more disciplined and faithful adaptation of another Oscar Wilde play An Ideal Husband. With Earnest Parker has gone auteur with a fury by crafting a bloated overproduced extravagantly opened-up version of the concise play that Wilde would hardly recognize. Here the lavish costumes sumptuous sets overbearing musical soundtrack and Parker-invented flights into fantasy (Cecily has recurrent daydreams of a white knight coming to the rescue) and flashback (Bracknell has a Parker-minted lowly-dance-hall chorine past) all but drown out Wilde's streamlined savage wit and whack at upper-class conceits. Still Parker allows his illustrious performers to shine through all the fluffery.
Randolph Smiley (Robin Williams) is on top of his game--he's the eponymous star of the highest rated kid's TV show Rainbow Randolph has his own Times Square billboard and makes lots of money. Until that is he gets caught taking bribes from stage parents. Suddenly he becomes the social pariah of the millennium and of course gets canned. Losing Rainbow Randolph however leaves the network in a bind. Now they have to find a squeaky-clean replacement pronto. Enter Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his alter-ego Smoochy an abnormally large fuschia rhino who sings children's songs about kicking drug habits and stepdads who aren't mean but simply adjusting. With his naivete unwavering ethics and unflagging ambition to make the world a better place he becomes the new number one show. Sheldon soon learns however how cutthroat children's entertainment can be as the powers that be try to corrupt his ideals. Meanwhile a homeless Randolph makes it his number-one priority to destroy the bastard who stole his life. Who's going to get Smoochy first the corrupt businessmen or crazy Rainbow Randy? Stay tuned...
When you hear the Smoochy cast list--Williams Danny DeVito Jon Stewart Catherine Keener--you automatically think mondo laughs. Added to the list is Norton who may not be known for his comedic talents but certainly adds credibility to the movie especially given that he rarely picks bad scripts. Luckily no one disappoints. Norton plays the straight guy with aplomb and shines brilliantly when singing his sappy yet lesson-filled songs. Keener whom we haven't seen since her Oscar-nominated turn in Being John Malkovich is also a standout as the jaded development VP who falls for Sheldon's sweet manner. She has an uncanny way of delivering lines that bite to the bone. And then there's Williams--as always he has extraordinary moments of sheer hilarity in the film. This isn't one of those films where the comedian has to attempt to act or simply be reined in by the director (as some have done) to give a good performance. Director DeVito (who also plays the greedy agent) is wise enough to simply turn the camera on the comedian and let him go. Just wish we could have seen more of him.
Ever wonder what it would be like to kill Barney? We're betting DeVito thought about it quite often--and things never turn out good for that purple dinosaur. The premise of Smoochy is one of the funnier ones in recent memory and seems to follow the dark comedic path DeVito has chosen in his other directorial efforts including War of the Roses and Throw Momma From the Train. Unfortunately Smoochy doesn't quite hold up to its hype (or its trailers) because basically it focuses on the wrong character. It's got some great moments granted especially when Smoochy is on his show. But instead of being about Randy's obsession to do away with his replacement the film chooses to follow Mopes and deal with the dirty business of making a kid's show which appears to involve the Mob (whatever). Smoochy would have been a lot funnier if Randolph could have finally succeeded in his quest instead of getting all sappy.
Acting ability aside, you have to admire Madonna's tenacity when it comes to putting herself time and again in front of the lens, raw and intrepid -- as if she's never heard of seriously bad flicks such as "Body of Evidence," "Who's That Girl" and "Shanghai Express." The list goes on and on.
"Next Best Thing" So this Friday finds the M One going at it all over again with "The Next Best Thing" (opening nationwide). In her continual quest to prove that she's a legit screen actress, Madonna tackles the role of a straight woman who forms an alternative household with her gay pal (played by her real-life gay pal Rupert Everett) and their son, whom they conceived on a night of drunken stupor.
The idea of a gay man living with a straight woman living with their kid may have been intriguing (or even provocative) a couple years back. But given the primetiming of similarly themed offerings such as "The Object of My Affection" and TV's "Will & Grace," the whole thing's looking a little played out. Maybe that's why for a twist, the "Next Best Thing" powers-that-be got the hardcore guy who made "Marathon Man" and "Midnight Cowboy," (John Schlesinger), to direct. (Take that, Will and You-Know-Who.)
Also of note with this release: the electronica'd-out, streamlined three-and-a-half-minute version of Don McLean's eight-and-a-half-minute opus "American Pie," which the pop queen specially reworked for the film. Like the notion for the flick, the idea to cover the anthem was originally Everett's (who also sings backup on the track).
-- Speaking of people (and/or things) with a history of duds, the folks at Destination Films are probably hoping that "Drowning Mona" (opening nationwide Friday) will rescue them from, well, drowning. For those who tend to remember film names rather than studios, Destination is the wannabe major studio that put out pointed duds such as the horrid "Bats" and the haphazard (although commercially successful) "Eye of the Beholder."
"Drowning Mona" -- a wacky flick about the unsolved death of a woman who crashed her Yugo down a river -- does have, in its favor, one helluva ensemble cast. (But then again, so did "Eye of the Beholder" with Ashley Judd and Ewan McGregor.) Bette Midler plays the corpse, Danny DeVito the sheriff, and everyone else, including Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis and Casey Affleck, plays the suspects.
-- Also opening wide Friday is "What Planet Are You From?" starring HBO's king of comedy Garry Shandling and the resurgent Annette Bening. And if you're wondering where the heck this film came from -- well, so did we. (It's certainly not getting a lot of publicity for a flick co-starring a current Oscar nominee in Bening.)
Co-scripted by Shandling (his first feature effort) and based on a story by Michael Leeson (the same guy who wrote the novel "The Battle of the Roses," which spawned the movie of the same name), "What Planet ..." is a battle-of-the-sexes story with an E.T. motif. In it, Shandling portrays an alien (the space kind) who travels to Earth on a mission to shag woman earthlings, one of whom is played by Bening.
A slew of talents including John Goodman and Greg Kinnear co-star. The director is Mike Nichols, whom we're told did a little thing called "The Graduate" some years back.
In other releases:
-- Opening wide Wednesday is the action-comedy "3 Strikes." Written, directed and starring DJ Pooh (who co-penned "Friday" and "Next Friday"), the film follows a sprung-from-prison young man.
-- Career indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ("Night on Earth," "Stranger Than Paradise") is back this week with the genre-blurring "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" (opening Friday in New York City). The flick, which premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival to mixed reviews, stars Forest Whitaker as a hit man working for a mob family. Blending elements from three subcultures: hip-hop, the Mafia and the ancient Japanese code of the samurai, Jarmusch's latest offering is (get this) supposedly his most mainstream and accessible work to date. Word even has it that the usually indie-minded director is consciously trying to do a crossover with "Ghost Dog." Of course, John Frankenheimer already explored the connection between assassinhood and samurai ethics in "Ronin" and French-noir director Jean-Pierre Melville did the same with the ultra-sleek "Le Samourai" in 1967, but we'll give Jarmusch this much: The hip-hop angle is truly unique. Not to mention sort of weird.
-- Films bowing in limited release include the French drama "The Little Thief" (opening Wednesday) and "Homo Sapiens 1900" (opening Friday, New York only), a doc that examines the history of eugenics.
-- Spurned Oscar hopeful "Agnes Brown" (zero nominations) is going into expanded release Friday. It's about a bereaved widow (played by Anjelica Houston, who also directs) toughing life out with her seven children in 1967 Ireland. The film got a hurried one-week release in New York and Los Angeles back in December to qualify for Academy Award balloting. A lot of good that did.
Other films slated to go into expanded release include: "Beautiful People," "A Girl Called Rose Marie," "Mifune," "My Dog Skip" and still-alive Oscar hopeful "Tumbleweeds."
Madonna and Guy Ritchie have finally tied the knot.
Avoiding the hundreds-strong media pack, the couple took their solemn vows and exchanged rings in front of family and friends on Friday night, the Rev. Susan Brown, who presided over the ceremony, confirmed today.
It is believed that the couple wed at 6:30 p.m. London time.
Many guests arrived at Skibo Castle in Dornoch, Scotland, after dark, covering their faces. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Bryan Adams and Elton John were reportedly invited to join the celebration, but some reports said that Pitt and John were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
The marriage of the Queen of Pop and the British director has been reported on daily up to the actual nuptials, but strategic planning has ensured that Madonna would keep her big day private.
Security surrounding the castle was so tight that it was virtually impenetrable. Bodyguards protecting the wedding party brought in heat-seeking equipment to hunt down intruders on the grounds of the Highlands castle.
Two uninvited guests caught hiding in nearby 13th century Dornoch Cathedral, where the couple's 4-month-old son Rocco was christened Thursday night, have been arrested and released with court dates in their future. The unnamed men, one of whom reportedly hid in an organ, were not members of the news media, local police said.
Madonna ordered private security for her wedding day rather than turn over the arrangements to local police. The Rev. Brown, who conducted Friday's service in Skibo Castle, also presided over the baptism of Rocco on Thursday.
Former Police frontman Sting, who donned a kilt, and wife Trudie Styler were among the first guests to arrive for the wedding. They are guests of honor after introducing the couple at a dinner party two years ago. Sweeping into the driveway of the 76,000-acre estate in a navy blue Mercedes, Sting and Styler waved to the crowds of well wishers and media.
Designer Stella McCartney, the daughter of former Beatle Paul McCartney, was also an early guest. She has been secretly working on a wedding dress believed to be a stunning gothic design. The bride chose a sparkling $72,000 French diamond bracelet to complement the wedding gown, according to London jeweler Susy Lauder.
Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow was reportedly maid of honor at the ceremony. Other guests said to be in the Highlands today included Chris Ciccone, Madonna's brother; sister Melanie and father Silvio; Madonna's close girlfriend, fashion designer Ingrid Casares; rock star Jon Bon Jovi; fashion scion Donatella Versace; actor Rupert Everett; and Ritchie's family.
Carlos Leon, the father of Madonna's 4-year-old daughter Lourdes, was also on the guest list.
Other reported wedding details included:
The menu for the wedding breakfast included haggis, a spicy Scottish meat dish.
A Caillie band was booked for traditional Scottish dancing and music in the great hall of the stone castle.
Instead of jetting off to warmer climates for a honeymoon, the couple plans to stay in their suite at the castle.
The cake, prepared by a French baker, was flown to Scotland to a nearby Royal Air Force base after flights into the passenger airport were diverted due to fog.
If ABC was glitter and NBC was substance, Fox tried to impress the critics with both as it trotted out two days worth of very fancy food and a line-up heavy on new shows for the fall season. Gail Berman, the new Fox Network president, swore that the crash and burn of several predecessors didn't faze her at all. But the death of sex-and-angst dramas "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Party of Five" may have, so Fox is banking on two dysfunctional family sitcoms, "Titus" and "Malcolm in the Middle."
Also returning next season is "X-Files," with less Duchovny and more Robert Patrick ("Terminator 2"), who will be joining the cast as FBI Inspector John Doggett. Other forays into the paranormal include "Freaky Links," starring Ethan Embry ("Can't Hardly Wait") and "Night Visions," a "Twilight Zone"-style anthology series.
"Visions" co-creators Dan Angel and Billy Brown were on hand to tell scary stories at a lunch complete with flickering votives and mini-grave centerpieces. Later, "Dark Angel" producers introduced 19-year-old star Jessica Alba while co-creator James Cameron answered questions via satellite from a "secret location" (where he's probably honeymooning with new wife Suzy Amis).
Another cast of sexy young things appears in Darren Star's "The $treet," which promises to be a PG-13, male "Sex and the City" (another Star production) with three bonafide movie stars -- Tom Everett Scott ("That Thing You Do"), Jennifer Connelly ("Waking the Dead") and Adam Goldberg ("Saving Private Ryan"). "Ally McBeal" creator David E. Kelly also introduced his new ensemble drama "Boston Public," about improbably attractive school teachers.
Reporters grilled John Goodman and producers Bonnie and Terry Turner about changes in their new untitled show and wondered whether Goodman would bring "gay characteristics" to his character, a divorced gay dad who returns to Beantown after living in L.A.
Then there was a presentation on "The Tick," wherein Patrick Warburton (Elaine's boyfriend Puddy on "Seinfeld") plays the live-action version of the big blue animated hero.
Fox's only foray into reality TV this year is "American High," a show that follows real students in a middle-class Chicago suburb. One of the students, Morgan Moss, vied to become the next Puck (of "The Real World" renown), declaring: "I am a new breed of human being."
Moss and fellow students Robby Nathan and Sarah Mages looked appropriately Hollywood at Fox's starry closing bash, held at Yamashiro, a Japanese restaurant in the Hollywood Hills. Bart and Homer didn't show, but Rashida Jones (Quincy's daughter), Calista Flockhart, Goodman, Alba and other network stars (and stars-to-be) sake-bombed their way through the night's celebration.