Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.
Hand Jackie Chan a pair of chopsticks and he could somehow find a way to vanquish an army of Triad assassins using the eating utensils as a makeshift weapon.
Armed or not, Hong Kong's most popular export may find himself defenseless against an entire planet populated by smart and sadistic simians.
Under any other circumstances, Rush Hour 2 would crush any and all challengers during its opening weekend. After all, this is a sequel to an unexpected smash hit that earned $141 million in late 1998.
Now, Chan and costar Chris Tucker have the misfortune of doing battle with Tim Burton's reinterpretation of Planet of the Apes, which crushed everything in its wake last weekend and earned an astounding $68.5 million in the second best three-day opening ever.
Conquering the Planet will be a daunting task for Chan and Tucker, not that the duo won't go down without busting plenty of skulls. By employing their lightening-quick fists and mouths, Chan and Tucker should at least see Rush Hour 2 equal or exceed the original's $33 million opening. Whether Rush Hour 2 will top Planet of the Apes will depend on public acceptance of Burton's vision of the 1968 sci-fi classic, particularly his somewhat maligned final scene. If Apes loses half its audience this weekend--which has been the trend for most of this summer's blockbusters--then Chan and Tucker will emerge triumphant.
Rush Hour 2 also will test Tucker's popularity. He's kept his mighty mouth all but shut since the release of Rush Hour. He skipped Next Friday with Ice Cube, the sequel to their 1995 stoners-in-the-hood classic. His efforts to launch Guess Who's President? and the James Bond spoof Double O-Soul seem to have floundered. He walked away from his Rush Hour follow-up Black Knight, for which he was reportedly supposed to earn between $13.5 million and $15 million, so 20th Century Fox instead enlisted the services of Martin Lawrence for $16.5 million to headline the Thanksgiving Day holiday comedy fantasy.
Chan's U.S. box office track record is somewhat spotty. His reissued Hong Kong classics garner minimal interest--perhaps because of America's disdain for all things dubbed. Chan's biggest post-Rush Hour offering remains Shanghai Noon. The high-kickin' western had the misfortune to open last year against Mission: Impossible 2, which may explain its modest $56.9 million gross. Still, Chan's busy schedule includes a Shanghai Noon sequel, Shanghai Knight.
Of the three new releases, Rush Hour 2 represents the sole contender likely to rock Planet of the Apes off its axis.
Julie Andrews will need more than a spoonful of sugar to sweeten the way for The Princess Diaries. This Disney fairy tale--based on the recently published novel by Meg Cabot--stars Andrews as a fictional European queen who grooms her clumsy granddaughter for the inevitable transfer of power.
Clearly aimed at the same preteen girls who adored Disney's recent remake of The Parent Trap, The Princess Diaries represents one of the few G-rated studio releases this summer. That alone should guarantee The Princess Diaries a strong opening, though not immediate success.
The Princess Diaries marks Garry Marshall's first directorial effort since 1999's Runaway Bride. Marshall's recent success seems to rest on the shoulders of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, having directed both in Runaway Bride and Pretty Woman. He endured a fallow period in the nine years between the two smash romantic comedies, with the likes of Exit to Eden, Dear God and The Other Sister deserving their disastrous turns at the box office. Marshall needs The Princess Diaries to reap big bucks if he is to dismiss the perception that he can only score a hit with the aid of Roberts and Gere.
Still, The Princess Diaries faces less of an uphill battle than Original Sin does.
The erotic thriller, promising the sight of Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie getting hot and heavy under a colonial Cuban sun, will open Friday after being bumped twice by MGM. That Original Sin failed to open in either November or February, as previously scheduled, and that MGM seemed reluctant at first to screen the film for critics, possibly portends its eventual fate. Perhaps MGM foresees capitalizing on Jolie's post-Tomb Raider heat to make a big buck or two. Not a bad theory on paper, but Original Sin flopped in France and Germany despite being released hot on the heels of the adventures of a certain Ms. Lara Croft.
The other high-profile new release of the weekend is actually 22 years old. Apocalypse Now Redux serves as director Francis Ford Coppola definitive version of his hallucinatory Vietnam epic. Coppola premiered Redux in May at Cannes, and many critics felt it was better than anything else that screened there. Redux will play exclusively in New York and Los Angeles before opening wider later this month.
Though an arthouse release, Redux is the most prominent reissue since last fall's return of The Exorcist. Like The Exorcist, Redux boasts never-before-seen footage, which should ensure renewed interest from those who saw the antiwar treatise during its initial 1979 release. The mystique surrounding Coppola's flawed masterpiece also should entice those who were born long after the Vietnam conflict came to an end.
The big question of the weekend: How will Planet of the Apes fare? Through Thursday, the film has collected $96.2 million, indicating that it has staying power and will certainly roar past $100 million on Friday. Its $68.5 million opening is a tad more than that of May's The Mummy Returns. That sequel enjoyed a second-weekend gross of $33.7 million, and recently hit the $200 million milestone. The Mummy Returns, however, benefited from a relative lack of competition for two weekends and then enjoyed strong business before and during the Memorial Day weekend holiday.
Then there's Jurassic Park III. Apes drew significant blood, causing the latest Jurassic Park sequel to tumble 56 percent in its second weekend, from $50.8 million to $22.5 million. If the trend continues, and it's almost a certainty given the one-two punch of Apes and Rush Hour 2, then Jurassic Park III will not exceed The Lost World: Jurassic Park's $229 million gross. As of Thursday, Jurassic Park III's total stood at $134.7 million.
America should remain sweet on America's Sweethearts given that it remains the highest-profile alternative to all that macho swagger on display in Planet of the Apes, Rush Hour 2 and Jurassic Park III.
The Julia Roberts-ensemble comedy did drop 49 percent in its second weekend, from $30.2 million to $15.4 million, but it still has more steam than both 1997's My Best Friend's Wedding and 1999's Notting Hill. They ended up making $128.6 million and $116 million, respectively. America's Sweethearts' total stands at $66.6 million through Thursday.
The Reese Witherspoon legal spoof, Legally Blonde, however, has been one of summer's much-needed sleeper hits and looks like it could corral $100 million. Legally Blonde dropped a mere 19 percent during its third weekend, from $11.1 million to $9 million. With $65.5 million in the bank through Thursday, Legally Blonde's has eclipsed Clueless's $54.7 million gross and will likely sprint pass past Bring It On's $68.3 million this weekend.
Clearly there's an audience out there that's not intrigued by the adventures of highly evolved apes, cloned dinosaurs or bratty movie stars.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- So he got to shoot on an island off Thailand for months, flying friends in for visits and soaking up an island paradise. But Leonardo DiCaprio, star of "The Beach," has one little quibble.
Says Leo to the British magazine The Face, "It truly bothered me ... that [Richard, DiCaprio's character] never had any kind of sexual contact with Francoise," a stunning Frenchwoman played by Virginie Ledoyen, with whom he does a little smooching and frolicking in the surf.
"The constant foreplay between the two characters never amounted to anything," the 25-year-old DiCaprio says. "And I really wanted something, whether it be complete and utter rejection or some sort of wild sexual encounter. ... It just had to happen." Well, it just goes to show that even the King of the World can't have it all.
SCANDAL SHEET: Vanity Fair's 13-page article this month has revived controversy over Natalie Wood's mysterious 1981 drowning by suggesting that she and husband Robert Wagner argued on the night of her death.
The story, written by Sam Kashner, says previously unpublished police records appear to contradict statements that there was no fight between Wood and Wagner that night. The report features a new interview with Christopher Walken, who says he and the couple had been drinking on the night of Nov. 28, 1981, and had a conversation in which "you put all your cards on the table." The confessionals snowballed into a marital argument, and Walken "stepped outside for some air" and when he returned, everyone was apologizing and everything seemed fine. Wagner says it was a political discussion.
Wood, 43, was found drowned wearing a nightgown, socks and a jacket after apparently trying to leave her yacht off Catalina Island in California to board an inflatable dinghy. Her death was ruled an accident.
DAS FESTIVAL: In Germany, the 50th Berlin Film Festival kicked off today with a screening of "The Million Dollar Hotel," starring Mel Gibson and Jeremy Davies and co-written by U2 frontman Bono.
In the fest's coming days, French actress Jeanne Moreau, who recently did a diva walk-off during a planned guest appearance on "ER," will receive a special homage, as will Robert De Niro.
Other stars to raid Berlin: George Clooney and Ice Cube, on hand to promote "Three Kings" and the aforementioned Leo, a possible for "The Beach."
HONORS: Legendary writer/director Billy Wilder, who fled Nazi Europe in the 1930s for France (and later the United States), will receive the Federal Republic of Germany's Knight Commander's Cross (badge and star) on March 10. The 93-year-old Wilder is also to be honored by the Producers Guild on March 2 at Los Angeles' Century Plaza on the occasion of his "Some Like it Hot" joining the guild's landmark movie list ...
... Blake Edwards will receive the Art Directors Guild's Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award on Feb. 26 at the Beverly Hilton. The 77-year-old director-writer-producer, who is married to Julie Andrews, is the director of films such as "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Days of Wine and Roses" and eight "Pink Panther" movies ...
... The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, running today through Sunday in Aspen, Colo., will honor funnyman Robin Williams with its American Film Institute Star Award. Also on the docket: Baltimore-loving director Barry Levinson receiving the AFI Filmmaker Award and career tributes for Jerry Lewis, Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
QUICK TAKES: Martin Lawrence's cop comedy "Big Momma's House" is getting an early move-in date, says The Hollywood Reporter. Twentieth Century Fox is moving the film's release up from October to June 2. It was originally moved to fall after Lawrence was hospitalized Aug. 22 from heat stroke after jogging under heavy clothing in 100 degree heat. He fell into a coma but emerged after three days and began production on the film ...
... James Coburn will join the ranks of presenters at this year's Academy Awards on March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium. Coburn won a Best Supporting Actor statue last year for "Affliction," and, as tradition dictates, will likely present this year's Best Supporting Actress award ...
... And if you turn to the Grammys this year, you'll see the following artists perform (no, not together): The Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Kid Rock, Britney Spears, Santana, the Backstreet Boys, TLC and Ricky Martin. The Grammys air Feb. 23 on CBS.
LOVE LINES: In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day, we give you the skinny on how to kiss Woody Allen -- straight from the lips of his "Mighty Aphrodite" co-star, Helena Bonham Carter.
"He tells you up front certain ways of kissing, he does not want,'' Bonham Carter tells the UK Sun. "No exchange of liquid is permitted."
As if that weren't enough info, Bonham Carter adds: "There's absolutely no tongue encounter. ... It can be a bit offensive because he makes no effort at all. But he does warn you, and says everyone gets the same treatment. His mouth is a no-go area. It's like kissing the Berlin Wall, really."
Somebody get the Listerine.
Two friends (Jon Cryer and Rick Stear) find out that their missing high-school chum (Rafael Baez) is now insane and living at New York's decaying Coney Island amusement park. Naturally the guys ditch work and set out in search of their bud and spend an inordinate amount of time wandering around the ramshackle landmark talking to a weirdo skeeball guy (Frank Whaley). Over time one guy confronts his own alcoholism and the other deals with family problems. Oh yeah and they find their nutty friend.
This one's got a lot of indie cred: Whaley and Ione Skye have been doing the little-movie thing for years now and Cryer is a veteran of Schenkman's "Pompatus." The best performance is from Baez an up-and-coming actor whose depiction of mental illness (not an easy thing to do) is pretty disturbing.
This is the latest from Richard Schenkman best known for the equally talky and lethargic "The Pompatus of Love " which also was about guys in their 30s (finally) confronting adulthood. Schenkman's style of writing a directing is slow introspective and ultimately more suited to the confines of a small theater stage than the camera lens.
Brace yourself Dr. Laura. This clueless teen queen (Natasha Lyonne) has it all: good looks a football captain boyfriend and a popular pair of pom-poms. But her candy-colored world crumbles when her panicked parents stage an intervention after finding a Melissa Etheridge poster that leads them to conclude she's a friend of Ellen. After being carted off to an anti-gay rehab camp for teens the perky princess must choose between the straight and narrow-minded or the love that dare not speak its name.
The quirky ensemble casting is half this film's fun. Lyonne is charming as the pepster tempted by T&A and she sparks onscreen with swanky and sexy co-star Clea DuVall who plays the butch femme fatale suitor (alarmingly reminiscent of Nancy McKeon's Jo from "The Facts of Life.") Drag queen supreme RuPaul is unrecognizable out of his high heels and even higher blond wig wearing a "Straight is Great" T-shirt as a macho militant ex-gay counselor. Cathy Moriaty is sweetly sinister as the homophobic headmistress and Mink Stole steals scenes as the uptight upright meddling mom.
Kudos to Jamie Babbit for tackling this hot-potato topic but this well-intentioned film too often misses its mark turning potentially comical scenes into unbearably awkward moments. Babbit fouls when tugging at the heartstrings but hits home runs when the humor is at its broadest.