Like the many standard teacher-mentor stories before it Lead follows the same basic principals. It focuses on Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) a Manhattan dance teacher and competitor who volunteers his time to teach ballroom dancing to New York inner-city high school students serving detention. It’s never really explained why he wants to do this--maybe he’s just crazy that way. But through his determination the reluctant teenagers are soon waltzing and doing the tango all over the room. They even take it one step further and combine Dulaine's classical dance with their unique hip-hop style and music to create a high-energy unique fusion honing their craft for a prestigious city ballroom competition (and some of them win too!) And through it all Dulaine inspires these street kids to learn about pride respect and honor. Pardon me while I gag for a moment. Banderas does what he can with the syrupy role but tends to look uncomfortable with some of the line readings. Thankfully he’s got the moves. One of the better scenes is Dulaine dancing the tango with a hot blonde--to prove to the unbelieving teens how hip classical dancing can be. And after watching them slide all over the floor they get the picture. The urban kids are all pretty standard with Rob Brown (Finding Forrester) leading the pack as a troubled youth trying not to get involved with drug dealing but heading that way anyway. His love interest played by Yaya DaCosta also has her share of family strife. But as far as the best dancing is concerned hats off goes to Jenna Dewan Dante Basco and Marcus T. Paulk who all perform one heck of a steamy tango number. Alfre Woodard even makes an appearance as the school’s hardened principal who’s softened by Dulaine’s earnestness. How typical. Who would have thought ballroom dancing would be so popular these days? For awhile there was just one movie about it: the wonderfully quirky Strictly Ballroom. But then came the Richard Gere/Jennifer Lopez starrer Shall We Dance? (Americanized from a Japanese original) and last year’s stellar documentary Mad Hot Ballroom about street kids learning to dance. Now we’ve got Take the Lead which is also based on a true story about Dulaine and his efforts to introduce culture to inner-city kids. Sure ballroom dancing is fun to watch especially mixed with cool hip-hop moves. And in the hands of veteran music video and commercial director Liz Friedlander those dance scenes clearly stand out. Yet the fact Lead is Friedlanderr feature film debut it’s also clear she doesn’t have the skills to go beyond the cliché. They probably think they can away with a done-to-death story if the dancing pops. They’re mistaken.
After the death of their parents Rashad (Tip "T.I." Harris) and his younger brother Ant (Evan Ross) have to fend for themselves. Trying not to think about his pending high school graduation Rashad works as a janitor for his stingy uncle (Mykelti Williamson) and hangs out with his friends practicing for the Skate Wars competition at their local roller rink. Ant however approaches life differently after he hooks up with Marcus (Big Boi) a big-time drug dealer in the area. Marcus recruits Ant to do his dirty work and the kid gets himself tangled up in the harsh world of drugs money and violence. It’s up to his older brother to get him out of it and finally steer him in the right direction. ATL proves some rapper-turned-actors can indeed be in a movie not based on their real lives. Known as “The King of the South” in the rap world T.I. displays some notable acting skills. Born and raised in the ATL (that’s Atlanta to us lay folk) his southern slang and cool demeanor lend credibility. As well Big Boi (half of the Atlanta-based hip-hop group OutKast) does a nice job giving his drug lord character multi-layers. He plays it smooth recruiting high school kids and promising them more money then they have ever seen. When they don’t pay up he then turns on a dime and becomes quite menacing. And watch out for Evan Ross the youngest son of the legendary Diana Ross. In his debut performance as Ant he tugs at your heart even when you’re hoping Rashad will smack him for the bad choices he makes. Music video director Chris Robinson makes his feature directing debut with ATL a story loosely based on ATL producers Dallas Austin and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ (of TLC fame) experiences growing up in Atlanta. With many of the hottest hip-hop artists coming out of Atlanta Robinson--along with first-time screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism--impressively incorporates the music without focusing on it. Sure the soundtrack crunks it up but this is not a film about a wannabe rapper trying to make it out of the ‘hood and into the spotlight. There aren’t any lengthy shootouts and no one dies. Instead ATL interweaves compelling themes of family dynamics rich vs. poor--and even a roller skating motif which seems to come out of left field but provides some fun moments. ATL is a breath of fresh air for a hip-hop movie that isn't about hip-hop.
The story of the late great Johnny Cash depicted in Walk the Line is not quite all encompassing. The film dramatizes just one moment in Cash's life: his tumultuous 20s and rise to fame. The young Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) married and straight out of the army struggles with his music finally finding his patented blend of country blues and rock music. Haunted by a troubled childhood Cash sings songs about death love treachery and sin--and shoots straight to the top of the charts. On tour he also meets and falls for his future wife June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) whose refusal to meddle with a married man only further fuels the fire and contributes to his eventual drug addiction. Their cat-and-mouse love story provides the film’s core but unfortunately can’t quite overcome Walk the Line’s formulaic nature. Biopics are generally good to actors. Phoenix and Witherspoon could easily each walk away with Oscar statuettes for turning in two of the most jaw-dropping spellbinding performances since well Jamie Foxx in Ray. Neither actor had any musical background whatsoever but they both underwent painstaking transformations for the sake of authenticity doing all of their own singing as well as guitar-playing for Phoenix. The actor's performance is purely raw and visceral; his vulnerability is aptly palpable at first but then he becomes the Cash with the unflinching swagger. Witherspoon's Carter is Cash's temptress and she'll be yours too by movie's end. She eerily reincarnates Carter as if she was born to play the part. If Walk the Line is the ultimate actor's canvas then Phoenix and Witherspoon make priceless art-and music-together. While good for the actors biopics can prove to be difficult for the director. It’s hard to highlight a person’s life without it coming off like a TV movie of the week. Unfortunately director James Mangold (Copland) plays it safe with Walk the Line. The duets between Johnny and June on stage are about the only electrifying moments of the film. The rest is pretty stereotypical. And it isn’t because the film only focuses on certain years of Cash's life. It's simply not possible to fit a lifetime into the short duration of a film. The problem instead is that Mangold's presentation of Cash's life would lead one to believe that Cash actually exorcised his demons. But in reality his lifelong demons are what endeared him to the layperson. There was nothing cut and dry about the Cash story--and adding a little grit would have given Walk the Line the edge it needed.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action revisits an age-old Tunes question: Why does the affable Bugs reap all the fame and glory while the egocentric Daffy gets shafted again and again? Our duck friend quite frankly has had it up to his skinny neck playing second fiddle to the carrot muncher. All Daffy wants is a little recognition from the studio but the brothers Warner (actual twin brothers as we come to find out) decide instead to let Daffy out of his contract on the advice of their no-nonsense VP of comedy Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). Bugs however knows they're making a mistake. Even though Daff bears the brunt of the abuse Looney Tunes would fail without him and Bugs convinces the powers that be they need the nutty mallard. If the plot had only followed this thread--perhaps showing Daffy on the skids--then maybe the film wouldn't have spiraled into Looneyville. Unfortunately Daffy ends up hooking up with the hunky D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) a studio security guard who finds out that his famous movie star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) is really a secret agent hunting for a mysterious diamond known as the Blue Monkey a supernatural gem that can turn the planet's population into monkeys. The evil head of the Acme Corporation Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) wants the diamond for his own diabolical plans and he's kidnapped D.J.'s dad in an effort to get it. Now the gang has to get the diamond save D.J.'s dad and of course save the world.
It might be a little hard to act subtly around cartoon characters but these aren't your ordinary cutesy Mickey Mouse types. Bugs Daffy Porky Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn are pros at comic timing able to spar with the best of them throw out zingers without a second thought and slay you with a droll glance at the camera. It isn't really necessary for the human actors to match their madcap-ness; just reacting would have sufficed. Fraser comes off the best of the human bunch; since he's had practice (Monkeybone) he easily interacts with his animated co-stars and deftly handles the doubletakes and jabs at pop culture. Elfman on the other hand sputters and goes bug-eyed every time she encounters silliness. She looks uncomfortable doing the green screen thing especially when she's trying to look natural when peeling a distraught duck from around her waist. Martin's highly anticipated turn as Mr. Chairman turns out to be the biggest disappointment. The over-the-top character is reminiscent of Martin's hysterically funny Rupert the Monkeyboy in 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but Martin turns Mr. Chairman--an angry schoolboy with knee socks and matted-down hair who never grew up--into a caricature of ridiculous proportions and unlike Rupert who came in small hilarious doses Mr. Chairman gets very tiresome very quickly.
Back in Action's animation is well done more engaging and ambitious than its 1996 predecessor Space Jam in which the action mostly took place in Looney Tunes land; here animated characters go the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? route and Bugs Daffy and the rest coexist harmoniously with humans in the real world. But despite its aspirations Back in Action leaves out vital elements that made Space Jam appealing. While the earlier film stuck to a simple plot Back in Action guided by director Joe Dante (Small Soldiers The 'Burbs) tries too hard to keep things wild and wacky while incorporating elements of '60s heist pics and action-adventure scenes and in the process loses sight of the most important ingredient in any kids movie: the story. Tykes may have limited attention spans but if the story's good they will watch. Granted some individual bits are laugh-out-loud funny particularly the scene in the Warner Bros. commissary where a stuttering Porky Pig complains about being politically incorrect with Speedy Gonzales while an animated Shaggy and Scooby-Doo berate actor Matthew Lillard for playing Shaggy as such a bonehead in the live-action Scooby-Doo. These scenes prove that if any cartoon characters could pass themselves off as real celebrities in the entertainment industry the gang from Looney Tunes could but moments like these simply can't overcome a contrived plot and juvenile antics.
September 12, 2003 11:43am EST
New grads Paul (Rider Strong) Karen (Jordan Ladd) Jeff (Joey Kern) Marcy (Cerina Vincent) and Bert (James Debello) head off to a cabin in the woods to let off some post-college steam before entering the working world. They are a pretty likeable bunch except for Bert who gets drunk and starts shooting at squirrels with a rifle--and then accidentally shoots a stranger in the woods. Bert keeps mum about the incident until the man projectile vomiting blood and looking like he's been skinned alive shows up at the cabin and tries to take their truck. While trying to stop him Paul unintentionally sets him on fire and the gang watches as he runs ablaze into the woods. What they don't know however is that he had a contagious flesh-eating virus. When his charred body falls into the local water reservoir everyone becomes vulnerable. The first to gulp down a glass of water filled with strange chunky particles is Karen whom they forcibly quarantine in a shed behind the cabin when she begins to show signs of the disease. Before long the fear of contagion turns the remaining four against one another. What's more a local lynch mob has formed in order to track down and kill anyone who may have come in contact with the virus which has apparently threatened this small town before. Cabin Fever is definitely a rollicking ride; it will scare you gross you out and make you laugh.
Like most low-budget horror films Cabin Fever's cast isn't exactly stellar yet the young actors and actresses really elevate the material. The most refreshing thing about the characters is that they react to what is happening to them in a way you and I probably would as opposed to the typical slasher-flick way: Instead of banding together against the common enemy they bicker act like cowards and put themselves first. Strong who last appeared in My Giant but is probably better known as Shawn from the TV series Boy Meets World emerges as a capable lead as Paul the most sensible of the group. Although his character comes across as somewhat brighter and more sensitive than the rest he is still immature enough to try to cop a feel when his love interest Karen is sleeping and feeling under the weather. Karen meanwhile is played by Ladd who has had small roles in several movies including The Specials and Never Been Kissed. Her character is the most compassionate of the gang and Karen reacts more intensely to events than the others. Kern as cocky know-it-all Jeff Vincent as slutty tough chick Marcy and Debello as party boy Bert perfectly round out the diverse cast of characters.
Because of its gruesome subject matter it is difficult to describe such a vile movie as being good or even well made but this one really is. In his feature directorial debut helmer Eli Roth delivers a truly disturbing horror picture. While most pics of this genre tend to look cold and gritty Roth saturates his sets with golden ambient lighting that brightly contrasts the film's dark dismal subject matter. And dismal is putting it mildly: Cabin Fever shows viewers things that most movies don't because they would be considered too disturbing. Case in point: When the intoxicated Bert drives off for help in his pickup and hits a deer the animal doesn't just die on impact but struggles in pain its hind legs flailing through the windshield. Such disturbing imagery escalates by degrees until the very end when the film takes on a weird surreal quality. For example the scenes of Paul being pushed through a hospital on a gurney have a dreamlike feel bound to make moviegoers question if what is happening is real. The film's score also has all sorts of unusual instrumental influences including a Twin Peaks-inspired number when a sheriff comes to investigate the cabin and a Deliverance-type banjo ditty to accompany the locals folk in front of the general store which adds a touch of humor at the most unlikely moment.
Brolin and Driver to wed
Jews are angry
Smile, Mrs. Dirty Harry
Moore birthday bash
Pryor turns street
Beastie Boys are back
Brando takes ill
Brolin and Driver to wed
Actor Josh Brolin (Hollowman, The Mod Squad) and actress Minnie Driver (Return To Me, Good Will Hunting) are engaged to be wed, People magazine reports.
This is the third wedding for Brolin, who was married previously to Deborah Adair. Brolin's first wife, Jane, died in 1995. Brolin has two children, Trevor, 12, and Eden, 8.
This will be the first trip down the aisle for Driver, who previously dated Matt Damon and John Cusack.
Brolin -- son of famed actor James Brolin and stepson of Barbra Streisand -- and Driver became romantically involved when they costarred in Slow Burn.
"It's obvious they are very much in love," Danny McKeever, Brolin's auto-racing instructor, told reporters.
No wedding date has been set yet, People reported.
Comic strip "BC" defames Jews, says Jewish group
The Simon Weisenthal Center, a nonprofit Jewish civil rights organization, is asking newspapers that carry the syndicated comic strip BC not to run Sunday's cartoon.
The strip portrays a Menorah, a Jewish symbol, in the first panel, under a quote by Jesus: "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do." Succeeding panels then show the Menorah morphing into a cross, with more of Jesus' last words atop each panel. The final panel's quote, "Do this in remembrance of me," frames a picture of a cave, presumably Jesus' final resting place.
The founder and director of the Weisenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Heir, said that newspapers have a duty not to run the strip, as it describes Judaism being "subsumed" or encompassed by Christianity, Reuters reported. The strip "will promote hatred rather than tolerance and diversity," Heir said.
A statement released by Johnny Hart, creator of BC, defends his work, saying that during a week that is holy for both Christians and Jews this year, he was trying to honor both.
The Simon Weisenthal Center, located in Los Angeles, is named in memory of Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal.
Dirty Harry's wife on "Camera"
Smile, you're on Candid Camera.
Dina Ruiz Eastwood, wife of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, will be saying that more often, having joined Candid Camera's team as the show's co-host.
Starting with the new fall season, Eastwood will co-anchor the show with Peter Funt, The Associated Press reports. Eastwood will take over for Suzanne Sommers, former star of Three's Company.
The Eastwoods, who appeared together in True Crime, have been married since 1996. Prior to taking her new gig as Camera's co-host, Eastwood was a news anchor for KSBW-TV (NBC) in Salinas, Calif. Prior to taking the gig as Camera's co-host, Eastwood was a news anchor for KSBW-TV (NBC) in Salinas, Calif.
Candid Camera airs Sunday evenings on Pax TV.
Former "Survivor" contestant gives deposition
America hasn't heard the last from the first season's cast members of the TV hit Survivor.
As part of ex-cast member Stacy Stillman's $70,000 lawsuit against CBS, fellow South Pacific islander Dirk Been delivered a videotaped deposition -- six hours in length -- to lawyers, according to a report by People magazine. Been's deposition will remain under wraps due to confidentiality agreements that each cast member signs before taping begins.
Stillman contends that the TV series rigged the vote that kicked her off the island. Stillman reportedly asked the questions during Been's deposition.
"We're very pleased with what Dirk said today," Donald Yates, Stillman's lawyer, told the New York Post.
For its part, CBS filed a counter-suit against Stillman, claiming she broke her nondisclosure agreement when she brought her suit against Survivor last February.
Moore to celebrate birthday with TV bash
To celebrate Dudley Moore's 66th birthday, his family and friends are throwing him a small party -- at Carnegie Hall.
Michael Caine and Julie Andrews will chair the televised event, An All-Star Tribute To Dudley Moore, People magazine reports. Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, Amy Irving, Lauren Bacall, Eric Idle, Chevy Chase, Jimmy Fallon and Bo Derek are scheduled to give praise in person, while Robin Williams and John Cleese have taped video messages for Moore.
Dudley Moore, star of such films as 10, Arthur, and the original Bedazzled, suffers from a rare brain disorder called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a relative of Parkinson's disease. The ailment has severely limited Moore's ability to work as Moore is confined to his wheelchair. Moore has curtailed his public appearances.
Net proceeds from the evening go to two of Moore's pet charities, Music for All Seasons and the Dudley Moore Research Fund for PSP. The tribute will take place on Monday.
Pryor's name to headline street sign in Illinois
Peoria, Ill., will try for the second time to honor hometown hero, comedian Richard Pryor, USA Today reports.
Peoria City Council members rejected on March 27 the renaming of South Sheridan Street in honor of Pryor, but that apparently did not sit well with certain council members. The proposal has reappeared on the docket, and the council will once again vote on the matter in two weeks.
Councilman Eric Turner said that the city has received a black eye for failing to honor Pryor. According to Turner, he and Pryor were childhood friends while growing up on the south side of Peoria.
Pryor is a controversial choice for such an honor, given his past penchant for profanity-filled routines and his well-documented battles with drugs. In 1980, Pryor nearly killed himself accidentally in a fire related to his freebasing cocaine.
Pryor, currently living in California, suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.
Beastie Boys' Grand Royal reappears
Out of print since 1997, the Beastie Boys' cult magazine Grand Royal has been licensed by Harper Collins to reappear in the guise of a coffee-table book. The book would comprise the best of the old magazines and incorporate fresh new articles, according to a story filed by online portal Yahoo!
The Beastie Boys produced just six editions of Grand Royal, from 1993 to 1997, which were all instant hits. The magazine, which linked skateboarding and politics and music and pop culture, sold out three of the six print runs. The magazine featured articles with then-obscure musicians, such as a Kid Rock interview in the fourth edition.
According to the report, Josh Behar, a senior editor at Harper Collins, said that the Beastie Boys "really love this project. Their dedication is amazing." Beastie Boy Mike D is working closely with Behar to finish the book. The book is scheduled to appear in bookstores in April 2002.
Actor Steve Buscemi reportedly knifed in fight
Actor Steve Buscemi has flown from the North Carolina set of Domestic Disturbance to his home in New York to recover from knife wounds, according to The Associated Press.
Police arrested a local man and will charge him for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill after allegedly stabbed Buscemi in the head, throat, and arms, AP said. Buscemi was released from a local hospital and flew home to recuperate.
The fight happened early Thursday at the Firebelly Lounge, a local bar, in Wilmington, N.C.
Domestic Disturbance costar Vince Vaughn also was arrested for his alleged involvement in the fight. AP said Vaughn was trying to come to the aid of Buscemi.
Buscemi's agents, the William Morris Agency, said they had no information at this time. Domestic Disturbance's studio, Paramount Pictures, refused to comment.
John Travolta and Teri Polo also star in the film.
Marlon Brando hospitalized
Screen legend Marlon Brando, 77, has reportedly been hospitalized for pneumonia, days before he was due to shoot the opening scene for the upcoming comedy Scary Movie 2 this week.
The actor is said to be undergoing treatment at a Los Angeles-area hospital. Neither Brando's agent, Dimension Films nor Scary Movie 2 producer Brillstein-Grey Entertainment have commented on details about his illness, or how long he is expected to be in the hospital.
The filmmakers still want Brandon to be in the film and, even though production wraps this month, his scenes could still be filmed after he recovers, according to Variety.
Scary Movie 2 is the sequel to last year's summer blockbuster directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. It costars Chris Elliot, Tim Curry, Tori Spelling and Andy Richter.
The sequel, also directed by Wayans, is due in theaters for the July 4 holiday weekend.
Brando's next project is working alongside Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton in the crime drama The Score.