For a woman in Hollywood, stepping out at a big awards show is all about making a statement. What a star wears is almost as important as the awards that are handed out that night. It was no different for the stars at the 70th Annual Golden Globes Sunday night, where celebrities stunned on the red carpet in their glimmering and gorgeous gowns. And for many ladies on Sunday night, it wasn't the sheen of their gowns that had people gasping, but their down-to-there necklines. Plunging necklines seemed to be the trend of the evening with everyone from Isla Fisher to Katharine McPhee putting it all on display.
See how low these ladies dared to go with their plunging necklines!
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By both critical and commercial measures live-action anime adaptations boast a record of futility second perhaps only to videogame adaptations. Some essential aspect of the source material is irretrievably lost during the process of translating Japanese cartoon to Hollywood tentpole something that even the most bloated visual effects budget can’t conceal. Think Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer.
And yet Hollywood keeps trying lured by tantalizing visions of cash-cow franchises fed by loyal built-in — and most importantly international — audiences. The latest casualty of this misguided ambition is The Last Airbender based on the hit Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. To be fair Avatar isn’t anime in the orthodox sense in that it was conceived and produced in the States but its style and soul are almost exclusively anime-inspired. As such its big-screen fate is similarly sealed.
Who could possibly break such a rueful trend? For some reason the minds at Paramount thought M. Night Shyamalan that notorious purveyor of ponderous and increasingly shlocky supernatural thrillers might succeed where so many other directors had failed. Even worse they saw fit to hire him to pen the screenplay as well ensuring that every vital aspect of the film would feel the crushing weight of his heavy hand. With such a hacky burden to bear it comes as no surprise that The Last Airbender never really takes flight.
The film's story is set in a world divided into four tribes each aligned to an element: Air Earth Water and Fire. Certain gifted tribe members known as a “benders ” can manipulate the properties of their assigned element to suit their ends. In order to do so they must first perform an elaborate and utterly ridiculous kung fu dance after which a torrent of fire water or whatever arises to obey their command.
For the better part of a century the oppressive and warlike Firebenders have besieged the other nations gradually thinning their respective ranks. The Air Nomads have faired the worst of the lot and are presumed to be extinct until Water peeps Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) discover a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer) trapped in a giant ball of ice. Not only is Unfrozen Kung Fu Warrior the last remaining Airbender (thus the title) he is also an Avatar the only being on the planet capable of wielding all four elements. And only he can bring an end to the Firebenders’ evil reign.
Blessed with an opportunity to reinvent himself in a new genre and with a new demographic Shyamalan can’t avoid falling back on old habits most notably his penchant for awkward and cumbersome dialogue. It’s difficult enough for adults to deliver his lines but it’s absolute hell for The Last Airbender’s youthful protagonists whose not yet fully-developed temporal lobes can’t hope to adequately process the inanities of Shyamalan-speak. One can almost see the smoke coming from little Noah’s ears as he labors to complete each portentous sentence. Poor kid. Where are the Child Labor people when you need them?
But bad dialogue is only one of a litany of problems that plagues The Last Airbender which suffers from mediocre CGI inexplicable casting decisions (caucasians actors none of whom are especially talented are tabbed for asian roles when sufficiently mediocre race-appropriate actors were surely available) and a plot comprehensible only to the most ardent fans of the Nickelodeon series. Much as Aang bends the air Shyamalan tries to bend the laws of quality cinema to his will but they refuse to yield to the force of his ego. I only wish the execs at Paramount had been as stalwart.
Everyone in Hollywood is asking an intriguing question this week: “How high can Sex and the City go?” After all, the average red-blooded American male will have to be dragged into the theater to see Carrie Bradshaw and friends (although, gay men will likely be among the movie’s early attenders). According to industry tracking relayed to me, an astounding number of American women have a weekend appointment to see these four 40+ actresses in their first big-screen adventure.
The summer blockbuster season has traditionally been devoted to major “tentpole” movies, featuring superheroes, explosions and animated animals, but that may be changing. Fox scored big with The Devil Wears Prada in 2006, proving that there is room at the multiplex for a film with pure female appeal. Prada opened to a $27.5M weekend on its way to a $124.75M domestic cume. Then last summer, New Line grabbed an almost identical $27.47M with the opening weekend of the female-skewing Hairspray, translating to $118.87M domestic.
With all of that said, it is amazing that a movie, featuring four actresses in their 40s, is considered a big summer title, but thanks to HBO, it is happening. Increasingly, the best roles for women 40+ are on television. Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Glenn Close (Damages), Holly Hunter (Saving Grace), Edie Falco (The Sopranos), Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty) and Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters) have all found meaningful work on the small screen, and perhaps Sex and the City is an interesting trial balloon for mature actresses to demonstrate their box office clout.
Three movies with female leads have been notable successes in 2008. 27 Dresses (Fox), starring Katherine Heigl from Grey's Anatomy, debuted to $23M in January on its way to a domestic cume of $76.8M. Then came the Digital 3D phenomenon Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds (Disney), which enjoyed a meteoric $31.1M opening weekend, finishing with a tween-fueled $65.2M. Also the all-girl comedy Baby Mama (Universal) succeeded last month with a nifty $17.4M opening, and it is still in the top 10 with a current cume of $53.3M.
Finding box office hits with women 40+ as the undisputed star (or at least co-lead) are much more rare. This year, the beautiful 40-something Diane Lane headlined Sony’s Untraceable, which managed only $28.6M, and 60-year-old Diane Keaton was one of three leads in Overture’s Mad Money, a disappointment totaling just over $20M. Whether it is sexism, ageism, or some combination of the two, mature women are not given many opportunities to succeed as above-the-title stars at the movies.
Glenn Close, who recently won the Golden Globe for her work on F/X’s Damages, has what appears to be the biggest opening ever for a 40+ actress with the 1996 version of 101 Dalmations, which grabbed $33.5M in its opening frame and went on to generate $136.2M domestic. Also, when she was exactly 40, she succeeded as another anti-hero, Alex Forrest, in Fatal Attraction, a $150M+ blockbuster. The aforementioned Streep, who earned an Oscar nomination for her riff on Anna Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada has the second-best opening with a 40+ female lead.
Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday, Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond also scored $100M hits past the age of 40. Additionally, Diane Keaton has proved to be a bankable star in her prime with Something's Gotta Give ($16M opening - $124.7M cume) and First Wives Club ($105.4M cume), which starred fellow 40+’s Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler.
Now along come Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis, all somewhere north of 40, and they are a regular Fantastic Four (sans superpowers). Harry Medved from Fandango, reports that hundreds of showtimes for Sex and the City are already sold out across America, including a fair number of 12:01a shows tonight. 10,000 moviegoers have been surveyed on the Fandango showtimes and tickets page, and Harry says that 67 percent plan to attend the movie this weekend with a group of female friends, 88 percent plan to attend a Sex and the City get-together either before or after the show and 68 percent plan to drink Cosmopolitans at their respective parties.
The latest industry tracking indicates a spectacular opening as well. Un-Aided Awareness among women is at 17 percent, and Sex and the City has 99 percent Awareness with Females 25 Plus. The movie is tracking slightly better with Females 25 Plus with Definite Interest at 49 percent compared to 35 percent with Females Under 25. In the all-important First Choice column, Sex and the City is reportedly at 24 percent with Total Females and 30 percent with Females 25 Plus. How many men will wander into the multiplex to check out the these NYC girls this weekend? First Choice among Males for Sex and the City is at only 3 percent.
On Tuesday, I forecasted a $30M opening for this former New Line property, but I am raising my estimate to the $33M-$36M range. Truthfully, anything over $30M is a triumph as Females 25 Plus are not notorious opening weekend attenders, but this has the feel of a phenomenon instead of just a movie. And, by Monday morning, Sarah Jessica Parker and friends will likely have the biggest opening ever for 40+ women at the top of the box office marquee.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount) should hold up well on its 2nd weekend with a 3-day of $49M-$52M or so. The Steven Spielberg-directed sequel is helped by the fact that both of the new wide releases this week are rated R. That will also help Iron Man near or possibly even surpass $275M domestic with $10M-$13M. Narnia 2 (Disney) continues to struggle with unimpressive weekday holds, and I think Iron Man has a real chance to post a better weekend gross (although Prince Caspian will be in that same $10M-$13M range).
The other new wide release is The Strangers (Rogue), which has picked up steam thanks to an excellent, though disturbing, TV ad campaign. My sources tell me that the movie has Un-Aided Awareness of 7 percent, but just a 53 percent Total Aware. With a 10 percent First Choice, the slasher pic has a shot at $10M and a 5th-place finish.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND OF MAY 30
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount): $50M
2. Sex and the City (Warner Bros): $35M
3. Iron Man (Paramount): $12.5M
4. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney): $11.75M
5. The Strangers (Rogue): $10M
6. What Happens in Vegas (Fox): $6.1M
7. Speed Racer (Warner Bros): $2.1M
8. Baby Mama (Universal): $1.9M
9. Made of Honor (Sony): $1.8M
10. The Visitor (Overture): $800,000
Julianne Moore plays Audrey Woods an undefeated divorce attorney whose neurotic need for junk food and impossibly hip mom (Frances Fisher) might be the reasons for why she's been single all her 35 years (in Hollywood logic anyway). While marching into a particularly messy divorce case she meets Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan) a slovenly but damn sexy divorce attorney who also has never lost a case in spite of his seemingly precarious methods. He's immediately smitten but she's uptight or in denial or a combination of the two even after they get drunk a half an hour into the film and fall into bed. Oops. They find themselves at battle when Audrey courts a kooky but famous dress designer getting a divorce (Parker Posey) who opts to hire Daniel as her laywer leading an infuriated Audrey to take on the philandering rock star husband as her client. While Audrey and Daniel compete they scope out the estranged couple's biggest asset--a glorious castle in Ireland. In Lucky Charm land where everything is apparently a party the attorneys loosen up at a local festival dancing jigs and getting drunk again. This time they not only sleep with each other but get married! Disaster! What to do?
Moore has so far been the queen of torment specializing in women who've suffered from maladies ranging from cocaine addiction (Boogie Nights) severe environmental allergies (Safe) and repressed lesbianism (The Hours). Maybe she wanted to take a vacation from the dark side by tackling a character who's biggest problem is her Cheetos consumption but more likely she thought playing (gasp!) funny would further prove her acting mettle. But getting laughs is a lot tougher than it looks if you're good and really really tough looking if you're not. Awkwardly stumbling through this fifth-rate screwball comedy Moore is positively tragic thudding out one-liners with the grace of a wounded deer. The breezy Brosnan fares better only because his ingratiating lilt and calm demeanor makes him at least charming though when in one "funny" scene he picks a fleck of food off her face puts in his mouth and utters the name of a Hostess product ("Snowball...")--even he can't make that sexy.
Director Peter Howitt attempts to capture the sparkle and magic of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy specifically their legal screwball Adam's Rib but considering this is the same director who un-funnied Rowan Atkinson in the abysmal Johnny English why anyone would trust him with such a feat is baffling. Maybe it was his other hilarious film Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow that convinced 'em. Right. Working with the ham-fisted screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna and Robert Harling (if we are to assume this is the actual first draft) Howitt directs with little distinction other than managing to make the typically side-splitting Parker Posey barely half hearted. Though there are a few moments that garner a mini giggle Laws of Attraction is lazy and at 90 minutes lumbering. Howitt's idea of humor is placing a Hostess pastry in front of the luminous Moore and making James Bond work in a sloppy office (Get it? Yeah…). In the famous words of a five-year-old it's so funny we forgot to laugh.
Oscar-winner Julia Roberts wants to see Denzel Washington walk way with an Oscar next month. She joins a growing list who believe Washington has been robbed one too many times. "He should be on his third Oscar by now, and that might not be enough," Roberts told Newsweek magazine in its Feb. 25 edition. "I cannot absorb living in a world where I have an Oscar for best actress and Denzel doesn't have one for best actor."
In the 73 years of Oscar tradition, only five black actors and actresses have won Oscars. Sidney Poitier is the only black actor to have won a Best Actor Oscar (for 1963's Lilies of the Field). Washington picked up his fifth Oscar nomination for his performance as a crooked cop in Training Day, when the nominations were announced last week and won Best Supporting Actor in 1989 for his work in the Civil War drama Glory. The Oscars will be handed out March 24.
Agent down! I repeat, agent down! Pierce Brosnan, who plays suave secret agent James Bond, apparently sustained a knee injury while filming a stunt in the latest 007 movie, tentatively titled Bond 20. Brosnan will be out of commission for two weeks, but the film is still set to be released in November.
Comedian extraordinaire Robin Williams, 50, is returning to his stand-up roots by going back on tour. Williams told the New York Times he'll face live audiences again because, "I just want to find out what the rest of the country is up to. What is the middle like? What are they laughing at?" His routine will cover current topics such as Enron and President Bush's pretzel incident. "I think they may be grinding everything up now," he quipped.
Britney's been bitten by the acting bug. After her new movie Crossroads raked it in at the box office this past weekend, pop singer Britney Spears is now set to appear in HBO's hit Sex and the City as the sex-crazed niece of PR exec Samantha (Kim Cattrall). Ironically, Cattrall also plays Spears' mother in Crossroads.
Kenneth Starr is stepping into the ring with Rocky! Starr (no relation to the Lewinsky prosecutor) has counterattacked Sylvester Stallone's suit against him, claiming that Rambo is sue-happy, having been involved in at least 30 different suits over the last few years. Stallone sued Starr, his former business manager, last week for $17.3 million. The suit claims Starr urged Stallone to hold onto Planet Hollywood stock even though Starr knew the company was slipping into bankruptcy.
A mentally-ill woman, who admitting stealing mail from Britain's "It" couple, soccer star David Beckham and Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, has been detained indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital. She was arrested in July for sneaking into the couple's luxury apartment building and taking 13 pieces of mail.
Kate Mulgrew, Star Trek: Voyager's Captain Kathryn Janeway, is heading back to Earth and taking on a completely different, if somewhat similar sounding, role: playing Katharine Hepburn. Mulgrew will star in the one-woman show Tea at Five, portraying the legendary actress as she muses about her life and loves. The play will have its world premiere at the Hartford Stage Company in Hartford, Conn.
The poster for the independent film Amen, which blends a cross with a red swastika, has created an uproar within the French Jewish and Catholic communities. "We consider this amalgam of the Nazi symbol with a religious symbol to be unhealthy," said a statement signed by 10 of France's leading Jewish figures,. The Catholic Church objected to the advertisement as "an unacceptable lack of respect." The film examines how the Vatican was partially responsible for the millions of Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust by remaining silent.
USA Networks will be developing a TV-movie about the one and only Rudolph Giuliani, New York City's knight in shining armor. Based on Wayne Barrett's book Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani, the film will either air at the end of the year or the beginning of 2003. No casting choices have been made as yet.
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.