After surviving a devastating car accident following her first college party freshman Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) falls into a coma and steps into a nightmare of otherworldly visitations. Haunted by a grim reaper of a far different kind her only hope is to cling to chance encounters with her lost love Sean (Casey Affleck) and the aid of a mysterious young priest named Father Jude (Luke Wilson). Cassie's malicious friends Matt (Wes Bentley) Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and the morose Raven (Angela Featherstone) seem intent on drawing her to the dark side but the spirit of her soul mate Sean guides her back to the world of the living.
Sagemiller (Get Over It) may be a fine actress but this film--her second full-length feature--isn't the one to prove it. Not that Sagemiller does a poor job but like most dull and stale horror movies the female lead isn't asked to do much other than look frightened and scream--a lot. Affleck (Good Will Hunting) Bentley (American Beauty) and Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) are among the more talented actors of their generation but are completely wasted especially Affleck in his one-dimensional role. Wilson as Father Jude is the only character with an interesting part but unfortunately the good Father's development is stunted and incomplete leaving Wilson little to work with.
Steve Carpenter's first turn as a director leaves much to be desired. Of course Carpenter wrote the formulaic script so why shouldn't he be the one to helm it? One major flaw (and there are plenty to choose from) is that nearly half the movie is shot tight on the characters giving the audience a very myopic view. Even if that was intentional it certainly did nothing to heighten the tension (what little of it there was) in the movie. The flick's tagline "The World of the Dead and the World of the Living... are About to Collide" conveys the message of an epic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good--a struggle that never materializes. And the film's final message that love conquers all is the boring hackneyed truism that breaks the cliché camel's back.
Lopez plays Officer Sharon Pogue a tough cop who lives primarily for her job. She arrives one day on the scene of a horrific accident to find a woman and a young boy dead inside a smashed-up car. She tries to keep the remaining occupant alive until help arrives. One year later Sharon is still single but now estranged from her family because of a domestic-abuse issue. While trying to nab a criminal her life is saved by a mysterious stranger Catch (Jim Caviezel). The two are drawn to each other inexplicably and embark on a strange relationship. Catch can't tell Sharon much about himself beyond that he likes to walk and can play the trumpet. But things are slowly revealed about the car accident the year before and they discover the truth behind their connection. Somehow Sharon and Catch both have to come to terms with their old wounds and learn how to help heal each other.
Jennifer Lopez needs a really good director to bring out the best in her. She is serviceable in this role and can actually pull off the tough girl act fairly succinctly. But unlike another tough girl she played in Out of Sight the layers of her character are not as fully developed in Angel Eyes. There also is no chemistry between Lopez and Caviezel (but we remember quite well the sizzle she had with Sight costar George Clooney). Caviezel has perfected the lost brooding persona he's exhibited in such films as The Thin Red Line and Pay It Forward and he is incredibly intriguing to watch rising above the material. His scene at the graves of his wife and child is moving and poignant without lapsing into sap. He deserves better. It also is refreshing to see Brazilian actress Sonia Braga once again even if the part of Sharon's scarred mother is small.
Director Luis Mandoki's track record doesn't speak volumes for him having directed such other mediocre romantic dramas as White Palace with Susan Sarandon and James Spader When a Man Loves a Woman with Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia and the real stinker Message in a Bottle with Kevin Costner and Robin Wright. It just seems that his stars never have the necessary passion onscreen that the story dictates. And especially in the case of Angel Eyes the story does not move beyond its TV movie-of-the-week scenario. In fact the marketing behind Eyes leads moviegoers to believe that the film offers a distinctively more mystical point of view. Audiences expecting a better more intriguing take on the City of Angels plot will be sadly disappointed. (Caviezel would make an excellent angel).
A salty skipper sets sail with his motley crew on a three-hour tour ... oops actually on a commercial fishing expedition as storms collide to give the Andrea Gail and crew the cruise of their lives. Ten-story waves and a crumbling ocean cruiser threaten to cut those lives tragically short in this Weather-Channel-on-steroids disaster flick. Unfortunately "The Perfect Storm" starts with a drizzle dampened by cheesy subplots but strap yourself in because this film rocks when the waves get rolling.
Can we end the debate about George Clooney having what it takes to be a movie star right here? After kicking butt in "Out of Sight" and "Three Kings " the former "E.R." stud has amply proven himself. He's every bit the leading man here as a fisherman who's in over his head (literally). To say that Mark Wahlberg plays Gilligan to Clooney's skipper wouldn't be quite fair; he completely sheds his Calvin Klein-clad image as a seaman who's love of swordfishing could cost him his girl and his life. But beware: "Storm" is no "Titanic" disaster-glam here. Clooney and Wahlberg are seriously shaggy and grungy for the entire 2+ hours.
Wolfgang Petersen mercifully avoids the silliness of recent disaster spectacles such as "Twister" and "Volcano " instead attempting to tell this true story with dignity. He flounders with the maudlin "Men Who Fish Too Much and the Women Who Love Them" backstory but redeems himself with ocean storms so sensational you won't be able to cancel your Carnival Cruise quickly enough.
Peterson gives us glimpses of the boats deeper into the storm than the Andrea Gail showing us what's in store for our heroes and building a near-unbearable level of tension.
Wednesday night's presentation of the Academy of Country Music Awards featured a showdown between Faith Hill and relative newcomer Lee Ann Womack. Hill wound up with only one statue, Womack racked up three and the Dixie Chicks took home the top award, Entertainer of the Year. Here's the complete rundown of winners:
Entertainer of the Year: The Dixie Chicks
Male Vocalist: Toby Keith
Female Vocalist: Faith Hill
New Male Vocalist: Keith Urban
New Female Vocalist: Jamie O'Neal
Vocal Duo: Brooks & Dunn
New Vocal Duo or Group: Rascal Flatts
Vocal Event: "I Hope You Dance'' (Lee Ann Womack with Sons of the Desert; Mark Wright, producer)
Album: "How Do You Like Me Now?!'' (Toby Keith, artist; James Stroud, Keith, producers)
Single Record: "I Hope You Dance'' (Lee Ann Womack with Sons of the Desert, artists; Mark Wright, producer)
Song: "I Hope You Dance'' (Lee Ann Womack with Sons of the Desert, performers; Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers, writers)
Vocal Group: The Dixie Chicks
Video: "Goodbye Earl'' (The Dixie Chicks, artists; Keely Gould, producer; Evan Bernard, director)
Career Achievement Award: Kenny Rogers
Pioneer Award: Barbara Mandrell
What story? For all the technological breakthroughs the plot is pure Disney formula (wisecracking comic relief obligatory romance) set in the Cretaceous period. Visually captivating but thin in plot "Dinosaur" tells the tale of a spunky Iguanadon (voiced by D.B. Sweeney) who joins a quirky band of dinos on a quest for self-discovery and a new land.
The competent voice cast includes Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian the Crab from "The Little Mermaid") as the crusty dinosaur leader and Julianna Margulies (TV's "ER") as the lizard that steals our hero's heart. But the real credit belongs to the animators who obviously went to great lengths to create expressive faces on our dino friends. It's a shame that Disney who refrained from the routine singsongs and cheesy ballads couldn't have exercised more restraint and kept these dinosaurs silent. It would've been far more thrilling to see these beasts interact as they may have done millions of years ago rather than spouting forgettable quips. James Newton Howard's score provides all the audio needed.
It took five years to create this film and it shows. Directors Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton (supervising animator on "A Nightmare Before Christmas") deserve high praise for their innovative blend of filmed settings and CGI wizardry. Last year's "Toy Story 2" was a party for the peepers but "Dinosaur" sets a new standard in the "How'd they do that?" department. Parents take note: The film's violent dino battles are scarier than the dino Happy Meal you bought to get the dino toys.
Music lovers don't have to sit idly by listening to those worn-out Christmas tunes about a jolly old fat guy in a red suit. Who wants to listen to old music anyway when there's plenty of new music arriving in stores this December?
Here's what's coming to a music store near you in December:
Dec. 5 Releases
Rage Against the Machine will make their final political statement, at least with singer Zack de la Rocha, anyway, when it releases "Renegades" on Dec. 5. De la Rocha announced last month that he was leaving the band he formed a decade ago to work on solo projects. The album is an eclectic collection of cover tunes by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Ice Cube, Pavement and ... Johnny Cash.
Also arriving on store shelves is Neil Young's "Road Rock Volume 1," a compilation of live recordings with Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde. "60 Minutes of Funk" by Funkmaster Flex also makes the compilation gang featuring DMX, Nelly, Eminem and others.
While '80s rockers Bon Jovi are back on the road this year, their keyboardist David Bryan is releasing his debut solo project. "Lunar Eclipse" is a collection of original jazz tunes including his self-penned Bon Jovi classic "In These Arms."
Grunge heads can also revel with the release of Alice in Chains' "Live," featuring music from the '90s band that found success in the wake of Nirvana and Pearl Jam's explosion onto the music scene. Other releases include The Buddyrevelles' "American Matador," Flossie and the Unicorns' "The Animals' Clubhouse," K-Ci & Jojo's "X" and Marshall Dyllon's "Enjoy the Ride."
Dec. 12 Releases
You don't have to be a jazz fan to get into Etta James' newest project. On "Matriarch of the Blues," the versatile James covers everyone from the Rolling Stones ("Miss You") and Creedence Clearwater Revival ("Born on the Bayou") to the more conventional sounds of O.V. Wright ("Don't Let My Baby Ride") and Al Green ("Rhymes").
Old Schoolers can reminisce with Run-D.M.C.'s "Crown Royal," a two-CD set of old (remember "My Addidas" or the rock 'n' rap collision "Walk This Way"?) and new material. Also on the rap front, Xzibit will release his third album, "Restless," considered to be rap's most-anticipated record of the year. The project was produced by the father of gangsta rap, Dr. Dre, and features guest performances by Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg.
Also expect projects from Tool, a yet to be titled box set of live and unreleased tracks; Field Mob ("613: Ashy to Classy"); SPM ("Time is Money"); and Rewake ("Puzzle").
Dec. 19 Releases
Rapper Snoop Dogg leads the pack of releases for the week of the 19th with his long-awaited "The Last Meal." The project was produced by Dr. Dre and features guest performances by Nate Dogg, Master P, George Clinton and others. The album is being released just after the controversial release of "Dead Man Walking," a compilation of Snoop Dogg's earlier recordings by his former label, Death Row Records.
Rapper Lil' Wayne will also release his next project titled "Lights Out" on the Universal label. New waver from the '80s Boy George is also releasing DJ mixes of dance tracks from his former band, Culture Club. Other releases of note include DJ Clue's "The Professional, Part II," Crazytown's "The Gift of Game" and the soundtracks for "Finding Forrester" (Dec. 26) and "Song Catcher" (Dec. 26.)
It's always a bad omen when Alan Smithee directs a movie. But what about one directed by Thomas Lee?
As every student of show-biz minutiae knows, "Smithee" is the pseudonym
Hollywood typically uses when a filmmaker wants his or her real name removed from the final credits.
"Thomas Lee," on the other hand, is a newcomer. Lee makes his first appearance as an Alan Smithee type on MGM's "Supernova," a $70 million sci-fi disaster flick starring James Spader and Angela Bassett as outer-space medical rescue workers.
In reality, Lee is veteran filmmaker Walter Hill ("48 Hours"). Hill, whose last film under his own name was 1996's "Last Man Standing," was booted from the project in February 1999.
Today, Lee's/Hill's orphaned film hits theaters - and the question is: Is "Supernova" about to implode?
"Generally speaking, it's not a good sign," says Paul Dergarabedian, of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "It's never good to have a director have his name removed voluntarily. Or involuntarily."
Sources say the Lee pseudonym was agreed upon by the studio and the director.
Industry watchers say the name is intended to distract audiences (and, if they're lucky, the media) from the fact that the movie is an Alan Smithee-esque production - a typically troubled Alan Smithee-esque production.
Hill, who himself replaced Aussie filmmaker Geoffrey Wright shortly before the shoot began, was removed from "Supernova" after a dispute with MGM over (what else?) money. Hill wanted an additional $1.5 million to shoot more footage. MGM balked, and tested his rough cut anyway. That was the final back-breaker - it was Hill's turn to balk. A final cut was the result of some major re-jiggering by a MGM board member by the name of Francis Coppola.
Last August, Variety reported that Hill might keep his name on the film if he approved of Coppola's version. But that cut - an 88-minute brief pared down to garner a PG-13 rating -- fared no better with test audiences. Most importantly, Hill never saw it, and the rest became credits history. "Thomas Lee" was called into service.
While "Alan Smithee" is most commonly deployed when a directors wants their names off projects, it's not necessarily the name that's used. The Directors Guild of America declined to comment on the pseudonym process, but "Thomas Lee" apparently passed its fake-name standards.
MGM can only hope "Thomas Lee" brings better luck at the box office than "Alan Smithee." Films bearing the Smithee trademark have traditionally bombed, including: "Let's Get Harry" (1986), "Morgan Stewart's Coming Home" (1987), "Ghost Fever" (1987), and the infamous "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn" (1997), a would-be joke on the Smithee problem that ended up being credited to Smithee when director Arthur Hiller bailed.
Not one of those films grossed more than $1 million at the box office. ("Morgan Stewart's Coming Home" came the closest - taking in a whooping $799,400 during its initial run.)
"Supernova" has a few distinct advantages over its director-less predecessors. For one thing, the studio's not dumping it, opening the film in more than 2,000 theaters. Its January release date is another blessing. With many screens filled up by Oscar-oriented flicks leftover from the holidays, this is a time that welcomes second-hand schlock for the kiddies. Last year, the top grossers of the month were the arguably direction-free teen hits "Varsity Blues" and "She's All That". Even "Supernova's" story line is a plus -- it's a PG-13-rated sci-fi flick, a genre not generally made or broken by a headlining filmmaker.
"You never want to have the director change, but I think this is the right time to release it," says Dergarabedian of "Supernova." "Kids are looking for a kind of movie. They're not necessarily looking at the director. And right now, there's nothing else like it out there."
Of course, there's still a potential problem out there. Unlike the unlikely Alan Smithee moniker, "Supernova's" pseudonym begs a follow-up query: What happens when a real Thomas Lee starts directing?