Published May 06, 2001
The Mummy Returns, directed by Stephen Sommers, is about to break some box-office records.
On Friday night, the Mummy sequel took in nearly $25 million. If it keeps up that pace for the rest of the weekend, the film will pass Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace and take the title for biggest opening on a non-holiday weekend. Menace took in $64 million over the same period when it opened in 1999.
Mummy Returns could end the weekend with $70 million in the till.
Why is the audience ready to be wrapped up by such poorly reviewed fare? So far, 2001 has been a dreadful year for films. Among dozens of pre-packaged, thoughtlessly made releases, only two movies have really shined: Memento and Bridget Jones's Diary. Hannibal made a lot of money, but was basically a very bad movie. It was something to chew on.
What's happened? Is it the audience's fault? Are we just stupid? Is it the filmmakers' fault? Are they on drugs? Well, it's probably a little of both. But the intelligence level on all sides has fallen. Standards are not high. Special effects have taken the place of language and characterization. B movies are passing for top releases.
Teenagers' names are above the titles. For god's sake, Ryan Phillippe is co-starring with a dozen famous British actors in the new Robert Altman film!
The Mummy Returns has a clear shot now until the premiere of Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor. Feel like you've already seen Pearl Harbor? You know, you have. But Jerry Bruckheimer's going to give it you one more time. And to think you could be reading a book.
It's an ugly, uncomfortable scene. In HBO's new series, Six Feet Under, Mr. Bloomberg is on the table in a funeral parlor. He is quite dead, and bloated. A worker from the home is busy draining the fluids from his body and embalming him. Yeeccchh.
Only one problem: Mr. Bloomberg is Jewish, which means, generally, that he would not be embalmed. He is also in a non-Jewish funeral home. Is it a mistake? Seems hard to believe. Alan Ball, the Oscar-winning writer of American Beauty, wrote and directed Six Feet Under. Certainly, he knows what he's doing, yes?
Indeed, it turns out that Mr. Bloomberg is Alan Ball's revenge on a real person: Stu Bloomberg, the ABC TV entertainment chief who cancelled Mr. Ball's show, Oh Grow Up, last year. Mr. Ball is not ready to confirm this, but privately production people agree that is why the terribly disfigured character is so named.
At last, a writer gets his revenge.
Six Feet Under, which begins a run in June, is often gruesome. But let's remember, it's about a family-run funeral parlor. In the premiere episode, the father of the family is killed, hit by a bus while driving his new hearse. His eldest son meets a stranger on an airplane and has sex with her in an airport broom closet. His second son is secretly gay and sleeping with a local cop who is also black. His teenage daughter is high on crystal meth when she gets the news about the hearse crash. Before the episode is over, the widow — the mother of all these kids — admits to having had an affair.
Peter Krause, who starred in the ill-fated Sports Night, and Rachel Griffiths, the Australian actress who played musician Jacqueline Dupré's sister in Hilary and Jackie, are absolute standouts in Six Feet Under. You may have trouble getting through that first hour, but I am told that the funeral parlor antics are considerably toned down in the dozen episodes that follow.
As for Alan Ball, he will not be lampooning HBO executives in future shows as he has done with Mr. Bloomberg. As he said several times during the post-screening dinner at Le Cirque, "Thank God for HBO."
Oscar-nominated actress Laura Linney, one of my favorite people from this year's crop of Academy Award contenders, was one of the guests at the Le Cirque dinner mentioned above. Also on hand: her director from You Can Count on Me, Kenny Lonergan, as well as a clutch of media-types. The food at Le Cirque? Well, this is why it's still New York's greatest eatery. You just float out of there.
Linney was finally able to talk to me about her role in Rob Morrow's movie Maze, currently playing on the Starz channel. As I revealed in this space last week, Laura is fully naked in Maze, posing as an artist's model. She has nothing to be ashamed of, but still — Oscar-nominated actresses are rarely in such situations.
"First, you have to trust your director and his instincts, and I did," Laura told me. "I was a little hesitant about it, but it was the right thing to do. Plus, one day when I'm living in the old-age home for actors and I look back at the way I looked, I can say: Not bad."
Well, she's right about that.
Linney made Maze right after You Can Count on Me. She had no way of knowing that Lonergan's small, independent film would become the sensation that it did, and carry her all the way to the Academy Awards. It was a brave effort, but I don't think we'll be seeing her do that again. I just hope the old-age home has DVD, with pause control.
Has this been bothering you? It's been bothering me. Denise Rich keeps talking about her songwriting abilities in her post-pardon interviews. Indeed, she's listed as a co-writer on many hundreds of songs recorded by well-known artists. But she almost never writes a song alone, and she does seem to keep the publishing rights to songs written by others.
So I asked one of her collaborators. This is a guy, who shall go unnamed, who writes with mostly the same people over and over. But in a couple of cases, he's written with Denise. So how does this work, I wonder?
"She's more of a lyricist" was the explanation. "She doesn't write the music. What happened in this case was, I wrote the track, then gave it to my partner. He wrote the lyrics with Denise, then sent them back to me. Denise," he conceded, "can be very good with words."
One day we may hear her sing in front of Congress, or the grand jury in New York.
Our source goes on: "She's not a trained musician. But people rarely are in the music industry anymore. In my case, I am, and songs come to me completely.
"I will tell you that back in 1984, Nile Rodgers told me he had this song for Sister Sledge. Denise wrote it. It was just a little song, not so great. But it was a big deal when it came out. That was 'Frankie.'"
This songwriter said, in reference to yesterday's 411 column concerning Denise's partner, Ric Wake, "I don't think there's much going on at DV8 Records. But when Denise and Ric record a song, they own the masters, which is unusual. They have a whole publishing entity."
It's always a joke on soap operas: Kids are born and within 5 years they're in high school. This is often referred to as SORAS: Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome.
Now a source tells me that General Hospital, the show that begat Luke and Laura 20 years ago, is planning on the reverse: de-aging.
In the works is a story about a man who was cryogenically frozen for the last two decades. He will soon appear as played by an actor in his mid-30s, and not the 50-something person he should be. Walt Disney, of course, was often rumored to have had himself frozen. And this was the subject of the Mel Gibson movie Forever Young some time ago. But it's the first time this has been attempted in a "realistic" setting.
A few years ago, Guiding Light, another soap, tried human cloning. They named the clone after Dolly, the sheep that was duplicated artificially in England. Maybe they can call this new guy, "Ice Cube."
What a rap he'll have!
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