Burton's Apes | Mariah Carey | Kidman Braces Herself | Puffed Out?   

Planet of the Apes Could Set Record

Well, it's not a great movie and it wasn't well reviewed, but Planet of the Apes will probably set a box office record this weekend. 

On Friday night, the Tim Burton sci-fi remake took in $25 million. If audiences keep going and the numbers hold up, Planet will make a total of $75 million for the weekend. 

That would be a record for a regular three day non-holiday summer weekend. It is by far the best showing for any film this summer, and any film this year, besting Pearl Harbor and Hannibal

In fact, Planet's hairy accomplishment is an achievement for 20th Century Fox, which has badly needed a hit for some time. (News Corp. is the parent company of both 20th Century Fox and the Fox News Channel, which operates FOXNews.com.) 

For Mark Wahlberg, his place as an action hero is solidified. For Burton, he now has the clout he never had before. And for the audience, we will surely see a Planet sequel within 18 months. 

So it seems like good news, except for the fact that Planet of the Apes in this form is just one more addition to the canon of substandard films we've come to expect and are supposed to enjoy. Five years from now it will be on a video rack for $9.99, a vague disposable memory. But for now, it's the taste of the summer.  

Don't Count Mariah Out Yet

I'm going to surprise you this morning, because readers of this column know I am usually on Mariah Carey's case for something or other. Plagiarism, bad songs, whatever.

But this column also reprinted messages from Mariah yesterday that she left for her fans, who she always calls lambs, by the way. The messages were more serious than I first thought. By the middle of the day, Mariah's publicist, my good pal Cindi Berger, had to announce that Carey had been hospitalized for exhaustion.

Something is up, to be sure, and it doesn't sound good. But this much I will say: Do not count Mariah Carey out. She will be back, and she will be bigger than ever. It sounds like she's having an identity crisis, and every young person is allowed that. The problem is, Mariah was never young. She married Tommy Mottola when she was 21 without first having time to find herself. By the time she divorced him, Mariah's career meant so much to Mottola financially — as he was the head of the company that released her records — she was painted into a corner. And she was under contract to Sony Music.

In the last few months, Mariah has finally been apart from Mottola, making her record at Virgin Music. But for the first time she is without a mentor. She is also without her writing partner, Walter Afanasieff. Her professional life is in flux. It didn't help that Billboard savaged her god-awful single, "Loverboy." She'd never had such blatant public criticism before about her music. Then no radio stations played "Loverboy." The single hit number 2 yesterday, but even Mariah's not stupid. Virgin deep-discounted the record, practically giving it away. Hey kids, a Mariah single for 50 cents! Bottles of water cost more.

Then there's Mariah's personal life. She alludes in the two postings (which you can read in yesterday's column) to not having one. As much as she advertises her relationship with Luis Miguel, he's never on the scene. But Mariah lives for her fans. She travels with her fan mail, and thrives on the scrapbooks the fans make of her career. It's all kind of sweet and a little weird. Last week, she actually did an in-store signing at a record store in the Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island. This is her hometown mall, and she was signing a single, not even an album! This is the part of Mariah you can't help but feel for-she's reaching out to strangers.

Vondie Curtis-Hall, the director of her movie, Glitter, is no idiot. He told me, as did his wife Kasi Lemmons, another fine director, that Mariah does not embarrass herself in Glitter. On the contrary, they think she did OK. Carey has studied with a good acting teacher, and while I'm sure she's no Cate Blanchett, there's a better than even chance that she acquits herself in this role.

In the end, though, it's Mariah's voice that is her strongest asset. Not too long ago Billy Joel was saying at a dinner that his daughter Alexa Ray was singing, but he had to remind her to "hold the note" and not warble it the way Mariah does. There was a time when Carey held the note — remember her first couple of singles like "Vision of Love"? She had breathtaking range, but somewhere along the line she forgot that. She got caught up in digressions that didn't serve her well. I hope with some rest and time we'll hear that original eight-octave instrument again. Until then, I for one agree: Let's give her some space. 

Nicole Kidman Braces Herself

Nicole Kidman is coming to town next week. She will promote The Others, the well crafted horror movie Tom Cruise produced for her last summer in Spain.

But how will this work? Everyone is waiting to see how Kidman will accommodate the paparazzi, the prying reporters (myself included). During Moulin Rouge she was hidden, but now everyone wants to know about the divorce, about Russell Crowe, about Sylvester Stallone's brother-in-law doctor who cared for her knee, and about saving DNA from miscarried babies.

The Others, by the way, if I can direct our attention back to the movie, is quite good. Kidman and her two children seem to be living in a haunted house in the English countryside. Her husband has wandered off to war, and is presumed dead. She hires locals to work for her. Soon the locals seem to be encouraging ghosts in the house to scare Kidman and kids. But all is not what it seems.

In this movie more than others, with the aid of some wonderful cinematography, Kidman radiates beauty. She is really luminous amid the fog and dreary brown grays of this set. It's a plus that the film works, and its surprise plot turn makes for a nice August refreshment after all the pompous big budget films we've been forced to endure.

Is Puffy Puffed Out? 

Sean Puffy Combs' new album, P Diddy and the Bad Boy Family The Saga Continues, is down to number 6 according to SoundScan and Billboard in its second week. Still at number 1: Alicia Keys, who's up to around 850,000 copies in her fourth week.

What's the deal with Puffy? The disappointing sales are reflecting a referendum from his fans, I'd say. Too much negative publicity can finally do you in. There's a point at which yachts and diamond encrusted silver crosses can provoke backlash. I guess that point has been reached.

Meanwhile, 'N Sync could be on its way to 2 million in sales for the first week of Celebrity. Final numbers will be released next Tuesday. It's mind boggling, but there you are. There's a sucker born every minute.

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