August Dog Days Are Saved by Woody

Woody Allen | Michael Jackson | Fox 411 Heading East 

August Dog Days Are Saved by Woody

Next Friday, when I am far away from here enjoying a few mental health days before the fall season, Woody Allen will save the summer movie season with The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

Not only that: He'll save Elizabeth Berkley from making more lousy movies. Well, we can't go that far, but you never know. ...

Woody's latest flick is as good as August entertainment can be: It's funny, which is nice, and doesn't remind us of Woody's life with Soon-Yi, yada yada.

Helen Hunt, who now has the role of "cold witch" down perfectly, is Woody's co-star in this period comedy set in 1940. They play insurance investigators who work for Dan Aykroyd, but come under the spell of a magician (David Ogden Stiers) who has some ideas of his own about how to hypnotize them into a life of crime.

Berkley plays an attractive young girl in the office, and she does it quite well.

Wallace Shawn, of My Dinner With Andre fame, but known to Woody Allen fans as Jeremiah, Diane Keaton's sexually overpowering ex from Manhattan, is the only member of the Allen repertory group to turn up here. I can't think of Shawn without recalling his greatest moment, as a politician who must spout his backers' propaganda during an interview with Murphy Brown on the show of the same name. But in Scorpion he comes close.

The real charm of Scorpion, though, comes surprisingly from Woody himself. For a long time I cringed when I saw him onscreen, particularly when the subject matter seemed to touch on his personal life of the last ten years. But as C.W. Briggs, Woody actually transforms himself. Many of his trademark tics are on ice for this outing, and his trading of put-downs and insults works very well with Helen Hunt as his foil.

As usual, Woody gets the best out of his supporting players. In this case, Charlize Theron — who was threatening to become a parody of herself — also seems born anew as the rich, spoiled girl who baits, but doesn't manage to land, Briggs for herself. For once Theron is just blatantly sexy and not trying too hard to win over the audience.

All of this is very welcome considering the complete awfulness of Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and the utter waste that Captain Corelli's Mandolin became somewhere in the translation from the novel.

There's not much to say about Jay and Silent Bob except that it shouldn't have been released. It looks like a homemade inside joke for Miramax after the party at the Oscars. If there was a budget, I'd like to see it.

As for Captain Corelli, let's just say that Penelope Cruz looks great as usual but her diction has not improved from All the Pretty Horses. I just hope that Tom Cruise can understand her as they negotiate their highly public relationship.

Michael Jackson Tix Go Begging

As of this writing, tickets for both Michael Jackson shows at Madison Square Garden are available. In abundance.

This much we know: The lower-priced tickets are pretty much gone. In fact, Jackson's fans have gone so far as to plunk down up to $500 per ducat. But that also seems to be the price point break for these all-star shows.

On, many dozens of different configurations could be found for $800, $1500 and $2500 seats. Indeed, it would appear that many floor seats and many lower rung seats on the sides are still unfilled. Yesterday for example, it was possible to find two seats for the Friday show for $800 apiece in Section 209, Row C, Seats 13 and 12. There also seemed to be plenty of $800 seats for the Monday show, as well as the higher priced ones.

Of course, one source reminded me yesterday: "At the last minute, record companies will have to buy those seats so their artists won't be embarrassed." But times are tough in the biz, so even that scenario is not a given.

Meanwhile, isn't even featuring Jackson's show on its home page. Under "popular music events" it lists Godsmack, Matchbox 20, Sade, Incubus, and PJ Harvey. To find the Jackson shows you have to type his name into the search engine and wait 'til it digs them up.

Personally, I wouldn't miss these two shows for anything. Just seeing the Jacksons all on stage in one place together is worth the price of admission.

Vacation: All I Ever Wanted

The Fox 411 is heading east today, and I mean waaaay east for two weeks. But check in, please, since sporadic filings will appear if all hell breaks loose in our crazy little world. (We used to say "only if Tom and Nicole break up," but that's happened.) Otherwise, our trusty editor Marla Lehner will be selecting some greatest hits from the last few weeks of columns. Adois, au revoir and arrivederci!

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