HBO's Live from Baghdad premiere on Monday night was enlivened by the presence of Sopranos — the whacking kind.
James Gandolfini and Vince Curatola led the brigade, taking a round table in the far reaches of the Four Seasons restaurant. Comedian/actor Richard Belzer joined them, and Rita Moreno — who starred in HBO's Oz — was not far away.
So what do the Sopranos talk about when they're not busy at the Bada Bing? Weight. Gandolfini — who's a lot of fun offscreen — asked Curatola (who plays Johnny Sack) if he monitors his weight changes from episode to episode.
"Oh my god, I'm up and down!" said Gandolfini. "So is Edie [Falco]."
For a guy who's been getting a lot of tabloid press lately, Gandolfini seemed relaxed, healthy and enjoying himself.
Will he be making any more movies?
"Did you see The Last Castle or The Mexican?" he asked, joking. "We'll see. Every time I make a movie with someone, it kills their career."
He then rattled off a list of co-stars who have had trouble getting work.
Meanwhile, also in our area was Jimmy Smits, who told me he's taking his time deciding what his next project will be. He said that he was sorry about former NYPD Blue co-star Kim Delaney's recent departure from C.S.I.: Miami.
"She'll be fine," he said.
In other parts of the Four Seasons, Baghdad co-stars Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter — who play CNN journalists in the Gulf War (before the existence of Fox News Channel, by the way) — mixed it up with real reporters like Lesley Stahl, Lynn Sher and Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell.
Former CNN Pinnacle anchor Beverly Schuch — one of the smartest, most talented and attractive personalities the network ever had — talked about her new freelance projects, all of which sounded promising.
At a panel discussion between the screening of the film and the dinner, several former CNN reporters and editors discussed their experiences during the Gulf War.
But absent from the room was Bernard Shaw, who was forced out of CNN several years after his spectacular job in 1990. The beloved John Holliman was absent because of his untimely death here at home in a car accident.
Only two members of the panel were still with CNN, and no one discussed how much the network had changed since its heyday.
The best thing about Die Another Day is Halle Berry. She rocks and looks fantastic in the new 007 thriller.
The bad news is that the rest of the movie is a bewilderment of the highest degree.
I can only report to you on a James Bond movie from a fan's perspective. I mean, what else is there? This is not supposed to be an Oscar-caliber movie.
And yet, the producers have decided to make the "dark" James Bond film, with scenes of imprisonment and torture. Yuck.
Every Bond movie is supposed to open with a spectacular set piece of James in trouble and ultimately making a dramatic escape. It's supposed to be fun and exciting. This is supposed to be followed by a terrific song by a dramatic singer.
In Die, the open is a complete downer, with no big piece. It's a series of scenes that leads to nothing, and it's filmed in such drab colors that you start to wonder if the movie is in black and white.
Then comes the song — Madonna's theme song, really terrible, unmemorable, un-hummable, lacking all melodic or vocal attributes of past Bond classic themes. While this thing is hacking away, we see a montage of Pierce Brosnan being beaten and tortured. He's shaken, not stirred, by the action.
What follows is a load of nonsense, including a poorly-groomed James Bond being abandoned by M and walking around like a Sasquatch.
Luckily, Halle shows up later, but only briefly. All too briefly. There's so much CGI and junky-looking digitizing that it reminded me of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Check out the end sequence, in which the automobiles that go flying by are clearly Matchbox cars thrown from their boxes.
Madonna makes a cameo and looks awful and unrecognizable. She delivers her lines with her usual cardboard stance.
Die Another Day lacks any humor and or sense of wit. Instead, the writers fall back on endless puns and double entendres. The best part of the movie, as it turns out, is the scene in which John Cleese, as Q, demonstrates new gadgets to Bond.
And then there are the product placements: Jaguar gets a nice one, and then Ford — which owns Jaguar — gets one for itself when Halle pulls up in a new red Thunderbird in Iceland, of all places.
It was like the '80s redux last night as Diane von Furstenberg, Marci Klein, Ian Schrager, Ross Bleckner, Claudia Cohen, Carolina and Renaldo Herrera, Jane Wenner (Jann Wenner's kind-of ex-wife) were drinking Cristal and toasting Calvin Klein at a birthday gathering for the designer at Da Silvano Restaurant last night. Kelly Klein, Calvin's sometime wife, was also in attendance.