Leonardo DiCaprio's Eco Movie Bombs

By

Published September 05, 2007

| FoxNews.com

Leonardo DiCaprio |'Romance & Cigarettes' | Hilly Kristal | Robert Garlock

Leo's Eco Movie Bombs

It's a good thing Leonardo DiCaprio made so much money from "Titanic" a decade ago.

His environmental documentary, "The 11th Hour," has been a total bust at the box office. After 18 days in release, the film has grossed only $417,913 from ticket sales. The 90-minute snore-fest is playing on 111 screens this week, but that number is likely to be reduced this Friday. The film will be sent to DVD heaven after that.

By comparison, Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim's similar but far more engaging "An Inconvenient Truth" had already made $3.5 million by its 18th day of release.

I hesitated to say before "11th Hour" actually opened how mind-numbingly dull it was for fear that I would ruin it for those interested in the subject of global warming. But at Cannes, when the film by Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen was shown to journalists, nearly the entire room fell asleep.

A Russian filmmaker told us afterward that she was the only person in the room who was awake at one point.

I can believe it. "The 11th Hour" is grindingly boring. Basically, a series of scientists, one after another, warn the audience that the world is coming to an end. These talking heads are interspersed with stock footage of melting glaciers. The film has the effect of Ambien — with no hangover post-nap.

And this certainly is not meant to belittle the idea of global warming on my part. Last week, we met an Australian civil engineer whose specialty is the environment. He told us he had just flown over Mount Kilimanjaro and was quite surprised by what he had seen.

"There's very little snow," this scientist told us. "I was shocked. Something is very wrong and we're not doing anything about it."

Unfortunately, "The 11th Hour" is not going to win over any converts to the cause. It's also not going to earn what it cost to make. Luckily, DiCaprio is rich, rich, rich thanks to "Titanic" and a slew of other hits like "The Aviator," "The Departed" and "Catch Me If You Can." He won't feel a thing.

My guess is that this was his last foray into the documentary world.

Tony Soprano's Singing Voice Heard at Last

Yes, Tony Soprano can sing, and not just to the feds.

James Gandolfini made an odd little movie musical two years ago called "Romance & Cigarettes."

Directed and conceived by John Turturro for the most recent prior version of MGM, "R&C" also had an all-star cast of great New York-based actors: Susan Sarandon, Chris Walken, Tony Goldwyn, Steve Buscemi, Elaine Stritch, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Bobby Cannavale, Eddie Izzard and David Thornton.

Aida Turturro, who played Tony Soprano's sister Janice on the show, played one of his daughters with Sarandon in the film. Now, that's acting.

Now imagine this: The characters broke out in song. Sometimes, it was karaoke to a variety of classics, and other times they lip-synched. It's kind of in the spirit of Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You," which begat "Moulin Rouge" and a bunch of other movies from "My Best Friend's Wedding" to "Almost Famous" in which people just start singing.

The film also boasted over 30 producers, including Joel and Ethan Coen. Everything about it was nuts. So, when Sony bought into MGM and inherited the finished film, the house of "Spider-Man" said "No, thanks." Turturro's dream became a nightmare.

Last week, "R&C" finally opened in downtown NYC at Film Forum, a small, prestigious anomaly of a theater. The New York Times ran a piece about Turturro, but didn't bother to review the movie at all as far I can tell. Turturro must feel cursed.

Tuesday, I got a DVD of "R&C" out of curiosity. Did it deserve such low treatment? Frankly, the answer is no. If Turturro had been Robert Altman and made this movie between 1975 and 1980, Pauline Kael would have fawned over it in the New Yorker.

For one thing, Sarandon and Gandolfini are superb together as a couple whose marriage is on the rocks, thanks to the latter's infidelity with a saucy red-dressed Kate Winslet.

Chris Walken, who never misses a beat, is sheer pleasure as Sarandon's scheming, vengeful brother. The supporting cast is excellent, of course — even Mandy Moore.

That the people break out in song didn't bother me. Sometimes it worked, other times, well ... maybe seeing "R&C" on a home screen is better than in a theater. But I think Turturro was brave, and he made a bit of art that a lot of people who don't run to see "300" or "Spider-Man" would enjoy.

There were plenty of marketing opportunities from NPR to CBS Sunday morning, cable and all the other places that reach out to more sophisticated audiences. The problem was that no one wanted to be bothered.

Maybe "Romance & Cigarettes" will become a cult film when it comes out on DVD. I think the producers should give it away, find college art houses with DVD capability and set up midnight sing-a-longs. They have nothing to lose.

I guess I'm saddest for Gandolfini, who was thinner in 2004 when he made the film and was trying so hard to break away from Tony Soprano. He did well.

And Sarandon, who has not had leading roles in a while, showed why she is right in there with Streep, Close, Sigourney, Sally and other stars of her generation.

P.S.: Gandolfini produced a very good documentary called "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq" that begins airing on HBO this weekend. Don't miss it.

Remembering CBGB's Founder

New Yorkers don't like it when you mess with our history.

Donald Trump, for example, went into the record books when he secretly destroyed the front doors of Bonwit Teller to make room for Trump Tower in 1990.

New York University is reviled by some alumni as it has devoured Greenwich Village and stamped it with concrete and glass. Killing The Bottom Line nightclub was the cherry on the top of that sundae.

Last week, CBGB's founder Hilly Kristal died at age 75 from lung cancer. But last year, a person named Muzzy Rosenblatt and a group called the Bowery Residents Committee cracked Kristal when they determined to close the legendary Lower East Side rock club and replace it with something more profitable. Appropriately, they still haven't found a tenant. Rosenblatt and friends must be so proud.

Steve van Zandt and other rockers valiantly tried to overcome Rosenblatt. In the Sept. 8 issue of Billboard, van Zandt has two pieces on Hilly that are worth reading. He thinks he failed, but van Zandt waged a righteous war.

I think Hilly, who gave us people Rosenblatt could never appreciate — Blondie, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, et al — just knew the die was cast. Muzzy Rosenblatt had a "Heart of Glass," but it's Hilly's heart that will go on.

Rest in Peace, Robert Garlock

We also said goodbye Tuesday, most tragically, to our pal Robert Garlock. The former PMK publicist who had become a partner with Leslee Dart in 42 West — he was only 41. He died of complications from pneumonia.

I met Robert in 1989 when he joined PMK as Allen Eichhorn's assistant. He was a gangly kid, almost like a giraffe. Over the years he grew (figuratively) into just about everyone's friend in the movie media business.

His clients included Griffin Dunne, Ellen Barkin and Clive Owen, all of whom joined about 75 of us Tuesday afternoon at the 42 West offices in an impromptu toast to Robert. His other clients who loved him included Penelope Cruz and Uma Thurman.

Robert's family will bury him at home in Ohio this week. I just hope they know he was the biggest star of all. His big wide grin will be sorely missed.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/09/05/leonardo-dicaprio-eco-movie-bombs