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'Sex and the City': First Review (No Spoilers)

'Sex and the City': First Review (No Spoilers) | Sting's Rainforest: Squeaky Clean | 'Risky Business' Director: Early Cruise Stories | Oh No: Yoko Crosses Paths With Lennon's Mistress

'Sex and the City': First Review (No Spoilers)

You want to know about “Sex and the City: The Movie”? Here’s the bottom line: It’s going to be a very, very big hit.

I saw it on Saturday night at a private screening. Women wept, cheered. It’s the Neiman Marcus catalog on steroids.

The four female stars — not to mention Chris Noth as Mr. Big, David Eigenberg as Steve and Evan Handler as Harry — are the most appealing ensemble of the year.

In the end, the movie’s success rests on Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie. She’s the team captain, which means that she’s not only narrating but guiding the plot. Looking radiant and charming as ever, Parker couldn’t be better. She’s pithy and sexy. That’s some package.

I give a lot of credit to Kim Cattrall, who gets the best lines and the funniest predicaments. She’s allowed her — and Samantha’s — true age to be written into the script. Bravo! Kim and Samantha are the hottest 50-year-olds around.

Cynthia Nixon, now a Tony Award winner since the show ended, remains a voice of reason as Miranda. She’s to this group what Felicity Huffman is to "Desperate Housewives," the calm at the center of the storm (and Nixon, not Cattrall, gets the most overt sex scene).

Kristin Davis, whose Charlotte is pregnant throughout most of the movie, is the comedy underdog. The eyes say it all. Charlotte has devilish underpinnings that surface at the best of times. And the little girl who plays her daughter is a real find.

Kudos also to director/writer Michael Patrick King for writing a new character, Carrie’s assistant Louise, played by Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. This gives "SATC" its needed diversity. Hudson is just as terrific as she was in "Dreamgirls," a welcome addition to the "SATC" repertory.

King’s first step was to set up the film for those who might never have seen the series. Over the opening credits, we see a few important clips from the show, just to establish the characters.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, our narrator, Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker — she’s sort of Mary and Rhoda sewn into the same person — debriefs us succinctly about her friends, and we’re in.

I will not divulge any spoilers even if you’ve seen them in trailers or promo pieces. Suffice it to say the four women — Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha — are doing fine since the last episode of the series. Charlotte’s married to Harry and they’ve adopted a little Chinese girl; Miranda is married to Steve, the father of her son, and living in Brooklyn; Samantha is bicoastal, managing the burgeoning career of Smith, her hot young lover; and Carrie is living with Mr. Big, who turns out to be named John James Preston.

With these stories known and in place, King proceeds to mix the deck and tell a bunch of interconnecting stories. In the process, he’s done something quite interesting: he’s inadvertently written his own version of “The Women.” This is ironic, since “The Women” is coming out this fall with Meg Ryan and friends. But King has simply created his own version of the Clare Booth Luce story for 2008. To say it works is an understatement.

But “SATC” is also not a pratfall comedy. It has nothing in common with “The Devil Wears Prada,” for example. While the caricatures in that film were hilarious, the people in “SATC” are drawn more seriously, perhaps more richly. Also, we know them, and they know each other. They are not competing among themselves for anything. Rather, they are moving forward as a single organism with four personas, for survival.

What’s kind of interesting in “SATC” is that no villain is set up for the women to overcome. No one is standing in the way of each woman’s happiness except themselves. I kind of liked that. The formula is gone. Carrie is not vying for Big’s attention with a rival. Samantha is not shooing off Smith’s girlfriends. The problems are in the relationships, not outside of them. It’s refreshing.

No, “Sex and the City” may not be for everyone. Straight guys are likely only to see this film under pain of death from their significant others. Me, I got lost during the first fashion montage of clothes that would have made “Dynasty” look modest.

Indeed, “Sex and the City” is at least partly fueled by its product placements and the sense that everyone in New York is fabulously and mysteriously rich. The dizzying sense of wealth is seen everywhere, but most especially in the nonstop clothes, jewelry and furniture sported by the four main characters.

But don’t be worried by all the upscale affluence and opulence. King very smartly has anticipated the current economic mood in this country. There’s a subtle surprise in the third act that addresses it.

Sting's Rainforest: Squeaky Clean

Readers of this column know we frequently look into the finances of charitable foundations run by celebrities.

The Rainforest Foundation, closely associated with Sting and his humanitarian cause-driven wife Trudie Styler, is one of our favorites. It’s squeaky clean and does an enormous amount of good in Third World countries.

That’s why Sunday's poorly reported piece in The New York Post was such a shock. The writer got it wrong, and left no chance for rebuttal. It was a smear, a hit and run. So let’s correct it.

The gist of the Post story — which was designed to embarrass Sting and Styler on the eve of the biannual Rainforest concert and fundraising dinner — was that the $2.7 million in gross receipts collected by the U.S. fund from the last concert and dinner should have gone directly to distribution.

This doesn’t even make sense. It would kill any long-term objectives of the foundation. The concerts, Styler points out, are not like “Live Aid,” a one-time event, or the 9/11 Concert for New York. In those instances, the money is collected and immediately distributed.

“The Rainforest Foundation is celebrating its 20th year,” Styler says. “We wouldn’t still be in business or have given out millions of dollars over the years if we’d spent everything we made immediately after it came in.”

Several things the Post article did not comprehend properly: There is an overall Rainforest Foundation Fund that has satellite branches in the U.S., Norway and Great Britain.

Last year, the Rainforest Foundation Fund, Inc, the parent group, gave away $887,000 to a variety of needy groups in Africa and South America.

It’s the U.S. foundation that puts on the Carnegie Hall concerts. That money is then sent to the main foundation after minimal expenses for the U.S. office. Reporter Isabel Vincent didn’t report this at all.

Total revenue in 2006 for the U.S. office was $672,013; of that, $376,177 — or 55 percent — went to Rainforest programs.

Vincent also reported that a receptionist at the Foundation’s office told her “the entire staff was out at a film festival.”

Well, the entire staff comprises four people, including the receptionist, the director, the program development director and the accountant. Three of the four people were there when Vincent arrived without an appointment (she’d been offered one but declined). Both Michelle Petri and Athos Gontijo were present and saw Vincent.

The current director, Christine Halverson, was out, but not at the movies, as is suggested. She was moderating a panel on indigenous filmmakers from Brazil at the United Nations, translating Portuguese to English.

These four people, by the way, receive a total salary of $177,000. Halverson receives $68,500 a year. Compare that with, say, Joel Peresman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He takes home $350,000 — and I don’t think he knows Portuguese.

Ironically, on Tuesday, Sting and The Police — separate from the Foundation — are set to make a stunning presentation to Mayor Michael Bloomberg regarding New York City and the environment. The Police have been exploring a way to make an environmental gift for months.

'Risky Business' Director: Early Cruise Stories

Paul Brickman, director and writer of “Risky Business,” isn’t involved in the 25th anniversary celebration on “Oprah” with Tom Cruise. No once called him about it except me. Hmmm.

Brickman tells me there isn’t even a DVD available of the movie for sale anymore.

“We’re working on a new one, but it’s going slowly. I’m hoping Tom will come and do a commentary track with me soon.”

So far, Brickman says most of the cast has been interviewed for a documentary that will be included. The target release date is later this year.

Before “Risky Business,” Brickman had written a couple of films that had done well. He had a deal at Warner Bros., but he said no one wanted "Risky Business" there. So he took it to David Geffen’s fledgling film company. Ironically, Geffen used Warner’s as a distributor.

“I remember it was in very few theaters the first weekend. Warner’s was concentrating on ‘Cujo.’ But then word of mouth spread, and there were long lines.”

Cruise was 19 when Brickman hired him. It was pre-Scientology, pre-Mimi Rogers, pre-everything.

“No one had heard of him. But it was pretty obvious from the beginning he was going to be a star. He’d done 'Taps.' I told him his life was going to change radically.”

Brickman hasn’t seen much of Cruise since their time together, but he’s followed his career. He told me admired “Jerry Maguire.”

“It felt like Jerry might have been what happened to Joel from 'Risky Business.' They even dressed the same way.”

The Chicago born and raised Brickman, who’s 59 and lives in bucolic Santa Barbara, tells me if Cruise is still looking to pick up an Oscar, he should call him.

“He should really talk to me,” he says.

In the meantime, he says that he and Geffen are thinking about ways to turn “Risky Business” into a Broadway musical. After 25 years, he says, the movie “never goes away.”

Oh No: Yoko Crosses Paths With Lennon's Mistress

Friday night at the Gramercy/Blender Theater, don’t you wish you’d been there?

Divorced couple Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin’s son, Jack, has a rock band with Gus Wenner, son of Jann Wenner, the Rolling Stone publisher, and Jane Wenner, who are not divorced. (Wenner lives with his gay lover and their three surrogate-carried children.) The group is called the Ellis Unit.

On the same bill as the Ellis Unit: famed folk singer Kate Taylor, sister of James, old enough to be the boys’ mother.

In the audience: Yoko Ono, coming as the Wenners’ guest; and May Pang, as Kate Taylor’s guest. Also Barkin, Byrne and Wenners. No mention of Matt Nye, Wenner’s partner.

Also in the theater: Art and Kim Garfunkel, producer Russ Teitelman and various industry types.

No word on whether Yoko congratulated May on her bestselling photo book, “Instamatic Karma.”