Angelina Jolie is not the star of "Wanted," opening this weekend. James McAvoy, so good in "Atonement" and "Last King of Scotland," is. And two things are gleaned quickly from watching this comic book-turned-screen mess: First, Borat may have been right about Kazakhstan. Second, only Marvel Comics can make this kind of movie properly.
First, Borat. Director Timur Bekmambetov is from Kazakhstan and it shows. This is his first American movie, and I believe it is his first in English. This could be a clue as to why "Wanted" — which is visually arresting and loaded with enough computer-generated graphics to spawn many video games — is also incoherent. I still have little idea what it was about. Neither did most of the audience in my screening.
But the concept for "Wanted" is based on a comic book by Mark Millar. I’m not familiar with it, and the movie does nothing to explain it. The screenplay takes McAvoy’s Wesley Gibson, a "nobody" who whines about his boring life, and turns him abruptly into a superhero enforcer of justice.
Wesley is also the son of a famous assassin whom he’s never met. He learns this from Jolie, who is billed as the movie’s star but isn’t. She’s rather a beautiful, if mostly mysterious, second-fiddle player, a member of a league of assassins known as "The Fraternity" led by Morgan Freeman.
Unlike the hit Marvel movies, "Wanted" is fuzzy on all facts. It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. There’s no love story. The main character, Wesley, is poorly drawn even though McAvoy is incredibly appealing as he tries to help the audience figure out the story.
At 5-foot-7 on a very good day, McAvoy is an odd choice for action hero. But maybe his agents are hoping to turn the 29-year-old Scottish actor into the new Tom Cruise. Stranger things have happened.
As for Angelina: She’s in and out of the film. Her role is inconsistent and underdeveloped. She has little dialogue. Mostly she does her "Tomb Raider" thing, shoots big futuristic machine guns and gives a lot of angry stares. She also sports a panoply of tattoos that you can only hope were washable.
The word from insiders is that she took this role as a trade-off so Universal would make Clint Eastwood’s "Changeling," in which she stars. "Changeling" — if its plot holes are fixed — could bring her an Oscar nomination if not big box office. "Wanted" doesn’t make sense, but it still could ring cash registers around the world. Since "Wanted" is visual enough to open well, this was probably a win-win situation.
Would you pay $1,250 to see Lionel Richie perform at a private party? Joe Meli is betting on it.
I told you on Monday that Meli, the concert promoter who put on last summer’s debacle in the Hamptons of luxury shows and fancy dinners, was back in business.
Last year he put on five shows — Billy Joel, Prince, Dave Matthews, James Taylor and Tom Petty. Each was accompanied by a catered dinner. The shows cost $3,000 apiece, although initially Meli hoped to get patrons to pay $15,000 up front for the whole series per person.
Not only didn’t that work out, but major investor Edgar Bronfman Jr. lost an estimated $30 million of Warner M. Group’s money in the process.
Now I have more information about Meli’s first show of the season set for July 5. It will indeed feature Richie in concert for a select audience of just 250. The ticket price is set at $1,250 and includes dinner prepared by famed chef Tom Colicchio.
Instead of using the fields at the Ross School to set up his stage, Meli has rented the no doubt fabulous Sag Harbor home of fashion designer Steven Stolman for the season. The Richie concert will take place there, as will, perhaps, other live shows Meli is planning for the summer.
"It’s going to be like a sponsor house," one source told me. "Many different sponsors will have different events going on there. The sponsors will really pay for the show and the food. It’s going to be a food house, with many dinners."
Another source insisted to me that last year’s total calamity was not the fault of Meli but of Bronfman, who interfered with Meli’s vision. "Joe didn’t lose any money," the source insisted. "Bronfman lost $30 million."
Well, that’s one way of putting it.
The source continued: "Things will be much different this year."
One artist who will not be performing is Lenny Kravitz. There was apparently some talk of him doing a show late in summer, but that was scotched.
Meanwhile, WMG stock continued to trend downward Monday, finishing the day at $7.56 after seeing a low of $7.47. Tuesday should bring more of the same. Even though CDs are selling briskly for other labels — with Coldplay, Lil' Wayne, Usher and Rihanna all doing very, very well — WMG is nearly absent from the charts. CDs by Madonna and a group called Disturbed have come and gone quickly.
Where do Oscar-winning couples go for dinner? On Monday, director Joel Coen and wife Frances McDormand stopped into the very hot Café Boulud across from Lincoln Center for an early supper with 13-year-old son, Pedro.
Frances, who won Best Actress for "Fargo" in 1996, remains in "The Country Girl" on Broadway with Morgan Freeman until July 20. Joel and brother Ethan just won the Oscar for "No Country for Old Men". …
Music fans in Los Angeles can still find a few tickets for the Grammy Foundation’s two-night tribute to legendary Beatles producer George Martin on July 11 and July 12. This spectacular event should be a show-stopper. No word on whether Paul McCartney will show up, but he’s not on tour and is technically available. Ringo Starr is unlikely, however, since his All-Starr band plays Windsor, Ontario, on the 11th and Chicago on the 13th. For tickets call Marisela Huerta at 310-581-8691. …
For fun, make an adventure of it and see Cirque du Soleil’s amazing "Love" in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel. George and son Giles created the soundtrack from existing Beatles recordings. It’s quite the success. ...
Our old pal, Gavin DeGraw, kicks off his national tour on Friday in Louisville, Ky., at the 4th Street Live Concert Series. Gavin’s second album, self-named, is a download-must. Check it out here. He’s the real deal. …