Can vampires save Hollywood? We're about to find out.
The most anticipated movie of the holiday season right now isn't one of the potential Oscar nominees. It's "Twilight," based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer.
"Twilight" opens November 21st, but it's already listed as the second most inquired after film on moviefone.com. It's also got an enormous advance sale before that date. "Twilight" is so big that its soundtrack, featuring a number of indie bands, debuted at number 1 this week.
What's the story? The Meyer books are basically Beverly Hills 90210 meets Dracula. And unlike HBO's "True Blood," a sort of drama series about vampires, Meyer's gang is rated strictly PG-13. What happens is suggested rather than depicted.
"Twilight" is also so big that Summit Entertainment, a relatively new player in the indie market, has just picked up the rights to Meyer's second and third installments. A fourth novel is already on the bestseller lists. All this means that Meyer is quickly turning into the JK Rowling of vampire fiction. Even Anne Rice can't say that.
The ladies love Daniel Craig. Or do they just love him as James Bond?
Today, Craig opens around the country in "Quantum of Solace," a not great James Bond movie that will rake in millions and try to set some kind of record. It’s already made $200 million overseas.
But fame and sex appeal are not a constant in 2008, even for Mr. Craig. Back on October 17th, Craig opened in another movie. "Flashbacks of a Fool" took in exactly $1,664 during its one week of release. It played in two theaters. In the UK, where "Flashbacks" did make $900,575 at the box office, the film is already on DVD.
Craig not only starred in it, but is listed as a producer. The writer-director is first timer Baillie Walsh, who’s primarily worked in music videos. How he got Craig, who’s so hot right now, to be in his movie is a mystery. In "Flashbacks," Craig plays Joe Scott, described as "an aging Hollywood star, [who] lives a life of narcissistic hedonism, observed by his laconic personal assistant, Ophelia."
Sounds like fun, no? The Miramax/Anchor Bay release has a Web site, too, and a trailer where Craig presumably shows off more of his trademark physique than in "Quantum." So you see: not everyone has it easy, not even James Bond.
You could be a fan of Elton John’s for the last — yes — 38 years and still not be prepared for his gigantic Broadway hit, "Billy Elliott."
A smash in London’s West End for the last three years, "Billy Elliot" — based on the Stephen Daldry movie and directed by him on stage too — opened last night in New York to the most amazing thing: a standing ovation in the middle of the show.
There had been two other times that the star studded audience went crazy during the show and almost stood. But in the second act, after 13 year old Trent Kowalik finished the show’s signature number, "Electricity," and then flew around the stage as part of a ballet piece, the audience just lost it. Up they went, screaming, cheering, for Trent, for Daldry, for Elton.
Truly, I haven’t been to an opening night like "Billy Elliot" since "The Producers" a few years ago. Rosie O’Donnell brought her own 13 year old son, Parker. NBC/GE chief Jeff Zucker and wife Caryn brought their kids. Kevin Spacey and three pals sat behind me and cheered through the show. Harvey Weinstein — a producer of the show along with Universal Pictures and Working Title Films — and wife Georgina Chapman brought his three young daughters. Ben Stiller and wife Christine Taylor were there, as was Barbara Walters, Mario Cantone, Lynn Redgrave, Natasha Richardson with her kids, Soon Yi Allen with her kids, Rachel Weisz, Anthony Edwards, John Stamos, Billie Jean King, Deborah Cox, designer Valentino, Tina Brown, Anna Wintour, and even Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
NBC’s Brian Williams finished the news, arrived about a half hour into the show, and took his seat on the left aisle. He waved to Zucker who was so absorbed by "Billy Elliot" that he almost didn’t see him. Shuberts and Nederlanders actually chatted with each other during the intermission. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and girlfriend Laurie Durning sat in the third row. Universal — they own the rights stemming from the original "Billy Elliot" movie — was represented by the great studio chief Ron Meyer, David Linde, and Imagine producer Brian Grazer with his partner and pal Ron Howard, the latter with wife Cheryl.
And among all these people, there was barely a dry eye in the house as the story of Billy, who wants to be a classical dancer, unfolds against the British coal miners strike of 1984 that crippled the country and eventually destroyed Margaret Thatcher.
What a show it is: "Billy Elliot" first of all takes Elton John to a new plateau in his Broadway musical career. "This is my fourth show," he told me later as he accepted kudos, "after Aida, The Lion King, and Lestat. And now I know how to do it. I feel like I want to do another, even though I don’t know what it will be. But now I know how to do it."
For the first time, in "Billy Elliot" you actually hear Elton’s voice come through in the music — not Disney or the other genres he was writing to in the past. He feels it, too. In Lee Hall he’s found a new lyricist collaborator who nearly matches Bernie Taupin in understanding Elton’s rich, soaring melodies and gritty counterpoints. You can hear it in songs like the show stopper "Electricity," or "Solidarity" or the opening number, "The Stars Look Down."
And you can bet you’ll be seeing "The Stars Look Down" on the Tony Awards next June. It might be the single most exciting bit of choreography and direction in a generation as framed by Daldry and Peter Darling. It’s hard to imagine, but mineworkers, child ballerinas, boy boxers, and Billy are all on the stage at the same time. In fact, there are more than a couple of dance numbers that involve weaving large groups of disparate people through the stage, and each time it’s exhilarating to watch.
Last night we saw one of the three boys who plays Billy in the show — Trent. There are two other boys, one of whom was seen by theater critics. All three took bows at the end of the show. If it were possible—not just financially but because the tickets are sold out—to see all three, it would be worth it. They are astonishing.
And let’s not forget the adults. Lithesome, magnificent Haydn Gwynne recreates the ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, and is a knock out. She’s so good that Elton and partner David Furnish — who produced the show and deserves umpteen helpings of credit — gave her a silver and platinum Cartier watch as an opening gift. They also gifted Gregory Jbara, who’s Billy’s dad, Carole Shelley as the grandma, and Santino Fontana, Billy’s brother — all of whom are exceptional. Shelley, especially, is a hoot. Many people will remember her as one of the original Pidgeon sisters in "The Odd Couple." She’s a theatre legend.
So hats off to everyone involved with "Billy Elliot." This morning there will be a line snaking around 45th street from the Imperial Theatre to get tickets. A lot of us wondered why the producers waited so long to open in New York. But timing is everything. The story of the coal miners perhaps will resonate ever so more so now in this economic climate. Their plight is even more poignant now.
Danny Boyle’s wonderful, ebullient film "Slumdog Millionaire" opens today. A likely Oscar nominee for directing and writing at least, "Slumdog" is really a tour de force and a total crowd pleaser. I really have to think the New York Times’s Manola Dargis is off her rocker when she writes today: "In the end, what gives me reluctant pause about this bright, cheery, hard-to-resist movie is that its joyfulness feels more like a filmmaker’s calculation than an honest cry from the heart about the human spirit (or, better yet, a moral tale)." I mean, this take is just nuts. "Slumdog" is so unabashedly honest and uncalculated that you literally feel lifted from your seat as it progresses. Need a quick quote? Call it "a multicultural masterpiece." Boyle, best known for the Scottish "Trainspotting," outdoes himself making a movie in India that starts out like "City of God" and ends up as "Saturday Night Fever." Don’t miss this movie. It’s absolutely brilliant…
…Apologies to Alicia Keys. I was supposed to attend at least part of her "Black Ball" last night for her charity, Keep a Child Alive. She honored Queen Latifah, and I know there was lots of music since hot singer Adele ("Chasing Pavements"). David Bowie, Chris Daughtry, SwizzBeatz, John Mayer, and Justin Timberlake all showed as up, as well as co-chair Iman (Mrs. Bowie), Clive Davis, Elijah Wood, and Jessica Alba. Unfortunately, "Billy Elliot" got a late start, and at three hours, that was it for the night. (They would have had to rename it Keep a Child Awake!) From the pictures I’ve seen Alicia looked pretty hot too. Her album, "As I Am," should be nominated for a Grammy along with the song, "Superwoman." In the meantime, check out the charity at www.keepachildalive.org. It’s worthy of a year end donation…