Colin Farrell Makes Sundance Opening a Hit | Oscars Look Good: Get Out The Tux! | Jacko Brings Neverland Debt to Brink

Colin Farrell Makes Sundance Opening a Hit

For about seven years, we’ve been watching Colin Farrell try and become a Hollywood star. It all started with Joel Schumacher’s low-budget “Tigerland.” But then things went downhill, Farrell crashed and burned a little and off he went to rehab.

But now comes Colin in Martin McDonagh’s terrific Coen Brothers-like tale “In Bruges.” The movie and star are smart, funny and fast. This is the performance that should really put Farrell in the driver’s seat. It’s that good.

“In Bruges” opened the Sundance Film Festival Thursday night with a bang, but not before Robert Redford greeted the sold-out crowd at the Eccles Auditorium with his annual temperature-taking.

Redford, as expected, took a couple of small swipes at the current political climate, although his remarks were shorter and more tempered than in the past. What a shame!

“We keep hearing the word 'change,'” Redford told the crowd. “God knows this country is desperately in need of change.”

One change Thursday night was that for the first time in several seasons, the opening night film was very, very good. “In Bruges” might be the best and most original release from Universal’s Focus Features in a long time.

The plot is simple: Farrell is a hit man in London, but after a very bad experience, his boss — played by Ralph Fiennes — sends him and fellow hit man Brendan Gleeson to Bruges on holiday.

Gleeson’s character is immediately enamored of the fairy-tale Belgian city. Farrell’s is not. And soon Fiennes comes into the mix in such a disarming performance that he may get a whole new audience of fans just from this film. Gleeson is also spectacular. I only hope this trio is remembered this fall for awards consideration.

With “In Bruges,” Sundance 2008 gets off to a promising start. On Friday, the movie schedule begins in earnest, and everyone you meet is talking about the glut of films seeking distributors and film companies desperate for product.

Already in attendance are the first wave of boldface names who’ve come to town for a variety of reasons. They include TV stars such as Tim Daly, Kevin Sorbo and Anthony Michael Hall to Farrell (who will be here through Sunday), Sarah Jessica Parker and Quentin Tarantino.

Thursday night, we actually ran into diminutive twin Mary-Kate Olsen chatting with Farrell at the Focus party. With Paris Hilton expected here, all we need is Britney Spears and the fun begins. Mind you, none of that has anything to do with independent film. But what’s integrity got to do with it?

Oscars Look Good: Get Out The Tux!

The Directors Guild of America settled its contract with the major studios on Thursday.

Now the prediction is that the Writers Guild will follow suit and end the wrenching strike that has paralyzed Hollywood since Oct. 31.

What this means, more than anything: The Oscars are a "go."

One sign: On Thursday, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that the fundraiser called The Night Before, which raises money for the Motion Picture Home and the Retirement Fund, is happening on Feb. 23, the night before (get it) the Oscars.

If only Katzenberg and the Fund would let press into this now annual event. The secrecy aspect of it always makes us wonder what’s really going on. But if The Night Before is scheduled, that means the Oscars are a sure thing.

Another sign: unitedhollywood.com, a strike blog, seems to approve of the DGA deal, more or less. The WGA members will have to get few things in their negotiations just for them — such as eliminating a free grace period for downloading shows and movies from the Internet. But essentially, if unitedhollywood is happy, the end of the strike is near.

On another strike blog, the only picketing going on Friday is at NBC. Unfortunately, Ben Silverman — at whom the strike bloggers love to poke fun — won’t be in residence. Silverman was seen Thursday night hanging around Sundance with none other than actor/comedian Tom Arnold.

Jacko Brings Neverland Debt to Brink

Sometime between Friday and Tuesday, Fortress Investments will be able to foreclose on Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

As of Friday morning, Jackson had not responded to the default notice served on him by Fortress approximately 90 days ago for $23 million.

This is the way it works: Once Fortress announces foreclosure, Jackson will still have four weeks to cure the debt and pay off the amount due. At the end of that month, if nothing has happened, Fortress can conduct an auction and sell the ranch.

Of course, it would have to find a bidder with $23 million. Since none has come forward so far, it’s unlikely one will at the auction. At that point, Fortress would take possession of Neverland. That seems to be the most plausible scenario. They would then hire a real estate broker who would fix up the property and market it to potential buyers.

Jackson, meantime, remains mum and indisposed. As this column reported, he paid off several million dollars in debts recently. But he’s still being sued by Prince Abdulla of Bahrain for $7 million. Jackson took the money, the prince claims, in exchange for work he was supposed to do on an album, a book and a musical. They started a record label together, too, but Michael bolted.

Maybe Michael should have stuck around. One of Sheryl Crow’s new songs, “Peace Be Upon Us,” is said to feature an Arab artist from the prince's TwoSeas Records.