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Short Takes – June 2007

by Andrew Dowd

The battle of the summer blockbuster threequels has ended in a stalemate… for now. Last month’s Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End all grossed massive amounts of money in their respective opening weekends—an impressive feat, given that there was no more than ten days between each release. Spider-Man 3, which claimed the number one opening weekend of all time ($151.1 million in America alone), has so far grossed the most of the three films, with over $300 million domestic dollars already in the bank. Yet Shrek and Pirates could still catch up: the former grossed $121.6 million out the gate, $217 million by its second week, while the latter raked in $140 million this past Memorial Day weekend. By the dog days of August, when all the smoke has cleared, which of these overstuffed, under-thought box-office titans will be on top? Tough to say, but my money’s on Shrek—it’s the shortest of the three, and the one that seems to be going down the smoothest with justifiably irate fans. Regardless, I smell more bad sequels on the horizon…

Paris Hilton will face up to 45 days in prison for driving with a suspended license. The loss of said license was aresult of a DUI arrest last September. Hilton, along withher lawyers and her legions of (misguided) fans, are appealing the court decision, which would see the heiress/actress/musician do no less than 23 daysbehind bars?albeitin an isolated cellcompletely separate fromthe other inmates. Without an appeal, Hilton will beginher sentence in a matter of days.Formore on this story, I turn the tables over to Paris’ biggest fan and my distinguished predecessor, thereliably offensive Clint Fletcher:

Thank you, Alex. Paris is a filthy skank. Filthy skanks belong behind bars. But sadly most skanks are found on top of bars, which is typically where we could find Paris. But not next week. If Jesus kindly answers all of our prayers, by this time next week Paris Hilton will be getting her face bashed in by a chick named Gina (that’s pronounced like “vagina” without the “va”) while being forced to eat the crabs out of a prison guard’s cooch. At first I wanted her to get ass-raped but that wouldn’t be painful enough (we’ve all seen the porn).

I’m trying desperately to use my press pass to get in to the prison for this joyous occasion. And I’m shocked that no one has come up with the grandiose idea of turning this into a tourist attraction. Parents should be welcome to bring their kids and throw rocks at her for free. However, since cameras of any kind aren’t allowed in the prison, perhaps Paris will just melt away into a steaming puddle of period blood. The paparazzi to her are like nightfall to vampires. Can she survive without her name in print for three weeks? Let us pray that she can’t. Either that or pray that she hangs herself with her own soap rope after discovering that skank doesn’t wash off.

A Paris-free society is under way and it smells good. Though I was looking forward to a season of Paris is Dead: The Final Season of The Simple Life. Have fun in prison, you fucking whore. Back to you, Alex.

Couldn’t have put it better, sir! Always a pleasure.

In related news, this just in: Lindsay Lohan and David Hasselhoff are also shameless alcoholics.Who would have guessed it?

Filmmaking rabble-rouser Michael Moore is under investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department for flying a group of 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for medical treatment. Allegedly, the trip—filmed by Moore for use in his latest documentary Sicko, about the failings of the U.S. health care system—violated the American trade embargo of Cuba. More Bush mischief? Or a publicity stunt by Moore, that relentless self-promoter and controversy courter? Either way, Sicko, which premiered at Cannes two weeks ago, is drumming up some awfully familiar PR: it got standing ovations at the fest, but is already irking battle-ready conservatives on this side of the pond. Spider-Man, Shrek, and Michael Moore? It’s the summer of 2004 all over again.

Speaking of Cannes, the winners of this year’s festival were announced several days ago. The Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days won the Palme d’Or, beating out such notable competitors as Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights, and Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light. Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest took home the Grand Prix, while Julian Schnabel nabbed Best Director for The Divine Bell and the Butterfly. Best Actor went to Konstantin Lavronenko for The Banishment and Best Actress went to Jeon Do-yeon for Secret Sunshine. The Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men may have gone home empty-handed, but it’s earning the sibling auteurs some of their best reviews in years. Ah, but to have been there to experience all the good movie madness myself…

Die Hard fans, you may want to be sitting down for this one. Bruce Willis recently confirmed the unsettling rumors that this summer’s Live Free or Die Hard will indeed be a PG-13-rated affair. That pretty much guarantees bloodless action scenes and only one or two awesome John McClain expletives—if they didn’t give it away in the trailer, I wouldn’t have even expected “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!” But put your worries to rest, action movie enthusiasts, for the very long, unbelievably excessive trailer for next summer’s John Rambo guarantees at least an R rating for the belated fourth entry in that musty old franchise. Not that it’s going to be a remotely good movie, but what else could you want from a Rambo flick than ridiculously extreme violence? Based on the leaked trailer alone, this one could be looking at an NC-17. Action fans rejoice.

Speaking of Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone has publicly admitted to possessing and using bodybuilding drugs. (I thought he looked pretty massive in that trailer.) The revelation comes several months after customs officials at an Australian airport uncovered the steroids, which are illegal in that country. Stallone brushed off the charges as unsubstantiated, but admitted in an Australian court of law that he does use them.

J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost and director of last summer’s Mission: Impossible III, has signed on to helm the latest entry in the long-running Star Trek film series. Taking the Batman Begins/Casino Royale route, Abrams’ film—the eleventh in the franchise’s history—is more of a prequel than a sequel, focusing on Kirk and Spock’s first mission together. No word yet on who will playing Young Kirk and Spock, but one has to assume it won’t be William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy—though I wouldn’t put it past Shatner to vie for the part. Abrams biggest challenge may be convincing Trekkies to give his odd-numbered entry a shot, as the general theory among fanboys is that only the even-numbered films get it right. And on that nerdy note, moving on…

It was a bad month for Hollywood remake news—when will those bigwigs learn to stop fucking with classic Hollywood gems and fine specimens of foreign art house cinema? Sidney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (who should both know better) are developing an American remake of this year’s Best Foreign Language winner, The Lives of Others. Baffling, given that (a) it’s scarcely a year old, and (b) its story is pretty particular to a specific time and place. Much worse is recent news that Paul W.S. Anderson—no, not that Paul Anderson, this is the one that did Alien vs. Predator—is directing a remake of the great British crime opus The Long Good Friday. Great. Fantastic. Here’s hoping Bob Hoskins stumbles on set and blows away the entire cast and crew. Strangest remake headed our way? That would be Meet the Parents’ Jay Roach doing a comedic remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In this completely insane update, a brozef loses his drinking buddy in a freak accident, finds the dead guy’s dead ringer doppelganger, and begins to fashion the unwitting stranger after his deceased hetero life partner. Actually, this one sounds almost nutty enough to work. It has to be better than Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, right?

Paul Newman claims to be retiring. His reason: concern over his waning acting abilities. Given his fantastic, Oscar-nominated performance in Road to Perdition—not to mention his stellar voice work in Pixar’s Cars—I’d say he’s selling himself short. But I do admire the going-out-while-you-still-got-it strategy. Only time will tell if Newman’s really out of the game, or just putting us all on.

And finally, the nominees for the 2007 MTV Movie Awards were announced, proving that the only thing MTV now knows less about than good music is good film. Watch as synthetic CGI wankfest 300 takes on synthetic CGI wankfest Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest for, ahem, Best Movie. The winner rules over the smoldering ashes of our decimated film culture. Not that the nominees matter anyway. It’s all about that bloated, unfunny celebrity endorsement parade that MTV passes off as an awards show. But still, go Borat!

As most of America surely already knows, 17-year-old Jordin Sparks was crowned the winner of American Idol last Wednesday. Belting out ballads seems to be the route to take, as Sparks, now the youngest person to win the outrageously popular competition, very much fits the mold of past winners. Now will her career take off like Kelly Clarkson’s? Or sink faster than Ruben Studdard’s?

Citing personal conflicts with co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Rosie O’Donnell has officially left The View, a mere few weeks before her contract was scheduled to expire. O’Donnell’s button-pressing agendas and controversial rants helped fuel an enormous ratings surge for the daytime talk show. Ironically, news of Rosie’s sudden departure dovetails with that of her rich bastard archrival, Donald Trump. The billionaire, who recently reveled in “getting Rosie fired,” has himself essentially been dumped by NBC. The network declined to include The Apprentice on their new primetime schedule, prompting a furious Trump—is there any other kind—to… quit the once-hugely-popular reality TV series. I guess the only one who gets to fire Donald Trump is Donald Trump.

More J.J. Abrams news! The television wunderkind has announced that Lost will run for only three more seasons. Seeing as though that makes a fairly common six-season run for the hit series, I question the supposed artistic restraint of this decision. Still, putting a deadline on the show might allow its writing team to plan the course of the series a little more carefully. Also, I hear the season finale was totally killer.

Speaking of which, how about that fantastic season finale to The Office? Alas, the buzz elicited by that hour-long, third season capper was severely mellowed by sobering news. Series star Jenna Fischer, who plays beloved secretary Pam Beesley on the show, fractured her back in four places late last month after falling down a flight of stairs. She’s in stable condition, and will recover in time to shoot Season 4 of The Office later this summer. Still, a bit of a scare for Pam fanatics everywhere. Get well soon, Jenna!

Despite a plethora of middling-to-awful reviews, Linkin Park have scored the best album debut of the year, selling 623,000 copies of their emo-centric new disc, Minutes to Midnight. That’s a bit less than their last LP, Meteora, sold its first week out, though this is understandable given the four years between albums. Considering the number of high-profile records dropping this summer and fall?including new ones from U2, Kayne West, and 50 cent, the former rap-metalers shouldn’t get too attached to their fleeting achievement.

Speaking of Kayne and 50, they’re both doing the album release date shuffle. Graduation, the highly anticipated third album from West, was set to drop in September, but has been pushed forward a whole month. Conversely, 50’s third LP, Curtis, has been moved back from June to September. That puts these two hip-hop superstars within striking distance of each other. Who will come out on top?

Pop music heavyweights Green Day are recording a punk rock version of The Simpsons’ iconic Danny Elfman theme for July’s big-screen adaptation. It’ll be tough to top the sludgy, noise-rock version knocked out by Sonic Youth a decade ago, but Billy Joe and the boys seem up to the challenge.

Just weeks after the triumphant return of Rage Against the Machine at Coachella, fellow ’90s rock giants Smashing Pumpkins played their first show in seven years on the 22nd of May in Paris. As expected, estranged band-mates James Iha and D’Arcy Wretzky did not take part in the reunion show—the erstwhile guitarist and bassist have been replaced by Jeff Schroeder of The Lassie Foundation and Ginger Reyes of The Halo Friendlies, respectively. The Billy Corgan-fronted outfit will release their new LP, Zeitgeist, on July 10th. For a taste of the new album, check out the first single, “Tarantula”—it’s vintage Pumpkins. In other reunion news, The Police played their first show since 1983 on May 28th in Vancouver.

The new album from hip-hop trio The Beastie Boys will be an all instrumental. The Mix Up, due June 26th, promises a return to the band’s punk roots: the three MCs will play guitar, bass, and drums, just like they did in their late ’80s heyday. Sounds like a blast—can’t wait to hear it live.

Most information is derived from IMDB's daily news, the Chicago dailies (Tribune and Sun Times), Entertainment Weekly,, various sources as listed, and by just paying attention.

Andrew Dowd is a writer and filmmaker living in Chicago.

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