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Fame Audit: Kevin Costner

NAME: Kevin Michael Costner
AUDIT DATE: March 11, 2005
AGE: 50
OCCUPATION: Actor, director, Oscar winner, legendary flop-maker
EXPERIENCE: 34 films since 1982


To someone born in, say, 1980 or later, Kevin Costner is now probably less famous than Kevin Federline. Sure, you may recognize Costner from having seen him on the cover of Good Housekeeping or Redbook that one time, but you'd hardly think of him as mega-celebrity. He's more like your mom's ex-jock boyfriend from high school, whom she occasionally runs into at the grocery store, and they exchange a few pleasantries, and then as you walk away she sighs wistfully while you wonder what all the fuss was about.

But see, back about fifteen years ago, Costner wasn't just a movie star: he was the movie star. The kind of movie star you would look up on Hollywood Insider for regular updates (of course, you can look up other celebrities and hollywood buzz on there too). And we don't mean some media-made-up, famous-for-nothing star like they have these days, like Colin Farrell and Josh Hartnett. Costner was, for a fleeting moment, a bright and burning star, the very King of Hollywood.

Costner could do it all. He'd go outside for a game of catch with the boys, then come inside and melt the ladies' hearts. He was handsome and rugged and just tanned enough. And, just when it looked like he might be getting a little too big for his celebrity britches, he turned around and directed the surprisingly not-bad Dances With Wolves. Then he stole a Best Director Oscar right out from under the nose of Martin Scorsese, thus assuring himself the number-one spot for all-time on the list of People Who Shouldn't Have Won Best Directing Oscars Instead Of Martin Scorsese.

But back in the days of The Untouchables, Costner's star was...well, untouchable. After The Bodyguard, he was the body every woman wanted to guard. After Field of Dreams, he was fields of dreamy. After No Way Out, there was, um, no way out of his huge celebrity.

We won't bother with Bull Durham. But people liked him a lot.

Given all that, what happened to him in the mid-'90s was almost painfully predictable. After all, if you were Hollywood's top male star, and then you'd bet the farm on this crazy Civil War epic that was so long and so over-budget that people sneeringly nicknamed it Kevin's Gate before it even came out, and then it did come out, and it was not only hugely successful but won a bloody Oscar for Best Picture, what choice would you have but to make a sprawling, ill-considered, money-torching disaster? Just like Waterworld?

And then, after you'd been humiliated, and your movie had become a punchline, what else could you do but make another post-apocalyptic, three-plus-hour sci-fi epic, but one that rectified the one major mistake of your last film -- i.e., not focusing enough on the heroics of the U.S. Postal Service?

And thus: The Postman. And thus endeth the career of Kevin Costner.c

Or so it seemed. Every so often he'd show up in some obviously bad romantic comedy like Message in a Bottle or some transparent stab at recapturing his Bull Durham glory like For Love of the Game, or some transparent stab at recapturing his JFK glory like Thirteen Days, or some other movie that was just an out-and-out regrettable piece of shit, like 3000 Miles to Graceland. But for all intents and purposes, the Costner era had ended.

So when we heard that Open Range was kind of actually all right, we just shrugged it off. He can't possibly be back, we thought. He can't possibly reinvent himself. He can't possibly be anything in our minds ever again other than a big, soggy mail carrier with a thinning hairline, a thickening middle, and a bloated self-regard.

Well, lo and behold, look who's back, thin hair, thick middle, bloat, and all. With The Upside of Anger, Costner's reappeared in just the kind of role, in just the kind of movie, that he needs to be in right now: as a sodden, slightly depressing, but ultimately charming ex-jock, opposite Joan Allen. In other words, he's playing your mother's ex-boyfriend from high school! The guy who had it all, then got kind of sad and flabby and old, but who knows it, and can smile about it, and so retains a sliver of charm! He gets it! He finally gets it!

And in getting it, he's reminded us that, you know what, we actually found him damn charming way back when. And if Dennis Quaid can have a late career renaissance -- not to mention that thundering planet of cheese, John Travolta -- then why not Kevin Costner? Why not, we say?

We forgive you, soggy mail carrier! Come in from the rain, or, rather, from that entire world totally covered with water, where people live on rafts and wear feather earrings apparently stolen from Stevie Nicks.



Fame Barometer

Current approximate level of fame: Tom Selleck

Deserved approximate level of fame: Kurt Russell

Formula 51

Why should anybody give much credence to director Ronny Yu’s jacked-up and contrived action-comedy Formula 51? Also known as The 51st State across the ocean, Yu’s hip actioner is a strained and relentlessly flippant vehicle that strives for off-kilter coolness in its irreverent vibrancy. Formula 51 is achingly generic and tiresome with its ode to countless gimmicky filmmaking techniques that ranges from outrageously goofy stock characters posturing for the camera to the sheer formulaic action sequences that derive from this cockeyed crime-driven spectacle.

Formula 51 doesn’t even have the gumption to maintain its own distinctive identity. The movie shamelessly steals its inspiration from the stables of moviemaking misfits Guy Ritchie (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) while never once capturing the rollicking swagger and madness that these filmmakers occasionally put forth with ease. Yu, one of the many Hong Kong moviemakers to crossover into western mainstream action flicks, has the humorous timing of a defective grandfather clock. All the insufferable antics being put forth (thoughtless racial jokes, forced catch phrases, canned hilarity, superficial frivolity, pointless plotlines) conjure up a steady derivative formula of nonsense with the tasty acceptance of sour skim milk.

Samuel L. Jackson, donning his trademark “badass black man cussing at the world” persona that moviegoers have come to embrace with giddy anticipation, plays American streetwise chemist Elmo McEloy out to sell his created brand of a “natural high” drug product. Enthusiastic to sell his exotic concoction, Elmo heads to England in hopes of pushing off his pharmaceutical discovery that is a rave drug supposedly 51 times stronger than any of the “oldies but goodies” substances such as cocaine, acid or ecstasy. This isn’t such bad idea to wander off to Europe for Elmo, especially when he duped his revengeful drug kingpin boss (Meat Loaf in a cartoonish villainous role) back in the States.

And so the crafty games begin to unfold starting with the obvious sight gag of the towering corn-row pated, golf-loving and kilt-wearing foul-mouthed pharmacist Elmo teaming up with an English underworld punkish and pint-sized errand boy (Robert Carlyle from “The Full Monty” and “Trainspotting”). Together, this devious duo wants us to engage in the meaningless and wayward mayhem that ensues in arbitrary fashion. The movie relishes haplessly in the standardized exorcise of belabored car chases, exaggerated explosions, routine gunplay, and shady characters all dressed up in colorful chaotic garb with no particular place to demonstrate their pseudo-intriguing exploits. Everyone involved in this twisted tale of Liverpool lackeys and the double-dealing deviance of this delirious drug-trading dud has a marvelous time chewing up the scenes with exhausting flamboyance. There’s nothing genuinely riotous about the manner in which one fiendish individual pops up after another in an effort to top the showboating sweepstakes. If you don’t have the obligatory femme fatale assassin (Emily Mortimer from “Lovely and Amazing”) displaying her seductive naughtiness then you can also cherish the creepy jitteriness in the overacting mode of Rhys Ifans (“Notting Hill”) as a sleazy drug dealer. And if you’re in the mood to soak up the ruthless ritual of a soulless law enforcer (Sean Pertwee) chasing the movie’s leading tricky twosome, then there’s another factitious angle to consider.

Formula 51 is a random afterthought thrown together in a string of meager moments meant to pass itself off as excitable, frothy action-packed cinema. Stel Pavlou’s sketchy screenplay doesn’t provide any meaty fiber to invigorate what amounts to be an implausible and flaccid showcase of showy violence and other madcap monotony. The dialogue tries to be clever in its callousness but it often succumbs to the grating juvenile depths of a high school varsity football team’s locker room.

Usually when you cast an intense and talented rogue like Samuel L. Jackson in a volatile cocktail of a feature, his explosive nature reliably sizzles and carries a film in full throttle. But in Formula 51, Jackson is reduced to that of a prancing punchline in hostile territory where he’s forced to do ridiculous stunts such as swing golf clubs at doofus-minded skinheads. As an edgy actor, you always got the sense that Jackson was in control of the proceedings and one step ahead of the rest of the pack. Here, the performer is a mere victim of this tiring one-dimensional, frenzied farce that thinks it’s as slick as a Texan oil field.

One wouldn’t care less about the mindless aspect concerning Formula 51 had the movie bothered to add something new and uniquely creative to the ubiquitous action picture genre. As a frivolous entertainment, Yu’s brand of fast food foolishness is not appetizing enough to digest with the guiltiest of pleasures. Sure, this film has a gleeful approach that welcomes a saucy and sensationalistic overtone. But for the most part, the stagy indulgence of this stilted comedy crime caper is as enthralling as hoarding an unsuspecting person’s prescription pills and popping them as snack treats. Formula 51 is too busy at being cute with its transparent attention-getting ribaldry that causes nothing more than an indifferent chemical imbalance at best.

Enjoyed this in-depth review? Check out more of the best movie reviews and hollywood entertainment news at Hollywood Insider.

Alien vs. Predator

Alien vs. Predator (2004) 20th Century Fox
1 hr. 35 mins.
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson

Director Paul W.S. Anderson serves up a meager monster mash spectacle that borders on the silly-minded and slimy by sizing up the terrorizing tag-team of creature feature cads Alien and the Predator in the obviously titled scarefest Alien vs. Predator. Anderson, who has demonstrated his nasty knack for conveying kinetic killing sequences in frothy fare such as Mortal Combat, Resident Evil, and Event Horizon, surprisingly doesn’t invigorate AVP with the snappy cat-and-mouse deathtrap deliciousness that it boastfully promises. In fact, Anderson wastes the on-screen presence of two of the big screen’s charismatic drooling vile varmints as he saddles them down in a sluggish shrill showdown of posturing pests and the hapless humans that foolishly mingle in the moping, macabre mayhem.

There is a gimmicky aspect to AVP that’s somewhat intriguing and refreshing. As some may recall, moviegoers got a kick out of the sparring butchering bad boys Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees when they confronted one another with their legendary slashing-minded high jinks. Naturally, it’s an exploitative concept that is waiting to be challenged in all its outrageous sensationalism. But all Anderson manages to do is routinely helm a murky and ludicrous thriller that mines scatterbrained scares and conjures up an atmospheric dud that dismisses its penetrating potential. Sadly, AVP is nothing more than a dyspeptic and droll display that yearns to breathe life into two forgotten frightfest franchises that should have been thrown out with the bathwater.

For those not familiar with the background bio of the titular treacherous tandem, here’s the “reel” deal. Alien is the multi-layered, sharp-toothed phallus-looking scrubby beast with the filthy disposition that had tangled with Sigourney Weaver’s defiant soldier Ripley and her crew in the dark and dank dimension of space during the course of three frivolous films. Predator is the dastardly dreadlocked demon that tangled with mighty muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger in the dense jungle and later filled Danny Glover’s dubious dance card in an anemic sequel. Now the tumultuous twosome finds themselves at odds in a blood battle based below the surface of the Antarctic Ice. Let the grimy games begin!

A billionaire (Lance Henriksen from Aliens) funds a research trip to visit a mysterious pyramid thousands of feet below the Antarctic tundra. Lovely leader and ice-climbing enthusiast (Sanaa Lathan from Love & Basketball) and her crew diligently explore the depths of this ominous venue until they become reluctant pawns in the struggle for superiority between the warring rogues Alien and Predator. The group finally realizes that the pyramid is designed as a menacing maze where being the hunter has the advantages of not being considered the hunted. And thus the question remains: will the headstrong humans avoid the friction of these carnivorous cretins and dodge the notion of being food for thought while clinging on to their periled lives? Apparently this is a gloomy game of chance and our weary travelers will find how precious their existence is if they want to dodge becoming an appetizer for the persistent and pesky critters.

As a ribald presentation, Alien vs. Predator is an aesthetically pleasing entertainment that’s vibrantly appealing in its makeup. The set design is wonderfully imaginative and moody in its shade of varying cynical coloring. The lighting is spry and captive. And the special effects enhance the tension and give a whole new outlook to how fearful and ferocious we remembered the Alien and Predator from past lascivious encounters. Yet with these positive factors involved, Anderson fails to connect the dotted lines and serves up an unintentional laugher that never capitalizes on its premise to shock us convincingly. This glorified rollicking B-movie could have had fun and flavor if the focus was more in tune with the rhythm of its meandering momentum. The hollow characters and the ridiculously stilted dialogue render this cheesy chiller a sour sense of cheapness and incompleteness.

Curiously, our monotonous misfits Alien and Predator aren’t as wily or wicked as we would like them to be given their revered raucous reputations. Sure they snarl and look hideous on cue as they snack on the vulnerable visitors as one would a tasty ham sandwich while carrying on their on-going feud. However, there’s a ho hum feeling about this whole proceeding that feels relentlessly recycled and forced. Frankly, Anderson’s pseudo nail-biting narrative has the hyped energy and plucky personality of an overactive video game. And no, this is not a flattering comparison when a pleasurable plugged-in electronic toy can rival the enthusiasm and subpar execution of a robust feature length film starring two of the cinema’s highly touted money-making miscreants.

In an eager summertime at the movies where hungry audiences are vying for legitimate goosebumps at the local theater complex, the disappointing notion is that Alien vs. Predator is nothing more than a mere mosquito bite for avid horror/sci-fi fans.

Though another Alien vs. Predator film is yet to be announced, we’ve had countless Star Wars films to satisfy us sci-fi fans in the meantime. One of which is Solo: A Star Wars Story, which features rapper-turned-actor Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino in his debut sci-fi role.

The Changeling: A Creepy Mystery

An Eerie Mystery Surrounds a Restless Spirit

George C. Scott moves into a new (haunted) house after the death of his wife and daughter ; he is consumed by the house's history and an untold murder.

At its heart, The Changeling is a mystery. It has a well developed story, and as the pieces of the mystery reveal themselves, each is fleshed out in an eerie sequence. Our introduction to the film is through one character, thrown into intense hardship. Through his eyes, a mystery from the past starts to unravel, complete with haunting memories and eerie sounds. It is an unusual horror movie, foregoing cheap scares and stingers in lieu of a deeper plot--the search for the truth is the core of this film, unearthing the why and the rationale. Despite its year (1980), the film aims less for flash--its devotion to the story would nearly rob it of the horror categorization altogether were it not for some eerie seance footage and haunting moments enclosed in a creepy mansion.

A Restless, Haunting Spirit

George C. Scott plays John Russell, a world-renowned pianist who has recently lost his wife and daughter in a devastating car accident. His chosen isolation afterwards, his desire to engross himself in his work, is completely understandable and works as a great impetus to surround him with an eerie mystery. His desire to move into a gigantic colonial house, however, seems somewhat unfitting--however wealthy, it's odd to imagine a grieving widower choosing the largest house he can afford to work out his sorrows. But it plays nicely into the story's needs and is easily overlooked as a minor plot weakness.

Rapidly at home amongst his knick knacks and piano, John composes and plays, but finds the house is trying to communicate with him. The house is full of sounds and creepy glimpses into the past, consuming his attention. There are several shots of dark hallways alongside a piercing and abstract score to underline the horror.

The cinematography is nearly too dark, but it's effective in its efforts to concentrate the audience's attention. John doesn't seem terribly afraid of the house's seeming distaste for residents, but rather, intrigued. He explores the house, breaking through sealed entryways and inviting whatever may lay in store for him.

The Characters of The Changeling

The film takes its time establishing the two main characters, John and the house. The house has an intricate past worth discovering, but it's a difficult riddle to solve. With the aid of his real estate friend, John unearths the family history from years past, but is unable to pin down the origins of the restless soul trapped inside the house. It is only with the aid of a seance that he finds concrete answers. And with those answers, the brutal truth of the spirit's murder can come to light. John literally unburies both the tortured bones and the connection to those in the present day who may be tied to the tragedy.

The Changeling makes for a refreshing horror film. So many are short on substance and heavy on meaningless gore, all executed by shallow characters established with a mere five minutes of screen time. This film takes its time but establishes a real feeling for a scary setting and lets it unfold with a solid pace. For some, dark hallways will never be the same.

To read more of great movie reviews, go and check out Hollywood Insider.

LAST UPDATED: 08/24/02

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News: Friends came out with a tape you can buy at stores. It features Top 10 Favorites, Best of Friends, and backstage footages. I don't have the tape yet but I'm planning on getting it. You'll hear more information about it soon...

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