Sunday, April 27, 2014



Hugh Jackman's last performance in The Boy From Oz is scheduled for September 12th. My all new glamorous stage spectacular, The Girl From Oz is due to open the next night at the Imperial Theater, taking full advantage of the momentum of his legendary performance to propel me to new heights of stardom. We've less than a month to get the show ready but it seems to be finally coming together. It starts with me as the teenage Olivia Newton-John, isolated on a sheep farm in the Australian outback, singing a lovely little ditty about rainbows; then this talent agent, played by the divine Vera Charles, returning to Broadway after an absence of many years, arrives in an Oldsmobile Toronado, discovers her, and takes her away down this yellow brick country lane to the capital city of Oz, Sydney, where she becomes an internationally famous entertainer, who is only occasionally threatened by American maximum security inmates who are jealous of her success.

I've just returned from the Annie Lebovitz studio, where we've been shooting photos for the poster. It's to be a full length portrait of me, as Olivia, wearing the yellow marabou feather dress and topaz tiara Bob Mackie has designed for the Have You Never Been Mellow production number that's sure to stop the show in the first act. I'm to be standing on top of a small model of the Sydney opera house, holding a small sheep in one arm and a pair of shears in the other, while the male chorus, looking on in their inmate garb, give me a standing ovation. A fabulous glittering green cityscape behind me completes the picture. I showed a mock-up to Simon Cowell, who was also getting a new portrait done. When I asked him for his opinion, he said words absolutely failed him.

I decided to celebrate the completion of the poster by taking Normy out to dinner and a film, as we've simply been too busy to catch one for a few weeks. He was delighted and soon we were knee deep in fajitas before heading off to the Cineplex where our choice was Michael Mann's new crime thriller, Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. I've been something of a Michael Mann fan for years, ever since I guested on an episode of Miami Vice some years ago as a Medellin cartel drug runner, who shipped cocaine through her nightclub. It was a lovely little turn and it allowed me to play up all the lyrics to Cole Porter's I Get A Kick Out Of You during my musical number.

Mr. Mann returns to his stylish urban crime thriller roots in this new film, which uses night time modern Los Angeles, but gives it the same post modern sheen with which he rendered Miami twenty years ago. In Collateral, Tom Cruise plays a professional assassin named Vincent, who is hired by a drug cartel to rub out all the key witnesses in an indictment case against a drug kingpin (Javier Bardem) during a single night. Vincent happens upon a taxi driven by Max (Jamie Foxx), a night shift cabbie with dreams but without the gumption to get off his mild mannered behind to chase them. Vincent has Max drop him off at an address and wait for him round back. Max realizes this is going to be no ordinary night when a dead body comes sailing from the building, hitting his cab and that Vincent is responsible. At gunpoint, Max becomes Vincent's unwilling accomplice and the suspense ratchets up as Vincent methodically goes about his business with Max as chauffeur. The police, personified by Mark Ruffalo and Peter Berg, sense that something is up, and a long night's journey into day of cat and mouse begins which eventually encompasses Max's hospitalized mother (Irma P. Hall) and his first fare of the evening, attorney Annie Farrell (Jada Pinkett Smith) whom he has gotten sweet on after a prolonged taxicab confession.

Mr. Mann is an intelligent film maker and this is a film for adults, despite its popcorn film trappings. Tom Cruise, as the sociopathic Vincent, turns in his best performance in years. Mr. Cruise's unblinking scientology stare and robotic emotive effects, which have seriously hindered his last few cinematic ventures, are absolutely perfect for Vincent, a man without a soul or any connection to the human beings around him. Jamie Foxx, whom I have only known as a comic performer in the past, like most comedians, proves to have considerable dramatic chops and carries the film effortlessly and makes all of Max's moments surprisingly real. The introductory scene, between Max and Annie, would have been typical 'meet cute' Hollywood tripe with lesser talents, but here it becomes very real.

The major weakness of the film is Stuart Beattie's somewhat contrived script. For everything he gets right, such as the initial scene, there's something that's straight out of the formula word processor - a beautiful damsel in distress running down endless corridors in high heels; a drug kingpin with a long, irrelevant, platitudinous story about Santa Claus; a very contrived ending involving the Los Angeles Metro that was completely unnecessary and causes the final act of the film to lose steam. Fortunately, Mann's direction is assured enough to gloss over most of these weak spots and there are sequences which are superbly shot - a gunfight in a crowded nightclub which ends in unexpected death, the conversation between Max, Vincent and Max's mother, a visit to a late night jazz spot which turns out to be something besides what we are initially led to believe.

The film was shot primarily on digital video and takes place in a nightmarish darkened Los Angeles. The video processing adds a high tech sheen and there's a feeling of foreboding in the helicopter shots of nearly empty city streets under the halogen glare of the street lights. Downtown LA, where most of the film takes place, is a very different world than the LA of Beverly Hills or the Santa Monica beach and Mann takes full advantage of this. This highlights Max's alienation and inability to find help for his impossible plight in a city of 17 million people.

Normy and I were happy with our choice and are recommending it to our friends as a thinking person's summer film. Mindless enough to be escapist and adult enough to keep the brain engaged. Not a bad recommendation in a summer of sequels and comic books.

Magnetic swipe cards. Island postcard. Taxi roof crushing. Surly dispatcher. Hospital flowers. Briefcase snatching. Briefcase hurling. FBI surveillance. Jazz music. Plate glass shattering. Mythopoetic dawn.

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