"CHINA IS a big country, inhabited by many Chinese," said Charles de Gaulle," with incredible insight.
Fans of Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" were caught by surprise when they learned that a sequel is being planned. Thirteen years after the original film debuted, they'd just about given up hope.
But the Weinstein Company has hired Yuen Woo Ping to direct this latest epic -- he is extremely proficient in staging fight sequences, we hear. I recall "Crouching," has something to do with stolen swords and people who can inexplicably fly, but otherwise, the details of the plot elude me now. (Well, it has been 13 years!) None of the original cast is returning except for Michelle Yeoh.
If you ask yourself why this sequel is happening, think no further than China. Hollywood wants to make nice with China. Everybody wants to make nice with China! Moviemakers want to keep Chinese audiences and financers happy. What better way to spread joy than sequeling one of the most adored and iconic Chinese action films ever released? The "re-boot," as it is called these days, will most likely debut in the summer or late fall of 2014.
The film was quite fantastical in itself, but since nothing succeeds like excess, "Crouching 2" will probably be in 3-D, which I find irritating. But then I find obsessive coverage of the Kardashians irritating. You see where irritation gets me?
CHANNEL-SURFING on Sunday nights is maddening. There's "Game of Thrones," "The Borgias," "Nurse Jackie" and "Mad Men." This past Sunday the Billboard Music Awards were on, too. (I know I should get with it and DVR everything, unless that's now too early 2000s, and there's something else even more convenient?) Anyway, as luck would have it, even though I tuned into the Billboard ceremonies only twice, they were the two moments I wanted to see. One was Taylor Swift rocking down the aisle onto the stage doing an energetic version of her hit, "22." (She ended up with eight awards.) The other woman I wanted to see was Madonna, who accepted an award for her "MDNA" tour -- the most successful of 2012. She also picked up two other awards. (She's so "over," right?) Of course, the Big M wore something that looked right out of a Frederick's of Hollywood catalog but she looked good. This is what she is, like it or not. Madonna thanked her fans sweetly: "Without you, I would have no show to do. And every showgirl needs her show!"
I missed Justin Bieber complaining and being booed. Eh, next week, somewhere, I'll catch that act.
Morgan Freeman has become such a symbol of nobility and stability in his movies -- he's played God, he's been the president, he's been an attorney general, a good cop and a great detective. Even his rare villains seem like guys you'd trust to baby sit the kids. He has an amazing presence. And that authoritative, calming voice. It was watching Gary Cooper movies, Morgan said, that inspired him to pursue an acting career!
Well, it's likely you'll find all of Morgan's compelling gravitas in his new coming thriller, "Now You See Me." This is about a group of illusionists who pull off bank heists. The trailer looks fascinating, but often you can't tell much from a trailer. Or, more often, the trailer tells too much! Anyway, there are magic tricks galore.
This movie has quite a cast, aside from Morgan -- and that's one of the biggest asides in the movie world.
Also on board are Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eiesenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, the hot younger brother of James Franco, and Isla Fisher, who is seen in the controversial maybe hit "The Great Gatsby."
Morgan Freeman has been nominated five times for the Oscar, winning for "Million Dollar Baby." I don't know if "Now You See Me" is Oscar caliber, but Mr. Freeman is always a pleasure to watch, and listen to. And that's no illusion.
IT WAS great to see Paul Anka, famous since the '60s promoting his new book "My Way" on "Morning Joe" last week. Anka has no axe to grind; he is just looking back remembering how he left home at age 15 1/2 and started his music career. He looked great -- grey suit and a pink tie and most of his hair. "I got really lucky by 16. I started working with Frank Sinatra in Vegas before the Beatles happened and the new rock."
Paul went on to rave about singer Michael Buble whom he says is "personable and intelligent." Anka has five daughters and says Sinatra was the biggest influence and the most unforgettable person, even more so than President John F. Kennedy. More power to the Paul Ankas of the world.
I see that another older-than-is-generally-allowed person has been in the world of news -- and the Earth didn't come to an end because she was all of 47 years old. I mean the gorgeous Cindy Crawford who knocked them dead at Cannes last week.
BETTER HURRY or you'll be left out of the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mt. Sinai event honoring the one and only Marlo Thomas. It happens Tuesday, June 11 at the Starrett-Lehigh Building, 601 West 26 Street, 9th floor. Call to attend 914-579-1000. I don't have to explain to you, again, who Martha Stewart is and how historic philanthropic and wonderful Marlo is, do I?
A GREAT BIG shout-out to Laura Linney, who performed magnificently in the final four episodes of her Showtime series "The Big C," about a woman battling cancer. It concluded last night. Showtime has promoted this as "the role of a lifetime," and that's not hyperbole. Linney has been brilliant every season, and this year, took it one step beyond; heartbreaking, life-affirming -- so real it was difficult to watch at times. Linney has won three Emmys, two Golden Globes and a SAG Award; she also has three Tony nominations and three Oscar nominations. (Why she has never won the latter two at least once baffles me.) In any case, I see a fourth Emmy for Miss Linney looming.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
At long last, a 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' sequel!
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