Weekend Movies: Foxx Is 'Bait' And 'Almost Famous'

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Saturday September 16 6:18 PM ET

Weekend Movies: Foxx Is 'Bait' And 'Almost Famous'


By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fast-rising comedian Jamie Foxx takes center stage in theaters as his newest movie ``Bait'' opens, but for critics the main event is writer/director Cameron Crowe's autobiographical ``Almost Famous''.

``Almost Famous,'' a wry coming-of-age tale based on the director's time as a teenage reporter for ``Rolling Stone,'' opened to glowing reviews in several major U.S. cities this weekend and will enjoy a full national debut later this month.

Critics like the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan were ecstatic. Turan called the film it ``something to cherish and enjoy.'' Like ``American Beauty'' last year, the film will be one of DreamWorks' major pushes for Oscars when award season gets under way in Hollywood.

While lawmakers in Washington, D.C., debate the marketing of R-rated films to teenagers, ``Almost Famous'' represents the kind of film that puts a spotlight on drug use, is advertised on teen-oriented television shows and probably could be seen by kids just under 17 years old with positive results.

After all, the protagonist of ``Almost Famous'' is 15, and what 15-year-old doesn't already know about sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, hip-hop, techno or any one of dozens of forms of music.

``It is a story with which we can all empathize ... this kid, his relationship with a band, his first journey away from home, his first love,'' said producer Ian Bryce. ``These are all timeless elements.''

Among its story lines, ``Almost Famous'' explores how far one young reporter should go in telling the truth behind the all-night parties and beautiful people who want to be a reporter's best friend if means getting their picture on the cover of ``Rolling Stone.''

If there is no cover shot, then there are few friends. And determining who is a pretender and who is a friend is difficult, even for a veteran journalist.

Crowe's 15-year-old reporter is William Miller (newcomer Patrick Fugit), a self-confessed geek with no friends in his San Diego high school. Miller immerses himself in rock-n-roll, and the top acts of the day -- Led Zeppelin, Faces, The Who, Humble Pie -- become his favorite subjects.

He befriends the editor of a rock magazine (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who assigns him his first big interview with Black Sabbath, and it is backstage at a Sabbath concert that he meets the band ``Stillwater.'' When ``Rolling Stone'' asks Miller to work for it, he says he wants to tour with Stillwater and write an in-depth profile of the band, which is ``almost famous''.

On the tour, he befriends lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). Hammond is the band's rising star, and lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) is deeply jealous of him. He also hooks up with self-described ``band aid'' Penny Lane (KateHudson), whom he loves despite her affair with the married Hammond.

What Miller is assigned to do is to write about them, but he encounters the difficulty of facing the truth about people he admires and loves. ``It wasn't until the story became personal that it became a movie worth making,'' said Crowe. ''When I took that jump it was very scary, but then stuff started to pour out of me. And the story became larger than just about rock in 1973.''

Meanwhile, Foxx continues to build on his career as the star of television sitcom with this third film in less than a year after the recent ``Held Up'' and Oliver Stone's football flick, ``Any Given Sunday.''

In ``Bait,'' he plays petty crook Alvin Sanders who is caught stealing prawns -- not shrimp, don't call them shrimp -- from a New York seafood distributor and is tossed in the slammer with a man accused of steeling $40 million in gold from a U.S. Federal Reserve bank.

When his cellmate unexpectedly dies in jail the Feds, led by an overzealous treasury agent (David Morse), plant a tracking device in Sanders' jaw and let him out of jail to try to flush out the gold thief's accomplice.

The movie's conflict comes from Sanders' desire to stay out of trouble and be a good father to a son he didn't know he had. His task proves difficult, however, with the Feds, the gold thief and a couple of his old pals all after him.

``Bait'' is filled with the action sequences, chase scenes and high-tech gadgetry movie fans might expect. And Foxx, much like he was in ``Held Up'' or ``Sunday,'' is funny as an underdog character trying to beat the odds.

While ``Bait'' will not be the movie to make Foxx a household name, it won't hurt his rise to superstardom, either. And that's the truth, to this reporter, anyway.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 17, 2000




-- Doomzies-Be-Them (DoomzieDeBunking@TB2000uNCola.com), September 17, 2000.

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