The latest Brett Favre news

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So this is the big news I get in a newspaper headline today: "Favre will wait before deciding."

Thanks for that information. In another scoop, it turns out that the sun rose in the East this morning. Also, they're following up on reports that the Pope is Catholic.

Favre has been doing this at the end of each season. Why is it that he takes months to decide whether to play football again, but (during key games) takes zero seconds to decide to fling a football into a crowd of defenders? 

 

Scoop: Idina Menzel sings well


You probably suspected this anyway, but I wanted to confirm it: Idina Menzel is a really good singer.

That's already obvious to people who have heard her in "Wicked" or "Rent," or who got her recent solo album. The latest confirmation, however, comes with:

-- A "Soundstage" special, next Thursday (Jan. 15) on many PBS stations. "Perfume and Promises," with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, is especially gorgeous. Menzel closes the night by joining Josh Groban for a high-quality, high-decibel "Awake."

-- "Chess in Concert," which PBS is saving for summer. Menzel links with Groban (again) and her old "Rent" mate Adam Pascal, to revive the musical; clips indicate this could be a powerhouse night.

-- And a mini-concert she gave Wednesday night at a Television Critics Association session in Los Angeles.

Menzel showed her ability to have a light, sweet voice one minute, yet reach big, passionate moments the next. She also told stories.

There were the her days as a 15-year-old in Long Island, driving illegally so she could sing at weddings and such. These were cover songs, mostly, bearing bad memories. One man had a heart attack on the dance floor while she was mid-ballad.

And there was her recent performance at the "Kennedy Center Honors," singing in the Barbra Streisand tribute. Afterward, she braced herself for the obligatory praise from Streisand (who was sitting at her table) and Aretha Fanklin (who obsesses on Menzel's husband, Taye Diggs).

The result: Streisand said nothing about her for 20 minutes, then said "Oh, was that you? I didn't have my glasses on."

Franklin simply didn't accept the fact that that Menzel (who had changed dresses afterward) was the one who sang in the tribute. When she was finally convinced, she said to Diggs: "You didn't tell me your wife sings."

It was, she recalled, a memorable stretch -- being dismissed by two of her idols the same day. 

 

 

 

 

Comparing what???


Now, I've got nothing against comparing apples to oranges. One is bigger, one is oranger, one is seedier. Where's the problem?

Then there's the new "Superstars of Dance," Mondays on NBC. Great dancers, clumsy production values -- and a bizarre judging system.

Suddenly, we're comparing Cossack stompers, South African chest-slappers, ballerinas, tap dancers and a guy whose limbs seem to pop out of their joints. Now rate them.

This isn't apples to oranges. It's comparing apples to hand grenades, basset hounds to toyotas, lilac bushes to apostrophes. 

 

 

Dead terrorists are scary


The first thing I have to do is adjust my travel plans.

On Wednesday, I head to Los Angeles for the Television Critics Association sessions, a 10-day flurry of interviews. I had planned to go by plane, as usual; then I saw an advance copy of this season's first four hours of "24" (Jan. 11-12 on Fox). Now I think I'll switch to a train. Or a bus. Or maybe I'll just walk there.

The episode has Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) leading a batch of terrorists who sieze control of passenger-flight patterns, threatening to create collisions. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) finds this hard to believe, because Tony is:

a) A good guy; and

b) A dead guy.

Hey, things happen sometimes, especially on "24." Jack has been dead a time or two, himself.

I'll at least make a note not to watch "24" before any future trips. I can tell you this, though: Despite occasional gaps -- HUGE ones -- in believability and logic , these first four hours are terrific.

No, the show doesn't fit a world in which dead guys stay dead, good guys stay good, it's impossible to escape an FBI fortress and a loud-blue van would be instantly identified on the streets of Washington, D.C.

For "24," we have to be less rigid about our thinking. Then settle back for a thrill ride. There are surprises, twists and crises, all of them crafted with great skill. We're hugely glad to see Tony back, along with two other "24" regulars who show up in the second hour. We're also glad to see a show with guts, passion and kinetic energy. Scares and all, this is a terrific show.

 

It's cute as a Button


Time does funny things in the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." By the time it was done, Brad Pitt's character seemed 80 years younger and I was three hours older.

The result -- flaws and all -- is terrific.

In some ways, this is your standard, give-me-an-Oscar epic. It's long (two hours, 50 minutes), richly capturing a variety of eras and places. Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump"), the master of the mega-fable, adapted it with Robin Swicord.

In others, this is bizarre. Pitt shares the lead role with at least six other actors, including two kids and a dwarf. And when was the last time you saw a fantasy plot based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story?

Fitzgerald is known for his five novels, but he wrote 160 short stories, often getting quick cash from magazines. "Benjamin Button" ran in Colliers in 1921; it gave its heroine the same name (Daisy) as in the Fitzgerald novel ("The Great Gatsby") that arrived four years later.

Beyond that, this isn't typical Fitzgerald. It's based on the notion that a baby is born old and keeps getting younger. (What, you missed the time-travel sequences in "Tender is the Night"?)

It's also not typical of director David Fincher. This is a hugely romantic story -- hints of "The Notebook," even -- from the director of such tough films as "Fight Club," "Panic Room" and "Se7en."

Still, it works -- most of the time. Pitt and his fellow Benjamins give wonderfully restrained performances. Like George Clooney, Pitt refuses to coast on his looks; he creates solid, serious art.

The flaw comes in the final half-hour, when Benjamin makes a decision that seems forced and out of character. Even counting that, however, "Benjamin Button" is an involving and entertaining way to spend many, many hours.