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CRUZ IS QUITE THE DAREDEVIL

Penelope Cruz has had little experience in the action/adventure genre. (Perhaps her old romance with Tom Cruise and her new one with Matthew McConaughey qualifies on both counts!) Anyway, Cruz jumps feet first into "Sahara," the wild desert tale based on Clive Cussler's novel, opening Friday. Among the daring things required of Penelope, the most challenging was riding a camel.

The actress confesses: "I never thought I could go through with it. My first day, I was terrified; I was so high up. I was told I had to speed up opposite a train! But the 'camel people' on the set helped, and then I couldn't stop riding. It's the best adrenaline trip!" And now it's a humpy world for Penelope. At the L.A. premiere of "Sahara" she was accompanied not by McConaughey, who stars in the film, but with a baby camel by her side.

Speaking of Matthew, he is on the cover of Gotham magazine, which opines the actor "May Well Be The Sexiest Man Alive." I won't quibble. Matthew says New York is his favorite city in the world, and he plans to move to Manhattan sometime soon. Great. But, honey, do it in the summer. Do let little old New York see you gadding about in a tank top, the way you do down in Austin, Texas!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Honest.

The other night, I caught an amazing segment on one of the cable stations. The anchor was trying to link the death of the pope to the weekend movie success of "Sin City." How could so many people mourn the pope, yet go see this terrible movie? Weren't we all getting that old-time religion here in the USA? Didn't "The Passion of the Christ" prove it? Weren't PG movies bigger than ever? Isn't it just the blue states where all the degenerates live?

A conservative movie critic on the panel chimed in -- surprisingly -- that such movies, and TV shows like "Desperate Housewives" are bigger in God's Country than in the wicked coastal cities. But he then went on to say that PG movies are triumphing, with the implication that R-rated movies are falling by the wayside. (Another critic on the panel was agog that "Sin City" and the pope were being linked: "It's just a movie based on a comic strip for 20-year-old boys! How did the pope get in here?")

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