Oprah renews talk show through 2011
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey, arguably the most influential person on TV, has renewed a contract that will take her daytime show to 2011. Reuters reports the new three-year deal with distributor King World Productions starts in 2008 and will take The Oprah Winfrey Show to its 25th year of syndication. Winfrey's Harpo Productions Inc., Viacom Inc.-owned CBS Enterprises and King World Productions announced the contract renewal Thursday. Since its U.S. national premiere in 1986, The Oprah Winfrey Show has gone through several formats, including one that once strayed into the same trashy realms as her dubious competitors. But the talk show stabilized its core audience with the popular once-a-month feature Oprah's Book Club, and at the start of her 13th season in 1998 and launched "change your life television," featuring self-help segments led by John Gray, Suze Ormond and Dr. Phil. In its 18-year history, the show has won 38 Emmy awards, been distributed to 107 countries and been a top-rated talk show in the United States for the past 18 years. "The thought of taking the show to its 25th anniversary is both exhilarating and challenging," Winfrey, 50, said in a statement.
Grammys to be held in L.A.
Next year's 47th annual Grammy Awards will be held again in Los Angeles, on Feb. 13, Reuters reports. The Grammys have traditionally shifted between New York and Los Angeles, but in recent years have been held more frequently in California after a clash between former Grammy head Michael Greene and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who accused Greene of verbally berating one of his staffers in 1998. The Grammys were held in Los Angeles for four straight years following the feud, but moved to Madison Square Garden in New York in 2003 after proposals from current Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Greene has since resigned and was replaced in 2002 by Neil Portnow. The Grammys, which will be staged at the Staples Center, will be telecast live on CBS. Nominees will be announced on Dec. 8 in Los Angeles.
Bryan Singer out of X-Men 3
Twentieth Century Fox has terminated its two-year deal with X-Men director Bryan Singer now that he has agreed to revive the Superman franchise at Warner Bros. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox had held discussions with Singer to direct X-Men 3 but it had never sealed the deal, which wasn't part of his overall pact with the studio. Singer has begun working out of Superman's production offices at Warner, where he is also developing a Logan's Run remake.
Madonna to open Kabbalah school in NYC
Madonna is spending $21.6 million to set up a Kabbalah school in New York, the Miami Herald reports. According to Britain's Sun tabloid, the school, to be named the Kabbalist Grammar School for Children, will teach primary-age youngsters about the ancient Jewish mysticism. Parents who want to enroll their kids in the school must be Kabbalists. There will reportedly be a strict entry policy that will involve an academic test for the child and a family interview. The Sun reports parents will have to pay upwards of $3,600 for a semester.
Project Greenlight to develop commercial horror pic
Matt Damon, who is leading the reality TV series Project Greenlight through its third season with Ben Affleck, told Reuters in an interview they received pretty strict "marching orders" from Miramax Films to produce a money-making hit this time round. Greenlight's first two films, Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights both tanked at the box office. Dimension Films, Miramax's genre unit, has opted for a horror film script to develop this year and has set a $1 million budget.
FEC dismisses petition to bar Fahrenheit ads
The Federal Election Commission dismissed Thursday a conservative advocacy group's petition to bar TV ads for Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, under claims the commercials breached federal restrictions on "electioneering" activity, Reuters reports. Federal election laws prohibit companies and unions from advertising for or against political candidates 60 days before an election and 30 days before a political convention. Moore has said he intended for the film to help persuade Americans to vote against President Bush in November. But the FEC found no evidence that the film's ads had broken the law or that distributors of the film intended any violations in the future.
Spike Lee's 40 Acres downsizes
Spike Lee's production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, is going through a "tactical retrenchment," according to Sam Kitt, the company's longtime, Los Angeles-based co-principal. Kitt told Reuters the downsizing is due in part to the expiration of an exclusive first-look deal on theatrical projects with Walt Disney Studios that ran from February 2002-June 2003. Disney has released three of Lee's last five feature projects, including the 2002's 25th Hour. 40 Acres has been a pioneering entity on the indie film landscape since the late 1980s and a driving force behind the emergence of new generation of black filmmakers.
Jackson's attorney's want list of seized evidence
According to a complaint filed in Santa Maria court Thursday, Michael Jackson's attorneys say they have not received lists of items seized during searches by authorities in the singer's child molestation and conspiracy case, the AP reports. The defense also said it had received a list of items seized in only 18 of the searches, adding it had no way of knowing if the information was complete and accurate. Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He is free on $3 million bail.
Rosie turning cruise trip into documentary
Rosie O'Donnell, whose R Family Vacations chartered a gay family cruise to Key West and the Bahamas from July 11-18, is turning the trip into a documentary for HBO, Reuters reports. The cruise hosted 500 same-sex families on the weeklong adventure. O'Donnell and her partner, Kelli, will executive produce the documentary, which will air next year, with Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary and Family. O'Donnell has worked with HBO before on family special the Rosie O'Donnell's Kids Are Punny and a stand-up special, HBO Comedy Hour.
Completely stripping Catwoman of her "Batman" connections the geniuses behind this comic-book movie--at least as bad as Spider-Man 2 is good--also stripped it of any pleasure. Neither campy a la Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt of the old TV series nor sexy vamp like Michelle Pfeiffer of Batman Returns Halle Berry's Catwoman is well one lost little kitty in the big city. Actually she's Patience Philips--an annoyingly mousy graphics designer for a top cosmetics firm who despite her job has no fashion sensibility no self-confidence and no boyfriend. (Yeah riiiight!) She is befriended by a mystical Egyptian Mau cat which--courtesy of lousy digital effects--often looks disturbingly like Toonces and sounds like Linda Blair in The Exorcist when it meows; moreover its way of befriending Patience is to lure her into a suicide attempt--one of many plot points lacking a rationale. When Patience discovers that the cosmetics firm's villainous owner (Lambert Wilson) and aging supermodel wife (Sharon Stone) are marketing a toxic disfiguring facial cream she is killed--flushed through a drainage system into the ocean. But here comes that darn cat again to revive her as she's lying in sludge and mud. Next thing she knows she's sleeping on her apartment's bookshelf eating tuna by the caseload looking longingly at Jaguar hood ornaments as if they're long-lost relatives and jumping about walls basketball courts and whatnot faster than a speeding bullet. She also takes to wearing a pointy-eared black-leather dominatrix outfit along with too much makeup but at least no whiskers. She also starts sniffing around that foul cosmetics firm which leads to a martial-arts showdown with Stone. What the Oscar-winning Berry doesn't do regrettably is get a CAT scan to see what kind of ailment convinced her to make this lamebrain movie.
I've seen better acting on 7-Eleven surveillance videos than in Catwoman. Berry is cloying in the film's early stages when she's playing insecure lonely Patience and she's more pathetically childlike than anything else. Once she's Catwoman though she's really terrible tilting her head for endless close-ups and giving lots of wide-eyed stares meant to conjure feline curiosity but that more recall George W. Bush's "deer-in-the-headlights" gaze. The screenplay makes a few lame attempts to observe the duality of women in the way Patience changes to Catwoman but it's not there in the performance. Yet Berry's turn is a career-peak gem compared to Stone who can't decide whether to play the power-mad Laurel Hedare as a broad cartoonish send-up or as someone connected to reality. Looking like a vampiric Susan Powter and barking sarcastic lines without a hint of emotional connection to her character Stone is just awful. On the plot's fringes Benjamin Bratt does his best as a police officer (gee what else) who is both infatuated with Berry and suspects her of murder.
The one-named French director Pitof (short for "pitoful"?) supposedly is a digital-imaging expert who has worked with City of Lost Children's Jean-Pierre Jeunet but you'd never know it here. Either he doesn't know much about directing actors or maybe he only gives directions in French. The effects--especially action scenes involving a digitalized version of Berry--move at such a chaotic breakneck pace that she looks completely phony. Plus there's absolutely no sequential logic whatsoever to where Catwoman moves and when--apparently invisibility is one of her superpowers. These awkward clumsy scenes are usually accompanied by distractingly loud music. Pitof's only other directing credit is some obscure French flick starring Gerard Depardieu…one hopes Catwoman will be his last.