Top Story: Peter Jackson Goes Ape-Crazy!
Now that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is behind him, Peter Jackson is moving on to bigger and better things--namely a big monkey named King Kong. The director is fulfilling his childhood dream of remaking the classic King Kong story about a giant ape who wreaks havoc on New York City. "I'm making movies today because I saw this film when I was nine years old. It has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age," Jackson said in the statement issued on Monday, AFP reports. The new version will be filmed in New Zealand.
Reporter Arnett Fired Over War Comments
NBC and MSNBC has officially severed ties with veteran news reporter Peter Arnett after he told an Iraqi television crew the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein had failed, Reuters reports. "I said in that interview essentially what we all know about the war, that there have been delays in implementing policy, there have been surprises," Arnett told NBC's Today show. "But clearly by giving that interview I created a firestorm in the United States and for that I am truly sorry." The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter became widely known for his dramatic live reports during the bombing of Baghdad on the opening days of the 1991 Gulf War.
David Letterman will return to his popular CBS late-night show this week after fully recovering from a case of shingles, Reuters reports. The 55-year-old comedian has been off the show since Feb. 25 when he complained on air about a visible inflammation of his right eye. The ratings during Letterman's absence--where guests such as Bruce Willis and Regis Philbin took over hosting duties--were spotty but the network hopes for a big tune-in for Letterman's first night back Monday.
South Park Will Go On
Comedy Central has renewed their deal with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for another two-years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the pact calls for Parker and Stone to produce 15 episodes per season next spring. Originals will be spread out through the spring and fall. The deal also includes an option for a third year that would take the duo through 2006.
Cher Criticizes Jacko
Cher has had it with Michael Jackson. The singer-actress once hailed Jackson as a "great artist" but now has a different opinion about him personally. "I don't really care what he does to his face. He could just erase it as far as I'm concerned," Cher told TV Guide for its April 5 issue. "But I don't like him anymore. And it's because of his children. I cannot imagine putting my children through what he put his children through."
Diva Ross Wants To Tell It All
Diana Ross plans to write a memoir detailing her most recent woes, including being picked up for drunk driving in Arizona, the breakup of her marriage and her disastrous Supremes reunion tour, The Associated Press reports. Upside Down: Wrong Turns, Right Turns and the Road Ahead is scheduled for release this spring from ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Ross has also agreed to a one-hour interview on Fox, scheduled to air in May.
Playwright Nick Enright Dies
Australian playwright/screenwriter Nick Enright, best known for co-writing the 1993 Lorenzo's Oil for which is he got an Oscar nomination, died Sunday of cancer in Sydney, Australia. He was 52.
Role Call: Scooby-Doo Part II; Bates Joins 80 Days
Ro-boy-o-boy-o-boy! Warner Bros. announced Monday that production on the sequel to their hit Scooby-Doo--with original cast members Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini and Matthew Lillard--will begin April 14. In the new mystery, Scooby and the gang confront an anonymous villain who is plotting to take over the city of Coolsville by creating Mystery, Inc. classic foes such as Captain Cutler and the 10,000 Volt Ghost...meanwhile, Oscar nominee Kathy Bates has joined the cast of Around the World in 80 Days. Based on the Jules Verne classic, the remake stars Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg and Jackie Chan as Passepartout, two adventurers on a journey to circle the globe in 80 days. Bates will play Queen Victoria.
As with any good Musketeer movie there's the dashing D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers) who comes to Paris to become one of the sworn protectors of the French crown. Once there he meets up with the relic Musketeers lead by the motley three: Aramis (Nick Moran) Porthos (Steven Speirs) and Athos (Jan Gregor Kremp) and discovers they are being forced to disband by the scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea). Where the movie takes some big liberties with Dumas' tale is in creating an ulterior motive for D'Artagnan--to find and kill Richelieu's head henchmen Febre (Tim Roth) who murdered D'Artagnan's parents long ago. Sorry folks that's not in the book but it does give us a proper villain with a nasty scar. While Richelieu only wants to discredit the King it's the evil Febre who plans to kill the Queen of France (Catherine Deneuve) to start war with England. But not if D'Artagnan and his band of Musketeers can stop him first by golly.
As in the other movies this Musketeer's success lies squarely on the charismatic shoulders of the D'Artagnan character. Although newcomer Chambers (The Wedding Planner) does a worthy job he certainly won't be remembered as being the best D'Artagnan ever. Luckily he uses his brawn more than his brain in the film. As well the love scenes between D'Artagnan and Francesca played by the bland Mena Suvari truly lacked any chemistry whatsoever. Aren't Musketeer films suppose to be all about the lust as well as the action? The three older and wiser Musketeers (played by virtual unknowns) are usually a fun addition to any Musketeer movie. But here they weren't able to add the necessary color due to some serious lack of screen time. Roth has perfected the bad guy image to a tee but even he overdoes it in this film. But Deneuve is simply a beautiful actress if completely underused as the Queen of France.
Starting with some pretty awful opening titles the film doesn't really pick up from there. Apparently the filmmakers really did care much about story structure or even following Dumas' classic tale. They concentrated on the action instead hiring hot Hong Kong stunt choreographer Xin Xin Xiong to stage some fairly impressive sword fight scenes--but there were not enough of them. And what happens in between will make you look at your watch quite often. It wasn't clear exactly what the movie wanted to be. On the one hand we had the story of D'Artagnan which is very loosely based on the Dumas' character who wants to avenge his parents' death. On the other was the truer Dumas' story about political corruption and loyalty and neither story meshed. Musketeers are a subject from which too many movies have been made and even staging a sword fight while swinging around on ladders can't make up for a lackluster story.
Hand Jackie Chan a pair of chopsticks and he could somehow find a way to vanquish an army of Triad assassins using the eating utensils as a makeshift weapon.
Armed or not, Hong Kong's most popular export may find himself defenseless against an entire planet populated by smart and sadistic simians.
Under any other circumstances, Rush Hour 2 would crush any and all challengers during its opening weekend. After all, this is a sequel to an unexpected smash hit that earned $141 million in late 1998.
Now, Chan and costar Chris Tucker have the misfortune of doing battle with Tim Burton's reinterpretation of Planet of the Apes, which crushed everything in its wake last weekend and earned an astounding $68.5 million in the second best three-day opening ever.
Conquering the Planet will be a daunting task for Chan and Tucker, not that the duo won't go down without busting plenty of skulls. By employing their lightening-quick fists and mouths, Chan and Tucker should at least see Rush Hour 2 equal or exceed the original's $33 million opening. Whether Rush Hour 2 will top Planet of the Apes will depend on public acceptance of Burton's vision of the 1968 sci-fi classic, particularly his somewhat maligned final scene. If Apes loses half its audience this weekend--which has been the trend for most of this summer's blockbusters--then Chan and Tucker will emerge triumphant.
Rush Hour 2 also will test Tucker's popularity. He's kept his mighty mouth all but shut since the release of Rush Hour. He skipped Next Friday with Ice Cube, the sequel to their 1995 stoners-in-the-hood classic. His efforts to launch Guess Who's President? and the James Bond spoof Double O-Soul seem to have floundered. He walked away from his Rush Hour follow-up Black Knight, for which he was reportedly supposed to earn between $13.5 million and $15 million, so 20th Century Fox instead enlisted the services of Martin Lawrence for $16.5 million to headline the Thanksgiving Day holiday comedy fantasy.
Chan's U.S. box office track record is somewhat spotty. His reissued Hong Kong classics garner minimal interest--perhaps because of America's disdain for all things dubbed. Chan's biggest post-Rush Hour offering remains Shanghai Noon. The high-kickin' western had the misfortune to open last year against Mission: Impossible 2, which may explain its modest $56.9 million gross. Still, Chan's busy schedule includes a Shanghai Noon sequel, Shanghai Knight.
Of the three new releases, Rush Hour 2 represents the sole contender likely to rock Planet of the Apes off its axis.
Julie Andrews will need more than a spoonful of sugar to sweeten the way for The Princess Diaries. This Disney fairy tale--based on the recently published novel by Meg Cabot--stars Andrews as a fictional European queen who grooms her clumsy granddaughter for the inevitable transfer of power.
Clearly aimed at the same preteen girls who adored Disney's recent remake of The Parent Trap, The Princess Diaries represents one of the few G-rated studio releases this summer. That alone should guarantee The Princess Diaries a strong opening, though not immediate success.
The Princess Diaries marks Garry Marshall's first directorial effort since 1999's Runaway Bride. Marshall's recent success seems to rest on the shoulders of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, having directed both in Runaway Bride and Pretty Woman. He endured a fallow period in the nine years between the two smash romantic comedies, with the likes of Exit to Eden, Dear God and The Other Sister deserving their disastrous turns at the box office. Marshall needs The Princess Diaries to reap big bucks if he is to dismiss the perception that he can only score a hit with the aid of Roberts and Gere.
Still, The Princess Diaries faces less of an uphill battle than Original Sin does.
The erotic thriller, promising the sight of Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie getting hot and heavy under a colonial Cuban sun, will open Friday after being bumped twice by MGM. That Original Sin failed to open in either November or February, as previously scheduled, and that MGM seemed reluctant at first to screen the film for critics, possibly portends its eventual fate. Perhaps MGM foresees capitalizing on Jolie's post-Tomb Raider heat to make a big buck or two. Not a bad theory on paper, but Original Sin flopped in France and Germany despite being released hot on the heels of the adventures of a certain Ms. Lara Croft.
The other high-profile new release of the weekend is actually 22 years old. Apocalypse Now Redux serves as director Francis Ford Coppola definitive version of his hallucinatory Vietnam epic. Coppola premiered Redux in May at Cannes, and many critics felt it was better than anything else that screened there. Redux will play exclusively in New York and Los Angeles before opening wider later this month.
Though an arthouse release, Redux is the most prominent reissue since last fall's return of The Exorcist. Like The Exorcist, Redux boasts never-before-seen footage, which should ensure renewed interest from those who saw the antiwar treatise during its initial 1979 release. The mystique surrounding Coppola's flawed masterpiece also should entice those who were born long after the Vietnam conflict came to an end.
The big question of the weekend: How will Planet of the Apes fare? Through Thursday, the film has collected $96.2 million, indicating that it has staying power and will certainly roar past $100 million on Friday. Its $68.5 million opening is a tad more than that of May's The Mummy Returns. That sequel enjoyed a second-weekend gross of $33.7 million, and recently hit the $200 million milestone. The Mummy Returns, however, benefited from a relative lack of competition for two weekends and then enjoyed strong business before and during the Memorial Day weekend holiday.
Then there's Jurassic Park III. Apes drew significant blood, causing the latest Jurassic Park sequel to tumble 56 percent in its second weekend, from $50.8 million to $22.5 million. If the trend continues, and it's almost a certainty given the one-two punch of Apes and Rush Hour 2, then Jurassic Park III will not exceed The Lost World: Jurassic Park's $229 million gross. As of Thursday, Jurassic Park III's total stood at $134.7 million.
America should remain sweet on America's Sweethearts given that it remains the highest-profile alternative to all that macho swagger on display in Planet of the Apes, Rush Hour 2 and Jurassic Park III.
The Julia Roberts-ensemble comedy did drop 49 percent in its second weekend, from $30.2 million to $15.4 million, but it still has more steam than both 1997's My Best Friend's Wedding and 1999's Notting Hill. They ended up making $128.6 million and $116 million, respectively. America's Sweethearts' total stands at $66.6 million through Thursday.
The Reese Witherspoon legal spoof, Legally Blonde, however, has been one of summer's much-needed sleeper hits and looks like it could corral $100 million. Legally Blonde dropped a mere 19 percent during its third weekend, from $11.1 million to $9 million. With $65.5 million in the bank through Thursday, Legally Blonde's has eclipsed Clueless's $54.7 million gross and will likely sprint pass past Bring It On's $68.3 million this weekend.
Clearly there's an audience out there that's not intrigued by the adventures of highly evolved apes, cloned dinosaurs or bratty movie stars.
So, Steven Spielberg has finally given the OK to release his neo-classic Universal movies on DVD. That's nice, but it's no big deal, right? Wrong.
Because even though DVD's emergence as the dominant home entertainment format is undeniable, there are a lot of filmmakers, movie studio types and other influential people out there who continue to deny it, leaving lots of classic movies that have been available on plain ol' VHS tape for years unreleased in the new format.
In fact, a DVD collector's most-wanted-disc list would include these hall of fame movies:
"Citizen Kane" (1941), "King Kong" (the 1933 original), the "Godfather" trilogy, "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "The Apartment" (1960), "The African Queen" (1951), "Bringing Up Baby" (1938), "Superman" (1978) and its sequels, "Back to the Future" and "The French Connection" (1971). (We're not even going to go into the "Star Wars" movies, which are No. 1 on everyone's list of Movies That Should Be On DVD.) "Lawrence of Arabia" The DVD format has been around for five years now. According to reports, 4 million DVD players were sold last year, and the number is growing. The little discs are superior to VHS tape in every way: The picture is clearer, sound crisper, and you don't have to rewind. So, why are so many classic films still available only on tape? The reason, DVD experts say, is that while some movie studios have embraced the new technology, others are simply slower to get with it.
"Warner Bros. is extremely committed to the DVD format, releasing such gems as 'The Philadelphia Story' and 'The Maltese Falcon' quickly and inexpensively," says Chris Holland, webmaster of the Attack of the 50 Foot DVD Web site (www.50footdvd.com). Holland also praises Paramount and MGM but says 20th Century Fox "has been the slowpoke of the bunch."
Peter M. Bracke, editor in chief of DVDfile.com, adds kudos for Universal, which has committed its classic horror movies and Alfred Hitchcock titles to DVD, and Columbia Pictures, which has issued several Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart classics.
And word this week was that Universal Home Video will kick off a series of Spielbergian blockbuster DVDs with a special edition disc of "Jaws," due out July 11. It will follow with "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "Jurassic Park," "Schindler's List" and "The Lost World," although dates for those titles haven't been announced.
In case you're wondering about the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" trilogy, those aren't available on DVD yet, either, and Paramount Home Video has yet to announce any such plans. In fact, "Saving Private Ryan" is the only Spielberg movie committed to DVD right now -- an astonishing fact, considering the bespectacled director is acknowledged as one of the greatest (and highest-grossing) filmmakers ever.
Almost as astonishing as the other Spielberg-related title that many DVD collectors are hope, hope, hoping gets a DVD release: "The Goonies."