Top Story: She Shoulda Seen It Comin'
Singer/Psychic Friends spokesperson Dionne Warwick, 62, recently told The Associated Press that her Miami drug arrest last May was the result of a frame-up. "Somebody that didn't want to get caught thought it would be better off in somebody else's bag," the Grammy winner said. Charges against Warwick were dropped after a plea bargain was struck last June.
Great White Will Not Continue Touring
In the aftermath of last week's Rhode Island nightclub fire and subsequent stampede during a Great White show, the band's spokesperson Byron Hontas is telling Reuters that the group has no intention of continuing its tour, "despite all rumors." Investigation into the incident, which killed 97 people including Great White guitarist Ty Longley, is ongoing.
Pam Anderson To Host CMT Awards
Pamela Anderson, along with country singer Toby Keith, will host Country Music Television's second annual viewer-chosen music video awards show, Flameworthy 2003, CMT announced. Last year's show, hosted by Kathy Najimy, had 6.3 million viewers; we suspect Anderson's presence may be intended to raise the bar a bit.
"My Big Fat Greek" Ratings
CBS told AP that Monday's premiere of the new series My Big Fat Greek Life, based on the sleeper hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, won its time slot with 22.7 million viewers and was the network's most-watched comedy premiere in more than four years. The series debuted in a special airing on Monday at 9:30 p.m.; it will now move to its regular time slot, Sunday at 8 p.m. It stars several members of the film's cast, including Nia Vardalos, Andrea Martin, Michael Constantine, Louis Mandylor and Gia Carides.
MSNBC Drops Donahue
Poor Phil Donahue. It just doesn't pay to be a liberal pundit on a conservative network. MSNBC announced on Tuesday that it was canceling Donahue's nightly talk show--after a mere six months--due to low ratings. The net is replacing the program with an expanded Countdown: Iraq, hosted by Lester Holt, starting next week. Wonder how long that one will last?
The Writers Guild of America, East, will honor screenwriter Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood) with its lifetime achievement award when the 55th Annual Writers Guild Awards take place on March 8 in L.A. and New York.
Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Dies at 90
Daniel Taradash, who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for From Here to Eternity, has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 90. For a complete biography, click here.
Role Call: Diane Lane, Heather Locklear, "M: I3"
Oscar nominee Diane Lane is in talks to share the screen with Bruce Willis in the mystery Me Again, while Heather Locklear has signed on for the lead in a new NBC comedy tentatively called Once Around the Park. Changing more than once is the leadership of the third Mission: Impossible movie. The director's chair will now be filled by Narc's Joe Carnahan; original director David Fincher (Panic Room, Fight Club) gave up the helm in favor of skater flick The Lords of Dogtown.
It was only a matter of time.
Hot off its mass appeal at the box office, independent film My Big Fat Greek Wedding has been slated to become a midseason half-hour comedy series. CBS has ordered seven episodes but producers are negotiating to bump that up to 13.
Star Nia Vardalos, upon whose one-woman stage show the film is based, will reprise her character in the CBS series, as well as act as co-executive producer. Marsh McCall, Vardalos' manager Brad Gray and Rita Wilson will act as executive producers.
Wilson's involvement in Greek Wedding has become legendary. She first fell in love with Vardalos' stage show, took her hubby Tom Hanks to see it and they both decided to turn into a feature film. Variety reports the film, which cost about $5 million to make, has grossed more than $110 million at the North American box office and is well on its way in surpassing the $140 million mark achieved by The Blair Witch Project to become the highest-grossing indie film of all time.
The series will follow along the same lines as the independent film, focusing on a woman dealing with her large Greek family while dating a non-Greek behind their backs. Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan are also expected to reprise their roles as Vardalos' parents, as will Louis Mandylor as her brother. John Corbett, who played Vardalos' non-Greek love, already has his own upcoming series on F/X called Lucky.
Gray told Variety the TV project "seemed like a wonderful CBS comedy. It seemed like it would complement their schedule very well. It has great warmth and is just very funny."
And the show's chances? "It's become so popular around the country, it feels like there's even more potential and an audience that's been built around it," he said.
As the weekend's opening releases dominated the box office charts, it was obvious moviegoers were only looking for one thing--the right Signs.
Buena Vista's Signs, about crop circles and creepy green men from outer space, landed the number one spot with a whopping $60.3 million, giving the film the second best August opening of all time. It follows last summer's smash hit Rush Hour 2, which made $67.4 million when it was released Aug. 3, 2001.
Signs is also the fourth best weekend release of 2002, following Spider-Man, Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones and Austin Powers in Goldmember, respectively.
The PG-13-rated thriller made it to 3,264 theaters nationwide, averaging an estimated $18,474 per theater, and proved audiences were more than willing to see a film pairing wunderkind writer/director M. Night Shyamalan with star Mel Gibson. Signs marks the best opening ever for both talents.
Signs also stars Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin.
Of last weekend's new releases, only one remained in the top five--New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember, which dropped from its top spot to No. 2 this weekend. The raucous PG-13-rated comedy took in an estimated $32.4 million, falling a rather significant 56 percent from its huge opening, but still managing to average an estimated $8,968 per screen in 3,613 theaters. Goldmember's cume so far is $142.9 million, making it the 11th film this year to pass the $100 million mark. Not too shabby.
Directed by Jay Roach, Austin Powers in Goldmember stars Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles and Michael Caine.
Opening in the third spot was Sony's Master of Disguise. The PG-rated comedy from funny man Dana Carvey was a family film alternative that brought in a respectable $13 million ($5,068 average per screen) and joins Sony's other top 10 summer winners, including Stuart Little 2 and Men In Black II.
Directed by Perry Andelin Blake, the film also stars James Brolin, Harold Gould, Brent Spiner and Jennifer Esposito.
The No. 4 slot went to another funny guy, although in a much different film. Opening with $7.5 million, Paramount's Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat proved its worth, taking in an estimated $9,973 on only 752 screens.
In this R-rated stand-up concert film, comedian Martin Lawrence discusses the many things on his mind, including his past troubles with drugs, his run-ins with the law and his near-death experience. It is directed by David Raynr.
At No. 5, some familiar faces return. DreamWorks' Road to Perdition, now in its fourth week, dropped from No. 2 to take the No. 5 position with a steady $6.6 million. Even though the R-rated film took a 41 percent cut from last weekend, the Tom Hanks/Paul Newman gangster drama, which is already being considered Oscar bait, managed an estimated $2,830 in approximately 2,332 theaters. Perdition's cume to date is a solid $77.2 million.
Directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes, the film stars Hanks, Newman, Jude Law, Stanley Tucci, Tyler Hoechlin and Daniel Craig.
The No. 6 slot belongs to Sony's Stuart Little 2. In its third week, the little-mouse-that-could sequel brought in $6 million, slipping from last week's third place slot and falling 43 percent (averaging $1,939 per screen in 3,095 theaters). The PG-rated family comedy's total to date is $46.8 million.
Stuart Little 2 is directed by Rob Minkoff and stars Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki with the vocal talents of Michael J. Fox, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Steve Zahn and James Woods.
Sony's Men In Black II slid from No. 4 to No. 7 this weekend, taking in $4.7 million. Averaging only an estimated $1,620 per screen, the PG-13-rated comedy about policing those darned aliens on Earth, now in its fifth week, dropped 45 percent. But have no fear, fans, the film's total cume is still a respectable $182 million.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Men In Black II stars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Rosario Dawson and Rip Torn.
Talk about a little film that could. IFC Films' My Big Fat Greek Wedding is proving to be amazingly resilient. Now in week 16 and still only showing on 655 theaters, the PG-rated independent comedy about one woman's Greek family and the sweet man she brings into it moved up from the No. 10 slot to No. 8 this week. Taking in a healthy $3.013 million this weekend, Wedding averaged $4,601 per screen. Its total to date is a healthy $40.1 million.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is directed by Joel Zwick and stars Nia Vardalos (also writer), John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin.
Two films that couldn't more different tied for the ninth and tenth spots--Paramount's K-19: The Widowmaker and Buena Vista's The Country Bears, both of which took in $3 million this weekend. Guess it was a toss-up whether to see a movie about a deadly nuclear submarine accident or one featuring giant bears singing and dancing. Hmmm.
K-19 dropped 59 percent from fifth place last weekend (averaging $1,139 per screen), with its cume to date being $30.8 million. The Country Bears fell from sixth with a 43 percent cut (averaging $1,175 per screen), with a cume of $11.7 million to date.
K-19: The Widowmaker is directed by Kathryn Bigelow and stars Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Peter Sarsgaard.
The Country Bears, based on the popular Disney theme park attraction, stars Christopher Walken, Stephen Tobolowsky, Eli Marienthal and the vocal talents of Haley Joel Osment. It is directed by Peter Hastings.
One other prominent film opened this weekend--Miramax's Full Frontal, directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh and starring Julia Roberts. Labeled a sequel of sorts to Soderbergh's indie hit sex, lies and videotape, Miramax only released Full Frontal in 208 theaters. The film still managed to make the top 20, bringing in $725,000 and averaging $3,486 per screen.
Directed by Soderbergh, Full Frontal stars Roberts, Catherine Keener, Blair Underwood and David Hyde Pierce.
If you have ever been embarrassed by your big loud family then you will certainly relate to Toula (played by Nia Vardalos) the narrator and main character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. After all her suburban home is modeled after the Parthenon and her father (played by Michael Constantine) believes a squirt of Windex can cure anything--including bursitis--and that every word in the English language derives from a Greek root. At 30 Toula is still living at home and kowtowing to her strict father--who believes that every Greek woman's ambition should be to marry a Greek man have Greek children and feed everyone until she dies. Suffice it to say he is less than happy when Toula becomes engaged to Ian (played by John Corbett)--a non-Greek. What ensues is a hilarious tale of what happens when two families--one loud Greek Orthodox the other conservative Episcopalian--must reconcile their differences for the sake of their children's happiness. Vardalos' narration of the events that are occurring--and how she feels about them--helps draw the viewer into Toula's world.
Vardalos is great as Toula and presents her character's traits and peculiarities fittingly well like her low self-esteem and the way she slouches. More importantly Vardalos made Toula's character believable. When Toula begins taking classes at a local college her confidence improves she puts on a little makeup combs her hair and voila! She's transformed into a beautiful person oozing happiness. It's quite charming. Corbett is well cast as the sweet and accepting fiancé but he comes across as a little bland. That really dated haircut certainly doesn't win him any points either. Constantine as Toula's strict father is chauvinistic and thick-headed but he plays his cards just right so you can never really hate the character straight out even though he treats his wife and kids like a Neanderthal would. As Aunt Voula Andrea Martin is by far the most hilarious of the bunch and she delivers each line with zany conviction. For all you 'N Sync fans Joey Fatone has a small role as Toula's cousin and has maybe three lines in the film.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is based on comedy writer Vardalos' one-woman show. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson saw the show and apparently liked it so much they decided to produce it through their Playtone studio. Directed by Joel Zwick the film is not the first to deal with big weddings and what happens when too many family members get involved. Ang Lee did it better with the 1993 romantic comedy The Wedding Banquet about a gay Taiwanese-American man who marries a young Chinese woman to satisfy his parents as did Mira Nair with last year's Monsoon Wedding about an arranged Indian marriage. But Zwick who has directed a slew of TV shows from Happy Days to The Wayans Brothers keeps things fresh and funny despite the tired storyline. Set in Chicago but filmed in Toronto the film feels authentic especially the scenes in the family's diner Dancing Zorbas their house and their neighborhood. But the movie could have done without the cartoonish old-world granny with anti-Turkish sentiment.