April 26, 2001 1:20pm EST
Walt Disney Studios has announced that it will remake the 1975 movie Escape to Witch Mountain. The updated version will still feature two kids with telekinetic powers whose real origins are unknown, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Disney is not the only studio in Hollywood to contract a remake, as studios realize that updating an old standard can be lucrative. Everything from The Thomas Crown Affair to Shaft to The Nutty Professor has been rehashed recently on the silver screen. But Disney seems to use remakes more often than most. And this is just yet another instance in that pattern, as the venerable studio tries to recapture its dominance of the youth market, with mixed results.
The Jungle Book (1994) starred Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli in a live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's seminal work. Disney already made a fortune in 1967 with its animated musical. Mowgli may have been raised in a jungle with many animal friends, but not many went to see it in the theater. The Jungle Book only pulled in $40 million.
The 1996 101 Dalmatians, a live-action remake of the 1961 animated classic, starred Glenn Close as the wickedly evil Cruella De Vil. It scored well at the theater, bringing in $136 million. (The 2000 sequel, 102 Dalmatians, which critics dismissed as a remake of a remake, went to the dogs. It managed to make only $66 million.)
The bottom fell out of the remake market in 1997, though, with That Darn Cat. This Christina Ricci vehicle was an update of the 1965 family classic with the same name. Despite being given an edgy, satirical twist by award-winning director Bob Spiers, That Darn Cat brought in a paltry $18 million.
Yet Disney boldly forged ahead with the trend, releasing George of the Jungle (1997). Starring Brendan Fraser, this also was a live-action remake of the 1967 animated cartoon. George was a beast at the box office, raking in $105 million.
On the heels of George, Disney released Flubber in late 1997. Robin Williams uncovers a green thing in this modern remake of Disney's 1961 classic, The Absent-Minded Professor. Flubber bounced to a robust $93 million at the box office.
In 1998, Disney remade Mighty Joe Young based on the 1949 black-and-white original. Zoologist Gregg O'Hara comes across the 15-foot-tall gorilla Joe while in the remote Pangani Mountains in Central Africa. The release of Joe wasn't so mighty, bringing in a mere $50 million at the box office.
Also in 1998, Disney's new The Parent Trap used the same plot as the original, but assembled it in a much more stylish package. The original The Parent Trap was made by Disney in 1961 as a modest production, boosted mostly by a breakthrough performance from Hayley Mills as twin 14-year-old sisters who scheme to reunite their divorced parents. The Parent Trap's domestic ticket take was only slightly higher than Mighty Joe Young at $66 million, still a disappointment.
Not to be dissuaded from a string of remakes, Tarzan was released by Disney as an animated feature in 1999. Starring the voices of Minnie Driver, Rosie O'Donnell, Nigel Hawthorne and Tony Goldwyn, Tarzan swung its way to $171 million at theaters. But Tarzan had the power of being an animated film, which always seem to perform better for Disney.
Disney's next remake, Inspector Gadget - also released in 1999 - returned the studio to live action. Matthew Broderick was featured as the bumbling, yet somehow effective, detective. Inspector Gadget rocketed to a $97 million take, reaffirming Disney's faith in the remake.
Thus it's no surprise that Disney would go ahead with an update of the once-popular Escape to Witch Mountain. The 1975 original was followed in 1978 by a sequel, Return From Witch Mountain. Disney has commissioned newcomer Adam Kukalow to pen the new version for Disney's Gunn Films.
According to reports, the new flick will remain faithful to the spirit of the original, but filmed more in the genre of TV's The X-Files or Roswell. The children in the film also will become teenagers rather than pre-teens, and will not be brother and sister but friends. Disney has not scheduled a production date as yet.
April 24, 2001 7:48am EST
Troubled rapper Eminem pleaded no contest Monday to two gun-related charges stemming from an incident last year involving the Insane Clown Posse's road manager.
Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, was charged with carrying a concealed firearm and brandishing a weapon during an argument with road manager of the rival band Insane Clown Posse outside a Royal Oak, Mich., stereo store in 2000.
The plead comes less than two weeks after Eminem received two years probation on a separate charge of carrying a concealed weapon during a brawl outside a Detroit-area nightclub. He also allegedly pistol-whipped a man he saw kissing his then wife, Kimberly Mathers. They are now divorcing.
Sentencing was schedule for Tuesday, June 5. He faced up to five years in prison, but he will now receive probation for pleading no contest.
VH1 moving beyond the music
VH1, known for its music videos, seems to be replacing the music with more original programming--comedies and dramas, to be exact.
The cable network has announced plans for a full slate of series, reality shows and feature-length films.
"We tried really hard to make sure that all our new shows are fundamentally about music," Lauren Zalanick, VH1's head of original programming, told The Associated Press.
Among some of the new programs is the drama Pulling the Strings, starring James Brolin as an entertainment mogul on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His wife, Barbra Streisand, will co-produce.
VH1 also plans to develop TV movies about MC Hammer and heavy metal rockers Def Leppard.
Looking for Bond
Little-known Scottish actor Gerald Butler may enjoy a license to kill as and when Pierce Brosnan hangs up his Walther PPK.
Several actors have been considered as the new James Bond, including British pop star Robbie Williams, but Butler may be the one to become the sixth actor to portray 007, as reported by Scotland's Daily Record newspaper.
Series producer Barbara Broccoli would like to cast a Scottish actor. The most famous Bond remains Sean Connery, a Scot.
"Gerard is one of the two people Barbara has appointments with," a source told the paper. "They are meeting to discuss replacing Pierce after his final movie."
Brosnan's contract expires after his fourth installment, which will go into production in January 2002.
Butler, who took up acting after earning a law degree from Glasgow University, was seen in last year's Wes Craven's Dracula 2000.
Braxton goes to the chapel
R&B singer Toni Braxton married her love of four years, Keri Lewis, the keyboardist for the group Mint Condition, on Saturday during a private outdoor ceremony.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young officiated the ceremony, as Braxton, 32, and Lewis, 28, exchanged vows in front of 250 guests at the 60-acre Dean Gardens estate in Atlanta.
Guests included singer Monica, rapper Mack 10, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas of the R&B group TLC.
The bride wore an ivory satin gown with a notched and beaded bodice, and a beaded train and matching veil designed by Vera Wang. She also wore diamond-crusted gems designed by Stephen Russell, as reported by The Associated Press.
Colombian soap opera saying adios
Wildly popular Colombian soap opera Betty La Fea is winding down after a 1 ½-year run. The show revolves around an accountant, Betty, who wears braces, glasses, has a snorting laugh and facial hair. In a country that prides itself on its beautiful women and beauty contests, the show's success was phenomenal.
After more than 300 episodes, the writers and actors are extremely exhausted and glad to have a break, but fans are worried.
"I'm going to miss it, because it's been a lot of fun," Elkin Tovar, a 35-year-old chauffeur told The Associated Press. "But it will also be a bit of a break, because watching the show so often has become a form of slavery."
The show claimed 80 million viewers worldwide across Latin America and as far away as Hungary and Israel. Betty almost single-handedly rescued the Colombian TV network RCN from financial ruin, even as the country's unemployment is at an all-time low and violence is ripping through the nation.
Robin Hood lives on
USA Network is nearing production on a new reality series, based on super spies, which would bring a modern-day Robin Hood to television.
The series, tentatively called Break-In!, will feature two teams in a race to recover stolen artwork or government secrets and return them to their proper owners. The first to do so wins. The prize is yet to be determined.
The show takes its inspiration from such films as The Pink Panther or Mission: Impossible, during which protagonists execute elaborate plans to retrieve stolen items, Chris Sloan, USA Network's senior VP of reality programming, told Variety.
But the show won't show people how to pull off a crime, he said.
"That's why we're doing the fairly fantastical type of things-we're not breaking into someone's house. You're not going to hear us saying here's how you break in to steal the Oscars."
XFL's painful journey
The fate of the XFL has yet to be determined, but NBC Sports and the World Wrestling Federation are treating the low-rated series as a bad skin blemish they are trying to hide.
The XFL should make it to the 2002 season because "Vince [McMahon, chief of World Wrestling Federation] has the leverage to keep the weekly games on UPN Sunday night and TNN Sunday afternoon," David Carter, a principal in the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group, told Variety.
The leverage is the Thursday-night WWF Smackdown, which is UPN's highest-rated series by far, and the Monday night Raw Is War on TNN, which is killing the competition on basic cable.
On NBC, the XFL averaged a 3.3 rating, 27% below the network's guarantees to advertisers.
NBC may stay on as an investor, but any idea that the network would switch the XFL Saturday night games to its sister network, CNBC, is just not going to happen.
"CNBC's demographic is the upscale white male executive in his 50s." Carter said. "The only two people in that category who watch XFL games are Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol," chairman of NBC Sports.
Whatever the series has to do to make it, its going to have to prove it can generate revenues: it lost $40 million during its 2001 season, according to industry estimates.
WGA: Waiting to the last minute
With only nine days left before their contract expires, the Writers Guild of America and the Producers Alliance have yet to reach an agreement. Many insiders are saying the serious negotiations will happen in this final week before the contract expires.
Writers and many others are anxious about a strike because the talks, which resumed April 16, did not extend over the weekend. Companies are preparing to stop taking work from writers beginning next week.
There is a chance that the contract expiration may be extended to coincide with the Screen Actors Guild contract, which expires June 30. Although neither side will comment, other scenarios include the contract being extended only a few days-and only if the negotiations are moving forward in a significant way.
The agreement still boils down to around $100 million over three years, including WGA demands for boosted residuals in cable, video/DVD and foreign TV.
"Dances With Wolves" again
Pacifica Film Development has acquired the motion picture and television rights to Michael Blake's novel Holy Road, his sequel to the 1990 Dances With Wolves. Blake also will pen the screenplay, as he did with Wolves.
Holy Road continues the story of Lt. John Dunbar, now known as Dances With Wolves, who has, after 10 years, become a tribal warrior. When the white man invades once again, abducting his wife and youngest child, he embarks on a daring mission to rescue them.
No word on director or casting, but the novel is scheduled for a Sept. 15 publication. The screenplay should be finished by the end of the summer, depending on the potential strikes.
"Trap" continues on
Those pesky, adorable twins from The Parent Trap are back for more mischief.
Writers Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman will pen the Walt Disney Co.'s straight-to-video sequel to the hit film The Parent Trap, originally released in 1961 and remade in 1998.
This time around, the matchmaking girls have to deal with the perils of high school.
March 19, 2001 11:51am EST
It's time for some old school fun.
Seasoned comedian Eddie Murphy and seasoned tough guy turned sometime funny guy Robert De Niro might star in "Showtime," Daily Variety says.
The project is about a no-nonsense cop who is forced to partner up with a rookie as the star of a new reality-based TV show in the vein of "Cop."
DOING GOOD 'DEEDS': Variety also says that Adam Sandler and "Little Nicky" director Steve Brill will team up again in the pic "Deeds," an homage to the 1936 Frank Capra classic "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town."
KISS ME, STUPID: Here's another comedy item: Jon Stewart will join Edward Norton, Robin Williams and Catherine Keener in the comedy "Death to Smoochie."
Directed by Danny DeVito, the film follows a Barney-like kid-show host who gets canned. Stewart will play the network exec that gives the show the ax.
THE 'ROYAL' TREATMENT: The Hollywood Reporter says that Anjelica Huston is in early talks to join the cast of "The Royal Tenenbaums" for "Rushmore" director Wes Anderson. The movie is about a family of five geniuses and already stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, brothers Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson and Bill Murray.
'VIEW' FINDER: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" co-star Marc Blucas has join Gwyneth Paltrow in the comedy "A View From the Top." He will play the ex-boyfriend of a flight attendant (Paltrow) who finds fame in the sky, the Reporter says.
'EMPIRE' STRIKES BACK: "Virgin Suicides" helmer Sofia Coppola and John Ridley have co-created a one-hour drama series for HBO called "Empire," the Reporter tells us. Set in the world of urban music, the project will be co-written by the two partners with Coppola directing the pilot episode.
TO THE MOUSE HOUSE: Last but not least, the Reporter says that stage turned "Titus" director Julie Taymor is in talks to helm "Chang and Eng," a story about Siamese twins which Disney has recently purchased.
March 19, 2001 11:51am EST
Erstwhile "Married ... with Children" star Ed O'Neill is returning to television.
And we're not talking about reruns of the syndicated show.
Daily Variety says that O'Neill has nabbed one of the two leads in the cop drama preliminarily titled "Big Apple."
In the series about the workings among the NYPD, FBI and the Mob, the actor will play an Irish top dog in the police department.
A VERY IMPORTANT SERIES: Looks like Pamela Anderson is going to have a new home. Variety says that the cable channel TNN has bought the rerun rights to the buxom blonde's action series "V.I.P."
For viewers who just can't get enough of the show, it will air on the station beginning fall 2002. And viewers can still catch Lee on reruns of "Baywatch."
CELEBS TV: The ratings war rages on. According to Variety, NBC scored the most TV viewers Thursday night with a cameo-filled lineup including guest appearances by Cher on "Will & Grace" and Sally Field on "E.R."
The Peacock Network might have done well Thursday, but most of the weekend belonged to ABC. The Alphabet Network won both Friday and Saturday nights with programs such as the celebrity edition of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," a special "Whose Line Is It Anyway" with Robin Williams on Friday, and the Florida-Florida State college football match Saturday.
BALL AND 'CHAINS': Variety also says that UPN might pick up the reality gameshow "Chains of Love." The show, wherein up to four men or women are chained to one member of the opposite sex for several days and then let go one by one, was first being developed by NBC last summer, but NBC backed out of the deal soon after.
Hmmm, it couldn't be because the show sounds really stupid now, could it?
March 19, 2001 11:50am EST
Now that Liam Neeson has got passed his near-fatal motorcycle accident, he will go directly back to work.
Mr. Showbiz reports today that the actor will join Harrison Ford in the submarine war drama "K-19," where he will play the "Indiana Jones" guy’s second-in-command on a crippled Russian nuclear sub.
Neeson was badly injured in July when he and his motorcycle, while cruising upstate New York, nearly struck a passing dear. The actor is currently undergoing physical therapy.
SAY CHEESE! The Hollywood Reporter says that Connie Neilsen, whose credits include the summer blockbuster "Gladiator," will join the cast of "One Hour Photo." In the psychological thriller that also stars Robin Williams, the actress will play the mother and wife in a suburban family who becomes the object of obsession for a photo lab employee (Williams).
March 19, 2001 11:50am EST
What does Russell Crowe have in common with Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey and Harrison Ford?
Answer: The "Gladiator" roughtrade might soon be making the same type of cash as those A-list leading men.
British Web site Popcorn reports that Crowe has been offered a cool $20 mil for the lead in a new World War II project titled "Giant." If Crowe accepts the role, the salary offer will be his career high.
Directed by John Frankenheimer ("Reindeer Games") and penned by Dan Gordon ("The Hurricane"), the film's slated for a January start date.
ROBIN PLAYS 'DEATH': Daily Variety reports that Robin Williams is close to taking the lead in "Death to Smoochie." He'll be playing a costumed children TV star (a la Barney) who seeks vengeance after being replaced by another character. The comedy will costar Danny DeVito, who'll also serve as director.
LUKE GOES 'BLONDE': Luke Wilson, who has the coveted duty of playing Cameron Diaz's lover in the upcoming "Charlie's Angels," will costar with Reese Witherspoon in "Legal Blonde," according to Variety.
BATES TAKES BAIT: The Hollywood Reporter says that Kathy Bates might join Kevin Costner in the thriller "Dragonfly." The film is about a bereft widower (Costner) who believes that his dead wife is trying to communicate with him. If talks go well, Bates will play his neighbor.
March 19, 2001 11:50am EST
English piano man Elton John didn’t hold back when he revealed how he really felt about presidential candidate George W. Bush at a political fundraiser Tuesday.
The 53-year-old singer was in the California’s Silicon Valley to perform at a $10,000-a-plate dinner when he endorsed Vice President Al Gore while bashing Bush.
"The vice president ... wants this country to go forward, and if you vote for him, it will go forward," John said. "But it's back to the Dark Ages, I'm afraid, if you vote for the other guy."
John made his little speech before 320 guests, who included actors Robin Williams, Sharon Stone and high-tech executives.
LET’S MAKE A MUSIC VIDEO: MTV viewers be warned: Very amateur music video from Stone Temple Pilots coming your way. After belly aching over the terms of direction for the band’s next music video for the single "No Way Out", frontman Scott Weiland announced that their fans will shoot the project on video cameras instead.
BABY, BABY: Singer Amy Grant is preggers, a spokeswoman for Vince Gill, her husband, said. The baby is due at the end of March
March 19, 2001 11:50am EST
Martin Scorsese is trading in his Armani for a Gucci. The famed film director will direct "Gucci: A HouseDivided," an epic that takes a look at the Italian fashion dynasty. The film will be based on the novel by Gerald McKnight of the same name. Scorsese is currently preparing to shoot "Gangs of New York" in Rome starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
MORK GOES SCI-FI: When Steven Spielberg talks, Robin Williams listens. The energetic funnyman has taken a small role in Warner Bros. Pictures’ "A.I," after the director asked him to. Williams will serve as the film’s narrator.
Contrary to earlier reports, representatives for Williams confirmed that the actor has made no commitment to play Liberace in an independent biopic that will be directed by Philip Kaufman.
MY FAVORITE 'DAIRIES': Julie Andrews is in the last leg of talks to co-lead in Walt Disney’s "The Princess Diaries," directed by Garry Marshall. "Diaries" is about a rebellious 16-year-old Angeleno (Anne Hathaway) who is told that she is actually the princess of a Monaco-like European country. Andrews will play the girl's grandmother.
March 19, 2001 11:50am EST
What? Robin Williams playing a flamboyant and outrageous character?
Yep, in what's obviously not-much-of-a-stretch, the seasoned funnyman is going to portray Liberace in a biopic currently in development. Titled "Liberace," the flick will follow the rise of the flaming entertainer's career until his death in 1987.
HEARING VOICES: Variety reports that Alec Baldwin will produce and star in a series of play readings called "City Center Voices! Of the American Theater" in the 2000-01 season at City Center in New York.
DAFOE MORALIZES: Willem Dafoe is likely to star in "Morality Play," a British indie film about a priest on the lam, Variety says.
'PERFECT' MATCH: Jenny McCarthy and Chris Eigeman ("Barcelona") will star in "The Perfect You," a romantic comedy written and directed by sitcom writer Matthew Miller, Daily Variety reports.
'POKE'-MORE: Warner Bros. is planning to release a third 'Pokemon' feature film in the U.S. this Spring. The film, titled "Pocket Monster 3" in Japan, opened in that country last week.
Kevin Kline BRINGING DOWN THE 'HOUSE': Variety says Kevin Kline might play a terminally ill man in the dark comedy "Life as a House." The story concerns the moribund man and his life-long wish to build a house.
'DAMAGE' CONTROL: Italian actress Francesca Neri will play Arnold Schwarzenegger's partner-in-revenge in "Collateral Damage." The film focuses on a man (Schwarzenegger) who teams up with a woman (Neri) to avenge his family's death in a terrorist bombing.
IN THE CAGE: Saturn Pictures, Nicolas Cage's production company, is close to inking a 2-year deal with Intermedia Films, Variety reports. The alliance will put Intermedia in charge of executive production and worldwide distribution of all Saturn films.
March 19, 2001 11:50am EST
As the countdown to the season premiere of "Nash Bridges" continues, TV is pretty much just phoning it in until the start of the new fall season. How bad is it? Well, A&E’s venerable "Biography" series is running a full week of shows dedicated to Adam West and the actors who played villains on "Batman" in the 1960s. Oh, and there’s also a weeklong, four-hours-per-night "The Facts of Life" endurance test on Nick at Nite. Let us be the first to say finally!
Hey, remember this? "Do not attempt to adjust your television set! We control the vertical!" One guess. OK, that’s it …
Prepare to regain control of your TV’s "vertical hold!" The second coming of a classic science-fiction anthology series makes its second going as the final episode of "The Outer Limits" airs Sunday at 8 p.m. EDT on Showtime and finally releases control of your television set. The original series first took control of our collective vertical holds back in 1963, which makes us wonder: Do TVs even have vertical hold anymore? And if so, what’s going to happen to my set when there is no one to control it? The Showtime version of "Limits" has always been high on star power from actors and directors who were fans of the original. And tonight’s finale is loaded with big names including … hold on to your "vertical hold" … Charlton Heston! Yes!
ABC’s "Monday Night Football" starts up in earnest this week as the reigning Super Bowl champions St. Louis Rams take on the Denver Broncos in the season opener. You’d better keep a dictionary and maybe a good book on world history next to the beer and pretzels because Dennis Miller really is going to do color commentary. The Broncos should be back in the playoff picture this year if running back Terrell Davis’ surgically repaired knee holds together. Or as Miller might say, "Hey, I haven’t heard of a comeback like that since William of Orange overthrew King Jimmy the Second of England in the Bloodless Revolution! Right, Al?" Um … go Broncos?
Tuesday is Four Star Movie Night this week. First, big time movie star and heavily armed activist Charlton Heston gets his second mention this week, as he once again takes up the chariot reins in the 1959 Best Picture Oscar winner "Ben-Hur" (8 p.m. EDT on TCM). Heston also took home the Best Actor Oscar for this one. Or if you prefer something with a little more talkin’ and a little less butt-kickin,’ how about Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, who won the Best Actress Oscar for this role, starring in 1992’s multi-Oscar winning adaptation of E.M. Forster’s "Howard’s End" (8 p.m. EDT on Bravo)?
HBO will be rerunning its graphic and powerful 2000 miniseries "The Corner" in six parts starting Wednesday at 11 p.m. EDT. Director Charles S. Dutton ("Roc," "Alien 3" as actor) received an Emmy nomination for this look at one year in a Baltimore neighborhood infested with drugs, addictions and the lifestyles they breed.
The "MTV Video Music Awards 2000" will be live from Radio City Music Hall on Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT. MTV usually has the best award shows because, at the bare minimum, if it’s not entertaining, at least it’s going to be fast-paced. Also, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams will not be there. This year’s hosts are the latest in a seemingly endless stream of Wayans brothers, Shawn and Marlon. This year’s list of "controversial" performers will include Eminem (controversial lyrics), Britney Spears (controversial anatomy), Rage Against the Machine (controversial politics) and Janet Jackson (controversial brother).