Two big-screen tributes to popular TV series are on the horizon.
Owen Wilson ("Meet The Parents," "Shanghai Noon") has signed a deal to star with Eddie Murphy in Columbia Pictures' comedy "I Spy," directed by Betty Thomas ("The Brady Bunch"). And sibling writer-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly will create an original story for a Warner Bros. Studios picture about the Three Stooges.
'I Spy' will be loosely based on the NBC TV series that aired from 1965-68 and starred Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. The film version revolves around a top secret government agent (Wilson) assigned to recover a missing jet with the help of a professional athlete (Murphy) who is pressed into service. Shooting has not yet been scheduled.
Wilson, who played Kevin Rawley (Teri Polo's former beau) in "Meet the Parents," has a full plate this year. He is currently shooting "The Royal Tenenbaums" for the Walt Disney Co. and recently wrapped a starring role with Gene Hackman in "Behind Enemy Lines." Murphy was in last year's "The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" and will be seen in "Dr. Dolittle II" being released this year.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT THE STOOGES:
Those wacky Farrelly brothers are at it again. The masterminds behind the comedies "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb and Dumber" have confirmed they plan to make a movie based on the most beloved slapstick characters of all time -- Larry, Moe and Curly.
Warner Bros. Studios announced on Friday that the film would not be based on a particular Stooges story line. The Farrellys plan to write the project after they wrap production on 20th Century Fox's "Shallow Hall."
The political drama Thirteen Days has become a symbol of peace.
The film will bring together old enemies when it premieres this week in Cuba and Russia, two of the three major players during the tense 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. .
Monday night's screening in Havana will include a discussion panel with executive producers Kevin Costner, Peter Almond and Beacon Pictures chairman Armyan Bernstein.
Organized by the Cuban film society, Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos, the screening will be attended by Cuban government officials who were involved in the Missile Crisis, known as the Crisis of October in Cuba, and members of the public. It is unclear whether President Fidel Castro will attend.
Almond will then travel to Moscow for a screening Wednesday hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A group of about 300 will attend, including some of the key figures who were involved in the crisis: former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Theodore Sorensen, the former special counsel to President Kennedy, and Anatoly Dobrynin, the former Soviet Ambassador to the United States. The discussion panel will explore the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S.-Russian relations, and nuclear risk issues that currently exist.
The film will open wide in Russia in May.
The event marks the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's first film screening in the nonprofit organization's 90-year history, a spokeswoman for the think tank told the Hollywood Reporter.
Released nationwide earlier this year in the United States, Thirteen Days focuses on how the missile crisis pushed the Kennedy administration to the brink of war with Cuba and Russia. It is based on the The Kennedy Tapes - Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis. Directed by Roger Donaldson, the film stars Costner as Kenny O'Donnell, a White House aide and confidant to President Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) and his brother Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp). Dylan Baker portrays McNamara; Tim Kelleher portrays Sorensen.
The film has attracted worldwide political attention because of its importance and historical accuracy, said Gary Shapiro, Beacon Pictures' vice president of worldwide marketing.
In the first few days of the President Bush administration, Bush requested a screening of the film and invited several members of the Kennedy family to watch it with him, including Sen. Ted Kennedy.
"If the White House pays attention, then so does the rest of the world." Shapiro said Monday.
Shapiro confirmed that Castro personally requested the Cuba screening.
"We are proud to have made a film that has not only entertained audiences around the world but has also made people think and talk about the issues of power and leadership in the nuclear age," Beacon chairman Bernstein told the Hollywood Reporter.
Bernstein and Almond conceived the idea of a film on the crisis five years ago.
"Both of these screenings culminate a broad public recognition of the film and this remarkable crossover to recognition from the highest levels of political leaders and public policy," Almond said.
Will Will Truman get lucky? Will Chandler and Monica tie the knot? Will Dawson and Pacey make up? And what's up with "Popular"?!
Those are some of the questions that have been posed and that will be answered during the fall season of television.
Herein is a critique of the fall seasons of 10 TV series that Hollywood.com staffers watch on a weekly basis:
"Will & Grace," NBC, Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET
Is "Will & Grace," the as-of-late-sometimes-hilarious sitcom about a gay man named Will Truman (Eric McCormack, who looks tan and really sexy this season), his best gay friend Jack McFarland (the always funny, over the top Emmy winner Sean Hayes), his best female friend Grace Adler (Debra Messing), and her lush of a socialite "employee" Karen Walker (Emmy winner Megan Mullally), falling from, er, grace this season? "Will & Grace" sadly has been spotty since its Emmy win for Best Comedy. McCormack has said that Will will date this season and have a number of boyfriends. The guest spot a few weeks back by Patrick Dempsey as one of those alleged future boyfriends was funny, and the exchange among Dempsey, McCormack and Hayes in Banana Republic (dancer-actor-singer-choreographer Jack is now a Banana Republic sales associate, headphones and all) was witty and pretty and ... well, you know. But last week's much-hyped guest spot by Cher was totally disappointing. The writing was weak for most of the episode, guest star Camryn Manheim was wasted and Cher appeared in only the last few minutes. What we needed was a half hour of "Jack & Cher." Here's hoping that Will hooks up with Mr. Banana Republic. Life is about the Banana, after all. Go, girlfriend. Grade: B-
"Friends," NBC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET
Some shows grind to a halt after two characters get together, but the pairing of Monica (Courteney Cox Arquette) and Chandler (Matthew Perry), who are set to wed this season, has created more hijinks than ever. They have created the funniest storylines of the season: Monica consults an elaborate wedding binder she's been keeping since 4th grade, only to find out that her parents spent her wedding fund on a beach house. Chandler keeps having embarrassing moments with his future father-in-law (Elliott Gould) and finds that he can't smile in photographs. Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) compete for maid of honor (Phoebe wins, but lets Rachel do it because it means more to her). Meanwhile, the non-wedding-related storylines have fallen to the wayside: Rachel has hired a cute younger assistant she can't date; Joey's pilot gets canceled, and Phoebe just found out that her grandmother's secret cookie recipe is from Nestle Tollhouse. Ross (David Schwimmer), other than a memory-lane kiss with Rachel, is so far unlucky in love. But, in the funniest episode of the season, he finds an unlikely snuggling partner in Joey when the two accidentally nap together -- and like it. Grade: B+
"The West Wing," NBC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET
This Emmy winner started its second season with a bang -- quite literally. After the cliffhanger from the end of the first season, wherein President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) were shot, the two-hour opener took viewers from the present to the past. The episode cleverly gave the audience the background of why Bartlet first got on the campaign trail and showed how his extraordinary staff was assembled, all while juxtaposed with the assassination crisis. And the show doesn't seem to be stopping, creating scenarios that mirror the current social and political climate -- including some controversial racial conflict. The cast is still outstanding -- including Emmy winners Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg and Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler. Guest spots by the likes of Timothy Busfield and John Laroquette added heart and intensity to the behind-the-scenes storylines. But the heart of the show remains Sheen as the wise and truthful President Bartlet, and given the current real-life situation in the political world, Bartlet would be considered a godsend. Grade: A
"Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET
Though "Everybody Loves Raymond" does not tend to build upon storylines episode to episode, it has shown some resourcefulness this season. Bringing in guest stars such as Robert Culp as Debra Barone's (Emmy winner Patricia Heaton) dad was a nice touch, especially when it led to a hilarious dispute between in-laws. But the show has been quite hit-or-miss lately. Ray (Ray Romano) developing a fear of germs, for example -- interesting but not funny, especially for a character who already has three young children. Just a breakdown of logic there. Ray's brother Robert, the divorced cop (played with deadpan precision by Brad Garrett), has also been curiously underused thus far. Grade: B-
"ER," NBC, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET
The best thing America's top drama -- for the past six seasons -- has done so far is not add any new characters. Drs. Greene and Corday (Anthony Edwards and Alex Kingston) have gotten engaged; Dr. Kovac (the very hunky Goran Visjnic) is feeling guilt over a guy he accidentally killed during a mugging; and Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) is back from rehab and peeing in a cup whenever he's asked. Dr. Chen (Ming-Na) is pregnant by a doctor at another hospital; Dr. Benton (Eriq LaSalle) lost his surgical attending position and is now "demoted" to an ER post; and there are hints that Dr. Weaver (Laura Innes) is mulling a lesbian relationship. Oh yes, and they treat people, too. The strongest episodes are still the medical-oriented cases, especially the 22-week-old "miracle baby" who survived nearly an entire day. Medical student/nurse Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) is emerging as the emotional core, letting us miss Sherry Stringfield and Julianna Margulies a little less. What's left to do is to use more of Michael Michele, who plays pediatric resident Dr. Cleo Finch. "ER" is not consistently great, but it still keeps our pulses pounding. Grade: B
"Dawson's Creek," WB, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET
Last year ended with Joey (Katie Holmes) sailing into the sunset with Pacey (Joshua Jackson), leaving her best friend/soul mate Dawson (James Van Der Beek) weeping and alone. It's a good choice because Holmes and Jackson have decidedly better chemistry, and although they dispense the same amount of SAT-filled sentences (meanwhile Pacey is flunking school) as Joey and Dawson, this new couple have snappier arguments/flirtations. This season: Joey's repairing her friendship with Dawson, who's trying to move on by taking pictures and finding a new confidante in Pacey's older sister (Sasha Alexander), particularly after his parents discover that they're having another baby. Pacey and Dawson take (very small) steps toward reconciliation after the former's boat is swept into a storm and the latter risks his neck to save him. Jen (Michelle Williams) is temporarily ostracized from the group -- and from best friend Jack (Kerr Smith) -- when she lets the already medicated Andie (Meredith Monroe) try Ecstasy at a rave, causing her to collapse and nearly die. But it's Andie who gives the fractured group a chance to heal again when she announces that she's leaving Capeside to spend the rest of the year in Italy (she already got into Harvard early, dontcha know). In her tearjerking farewell, she implores her friends to make up, and it looks as if they will. Grade: B+
"Frasier," NBC, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET
In the early '90s -- in its third season -- "Seinfeld" began to structure its episodes around the supporting characters, not the title character. Suddenly, the same seems true about "Frasier." While the love affair between Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) seemed to be the hook to get viewers back into the show early this fall, it remained the hook throughout most of the season. And it worked. Their relationship has spawned a number of morose storylines thus far, with ex-wives and ex-fiancees plotting against the likable couple, but Frasier himself seems to have been pushed aside, stuck with adequate conflicts such as his displeasure with his wealthy new boss. But it still works. And Niles pretending to still be married in social circles is surprisingly hilarious each time. Grade: B+
"Spin City," ABC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET
No, you can't blame Charlie Sheen alone for "Spin City's" decline in popularity. It really comes down to the writing. Only one episode of "Spin City" this fall has been impressive -- the one where Sheen and Heather Locklear lock horns on the set of "Live With Regis" -- but little else has proven to be much of a surprise. Sure, Sheen's character, the deputy mayor of New York, is narcissistic, and yes, he has a tainted history with drugs, but didn't we already expect that? It's not Sheen's fault that this sort of cliched writing took place. It's not Locklear's fault that she has little chemistry with him. And it's not the viewers' fault for wanting to change the channel - even though it means the certain demise of one of their previously most beloved shows. We miss ya, Mike. Grade: C-
"Popular," WB, Fridays, 9 p.m. ET
The WB's "Popular" is one of the most underrated and funniest shows on television. It's sad that it's been relegated to a Friday night spot. The show boasts a fabulous ensemble cast of pretty people vs. Everyday people, although the two sides have been mingling more and more. School stud turned social pariah Josh Ford (Bryce Johnson) has hooked up with tree-hugger Lily Esposito (Tamara Mello) after the pair rescued a gay chimpanzee from the L.A. Zoo. It's a lame pairing, but player-player Josh has already hooked up with the rest of the ladies on the show, so I guess Lil' Lily was next. Alarming this season: Instead of funny gags such as kidnapping Gwyneth Paltrow's personal shopper and competing ruthlessly for Homecoming Queen, "Popular" has turned to Very Special Episodes. Harrison John (Christopher Gorham) is battling leukemia, Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels) has cried ... twice(!) ... over her fall from popularity, Carmen Ferrera's (Sara Rue) mother is an alcoholic, and both reigning Homecoming Queen Brooke McQueen (Leslie Bibb) and Mike "Sugar Daddy" Bernadino are battling eating disorders. Not very funny stuff. This season has been more about tears over sadness and struggles rather than laughter. As Mary Cherry (the always hilarious Leslie Grossman) would say, let's get some laughs back, hon. And pronto! Grade: B-
"Ally McBeal," Fox, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET
After a disappointing third season, David E. Kelley's series was in need of some serious spice. Kelley tried everything to raise ratings, from a lesbian lip-lock to some full-blown musical mishmash, but nothing could save the sinking show. In a final act of desperation, Kelley brought in a fresh-from-the-cell Robert Downey Jr. Little did Kelley know that the criminal element would bring such critical success this fall. As a cute, clever attorney named Larry, Downey's straight but sarcastic delivery is the perfect foil for Ally's (Calista Flockhart) high-strung hysteria. He steals every scene with his flawless timing, then punctuates even the simplest sentence with that trademark sexy smirk. Downey may have been sent in to rekindle the spark, but his presence has set the show on fire and made "Ally McBeal" a must-see on Monday nights again. Grade: B+
Reviews by Jason Alcorn, Kit Bowen, Tracey Pollack, Ellen A. Kim and Don Chareunsy.
Just when you thought the "Batman" franchise had left superhero movies creatively bankrupt, caped crusaders and masked villains are invading Hollywood once again.
This summer's release of "X-Men" promises to be the first in a long list of big-budget comic book adaptations. Many of these were on the back burner for several years but have been making headlines in recent weeks, ever since it was announced that Sam Raimi will likely be the director of Sony's long-awaited "Spider-Man" movie.
"The Greatest American Hero" The latest, and perhaps most bizarre, project announced is a big-screen version of "The Greatest American Hero," the early 1980s TV show that starred William Katt as bumbling superguy Ralph Hinkley (the character's surname was changed to "Hanley" after John Hinckley's attempted assassination of President Reagan). Space aliens give Hinkley a superhero suit and an instruction manual, but he loses the manual and must learn how to harness the powers of the suit on his own, with zany, madcap results. The show, which also starred Connie Sellecca as Katt's girlfriend and Robert Culp as his boss, is probably best remembered for its scenes of Katt learning how to fly and for its zippy theme song. According to Daily Variety, Touchstone Pictures has bought the rights to make a film about the knight-errant man in red tights and has hired two screenwriters to put the project in motion. No word yet on whether the "hero" will turn in those tights for 1990s-style body armor a la Batman.
While the "Greatest American Hero" news came from out of the blue, other super-duper movies have been eagerly awaited by comic geeks, studio licensing executives and toy manufacturers for most of the 1990s. Finally, just last week, Variety reported that the "Fantastic Four" movie, with its long and tangled history, might finally get off the ground with director Roger Donaldson ("Dante's Peak") at the controls. It's a merchandiser's dream -- four superheroes, plus the villains! -- and it's been in the works since 1994, when Marvel Comics made legal maneuvers to prevent director Oley Sassone from releasing his $2 million feature film version of the classic comic.
It's not that Sassone's version wasn't licensed by Marvel, but the comics publisher had received a bigger, better offer from producer-director Chris Columbus ( "Bicentennial Man") to do a first-class job; thus, the cheap quickie was never released and has been relegated to grainy bootleg videotapes sold on the underground. Now Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, the Invisible Girl and Human Torch, not to mention their nemesis Dr. Doom will probably command a $100 million budget if they ever make it to the screen.
The "Fantastic Four" news comes after word that several other Marvel properties are also moving from the back burner to the front. Last week, the trades reported that Columbia Pictures is close to hiring director Mark Steven Johnson ( "Simon Birch") to write and direct "Daredevil," the story of a blind criminal defense attorney by day who dresses up like a demon by night and stalks the city for criminals using his radar-like, radioactivity-enhanced senses to detect danger and evil-doers. Then there's "Dr. Strange," which writer-director Chuck Russell ( "Eraser") has recently been hired (also by Columbia) to develop. There's no speculation yet as to who'll play the young, crime-fighting psychiatrist Stephen Strange, who was known to utter strange incantations such as "By the hoary host of Hoggoth."
While Marvel Comics has the lion's share of superhero movies in the works (studios are also working on adaptations of "The Silver Surfer" and "The Incredible Hulk," although those two projects have been stuck in development hell for some time), rival publisher DC Comics isn't out of the picture, not by a long shot.
Apparently not even George Clooney and Joel Schumacher could succeed in killing Warner Bros.' "Batman" franchise. The studio is reportedly talking to "Pi" director Darren Aronofsky about making "Batman 5," and the studio's highly anticipated "Superman Reborn," once known as "Superman Forever," is said to be gearing up again now after being shelved two years ago when Tim Burton walked away (or was fired, depending on what you believe).
Warners is said to be pleased with the new "Superman" screenplay by Bill Wisher, and the candidate for Most Unlikely to Direct is ... Oliver Stone. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Stone is the No. 1 candidate for the job, and the studio wants to take a nontraditional approach to America's most traditional superhero, "sans the tights and more 'Matrix' like." Did Lex Luthor kill President Kennedy? Stay tuned.