Tom Hanks is returning to the big screen, and this time he'll work with yet another superstar director. The Hollywood Reporter says Hanks and Sam Mendes, who won an Oscar fo "american Beauty, are set to make "The Road to Perdition," a 1930's-era gangster story, for DreamWorks. The movie starts shooting early next year.
"The Road to Perdition" is based on a graphic novel published by DC Comics. The screenplay is by David Self, who previously wrote "The Haunting."
HEY LAAADY!: First Eddie Murphy updated "The Nutty Professor," now Jackie Chan wants to remake another Jerry Lewis property, "The Bellboy," Variety reports.
DINOSAUR GIRL: The Hollywood Reporter says Tea Leoni is in final negotiations to star in "Jurassic Park III," which starts filming in Hawaii later this month and already includes William Macy and Sam Neill among its cast members.
STOP, THIEVES: Variety says that Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam are nearing deals to co-star as a pair of thieves trying to steal a stockpile of cash from Sandra Bullock's home in "The Panic Room."
MORE MOORE: Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup will co-star in a $2 million drama called "World Traveler," which is backed by the Independent Film Channel, Variety reports.
Do kids still like dinosaurs? Is Woody Allen still funny? Was Andy Dick ever funny? And will "Battlefield Earth" implode?
This weekend, all these questions will be answered.
"Dinosaur," Disney's computer-animated, kiddie-themed take on the "Jurassic Park" phenomenon, makes its long anticipated debut this week, posing the first serious threat to knock "Gladiator" (which, as of Tuesday, had raked in $79 million and counting) from the No. 1 position at the box office. It's got everything kids (especially little boys) want: dinosaurs, dinosaurs, more dinosaurs and even a few lemurs.
Meanwhile, Allen releases his latest, "Small Time Crooks," which actually promises to be funny -- unlike his past few movies. Then there's "Road Trip," this year's first candidate for a raunchy teen comedy hit a la "American Pie."
Here's a rundown of this weekend's new releases:
"DINOSAUR" (See the trailer) The skinny: It's "Tarzan," but with a twist. An orphaned Iguanadon is raised by lemurs (a monkey-like primate), and he's treated by all the other dinosaurs as an outcast. The upside: The dinosaurs are cute 'n' cuddly, unlike those carnivorous critters in "Jurassic Park." The downside: Kids can't be fooled: Everyone knows there were no lemurs during the Age of Dinosaurs!
"ROAD TRIP" (See the trailer) The skinny: One of those wacky comedies about college students. In this one, some guy (Breckin Meyer) drags his buddies along on a 2,000 mile trek from upstate New York to Austin, where he's reunited with his girlfriend (Amy Smart). Of course, hijinx ensue along the way. Also stars up-and-coming funnymen Tom Green and Andy Dick. The upside: There's nothing quite like a good road movie. The downside: Then again, there's "Kalifornia."
"SMALL TIME CROOKS" (See the trailer) The skinny: Woody Allen revisits his roots (e.g. his directorial debut, "Take the Money and Run") in this screwball comedy about a bumbling bank robber. The upside: If it's anywhere near as funny as "Take the Money …" this could be Allen's best film in years. The downside: "Manhattan Murder Mystery" aside, Allen hasn't made a funny movie in a long time. Fact is, we sort of think he forgot what's funny (hint: Movies where 60-something Woody romances Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Elizabeth Shue are generally not funny). Elsewhere, "U-571," "Where the Heart Is," "Frequency," "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," "Screwed," "Center Stage" and "Keeping the Faith" all will try to avoid being bumped out of the Top 10.
Jerry Lewis is a funny guy. This past weekend, he added to his comic legacy (which already includes such ha-ha classics as "The Disorderly Orderly," "Hardly Working" and "Slapstick of Another Kind") by referring to women as "producing machines" for babies.
Through the years, Lewis has told a lot of jokes. ("Hey, laaady!," anyone?) But this wasn't a joke.
What's worse, the offending and/or curious remark happened at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Colorado, an event that celebrates what's funny. And it happened in front of a crowd gathered to honor Lewis' work.
The incident went down Saturday night during a question-and-answer session with the audience. Lewis was speaking affectionately about Dean Martin and some of his other favorite comics. An audience member noticed that all the names Lewis rattled off were male and asked the star who his favorite female comics are.
"I don't like any female comedians," Lewis said.
Fair enough. We're not big Judy Tenuta fans, either. But then Martin Short, who was hosting the event (and who does a darn good Jerry Lewis impression), wouldn't let the matter rest. Short asked Lewis about Lucille Ball, saying, "you must have loved her."
OK, that's fine. Everyone's entitled to his or her own opinion. But Jerry then took his 73-year-old foot and stuck it in his 73-year-old mouth: "A woman doing comedy doesn't offend me but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world," he said, according to an Associated Press report.
You can imagine the uneasy feeling in the room. One thousand spectators high up in the mountains of liberal-minded Aspen, waiting for Lewis to make everything OK with a "just kidding!" He didn't.
Such remarks might even fly if they came from the mouth of, say, a Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was the epitome of old-school cool, and if he used terms such as "dame" or "broad," well, he was a dinosaur from another era. Jerry Lewis has never been that cool. Just listen to "Jerry Lewis Just Sings," his music album (released in the 1960s), if you don't believe it. (And if you dare.)
Perhaps Jerry's just bitter. Jim Carrey stole his act and now makes $20-mil-plus per movie for making the same kind of funny faces; meanwhile, Lewis' annual Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy is running on fewer stations every year (yet, mysteriously, somehow manages to make more money each time out). Lewis is considered a genius in France but doesn't get the props he deserves in this country.
There's been no comment yet on the evening from Lewis' Las Vegas-based reps.
Maybe it's best not to speak of such things on Valentine's Day.
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane!
No, it's another "Spider-Man" rumor.
For nearly seven years, speculation has run rampant among comic-book geeks and genre-film fanatics about the red-and-blue building-climbing superhero. Nearly every director worth his box-office salt has been linked to "Spider-Man" at one time or another, beginning with no less than James Cameron ("Titanic") and ending with Sam Raimi ("A Simple Plan," "For Love of the Game"), who is now supposedly the front-runner for the job.
One thing's for certain: "Spider-Man," one of the most highly anticipated films in memory, is now on the fast track at Columbia Pictures. The studio wants to release the film in summer 2001, and that means a director is expected to be hired soon -- perhaps within a few weeks. At long last, Marvel Comics' biggest franchise property will get his big-budget Hollywood makeover, a privilege that, until now, has been afforded only to characters from rival DC Comics (home of Batman and Superman).
"Spider-Man definitely has the potential to be a very successful franchise," says Mirko Parlevliet, creator of the Spider-Man Hype! Web site (www.spidermanhype.com), launched in March 1999 when years of legal battles over Spidey's theatrical rights ended and Marvel and Columbia struck a deal to make the movie.
"Unlike Batman and Superman, Spider-Man is a character many people can identify with," Parlevliet adds. "Peter Parker [the web-slinger's secret identity] is a teen-ager who is always picked on for the wrong reasons." He says Spidey is more realistic and down-to-earth than his DC rivals, a positive role model and a "fun guy" to chill out with. "How can you identify with a millionaire orphan or an alien with superpowers?"
For the record, this won't be the first live-action adaptation of the arachnid-man. There was a short-lived TV series in the late 1970s starring Nicholas Hammond as a pudgy Peter Parker. The show featured neato special-effects tricks, like tilting the camera sideways while Hammond crawled across the side of a wall. There also was a Japanese "Spider-Man" teleseries in the late 1970s, in which the web slinger drove around in a cool racecar. And the infamous Cannon Group proposed a Spider-Man movie during the 1980s but, thankfully, did not follow through. There have also been numerous cartoon series over the years.
The current Spider-Man project began as Cameron's brainchild; he wanted to make the movie immediately after "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Cameron wrote a lengthy Spidey treatment and Carolco obtained the theatrical rights to the character -- or so it thought. Pretty soon it seemed like everyone in Tinseltown was suing to get a piece of the Peter Parker pie.
By the time Sony/Columbia emerged as the Spidey legal sweepstakes winner, Cameron had signed an exclusive deal with Fox that basically barred him from directing the superflick. However, Sony got the rights to Cameron's treatment, and screenwriter David Koepp ("The Lost World") was hired to fashion a screenplay out of The King of the World's outline.
For the record, the following names have been linked to "Spider-Man" since 1993:
James Cameron, Ron Howard, Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Chris Columbus, Jan De Bont, Stephen Sommers, Ivan Reitman, Barry Sonnenfeld, Sam Raimi, the Wachowski brothers, Terry Gilliam and Robert Rodriguez, in no particular order, have been rumored to direct.
Charlie Sheen, Corin Nemec ("Parker Lewis Can't Lose"), Michael Biehn ("Aliens," "Terminator"), Bruce Campbell ("Army of Darkness"), Jason Patric, Leonardo DiCaprio, Owen Wilson, Jim Carrey and Australian actor Heath Ledger ("10 Things I Hate About You") have all been rumored to star as Peter Parker/Spidey.
In the villain department, Jack Nicholson has been pegged as Spider-Man's arch nemesis, the Green Goblin, while Arnold Schwarzenegger could play either Doctor Octopus or Venom, according to the rumor mill. There hasn't been much talk about who might play Peter's girlfriend, Mary Jane, or his editor at the Daily Bugle, the hot-headed J. Jonah Jameson.
David Mamet, if you believe the latest word, has been secretly hired by Columbia to revamp David Koepp's screenplay.
For the uninitiated, "Spider-Man" (the comic book) is the story of Peter Parker, a high school whiz kid who is bitten by a radioactive spider during a biology experiment. The bite gives Peter some nifty powers, like the ability to walk on walls, and enhanced strength and agility, plus a "spider sense" that enables him to detect danger.
Peter is also a gifted inventor; he creates wrist-mounted "web-shooters" that spray a sticky compound resembling a spider's web, from which he swings from skyscraper to skyscraper. Peter dons a Spider-Man suit and greedily uses his powers for personal gain (he becomes quite a celebrity) until his uncle is killed by robbers and he re-dedicates his life to fighting crime. Peter becomes a newspaper photographer, using a well-placed, timer-activated camera to snap pictures of himself (as Spider-Man) in action.
One major issue that remains to be decided is whether Columbia's film will be based on the old-school, idealistic Spidey comics of the 1960s, or one of several more recent incarnations, such as comics guru Todd McFarlane's dark, moody version.
"I'd prefer to see Spider-Man done old school," said Rob Worley, Webmaster of the Comics 2 Film Web site (www.comics2film.com), which tracks (what else?) comic books optioned by Hollywood. "The thing that made Spider-Man great (the thing that current writers of the comic have forgotten) is that the character, under the mask, was so relatable. Peter Parker is an Everyman. He's not some square-jawed, iron-willed vision of perfection. He's a kid who has all the normal problems that a regular young man has, in addition to the monkey wrench of having the great power that he feels compelled to use responsibly."
Now it remains to be seen whether Spidey can escape the curse -- real or imagined -- that has plagued film adaptations of other Marvel Comics franchises in the 1990s.
Witness "Captain America," a 1992 film version of Marvel's Nazi-fighting hero, starring Matt Salinger. In this barely watchable, low-budget film (which was widely advertised for a theatrical release, then instead went straight-to-video), the Cap's evil foe Red Skull is inexplicably Italian, not German, and the villain wears an embarrassing rubber mask.
Then there is "The Fantastic Four," a $2 million epic shot by Roger Corman's (say no more) Concorde Pictures, and then suddenly shelved before release when Marvel cut a new deal with 20th Century Fox wherein Chris Columbus was to direct a new megabudget version.
"I have a sentimental attachment to The Fantastic Four, and I was heartbroken to think it might appear only as a low-budget quickie," Marvel godfather Stan Lee told Entertainment Weekly. That was way back in 1994. There has been nary a peep about the film since.
Rights have been acquired and screenplays have been written for film versions of The Incredible Hulk and Silver Surfer, two Marvel properties with amazing potential, but both have landed in development hell.
So far, the only Marvel property to get a (fairly) big-budget film adaptation is New Line's "Blade" (1998) starring Wesley Snipes. New Line is currently developing an Iron Man movie, with Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott ("The Mask of Zorro") writing the screenplay and Tom Cruise supposedly interested in the starring role as reclusive billionaire/inventor/superhero Tony Stark.
Worley says one reason that Marvel's film adaptations have mostly been low-budget has to do with poor licensing decisions made by the comic book company that gave Marvel little say in the way the movies were made.
"I recall readi g a letter from Stan Lee [in a comics trade magazine] around the time the low-budget Fantastic Four movie was due to come out. Lee said fans asked him all the time why Marvel movies sucked. He promised fans that it was due to bad negotiating on Marvel's part and ... no movies would be made from that point forward without Marvel having a say in things. So Marvel sold off their movie rights, cheap, to filmmakers who didn't get it."
Now all fanboys' eyes will be on Fox's "X-Men," due out this summer from director Brian Singer and starring Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
"In the past, it seemed the low-budget constraints hurt Marvel's superhero adaptations," says Parlevliet. The X-Men film, he says, will be Marvel's big test. "If it succeeds, the film will set the stage for many similar projects in the future. There really is no such thing as a Marvel curse. It's just hard to adapt a comic book and make it believable on the big screen."
With more than 1 million units sold in the fourth quarter of 1999, the DVD market soared over the holiday season, just-released stats show.
With many retailers struggling to keep players in stock, at least one outlet was reporting holiday increases in DVD hardware and software in the triple-digit range.
"It was a huge item at Christmas," Warner Home Video Vice President of DVD Marketing Steve Nickerson said in a statement. "Some retailers thought they were overstocked but ended up selling out."
Despite early naysaying and a frontal assault from a well-financed competitor, the DVD format has not only survived, it has become arguably the most successful consumer-electronics product launch in history.
With more than 5.4 million players sold since its bow in 1997, the DVD format is expected to hit the 8 million-players-sold mark sometime this year -- increasing its reach to about 10 percent of U.S. households.
Addressing a mostly industry crowd at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, DVD-Entertainment Group Chairman Emiel N. Petrone expressed his excitement over the format's success.
"The future for home video is here," Petrone said. "DVD is the medium of the millennium."
DVD supporters have a great deal to be excited about. Beyond the strong numbers and positive outlook, several studios will join forces with most of the heavyweights in the DVD hardware field to execute what they call the "largest DVD promotion ever." The promotion, running Feb. 19 through May 30, will offer five free DVD movies to consumers who purchase a player from any of the participating manufacturers. Those involved include JVC, Philips, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, RCA, Proscan, GE, Toshiba and Zenith.
Films being offered to consumers are Columbia/TriStar's "Fools Rush In;" Universal's special edition of "The Jackal;" "Analyze This" from Warner Bros.; MGM's "Get Shorty" and New Line's Platinum Edition of "The Mask."
This is a relatively quiet week on the DVD front. Despite more than 70 releases, only a handful is likely to get enthusiasts excited. Among the higher-profile titles out today:
-- The horror flick "Lake Placid" ($34.98 suggested retail price) and the comedy "Mystery Men" ($24.98 SRP). Though neither fared very well at the box office (about $31 million and $29 million, respectively), home video and DVD might serve as their comeback vehicles. While "Lake Placid" offers little in terms of extras (there's a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer), "Mystery Men" includes a series of deleted scenes as well as a featurette.
-- "Lord of the Flies" ($39.95 SRP). This Criterion special edition of the 1963 drama features a running audio commentary by director Peter Brook, producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman and editor Gerland Feil. Other extras include: a deleted scene with commentary, production notes, home movies, outtakes, the original trailer and excerpts from Gerald Feil's 1972 documentary "The Empty Space."
Kindly chemistry whiz Sherman (Eddie Murphy) has found the love of his life in cutie colleague Denise (Janet Jackson) who appreciates the heart of gold beneath his extra-large exterior. But the hero's happiness is threatened when his irrepressible alter-ego Buddy Love (Murphy) reappears with a scheme to wreak havoc with Sherman's newly discovered youth potion.
"The Klumps" displays Murphy's remarkable talent for submerging himself in diverse characters even more prominently than the original did. He impressively expands upon the four Klump family members he plays with the aid of Rick Baker's Oscar-winning prosthetic makeup effects -- especially his hilarious turn as sex-crazed Granny Klump. Larry Miller is amusingly caustic as the dean of Sherman's college while pop diva Jackson deserves credit simply for keeping a straight face opposite Murphy's various incarnations.
Peter Segal ("Tommy Boy") hands in a polished if not particularly inspired piece of broad comedy that achieves its primary purpose -- staying out of Murphy's way as he works his special magic. The filmmakers pay little attention to the brainless shamelessly mechanical plotline devoting nearly all their energy to fart and sex gags that if anything aim lower than the original film's. We're talking about a flick draws one of its biggest laughs from a character getting sodomized by a giant hamster. Baby that's nasty!