More familiar faces are headed back to Scranton for the final goodbye of The Office: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak are almost certainly returning to say goodbye to Dunder Mifflin for good in the NBC sitcom's series finale — and possibly another episode too.
Showrunner Greg Daniels told reporters gathered on the Office set that fan favorite characters Kelly Kapoor and Ryan Howard are likely coming back for at least one more installment. "Mindy and B.J. should be in the finale," he said. "We're talking about possibly another episode, although Mindy's in production on her show."
Of course, there are still several episodes left to film before the finale, so it's not 100 percent certain how scheduling will shake out. Daniels confirmed that Zach Woods would be back as Gabe before season's end, joining former recurring actors David Denman (Roy) and Melora Hardin (Jan) in making one final visit. One person you won't see in season nine, however, is Steve Carell.
"Steve was very much of the opinion that the 'Goodbye Michael' episode and the story arc leading up to it was his goodbye from the show," Daniels said. "The stuff we are doing this season is the goodbye the rest of the show gets to have. At the moment we don't have any plans for him to come back."
The show's sendoff will still be great, paying tribute to the rest of the great cast. "There's still a lot of good things we have planned for the rest of the goodbyes," Daniels said.
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As the fifth year at Hogwarts begins most of the wizardry world is having a hard time believing Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned further propagated by the Ministry of Magic who refuses to recognize anything evil is brewing and blames all the hullabaloo on Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). The Ministry even interferes with Hogwarts business by making Ministry employee Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor whose outwardly sweet demeanor hides a sadistic streak a mile wide. She thinks the children should only learn about the Dark Arts “theoretically” and tortures all those who disagree. But the Voldemort threat is a reality and Dumbledore has re-formed the Order of the Phoenix a group of witches and wizards that prepares to battle the Dark Lord. Harry is unfortunately being kept in the dark for his protection of course even as his connection to Voldemort grows stronger and he’s royally peeved at being ignored. Urged on by Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) he forms his own order of Hogwarts students called Dumbledore’s Army to teach them what defenses against the Dark Arts he has already learned. Oh yeah Harry also shares his first kiss but make no bones about it—love is the furthest thing on Harry’s mind when the crap hits the fan. War is imminent. Everyone steps up their game in Order of the Phoenix. Radcliffe Watson and Grint have shed their adolescent whininess and aw-shucks goofiness to give their characters the greatest depth so far. They are forced to grow up pretty quickly in Order with little time for any playfulness and the three actors handle the seriousness with aplomb. Of course both Radcliffe and Grint have already ventured out of the Potter world—Radcliffe shed more than just adolescence on stage in a production of Equus while Grint lost his virginity in the indie Driving Lessons--and their extra experience shows in Order. Also good are Matthew Lewis as the usually clumsy Neville Longbottom who shows his mettle in more ways than one and newcomer Evanna Lynch as the slightly off-kilter Luna Lovegood who proves to be a loyal member of Dumbledore’s Army. But the kids have to keep up with the talented adult cast especially Oscar-nominated Staunton (Vera Drake) as Umbridge. The veteran actress’ interpretation of one of J.K. Rowling’s nastiest characters so far in the Potter lore is spot-on down to the pink wool suits and irritating twitter “ahem” she uses when she wants your undivided attention. Helena Bonham Carter also makes an impression however over the top it is as the evil Voldemort follower Bellatrix Lestrange. Does she ever want to look pretty onscreen? Then there’s the laundry list of Brits whose time onscreen may be short but is nonetheless memorable including Alan Rickman as the sneering Prof. Snape; Gambon as the wise but flawed Dumbledore; Gary Oldman as the kindly Sirius Black Harry’s only real family; and of course Fiennes as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. His late-in-the-game appearance once again throws you for a loop. It stands to reason that at five movies in moviegoers would have a favorite Harry Potter flick by now. Those who love those Triwizard Tournament special effects might feel The Goblet of Fire was the best; or Prisoner of Azkaban for its time-bending action. Yet The Order of the Phoenix may be the one movie that speaks directly to the fans of the books. Without as much wide-eyed wonderment or wizardry flash the story is still chockfull of compelling details that are absolutely pivotal to the continuing Harry Potter saga. Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg (Peter Pan) and director David Yates (HBO’s The Girl in the Café) manage to wade through this volume of information and cut successfully to the chase with great effect. Yates who has signed on to do the sixth movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince even shows an affinity for action in the final dramatic confrontation between good witches and wizards and bad ones. But overall Order of the Phoenix may leave audiences not as well-versed in the novels a little itchy for some good old-fashioned wand-waving and Disney special effects. Thing is it’s just going to keep getting darker and darker for Harry and his crew. The days of happy fun playtime are over.
After the death of their parents Rashad (Tip "T.I." Harris) and his younger brother Ant (Evan Ross) have to fend for themselves. Trying not to think about his pending high school graduation Rashad works as a janitor for his stingy uncle (Mykelti Williamson) and hangs out with his friends practicing for the Skate Wars competition at their local roller rink. Ant however approaches life differently after he hooks up with Marcus (Big Boi) a big-time drug dealer in the area. Marcus recruits Ant to do his dirty work and the kid gets himself tangled up in the harsh world of drugs money and violence. It’s up to his older brother to get him out of it and finally steer him in the right direction. ATL proves some rapper-turned-actors can indeed be in a movie not based on their real lives. Known as “The King of the South” in the rap world T.I. displays some notable acting skills. Born and raised in the ATL (that’s Atlanta to us lay folk) his southern slang and cool demeanor lend credibility. As well Big Boi (half of the Atlanta-based hip-hop group OutKast) does a nice job giving his drug lord character multi-layers. He plays it smooth recruiting high school kids and promising them more money then they have ever seen. When they don’t pay up he then turns on a dime and becomes quite menacing. And watch out for Evan Ross the youngest son of the legendary Diana Ross. In his debut performance as Ant he tugs at your heart even when you’re hoping Rashad will smack him for the bad choices he makes. Music video director Chris Robinson makes his feature directing debut with ATL a story loosely based on ATL producers Dallas Austin and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ (of TLC fame) experiences growing up in Atlanta. With many of the hottest hip-hop artists coming out of Atlanta Robinson--along with first-time screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism--impressively incorporates the music without focusing on it. Sure the soundtrack crunks it up but this is not a film about a wannabe rapper trying to make it out of the ‘hood and into the spotlight. There aren’t any lengthy shootouts and no one dies. Instead ATL interweaves compelling themes of family dynamics rich vs. poor--and even a roller skating motif which seems to come out of left field but provides some fun moments. ATL is a breath of fresh air for a hip-hop movie that isn't about hip-hop.
We've all heard the tale: In 1836 a motley group of brave Texan soldiers aided by American legend Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) defended The Alamo to their bloody deaths at the hands of Mexican General Santa Anna's well-trained army. That's pretty much the same ground covered by the film so don't expect any surprises. What you can expect early on is some fairly convoluted political back story centering on aspiring nation-builder Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) plenty of soap opera-quality bickering between leading characters Lt. Col. William Travis (Patrick Wilson) and knife aficionado Jim Bowie (Jason Patric) and a good amount of pompous preening on the part of Santa Anna (Emilio Echevarria). Like Glory The Alamo takes its time (about 90 minutes) to lead up to the pivotal battle using the rest of the time to introduce major characters and conflicts; unlike Edward Zwick's masterful Civil War drama Hancock's epic wanna-be loses the audience's attention in the process.
Poor Dennis Quaid -- all of the good subtle work he's put in over the last couple of years in smaller movies like The Rookie (also directed by Hancock) and Far From Heaven could well be swept from filmgoers' minds in an instant if enough of them remember The Alamo instead. As Houston one of Texas' almost-mythic heroes he blusters orates and generally overacts his way into becoming a living cartoon. Meanwhile Wilson Patric and Thornton are all given one-note characters: Col. Travis is an uptight by-the-book goody-two-shoes (until naturally he gets his one big chance to redeem himself) Bowie is a hard-drinkin' hard-livin' man's man and Crockett is the consummate good ol' boy relying on his aw-shucks demeanor to make friends -- and disguise the true depth of his pithy insights -- wherever he goes. (Thornton does what he can with Crockett but subtlety is lost in this movie.) On the other side of the trenches Echevarria's Santa Anna might as well be Dr. Evil for all of the sense he makes or the respect he earns from his lieutenants. Screenwriters Hancock Stephen Gaghan (an Oscar winner for Traffic) and Leslie Bohem must have taken the general's "Napoleon of the West" nickname literally when it came time to craft his petulant volatile character.
Hancock -- who stepped up to helm The Alamo after original director Ron Howard wisely bowed out -- is a newbie in the realm of historical epics and it shows. For all the time and money that obviously went into the film's costumes sets and effects (the re-created fort is wholly convincing and some of the nighttime battle sequences are pretty impressive) too little was spent developing characters that were equally realistic. Just because people like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie have become larger than life in the American pop mythology doesn't mean they didn't have their faults (as presented in the movie Bowie's resolutely dissolute lifestyle is almost as trite as the rest of his character). And just because these martyred heroes were so colorful doesn't mean that watching them slouch around a dry dusty fort for an hour before anything really happens can be considered entertainment--even the best true stories can use a little help from the editing fairy now and then. Carter Burwell's heavy-handed Braveheart-meets-Glory score (Crockett's catchy fiddling notwithstanding) just underscores the fact that the movie is trying to bully you into feeling certain ways at certain times; when the music swells you gear up for something exciting only to be left hanging again and again. Looks like the suits at Touchstone Pictures knew what they were doing when they delayed The Alamo's release date from Oscar-bait December to dead-zone April.
Top Story: Valenti To Step Down as MPAA Head
Jack Valenti, who has held the Motion Picture Association of America's top post for 38 years and oversaw the creation of Hollywood's movie ratings system in the 1960s, announced at the annual ShoWest convention Tuesday that he plans to retire, possibly within three months, The Associated Press reports. "I look at this with mixed emotions, because when you've done something so long, it's difficult to tear yourself away from it," Valenti told reporters before making the announcement to theater owners in a convention opening address. "But also, in any job, you want to leave before people ask you to leave." MPAA has hired media recruiter Spencer Stuart to hunt for a new leader for the trade group, which represents Hollywood's top seven studios--Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and MGM. Valenti said he would maintain an "umbilical relationship" with the MPAA and Hollywood, though he was not certain what that role would be. "I've been blessed with some genetic energy, so I'm not going to fade away," Valenti said.
It's Jackson's Turn To Sue
Usually the target of lawsuits, Michael Jackson filed his own Monday against New Jersey businessman Henry Vaccaro, claiming he is illegally selling private property belonging to the pop star and his famous family on the Internet, Reuters reports. The lawsuit claims Vaccaro obtained letters, pictures, song lyrics and other items belonging to Jackson through a bankruptcy sale involving the Jackson's parents, Joseph and Katherine, and held by Vaccaro and that he has no right to sell them. Jackson's attorney Brian Wolf told Reuters that because Michael Jackson was not part of the bankruptcy, his property should not have been sold and Vaccaro had no claim to it.
Rhymes Sentenced to Six Months' Probation
Rapper Busta Rhymes received six months' probation after pleading no contest Tuesday to an assault charge, AP reports. According to the police report, Rhymes was performing a late-night gig in Fall River, Mass., in December 2002 when a woman, Celine Giguere, allegedly reached out and touched his chin. In a statement read in court, Rhymes said that when he saw Giguere reach for his face a second time, he grabbed her hand and said, "Please make sure you do not touch me again." The police report, however, said the rapper grabbed Giguere, shoved her head into a table and said, "If you try touching me again, I'll kill you." Rhymes, whose real name is Trevor A. Smith Jr., was also ordered to pay $300 in court costs. He'll have a clean record if he successfully completes the probation term, AP reports.
Producers Want To Keep Alamo Set Intact
Producers of the latest Ron Howard film The Alamo, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid and Jason Patric, would like to preserve the elaborate set constructed in the Hill Country near Austin, Tex., but it's not going to be easy. AP reports the movie's production designer, Michael Corenblith, told the San Antonio Express-News in Tuesday's online edition, "I would like to see groups of schoolchildren around there. I would love to see the state contribute a little money and for this to become Texas' version of Colonial Williamsburg. It could become a living history exhibit." The problem, says Alamo historian and college professor Stephen L. Hardin, is that the set materials aren't durable and it won't last. The film premieres in San Antonio, the site of the real Alamo battle, Mar. 27. It opens wide April 9.
Hollywood's Budgets Top $100 Million
The average cost to make and market a movie in Hollywood is now around $102.9 million, a 15 percent rise from 2003, according to the MPAA, which released figures at ShoWest Tuesday. Reuters reports the final tally for 2003 box office revenues came in at roughly $9.5 billion, down around 0.33 percent from the previous year, while the number of people entering movie theaters came in around 1.574 billion, down 4 percent from 2002. "Let's face it. Deficits are not only rising in Hollywood, but it is on center stage in Washington, as well. We've got to get them under sensible control," MPAA head Jack Valenti said.
Lifetime Picks Up Frasier
Lifetime, the cabler for women, picked up the exclusive cable rights to longtime TV series Frasier, which just ended its 11-year run on NBC. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lifetime beat out bids from Turner Broadcasting, MTV Networks and Oxygen and landed Frasier for about $600,000 per episode. The network will begin airing the sitcom in March 2006, when the local stations currently airing it lose their exclusivity.
Prince Signs With Sony
Prince, who was recently inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has given up his independent status and signed a deal with Sony Corp.'s Columbia Records, Reuters reports. The worldwide deal initially covers only the Purple One's upcoming album, Musicology, which Columbia will release in the United States on April 20. The album coincides with Prince's first tour in six years, which begins on Mar. 27 in Reno, Nevada.
Role Call: Darabont To Pen Mission 3; Harrelson, Harris Under Fire
The Green Mile writer/director Frank Darabont is replacing writer Robert Towne on Mission: Impossible 3, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Towne penned the first two of the series' installments but is free now to focus on his pet project Ask the Dust, adapted from the Depression-era novel by Jan Fante'S…Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris will join forces on 3000 Degrees, a fact-based drama about a fire that turned a century-old storage building in Worcester, Mass., into a cinderbox and claimed the lives of six firefighters in December 1999.