News, March 21: Liza Minnelli in Rehab, Liz Taylor Says So Long to Showbiz, “Matrix”-Related Short Debuts, More…

Top Story: Minnelli Visits Rehab Again

Liza Minnelli has checked herself in an eight-week “self-help” program, Reuters reports. “She is in the Caron center where she is obliged to go for eight weeks every year for a self-help program,” publicist Warren Cowan told Reuters on Thursday. Cowan said Minnelli went into the center in rural Pennsylvania two weeks ago and was unsure when she would leave. The actress-singer has been battling addictions to alcohol and painkillers for a number of years and nearly died of a bout of viral encephalitis in 2000. Minnelli then married for a fourth time to producer David Gest in March last year, proclaiming her recovery from her addictions. The couple was in the process of throwing a lavish first anniversary party at New York’s Times Square but called it off last week, due to the imminent war with Iraq.

Black Film Festival Put on Hold

Another entertainment casualty due to the war in Iraq was the postponement of the Hollywood Black Film Festival, scheduled to start March 25, which honors black filmmakers. “This is a critical moment for our country and our soldiers, and at this time the nation’s focus should appropriately be on the escalating conflict in the Middle East,” festival founder and director Tanya Kersey-Henley told The Associated Press.

Paramount Postpones Ropes

Due to the uncertainty of television airtime as the continuing war coverage interrupts programming, Paramount Pictures has decided to hold off releasing their feature film Against the Ropes, starring Meg Ryan, which was to open April 25, Reuters reports. “The issue is the advertising gets preempted, and you end up losing your message,” the studio spokeswoman Nancy Kirkpatrick told Reuters. The film is based on the true story of a female boxing manager.

Taylor Gives Up the Spotlight

Elizabeth Taylor has announced after her appearance at the 75th Annual Academy Awards she will retire from acting–for good, Reuters reports. The 71-year-old actress said in an interview with TV show Access Hollywood “[The Oscars] will be my swan song on the stage. I’ve retired from acting; it doesn’t really interest me that much anymore. It seems kind of superficial because now my life is AIDS, not acting.”

Party On!

Despite the fact bombs were falling on Baghdad Wednesday night, two major social events went on as planned in Los Angeles: the AIDS benefit at Ozzy Osbourne‘s mansion and a fashion/diamonds event at Keanu Reeves mother’s house, Variety reports. One of the few guests who was invited to both events was Barbara Davis, who told Variety when asked to compare the two houses, “The Osbournes have pictures of their dead pets on the wall.” Interesting.

Anthony Michael Hall Sued

The Canadian insurers of the television series The Dead Zone have sued star Anthony Michael Hall to recoup more than $612,000 for failure to disclose he suffers from manic depression, AP reports. The suit claims production of the series, shot in Vancouver, was halted from May to August 2001 when Hall was treated for “bipolar affective disorder depression with psychotic features” for which the production company submitted a claim and received money. AP reports Hall‘s lawyers will respond to the suit.

OK, Divorce Me, but I’m Keeping the Dog!

One of the only things Cris Judd got from his divorce to diva Jennifer Lopez is a chocolate Labrador retriever named Buster, a gift from Lopez, AP reports. The couple was married for nine months before they split last June. “I still love her,” Judd told Us Weekly magazine for its March 31 issue. “And I will always have a special place in my heart for her. I will always be there for her if she ever needs me for anything.” So will, we assume, the dog.

Matrix Short Plays With Dreamcatcher

If you see Dreamcatcher this weekend, you are in for an added treat. The Final Flight of the Osiris, a $5 million computer-animated Matrix-related short film, will be shown before the screening of the Warner Bros. horror film. This is the first of nine short stories created by Matrix writer-director brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski It takes place after The Matrix left off and sets up the story to the next installment The Matrix: Reloaded, opening May 15.

Two Covers for Next Harry Potter Book

The fifth installment for the next Harry Potter chapter Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will get dual book covers–one for adults and one for children. According to AP, Bloomsbury Publishers unveiled the designs Thursday. The adult edition of book features a somber black-and-white picture of a phoenix, while the children’s version of the boy wizard book is illustrated with a more vibrant red and orange bird rising from flames.