JANET AXED FROM GRAMMYS
A publicist for Janet Jackson confirmed Thursday that the pop singer will not appear at the Grammy Awards ceremonies on Sunday. She had originally been scheduled to introduce a tribute to Luther Vandross, who is recovering from a debilitating stroke. The publicist did not indicate whether the decision was made by Jackson, by the Grammy producers, or by CBS (which also aired the Super Bowl halftime show in which Jackson's right breast was revealed when part of her costume was ripped off by Justin Timberlake). Meanwhile, a class-action law suit was filed in Knoxville, TN Wednesday alleging that the halftime show caused viewers "to suffer outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury." Terri Carlin, who filed the law suit, also charged that the broadcast harmed the "standing and credibility" of the U.S. On Thursday, MTV announced that it had canceled a planned special titled Making of the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show that had been scheduled to air on Saturday.
LATINOS SAY NIELSEN OVERLOOKS THEM
The National Latino Media Council accused Nielsen Media Research on Thursday of using faulty methodology in selecting participants for its ratings surveys that does not take into proper account the number of U.S. born Hispanics. The result, the group said, was that Hispanic-oriented programs do not always receive the kind of ratings that they deserve. The study observed that while Nielsen reported last September that the Hispanic-oriented ABC sitcom George Lopez drew an average audience of about 1.2 million viewers in 17 markets, its own survey in four of the markets, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and San Antonio, indicated that nearly 900,000 Hispanics regularly tuned in to the show. Nielsen issued a statement saying that it stood by its ratings sample.
LETTERMAN SHOW CANCELED AS PERFORMER IS INJURED
David Letterman called off the taping of his Thursday-night telecast when an Olympic gold-medal snowboarder fell from a two-story ramp during the production. Before the accident Letterman had told the snowboarder, Tara Dakides, to "be careful" and had remarked, "I'm surprised you're doing this without a helmet." Witnesses said that she suffered a large cut on the back o? her head but was not otherwise seriously injured. Letterman reportedly visited Dakides later at Bellevue hospital.
BRADLEY REFUTES NEW YORK TIMES ACCUSATION
60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley claimed on Thursday that his planned interview with Michael Jackson last February failed to materialize because on the day of the interview, the singer received a call from Marlon Brando informing him that the deposition that had been given by the child he had been accused of molesting in 1992 had been uploaded onto the Internet. Bradley also maintained that the child who is involved in the current complaint and his other were at Jackson's Neverland ranch on the day that the original interview with the singer fell though and told him they "were willing to go on television to say what a great person Michael Jackson was." Bradley disputed a New York Times report that the February interview was canceled because Jackson had not received a promised $1-million payment for it from CBS.
TRUMP'S THE APPRENTICE TO GO A SECOND SEASON
Donald Trump has agreed to hire a second $250,000-a-year apprentice for a second season of the NBC reality series The Apprentice, the network announced Thursday. Originally scheduled to air on Wednesday nights, the show bombed in its first competition with Fox's American Idol. Moved to a regular spot on Thursdays, however, it has proved to be a ratings winner, particularly among the 18-49-year-old set. It revolves around the billionaire developer's efforts to find an assistant.
PROTEST UPSTAGES BERLINALE
In a scene reminiscent of the "the whole world is watching" demonstration that was staged during the 1968 Democratic convention, between 500 and 700 young protesters disrupted the opening of the Berlin Film Festival Thursday night, chanting and shouting slogans that could be heard for blocks around. As dozens of television and newspaper cameras recorded their activities, they burst onto the red carpet, through the front doors and into the lobby and theater of the Berlinale Palast, where the opening night screening of Cold Mountain had been scheduled to take place. They were ousted by a phalanx of police, but succeeded in delaying the screening (and the subsequent post-screening party) by more than an hour. The students were protesting government plans to cut university funding.
MIRAMAX CHIEF RESPONDS TO "RUNAWAY PRODUCTION" COMPLAINT
Miramax Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein has attributed the exclusion of Cold Mountain from the Oscar nominations for best film to the U.S. media's focus on the film's being shot in Romania, instead of America. Appearing at a news conference prior to the opening of the Berlin film festival, Weinstein defended the decision of director Anthony Minghella to shoot the film, set in South Carolina during the U.S. Civil War, in Europe. Seated next to Weinstein, Minghella observed that a quarter of the film's budget was spent in the U.S.
ALADDIN GETS GO-AHEAD FOR DVD
Disney's 1992 feature Aladdin will become the fourth animated "classic" from the studio to be released on DVD, the company's Buena Vista Home Entertainment announced Thursday. The movie, to debut in retail outlets on Oct. 5, follows the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Lion King and Alice in Wonderland as part of the studio's DVD Platinum Series. The new restoration of Aladdin is expected to include the musical number "Proud of Your Boy" by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, that was cut from the original production. (In the just-released DVD version of Alice in Wonderland, restorers inserted a long-lost song by the Cheshire Cat, "I'm Odd.")
AUSTRALIAN CARDINAL PRAISES GIBSON'S PASSION
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney has given a warm endorsement to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Cardinal George Pell told The Australian newspaper that the film was "not anti-Semitic" and was "a beautiful production, a work of faith truly based on the gospels." The newspaper said that religious groups have already bought 20,000 tickets to see the movie on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.
MOVIE REVIEWS: BARBERSHOP 2: BACK IN BUSINESS
Although movie industry analysts are predicting that Barbershop 2: Back in Business will be a big winner at the box office this weekend, many film critics have found it to be somewhat less than winning. Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times says that it "should produce a lot more laughs," but concedes that it's "intermittently amusing." Several critics (Mitchell included) suggest that the filmmakers have emphasized the second part of the title. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post calls it "a calculating crowd-pleaser that sometimes feels like a movie equivalent of the corporate chains it's decrying." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times finds it second-rate, compared with the original. "The first film arrived with freshness and an unexpected zing, but this one seems too content to follow in its footsteps," he writes. Most critics, however, suggest that seeing the film may be a pleasant way of spending an hour and 38 minutes. Desson Thomson in the Washington Post remarks that "it's a warm, often funny reunion of the sassiest, chattiest characters ever to buzz a brother's head. You'll like this one more than you'd expect." And Claudia Puig in USA Today writes that the sequel "is not a hair short of the original."
MOVIE REVIEWS: CATCH THAT KID
Catch That Kid , which Roger Ebert describes as "a heist movie involving 12-year-old kids," is being compared with Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids -- and found wanting. Compared with that movie, writes Megan Lehmann in the New York Post, it's "a prosaic, wannabe effort." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News calls it "an entirely uninspired Spy Kids wanna-be." Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail comments that Spy Kids "was a nice commercial mix of tall-tale fun and bright whimsy. This is Neither." Ellen Fox in the Chicago Tribune says that Catch That Kid "has none of the creativity or heart of Spy Kids, but ... is aiming for the same action audience." And Christy Lemire of the Associated Press describes it as "a poor man's Spy Kids." But Ty Burr of the Boston Globe took his own kids to the screen, and when he asked them if they liked it, they replied, "Yeah! Four stars!" "Sadly," writes Burr, "this is what happens when your father is a film critic."
MOVIE REVIEWS: MIRACLE
Miracle , in which Kurt Russell plays hockey coach Herb Brooks, who assembled the victorious American hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics, is receiving cheers from most critics. The script, they agree, is mostly by-the-numbers for a sports film. Russell's performance, they suggest, is something else. Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun writes that it is "so robust and true, so acute in its depiction of a complex, brilliant character and so immense in its understated sympathy that it brings new meaning to the overused word 'inspirational.'" Carries Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer says it's the role of Russell's career. "Russell's stunning performance, his most memorable star turn since he played Elvis in the 1979 telefilm, is one of poetry in motivation and understatement in overdrive," she writes. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Daily News observes: "Russell is turning into a true exception, a performer who is improving in a major way as he gets older and seems to relax more into his own skin." And Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News concludes that "Russell is the small miracle in Miracle."