TWO-YEAR WAIT FOR THE SOPRANOS
The final season of HBO's The Sopranos, which will likely include only ten episodes, won't air until 2006, HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht told TV critics yesterday at their annual press tour. Albrecht defended the delay, saying "People complain that TV does the same formula all the time ... and now people seem to be upset that we aren't following the formula we're supposed to be following" by scheduling it two years from now. News reports indicated that production of the final series won't begin until March, 2005.
FIRED CSI ACTRESS WILL RETURN, SAYS REPORT
Jorja Fox, one of the two CSI stars who was fired for failing to show up for work this week, has been hired back, the Associated Press reported today (Friday), citing a source close to the production. The wire service observed that no agreement has been reached on co-star George Eads, who said that he had simply overslept on the day of the shooting, but that Eads may be asked to return following his public apology on Wednesday.
JOEY HAS A NEW NEIGHBOR
Andrea Anders, a relatively unknown actress with the same name as the Bond Girl (played by Maud Adams) in 1974's Man With the Golden Gun, has landed the role of the married next-door neighbor on the Matt LeBlanc sitcom Joey, published reports said Thursday. Anders, who has had small roles on NBC's Law & Order and HBO's Oz and in the remake of The Stepford Wives, will be replacing Ashley Scott, who played the part of the neighbor, described as an uptight lawyer, in the pilot.
KARMAZIN WROTE HIS OWN SEVERANCE, SEC REPORT INDICATES
Mel Karmazin collected $35.4 million in bonuses and salary when he quit last month as president and COO of Viacom, according to the company's SEC filing Thursday. Today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times observed that Karmazin virtually guaranteed himself such a payment by writing it into his contract -- including another famous provision that prevented Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone or the board of directors from overruling him. Executive compensation expert Graef Crystal told the newspaper: "This isn't an employment contract, it's a treaty between two sovereign powers. ... He really wrote himself a sweetheart deal. He wore a sign 'Do Not Provoke,' like they have over a zoo cage." In the same filing, Viacom also observed that its profit rose 14 percent during the quarter as profit climbed to $754 million, up from $660 million during the comparable quarter a year ago.
MEDIA CHASTISED BY 9/11 COMMISSION
The 9/11 commission on Thursday sharply rebuked the news media for their failure to alert the public to the dangers posed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "Between May 2001 and September 11, there was very little in newspapers or on television to heighten anyone's concern about terrorism," the commission wrote. Observing that the issue of potential terrorism was barely mentioned during the 2000 political campaign, the commission reproached the news media for calling little attention to that fact and virtually ignoring bin Laden's numerous threats to kill Americans in large numbers.
FBI SAYS TV NEWS TRUCKS HAVE BEEN TARGETED BY TERRORISTS
Television news trucks that have converged on Boston for next week's Democratic National Convention may have been targeted by domestic terrorists, the FBI said Thursday. FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley explained, "A domestic terrorist group operates in the United States without any foreign direction." Reuters observed that one such group, the Earth Liberation Front, is known to attack vehicles. However, the environmental activist group makes a point of attacking only those it identifies as gas guzzlers, like Hummers and large SUVs, which it identifies as conspicuous symbols of environmentally harmful consumption.
BOURNE AGAIN OR NINTH LIFE?
A surfeit of blockbusters gorge the nation's theaters this week, with two new ones adding to the already towering heap. Universal's The Bourne Supremacy with Matt Damon, which cost about $80 million, and Warner Bros.' Catwoman, which cost about $100 million, will be duking it out with last week's winner, 20th Century Fox's I, Robot and Sony's Spider-Man 2 (not to mention Disney's King Arthur and, in its tenth week, DreamWorks' Shrek 2). At the same time, several smaller films that have caught on in limited release will be expanding this weekend. Fox Searchlight's Napoleon Dynamite will move into 389 theaters. MGM's Cole Porter musical-bio De-Lovely will move into 333, and the well-reviewed Jeff Bridges-Kim Basinger starrer The Door in the Floor, which opened last week, expands to 120.
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
Critics generally seem to agree that while The Bourne Supremacy may present a supreme number of plot holes and illogical behavior, none of that seems to matter since the story is so well told at such a fast pace. Stephen Holden in the New York Times writes that it's "all about building and sustaining a mood in which visceral and emotional rhythms are blended into a high-gloss thrill ride in which every curve and dip is calculated." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal writes similarly: "This skillfully crafted sequel moves at warp speed, keeping you in a state of reasonably contented if often confused attentiveness." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times explains the apparent lapses in logic this way: "Thrillers don't exist in a plausible universe. They consist of preposterous situations survived by skill, courage, craft and luck. That Matt Damon is able to bring some poignancy to Jason Bourne makes the process more interesting, because we care more about the character." Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune calls it "a close to perfect example of an expertly designed and executed thriller." But Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post is unimpressed, writing that the whole enterprise seems synthetic. "Gunfights, fistfights, car chases, they all look the same -- blurred, choppy, edited as if to the rhythm of popping corn, initially exciting but, once you get it, increasingly annoying." And Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer remarks that the film may have more in common with video games than with previous movie thrillers. "As a video game that propels the viewer through the course, Supremacy is supremely successful. I'm not sure that's enough for a movie narrative," she writes.
MOVIE REVIEWS: CATWOMAN
A kitty litter box may seem more aromatic than most of the critical reaction to Catwoman. "Hisses for Catwoman" is the way Claudia Puig begins her review in USA Today. "The cats of the world will get over this insult. Most likely by sleeping through it," writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. Likewise Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News sums up the movie by calling it a "big yawn." "What a letdown," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The filmmakers have given great thought to photographing [Halle] Berry, who looks fabulous, and little thought to providing her with a strong character, story, supporting characters or action sequences." Rick Groen's summation in the Toronto Globe and Mail: "Halle Berry's super slinky; Catwoman, rather stinky." Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post describes it as a "purrfectly bad, bloated ... laughable disaster." But the dependably contrarian Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times writes that the movie "is as swift and light on its feet as its heroine, Halle Berry. ... stylish and full of technical razzle-dazzle."
AMC THEATER CHAIN SOLD
A division of J.P. Morgan Chase (JPMorgan Partners) and Apollo Management are buying Kansas City-based AMC Entertainment, the nation's second-largest theater chain, for $2 billion and taking it private. The new owners said that they plan to keep the current management team, led by Chairman and CEO Peter Brown, in place. "This is a watershed event in the company's 80-year history," Brown said during a conference call with analysts. "We think it's the right transaction at the right time, really just a great realization of value for shareholders." The shareholders will receive $19.50 per share, a premium of 37 percent over its closing price on Monday (when rumors of the sale arose, halting trading). AMC owns 218 theaters with 3,306 screens in North America and 14 theaters with 238 screens abroad.
SAG PRESIDENT URGES STATES TO PROVIDE TAX INCENTIVES
Forget runaway production heading to other states from Hollywood. The Screen Actors Guild wants to keep moviemaking in America. At the annual National Conference of State Legislatures on Thursday, SAG President Melissa Gilbert urged state lawmakers to provide tax and other economic incentives to keep production here, noting that producers have been lured by film boards in other countries that have held out such incentives.
GAY TAIWAN COMEDY BANNED IN SINGAPORE
The Taiwan-produced comedy Formula 17, in which the entire cast of characters is gay (and male), has been banned in Singapore. The Singapore Films Appeals Committee ruled that the film "conveys the message that homosexuality is normal and a natural progression of society." The film, the directing debut of 23-year-old Chen Yin-jung, a woman, has been a huge hit in Taipei, where it grossed nearly $250,000 in four theaters, and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May to decent reviews (Variety commented that the film "makes up in exuberance for what it lacks in complexity.") Reuters reported from Singapore on Thursday that the ban was furthered by the recent release of a survey indicating that 70 percent of the local population is "not receptive to gay lifestyles."