Stories by John Horn

  • Newsmakers

    On the Trail of 'X-Men'No fewer than four Marvel comic books will be teleported into movies next year: "Daredevil," "Hulk," "The Punisher" and "X2," the sequel to "X-Men," the 2000 blockbuster that started the superhero stampede. To keep the Internet geeks from spoiling the surprises, all these movies are being made with more secrecy than Dick Cheney's energy meetings. When Alan Cumming emerges from his "X2" makeup trailer outfitted as the mutant Nightcrawler, the Scottish star wears a hooded cape to thwart paparazzi. The movie's plot is equally clandestine. "Even I don't know how the movie ends," says Famke Janssen, who returns in "X2" as Dr. Jean Grey.Then again, you can never be too careful with a $95 million movie on the line. Fox wisely insisted all lead actors in the first film--Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Oscar queen Halle Berry--commit to sequels. But Cumming may have the toughest job. He has to endure as many as 10 hours of makeup...
  • Review: A Fresh Meal For Dr. L

    You knew when you first saw Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" that this screen fiend was one for the ages, a creation as indelible in his way as Bela Lugosi's Dracula. You knew as well that Hollywood was going to milk this monster for all he was worth. So the rush to film novelist Thomas Harris's "Hannibal," his next Lecter installment, was inevitable. The problem was, Harris got his own creation wrong. Did we really want to see a bon vivant Hannibal, strolling the streets of Florence and falling for Clarice Starling? Did we really want him turned into camp? The movie and the book were hits, but the disappointment was palpable. Both screenwriter Ted Tally (who'd written the script for "Lambs") and Jodie Foster turned the sequel down. "I just didn't know how to make that story work," says Tally. "I wasn't sure who I was supposed to root for."According to studio executives and director Brett Ratner, who has brought the old beast back to nasty life in ...
  • Hollywood: The New Movie Math

    Hollywood seems to set a new box-office record every weekend. Or is it just concocting them? "Signs" was "the biggest debut for a film starring Mel Gibson." "Austin Powers in Goldmember" claimed "the biggest opening ever for a comedy and the biggest July opening for a movie of any genre." "Scooby-Doo" was "the best June opening for a movie based on a cartoon show starring a crimefighting Great Dane." (OK, we made that one up.)What the studios aren't saying is that in the second weekend, most of these "record-setters" dropped like ImClone stock. Traditionally, a movie's falloff during the second weekend has been the measure of its staying power, or "legs." Any movie that fell more than 50 percent the second weekend was deemed a flop. ("Titanic," the highest-grossing film ever, actually rose 24 percent its second weekend.) Yet this summer's "Austin Powers" collapsed 57 percent, "Men in Black II" 53 percent and "Scooby-Doo" 55 percent, and all are blockbuster hits. Can show-business...
  • Swinging Into Summer

    Happily married Diane Lane has an affair with a piping-hot book dealer (Olivier Martinez), and husband Richard Gere--well, let's just say he doesn't take it well. As always with director Adrian Lyne ("Fatal Attraction"), the price of a fling (not counting all that new lingerie) is very steep.Star Wars: Episode IIAbout a BoytwoThe Importance of Being EarnestInsomniaThe Sum of All FearsJUNEDivine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodScooby-DooThe Bourne IdentityWindtalkersThe Dangerous Lives Of Altar BoysLilo & StitchMinority ReportJULYMen in Black 2veryTadpoledoesreallyK-19: The WidowmakerAustin Powers In GoldmemberBlue CrushPossessionAUGUSTFull FrontalSpy Kids 2
  • Hanks Hits The 'Road' To Ruin

    Is it really true? Our sweet Tommy Hanks, cast as a cold-blooded hit man? Yes, for "The Road to Perdition," Hanks adds a pencil-thin mustache and 10 tons of moral baggage to play Michael Sullivan, a 1930s-era Chicago mobster who, along with his eldest son, sets out for revenge after his wife and young boy are murdered. "The simple line is, 'Tom Hanks kills people! Shock! Horror!' But it's much more than that," says director Sam Mendes, who chose this bloody drama, costarring Jude Law and Paul Newman, as his follow-up to "American Beauty." "It's about how far you'll go to protect your child from becoming, effectively, you." The title provides a hint: "perdition" means "hell." "I only knew that because I did 'Othello,' and there's the line 'Perdition catch my soul if I love thee not'," Mendes admits. "But I checked a dictionary just to make sure." So did we--you know, just to make sure.It's Out of This WorldMel Gibson'sSecret Agent Manly Manreally
  • The Empire Bounces Back

    You want a free tie? Here, take one. Take three! Just be forewarned: They've got Yoda on them. And Jar Jar Binks. And Anakin Skywalker, the cheeky little punk from "The Phantom Menace"--the one you probably wanted to muffle, ideally with the tie. Ralph Marlin & Co. has hundreds of them left, the worthless booty of a deal with Lucasfilm that went sour the moment "Menace" hit theaters in 1999. Joe Oleinik, a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchiser in Wyoming, has cup tops--you know, plastic figures that fit on the tops of soda cups. The idea was to collect all 12, and you still can, because Oleinik has a whole warehouse filled with them. At least it wasn't just the little guys. Hasbro, which paid out a stunning $650 million for the toy rights to George Lucas's three new "Star Wars" installments, watched 25 percent of its stock die on the shelves. And Tricon Global Restaurants, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, actually lost customers during its "Star Wars" promotion. But no one...
  • December Delusions

    It's the most agonizing split-second in show business. As millions of television viewers and thousands of panicky filmmakers look on, the Academy Award presenter grips the envelope, breaks open its seal and announces the winner. Yet months before that harrowing moment, the fate of many Oscar hopefuls is revealed in a nearly equally swift instant.If the Oscars are Hollywood's general election, its primary takes place in December, when more than a dozen big movies are opened simultaneously. Like politics, it's a blood sport, and the carnage can be devastating. Only a handful of movies emerge from the holiday season with any shot at awards recognition, and the rest vanish almost as fast as Jim Carrey's disastrous "The Majestic," which literally closed as soon as it opened. "Ali," which debuted strongly on Dec. 25, started wobbling a mere three days later, and never regained its stride. "The Shipping News" washed out just as quickly, and "Charlotte Gray" was out of theaters before...
  • Newsmakers

    A Knight to RememberSirSit, Roll Over and Then Go to the Day SpathatKitschy Cool
  • Newsmakers

    Prosecution Needs a RestSour PuddingTease for Two
  • The Flip Side Of A Flop

    Four days before the Walt Disney Co. opened "Monsters, Inc.," Attorney General John Ashcroft went on national television to alert the country of the potential for "additional terrorist attacks." The vague--and, to some, chilling--warning did little to deter moviegoers. Disney's computer-animated comedy surpassed the studio's projections by more than $20 million, grossing $62.6 million, the fifth-best opening weekend of all time.Three weeks earlier, on the very Friday that MGM debuted "Bandits," the news media was in a frenzy over anthrax scares in New York, with anchorman Tom Brokaw's assistant testing positive for exposure and The New York Times evacuating a newsroom after a suspicious letter arrived with white powder. "Bandits," which had been forecast by its makers to take in as much as $20 million in its first weekend, collected just $13 million. Before the weekend was even over, MGM was blaming the lackluster performance of its Bruce Willis movie on fears of the dangerous...
  • Heeeeeeere's Harry!

    Brendan Vinnicombe lives, breathes and trick-or-treats Harry Potter. The 8-year-old has read all four of J. K. Rowling's books (and no, you may not borrow any of them). He also owns a Harry Potter backpack, sleeps under a Harry Potter poster and puts spells on his mother and little sister. This Halloween, the Manhattan Beach, Calif., second grader will wander with countless little firemen and Statues of Liberty as the bespectacled boy wizard, complete with tape on the bridge of his glasses, just like the hero of Hogwarts. As good as the candy might be, Brendan's real reward arrives two weeks later, when he will don his outfit again for the first showing of the movie adaptation of Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." "I can't wait," the boy says. "Brendan is a marketer's dream," says his mother, Katie.Yes, he is, Mrs. Vinnicombe, and Warner Bros. and Mattel and Coke and every other company with a stake in the movie version of "Harry Potter" are all betting that there...
  • Periscope

    In investigating the Sept. 11 attack, few tasks are more difficult--and potentially more ominous--than unraveling the role of a mysterious Iraqi official named Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani. Until last spring, al-Ani was listed as the chief of consular affairs in the Iraqi Embassy in Prague. But last month U.S. officials were told by Czech intelligence that al-Ani had been spotted having a number of meetings with Mohamed Atta, the suspected hijack ringleader, near the Iraqi Embassy during a visit Atta made to the Czech Republic in April 2001.The report prompted tense debate within the Bush administration over possible Iraqi involvement in the attack. Al-Ani is believed to be a hardened Iraqi intelligence agent. In late April the Czech Foreign Ministry called in Iraq's mission chief in Prague and demanded that al-Ani leave the country within 48 hours. Why? U.S. and Czech officials told NEWSWEEK that al-Ani had been spotted "casing" and photographing the Radio Free Europe building...
  • L.A. Story

    In Richard Greenberg's 1988 play "Eastern Standard," a Manhattan restaurant patron flags down an attractive waitress by calling out, "Oh, actress!" The server stops dead in her tracks to take his order. Like most smart humor, the joke's zing lies in its veracity: For many, waiting tables is but an obligatory holding pattern before being cleared for a Hollywood landing. Yet those statistically unlikely dreams of stardom-and the dancing sugarplums of fame and fortune that come with it-are hardly limited to those serving up charred ahi tuna with ponzo sauce. Indeed, as recent news events suggest, among those being mesmerized by Hollywood fantasies are the very people whom you think would know better: the journalists charged with covering show business itself.Last Friday, the editor in chief of Variety was suspended by the paper indefinitely, and subsequently removed from his regular gig on CNN. A few weeks earlier, the gossip columnist for The Hollywood Reporter was taken off his job...
  • Virgin Loses Its Innocence

    It's a rock-and-roll saga tailor-made for VH1's "Behind the Music." A distinguished British record mogul shepherds his 19-year-old girlfriend into a powerful position at his label, provoking the ire of several colleagues. The two marry, but the union is dogged by gossip that her dealings with the talent are too close for comfort. They eventually file for divorce, but before the split is even final, she's caught in an embarrassing relationship with one of the label's up-and-coming singers. Then, just as their personal life hits bottom, their $80 million superstar has a breakdown.Up next: EMI Group and its Virgin Records grapple with the fallout from Ken and Nancy Berry's marital mess and Mariah Carey's meltdown.Until last month, things at the record company were looking up. Carey was getting ready to release her first album since joining Virgin, Lenny Kravitz's greatest-hits compilation was selling fantastically and Mick Jagger had been brought onboard, thanks to the efforts of Nancy...
  • Moviemaking's New Math

    When Disney opens its fairy-tale story "The Princess Diaries" on Aug. 3, the studio is confident young girls will stampede movie theaters. But the film's ultimate performance will rest on whether dad merely unloads his daughter at the curb or parks the SUV and buys himself a ticket as well. As movie after movie quickly disappears from memory, it's important to remember what makes some films stick around longer than the XFL. Sure, it helps to be good-audiences still do patronize smart works like "Memento." But quality is no guarantee of anything: If it mattered, nobody would have ever ventured into "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider."The real test among studio execs is whether a movie appeals to all four "quadrants." It sounds like some algebra equation you forgot the week after high school graduation, yet it's not that complex. Just take the moviegoing public and divide it in fourths: Men older than 25. Men younger than 25. Women older than 25. Women younger than 25. Those are Hollywood's...
  • You Want How Much For That

    To save money, Ray and Anita DeSilva usually vacation close to their Beaverton, Ore., home. But this year the DeSilvas decided to splurge and take their 16-year-old son to Orlando, Fla. They cashed in some frequent-flier miles and budgeted about $4,000 for the trip. The first big bill was a five-day pass for the three of them to Disney World. Cost: $790. Then they visited SeaWorld Discovery Cove. Admission: $267 for the family. And if they wanted to swim with the bottlenose dolphins? An extra $110 per person. They're now waiting to see what their weeklong trip cost them. "I'm afraid to look at my credit-card bill,'' says Anita DeSilva.Brace yourself for a summer of sticker shock. The cost of fun--from $100 seats for the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas to $250 Madonna tickets to $20 museum admissions--is rising more steeply than a stomach-churning roller coaster. Ticket prices for spectator sports, theme parks and concerts have soared in recent years at double-digit rates, to the...
  • Blockbuster At Sony

    Sony Pictures suspended Thursday two employees without pay for one month for their alleged role in the scandal over a manufactured movie critic who provided fictional quotes on four Sony movies.Sony did not identify the two employees, but four sources familiar with the investigation said the senior executive is Josh Goldstine, Sony's senior executive vice president for advertising. Goldstine did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. A studio spokeswoman declined comment.In a statement, Sony said it is "sanctioning the two advertising executives: one for his actions and the other for actions that occurred within the department he supervises." The studio also said it is creating "a new system of checks and balances involving both the publicity and advertising departments...to ensure the accuracy of quotes contained in future advertising campaigns and to prevent this from happening again."Challenged last week by Newsweek over the authenticity of critic David Manning...
  • The Reviewer Who Wasn't There

    David Manning of The Ridgefield Press is one of Columbia Pictures' most reliable reviewers, praising Heath Ledger of "A Knight's Tale" as "this year's hottest new star!" and saluting "The Animal" as "another winner!" The studio plastered Manning's raves over at least four different movie advertisements, including "Hollow Man" and "Vertical Limit." But Manning's own life story should be called "Charade," because he doesn't exist. Challenged last week by NEWSWEEK about the reviewer's authenticity, Columbia parent Sony Pictures Entertainment admitted that Manning is a fake, a product of the studio's advertising department.The Ridgefield Press (which was unaware of the deception) is a small Connecticut weekly, but that's where any verisimilitude ends. An unidentified Sony employee apparently concocted the Manning persona last July, using the name of a friend, and attributed fictional reviews to him. Supervisors using the quotes in movie ads didn't question Manning's legitimacy. "It was...
  • The Land Of Baz

    Inside the house of Iona, Baz Luhrmann's magnificent estate on a Sydney hill, the Australian director paces in a huge room as night falls, sorting out a dance routine as the '70s anthem "Children of the Revolution" blares from a boom box. A family Christmas party is about to start downstairs, yet Luhrmann keeps working. "She could shimmy this way," says Luhrmann as choreographer John O'Connell looks on. As Luhrmann plots this sequence--a dance that will be performed by a tiny, animated fairy in his spectacular new film "Moulin Rouge"--he clutches a glass of shiraz and sings along with the T. Rex song. Luhrmann shakes his hips, does a small leap, and exclaims, "And then all the bohemians are sucked into the underworld of the Moulin Rouge!" ...
  • The Road To 'Pearl Harbor'

    Since Its Inception, Director Michael Bay's World War Ii Epic Has Lived Larger Than Life. An Exclusive Preview
  • Oops, They Did It Again

    In the real world, familiarity breeds contempt. Not in Hollywood. It sells tickets. From now through August, the major studios will release no fewer than seven sequels. One studio, Universal Pictures, has three follow-ups on its summer slate: "The Mummy Returns," "Jurassic Park III" and "American Pie 2." "It may look like a failure of creativity to have three sequels in one summer," says Stacey Snider, Universal's chairman. "But only if they're not creative." ...
  • Where The Action Isn't

    Art imitates life--and so, it turns out, do Sylvester Stallone movies. The actor's new drama, "Driven," tells the heroic story of Jimmy Bly, an auto racer who must overcome both personal doubts and a cocky rival to win a championship. Sounds like a perfect comeback role for the "Rambo" veteran, who's suffered through an extended box-office tailspin. Except for one thing. Bly's actually played by 24-year-old newcomer Kip Pardue. Stallone? He wrote and produced the movie--and cast himself in a supporting role. As a has-been. ...
  • Arts Extra: The Evolution Of A Director

    In Robert Rodriguez's last movie, the R-rated horror story "The Faculty," teachers were mutilated with scissors, students were attacked by dismembered fingers and a tranquil school campus was transformed into Killer Alien High. The biggest shock in the director's new film is that there's no shock at all. "Spy Kids" is a kid's fantasy with not much more violence than a "Where's Waldo?" cartoon. ...
  • The Coming Storm

    As hundreds of advertisers streamed into ABC's season preview last week, the background music included the theme from "Goldfinger." The promised lineup included new series from "Seinfeld's" Jason Alexander and producer Steven Bochco. But in fact, the classic 1964 James Bond movie may end up being about the best thing ABC has to offer next fall. If you think "The Sopranos" makes the rest of TV look like the garbage business, just wait a couple of months, when there may not be any writers or actors around. ...
  • Movieland's Mystery Man

    The cost of movie tickets just soared to a wallet-busting $10 in Manhattan, a large popcorn and soda will set you back as much as two Happy Meals, and for all that you get Kevin Costner's psychotic Elvis impersonator in "3,000 Miles to Graceland." Does anyone think going to the movies is a good deal? ...
  • Arts Extra: Food Fight!

    It's not quite as bloody as Hannibal vs. the FBI. But the stakes in this duel at your local multiplex are higher-billions of dollars a year-and the competition is sometimes just as ruthless. It's the battle between popcorn and other concession-stand stacks. ...
  • Robert Downey Jr. Takes One Day At A Time

    Early in "The Last Party," Robert Downey Jr.'s 1993 documentary about the Clinton-Bush presidential contest, the actor gives a startling description of his own internal psychic face-off. "I call it the Good Boy and the Goat Boy," he says in a voice-over. "You know, those parts of me that are only out for my own instant gratification. Delayed gratification is not something that I was raised with." The Oscar-nominated "Chaplin" actor then stoops over and begins to hop around. He keeps up the Pan routine throughout the movie, at parks and political conventions in New York, L.A. and Houston. The movie is a decisive victory for the goat.Last week the goat was on display again as Downey picked his way past a crush of spectators and journalists inside Department 1-A of Riverside Superior Court in Indio, Calif. The occasion was a brief procedural appearance in his newest felony drug-possession case, the fallout of an alleged three-day coke-and-Valium jag inside bungalow No. 311 at the tony...

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