Ramin Setoodeh

Stories by Ramin Setoodeh


    Spiderman is about to look years younger, no thanks to Botox. Until now, the Peter Parker series, like most comics, was targeted at teen and adult readers. This week Marvel debuts its first line for the 10-and-under crowd. Spidey and the Fantastic 4 will star in less-violent story lines with panels that move in a gridlike pattern, instead of at angles, so they're easier to read. Another difference: Parker (the boy behind the suit) looks like he stepped out of a cartoon, the result of Marvel focus grouping, says supervising editor MacKenzie Cadenhead. "There's a more vibrant style. Kids will respond to that."Marvel wants the series to convert younger readers into comic fans for life. The new line isn't wholly sanitized--Spidey's Uncle Ben still dies--but stories aren't sagas: each issue is self-contained, so there are no "to be continued" plot twists. Editor in chief Joe Quesada says he has "high hopes" that the "X-Men" and "Captain America" will follow. If so, a battle may play out...

    Attendance is back up at amusement parks, so look out for some new twists. Here are the coming attractions:

    The Boy From Oz," a Broadway show starring Hugh Jackman, closed last fall. But the play's fans are scheming to keep it alive. This spring the devotees formed Ozalot Productions to get the play made into a movie. "Hugh Jackman could end up the biggest star in the world," says Ozalot prez Barbara Whittaker. His turn as songwriter Peter Allen, she says, "has to be committed to film."Of course, the Ozalots have a few casting ideas. In an online debate that stretched for months, they settled on Mike Nichols as director, Anne Hathaway as Liza Minnelli and Eric McCormack as Jackman's lover (chart).Earlier this month a group of fans tracked down Jackman at a Broadway event in New York, introduced themselves and handed him a cast list. They hope that he'll produce the movie and then hire them as extras. Jackman, who's hosting the Tony Awards June 5, isn't ruling it out. "My fans are terrific," he tells NEWSWEEK. "We'll see."
  • Hugh Jackman Talks Tony

    On Sunday, Hugh Jackman returns for the third consecutive year to host the Tony Awards (CBS, 8 p.m. ET). Last year, the boy from Oz embarrassed Sarah Jessica Parker by pulling her on stage for a shimmy. Who's his next victim? Jackman won't say. But in a recent conversation with NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh, he discussed his plans to return to Broadway, whether he'll be cast as the next James Bond and why he keeps his own Tony in storage.NEWSWEEK: You're becoming the Billy Crystal of the Tony Awards?Hugh Jackman: Ironically, he will be there this year. He got nominated [for "700 Sundays"].Are you going to call him on stage if he loses?You never know. People presume Sarah Jessica Parker last year was a plant. But I think if I asked her to do it, she might have conveniently found herself in the bathroom.Where do you keep the Tony you won last year for "The Boy from Oz?"Right now, it's in storage.Why?Well, because my whole life is in storage. I'm homeless at the moment. We're still looking...

    Chocolaty brews are suddenly big, but so are their calorie counts. Our tip: pass the Snickers!Dunkin' Donuts: Iced lattes come in chocolate-dipped banana or strawberry flavor. Is that a fruit serving?Calories: 300 (90 from fat).Chocometer: Like a bite of fudge.Starbucks: The Chantico is a mixture of cocoa butter and cocoa powder, with steamed milk.Calories: 390 (190 from fat).Chocometer: Melted truffles.Godiva: The Chocolixir. Pieces of chocolate are blended up with caramel or chocolate sauce.Calories: 700 (270 from fat).Chocometer: Might as well eat a box.

    If getting dressed is just too much trouble, consider Lisa Crawford's approach: the 37-year-old billing clerk from Johnstown, Ohio, wanders around in her pajamas at the mall, the movies, work--even when she picks up her daughter at school. "They look awesome," she says. Apparently, other women agree. SBH Intimates has launched Scanty, a brand of public-use PJs. They come in the snug cuts associated with women's jeans and sit lower on the waistline. "It gives the butt more of a curve," says Scanty creator Mickey Sills. Instead of moon-and-cloud patterns, he uses vintage T-shirt designs with peace signs or a pirate's skull-and-crossbones. Could this be a sleeper hit? The $3.8 billion women's sleepwear industry is facing "quite a bit of competition for shelf space," says Julia Cardis, an analyst for market-research group Mintel. The next front in the what-to-wear-to-bed battle may have its roots in the gym: the brand Karen Neuburger recently started using the fabric from workout...

    No one wants to lose an expensive camera at the beach. Why not shoot your next trip with a disposable? Here are the latest upgrades: the CVS Digital One-Time-Use Camera ($19.99). It comes with a 1.4-inch LCD screen that lets you preview pictures and delete bad ones. The big downside is that you have to find a CVS store to develop your pictures. The first one we visited said the technician who knew how to work the machine was out of town. Kodak Zoom ($11.99). You can snap shots from where you stand, or zoom in to get 35 percent closer. Take this with you to the amusement park--the crowds might not let you get that close to Buzz Lightyear. Fujifilm QuickSnap True Definition ($15.99). This camera comes with high-end film, the company says, that captures colors better with sharper details. To our untrained eyes, the photos we developed didn't seem any different. But it's the easiest to operate.

    Is walt whitman about to make a comeback? He takes center stage in Michael Cunningham's latest novel, "Specimen Days" (June 7)-- and you remember what happened when Cunningham put Virginia Woolf in "The Hours." (Everyone rushed to read, or reread, "Mrs. Dalloway.") Stay ahead of the pack: Whitman is best known for "Leaves of Grass"--his collection of poems, first published in 1855, about nature and mankind. You might want to brush up, because excerpts appear in Cunningham's novel. To learn more about the poet's life, try "Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography" by David S. Reynolds. The Walt Whitman Archive (whitmanarchive.org) includes manuscripts, criticism and even an audio recording. And the Library of Congress (loc.gov) has opened a new exhibit called "Revising Himself," devoted to Whitman and "Leaves of Grass." Emerson would be proud.

    These days, amusement parks need the $$$, so they're even making grub into an attraction. Line up, grab a seat and hold on... to your fork.UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ...

    As the winner of the second "Apprentice," Kelly Perdew should be in line for a top job in the Trump organization. But you'd never know that from his office. His desk is in a small, windowless space next to the assistant to Donald Trump's wife, Melania (Perdew has no assistant). The walls are bare, except for a dry-erase board and a U.S. map, stuck with pins marking the distributors he's signed to buy his boss's new line of bottled water, Trump Ice. "This is going to be big," he vows.That, of course, is the same promise Trump made about the job waiting for the lucky contestant who survives long enough to hear him say, "You're hired." (He'll be picking this season's winner on Thursday.) In the series premiere, Trump promised the top prize of a job as president of one of his companies. But spend some time with winners of the first two seasons, and the reality of this reality show becomes clear: the apprentices' $250,000-a-year gigs are less about climbing the corporate ladder, and more...

    On a sunny spring day in southern California, a handful of factory workers are scurrying around in heavy black winter parkas. At the Dreyer's ice cream plant in Bakersfield--where they turn out such treats as Drumstick cones, Push-Up pops, ice-cream sandwiches and flavors like double-fudge brownie and rocky road--it's never time to be wearing short sleeves. These days, the temperature is dropping even more. In some of the largest freezers, set at 7 degrees, Dreyer's is producing a new kind of lower-fat ice cream that the company says tastes like the regular artery-clogging good stuff. Plant manager Mark McLenithan opens a chocolate tub and offers a taste. "You can't tell, can you?"Well, call us skeptical. Light ice cream, with half the fat or at least a third fewer calories, has been around since the 1980s. But most palates haven't been impressed. When you cut down on fat, ice cream tastes more like ice and less like cream. Now Dreyer's, the largest ice-cream maker in the United...

    Sunday is Mother's Day: time to buy roses. We ordered four small bouquets and polled moms to see what they thought.SITE: 1800Flowers COST: $43.43 SPECIAL DELIVERY: You choose hand or mail delivery. Shipped buds are fresher but hard to unpack. MOMMY SAYS: These colorful roses are 'nice.' Bonus points for a big arrangement.SITE: Teleflora COST: $40.98 SPECIAL DELIVERY: Orders come from local florists, who can sub in buds you didn't pick. MOMMY SAYS: 'Too prissy.' The site shows light pink roses; we got dark pink.SITE: ProFlowers COST: $29.98 SPECIAL DELIVERY: Flowers are boxed and sent from the field. Guaranteed to last longer. MOMMY SAYS: Not a fan of the site's 'petite' roses. 'I'd say they're a little puny.'SITE: FTD COST: $40.98 SPECIAL DELIVERY: Usually delivered by a florist. Ours came with a handwritten note. MOMMY SAYS: The selection of a dozen red roses, above, 'is my favorite.'
  • Summer Slimdown

    "Here now summer's coming around again." But the Carly Simon lyrics don't tell you the best way to shed those extra pounds gained during winter. Atkins is out. South Beach is so two years ago. And Slim-Fast feels like your grandmother's plan. But how do you separate the fads from the facts?Fortunately--or unfortunately--for us, bookstore shelves are bulging with new diet books. We sampled some of the latest titles:The New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life By The American Institute for Cancer ResearchJudging by the cover: Pies are yummy ... and can be good for you, too!Recipe for success: A group of food experts got together to compile a book of meals that are healthy--to reduce, say, your risk of cancer--and still don't taste like cardboard. Sample dishes, like roasted chestnut soup and spinach lasagna, are low in saturated fat. There's also a full glossary of fruits and veggies, so you can tell your bulgur from your basil.Bottom line: Recipes...

    Q&A: Ray RomanoAfter nine years, "everybody Loves Raymond" is going off the air. The final episode will show on May 16. Ray took time to speak to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Have you filmed the last episode? ...

    Q&A: ELLEN BARKINEllen Barkin is as feisty and outspoken as ever. She's starring in Todd Solondz's controversial new movie, "Palindromes." She talked with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Were you nervous taking on this role?No, I was more than honored. I said yes before I read the script. He's the best director I've worked with.Have you answered a million questions about abortion?Yes, and I'm happy to answer more. I'm adamantly pro-choice. I guess I'm a child of the '60s, and I remember one of my friends hemorrhaging on the bathroom floor because she'd just come back from Puerto Rico. What I see ahead is Roe v. Wade being chipped away every day by this hysterically frightened society. I find it horrifying.Let's talk about plastic surgery!In NEWSWEEK?Hey, that's me. Pretend I'm a shallow gay man.Shallow, yet perfectly keeping in the Zeitgeist.You've been talking about it.I have. You don't know if these actresses are 17 or 70. Some of them don't look like themselves. I think now it's f--...

    Harvard officials announced last week that they would divest $4.4 million in shares of a company linked to Sudan. Why? They were persuaded by students who mounted a campaign against the genocide in the country's Darfur region, allegedly perpetrated by the Sudanese government. A mini-guide for the would-be activist:Start an online petition. Organizers say they put up $10 for a domain name that allowed them to collect about 1,000 signatures.Set up a meeting. A few persuasive reps sat down with university officials in positions of power.Protest peacefully. Student groups dressed in black and rallied together to show their dissatisfaction. "There was just no defense for this," says Manav Bhatnagar, 20, cofounder of the movement.

    Could this be act two of Christo's "Gates"? Men's raincoats this spring are popping up in shades of orange. How do you pull off the trend without looking like a pumpkin? The coats pictured above are already "very dramatic," says celebrity stylist George Blodwell. So you want to pair them with a more understated color--white or pale blue. Jeans are always a good bet. Follow the same fashion advice if you experiment with other orange offerings, like shoes, shirts and pants. (OK, you might want to pass on the pants.) After all, "orange is a hot color at the moment," Blodwell says. But whatever you do, avoid other citrusy tints, like green or yellow: people might think you're bananas.

    FASHIONStep Into SpringPack up your boots, put away those pumps and say adieu to Uggs. Spring has officially arrived and, with it, a new crop of shoes that celebrate longer days, warmer nights and the first show of bare legs. Put some sparkle in your step:Precious metals. Metallic shoes are making a lustrous comeback. No longer a fashion relic of the '80s, today's pretty metals have been recast as understated flats in gold and silver that add a dash of St-Tropez sparkle to cropped pants, full skirts and even denim. The striking Degas Ballerina by Tod's is perfect for long promenades (www.tods.com), and slipping into Lanvin's lurex flats (www. lanvin.fr) infuses your favorite pair of jeans with instant French luxe.Hot rocks. Baubles, beads, beach glass and seashells: spring's low-key jewelry is adorning some of this season's most seductive sandals. Aegean-blue beads on Manolo Blahnik's turquoise thongs give flourish to simple skirts and short pants. Craving a bit of bling? Christian...

    It's lunchtime in Iowa City, and after a bite of her veggie sandwich, Wendi Winkie starts reading student papers. But these aren't just any classroom essays--they're from the new SAT, which launched in March with a new writing section. One of the questions--"Is creativity needed more than ever in the world today?"--is prompting creative answers. They range from Thoreau to vacuum cleaners. One essay argues that creativity is needed in the advertising world, because we see the same commercials for male-enhancement drugs. Winkie sits up, chuckles and gives the essay a 5 on a 6-point scale. But, she adds, "Just because you find a response humorous doesn't mean it's any better."What does? Teachers and test-prep companies have been trying to figure that out since the College Board announced the new essay section. (Test- prep company Kaplan, like NEWSWEEK, is owned by The Washington Post Company.) Does neat handwriting help? (No.) How about vocabulary? (Papers that sprinkle in more...

    Who is Jude Law? Audiences missed his movies last year, so how will you decide which version of Jude to spend the night with? A cheat sheet.MOVIE 'Alfie'LOVE INTERESTS Susan Sarandon: 26 yrs. older; Sienna Miller: 9 yrs. youngerTAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 2:15 (mins. into movie)ROMEO MOMENT To Jane Krakowski: "Your derriere looks really rather ravishing."MOVIE 'Closer'LOVE INTERESTS Julia Roberts: 5 yrs. older; Natalie Portman: 8 yrs. younger.TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 91:39ROMEO MOMENT To Clive Owen, online: "MEET ME... London Aquarium & then HOTEL."MOVIE 'I [HEART] Huckabees'LOVE INTERESTS Naomi Watts: 4 yrs. older. But she doesn't get the ring.TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 11:32ROMEO MOMENT "Why is marriage and kids so important? There's an overpopulation problem."MOVIE 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'LOVE INTERESTS Gwyneth Paltrow: 3 months older. They were both born in '72.TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 53:41ROMEO MOMENT To Gwyneth: "Please! Don't touch anything else!" Hey, it's an action movie.

    After a hit on the Cartoon Network, Japan pop stars Ami and Yumi are taking over. But haven't we seen this act? PERI investigates:RelationPuffy AmiYumi Met at an audition nine years ago; they're BFFsMary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Twin sistersAgesPuffy AmiYumi 31 (Ami), 30Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Both 18Animated SeriesPuffy AmiYumi"Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi" has a big tween followingMary-Kate and Ashley Olsen "Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action!" lasted a season. On DVD in May.DollsPuffy AmiYumiSay Japanese words and sing theme song. Out August.Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Dressed for college. Carry GO TEAM megaphones.Greatest HitsPuffy AmiYumi"True Asia," "Love So Pure," "Planet Tokyo"Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen "I Am the Cute One," "Ice Cream Crazy," "Pool Party"

    You're a "Star Wars" fan who can't wait to see Hayden Christensen become Darth Vader in "Revenge of the Sith" (May 19). But wouldn't you rather undergo that transformation? Here are the latest Vader masks--just shell out the $$, and give in to your Dark Side.Darth Vader 'Episode III' Helmet, $899. From Master Replicas. It's made of fiberglass and lined with foam, suede and leather. The Dark Side: Out in October, it's taken from the studio mold, so it won't fit if your head's bigger than Hayden's. Is that possible?Silver Color Mask and Helmet Set, $2,000. From Rubie's. It's coated to protect against tarnishing--and comes with a stand. Who said you don't have a good head for decorating? The Dark Side: There are only 500 out there. Supreme Edition Darth Vader, $130. A high-end plastic mask at party stores. Wear it with a black cape on the day the movie opens. The Dark Side: The lenses are tinted "like sunglasses," says a rep, to hide your eyes.Darth Vader Voice Changer, $30. From...

    How do you phone home? More than a million consumers have discovered VoIP--voice over Internet protocol--to make local and long-distance calls over the Internet. Subscribers get a phone adapter to plug into their broadband line. Because the services don't slap on as many fees, your bill will be lower. The downside? You'll lose your phone when your Internet goes down, and 911 service is tricky. Still, with prices so low, now might be a good time to join, especially if you need a second line. The lowdown:VONAGE (vonage.com) is the leader, with some 500,000 customers. It comes with three-way calling and call return (*69). But its customer service has been getting bad marks. $25 a month for all U.S. calls; $68 start-up fee (includes the first month).AT&T CALLVANTAGE (callvantage .com) is adding an enhanced 911 service that would allow the operator to see your contact info. $30 a month; $30 start-up, and $10 for shipping.VERIZON VOICEWING (verizon.com/ voicewing) waives the start-up...

    "I'm a nurse," says Jenni Hanson, 23. "Do you want to hold the newborn?" Only Hanson's not really a nurse. And she's not offering the children who crowd around her a real baby. Dressed in a white uniform, Hanson works at an adoption center--for dolls. Here, in New York's FAO Schwarz, girls gather behind a glass window to peek at newborns in a hospital setting. Once they choose whom they want to adopt, "Nurse" Jenni pretend-listens for a heartbeat and hands over an adoption application with questions like "Will you provide clothes for your baby to wear?"More adoption nurseries are on their way. The Middleton Doll Co. plans to open a handful this spring in the Saks Department Store Group, and 100 in the next three years. "We want these babies [which retail for $89] to be just like a newborn," says Tim Voss, the company's president. It's part of the trend for doll makers--to make their dolls more real, to compete with new gadgets targeted at kids. "Doll manufacturers are squeezed to...

    Avoid "Rebirth." J. Lo needs one after that Grammy performance, but judging by her new single, "Get Right," and the fact that Sony wouldn't give up a review copy, it may be more like a "Nail in the Coffin."Buy "Classic Comedies Collection" ($69). A box set that includes "The Philadelphia Story," "Bringing Up Baby" and four other titles with greats like Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.Read "Campo Santo" by W. G. Sebald (Random House. $25). A posthumous collection of prose from the German writer. For a bookstore browse, try the essay "Dream Textures: A Brief Note on Nabokov."Play Ms. Pac-Man wireless ($30). Now you can plug the addictive game into your TV and sit way, way back--the controller's cordless.See "Their Eyes Were Watching God." Yours will be on Halle, in her steamiest sex scene since "Monster's Ball." What else would you watch for? (Sunday, ABC, 9 p.m., ET).

    You'll be tickled by what Elmo can do now. This fall, Fisher-Price will introduce a new talking plush toy based on the "Sesame Street" character that says your child's name, counts down to his birthday and lets him know when it's time for lunch. The technology is made possible through a memory card in the doll's stomach that receives information from parents.By now, adults have learned all about interactive toys like the virtual pet Tamagotchi. But the latest kids' gadgetry, unveiled this week at New York's American International Toy Fair, involves even more sophisticated technology, like motion detectors and sound recognition. The idea is to create toys that look, feel and act like living creatures. Some child psychologists aren't crazy about the new trend--critics say it can stifle creativity--but kids are. The latest generation of tots, who grew up playing with their parents' cell phones and iPods, expect their toys to be just as wired. "By 2010," predicts Jim Silver, the editor...

    All bets are off at this year's Oscars, thanks to host Chris Rock who might prompt more bleeps than a broken smoke alarm. But if you had to make some bets, say, in an Oscar pool, wouldn't you want a little help? TIP SHEET tracks the top races. As for what to wear, you're on your own.CATEGORY: Best Picture ...

    The latest comic-book superheroes are from a real different world--Hollywood. These days, TV and movie scribes are cranking out comics. Even directors are in the game; Bryan Singer ("X-Men") and Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream") will publish later this year. Why the shift? Big names help boost sales. But are you ready for do-gooders who talk like "The O.C." 's Mischa Barton? A roundup:Young Avengers By Allan Heinberg"The O.C." writer knows as much about comics as Seth. Four teenage superheroes with dialogue like "This is not superhero behavior." But at least they throw punches, not lawn furniture.Man With the Screaming Brain By Bruce CampbellActors can write? From the B-movie star of "Evil Dead." A four-issue mini-series (out in May). This title character switches brains after a mad scientist performs an operation on him.Deadshot By Christos GageHe's penned episodes of "Law & Order: SVU." Issue three is out now. Hit man Deadshot learns of his daughter's existence and...

    Rent "The Greatest American Hero." Believe it or not, high-school teacher Ralph Hinkley inherits a superhero costume from aliens but loses the instructions in this '80s cult hit.Hear "Never Scared." Chris Rock's new comedy album takes aim at rappers and strippers. It's bleeping hilarious--unless you're a nervous Oscars exec.Buy Adidas by Stella McCartney (at select Bloomingdale's). This new line of gym couture includes yoga shoes ($120) and hoodies. It's stylish enough for working out and wearing out.Enter The Ugliest Car in America contest (donate carusa.com) to give your wreck to charity. Prize lemons tour the country--by tow truck.Surf themorningnews.org's Tournament of Books. Bloggers pit 2004's best novels against each other in a bibliophile's version of March Madness.

    If you're the kind of person who'd get married at an amusement park, we've got excellent news. Now you can buy your wedding dress there, too. Universal Studios Hollywood just opened a new discount store with couture fashion worn by celebrities. (The park snatches up the goods from TV-set racks after the stars undress.) There's even underwear. But at least everything's been to the dry cleaners.'Crossing Jordan' LUCKY BRAND. From the title character's closet. She investigates bodies; we witness fashion crime. 'American Dreams' SCHOOL APPAREL. Hey, neighbor. Meg's cardigan could make you look like a female Mr. Rogers. 'Passions' OLEG CASSINI. From the upscale designer. At this price, you can get the floral-pattern, beaded gown now--and find your husband later. 'Will & Grace'TRINA TURK. This red top was worn by Debra Messing's Grace. Did you think it belonged to Jack? 'Passions' DONNA KARAN. The character Grace Bennett is said to have pulled on these men's boxers.

    Apply for "The Apprentice" (NBC.com for info) by Thursday. But if you're going to beat out thousands just to quit in the third episode, try for "Wheel of Fortune" instead.Buy "Full House" on DVD ($30) and relive the days when we thought Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were one person. Wait... they're not?Surf epicurious.com for recipes to ring in the Chinese Year of the Rooster, which dawns Wednesday. Make dumplings to symbolize wealth, lo mein for long life or a cake to sweeten your luck.Read "Bedside Manners" by David Watts, M.D. (Harmony Books. $24). In candid, poetic prose, a doctor explores the "instant, profound human interaction" between patients and physicians. You'll wish your doctor were half as attentive.Hear "Sweetheart: Love Songs" ($15 at Starbucks). It sounds awful, except that it's great, with hipsters like Rufus Wainwright crooning classics.