Ramin Setoodeh

Stories by Ramin Setoodeh

  • ‘I Got Paid a Lot’

    Bruce Vilanch is back writing again for this year's Oscars ceremony—making it his 16th telecast. The comedian also launched a reality TV career on VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club" (Sunday at 9 p.m.) He spoke to Newsweek's Ramin Setoodeh about the upcoming awards show. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How much of the Oscars are scripted?Bruce Vilanch: Everything is scripted and it changes as we go along. The writers are in the wings with the host and they are watching the show as it progresses and adapting, rewriting, until the very last hunk of gold is dropped. The only truly unscripted parts are the winner. They dictate how the show will go. They'll execute maneuvers you can use later on, they'll get political, they'll be wearing something. They'll show up dressed up as a swan.Will there be song-and-dance numbers?There'll be songs. But no dance numbers.What else is going to be different with Jon Stewart?Well, it's Jon's first time. I expect it will be political. He'll probably use a couple elements...
  • Toys: To Infinity and Beyond

    The biggest surprise at the American International Toy Fair in New York last week: the famous redhead never showed up. Fisher-Price announced its new TMX (short for Tickle Me Elmo Extreme) that will hit stores in September, but only unveiled the packaging, a briefcase of sorts with the words top secret. Our best guess: Elmo will be fully loaded with revamped gadgetry for a bigger laugh and, maybe, even some new grooves. That should keep moms around the country in long lines next Christmas.
  • Newsmakers

    Mary Tyler Moore returns to TV as a bitchy talk-show host on "That '70s Show." She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. ...
  • Television: Whoa. It's the Revenge of the Nerds!

    Ah, high school. how we miss you so... little. But fans who teared up over the death of the TV show "Freaks and Geeks" are getting a break. Those awkward kids on the series have grown up to be Hollywood stars. That's unexpected, because, creator Paul Feig says, "I wasn't looking for movie stars. We wanted a real show [with actors] who were rough around the edges." That presence translates well on the big screen. Take Seth Rogen, who played Ken and was later cast in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Now he's getting his first star vehicle, "Knocked Up," which is like the bookend to "Virgin": a guy impregnates a girl on their first date. Jason Segel, also from the show, will costar. Judd Apatow, a "Freaks" scribe who's directing, says, "I'm always looking for opportunities for the cast." Long live dorkhood.
  • Unknown to Hit

    Ben McKenzie was an unknown when he was cast in "The O.C." But after the show became an overnight hit, so did the actor--especially with the program's female viewers. The 27-year-old McKenzie recently made his film debut in the independent film "Junebug." McKenzie plays Johnny, a struggling young man who lives in North Carolina with his parents and pregnant wife (Amy Adams), and receives a visit from his Chicago brother (Alessandro Nivola) and wife (Embeth Davidtz). With the "Junebug" DVD coming out this week, McKenzie spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. Excerpts: ...
  • Fast Chat: Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal is Hollywood's sexiest man--despite what the editors at People say. The actor took a break from his heartthrob duties to speak with Ramin Setoodeh.Honestly, I'm feeling more like maybe we should.I don't think I could give you a coherent reason. Ultimately, the movie is about the struggle of love--with a new way of looking at it. Whether it will change minds is not something you can know in the present moment.I respect that people are interested in that. I'm flattered by it. But I hope there are more important things in the stories that they're moved by.Are you kidding me? It's none of my business. They're both wonderful people.You're pinning me against him? I have no hard feelings. But I'll challenge Matthew McConaughey in the kitchen any time.After a 14-week trial that included lurid testimony, a jury cleared Jackson of charges that he tried to get a teen drunk and sexually molest him. Fans outside the courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., rejoiced; one released a dove...
  • Television: Comin' To Town

    'The Santa Clause' (Thursday, ABC, 8 p.m., ET). Just don't ask to sit on Tim Allen's lap. 'Frosty the Snowman' (Saturday, CBS, 8 p.m., ET). The cool 1969 cartoon. 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' (Sunday, NBC, 9 p.m., ET). Or, Chevy's guide on how not to hang your lights. 'Jingle All the Way' (Dec. 24, ABC Family, noon, ET). See Arnold run for something other than office. Sinbad costars. 'It's a Wonderful Life' (Dec. 24, NBC, 8 p.m.,ET). James Stewart in the 1946 chestnut. Can we open our presents now?
  • Style: 'Geisha's' Gone Wild

    Arthur Golden's 1997 best-seller "Memoirs of a Geisha" opened our eyes to a secret society. Now Rob Marshall's new film, based on the novel, wants us to open our wallets, too. Store shelves are packed with a blizzard of tie-ins, including books, posters, makeup--even Banana Republic clothes. Of course, you probably wouldn't want to wear an authentic kimono to work. But the brand offers some colorful geisha-inspired satin dresses ($168; bananarepublic.com ), purses ($38 to $58) and necklaces ($38). The cosmetics company Fresh has unveiled its own "Memoirs of a Geisha" line (all products at fresh.com ). Our testers thought the fragrance ($48 for 75ml) with jasmine flower was "too sweet." And they weren't crazy about the rice face wash ($32), with peach and green-tea extracts, or the shimmer powder with crushed pearl ($38), either. But they did like the texture of the flower-petal mask ($35 for 50ml), which contains crushed hibiscus. Finally, one tester thought the bath with sake ($42...
  • Music: An 'Idol' at The Movies

    Will Young is making his big-screen debut. That, of course, means zilch to most of us. But Young is the Kelly Clarkson of British pop music. As the winner of the first "Pop Idol" in 2002 (the U.K.'s version of "American Idol"), he topped the charts with his single "Anything Is Possible/Evergreen," and his second album sold 1.6 million copies. ...
  • Technology: Time To Get Plugged In

    Hard-core gamers lined up around the block last week for the new $400 Xbox. But the toy industry is targeting the rest of us--children, tweens and adults--through a more primitive technology: plug and play. These games come with a joystick and connect directly into your TV, banking on the idea that you don't need an expensive console to be hooked on Ms. Pac-Man.That sounds about right. The gadgets have brought in $40 million in sales through October of this year, up 150 percent over the same period in 2004, reports the NPD Group. The draw: prices starting at about $20, and the fact that the controllers are easy enough for parents and younger kids.Toy stores have spent the past few years pushing retro titles, like Centipede and Mortal Kombat, which have a vintage appeal for older gamers. The new Wheel of Fortune ($19.99; amazon.com ) is a perfect illustration of why the category has its fans. The game offers fewer bells and whistles than the outdated Nintendo 64 edition, but its...
  • A Slippery Snowy Slope for Marketing

    In "First Descent," a new snowboarding documentary that opens in limited release this week, mountains are everywhere. You'll have to look a little harder to spot the Mountain Dew.But not too hard. Mountain Dew, after all, didn't just pay to have the soft drink in the movie. It financed the entire project, which follows five snowboarding icons. (A rep won't comment on the budget.) Experts call it "branded entertainment." How better to control screen time for a product?But John Galloway, VP of sports and media for Pepsi-Cola, says that less is more in this film. Pepsi-Cola, which owns Mountain Dew, wants to build buzz by association. "Our goal is for this to be the seminal movie of snowboarding--we didn't want to go overboard with the product,'' he says. Product shots are subtle--a snowboarder's helmet, for example, shows the logo.Marketers say Mountain Dew made a smart move, because audiences are turned off by blatant product placement. Jeff Greenfield, a product-placement expert,...
  • Cheat Sheet: To Save The Day

    If you think of Donatello as an Italian sculptor--and not a purple Ninja Turtle--you'll need help sorting through the action figures this Christmas. Here are our picks for the boys (and tomboys) on your list. B-Daman: These new marble shooters are based on a Japanese animated series. What to buy: The tournament set ($16.99; toysrus.com ) lets you play 10 games. King Kong: They'll go bananas for this line that drops with the Peter Jackson remake. What to buy: Hear the roar of the 14-inch figure ($24.99; toysrus.com ). It also pounds its chest. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The pizza-loving '80s heroes are back; a CGI movie is scheduled for '07. What to buy: The sewer spewer tank ($29.99; kbtoys.com ) oozes slime. Power Rangers: They guard our planet from evil space aliens--and have sold 80 million figures since 1993. What to buy: Look for a five-inch figure of the rarer Omega (white) ranger ($9.99; toysrus.com ).
  • Collecting: Falling From The Sky

    Chicken Little is arriving at McDonald's this month, and (good news) he won't be served as a McNugget. The Happy Meal, born in 1979, has found some of its hungriest fans in Disney collectibles ("DuckTales" in 1988; "The Little Mermaid" in 1989). Joyce Losonsky, coauthor of "McDonald's Happy Meal Toys in the USA," says even the earliest toys don't fetch more than a few dollars. But diehards scour eBay for complete sets to display in their homes. As of last week, a "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" collection was up for grabs with a starting bid of $9. Movie characters, like Bambi, are rarer--and more sought after--than Mickeys and Minnies. See kathysfastfoodtoys.com for some of the older toys and photos.Ready to supersize your hobby? The McDonald's Collectors Club ( mcdclub .com ) holds a convention in May--where you can buy, sell or trade your toys. Don't expect fries with that.
  • Music: Strumming Right Along

    With "Walk the Line," the Johnny Cash biopic that's about to open, it's time to brush up on the Man in Black. We asked the legend's son--John Carter Cash--for some help. Download these hits to stay ahead (the film's versions are sung by Joaquin Phoenix): 'Cry, Cry, Cry': The song "brings back memories of my father's early career. I hear his youth." 'I Walk the Line': "I believe it's one of his greatest compositions. The spirit of the song is unique--the chord progression, the modulations, is not something you hear." 'Get Rhythm': "I love the energy of the song. It puts me in the ' 50s in the streets of Memphis." 'Ring of Fire': Co-written by June Carter (Reese Witherspoon in the film), "it reminds me of my parents' love affair. It touches my heart every time." 'It Ain't Me, Babe': A duet with Carter. "I think of my mother, tossing the microphone." 'Cocaine Blues': "Brings to mind some of the great murder ballads--hard-core country songs."
  • Travel: Leave The Snow Back Home

    Airplanes are fully loaded around Thanksgiving and Christmas. But (shhh!) here's a little secret: hardly anyone travels between the two holidays. Use that time to cash in your remaining vacation days. "The Monday after Thanksgiving up until around Dec. 12 is really the hot spot," says Barbara Messing, of hotwire.com . A round-trip flight from San Francisco to Chicago in early December is $215--40 percent less than flying later in the month. A four-night package to Hawaii is only $779 per person (compared with $1,894 right after Christmas). Overseas fares are friendly, too. A four-night trip, with hotel, from New York to Los Cabos, Mexico, is yours for $785 per person (versus $2,155). Priceline .com is offering round-trip flights from New York to Paris for $429 and to London for $460. Another steal: a round-trip flight from New York to San Juan for $204. Consider it an early Christmas present to yourself.
  • DVD's: Spending the Night

    This week, HBO is releasing a pink velvet binder with 20 discs (that's 94 episodes) of "Sex and the City." The collection includes all six seasons now sold in separate boxed sets, in addition to a batch of extra extras. (How do you get to Manhattan's Magnolia Bakery? Pop in disc 20--or look in the Yellow Pages.) Sofia Chang, HBO Video's vice president of marketing, calls the new collection a "coffee-table DVD." But given its $300 price tag, you might need to sell your coffee table to afford it.The latest trend in TV-to-DVD: lavish boxed sets that include every episode, not just a single season, of long-running shows. In November Warner Home Video drops a $300 "Friends" collection with 10 seasons in a wooden box. Fox Home Entertainment is putting out a collector's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," with 40 discs that include all 144 episodes and a letter from creator Joss Whedon. (The price: $200.) "We still get requests for something new on 'Buffy'," says Fox's Steve Feldstein.Studios hope...
  • Fruit: Freshly Picked

    Fall fruit is at its peak. TIP SHEET asked James Parker, a Whole Foods Market produce expert, for advice. Pear: Feel them out. "If it's got a little give, it's ready to be eaten."Top pick: Asian pears are "a little juicier, not too sweet and very crisp." Persimmon: Look for ripeness in a "darker orange pumpkin color."Top pick: The Fuyu, shaped like a tomato, can be eaten firm. Pomegranate: "If the crown is broken, that's a sign the fruit is old."Top pick: The Wonderful variety lives up to its name: it's "quite sweet." Apple: Don't worry about color. It should be firm with "some weight."Top pick: Honeycrisp, "the new Cadillac apple," is spicy like a cider.
  • Rentals: He's Behind You!

    'Friday the 13th' (1980) The original is the campiest, with a game of strip Monopoly, but any sequel will do. 'The Evil Dead' (1981) Enter the cabin in Sam Raimi's classic, and you might lose your guts. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984) Johnny Depp, don't sleep. Or Krueger will get you! 'Halloween' (1978) Might as well see the movie after which they named the holiday. Or is it the other way around? 'House of Wax' (2005) Die, Paris! Die! 'Killer Klowns From Outer Space' (1988) But skip this one if Bozo gave you the creeps.
  • Entertainment: No Need For Tivo

    Tv-show board games, once popular in the '60s and '70s, are back in syndication. Here are three new series to watch--and play: Desperate Housewives Dirty Laundry Game ($16.62; walmart.com ). Take a stroll down Wisteria Lane with the girls. But don't ( nudge ) lose your pants. In the cards: answer trivia questions like, "Who gets frisky wearing an animal print thong?" (The answer: Tom). CSI Miami: The Board Game ($24.99; amazon.com ). A spinoff game based on the spinoff series. In the cards: you try to solve a crime with the help of suspect info like, "Murray Palmer is addicted to Internet hacking." I Love the 80s: Board Game ($24.99; target.com ). For fans of VH1 nostalgia, this trivia game asks players to answer questions, draw pictures and act out clues like "The Incredible Hulk." In the cards: "Who was the producers' first choice to play Alex P. Keaton on 'Family Ties'?" The answer: Matthew Broderick.
  • Newsmakers

    Claire Danes plays a department-store clerk who sells gloves in the upcoming movie "Shopgirl." She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. ...
  • Family Travel: Mummy, Let's Ride Again!

    Ted Dougherty, a paralegal from Sierra Madre, Calif., spends his nights as a werewolf. With a foam-latex mask glued to his face, he crawls around Knott's Berry Farm and growls at unsuspecting bystanders. Dougherty is among a cast of 1,000 actors dressed in monster costumes who overtake the amusement park during a monthlong Halloween celebration. "People scream, they flinch, they run," he says. "They faint because they get so scared."But adult travelers and their teen-age kids are coming back for more. The haunted-amusement-park phenomenon, which started in the 1970s, has become a surefire way for parks to extend peak travel season beyond the summer months. Now, with an increase in consumer spending on Halloween and the popularity of local haunted houses, more parks are letting frightfests take over, with elaborate sets, sound effects, strobe lights and lots of monsters. The events are also lasting longer than before "to accommodate larger crowds," says Arthur Levine, an amusement...
  • Newsmakers

    Kristen Bell is the star of UPN's "Veronica Mars," whose first-season DVDs come out this week. She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh.Yeah. My day off consisted of two meetings in L.A. this morning.Oh, I can't tell you. They were meetings meetings, to figure out my best options for films. Then, I'll make myself dinner--I've got to drive back to San Diego very early tomorrow morning, at, like, 3:30.I once was in high school. But I look young. You can still be smart--a smartass--but you have to have the innocence. We tackled issues last year that people wouldn't even touch . For instance, Veronica was date-raped.Oh, really? I've never seen it. Isn't that awful?I'm going to. I tend to be a comedy girl. There's not a Sunday night that goes by that I don't sit down and watch "America's Funniest Home Videos." I think it's hands-down the best television show on the air.I don't mind him. There's something really corny inside me that loves to laugh at him, although Bob Saget made me very...
  • THE GOOD LIFE

    To See And Be SeenBy Rukhmini PunooseFeel like you've got-ten all the fashion mileage you can out of your scarf, belt or purse? Try a new pair of custom glasses--and never mind if your vision is 20/20. Boutique opticians are springing up around the world, and they are definitely less concerned with how you see than with the way you look. Robert Marc started the trend 20 years ago, when he opened his first custom-glasses shop in New York. Among his early memorable designs: Woody Allen's signature black-frame glasses. Marc now has nine stores in the United States and sells his wares at luxury opticians from Europe to Asia. He has designed frames for Julianne Moore, Uma Thurman, Nicole Kidman and Cameron Diaz ($295 to $1,295; 212-319-2000).In many eyewear boutiques, no two pairs are alike. Designers cater to consumer tastes, using unique materials like buffalo horn, rhinestone, leather, silk, wood--as well as white gold and diamonds--or sourcing rare antique gold frames from the 1930s....
  • CHEAT SHEET: TRUMAN SHOW

    Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" was a landmark in nonfiction. The new movie "Capote" tells the story behind the story. Want to prepare? Start with the original material. The 1965 book ($14) recounts a family murder in the town of Holcomb, Kans., and the lives of the two men accused of the crime. Next, look for a tie-in edition of Gerald Clarke's excellent "Capote: A Biography" ($17.95), which inspired the movie. "The dilemma for Capote was, he had to have a resolution," Clarke tells NEWSWEEK. In other words, he was waiting for an execution.Of course, everyone knows Capote from "Breakfast at Tiffany's." But Clarke recommends two dark short stories: "Miriam" and "A Tree of Night" from the new paperback "The Complete Stories" ($14). Finally, a recent collection, "Too Brief a Treat" ($16), includes his letters to people you'll see in the movie, like Det. Alvin Dewey (played by Chris Cooper). To a friend: "It is a Big Work, believe me," Capote wrote, "and if I fail I still will have...
  • SPORTS: ON THE WAY TO THE TOP

    Kids across the nation are discovering the latest hot game: rapidly stacking cups into formations. Some 1 million people in the United States and Canada are playing, often in P.E. classes, according to the World Sport Stacking Association. We asked 18-year-old Emily Fox, who holds two records, for tips.Stackers need a dozen plastic cups. Speedstacks.com offers an $18.95 set designed to improve your time. The easiest formation, the 3-3-3, involves three stacks of three cups. Using both hands, build each stack into a pyramid and then take them back down. Once you've mastered the move, try the 3-6-3 (with six cups in the middle). Fox's time, 2.72 seconds, is the record to beat. "I would practice half an hour a day," she says. (See Fox do a more tricky maneuver, the cycle, at NEWSWEEK.com.) By April, you could be ready to compete in the championships in Denver (worldsportstacking association.org).
  • Movies: Nobody Loves Me!

    Peter Judson directed a documentary called "Nobody Wants Your Film," about a small movie that nobody in Hollywood wanted. The only snag: nobody wanted Judson's movie, either. In 2001, the NYU grad was shooting extra footage for the DVD of an indie film. But that movie, called "13 Moons," never hit theaters, so Judson pieced together his interviews (with actors like Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage) for a collage on why it failed. The challenge: finding somebody to watch "Nobody." Judson booked his documentary in an L.A. theater and advertised online (total cost: $60,000). With more than 200,000 visitors to his site so far, DVDs go on sale this week. Now Judson is planning sites for rejected novelists, artists and musicians. "This is about the disenchanted connecting," he says.
  • Entertainment: Must-See (Live!) Tv

    Why watch your favorite TV show from the sofa when you can be in the audience? With the fall season in full swing, now is a good time to attend live tapings. Here's how to get your free tickets: Tvtickets.com has passes to more than 20 sitcoms filmed in Los Angeles and New York, from "Two and a Half Men" to "Hope & Faith." But check often--popular shows, like "Will & Grace," go fast. Can't find anything you want to see? Call Paramount (323-956-1777) to attend CBS sitcoms "Yes, Dear" and "Out of Practice" (with Henry Winkler), as well as a handful of UPN shows like "Girlfriends." Finally, don't forget the talk-show circuit. Most networks list rules for tickets on their sites; see cbs.com/latenight/lateshow and ellen.warnerbros.com/showinfo/ tickets. If you're lucky, you'll have a good time and go home with some freebies.
  • Newsmakers

    You've seen them dance and diet, but the most delicious has-been reality show is yet to come. Fox's "Skating With Celebrities" is in production right now, and the network hopes it will air this fall. How do we know it's the best ever if we haven't seen it? One word: gore. "You'll see a lot of falls, no question," says Fox's Mike Darnell. "We've already had one incident of blood." As if that weren't enough, "Skating" gives you two kinds of has-beens--washed-up stars and washed-up skaters--for the price of one. The stars: Dave Coulier, Jillian Barberie, Deborah Gibson, Todd Bridges, Bruce Jenner and Kristy Swanson. They'll be paired with Nancy Kerrigan, John Zimmerman, Kurt Browning, Jenni Meno, Tai Babilonia and Lloyd Isler. Dorothy Hamill is the nice judge. And the nasty one? No word, but, alas, Tonya Harding was unavailable.Q&A:DOMINIC MONAGHANDominic Monaghan went from being a hobbit in "The Lord of the Rings" to a stranded rock star on ABC's "Lost," which comes out on DVD...