Today's News: Our Take


Steven Spielberg: Big Fat Liar


He made us believe in man-eating rubber sharks, Reese's Pieces-munching aliens and digitized dinosaurs, so really it should come as no surprise that Steven Spielberg closely identifies with Frank Abagnale, the born liar whose nine lives are chronicled in the biopic Catch Me if You Can (opening Wednesday). "When I read the script and the book," the director tells TV Guide Online, "I thought, 'I have one moment in my life when I did what he did.'"

And how. The summer after his mom and dad divorced, the future helmer of Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park made a pilgrimage to his holy land — Los Angeles. "I snuck onto the Universal Studios lot dressed read more

Zeta-Jones Suffers Stage Fright


Whether it's crossing blades with Antonio Banderas or dangling from skyscrapers alongside Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones has never been one to shy away from physically demanding roles. But even she experienced a momentary twinge of doubt when it came time to lace up her dance shoes for the movie-musical Chicago (opening Friday).

"It was like looking up Mount Everest knowing you have to come down the other side," recalls Zeta-Jones of the intensive training she and the rest of the cast (which includes Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere) had to undergo b read more

FAR FROM SHABBY

A new Seattle critics' circle — Parallax View: A Film Society — has convened, and they've named Far From Heaven as 2002's best picture. The pundits also showed good taste by giving actress Maureen O'Hara their first Living Legend award. Other notable acting nods went to Daniel Day-Lewis for Gangs of New York and Bebe Neuwirth for Tadpole. read more

GUTSY MOVE

NBC clearly has high hopes for its much-buzzed-about new drug drama Kingpin. Reversing an earlier decision to debut the series in March, the Peacock network has opted to premiere the show on Feb. 2 — right at the start of sweeps. Kingpin — which temporarily takes over Boomtown's Sunday at 10 pm/ET timeslot — will air opposite ABC's Dragnet update. read more

BIG FAT CAMPAIGN

HBO Home Video is planning a major, Valentine-themed promotional push for My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Feb. 11 release on VHS and DVD. Among the companies HBO is partnering with: FTD.com, Kay Jewelers and Modern Bride magazine. read more

Tom Hanks Declares: "Road Rules!"


Don't count Tom Hanks among those in Hollywood calling Sam Mendes's critically acclaimed period drama Road to Perdition a box office disappointment. "There's nothing worse than having a movie make $100 million," deadpans the two-time Oscar champ, who played a conflicted gangster in the summer release. "That really stings."

Given Perdition's glowing reviews, not to mention Hanks's immense clout at the multiplex, industry pundits had greater expectations for the gloomy crime saga. In fact, some believe the pic's weak receipts are to blame for its poor Golden Globe showing. (Paul Newman received Perdition's sole nomination.)

"I guess because it didn't do Forrest Gump's business [it's being perceived as a disappointment]," reasons Hanks. "I think it's a very beautiful art-house film that actually did fine at the box office, domestically and worldwide. We never anticipated it being a big, fat, massive thing. W read more

REALITY FUN

The FX network is turning Esquire magazine's "What It Feels Like" feature into a TV project, Variety reports. It'll either be a series or a special, and will offer first-person accounts from survivors of avalanches, shark bites and other wild experiences. read more

GRIEVING

The estranged mother of conservative talk-radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger was found murdered Dec. 16 in her Beverly Hills condo. According to police, Yolanda Schlessinger, 77, had been dead for weeks. "I am horrified by the tragic circumstances of my mother's death," Schlessinger said Friday in a statement, "and so sad to learn that she died as she chose to live — alone and isolated." read more

SURVIVOR STILL HOT

Nielsen estimates that roughly 24 million people tuned in to Thursday's two-hour Survivor: Thailand finale to see ex-porn stud Brian Heidik win $1 million. Those numbers are down slightly from the 26 million folks who watched last spring's Survivor: Marquesas climax. read more

Spike Lee's Nod to 9/11


Never one to shy away from controversy, Spike Lee includes some very haunting and emotional footage of post-9/11 New York City in his new film, The 25th Hour. Lee feels these images are impactful — and even goes so far as to chastise other directors for not including similar footage in their Manhattan-based projects.

"Other studios and filmmakers had a chance, not necessarily to make a comment on it, but to include images of the World Trade Center," Lee explains, "and they chose to punk out.

"We weren't going out like that," he adamantly states. "We did what we felt we had to do."

In one emotional moment, two friends (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) discuss a mutual pal who's about to start a seven-year prison sentence. During their conversation, Lee chose to pan past the actors and show vivid scenes of the clean-up crews pulling wreckage from Ground Zero. Touchstone Pictures execs voiced concern that th read more

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