So far, only a select handful of people have seen the upcoming Warner Bros. movie adaptation of the first Harry Potter book -- "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" -- as the studio has kept the project under relatively tight wraps prior to its Nov. 16 release on 4,000 screens across the United States.
The studio did allow Time magazine entertainment editor Jess Cagle to see the picture and Cagle is raving -- declaring that the movie is "a film of ... eye-popping grandeur, dazzling special effects and sumptuous production values."
Cagle also spills a few beans, letting on that the movie does not feature all the characters from the book -- including Peeves, the ill-tempered poltergeist, and Piers a troublemaking lad.
Director Chris Columbus ("Home Alone," "Mrs. Doubtfire") told Time he tried to use as much of the book as he could, and that helps account for the movie's 143-minute running time.
"Fans would have been crushed if we had left out much out," said Columbus. "My mantra has been, Kids are reading a 700-page book. They can sit through a 2 1/2-hour movie."
For the record, the fourth Potter book -- "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" -- runs 734 pages. "The Sorcerer's Stone" runs a more manageable 309 pages.
Since Time and Warner Bros. are both part of the AOL Time Warner conglomerate, Cagle had an entrée to see the movie that Ronald Epstein of the Home Theater Forum Web site does not have -- but Epstein managed to wangle his way into a screening anyway. His review is also a rave.
Epstein -- who confessed he has never read a Harry Potter book -- said the movie is "chock-full of some of the most amazing on-screen effects," and compares the highly anticipated Quidditch match to the pod race sequence in "Stars Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."
Epstein's bottom line: "On a scale of 1-5, I give this film a 5."
'K-PAX' PRODUCES AT U.S. BOX OFFICE
Younger audiences were in the Halloween spirit, going for the chills offered by "Thirteen Ghosts." The remake of the 1960 features, "13 Ghosts," took in an estimated $15.7 million, good for second place.
Universal Pictures reported that nearly two-thirds of the audience for "K-PAX" was over 30. Warner Bros. reported that 18-to-25-year-olds accounted for 55 percent of the audience for "Thirteen Ghosts."
The second weekend of Johnny Depp's horror-chiller, "From Hell," fell from first to third with $6.1 million, just ahead of "Riding in Cars With Boys," which came in fourth with $6 million. Denzel Washington's "Training Day," was fifth with $5.1 million, pushing its overall take to within shouting distance of $80 million.
Box-office analysts reported that the weekend grosses were up 4.5 percent from the same weekend last year. For the year to date, the box-office has taken in $6.4 billion and is running 9 percent ahead of last year's pace.
The holiday season kicks off at the box-office this weekend with the release of "Monsters, Inc." Also opening this weekend -- "Domestic Disturbance" starring John Travolta, and "The One" starring Jet Li.
WILL REEVE WALK AGAIN?
According to a report in the New York Post, a new surgical procedure provides a glimmer of hope that paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve may walk again.
Surgeons reported that they successfully transplanted fetal stem cells from pigs into the spines of six paraplegic patients in an attempt to help them move their limbs.
Reeve -- who was paralyzed from the neck down in a horseback riding accident -- is keeping a close eye on the experiment, said the paper, because his condition makes him a suitable candidate for the same therapy.
The therapy involves a new approach to regenerating activity in the spinal cord by getting stem cells to trigger the regrowth of myelin -- a sheath that enables the transmission of impulses along nerve fibers in the spinal cord. Myelin either does not grow, or it grows incorrectly, among people who have suffered paralysis.
According to the paper, the cells transplanted into the test patients have already started to grow, and doctors hope they will soon begin to promote the regrowth of myelin in the spines of the subjects.
SAG MEMBERS TAKE ON CLOONEY OVER EXPULSION STAND
According to a report in Daily Variety, some Screen Actors Guild members are upset with George Clooney's criticism of a decision by the union's national board to expel three members for violating the union's "Rule One," by auditioning for or working on struck commercials during the guild's six-month commercials strike last year.
After SAG expelled Southern California area members Gerry Donato and Mario Barbieri Cecchini and New York area member Robert Kalomeer, Clooney told union officials that the punishment does not fit the crime.
"I suggest that in this time of healing that we accept all of the actors' apologies, attach fines appropriately and fairly and let people go about the business of chasing their dreams," said Clooney, who also offered to pay the trio's fines.
Board member Tom Bosley ("Happy Days," "Father Dowling Mysteries") said Clooney doesn't know the whole story.
"I was one who voted to oust these three members for reasons far more severe than just breaking the strike line, working or auditioning 'struck work,'" said Bosley in a letter to Clooney, as reported in Variety.
"There are so many ways you can help your fellow SAG members," wrote Bosley. "Offering to pay to have three people, who hurt their fellow actors, restored to the ranks of membership is wrong and will never happen."
Union spokesman Greg Krizman told UPI the termination of the three actors' membership is final, and that he is not aware of any provision that would allow the actors to join the union again at some future date.
According to published reports in Hollywood, Morgan Freeman will star in the upcoming movie adaptation of Stephen King's novel, "Dreamcatcher," playing an evil U.S. Army colonel in a battle between four lifelong buddies and an alien invasion force.
Lawrence Kasdan ('The Big Chill," Body Heat") is directing from his own rewrite of William Goldman's ("Misery," "Hearts in Atlantic") original adaptation of King's novel.
JEREMY PIVEN'S NEXT
Jeremy Piven ("Serendipity," "Ellen") has reportedly signed a deal to executive produce and star in a series for the FX cable channel about an unhappy man whose life improves after he is diagnose with cancer.
"Bad News, Mr. Swanson" is scheduled to have its premiere next spring. Dean Parisot ("Galaxy Quest," "Home Fries") is on board to direct the first episode.
Piven also starred in the feature films, "Grosse Pointe Blank," "Larger Than Life" and "The Family Man," and the TV series "Cupid" and "The Larry Sanders Show." He appears in director Ridley Scott's upcoming movie, "Black Hawk Down."
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