So far, movie critics are giving good marks to George Lucas' latest "Star Wars" epic -- but the vote is not unanimous.
The reviews so far are nothing like the wet blankets that most critics threw onto "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."
Time magazine's Richard Corliss called "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" an "exhilarating two hours of serious fun."
Daily Variety chief film critic Todd McCarthy said: "Virtually everything that went wrong in 'Menace' has been fixed, or at least improved upon."
The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt said the film is marred by "flat-footed dialogue" and "wooden acting," although he singled out Ewan McGregor for praise in the acting department.
The London Evening Standard also complained about the dialogue and the acting, echoing complaints that have been relatively commonplace throughout the "Star Wars" series. But the paper generally concluded that Lucas has "recovered his Force."
The Times of London found fault with Lucas' storytelling approach.
"The film is muddied by complex politics that detract from the drama of Good against Evil," said the paper.
Critics are expected generally to concur with McCarthy's conclusion regarding the reduced role in "Clones" of a "Phantom Menace" character that was met with nearly universal derision -- the computer generated Jar Jar Binks."
"The world will breathe easier in the knowledge that Jar Jar Binks has been significantly sidelined and evidently sedated," McCarthy wrote."
"Attack of the Clones" opens on May 16.
SAVE THE DATE
Columbia Pictures has staked out the first weekend of May 2004 to open the first of two anticipated "Spider-Man" sequels.
The first weekend in May turned out to be an excellent choice for the studio this year, as the Marvel Comics super hero racked up the biggest opening weekend in box-office history -- $114.8 million from Friday to Sunday. It took in an additional $11 million on Monday and $10 million on Tuesday, and appears headed for a one-week take of $155 million.
That would break another box-office record previously held by "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," which grossed $129.5 million in its first week in U.S. theaters and went on to gross $317 million domestically. At the rate "Spider-Man" is going, it will pass the $200 million dollar mark by Sunday night.
Chris Carter has started writing a second "X-Files" movie and has begun talks with 20th Century Fox to produce the movie with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, who starred in the series that wraps up its run on Fox on May 19.
Carter told Daily Variety he hopes to start filming on the sequel late this year, with a target of getting it into theaters for December 2003. "The X-Files" grossed $84 million at the U.S. box office in 1998.
NO MORE 'TALK SOUP' FOR YOU!
E! Entertainment Television is pulling the plug on "Talk Soup," which became the cable channel's first breakout hit in 1991 and made a star out of Greg Kinnear.
E! Networks executive vice president of entertainment, Mark Sonnenberg, announced Thursday that the Emmy-winning show will shut down production after taping its final episode on Friday.
"After 11 successful years on E!, we decided to end production while the series is still at the height of its popularity featuring its rising star host Aisha Tyler," said Sonnenberg. "We feel the series is beginning to outlive the category it has been satirizing over the years."
The show satirized TV talk shows, and proved to be something of a stepping stone for its hosts.
Kinnear went on to a solid acting career in Hollywood, including an Academy Award nominated performance in the 1997 feature "As Good as It Gets." Tyler hosts the syndicated dating show "5th Wheel," has guest-starred on the HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and recently wrapped shooting on "The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause," starring Tim Allen.
Hal Sparks hosted the show for about a year before joining the cast of "Queer as Folk" on Showtime.
BRIAN WANTS DAN'S GIG
CBS News executives reportedly have been in talks with Williams' agent -- aiming to lure him away from NBC, where he hosts "The News with Brian Williams" on MSNBC and is the permanent backup anchor for Tom Brokaw on the "NBC Nightly News."
According to TV Guide, CBS has no one of Williams' generation ready to assume the mantle that Rather inherited from Walter Cronkite -- although CBS correspondents John Roberts and Scott Pelley are regarded as candidates for the gig.
"Williams sees himself as the next guy in line to replace a Brokaw or Rather," a CBS insider told TV Guide. "He doesn't want to wait years to take over from Dan."
CBS executives are said to be reluctant to push Rather aside to clear the set for Williams, whose NBC contract runs through the end of this year. The magazine speculated that CBS could offer Williams "60 Minutes" or "60 Minutes II" -- or possibly "The Early Show" hosting job that Bryant Gumbel is leaving -- with the understanding that he would get the "Evening News" in two or three years.
STARS LINE UP FOR MTV AWARDS
MTV has not announced the talent line-up yet for its 2002 MTV Movie Awards, but gossip columnist Liz Smith reported that the list will include Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Knoxville, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Chris Rock.
Smith said nominees Kate Beckinsale (for Best Female Performance), Matt Damon (On-screen Team), Bernie Mac (On-screen Team), Mike Myers (On-screen Team and Comic Performance) and Will Smith (Male Performance) will double as presenters.