'STAR WARS' BIG NUMBERS
"Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" is off and running at the U.S. box office, with an opening day gross of $30.1 million on an estimated 6,000 screens.
Box-office analysts expect the fifth "Star Wars" movie will finish the weekend in the neighborhood of $100 million -- short of the $114.8 million opening weekend logged by "Spider-Man" two weeks ago.
"Clones" have broken a box-office record already, for biggest single-day, mid-week take.
Demand for "Clones" tickets powered Fandango to new heights on its sales chart, helping the online ticket selling operation to its first million-ticket month. The previous record at Fandango was just under 1 million, for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in November 2000.
May 2001, of course, offered two blockbuster attractions -- "Clones" and "Spider-Man."
Fandango sold $3 million worth of "Spider-Man' tickets through that movie's first weekend, and had sold $2.35 million worth of "Clones" tickets prior to its opening.
Fans of "The X-Files" should probably not get their hopes up that Sunday night's season finale will answer all their questions and resolve all the mysteries that have built up during the show's nine seasons on Fox.
The two-hour special -- written by series creator Chris Carter -- features a military tribunal at which FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is tried for murder. His defense is based on a justification of his ongoing investigation of the X-Files -- cases that fall outside normal FBI work -- to prove the existence of extraterrestrials.
The Los Angeles Times asked Carter whether fans will get closure on details such as the alien abduction of Mulder's sister and what's behind the government conspiracies. The paper reported that Carter just smiled and said they probably will not.
"We're trying, and hopefully succeeding, in making it all make sense, giving it a logic and coming full circle," he said.
Carter suggested that fans who want to see Mulder and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) end up together will be satisfied, but not "absolutely satisfied." He also said people who "have wondered about the conspiracies" will be satisfied.
For his next project, Carter plans to take some time off. He has a publishing contract to write two novels and a deal to make an "X-Files" movie for Miramax.
"The X-Files" may be going out of production as a TV show -- but it still has a future as a cultural phenomenon.
The fifth season has just been released on DVD. Carter will soon record commentary tracks for the sixth season DVD. He is also supervising merchandising projects for Fox including action figures, trading cards, a magazine and a yearbook.
Carter said fans will have to wait maybe three years for the sequel to the 1998 "X-Files" movie.
"At this point I can't imagine the movie being filmed before summer 2003," he told the Times, "and I can't imagine it being seen before summer 2004, not to say that it would be a summer release."
RATHER ON 'PATRIOTISM RUN AMOK'
CBS newsman Dan Rather may be catching some new flak soon on talk radio for comments he made on the British Broadcasting Corp. program 'Newsnight" -- which the BBC bills as "the programme that asks the awkward questions."
In an interview that appears to have been conducted before the current "what-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it" phase of Washington politics, Rather said American journalists have stopped asking tough questions of the Bush administration since Sept. 11. He blamed that on "patriotism run amok."
The veteran journalist -- who made his reputation asking tough questions of former President Richard Nixon -- said the current press corps has been too tame.
"What we are talking about here -- whether one wants to recognize it or not, or call it by its proper name or not -- is a form of self-censorship," he said. "It starts with a feeling of patriotism within oneself. It carries through with a certain knowledge that the country as a whole -- and for all the right reasons -- felt and continues to feel this surge of patriotism within themselves. And one finds oneself saying, 'I know the right question, but you know what? This is not exactly the right time to ask it.'"
Rather said the problem is aggravated by the tight lid the government has kept on coverage of the war on terrorism.
"There has never been an American war, small or large, in which access has been so limited as this one," he said. "Limiting access, limiting information to cover the backsides of those who are in charge of the war is extremely dangerous and cannot and should not be accepted."
Perhaps anticipating challenges to his patriotism over the remarks, Rather said: "I would willingly die for my country at a moment's notice and on the command of my president."
But he said patriotism cuts both ways.
"Its unpatriotic not to stand up, look them in the eye, and ask the questions they don't want to hear."
'OTHER HALF' GETS SECOND SEASON 323-468-8493 Daniella Cracknell
The show positioned itself as sort of a male version of the view, taking on subjects of interest to women, but seen through the eyes of men.
TOM STOPPARD'S NEXT
Oscar-winning screenwriter Tom Stoppard ("Shakespeare in Love") is reportedly in talks to write a screenplay based on the fantasy book series "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman.
Daily Variety reported that the project is "the crown jewel" in New Line's current development slate, up for sale at the Cannes Film Festival.
New Line expects to turn the book series -- "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass" -- into a series of movies. The books follows the exploits of two kids who risk their necks to save other kids in parallel universes populated by shape-shifting creatures, witches, armored polar bears and other fantastic creatures.