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Short Takes – September 2007

by Andrew Dowd

Actor Owen Wilson was hospitalized late last month after what now appears to be a suicide attempt. The Wedding Crashers star was reportedly found unconscious in his Santa Monica home by older brother, Andrew. He was rushed to a nearby medical facility, where paramedics confirmed the large number of pills in his system and deep lacerations on his wrists. Other than a brief request for privacy, Wilson—who last appeared in the smash hit Night at the Museum—has made no public statements regarding his state of being, though friends and family report him to be in “good” and “stable” condition. He is now out of the hospital and recovering in his home. You can catch the troubled actor in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, opening later this month—but not in the upcoming Ben Stiller comedy Tropic Thunder, which he’s dropped out of.

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams have reportedly split up and cut off their three-year engagement. They met on the set of Brokeback Mountain and quickly became involved, with Ledger proposing shortly thereafter. In 2005, Williams gave birth to a baby girl, Matilda. Yet a source close to the couple says that their constant time away from each other took its toll, and the two simply “grew apart.” On a lighter note, Ledger is gonna totally kick ass as The Joker in The Dark Knight, which filmed this summer in Chicago and London.

It’s official: with Rob Zombie’s maligned Halloween remake pulling in a strong $32.5 million over the Labor Day weekend, we have just lived through the biggest summer in box-office history. Thanks to a parade of successes both big (Spider-Man 3, Transformers) and small (Knocked Up, Superbad), Hollywood raked in $4.2 billion this season, up 8% from last year. The hits just kept coming, from the could-have-sworn-it-would-tank Hairspray, to the critically reviled sequels to Fantastic Four and Rush Hour, to The Bourne Ultimatum, which actually made more money than parts one and two. Even the disappointments—the super-expensive Evan Almighty and the modestly successful Ocean’s Thirteen—were hardly duds. All of this is good news for the Dream Factory, but what will it mean for the rest of us? Ask me in six months—now that it’s fall, I’ve got good movies to see again.

Quick, prep your best Caddyshack joke! Bill Murray was arrested in Stockholm last month for allegedly driving drunk… in a golf cart! When pulled over by the baffled police officer, the SNL alum refused a breathalyzer, so he was brought in to give a blood sample instead. No word yet on whether he’ll face official charges. Murray can also be seen in The Darjeeling Limited, leaving one to wonder: who the hell is going to be able to promote the movie?

This month in Disheartening Tim Burton news: apparently Warner Bros. has demanded a PG-13 cut of the iconic director’s latest, Sweeney Todd. This comes after weeks of Burton getting fans’ hopes up about his gory, R-rated foray into song-and-dance, a project he called a “horror-movie musical.” The watered-down version of this once-promising project opens on Christmas, with Hollywood Golden Boy and frequent Burton collaborator Johnny Depp in the lead.

Thumbs up for the fine folks at At the They’ve compiled over a thousand episodes of the syndicated program, which saw Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert debating movies, first with the humorless Gene Siskel, then with middlebrow “everyman” Richard Roeper. With Ebert’s future as a TV reviewer in question after his debilitating tracheotomy, now’s a good time to catch up on over thirty years of the best in sound-byte film criticism. Hey, it beats the hell out of Gene Shalit.

And finally, in a bizarre/funny bit of news, Quentin Tarantino has turned down the opportunity to helm the big-screen adaptation of ’60s cop show Hawaii Five-O. A misguided producer thought QT would be both perfect for and enamored of the project, but the Death Proof director was actually “horrified” to even be considered for the job. After all, he’s probably got some three-hour exploitation movie to work on instead.

Rosie O’Donnell’s replacement on The View has finally been announced, and it’s none other than Whoopi Goldberg. O’Donnell herself has praised the decision, calling the Oscar-winning actress “perfect for the job.” Goldberg will join the ABC morning talk show in the coming weeks.

In what’s being dubbed by some as a desperate bid for ratings, CBS Evening News has deployed co-anchor Katie Couric to Iraq and Syria for a series of on-the-frontline interviews and live updates. Couric, who left NBC mornings for CBS evenings about a year ago, delivered her first field report Tuesday. She was also able to nab a brief sit-down with President Bush, who made an unexpected trip to war-torn Iraq a few days ago. Look for Couric’s exclusive interview with the Commander-In-Chief on Monday, the 10th.

Kristen Bell, star of the critically acclaimed but recently canceled Veronica Mars, has found a new TV home. The 27-year-old actress will join the cast of NBC’s Heroes, going into its second season this fall. There was speculation for a while that Bell might hop onto the Lost bandwagon, but—for creative or salary reasons, it’s tough to say—she went with the sophomore superhero drama instead. Geeks rejoice: Heroes, now with 100% more Kristen Bell, returns on the 24th!

Good news for Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The South Park creators just signed a $75 million deal for three more years of the hit cable series, as well as a wealth of related, tie-in media (i.e. video games, mobile content, etc.). They’ll also split whatever profits parent company Viacom makes through Internet exhibition. Let’s hope the money doesn’t go to their heads and the show stays as fresh and funny as it has been these past 10 years.

Golden Age talk-show host Merv Griffin passed away last month, a victim of colon cancer. In addition to his self-titled variety program, Griffin is best remembered as the creator of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. He was 82.

Hip-hop fans, it’s time to express your allegiance! On September 11th, 50 Cent and Kayne West will go head-to-head on the Billboard charts. The rap superstars are releasing their third albums—Curtis and Graduation, respectively—on the same day, a move that has music moguls hedging their bets on who will come out on top. At the beginning of the summer, the two albums were set to drop three or four weeks apart, but Kayne pushed back his release date to compete directly with one-time friend and collaborator Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. For the record, 2005 saw sophomore releases from both artists, with 50 outpacing Kayne by over 2 million units sold. Will history repeat itself or will the bragging prodigy topple the sauntering lothario? Or, will multi-platinum country star Kenny Cheseny outsell both men with a more 9/11 friendly offering, being released the same day? We’ll know in a week.

Bruce Springsteen will release his 15th studio album, Magic, on October 2nd. The LP will mark the first collaboration with his E Street Band since 2002’s Grammy-winning The Rising. A massive tour of North America and Europe will follow, leaving one to wonder: what will Conan do without his trusty bandleader, Max Weinberg?

Also dropping a new one in the fall of ‘07? Former pop superstar-turned-cultural-punch-line Britney Spears, who’s been absent from the music scene since 2003’s In the Zone. The disgraced celeb’s fifth studio LP is set to release on November 13th; its first single—Britney’s “comeback track,” in a manner of speaking—was going to be a duet with ex-squeeze Justin Timberlake. But Spears bailed on the recording session, prompting anger from her label and skepticism from Billboard analysts about the chances of a career resuscitation. Then again, who thought Mariah Carey would ever recover from her post-Glitter nervous breakdown in 2001? Show of hands?

After canceling her summer tour due to poor ticket sales, Kelly Clarkson is set to hit the road this fall in support of her third album, My December. Her three-day stint in NYC sold out in a manner of hours, leaving one to suspect that the move to slightly smaller venues will pay off for the American Idol alum. The tour kicks off on October 10th in Verdona, NY.

In a move that irked both rock fans and champions of the first amendment, AT&T censored an anti-Bush rant out of a live Pearl Jam broadcast. The media conglomerate aired the grunge stalwarts’ headlining set at Lollapalooza live on the Internet, supposedly uncut. Yet when frontman Eddie Vedder veered off into left-leaning political territory during a brief Pink Floyd cover, AT&T used the six-second delay as an opportunity to snip out the incendiary remarks. They’ve since apologized, but when will the madness end?

Shoegazer pioneers My Bloody Valentine may be reuniting! The Irish-British three-piece have been mulling over offers to play the Coachella Festival in California in the Spring of ‘08, using the massive event to launch a world reunion tour and maybe go back to the studio for their first LP since 1991’s iconic Loveless. All of this is just rumors right now, but MBV’s management hasn’t ruled it out as complete fiction. Now, if those wily Coachella organizers could just get to work on a Pavement reunion…

Eight years after Lilith Fair went belly up, fans of female-fronted alt rock have new reason to celebrate. Avril Lavigne, Sheryl Crow, and Fiona Apple will headline Girlfrenzy, a one-day, all-women music festival to be held on October 27th at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine, Calif. No Sarah McLachlan on the bill yet, but artists are still being announced.

And if Paul McCartney shilling for Starbucks wasn’t bad enough, Beatles fans have a brand new reason to cringe. Michael Jackson, who currently owns the majority rights to the Fab Fours’ entire back catalogue, just licensed “All You Need Is Love” for use in a diapers commercial. No joke required on this one.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned at the top of the month, every month for all your entertainment news needs.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more entertainment news, at the top of the month, every month.

Most information is derived from IMDB's daily news, the Chicago dailies (Tribune and Sun Times), Entertainment Weekly,, various sources as listed, and by just paying attention.

Andrew Dowd is a writer and filmmaker living in Chicago.

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