Leo's Flicks | Star Trek | General Hospital | New York Magazine | Blankets for Warmth | Herb Ritts

Gangs Catches Fire as Catch Me Catches Up

Christmas Day brought a lot of bad weather to the Northeast, but it also sent people into movie theaters.

Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York widened its release to 2,100 theatres from 1,500 and found more of an audience. The action-packed, Braveheart-like spectacle more than doubled its previous day's take to just over $3 million.

Watching the Gangs box office is interesting because so many "insiders" are rooting against it, especially in Hollywood, where it's considered a "New York" movie. This didn't seem to matter once it fanned out into the real world, where people obviously wanted to see what all the fuss was about — in two-and-a-half words, Daniel Day-Lewis. Gangs will continue to do well as it awaits the Jan. 19 Golden Globe ceremony.

I'm very pleased to report that another film I heard a lot of nay-saying about, Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, got great newspaper reviews and took off like a rocket on Wednesday. It made $10 million in one day and I'm sure will turn into the big hit of the coming weekend.

It has only one serious competitor for that crown, and that is Rob Marshall's Chicago. The gigantic blockbuster musical is on its way to the triple crown — Golden Globe, SAG, Oscar. Like Catch Me, it's the one general-release holiday film you can recommend to friends without equivocation. All its principal stars are excellent, with John C. Reilly a standout.

Finally, these holiday movie notes: Nicole Kidman opens in The Hours Friday in select cities. She is the hands-down Oscar performance of the year in a crowded and talented field. Don't miss her. ...

Antwone Fisher — see it. Denzel Washington's done a masterful job and Derek Luke is the find of the year.

And I'm thrilled that nearly all the Catch Me reviews cited Christopher Walken. Snubbed by the Golden Globes, Walken must be included in the final Oscar five for Best Supporting Actor, along with Reilly, Richard Gere, Dennis Quaid and Robin Williams (Insomnia).

 Just a reminder — Miramax made Gangs and Chicago and has a 50 percent interest in The Hours, which is a Paramount release. I recently co-produced a documentary for Miramax, but my enthusiasm for their films — or any of the ones I mention, including our sister company 20th Century Fox's Antwone Fisher — cannot be manufactured. We've got a bumper crop of good films. Enjoy!

Star Trek Movie Collapses at Box Office

Whether they like it or not, the Star Trek gang probably won't be returning to the big screen anytime soon. At least, not Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner and their pals from the Next Generation TV series.

Star Trek: Nemesis, the 203rd installment of the movie series, is now officially dead at the box office. Through Tuesday it took in only $27 million, and it's about to exit the Top 10 as new, better movies are being released.

Having only read the dreadful reviews of Nemesis I can't say I'm surprised. But Paramount Pictures' 35-year investment in the Star Trek franchise sort of behooves it, one would think, to revitalize this project and fast.

Next up, logically, would be some combination of casts from Deep Space Nine and Voyager, the two series that followed Star Trek: Next Generation. If Paramount doesn't want to do it, maybe William Shatner can bid it out on Priceline.com.

General Hospital Axes Oldest Character

Soap-opera fans from the mid-'60s will fondly recall Nurse Audrey at the nurses' station with her starched white hat and her melodramatic secret: in love with one man, pregnant by another!

But 38 years wasn't enough tenure to save Audrey Hardy from being whacked by the General Hospital administration.

The veteran actress Rachel Ames, who's played Audrey since 1964, has been quietly removed from the opening credits of ABC's oldest soap. She's gone, her solid American values and good sense replaced by a daily salute to youth and crime.

Ames/Hardy — the last original cast member — is just the latest victim of General Hospital's continuing preoccupation with remaking itself as a lame excuse for The Godfather. (Also gone are fan favorites Brad Maule and Shell Kepler, as well as longtime star Genie Francis, who was the female half of the famous "Luke and Laura" duo.)

In the show's current incarnation, an untouchable mob boss named "Sonny Corinthos" (sounds like Sonny Corleone, no?), whose real name is Michael (also as in Corleone) rules the town of Port Charles, N.Y., with cotton balls in his mouth (sounds like Brando, no?) and a moll-like wife who talks like she just walked off The Sopranos.

The only relationship the show now has to the hospital in the title is that Sonny sends his victims there.

New York Mag Disses Kander and Ebb, Yankee Fans

Someone at New York magazine had a good idea — jot down the 40 songs that most reflected New York City or reminded people of the Big Apple. Or at least referenced it.

The No. 1 choice was "New York, New York" — the bouncy Betty Comden/Adolph Green/Leonard Bernstein song ("it's a hell of a town") from the classic musical On the Town that has the Bronx up and the Battery down.

But then the list gets a little strange. Completely overlooked: the other, now more famous "New York, New York" penned by John Kander and Fred Ebb for the 1977 Martin Scorsese movie with Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro and later associated indelibly with Frank Sinatra and Yankee Stadium.

Also, where's Christopher Cross' "Arthur's Theme" ("If you get lost between the moon and New York City")? Or the legendary "I Love New York" commercial? Or Simon and Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy in New York" or "The Boxer?" (The latter got passing mention.)

How about the famous disco anthem "Native New Yorker" by Odyssey? That was only "the heart and soul of New York City." Also missing is The Wallflowers' "6th Avenue Heartache." So is Russ Ballard's "New York Groove," first done by the London glam band Hello and then more famously by Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley.  Ditto "Manhattan Skyline" by Julia Fordham.

However, songs by Sonic Youth, the Sex Pistols, Black 47, and Andrew W.K. had no trouble finding spots. You're humming those right now, aren'tcha? They all beat George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

It must be a generational thing, right? You can respect the brutal poetry of Nas' rap "N.Y. State of Mind" (The line "So hold your stash until the coke price drop it" could be Comden and Green, no?) But still, readers must have been puzzled over why not one Billy Joel song — for example, the real "New York State of Mind" — managed to make the list.

A Blanket Message of Humanity

Trying to figure how to help the less fortunate during all this bad weather? New York singer-songwriter Michelle Marie has founded a charity called Blankets for Warmth. I first heard about this on a local radio station. She's going around giving homeless people blankets. It made me warm and cozy just thinking about it.

On Christmas Eve Marie got a bunch of celebs to blanket the town too — Joey Fatone, Tara Reid, Charles Barkley and also Star Jones' worst nightmare, the very funny Tracy Morgan. Call 1-800-UWA-2757 at the United Way to find a drop-off center near you and bring a used blanket. It's one of the best ideas I've ever heard.

Herb Ritts, R.I.P.

Celebrity photographer Herb Ritts passed away Thursday, much too early at age 50. This may mean nothing to you, but like Annie Leibovitz and a handful of others (Matthew Rolston, Mario Testino, Ellen von Unwerth, etc.), Ritts created a good deal of the visual art that permeates our culture today.

Twenty years from now, when '90s nostalgia is in full gear, we're going to be oohing and ahhing at a lot of Ritts' work. What a shame he won't be here to enjoy it. God bless him, and condolences to his many legions of friends and to his family.