'Fahrenheit' Night | Summer's Big Hit Here | Barbara's Memoirs | O'Reilly's Parade Factor

Fahrenheit's $8 Million Night

Michael Moore's controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11" opened wide last night and took in a little over $8.2 million on 800 screens. It's now on track for a $24 million weekend, exceeding expectations according to predictions made by boxofficemojo.com

"F-9/11" was supposed to have been released by Miramax through Disney, which rejected the film. Ironically, if Disney had released it, the company would have had its first No. 1 hit in a year.

Instead, "F-9/11" did about seven times the business that Disney's release "Around the World in 80 Days" did on Friday night — and in 2,000 fewer theaters.

So far, the curiosity about "F-9/11" appears to be widepread. After opening in New York to sell-out audiences, the documentary sold out shows in places as diverse as St. Louis and Chicago.

'Spider-Man 2': The Summer's Big Hit Is Here

How good is the new "Spider-Man" sequel?

I think we got the idea last night when Tobey Maguire, playing Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker, asked his aunt, "What happened to all my comic books?"

Her reply, the universal one from almost every parent on the planet: "Why, I threw them out."

The audience at the big New York screening of Columbia's summer blockbuster just howled with laughter. It's just one of the moments that cinches "Spider-Man 2" as the second sequel (after the new "Harry Potter") that will exceed the success of its predecessor.

A big part of this "Spider-Man" triumph has to be the script, which was written by legendary screenwriter Alvin Sargent.

The man who translated "Ordinary People," "Julia," "Nuts," "White Palace" to the cinema is also known as a Hollywood script doctor, iconoclast, and husband of "Spider-Man" producer Laura Ziskin. He's the credit writer, with Alfred Gouh, Miles Millar, and novelist Michael Chabon sharing "story by" credits.

Together this gang is responsible for a "Spider-Man" that is witty, dark, character-driven, funny and involving. There is a long stretch in this film, for example, in which Parker questions himself and loses access to his superhuman qualities.

But the movie never loses interest or sags for very long as the crisp dialogue and Sam Raimi's sharp editing keeps every ball in the air. Unlike the direction of McG in "Charlie's Angels," this real-life comic book doesn't give you whiplash or an MTV hangover. The pace is what they used to call "clever."

There's a set-up for the third (and, we can always hope, last) installment of this "Spider-Man" series that actually leaves you hoping to see the finale.

In the meantime, you will enjoy the laconic Maguire as Peter, the gorgeous Kirsten Dunst as plucky heroine Mary Jane, Alfred Molina as Spider-Man's bizarre octopus-tentacled enemy, handsome James Franco as Peter's conflicted, vengeful best pal and Rosemary Harris as sweet Aunt May. If only she'd kept those comic books!

The scene-stealer, though, is J.K. Simmons, who was so menacing in the HBO series "Oz," and continues to be the unlikely comic foil as Peter's tough-talking newspaper editor.

"Spider-Man 2" opens next Wednesday, with Disney's "King Arthur" hot on its heels. Even if the latter is better than its advance buzz, the whole thing is unfortunate timing indeed.

"Spider-Man 2" is really the perfect example of a big-budget motion picture in which studio executives minimally meddled and left the creative side to the experts. If only every promised blockbuster was like "Spider-Man 2" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"!

Barbara Bush's Memoirs: Familiar Names

If some of the names you hear in "Fahrenheit 9/11" sound familiar, that's because many of them turn up socially in former first lady Barbara Bush's "Reflections: Life After the White House."

It was published last year by Scribner, the same house that gave us Craig Unger's bestseller "House of Bush, House of Saud."

In her breezy and candid style, Mrs. Bush merrily recounts her many trips and adventures with former President Bush in the years since they left the White House.

Among the familiar characters she describes: Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, whom the Bushes entertained at home in Maine in the summer of 1998.

"I hadn't known he was coming," Mrs. Bush writes, "but was thrilled. I said he could stay as long as he wanted. He did arrive with a very nice couple, Bob and Jan Lilac."

There's a picture on page 233 of "Reflections" from the Bush's family scrapbook of Prince Bandar "cooking up a storm in our Kennebunkport kitchen."

Later, Mrs. Bush says, "Bandar stayed only 24 hours, but made friends for life."

Bandar's companion was Robert Lilac, the former commander of the U.S. Air Force Logistics Command in Saudi Arabia. According to published reports, he left the National Security Council in 1983 and went to work for Bandar and the Saudis when Bandar became ambassador 20 years ago.

In her book, Mrs. Bush also recalls a trip to the south of France in May 1999. "We stayed with friends Nemir and Nada Kirdar, who live in the most beautiful cliff-hanging house, Villa Serenada. They are two of the kindest people we know."

Kirdar, according to his published biography, is the former manager of Chase Manhattan Bank in the Persian Gulf and current president and chief executive officer of Investcorp, an international investment group that is based in the Cayman Islands but has its headquarters in Bahrain.

Mrs. Bush also recalls playing golf with her Houston friend, Shahla Ansary, whose husband Hushang is the owner of IRI International, described in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing as "one of the world's largest manufacturers of land-based drilling, well-servicing rigs and rig component parts for use in the global oil and gas industry."

Ansary, a member of the National Finance Committee of the Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign, gave $270,000 to the Republican National Committee, according to federal filings.

"George and I have become very good friends with a wonderful couple here in Houston, Hushang and Shahla Ansary," Mrs. Bush writes. "Hushang was formerly ambassador from Iran to the United States, but has been an American citizen for years. He is a great supporter of education, literacy, M.D. Anderson, George's Library, and almost every other cause you can mention, including the United States."

There's a lot to read in Mrs. Bush's memoirs. I'm sorry I missed it when it came out. Do yourself a favor and pick it up this weekend. It's in paperback.

Bill O'Reilly's Parade Factor; Stevie's TV Plans

Readers of the popular Parade magazine, take note this weekend of an item in the "Personality Parade," which is penned under a pseudonym by Jackie Kennedy's unwanted chronicler Ed Klein. The item explains our own Bill O'Reilly's contretemps with liberal gadfly Al Franken, and O'Reilly comes out on top....

Stevie Wonder's live appearance on "Good Morning America" was scuttled by the Ronald Reagan funeral. It's been rescheduled for Thursday, July 29th. The next day "GMA" has Usher....

Newly minted pop star Johnathan Rice, whose debut album on Warner Bros. has gotten excellent reviews, plays Roy Orbison in the coming Johnny Cash-June Carter Cash biopic "Walk the Line," starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon....

Elton John sings a new song co-written with Bernie Taupin as the theme to "Finding Neverland," the movie that could get Johnny Depp an Oscar this year. The terrific "Peter's Song" sounds like it came right off Elton's classic album "Madman Across the Water"....

Where is Eileen Fulton? The star of "As the World Turns" for 40 years, and a beloved New York celeb fixture, seems to have been written off the show except for state occasions. Nice, huh?...

And finally, don't forget to click on www.sirius.com this Sunday night from 9 to 11 p.m. Yours truly is a minor part of a big soul-music special starring "Soul Man" Sam Moore and R&B legend Carla Thomas. The performances are historic!...

Happy Birthday, Carly Simon, forever young and still the sexiest rock chanteuse ever. She should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame already ...and to Jill Brooke, the equally sexy editor of Show Circuit Magazine and contributor to Avenue and the New York Times....