Published May 26, 2005
If George Lucas ' "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" continues to draw customers the way it has so far this week, it will cross the $200 million mark tomorrow.
With $182 million in the till, the film has taken in about $10 million a day since last weekend. The $200 million point will occur on its eighth day of release, which is certainly some kind of record.
Of course, the movie has made almost that much abroad in limited release since May 19. Combined with merchandising and other ancillaries, "Sith" is on its way to being the biggest movie of all time. And deservedly so, I think.
Although the term "Hayden Christensen" may be added to wooden appellations like "oak" and "birch" — as in, "I'd like a Hayden Christensen table" — "Sith" is an opera of epic proportions that doesn't fail to entertain on every level. The good money is on millions of repeat customers from last week, plus millions of new ones.
Who comes off the best here? Surprisingly, Ewan McGregor. His Obi-Wan Kenobi finally seems organic and heroic. Aside from Yoda, McGregor is the heart and soul of "Sith."
Janet Arvizo had "mental problems" and her 13-year-old son was "cunning," comedian Chris Tucker told jurors in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial.
The "Rush Hour" star's testimony yesterday was somber, sarcastic and a little contentious. By the time he was finished, there was no doubt that he had little love for the Arvizo family.
But other witnesses may have caused bigger problems for Jackson as Tucker was busy trying to exonerate him.
Tucker was actually introduced to Jackson by the then-13-year-old, and the two men became fast friends.
What District Attorney Tom Sneddon didn't even seem to know during his cross-examination yesterday was that Tucker lived at Neverland for long stretches in 2001 and 2002.
The defense may not have known it either. If they had, they might have used him more effectively as a witness. After all, an adult heterosexual male who is friends with Jackson is a rarity.
The comedian was the last witness in the defense's case, and he should have been more of a powerhouse. But under cross-examination, he waffled, changed his story and perhaps didn't have his part memorized.
In particular, his account of the story I've told you before — how he flew the Arvizos to Miami to see Jackson in February 2003 — didn't quite add up.
It was especially frustrating because Tucker actually had trouble deciphering his own phone bill. It wasn't a great moment in judicial history.
But Tucker did have enough stories about the Arvizos to bolster the defense's assertion that they were hustlers who may not have asked for money directly but always seemed to invite financial help from strangers.
He recounted how, to help the 13-year-old get over his cancer, he invited the family to Las Vegas for a few days for the shooting of "Rush Hour 2."
He said they stayed for weeks on his dime and were disruptive. He also took them to Oakland for a Raiders game, all expenses paid.
But Tucker soon grew wary of the Arvizos as their interest in him changed. Janet Arvizo began referring to him as her kids' "brother" — her modus operandi for ingratiating herself into a celebrity's life. She called Tucker and his girlfriend, Azja Pryor, "family."
Tucker offered them use of a car, and then rescinded it because he became suspicious of them, he said.
Unfortunately, the Arvizos were not so easily put off, "constantly" calling to get the keys. When this family wanted something, they didn't like to take no for an answer.
Tucker's testimony would have been fine if not for the contentious cross-examination by Sneddon that followed.
When Sneddon asked Tucker about a picture that had been taken of him, Pryor and the Arvizos, Tucker said he didn't remember it.
Sneddon showed it to him. Tucker replied, "That's a nice picture. I'd like a copy."
Sneddon's retort was a stunner. He actually said to an adult, and the star of the highest-grossing comedy in history: "That depends on whether you're a good boy or not."
Sneddon often gets tangled in a web of his own words, and yesterday was no exception. When he tripped on a sentence, he tried to turn it into a joke.
Tucker sat stone-faced.
"I laugh at your jokes," Sneddon snapped at him.
The prosecutor spent a lot of time trying to bait him, and Tucker responded by being obstinate and purposely forgetful. This was not "Rush Hour 3."
Tucker did manage to get in a good line that the jury will remember, even though it was stricken from the official court record: "[The accusing boy] is cunning and smart. If he doesn't want to do something, he doesn't do it."
Even if you believe, as many here do, that the Arvizos are an unsavory group of hustlers, Michael Jackson has other problems — namely alcohol.
Too many witnesses, of all ages, have now described Jackson's drinking. Whether it's "Jesus Juice" (wine in a Diet Coke can), or bottles of wine delivered to his room when children are present, Jackson has been placed too many times in scenes with children and booze.
When the prosecution's rebuttal case began yesterday, former Neverland ranch manager Jesus Salas returned to the witness stand.
Salas, who has only ill feelings for his former boss, testified that he'd seen Jackson "intoxicated" on several occasions. Three times in particular, Salas said, he saw Jackson "intoxicated" in front of his own children, Prince, Paris and Blanket, to such an extent that Salas thought it was unsafe for them.
Salas also said that Jackson and his 13-year-old accuser slept in the same bed "90 percent" of the time that the boy was at Neverland between Feb. 7 and March 11, 2003.
Of course, the boy was absent on several individual days and for a full week at one point. Jackson may have been away on March 6, 7 and 8.
But none of that was added to the testimony, and Salas' story — while possibly untrue — was powerful.
Of course, no one has asked why he was fired from Neverland and if he has a grudge. Maybe that will come out after the trial.
Jackson's drinking is a serious matter. When the jury gets this case, they will be instructed that at least one count of child molestation is linked with serving alcohol to a minor. And that remains an obstacle to acquittal, as too much evidence places Jackson in proximity to liquor and kids.
The Robin Hood Foundation raised millions and millions last night at its annual soirée.
The best moment, apparently, was when Gwyneth Paltrow, coming off the stage after helping to auction some items, made a beeline through the room to see Harvey Weinstein .
Paltrow, once dubbed by Weinstein as "the first lady of Miramax," will undoubtedly be making movies at Harvey and Bob Weinstein's new studio — as soon as they announce a name for it ...
"House" is a hit on FOX, and I'm told the show's finale — featuring one of my favorite actresses, Sela Ward — was its highest rated of the season. Ward has been persuaded to come back for seven episodes next season ...
The word is that "Batman Begins" is excellent, despite the film being dragged into Tom Cruise's romantic real-life soap opera. Christopher Nolan, whose "Memento" is now a contemporary classic, has evidently rescued the franchise from oblivion ...
Less well received is "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie spy thriller that is depending on interest in that couple's real-life soap opera to ignite the box office. My colleague Liz Smith, who has excellent taste, simply loathed it. Others that I've spoken to were more sympathetic ...
Finally, I am mourning the untimely passing of Ismail Merchant, who died yesterday at 68.
He was one half of the famed Merchant Ivory Productions along with James Ivory. "Howard's End," "Room with a View," "Handful of Dust," "Remains of the Day" — so many spectacular hits.
But Ismail was more than that. He was a kind and gentle soul, a great cook, a mensch. We loved his short-lived restaurant Pondicherry, too.
It was a pleasure and an honor to have known him. Losing him is a great, great loss. Condolences to his partners James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.