|June 13: A man watches the Michael Jackson verdict come in in San Francisco.|
There's a reason Michael Jackson's passport hasn't been returned to him: It's missing. Or so say sources close to the case, who have tried without luck to get the Santa Barbara District Attorney's office to return it to Jackson.
Also missing are the passports for the Arvizo family that Janet Arvizo said during the trial were fraudulently obtained for her so Jackson could spirit her off to Brazil, my sources said.
In court, when Arvizo was presented with the passports during her wacky three-day testimony, the mother of three nearly wept.
"There they are," she declared.
It's too bad she couldn't have grabbed them right there and then, though.
Jackson's passport would come in handy right now, since he's trying to leave the U.S. for Europe.
As I reported yesterday, he's sort of in limbo, although sources say he is not at Neverland. This would narrow down the choices to Las Vegas or a private yacht harbored in La Jolla.
Either way, the district attorney's inability to return the passport seems a little passive aggressive, considering Jackson was exonerated 10 days ago.
The lack of return ironically mirrors the complaints the Arvizos lodged with attorney Mark Geragos in the spring of 2003, when they were unable to get their passports returned. Ultimately, Geragos testified that he found them and turned them over to the district attorney.
Meanwhile, there's still no word about Jackson's health or whereabouts, even though his parents are looking to get back on the interview circuit.
So far, no daily print press from New York City is allowed into tonight's premiere of "War of the Worlds."
Paramount Pictures, which promised to turn a new leaf when they replaced Sherry Lansing with Brad Grey, is looking a lot like its old self. Here's to the new boss — same as the old boss.
Unless journalists get general tickets and make their way in as guests, there'll be no "items" in the papers from this Steven Spielberg premiere.
This would be most unlike a Spielberg release, but apparently, Paramount's wishes — i.e., Tom Cruise’s wishes — supersede those of the most successful director in history.
But no New York Post, no Daily News and no New York Times.
Most of this has to do with coverage of the insta-romance between Cruise and Katie Holmes.
However, in the case of the Times, I'm told, it also has to do with the paper of record's coverage of Breck Eisner's "Sahara." You remember "Sahara," don't you? If so, skip further below.
If you're interested, I'm told the Times' response today is in the form of a poem that appears in today's "Bold Face Names" column.
All in all, this would be a good time for the distributor of Tim Hines' new version of "The War of the Worlds" to do a big DVD mailing.
"War of the Worlds" is also presenting some other nasty issues for journalists. Any writer entering an advance screening of it is being asked — no, told — to sign an agreement saying they won't review the film before its opening.
I have to admit that I e-mailed in such a statement, only to be denied admission anyway. So much for playing ball.
It's not like we could give much away. "War of the Worlds" adheres closely to the novel by H.G. Wells. Its ending is a known quantity, but I doubt many of these players are aware of that.
The movie's ending may be what's at issue. You can go to Amazon.com, search for the Tor edition of the book, click on "Search inside" and type in 195.
That's the last page of the book, and you can see what happens. Or, of course, you could read the whole thing.
Several foreign reviews and a few people who've seen the film here say the movie ends too quietly and without a big enough bang to create a blockbuster effect.
A few rogue reviews have popped up despite Paramount's efforts. But I didn't notice a mention of it on aintitcoolnews.com. Interesting.
Still, I remain a steadfast Spielberg fan. I loved "Minority Report" and "Catch Me If You Can." There was much to like about "The Terminal" as well. I can only hope that he and his steadfast personal publicist, Marv Levy, feel there's too much at stake here to try and pull rank with Paramount or Cruise.
Oh, poor Paramount. We thought the tide was changing. Certainly after the debacle surrounding "Sahara," you would have though there would be a new welcoming.
"Sahara," which starred Cruise's "ex" Penelope Cruz and her new love interest Matthew McConaughey, cost $130 million to make, not counting promotion for another $25 million. The box office? It made $67,842,203 in the U.S. and $39,300,000 abroad.
That's a worldwide total of $107,142,203. The studio cannot afford that again with "War of the Worlds," which also cost about $130 million, but add at least $50 million for promotion. The latter amount, by the way, is what filmgoers are paying so Cruise can cart his huge entourage around the world to five-star hotels.
Paramount has some promising releases coming this fall, including Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown," which has a terrific trailer, set to Elton John's beautiful "My Father's Gun" on the aforementioned aintitcoolnews.com.
But films need press support and, at this rate, filmmakers must surely wonder if the enthusiasms of just "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider" — both produced by Paramount Television — are enough to do the trick.
Yes, that was Winona Ryder, looking lovely and just like Audrey Hepburn in a vintage black gown last night.
The occasion was the premiere of the award-winning Sundance documentary "Murderball," which is just about to be released by ThinkFilms.
Ryder is supporting the release because one of its three creators, Henry Alex Rubin, was an assistant director on "Girl, Interrupted."
Ryder is so plucky, in fact, that she walked several long New York City blocks from the screening at Chelsea West Theater to the Marquee nightclub in very high pointy stiletto heels. She'll be feeling it today. And she could have had a car!
"Murderball" is an unflinching, naked look at Paralympic athletes who play violent indoor quad rugby in specially designed wheelchairs.
The players are either missing limbs or the ones they have don't work. You want to look away, but Rubin and his partners won't let you. Instead, the guys from "Murderball" form the most engaging ensemble cast of the year so far — and they're not even actors.
Mark Zupan is the default star — watch him turn into a sex symbol — but my favorite of the bunch is the overly intense and fascinating Coach Joe Soares. My guess is someone will make a movie just about him as soon as they see him here.
My prediction: "Murderball" could be the breakout hit of the dreary summer, along the lines of "Bend It Like Beckham." It is so uncontrived and devoid of cynicism that audiences who get to see it will not stop talking about it.