BRITAIN WARNS MEDIA OVER AL-JAZEERA REPORT
Britain's attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, has threatened to prosecute any member of the news media under Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act if it reveals further contents of a document allegedly sent from the No. 10 Downing St. office/residence of Prime Minister Tony Blair and leaked to the London Daily Mirror The document purportedly discussed plans by President Bush to bomb the headquarters of the Arab news channel al-Jazeera in Doha, the capital of Qatar last year. A report concerning the document was front-paged Tuesday in the newspaper. Its publisher, Richard Wallace, responded to the government threat Tuesday night, saying: "We made No 10 fully aware of the intention to publish and were given 'no comment' officially or unofficially. Suddenly 24 hours later we are threatened under Section 5." The Mirror said that the memo "turned up" at the office of a former Labor member of Parliament. (British newspapers reported today (Wednesday) that last week Leo O'Connor, a former researcher in the office, was charged with receiving a secret document in violation of the Secrets Act from David Keogh, a former official of the Foreign Office, who was also charged.) Meanwhile, the White House called the reports "outlandish." However, several British reports have observed that al-Jazeera's offices in Iraq and Afghanistan have indeed been hit by U.S. bombs, although the U.S. military has always denied that the attacks were intentional. In a statement, the Arab network said that if the published documents turn out to be true, they "would cast serious doubts in regard to the U.S. administration's version of previous incidents involving Al-Jazeera's journalists and offices." Late today, Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, which had previously demanded a full investigation of the attack on the al-Jazeera Baghdad office in which a cameraman was killed, said: "The evidence is stacking up to suggest that the U.S. decided to take out al-Jazeera in Baghdad, as a warning not only to them but to other media about their coverage. If true, it is an absolute scandal that the U.S. administration can regard the staff of al-Jazeera as a bunch of terrorists and a legitimate target."
CBS CONTINUES NOVEMBER SWEEP
CBS continued its domination of the airwaves last week as it remained unbeaten in the ratings among overall viewers for the entire season and extended its winning streak among adults 18-49 to six weeks. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation remained the most-watched show among overall viewers, which ABC's Desperate Housewives was the top-rated show among the 18-49-year-old group. For the week, CBS averaged a 9.9 rating and a 16 share. ABC was a distant second with a 7.4/12. NBC finished third with a 6.4/10, followed by Fox, with a 4.3/7.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 17.8/27; 2. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 15.9/23; 3. Without a Trace, CBS, 14.0/23; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.9/20; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 12.9/21; 6. Lost, ABC, 12.7/19; 7. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 12.4/20; 8. 60 Minutes, CBS, 11.9/18; 9. Survivor: Guatemala, CBS, 11.2/17; 10. CMA Awards, CBS, 11.1/17; 10. Cold Case, CBS, 11.1/16.
3-D BOOSTS RATINGS FOR MEDIUM
Monday night's 3-D episode of Medium gave the NBC series a significant boost. Although it remained in third place opposite ABC's Monday Night Football and CBS's CSI: Miami, Medium's 8.7/14 was well above the 8.0/13 that it had averaged during the previous five weeks. In order to view certain 3-D scenes in the episode, viewers had to don special glasses that were included in the latest TV Guide. Reviewers were not enthusiastic about the gimmick. One blogger wrote: "The flying meat cleaver made me flinch the first time, but once you've said that, you've said everything. The cardboard glasses chafed, gave me a headache, and bathed the images in a flickering red/green glow."
COMING SOON (PERHAPS): SEARCH FOR OLD SHOWS ON GOOGLE
Want to watch the original Playhouse 90 version of a Paddy Chayefsky drama from the early 50s? The episode of I Love Lucy when Lucy is rushed to the hospital to deliver Little Ricky? Edward R. Murrow's interview with Groucho Marx? The early soap-opera performances of your favorite actors? The premiere of All in the Family? The premiere of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation? All of this could become possible if talks between CBS and Google, the Internet search engine, pan out. CBS Chairman Les Moonves told Reuters on Tuesday that the network and Google are presently discussing "video search" and a way to deliver video on demand. It was recently reported that CBS Digital President Larry Kramer was in talks with Apple about distributing programs via its iTunes website.
FIVE NEW FILMS SERVED UP FOR HOLIDAY
Five movies debuting over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend aren't expected to earn together what Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will earn on its own. Harry, which brought in $102.7 million in its first three days of release -- then added another $7.9 million on Monday -- is expected to gross about $85 million over the Wednesday-Sunday period. All five of the new releases: Sony's Rent;Paramount and Sony/MGM's Yours, Mine and Ours; Focus Films' The Ice Harvest; New Line's Just Friends; and Lions Gate's In the Mix (not shown to critics) are each opening to mostly poor-to-lukewarm reviews. Focus Films' Pride and Prejudice, which opens wide after two weeks of limited release, is expected to outdraw several of the newcomers. So is Fox's Walk the Line, which had a surprisingly strong opening last week, when it took in $22.4 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: RENT
It took ten years to bring the Broadway musical Rent to movie screens, and critics are now arguing that was much too long. The mostly original cast is now too old; the story, out-of-date, many say. Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times would seemingly like to tag it with an eviction notice. "The most amazing thing about Rent (and be sure to look for that adjective on a movie poster near you, with an exclamation point attached) is how painfully dated and achingly false the movie feels," she writes. It is "akin to opening a time capsule," comments Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe & Mail. Roger Ebert, who gave the film a "thumbs up" on his syndicated Ebert & Roeper, indicates in his Chicago Sun-Times review that he has since changed his mind. He writes that he originally felt that "people might want to see it based on what was good in it," but after reflection, he says, "I don't think the movie really works on its own, without reference to the theatrical version." In the Boston Globe, Wesley Morris puts the blame for the film's shortcomings on its director, writing: "In bringing Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning rock-popera to the screen, Chris Columbus seems to have kept in awkward spaces after the musical numbers for audience applause. This is wishful thinking, given the dispiriting lack of creativity he's brought to the proceedings." Other critics are not so harsh, and some are downright enthusiastic about the movie. Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune says, lukewarmly, "It's a pretty good version of a pretty great stage phenomenon." A.O. Scott in the New York Times observes that "every time the film seemed ready to tip into awfulness, the sneer on my lips was trumped by the lump in my throat." And Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer concludes, "While some of Rent feels dated, what is timeless is the artist's dream of creating a work that will live on after him. It's a familiar chord, but Columbus and his cast pluck with passion."
MOVIE REVIEWS: JUST FRIENDS
Just Friends is just awful, many critics agree. "Every holiday season welcomes a big-screen turkey, and this one's got extra stuffing," comments Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. But the majority of critics are reluctant to toss it out with the leftover broccoli. Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News writes: "The movie is actually pretty good -- funny, smart and featuring a host of appealing performances." And Ty Burr in the Boston Globe remarks: "It's crass, it's unsophisticated, it aims right for the slapsticky pleasure center of the under-30 moviegoer's brain. So sue me, I laughed. A lot."
MOVIE REVIEWS: YOURS, MINE & OURS
Yours, Mine & Ours is also receiving a fair share of left-handed compliments. Take Good Morning America's Joel Siegel's appraisal of its star: "I always thought Dennis Quaid was the least funny actor in Hollywood. But he's such a good actor, by the film's end I was ready to say he's only the second or third least funny actor in Hollywood." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times offers this appraisal: "Dennis Quaid can be the most effortlessly charming of actors, but give him a break: It helps when he has effortlessly charming material." Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News concludes that "Quaid and [costar René] Russo are certainly too good for this kind of time-out from their careers." For the two actors, what it all adds up to, says Phil Kloer in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is "an embarrassing item to their respective IMDb.com listings, and maybe a nice summer home with the paycheck." Or, as Mike Clark puts it similarly in USA Today: "Yours isn't the kind of movie you want on your résumé."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE ICE HARVEST
Most of the critics describe director Harold Ramis's The Ice Harvest as a black comedy. How black? Well, in her review in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis writes that it "easily takes the honors as this holiday season's biggest and dirtiest lump of coal." Dargis clearly hates the film, as does Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News, who calls it "blockheaded and totally tasteless." But Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun writes that the black mood of the movie is what makes it satisfying. "If you have an ounce of misanthropy in your body, a picture like this can draw it to the surface the way a leech draws blood," he comments. Indeed, several critics suggest that the film may appeal to the Scrooge in all of us. "As an antidote to the sugary confections of the season, its hung-over cynicism works wonders," Says Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Or as Lou Lumenick writes in the New York Post: "The Ice Harvest is a treat for everyone who hates holidays."
STUDIOS MAY MAKE PEACE WITH FILE-SHARING SITES
Hollywood, which has been waging a costly but thus far unproductive war against file-sharing sites, may be on the verge of calling a truce with BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer technology most widely used for pirating movies and music over the Internet. BitTorrent developer Bram Cohen on Tuesday said that he had agreed to remove links on is site to pirated copies of movies as a first step toward a deal with studios to use his system to distribute movies online for a fee. Cohen appeared Tuesday at a joint news conference with MPAA chief Dan Glickman, where he said that he expected to be able to announce some distribution deals with major studios "in the future." The deals are expected to have little effect on online piracy for the foreseeable future, analysts noted, since BitTorrent, an open source program, does not rely on the links posted on Cohen's site. "Unfortunately, as many people as were swapping movies yesterday will likely be swapping them tomorrow," Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne Online Media Measurement, told today's Los Angeles Times.