ABC NEWS WEATHERS NEW STORM OF CONTROVERSY
ABC's Primetime Live report Thursday night alleging breaches of security at nuclear reactors at 25 university campuses was being excoriated today (Friday) by the universities themselves and by numerous blogs reflecting a wide spectrum of opinion. Recalling the reaction to Dan Rather's discredited report about President Bush's National Guard service, the universities questioned the basic journalism that went into the program's preparation. The program, which used college interns to gain access to reactor buildings, said that it found many of them unguarded and without even metal detectors at entrances. However, all of the universities maintained that their reactors use only small amounts of low-grade uranium, that they were intended to be teaching tools, and that even if a suicide bomber or truck bomb were set off at any of them, no dangerous radiation would be released. At one point, ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross described an apparently unguarded nuclear reactor pool at Texas A&M that was being shown to the intern reporters. He then remarked that any person taking such a tour could easily throw a backpack full of explosives into it. In an interview with the campus newspaper The Battalion, Dan Reece, director of the Nuclear Science Center, remarked that the walls of the pool are made of 5-foot-thick cement. "If that happened, I might not have a very pretty place to work the next day, but the health and safety of the public and students are our main concern." The university also denied the program's claim that the reactor is running on highly-enriched uranium of weapons-grade. An official at Idaho State University said that the reactor there was capable of producing only enough power to light a Christmas tree bulb. Dr. John Bennion, chairman of the Nuclear Engineering Program, commented: "There's no way, this particular reactor could melt down." Dr. Andrew Karam of the Rochester Institute of Technology, wrote a detailed rebuttal of the ABC report on the Nuclear Energy Institute blog, calling it "neither fair nor balanced" and concluding that ABC underestimated "the difficulties involved in turning 'access' into a terrorist weapon, and I think they overestimated the risks from such an attack." Other university officials questioned the ethics of the ABC News producers. Terry King, dean of Kansas State's engineering school, remarked, "We are concerned that interns, college students, were placed in a position where they were dishonest about their roles and intentions." The National Association of Manufacturers blog called the report "well nigh hysterical -- and hysterically inaccurate." It countered a claim on the program that a gardener let the ABC interns into a facility by maintaining that the man is actually a "retired employee who still holds a Senior Reactor Operator's license and who works part time at the facility." It concluded: "This is Dan Rather-Mary Mapes kind of fact checking. ABC should hang its head in shame on this piece."
MTV BUYS IFILM WEBSITE
In Viacom's latest foray into cyberspace, its MTV Networks unit on Thursday acquired IFILM, the website that provides short films and independent features to broadband users. The company reportedly paid $49 million for the site, which will continue to be operated by its CEO, Blair Harrison. MTV is expected to expand the content of the site with its own productions.
RUSSIAN MOTHER AND DAUGHTER SUE MTV
A Russian mother, Irina Stemer, and her 19-year-old daughter, Anastasia Camras, are suing MTV, claiming that they were humiliated when they appeared on the reality show Date My Mom. According to today's (Friday) New York Daily News, Stemer was supposed to pitch her daughter's attributes to a male contestant considering her for a date. According to the lawsuit, Stemer, speaking Russian told the potential suitor, "My daughter has a very big heart." However, MTV's subtitles translated her words as, "There is no better piece of a** than my princess Anastasia." Stemer's attorney, Sam Perlmutter, told the Daily News, "For a cheap laugh, they destroyed a girl and her mother. It's a sexual assault! Can you imagine going to school and work and having people say, 'How could your mother say that about you?'"
HAROLD PINTER WINS NOBEL PRIZE
Although Harold Pinter, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, is mostly identified with stage plays -- particularly The Caretaker, The Homecoming and Betrayal -- he also wrote prolifically for both the big and small screen. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1982 for The French Lieutenant's Woman and again in 1984 for the screen version of Betrayal. His 1965 screenplay for the Pumpkin Eater and his 1970 screenplay for The Go-Between won him BAFTA awards. Nevertheless, most of his plays have been seen on British television or heard on British radio -- dozens of them. (He directed four.) Indeed, so prolific has Pinter -- who turned 75 on Monday -- been that BBC Radio once aired readings of several of his unproduced movie scripts. Pinter is also probably the first Nobel laureate to have worked as an actor, appearing in 21 films and television dramas. In 2000 he co-starred with Sir John Gielgud (who played a corpse) in a six-minute short, The Director, in the title role. It was directed by David Mamet from a play by Samuel Beckett. When he received word on Thursday that he had won the award, Pinter said that he was so surprised that he was at a loss for words -- a condition that frequently strikes his characters.
THE NAME'S CRAIG, DANIEL CRAIG
The producers of the James Bond movies confirmed today (Friday) that they had chosen 37-year-old Daniel Craig to be the next 007 -- out of some 200 actors around the world -- and had signed him to a three-film contract. The relatively unknown actor told a London news conference, "It's a huge challenge. Life is about challenges and this is one of the big ones as an actor." Earlier in the year he had expressed misgivings about the script for Casino Royale, which is due to begin filming in January, saying that if he were offered the role he'd want "the emotional level" of the script to change, "but I don't know how ready they'd be to change." At today's news conference, Craig said that he wanted to take the Bond movie "somewhere maybe where it's never gone before." He did not elaborate, but director Martin Campbell remarked that the film will be "a big darker" with "more character, less gadgets." He added: "This will be tougher and grittier, and there's a terrific part for the girl and the relationship Bond has with the girl is probably a much more serious one than we've had in the past."
ANOTHER POOR WEEKEND AT BOX OFFICE PREDICTED
Box office analysts have generally had a tough time predicting weekend grosses this season, but they all agree that this weekend's assortment of films is not likely to attract a big crowd to the local multiplex. Without even seeing it -- the movie was not shown to critics in advance -- analysts forecast that Sony's fright flick The Fog is likely to be the top film of the weekend, grossing about $15 million. Paramount's Elizabethtown, they say, is likely to be a close contender with about $14 million, while last week's winner, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, will probably drop to third place with about $11 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: ELIZABETHTOWN
There was a time when Cameron Crowe could do no wrong by critics. Films like his 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1989's Say Anything, 1996's Jerry Maguire and 2000's Almost Famous received near universal praise. But 2001's Vanilla Sky received mixed reviews, although it grossed more than $100 million, and his current film, Elizabethtown, is being almost universally drubbed. In the words of the Washington Post's Desson Thomson: "Writer-director Cameron Crowe's most recent stumble, Vanilla Sky, continues without interruption into Elizabethtown." New York Daily News critic Jack Mathews calls it "as big a misfire as any major director has had in years." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post observes that there's a line in the film in which a character remarks, "There's a difference between a failure and a fiasco." Comments Lumenick: The line "practically begs audiences to decide which label applies to Cameron Crowe's rambling, schmaltzy romantic comedy." Nevertheless, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times concludes that the movie "is nowhere near one of Crowe's great films ... but it is sweet and good-hearted and has some real laughs."
MOVIE REVIEWS: DOMINO
Critics are knocking Tony Scott's Domino, like, well, dominoes. (Oddly, few critics are grasping for a similar metaphor. An exception is Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News, who comments: "Domino comes falling down with a thud.") Consider this comment from Gene Seymour in Newsday: "Domino is the answered prayer for those yearning for a bio-pic that hits them like a controlled substance. It's a movie that all but forces its bulky, twitching mass down your throat, setting off a barrage of flashing lights, jump cuts, flickering images of tawdry behavior and graphic violence." Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post calls it "a scattershot fusillade of squibs and squirts that, while occasionally funny and visually arresting, amount to absolutely nothing." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal gives the movie a six-sentence review, beginning with: "A word or two in case you're thinking of seeing Domino, which stars Keira Knightley. The first word is DON'T. So is the second." And Mike Clark in USA Today sums up: "When critics gauge what was and what wasn't at year's end, Scott's latest will likely land toward the bottom." Of the major critics, only Manohla Dargis in the New York Times gives the film a decent review, saying that she regards it as "a lollapalooza of delectable cheap thrills."
STEVEN SPIELBERG TO CREATE VIDEO GAMES
Steven Spielberg, who devoted a section of his production offices to arcade games even before personal computers made their appearance, has become the first major director to sign a deal with a videogame publisher to create a series of game franchises. Electronic Arts said Thursday that under the deal, Spielberg, who it said is already at work on the first title, will have the rights to turn the games into future movies. In an interview with the website TheStreet.com, Neil Young, general manager of Electronic Arts's office in Playa Vista, CA, acknowledged, "We haven't been able to deliver on the full promise of the media. ... What we're phenomenal at is building games, game design. What we're not great at is the narrative. ... We think [Spielberg] will accelerate our knowledge and understanding of that." Separately, Young told the Los Angeles Times: "We're trying to answer the question: Can a computer game make you cry? ... Partnering with Steven, we're going to get closer to answering it, and maybe we'll answer it together."
SPACE FRONTIER FOUNDATION HONORS FILMMAKERS
The Space Frontier Foundation, an organization that promotes the use of private enterprise to open the space frontier to human settlement, announced its 2005 award winners on Thursday. The movie Fantastic Four received its Vision of the Future award for depicting a privately-owned space station, while the IMAX film Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D, produced by Tom Hanks, won the film award for Best Presentation of Space while Discovery Channel's Black Sky: The Race for Space won the TV award.