TEENS (AND "TWEENS") RULE!

Box-office analysts, who have had a dismal record of predicting winners this year, are forecasting that Warner Bros.' 17 Again, starring Zac Efron will do the kind of business that Hannah Montana: The Movie did a week ago. Its only major new competitor is Universal's thriller, State of Play, starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams. In the Los Angeles Times, writer Ben Fritz observed, "Low expectations for State of Play are another sign that ticket sales are increasingly being driven by younger and less affluent moviegoers, as older crowds seem happier to stay home and watch DVDs or TiVo." A third new film, Crank: High Voltage, was not screened for critics.

MOVIE REVIEWS: 17 AGAIN

Once again, the critics are having a tough time writing about the latest "tween" product to hit the screen. Adults, they are aware, are not going to see 17 Again, starring teen-scream Zac Efron,on their own, and kids don't read newspaper reviews anymore. So this is the kind of comment being made about the movie: Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "17 Again is pleasant, harmless PG-13 entertainment, with a plot a little more surprising and acting a little better than I expected." Rafer Guzmán in Newsday: "Efron, as a teen with the brain of a father, ably carries this featherweight movie." Claudia Puig in USA Today: "For a swoon-fest aimed at tweens, 17 Again has a lot going for it." Dan Kois in the Washington Post: "Zac Efron has no edge. Other than his razor-sharp jawline, he is completely edgeless. And while that edgelessness might prolong his career, it keeps 17 Again from having anything surprising to say about teenage life in 2009."

MOVIE REVIEWS: STATE OF PLAY

State of Play may be the last movie about newspaper journalism to be produced by Hollywood. If so, such movies are going out with a bang. A.O. Scott waxes poetic in reviewing the movie, "The images are stirring and familiar, though in a few years' time they may look as quaint as engravings of stagecoaches and steam engines. A breaking, earthshaking story makes its way from computer screen to newsprint. ... Those of us who work in the newspaper business are highly susceptible to the kind of sentimental view of our trade this movie offers, especially when the sentiment masquerades as tough-minded cynicism, which makes us go all dewy and reach for the bottle of rye we keep stashed in the bottom drawer of our battered metal desk. And anyone, in whatever field, who cherishes memories of All the President's Men or His Girl Friday will smile when State of Play directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), now and again hits the sweet spot of the genre." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times calls it "a smart, ingenious thriller." Joe Neumair in the New York Daily News describes it as "a fast-moving, if implausible, thriller." And Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post writes that it "comes at us like the proverbial bat out of hell and keeps up a brisk rhythm built for intelligence."

PIRATE BAY TO WALK THE PLANK

In the courtroom equivalent to the military suppression of the Somali pirates, the four defendants in The Pirate Bay case in Sweden were found guilty of copyright crimes in Sweden, sentenced to a year in jail, and ordered to pay fines and restitution totaling $3.6 million. The defendants, Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundström -- immediately announced that they would appeal and vowed that The Pirate Bay will continue to operate. One of the defendants, Peter Sunde, said that he had learned of the judge's decision an hour before it was announced. Sunde, who has acted as a spokesman for the website, said on Twitter: "Stay calm -- nothing will happen to TPB, us personally or filesharing whatsoever. This is just a theater for the media." But Monique Wadsted, a Swedish lawyer for the MPAA, told CNN that the verdict represented a victory "for all authors all around the world ... because what is going on now is actually a plundering of the author's works," But, in a commentary, the website TechDirt.com said, "The core question was an important one: should a site that is, effectively, a search engine, be liable for the content that is linked from that search engine, given that it hosted no infringing works itself. ... The idea that a toolmaker can be liable for the actions of its users should trouble everyone -- especially when that tool has plenty of legitimate uses as well."

MORE MOVIES FOR YOUTUBE

YouTube said Thursday that it had lined up several movie studios and TV networks to provide a number of full-length films to its site. Viewers will be able to watch them for free; they will be supported by advertising. In recent days, several websites have noted that YouTube has represented a financial drain for its owner, Google. Now, said the website ArsTechnica.com, YouTube has taken a giant step in the right direction to figuring out how to monetize the site." Studios and networks contributing features to the site include Sony CBS, the BBC, Starz, MGM, and Lionsgate. The movies can be accessed through Sony's Crackle player, which will be embedded in YouTube.

GREEN HORNET GETS AUSTRALIAN GREEN LIGHT

Rarely if ever has the start of a production of a new blockbuster motion picture been announced by the leader of a country or state. However, it was Nathan Rees, the premier of the Australian state of New South Wales, who made the announcement Thursday that Warner Bros. will start production of The Green Lantern in Sydney beginning in July. "Bringing Green Lantern to NSW is a major coup," Rees declared. The film, which will star Hugh Jackman in the lead role, will be directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), the premier's office said. "The NSW Government has worked closely with Warner Bros. to ensure that it chose our state as the location for this big-budget production," Rees said. He pointed out that the state's government had recently offered a new package of tax incentives. "This policy is already paying off for the people of NSW," he said. The movie will be produced at Fox Studios in Sydney and, he noted, will give employment to "100 performers, 200 crew and thousands of extras." In a separate statement, Fox Studios CEO Nancy Romano said, "The decision by Warner Bros. to locate the production in New South Wales is tangible evidence that having a competitive incentive scheme in place returns positive results."

HUNDREDS REPORT CRACKED BLU-RAY DISCS FROM NETFLIX

It may not be enough for Netflix to stuff Blu-ray discs into red paper envelopes and dump them into the mail the way it does with standard DVDs. Wired magazine reported on its website today (Friday) that hundreds of Netflix subscribers have complained that they have received Blu-ray disc with small cracks at the edge that render the discs unplayable. Adrienne Downey of research firm Semico explained that Blu-ray discs use only a thin coating to protect the data layer that could be making them brittle. However, Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey told Wired: "Our percentage of Blu-ray discs that members receive that are not playable is a fraction of a percent." As for the suggestion that Netflix employ a sturdier envelope to ship Blu-ray discs, Swasey said that the number of damaged discs is "infinitesimally small of the total ships" and that any change in the shipping system would be "cost-prohibitive."

Cinemark Movie Club