GEFFEN STILL HAS A YEN FOR THE TIMES

Entertainment mogul David Geffen has not given up hope of buying the Los Angeles Times. Although some financial analysts have suggested that capital gains taxes on a sale of the Times would rule out a deal with Geffen, the Times itself, in an article about Geffen's current efforts, quoted Lehman Bros. tax expert Robert Willens as saying that a sale could be structured as a "sponsored spinoff," which the Times described as "an increasingly popular method for corporations to divest subsidiaries without incurring large tax bills."

THREE NEW MOVIES RELEASED FOR SPRING BREAK

With Spring Break upon us, the studios are opening three movies today (Wednesday) in advance of the Easter holiday weekend. The three, Are We Done Yet?, Firehouse Dog, and Black Book, are not expected to offer a significant challenge to last weekend's winners, Blades of Glory and Meet the Robinsons.

MOVIE REVIEWS: ARE WE DONE YET?

Are We Done Yet? is ostensibly a sequel to 2004's Are We There Yet? But in fact it's a remake of the 1948 comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, which starred Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. In this one, Ice Cube plays the Grant role, and critics warn that he's far from an improvement. "That a glowering sourpuss like Ice Cube should take a part once performed by the most engaging and mischievous of comedic players (Grant) is in itself depressing," writes Stephen Cole in the Toronto Globe & Mail. Moreover, Michael Phillips observes in the Chicago Tribune that Blandings had "a machine-tooled efficiency, and it didn't strain to please. Are We Done Yet? strains." But Bob Strauss of the Los Angeles Daily News suggests that the movie didn't strain hard enough: "There is only one fart joke and just a single butt-crack shot, so I guess you could say that the movie has a certain degree of class. But that just makes this kind of thing duller, too."

MOVIE REVIEWS: FIREHOUSE DOG

Firehouse Dog apparently does not exhibit the same sort of restrained taste as Are We Done Yet? Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel remarks that he "could've lived without the shot of the dog doing his 'business' in a pot of stew. And breaking wind multiple times." But defending the movie, Bruce Westbrook writes in the Houston Chronicle that although some "potty humor" occurs, "it's not overdone. Just because times have changed since Rin Tin Tin doesn't mean they've gone to the dogs." Still, many reviews include warnings: "You'd be better off taking your kid to visit a dog run for a couple of hours," writes Kyle Smith in the New York Post. "A kid would have to be pretty desperate to leave the house -- and waste allowance money -- for this modest distraction," writes Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. On the other hand, Alex Chun writes in the Los Angeles Times, "Though it never completely catches fire, there's enough earnestness and warmth that makes it a welcome alternative in a family film arena dominated by computer animation and associated toy lines." And Carrie Rickey concludes in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the movie is "touching, family-friendly," that is "barking up the right tree."

MOVIE REVIEWS: BLACK BOOK

Some critics, it seems, don't know what to make of Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven's latest film, the World War II drama Black Book. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times describes it as "supremely vulgar" and notes that it "works only if you take it for the pulpiest of fiction." That's precisely the way Glenn Whipp perceives it, as he writes in the Los Angeles Daily News that it's an "exhilarating potboiler that is thrilling, erotic and constant in its desire to upend viewers' expectations." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times remarks that the film is full of "dizzying contradictions." It is, he says, "as subversive as it is traditional, both enamored of conventional notions of heroism and frankly contemptuous of them." And while John Anderson of Newsday describes it as "a strange movie," he comments that its release "marks a red-letter day ... for fans of sophisticated, high-tension melodramas, war movies and sexy adult thrillers."

Brian B.