MOVIE REVIEWS: GRINDHOUSE

It's hard to know whether the studio was thumbing its nose at religion, but Miramax has selected the Easter holiday weekend to resurrect the double bill at the nation's theaters. That Grindhouse, which features two separate movies from writer-directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino -- as well as some fake trailers -- also includes a prodigious amount of blood may be seen by some of the faithful as compounding the blasphemy. Critics, however, are generally greeting the film(s) with worshipful praise. Since, however, there are two of them -- Planet Terror from Rodriguez and Death Proof from Tarantino -- they have difficulty deciding on whether to review them individually or together. Most attempt to do both. "Grindhouse is a full-blooded attempt to summon up a bygone age of cinematic sleaze," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times, who then goes on to describe Planet Terror as "disappointing" and Death Proof as "a film that surprises at almost every turn." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal calls the twofer "exuberant" and also praises the Tarantino film as "much the superior of the two" with "an action climax of remarkable emotional intensity." Claudia Puig in USA Today calls the movie "three hours of mostly campy fun ... a rowdy jolt of quasi-nostalgic escapism." But the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter points up a very real problem that the movie faces at the box office. It's aimed, he says, at "an audience that pines for the gory double-feature format that petered out in the early '70s. That audience can be counted: One, two. Named Tarantino and Rodriguez." For older folks who wait for the film to come out on DVD and watch it at home, A.O. Scott of the New York Times has this advice: "Bring in a few drunks off the street to mutter and snore. It'll be just like the old days."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE REAPING

The supernatural horror flick The Reaping is reaping a whole lot of horrible reviews, despite the fact that it stars two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank. "Ludicrous and overstuffed," Michael Phillips calls it in the Chicago Tribune. It's a "pretentious scarefest of plagues landing in theaters the week of Passover," Desson Thomson remarks in the Washington Post. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times describes it as a "schlock-o-rama" and a lot of "hooey." And although Swank doesn't come across badly in the film, many critics noted, virtually all of them wonder, as Claudia Puig does in USA Today why she "would have agreed to star in such a laughably bad movie."

WILL MEDIA MOGUL GEFFEN BUY L.A. TIMES?

Conflicting reports emerged Thursday over whether media mogul David Geffen is negotiating with Sam Zell to buy the Los Angeles Times. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times said that Geffen and Zell had previously discussed a possible deal for the Times and that they are scheduled to meet again tonight (Friday) for further discussions. But the San Jose Mercury News, which interviewed Zell before he delivered a speech at Stanford Thursday night, quoted him as saying that he had met Geffen only once in his life at a social occasion. "There's been no discussions with him whatsoever," Zell said, adding that the deal is structured in such a way that selling the Times would result in adverse financial complications. "We did [the deal] with the assumption that we'd buy the whole thing together," he said.

AL GORE, INSTEAD OF BIG MOVIE, WILL OPEN TRIBECA FESTIVAL

Having already landed Spider-Man 3 for the movie's U.S. premiere on April 30, the Tribeca Film Festival announced Thursday that it will not open the festival on April 25 with any high-profile feature film -- as most major film festivals do -- but instead with seven short films about global warming hosted by Al Gore.

U.S. MAY FILE PIRACY CHARGES AGAINST CHINA WITH WTO

The United States is preparing to file a piracy complaint against China with the World Trade Organization. It will also file formal objections to China's restrictions on the sale of foreign movies and books, Bloomberg News reported today (Friday), citing three industry officials and one lawyer briefed by the Bush administration. Stephen Green, an economist with Standard Chartered in Shanghai, told the wire service that the U.S. clearly believes that China has "infringed rules that it agreed to play by" when it was admitted into the WTO in 2002. U.S. filmmakers have long complained that China's restrictions on the number of films that may be exhibited in the country have encouraged counterfeiting -- since many Hollywood movies can only be seen on pirated DVDs. Meanwhile, the Chinese government said today that it plans to crack down on merchants caught with as few as 500 pirated DVDs.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL ARCHIVES GO ONLINE

The Cannes Film Festival has created an online archive of more than 1,500 clips from 60 years of television coverage of the festival, currently in the library of the French National Audio-visual Institute (INA). The clips may be viewed online without charge via streaming software or downloaded for a fee. At a news conference on Thursday, INA Chairman Emmanuel Hoog remarked, "No other film festival in the world has a facility like this. We think it is going to be a success."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.