DISNEY TO PUSH BLU-RAY
Children's movies, which are generally credited with giving home video its initial thrust, may do the same for high-definition Blu-ray, if the Walt Disney Co. has anything to say about the matter. The New York Times reported today (Wednesday) that the film studio plans to release five "platinum" classic titles in the Blu-ray format over the next two years, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Fantasia 2000, and Beauty and the Beast. The studio had previously said that it plans to release a Blu-ray version of Sleeping Beauty on October 7. Each of the discs, the studio said, will include a BD Live component, allowing children to connect directly onto the Internet to play the included interactive games with friends in other locations. Bob Chapek, president of Disney's home entertainment unit, told the Times: "BD Live is not a niche product. ... We see mass adoption of the technology." However, the newspaper pointed out that currently Blu-ray players with the BD Live technology are from $300 to $700.
TOWELHEAD TITLE DRAWS FIRE FROM ARAB-AMERICANS
Warner Bros. has rejected a demand by the Council on American Islamic Relations to change the title of its forthcoming movie Towelhead to its original title, Nothing Is Private. CAIR had objected that "the use of such a derogatory term by a major film studio will serve to increase its acceptability in public discourse." Towelhead, however, is the title of the novel by Arab-American Alicia Erian on which which the screenplay -- which she also wrote -- is based. In an interview with Reuters, Erian said she had used the racial slur in the title "to highlight one of the novel's major themes, racism." And in a commentary posted on the Cinematical website, critic Eric D. Snider, addressed CAIR's protest this way: "Could it be that one of the movie's messages is that slurs like that are unacceptable? Could it be that only the most bigoted and idiotic of viewers could come out of it thinking, 'I'm gonna start sayin' "towelhead" more often!'?"
THREE FILM STUDIOS MAY RISE IN MICHIGAN
Michigan's recent enactment of bills aimed at using tax incentives to lure filmmakers may also result in a studio building boom in the state. The Grand Rapids Press reported on Tuesday that Los Angeles-based V-One Entertainment Group, which says that it provides "infrastructure" for film companies, is planning to build sound stages and install production facilities in three locations around the state. It is headed by David O'Malley, who directed a 2006 film titled Kalamazoo? that was filmed entirely in Kalamazoo, MI. (Despite a cast that included Claire Bloom, Chita Rivera Renée Taylor, and Dee Wallace Stone, the film was released in only five theaters -- including one in Kalamazoo -- and grossed just $53,609. It was never released on DVD.) Meanwhile, a new movie studio opened Tuesday in Columbia, SC, complete with sound stages, editing facilities and trained film crew. At ribbon-cutting ceremonies, State Film Commissioner Jeff Monks said that while numerous movies have been shot in part in South Carolina, "having a facility where larger and more expensive projects can be produced" will likely attract Hollywood filmmakers
MOVIE REVIEWS: HAMLET 2
After five days in limited release, Hamlet 2 is opening wide today (Wednesday) but ticket sales for it are likely to be as lackluster as the reviews for it, analysts suggest. The movie follows the formula developed to scientific precision by the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team who made the Airplane movies a generation ago: keep the jokes coming fast enough and the audience won't notice the bad ones because the good ones will keep them laughing. The problem with Hamlet 2, several critics seem to suggest, is that the bad ones outweigh the good. As Claudia Puig observes in USA Today: "Its sharply funny moments make its lack of consistency all the more evident. The movie ends up feeling like a collection of moments, rather than a coherent quirky comedy." Stephen Holden concludes in the New York Times: "It all adds up to the kind of bad family entertainment likely to raise only a few eyebrows." Many of the critics, even those who rap the movie mercilessly, at least give its star, British comedian Steve Coogan, high praise for his performance. Not so Kyle Smith in the New York Post, who says that he had been a fan of Coogan "until now." In this movie, he writes, Coogan mostly "makes silly faces and falls down frequently." As for the movie itself, Smith notes that "there's a long, long sequence in which a chorus of gay men sings "Maniac," which could have been funny if it had run 10 seconds instead of several minutes. Then there's another long, long sequence in which the same men sing 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight,' which is as redundant as Richard Simmons in drag."
MOVIE REVIEWS: TRAITOR
Several critics seem to suggest that Traitor, starring Don Cheadle,tries to take a complicated story and condense it for easy digestion -- but succeeds only in giving the audience something to chew on. As A.O. Scott puts it in the New York Times: "The movie ... tries to cover every side and cater to just about every possible ideological objection, an effort at comprehensiveness that seems noble and a little nutty." Similarly Tom Maurstad in the Dallas Morning News writes that "this movie tries to blur the line between action-thriller and a probing drama. The result is a confused and unsatisfying experience with some nice moments that don't amount to much." But Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune writes that the movie "tells a good, snakelike story, slithering in some unpredictable directions." And just about everyone heaps praise on the performance of Don Cheadle. Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer observes that while the movie "never fully engages the ethical conflicts it raises," Cheadle "delivers an electrifying performance."