THEATERS DODGE OLYMPICS

Aware of the competition from Friday's scheduled telecast of the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Sony and Warner Bros. have decided to move their latest releases into theaters today (Friday). (China reportedly is spending $300 million on the show, more than the budget of any Hollywood film ever produced.) While one of the film's Pineapple Express is expected to give The Dark Knight a run for the money in its fourth weekend, analysts point out that by opening the film on Wednesday, Sony risks depleting is weekend audience, particularly if the film receives poor word-of-mouth. The other film, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, is expected to perform decently but is not regarded as serious competition for either Dark Knight or Sisterhood 2."

DREAMWORKS CLOSES TROPIC THUNDER WEBSITE

DreamWorks has been forced to shut down a website promoting its upcoming comedy Tropic Thunder following criticism from groups representing the mentally disabled. The movie, which opens on Aug. 13, focuses on an actor, played by Ben Stiller, who makes a bid for an Oscar by playing a mentally challenged man named Simple Jack. The website had featured a poster with a photo of Stiller and the tagline "Once upon a time ... there was a retard." Groups including the Special Olympics and the Down Syndrome Assn. of Los Angeles, have reportedly arranged a meeting today (Wednesday) with DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider to voice their concerns about the film itself. Earlier this week, Stiller told the New York Times that the film will speak for itself and actually makes fun of actors who take roles as mentally disabled characters in order to advance their own careers.

MOVIE REVIEWS: PINEAPPLE EXPRESS

The druggie movie Pineapple Express, produced by Judd Apatow and starring (and co-written by) Seth Rogen, is certainly garnering high marks from a lot of critics, many of them crediting the award-winning indie director David Gordon Green, who makes his debut in a mainstream movie with this film. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the movie "is the answer to the question, 'What would happen if a movie like this was made by a great director?'" To be sure, there are glimpses of the indie inclination to "make it real," but John DeFore writes in the Austin American Statesman, "Those looking for an auteur's stamp might see it here and there, in scenes that put the action on hold to let our heroes share a moment of peaceful intoxication -- in a sun-dappled forest, say, or break-dancing with teenagers. Quickly, though, it's back to the chase, and the movie sheds any hint of the arthouse." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News adds, "Green clearly had a blast on his first big Hollywood production, and the enjoyment wafts off the screen." Strauss calls the movie itself "the funniest stoner movie ever made -- and, so far, the most hilarious comedy of 2008." But Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun gives the movie a C- grade and concludes: "How much you enjoy Pineapple Express may depend on what associations (or substances) you bring into the theater with you. As an action comedy, it's just a bad trip."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, a chronicle about magical jeans, returns for a second trip -- a chick flick to compete with all the fanboy, druggie, and monster stuff out there for males. "Watching the sequel is like stumbling on a pair of jeans and realizing they still fit comfortably," writes Claudia Puig in USA Today. Stephen Holden in the New York Times compares the movie to "being patted on the shoulder by an encouraging high school guidance counselor and assured that you are doing just fine." Jessica Reaves writes that the movie is both a pleasure and a relief as "it presents its heroines' relationships as complicated, challenging and particularly rewarding, and not simply as a vehicle for finding the perfect boyfriend." On the other hand, Glenn Whipp concludes in the Los Angeles Daily News, "Pants is less interested in sisterhood and navigating young adulthood than it is in selling glossy girl fantasies of exotic locales and bodacious boyfriends."

CHERNIN: PRODUCERS WON'T SWEETEN DEAL OFFERED TO SAG

News Corp COO Peter Chernin, who is often credited with fathering the compromise that ended the writers' strike, says that the current impasse with the Screen Actors Guild is "a source of enormous frustration" for him and fellow media executives. Appearing on the Charlie Rose interview show on PBS, Chernin insisted that the studios are adamant against giving SAG a better deal than they negotiated with the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. "Nor do the difficult economic times justify a better deal for anyone else. It's hard for me to understand why a deal that's good enough for key, key creative partners -- the writers, the directors and the 40 percent of the actors represented by AFTRA -- isn't good enough for SAG." Meanwhile, Membership First, the group that currently controls SAG unveiled the list of 33 candidates for its board Tuesday, the best known of whom are JoBeth Williams, Joe Bologna, Scott Wilson, Keith Carradine and Joely Fisher.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.