REDSTONE'S D-DAY PASSES UNEVENTFULLY
Today (Friday) was to have been the day that Sumner Redstone's National Amusements was to have repaid $800 million to creditors. But the consortium of 15 institutions who had lent the money decided at the last moment to extend the deadline to repay the money indefinitely while they worked out a new refinancing agreement with Redstone. The arrangement staves off bankruptcy for National Amusements, Redstone's private holding company, but is likely to result in a new loan being negotiated with tougher conditions, according to analysts. Meanwhile, reports emerged today that while Redstone has told the lenders that he plans to sell off many of the movie theaters in the National Amusements chain, he faces intense opposition from his daughter Shari, who runs them. She is demanding that her father consider other asset sales -- presumably parts of CBS and/or Viacom. Today's Wall Street Journal reported that the dispute has reached the point where father and daughter are now communicating only by fax.
WILL SMITH BATTLES JIM CAREY AT BOX OFFICE
Ordinarily these days, Will Smith would be considered a far bigger box-office draw than Jim Carey -- despite the fact that Carey was the first actor to command $20 million per form. But Carey's Yes Man, which opens today (Friday) against Smith's Seven Pounds, has been generating a lot of positive buzz, featuring what Carey does best -- broad comedy. Seven Pounds, however, is a drama -- and downbeat and dead serious, not your typical holiday amusement. For that reason, box-office analysts are expecting Yes Man to take in $25-30 million and Pounds settle for about $22-27 million. Also opening is the animated feature The Tale of Despereaux, voiced by Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick, which should capture the family audience with about $10-14 million, analysts estimate. In limited release, The Wrestler, has drawn packed houses since its opening on Wednesday.
MOVIE REVIEWS: YES MAN
The reviews of Yes Man, starring Jim Carey, are positive to a point. The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, writes, for example, "Jim Carey's new comedy is enjoyable enough for what it is, a clever idea developed by fits and starts." The movie is similar to the premise of Carey's Liar, Liar about a man who must tell the unvarnished truth about everything. In this case, he must say yes to everything. "Jim Carey works the premise for all it's worth, but it doesn't allow him to bust loose and fly," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "Carey is back to elastic-faced form and zany physical humor. But his efforts feel more manic than comical," comments Claudia Puig in USA Today. "Mr. Carey has some good moments," writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times, "but Yes Man rarely rises to genuine hilarity. It takes no risks, finds no inspiration and settles, like its hero, into a dull, noncommittal middle ground."
MOVIE REVIEWS: SEVEN POUNDS
Will Smith's Seven Pounds is taking a pounding from a good number of critics, who have been asked by the producers not to reveal any "spoilers." Consider A.O. Scott's comments in the New York Times: "I don't see how any review could really spoil what may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made. I would tell you to go out and see it for yourself, but you might take that as a recommendation rather than a plea for corroboration. Did I really see what I thought I saw?" Lou Lumenick in the New York Post describes it as "a Will Smith weepie that should include diabetes testing in the admission price, as a 'gripping mystery.'" He goes on: "The only mystery here is how many people are actually going to pay good money to watch this preposterous romantic melodrama, which uses a fractured narrative to cloud an absurd plot that would probably be laughed off the screen if it were presented in a straightforward manner." Tom Maurstad in the Dallas Morning News figures that the spoiler warning from producers represents a way to ward off any serious critique of the movie. "Seven Pounds is a bad, ridiculous movie, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be free to discover that yourself, unencumbered by a review's revelations," he concedes. "Still, it's almost ingenious how director Gabrielle Muccino and writer Grant Nieporte have concocted a movie that inoculates itself from advance criticism. A nonspoiler synopsis of the movie would be something like: Will Smith plays a guy who's alternately a vengeful bully and a wish-granting saint for reasons that aren't explained until just before the movie ends. It's as if Mr. Smith took this role to test the limits of his box-office-king likability." Writing in the Chicago Tribune, critic Michael Phillips says that the movie "has a heart as big as all outdoors. Unfortunately it's made out of high-fructose bull." Like many critics, Phillips absolves Smith of blame for the film's deficiencies. "He's not the problem, although if a major player green-lights a more grandiose and specious screenplay about redemption any time this century, it'll be a miracle."
MIXED BAG AT AWARDS NOMS
Doubt received the most nominations for the annual SAG awards Thursday, scoring nods for Meryl Streep for best actress as well as a nomination for ensemble cast, SAG's equivalent of the best film award, plus nominations in the supporting actor/actress categories for Amy Adams, Viola Davis and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Also nominated in the ensemble cast category were Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire. Meanwhile Slumdog Millionaire picked up six nominations for the London Film Critics' Circle Awards, to be presented on February 4. Also competing for best film will be Milk, Frost/Nixon, WALL-E, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Wrestler. Finally, the Chicago Film Critics Association named Disney/Pixar's WALL-E best picture of 2008.
BERLINALE GOES DIGITAL
The Berlin Film Festival -- the Berlinale -- announced today (Friday) that it is taking "the next big step" into the digital age by equipping 29 of the 49 screens it will be using this year with digital cinema projection equipment. The festival said that it will also set up an encoding studio where film files will be encoded, transferred to hard drives and delivered to the theaters showing them. The encoding, the festival said, will protect the films from piracy. "These new screening systems are crucial for the Berlinale, for the future lies in digital cinema," festival director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement. The ten-day festival opens on February 5.