PIRATES CHASE PORN PRODUCERS

Producers of pornographic movies may be the biggest losers from online piracy, according to a new report by the NDP Group. In a study, NDP said that 60 percent of movies being downloaded via peer-to-peer services are "adult" films. Moreover, one company, Apple, reportedly accounts for 90 percent of legitimate -- i.e. paid -- video downloading. Sixty-two percent downloaded TV shows; 24 percent, music videos; while the rest downloaded movies. NDP said that all of these legitimate downloads represented only 20 percent of total video traffic -- with the remaining 80 percent downloading video over peer-to-peer websites. The study found that 48 percent of consumers say that they would never pay money to download a film.

TALLADEGA NIGHTS RISES OVER PIRATES

Sony's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby received the checkered flag last week as it came in first in sales among current DVD releases, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert. The comedy surprisingly knocked Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest out of the top spot and into second place. Even more surprising was the rise of The Devil Wears Prada to the top of the rental charts. Home Media Retail Magazine reported that Pirates came in at No. 2, $70,000 below Devil's gross.

CHRISTIAN GROUP REGARDS NATIVITY FLOP AS SETBACK

The disappointing box-office performance of The Nativity Story represents a "very serious setback" for people of faith who were hoping that Hollywood would produce more films for them, according to Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission. Baehr, who also writes film reviews for his self-published Movieguide, told the conservative WorldNetDaily that Hollywood generally makes "extremely bigoted, anti-Christian movies" because they do well at the box office. He cited such films as Borat and Jackass 2. He blamed New Line marketers for failing to get the word out early to churches, pointing out that Mel Gibson had begun promoting The Passion of the Christ nine months before it was released and that Disney had distributed Narnia study guides to nearly ever church before that film opened. As of Tuesday, The Nativity Story, which cost $35 million to make, had taken in only $25 million in ticket sales. Meanwhile, conservative Christian groups have launched a "Stand Up for Christmas" campaign to encourage churchgoers to support the film by going to see it this weeke.

MOVIE REVIEWS: DREAMGIRLS

Even though it will be running in a fraction of the theaters of other major releases during the Christmas week, analysts are predicting that Dreamgirls will wind up among the top three films. The musical, based on the early career of the Supremes and starring Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, and Jamie Foxx, is receiving mostly exuberant praise from critics. Jan Stuart in Newsday writes that it "sails aloft with the flash and velocity of a fireworks launch." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News writes that it amounts to "one show-stopping moment after another, and there is no reason to feel ashamed if you burst into spontaneous applause a few times -- or even all the way through. It's that well-crafted a presentation." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times calls it "a love song two times over, a tribute to a vibrant period of American popular music as well as to a style of filmmaking we don't get to see enough of: the big-budget Hollywood musical." Receiving the lion's share of credit for the film's success is former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson, who reportedly brings down the house with her rendition of "And I Am Telling You." Cheers A.O. Scott in the New York Times: "It's not often you go to the movies and see a big-boned, sexually assertive, self-confident black woman -- not played for laughs or impersonated by a male comedian in drag -- holding the middle of the screen. And when was the last time you saw a first-time film actress upstage an Oscar winner, a pop diva and a movie star of long standing? Ms. Hudson is not going anywhere. She has arrived." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal remarks that "her soaring, sinuous voice raises up the film version of Dreamgirls and finally transcends it."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE GOOD GERMAN

Several critics suggest that The Good German, starring George Clooney,is a movie whose plot not only takes place in the post World War II era but that its look and feel also is a throwback to that time. (Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times describes it as "a movie set in 1945 that looks as if it were made in 1945.") Most agree that the gambit doesn't work. Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times that director Steven Soderbergh "has tried to resurrect the magic of classical Hollywood, principally by sucking out all the air, energy and pleasure from his own filmmaking." Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail writes that while the look of the film "is fantastic," it works against the overall production. "The conceit is dubious," he says, "the whole idea of replicating a forties' noir flick, not just the black-and-white stock but right down to the filmmaking techniques and the melodramatic score and even the theatrical mode of acting. Sincere homage is one thing, slavish imitation is quite another." Or as Jack Mathews puts it in the New York Daily News: "If you feel anything other than admiration for its craftsmanship, let me know; The Good German is as emotionally cold and unconvincing as any movie I've seen this year."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.