MOVIE REVIEWS: GEORGE A. ROMERO'S DIARY OF THE DEAD

Zombies in tow, George A. Romero returns to the screen with Diary of the Dead, with a plot and hand-held-camera technique that several critics note are much like Cloverfield. The difference, says Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, is that Romero's film is "a lot cheaper-looking, generally smarter-sounding and a whole lot funnier." Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune also observes that while the shaky "syndrome kept Cloverfield on the run," Romero's film is "more provocatively handled ... and is funny and sad and rather sweet as zombie pictures go." But Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe & Mail isn't buying it. "Cloverfield is slick, immersive and gone in 88 minutes," he writes. "Romero's indie film is shambling, rough-edged and challenging in ways that go beyond audiences' tolerance for shaky cameras." Likewise Roger Moore writes in the Orlando Sentinel: "Where Cloverfield felt 'real,' with its amateur camera work and unedited, un-narrated narrative of a monster attack on New York, Diary is a slapdash, dully narrated, badly acted attempt at capturing that same look of 'found video.'" And Ty Burr sums up in the Boston Globe: "The movie plays like Cloverfield for grad students." Clearly critics are deeply divided over this latest Romero film, his fifth. While Peter Howell in the Toronto Star calls it "one of the best of the bunch," Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times describes it as Romero's "least successful vision of the zombie apocalypse."

TOSHIBA TO THROW IN THE TOWEL?

Trade publications and tech websites began spreading the word Thursday that Toshiba was about to throw in the towel in the fight between its HD DVD high-definition home-video system and Sony's Blu-ray system. The Hollywood Reporter said that an announcement from Toshiba could come "in a matter of weeks." Officially, Toshiba spokeswoman Jodi Sally repeated the company's standard response to such reports, saying that it continues "to believe HD DVD is the best format for consumers, given the value and consistent quality inherent in our player offerings." However, she seemed to acknowledge that the company might be reassessing its position based on "market developments in the past month."

GREAT DEBATERS WINS TOP IMAGE AWARD

The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, has received the NAACP's 2007 Image award as best film of 2007. Washington, along with costars Jurnee Smollett and Forest Whitaker, also received acting awards for the film. In television categories, Grey's Anatomy won for best drama series, while Tyler Perry's House of Payne won for comedy series.

FILMS ABOUT GAY MUSLIMS SHINE AT BERLINALE

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have insisted during his visit to the U.S. last year that "in Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country," but a documentary, Be Like Others from director Tanaz Eshaghian, dealing with the social pressures faced by homosexuals in Iran, won the jury prize at the Berlinale's Teddy Queer Film Awards Thursday. Olaf de Fleur's The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela won the best feature Teddy. Also screening at the festival is Egyptian Parvez Sharma's A Jihad for Love, which, the director has said, seeks to call attention to the plight of gay Muslims while at the same time "defending the faith."

AT 82, POLISH GREAT WAJDA TURNS TO "CONTEMPORARY" ISSUES

Legendary Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, who has chronicled his country's turbulent history in numerous features, including his current film Katyn, about the slaughter of Polish military officers by Soviet troops at the beginning of World War II, says he now wants to explore contemporary issues. Wajda, who turns 82 on March 2, told a news conference at the Berlin Film Festival that he has made his last film about Poland's misery at the hands of Germany and Russia. "I do not wish to return to this subject anymore. I'm an old man now," he said. "Having made this film (Katyn), I would now like to conclude that chapter of my life." He indicated that he is looking to make a film about the exodus of young Poles from the country and the difficulties they face adjusting to life abroad. Asked about Katyn being used as a substitute at the opening of the Bangkok Film Festival last year after the controversial French film Persepolis was yanked because of protests from the Iranian government, Wajda indicated that he had no qualms about replacing it. "That was quite normal for me," he said, "For 50 years, I lived in a country, after all, which had censorship ... and I had to accept the fact that a lot of [my films] could not be screened at festivals."

SHANGHAI MAY YET FILM IN SHANGHAI

Chinese officials have denied reports that they have barred the movie Shanghai, being produced by Mike Medavoy for the Weinstein Co., from being filmed in their country. Rather, they said, they had simply requested changes to the script and had asked that the producers resubmit their filming application. They did not indicate what sort of changes they wanted implemented, although it has been reported that the script has scenes in which characters smoke opium. Producer Mike Medavoy, who was born in Shanghai, told the Associated Press that he's still hopeful the Chinese will approve his application. "I hope everybody rethinks it," he said.

Brian B.