HOLLYWOOD BECKONS BECKHAM

The $250-million deal to bring David Beckham to Los Angeles as the starring player for the Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team may only represent the prelude to a more intimate business relationship between him and Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of the team, and billionaire Phil Anschutz in particular, analysts observed Thursday. Following the success of his The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was distributed by Disney, Anschutz has reportedly been planning a wider expansion of his film output, and the glamorous Beckham could provide him with significant international star appeal. Today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times reported that within hours after the announcement that Beckham was coming to Los Angeles, Brandy Navarre, co-owner of the X17 photo agency had assigned five photographers to cover Beckham and his wife Victoria, the former "Posh Spice." But Harvey Levin, who runs the celebrity website TMZ.com, expressed skepticism that the Beckhams will attract the kind of attention in the U.S. that they have overseas. Noting that he's still relatively unknown in the U.S., Levin remarked, "He can't just come in here and expect that he's going to be the same huge celebrity he was in England."

FBI RAIDS PORN STUDIOS

Producers of pornographic movies, who have for years been enjoying relative freedom from raids by local law enforcement, have now become the target of the FBI, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Friday). According to the newspaper, about a dozen porn studios in the San Fernando Valley have been raided recently by federal agents checking to see whether underage performers are being used in their productions. However, the Times observed that it was unlikely that the FBI would unearth violators. It quoted industry executives as saying that those involved in producing child pornography are not the established producers that the FBI has raided but "underground, fly-by-night operations."

ITUNES TO SELL SUNDANCE SHORTS

The short films that usually are seen by relatively few people outside of film festivals may finally find a wider paying audience thanks to a deal announced today (Friday) by the Sundance Film Festival and Apple, Inc. Under the deal, many of the Sundance's shorts will become available for downloading from Apple's iTunes store for $1.99 following the start of this year's festival on Jan. 18. The films can also be streamed free from the Sundance site for the next three months. In an interview with the Associated Press, John Cooper, director of programming for Sundance, observed, "Streaming on our site is not the same as owning, and there seems to be a world out there for both." A.P. said that the producers of the shorts will receive "the bulk" of the revenue from the downloads, with Apple, the Sundance Institute, and the Sundance Channel sharing the remainder.

FREARS TO HEAD CANNES JURY

British director Stephen Frears has been selected to preside as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in May, festival organizers announced Thursday. Frears, whose latest film, The Queen, has received numerous awards nominations and critical acclaim, said in a statement that his selection was "an honor, but it's also a treat to be able to watch terrific films from all over the world in such heady surroundings. God save Cannes! (as well as the queen)." "Queen" was spelled in lower-case.

MOVIE REVIEWS: ALPHA DOG

After the failure of court efforts by attorneys for Jesse James Hollywood to halt the release of Nick Cassavetes' Alpha Dog, featuring Justin Timberlake, the movie finally arrives this weekend. Critics are damning the movie as strongly as the attorneys for Hollywood, accused of ordering the murder of a teenager in retaliation for his brother's drug debt. Alpha Dog is reportedly based on the case. "Sordid" is an adjective used in numerous reviews. But many go far beyond that description. Michael Booth's review in the Denver Post is typical. "I truly doubt Hollywood will produce anything this year that bottoms Alpha Dog for offensively bad filmmaking," he writes. Yet, the movie also receives a handful of respectable notices, too. Writes Claudia Puig in USA Today: "Alpha Dog is a gritty, gut-wrenching and disturbing film." And Lou Lumenick in the New York Post surprisingly takes a middle-ground calling it "irresponsible, uncommercial but surprisingly watchable."

MOVIE REVIEWS: STOMP THE YARD

Critics are dismissing the script of Stomp the Yard as formulaic but are impressed with the dancing. Chris Hewitt in the St. Paul Pioneer Press puts it this way: "Stomp the Yard is swell as long as the characters are dancing." Mary Houlihan in the Chicago Sun-Times observes: "With his background in music videos and commercials, [director Sylvain] White has developed an innovative visual style. His cameras swoop and attack the dance sequences from every direction. A nod must be given to choreographer Dave Scott, who skillfully blends the dance styles into an explosive whole." That may be all that's necessary to attract an audience. As Elizabeth Weitzman writes in the New York Daily News: "Sure, it would be great if White gave us a hero worth rooting for, or a script that surprised us. He doesn't. What we do get is scene after scene of exhilarating routines, all leading up to the big finale."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.