GANGING UP ON GANGSTER

Revelations that most of the screenplay of American Gangster is based on rumors and speculation and contains untrue accounts of what actually occurred could crush the film's Oscar chances, the Associated Press observed Thursday in a feature story that contradicted many of the allegations in the movie. The wire service noted, for example, that Frank Lucas, the '70s' drug lord depicted in the movie by Denzel Washington, never employed caskets of Vietnam casualties to smuggle heroin and never provided information that led to the arrests of narcotics officers. A.P. quoted Judge Sterling Johnson Jr., a special narcotics prosecutor in Lucas's case, as saying, "The picture is 1 percent reality and 99 percent Hollywood." Former DEA agent Jack Toal told A.P.: "[Lucas] was my informant for years. ... He never mentioned any crooked DEA agent or cop." Lucas himself was quoted as saying, "I never testified on nobody." He also dismissed the suggestion that New Jersey police detective Richard Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, was the person who brought him down. "They wanted a white boy," Lucas said of the character.

MOVIE REVIEWS: CLOVERFIELD

Cloverfield, the latest giant monster movie, is getting some surprisingly decent reviews from critics who usually love to lay in to disaster movies of any sort. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, for example, concedes that it "is actually pretty scary at times." Ebert complains mostly about the hand-held footage, which he says was shot in "Queasy-Cam." (It's supposed to represent home movie footage taken by the monster's victims.) Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times observes, "Cloverfield is adept at wringing maximum suspense and might have reached the heights of the Korean monster film The Host but for the limitations of the camcorder ploy. While it injects the film with a run-and-gun urgency, the device grows tiresome and ultimately leaves the film shortchanged." Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, however, suggests that even at 84 minutes, the movie may run too long: "The film is too dumb to offend anything except your intelligence," she writes, "and the monster does cut a satisfying swath through the cast, so your only complaint may be, What took it so long?"

MOVIE REVIEWS: 27 DRESSES

27 Dresses is receiving a good dressing down from most critics. "This by-the-numbers romantic comedy is the kind of rote exercise that can give a genre a bad name," says Los Angeles Times critic Carina Chocano. Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal gives it just that, dismissing it as a "half-hatched chick flick" -- although he does credit star Katherine Heigl for managing "to make her character endearing, as well as borderline -- believable." Indeed, Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News comments, "Anyone watching this appealing actress march toward the inevitable will wonder why she's settling for so much less than she deserves." And Claudia Puig in USA Today says that the movie is like one of the 27 bridesmaid dresses featured in the film: "frothy, predictable and over the top."

MOVIE REVIEWS: CASSADRA'S DREAM

Critics are suggesting that Woody Allen has plunged off the track again with Cassandra's Dream. While acknowledging that the movie is "perfectly watchable," Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times observes that it's nothing to get excited about. "Perched uncomfortably between thriller and melodrama, it's a film that hints at possibilities that are left unfulfilled," he writes. Likewise Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News suggests that while there's nothing particularly bad about the movie, there's little that's particularly commendable, either. "Overall, Dream is a fairly engaging ethical thriller with some excellent bits, but the plot could have been more clever," he remarks. Several critics point out that like his most recent films, there's nothing particularly funny about Cassandra's Dream, leading Claudia Puig in USA to remark: "We're not asking that he return to the silly-funny turf of his early movies. (He tried that with some success in Scoop.) But he seems so obsessed with making movies about ordinary people getting away with murder that he appears to be stuck in a rut."

MOVIE REVIEWS: MAD MONEY

A film titled <Mad Money< that stars Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes sounds like the kind that should draw just about every female moviegoer to the box office. But critics suggest that's not likely to happen. Even the female critics have few kind words for it. Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News asks, "Why would so many accomplished women waste their time and talents on a movie as counterfeit as Mad Money?" Claudia Puig in USA Today comments, "This lifeless comedy and uninventive caper feels as if it were cobbled together at a studio's obligatory consciousness-raising diversity seminar." As for the male critics, most of them post implied warnings to their gender to avoid it. Kyle Smith in the New York Post writes that director Callie Khouri "achieves a level of overall drabness suggesting Saturday afternoon at your local Wal-Mart, in whose $2.99 bins you will soon be finding the DVD of this movie." CORRECTION:

In Thursday's edition of Studio Briefing we suggested that Warner Bros.' decision to release I Am Legend on HD DVD on April 8 appeared to be inconsistent with its announcement that it was abandoning the HD DVD format. In its original statement, however, Warner Bros. indicated that it would continue releasing films in both the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats through April.

Brian B.