SAG AND AMPTP IN OPEN WARFARE

The Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers each issued blistering statements about the other's negotiating tactics Thursday that suggested that the "de facto strike" that currently has stalled motion picture production in Hollywood will not be brought to an end soon. SAG's statement said that the union's leaders believe that it is possible to complete negotiations and secure a fair deal before the expiration of the current agreement" on June 30. The statement was issued shortly after union president Alan Rosenberg remarked that he was skeptical that an agreement could be reached before that date. (Daily Variety reported that SAG's strategy may be to drag its feet in negotiations until July 7, the day when results of AFTRA's membership vote on a new contract are announced. SAG has authorized the expenditure of a reported $150,000 to "educate" AFTRA members about the perceived shortcomings of its deal with the AMPTP.) In its own statement, the AMPTP said, "Any effort by SAG to drag out these negotiations past June 30 would be a disservice to the people in this industry whose livelihoods are being put on hold. SAG's inability to close this deal has already put the industry into another de facto strike."

GOSSIP PAYS

Internet gossip Perez Hilton -- real name Mario Lavandeira -- who started his celebrity blog on a shoestring out of his West Hollywood apartment in 2005, now draws so many readers to his site that advertisers pay as much as $54,000 to run a one-day ad package on it, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Friday). According to the newspaper, the PerezHilton.com website now draws about 7 million page views a day. Hilton/Lavandeira may need the money to fight a spate of copyright-infringement lawsuits that have been filed against him for posting stills from other websites and music videos. Hilton claims "fair use," saying that he alters the photos and videos with his commentaries about the performers who appear in them.

REPORT: NORTON REFUSES TO PROMOTE HULK

Edward Norton has declined to participate in the publicity campaign for The Incredible Hulk, in which he stars in the title role, according to FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman. Friedman reported today (Friday) that Norton "has slipped off to a desert island rather than do publicity" after falling out with Marvel and Universal. (Today's Los Angeles Times, observing that Norton has "a history of flexing his muscles," has "embarked on a monthlong African vacation." Friedman did not indicate what triggered the alleged dispute between the actor and the studios, but earlier reports had suggested that Norton, who receives credit as a co-writer of the movie, was unhappy about the studios' final cut.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2)

While early reviews of The Incredible Hulk mostly concluded that the new version was a great improvement over Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk (as we reported Thursday), several critics are expressing disagreement with that assessment today. Among them is Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times who calls the Ang Lee film "rather brilliant" and says that the new one "sidesteps the intriguing aspects of Hulkdom and spends way too much time in, dare I say, noisy and mindless action sequences."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE HAPPENING

M. Night Shyamalan, the writer-director famous for ending his films with surprising twists has returned to the screen with The Happening. But those expecting to see his signature ending will likely be disappointed. As Elizabeth Weitzman writes in the New York Daily News. "The big twist is that ... there's no twist at all. None. Zip. Nada." Several critics express disappointment that Shyamalan, after a series of blunders, has not made the kind of comeback they were hoping for. Claudia Puig in USA Today concludes her review by remarking, "Shyamalan's work has been deteriorating since the stir he caused in 1999 with The Sixth Sense. ... His last couple of movies --The Village and Lady in the Water -- have been particular disappointments, and The Happening continues the trend." Kyle Smith in the New York Post gives mostly two-word reviews for all of Shyamalan's movies since The Sixth Sense: "Stupid ending, stupid ending, stupid ending and, in a change of pace with his last film, Lady in the Water, stupid all the way through." Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times says that not all the blame should be laid at Shyamalan's feet. Costar Mark Washlberg, she writes, gives "one of the worst performances of his career." But Manohla Dargis in the New York Times comments that the critics' knives were sharpened for Shyamalan even before the movie was screened for them. As for herself, she considers the film, "a divertingly goofy thriller with an animistic bent, moments of shivery and twitchy suspense and a solid lead performance from Mark Wahlberg." Likewise Glenn Whipp concludes in the Los Angeles Daily News that The Happening is "creepy, silly fun. And if it came from anyone else, it would be recognized as such. One thing is certain: The man hasn't lost his ability to entertain."
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.