DREAMWORKS' DEAL -- A GEFFEN PLOY?

The report that DreamWorks was close to a deal with Mumbai-based Reliance in which the Indian company would provide $500-600 million in equity financing to reestablish the film company as an independent studio may have been planted by DreamWorks principal David Geffen, according to a report in TheDeal.com. The report, which was given additional currency when it was picked up by the New York Times, quoted an unnamed studio veteran as saying, "This is what [Geffen] does really well" and said that any deal is at least eight weeks away from being finalized and the talks were made public in order to stir up interest from interlopers. Even the fact that it appeared first in the Wall Street Journal may have been orchestrated to catch the eye of the newspaper's owner, Rupert Murdoch. TheDeal.com's source observed that such a tactic would be "classic Geffen," and similar to one he pulled off in 2005 after it was reported that Universal had offered $1.5 billion for DreamWorks. (Paramount then bid $1.6 billion and got it.)

WHEN COMEDIES COMPETE

It was bad enough when Warner Bros. and Paramount discovered that the jam-packed summer release schedule left them no alternative but to open two comedies against one another this weekend. Now, to compound the problem, they have discovered that buzz and reviews about both comedies, Get Smart and The Love Guru have been dreadful. (The best thing going for The Love Guru may have been the free publicity generated by attacks directed against it by activist Hindus who have complained that it mocks their religion.) Box office forecasters are predicting that Get Smart will lead the weekend with $30-35 million in ticket sales. The Love Guru is expected to earn $20-25 million -- a far cry from the the $73.1 million that Mike Myers's last film, Austin Powers in Goldmember, took in when it opened six years ago.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE LOVE GURU

Bad karma has descended on The Love Guru in the form of a display of single stars, F grades, and downturned thumbs from critics. "This film could have been written on toilet walls by callow adolescents," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. A.O. Scott in the New York Times recalls star Mike Myers's earlier successes, then remarks that he "sees to have lost his touch." Joe Neumaier, writing in the New York Daily News, condemns the movie as "an atrocious, idiotic 88 minutes of anti-entertainment." And Kyle Smith in the New York Post concludes his review by remarking,, "Comparing the comedy in this film and that of Get Smart, the weekend's other big release, is like asking whether Hamas or Hezbollah puts on a nicer Easter parade."

MOVIE REVIEWS: GET SMART

Several critics suggest that the makers of Get Smart attempted to combine the comedy of the original Mel Brooks-Buck Henry TV series with the action of a James Bond movie -- unsuccessfully. As Kenneth Turan puts it in the Los Angeles Times: "Unaccountably eager to walk in the footsteps of James Bond, Get Smart neglects the laughs and amps up the action, resulting in a not very funny comedy joined at the hip to a not very exciting spy movie. Talk about killing two birds with one stone." Roger Ebert, however, thinks the amalgamation works. Writing in the Chicago-Sun Times, Ebert says, "It's funny, exciting, preposterous, great to look at, and made with the same level of technical expertise we'd expect from a new Bond movie itself." But Manohla Dargis of the New York Times apparently finds even writing a review of the movie distasteful. Dargis says that doing so "is pretty much like writing about the new packaging of a laundry detergent. The box may be a brighter orange, the label a little louder (Improved! Kind Of!), but the stuff inside is pretty much the same as the stuff inside every box of detergent. And, in this case, the stuff inside consists of exactly what most Hollywood movies based on old sitcoms are made of, namely feeble and funny jokes, brand actors and enough special effects to give you some bang for your summertime buck." And Liam Lacey of the Toronto Globe & Mail borrows the catch phrase from the old TV series to describe the movie: "Would you believe the new Get Smart movie is actually funny? All right then - would you believe it's better than the Bewitched movie? How about, "It doesn't make you want to crawl out of the theater with your popcorn bag over your head?" Given the record of sixties' sitcoms revived for the big screen, small successes should be celebrated."

FRANCE SET TO BAR PIRATES FROM INTERNET ACCESS

Internet users in France accused by the music and film industries of downloading music and movies illegally may be barred from subscribing to Internet service providers for up to one year, under a new law proposed by Culture Minister Christine Albanel. According to a report by the French wire service Agence France Presse, the law would set up a regulator that would receive complaints from the music and film industry and track them down through ISPs. The suspected offenders would be sent two warnings before being stripped of their Internet subscriptions. The proposal received the backing of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who reportedly told the cabinet meeting, "There is no reason that the Internet should be lawless." The proposed law, if passed by the French parliament, would go into effect on January 1. At that time the music and film industries have agreed to remove all existing copyright protection on French material. While the proposed law was hailed by international entertainment groups, it was derided overwhelmingly by bloggers and online message writers. On the London Times's website, one writer observed that the same boxed set of DVDs that sells for $25 in the U.S. goes for 75 euros in France. "Maybe if the [government] did more to prevent us Europeans being blatantly ripped off we'd download less."

ACADEMY SETS NEW RULES FOR FOREIGN PICS

Apparently concerned about the fact that some foreign films that received honors at leading film festivals and were praised by critics never received nominations for foreign-language Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revised its method of selecting nominees. In the future, an "executive committee" will be able to add three films to those selected by academy voters, and a second committee will then select the five nominees from the expanded list. The academy also voted to limit the number of songs from a single movie competing in the original song category to two, hoping to avoid a repeat of past situations where three nominated songs from a movie competed against one another, thereby dividing the votes so that none won.
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.