SAG "SOLIDARITY?" NOT WITH AFTRA

The Screen Actors Guild has scheduled what it is calling a "solidarity" rally at its Wilshire Boulevard headquarters in Los Angeles on Monday, but trade reports indicated today (Friday) that the rally will demonstrate no solidarity whatsoever with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- and in fact will denounce AFTRA's recent agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Daily Variety reported that representatives of Membership First, the activist group that now controls the union plan to call on SAG members who hold dual membership in AFTRA to vote against the deal when ratification ballots are sent out next week. The trade publication quoted a message sent by Michael Heister saying that "being physically present at this rally makes it known to AFTRA leadership and the moguls that actors absolutely will stand up for their rights, that we will not let our images be maligned for pennies, and we will not let the relevance of our unions be eviscerated under the cover of new media." Variety reported that little progress between SAG and the AMPTP was made on Thursday and that the two sides had agreed to take three days off and meet again on Monday. Meanwhile, a report from the Milken Institute released on Thursday said that the recent strike by the Writers Guild of America cost the state's economy $2.1 billion, with 37,700 workers losing their jobs.

WERE THERE MORE JOLIE HOAXES?

Elizabeth Snead, who writes the "Dish Rag" blog for the LATimes.com, said today (Friday) that a person claiming to be Angelina Jolie's personal assistant Holly Goline has been "under investigation" by Jolie's lawyers for a year. On Friday, the Goline impostor phoned major media outlets with news that Jolie had given birth to twins. Although the story was picked up by some major news outlets, a spokesperson for Jolie said that it was untrue. Snead indignantly asks why the press was not forewarned about the impostor earlier. "Why have none of the impostor's fraudulent planted stories been debunked by her legal team? What else have we reported that is the result of Angelina's assistant's evil duplicitous doppleganger?" Snead asks.

EASTWOOD TO LEE: SHUT YOUR FACE

Spike Lee has responded to Spike Lee's criticism of his two films about the World War II battle of Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. At the Cannes Film Festival last month Lee told reporters: "There was not one black soldier in both of those films. ... In his vision of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist." However, in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper published today (Friday), Eastwood said his film was about the American soldiers who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi during the battle. He noted that the black troops who participated in the battle were part of a munitions company that was not involved in the flag raising. "If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people'd go: 'This guy's lost his mind.' I mean, it's not accurate." He then angrily said of Lee: "A guy like him should shut his face."

PANDA, ZOHAN GO TO THE MAT

You Don't Mess With the Zohan may be the title of Adam Sandler's latest comedy, but the message in the title is likely to be ignored by a fighting Kung Fu Panda, the DreamWorks Animation feature with Jack Black providing the voice of the title character. Analysts are expecting the match-up to be close and the box office for all movies this weekend to be solid -- what with holdovers Sex and the City, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and other strong-legged features like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Iron Man, continuing to vie for attention.

MOVIE REVIEWS: KUNG FU PANDA

Kung Fu Panda is not getting karate-chopped by critics, who are mostly marshaling their linguistic arts to express their indifference toward the movie. "Kung Fu Panda is not one of the great recent animated films," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago-Sun Times. "But it's elegantly drawn, the action sequences are packed with energy, and it's short enough that older viewers will be forgiving." It's another animated feature whose message to kids is "Believe!" Comments Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "The screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger is ho-hum without being insulting, a grab bag of gentle jokes, sage lectures, helpful lessons and kicky fights." "To make something special, you just have to believe it's special," the title character's father tells him. But Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal remarks, "To make a movie special it's not enough to have brilliant animation. You have to believe in telling good stories." Not necessarily, suggests Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. "This is an unashamedly old-fashioned children's movie, and a predictable message is part of the mission," she writes. "But that's okay; what the movie lacks in surprises, it makes up for in whimsical fun."

MOVIE REVIEWS: YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times calls the new Adam Sandler comedy You Don't Mess With the Zohan "shameless in its eagerness to extract laughs from every possible breach of taste or decorum." Nevertheless, Ebert suggests, Sandler succeeds in doing just that. "This is a mighty hymn of and to vulgarity, and either you enjoy it, or you don't. I found myself enjoying it a surprising amount of the time, even though I was thoroughly ashamed of myself." A.O. Scott in the New York Times also agrees that "a lot of the crude bodily-function jokes are actually pretty funny." Rafer Guzmán's take on the film in Newsday: "Crude, idiotic, ridiculous - in other words, flat-out hilarious, and Sandler's funniest film in years." But Mark Olsen in the Los Angeles Times suggests that such an assessment is far too generous. "If this was to be unapologetically funny, likable in an un-ironic, non-guilty-pleasure way," he writes, "You Don't Mess With the Zohan falls short. As a cutting comedic satire about the Arab-Israeli conflict and stereotypes, it misses more than it hits. As another run-of-the-mill Sandler movie, it is better than most." And Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer assesses it this way: "An amiable mess."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.