PRODUCER GRAZER ENDS UP ON CUTTING-ROOM FLOOR

The revelation that Andrés Martinez, the editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times, who had selected producer Brian Grazer as a "guest editor,"was involved in a romantic relationship with a publicist for the PR firm representing Grazer led Thursday to Martinez's resignation. Martinez had selected Grazer to edit a special edition of this Sunday's "Current," an opinion section. Publisher David Hiller canceled the section and issued a statement Thursday night saying that although the newspaper did not believe that Martinez's relationship with publicist Kelly Mullens played a part in the selection of Grazer, the Times had decided to cancel the section "to avoid even the appearance of conflict." Martinez promptly resigned, announcing his decision on a blog on the newspaper's website, saying that Hiller's decision made his continued role at the Times "untenable" and amounted to "a vote of no confidence." He further lashed out at colleagues at the newspaper, who had shone a light on the matter. "In trying to keep up with the blogosphere, and boasting about their ability to go after their own, navel-gazing newsrooms run the risk of becoming parodies of themselves," he commented. (Daily Variety pointed out that "the blogosphere" was "the very forum he was using" to denounce the decision. Martinez also charged that canceling the section had been an overreaction. "There's a perception that Hiller is trying to suck up to Hollywood and advertisers," he wrote. Today's (Friday) New York Times quoted unnamed people close to Grazer as saying that he had been "humiliated by the outcome."

MOVIE REVIEWS: PRIDE

Kyle Smith's review in the New York Post of Pride, about black competitive swimmers in the '70s and their coach (Terrence Howard), is headlined "Diff'rent Strokes," which pretty well sums up the movie in two words. Most other critics use a few more words, but their reviews remain rather terse. Perhaps it's because they've all seen versions of the same movie before. As Jan Stuart writes in Newsday: "There comes a time in the career of every leading man when he is called upon to play a coach in an inspirational sports drama. Despite their true-life origins, these McSport movies have less in common with genuine athletic events than with jigsaw puzzles that have been cut into square, magnetized pieces that snap into place as soon as they drop out of the box." Similar words drop out of other critics' boxes. "The trouble with Pride is that it sticks so close to the sports-movie playbook that it never comes alive," comments Jason Anderson in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Nevertheless, Howard receives plenty of praise for his performance as Philadelphia swim coach Jim Ellis. Writes Glen Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News: "Howard's work rescues a movie that, from what I can gather from interviews with Ellis, is a complete work of fiction." Or as Michael Phillips remarks in the Chicago Tribune: "Out of a foamy sea of inspirational-sports-film clichés, Terrence Howard pulls Pride to safety."

MOVIE REVIEWS: REIGN OVER ME

As with Pride, it's performance that seems to count most among critics in their consideration of Reign Over Me -- in this case, the performances of Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler. A.O. Scott in the New York Times calls Cheadle's "flawlessly understated and intensely interesting." As for Sandler's characterization, Scott says, "It is the kind of role that tries to force you to see a familiar performer in a radical new light." Together, the two actors make an impressive force, the critics suggest. "The chemistry between Sandler and Don Cheadle keeps us engaged," comments Claudia Puig in USA Today. "Reign is a triumph for Cheadle and Sandler, whose performances strew the seeds of regeneration," says Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Clearly, however, Sandler, who has been on the receiving end of more than a fair share of potshots from critics, has made a strong impression on critics. "Cheadle is good, as always, but Sandler's portrayal of a guy on the perennial brink of a psychotic breakdown is amazing," says Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News.

MOVIE REVIEWS: SHOOTER

Critics have concluded that Mark Wahlberg's performance in Shooter will likely be a crowd pleaser. Most of them, however, have reservations about it, despite the fact that one of their own, Washington Post movie critic Stephen Hunter, wrote the novel on which the movie is based. "Hunter certainly won't review Shooter himself, but I suspect he'd be honest enough to give the movie what it deserves: a middling endorsement," remarks Michael Booth in the Denver Post. In fact, Scott Eyman, who did review the movie in that newspaper, gave it just that.) Comments Kyle Smith in the New York Post: "Though the movie has some mild pretensions to rank with great paranoia films like Three Days of the Condor, mostly it's content to deliver Salisbury steak-and-mashed-potatoes action, with lots of thunking of ammo." Similarly, Kenneth Turan writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Shooter has its pro forma, paint-by-numbers elements, but it is executed with such efficiency and energy by action maestro Antoine Fuqua, that ignoring flaws and becoming involved in the proceedings isn't a matter of choice."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE LAST MIMZY

Judging from the reviews, The Last Mimzy ought to be welcomed by parents, even if the film is otherwise unappreciated by critics. Comments Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "On its own lightweight terms, The Last Mimzy is a small gem." Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times calls it "overstuffed yet warmhearted ... a wholesome, eager entertainment." Peter Howell in the Toronto Star credits New Line Cinema co-founder Robert Shaye, who directed the movie, for turning out "a modest children's fantasy that holds the attention without severing limbs or shattering eardrums. It also imparts a useful message about life and saving the Earth, not at all a bad thing for these fractious times." And Nancy Churnin in the Dallas Morning News praises it as "a brave, well-acted little film staking all on a belief that kids will value a good story more than familiarity."

Brian B.