TELEVANGELIST ROBERTSON OUSTED FROM RELIGIOUS GROUP
Pat Robertson, arguably the nation's foremost televangelist, has been dumped from the board of directors of the National Religious Broadcasters Assn. In a surprise vote -- the organization once named him Christian Broadcaster of the Year -- Robertson failed to receive enough votes for re-election to the board. In an interview with the Washington Post, NRB President Frank Wright said that "there was broad dismay with some of Pat's comments and a feeling they were not helpful to Christian broadcasters in general." In January, Robertson said on his 700 Club broadcast, which airs on the ABC Family Channel, that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was an act of God meted out to punish him for advocating a pull-out from the Gaza Strip. Last August, he called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson's daily audience for the 700 Club averages 800,000.
EX-CNN ANCHOR BROWN: "THE NEWS IN THIS COUNTRY IS A BUSINESS"
Former CNN anchor Aaron Brown has suggested that television viewers are responsible for the deterioration of broadcast news as much as the TV networks themselves. "In the perfect democracy that I believe TV news is, it's not enough to say you want serious news, you have to watch it," he told an audience in Medford, OR this week. As reported by the Medford Mail Tribune, Brown, speaking to a First Amendment forum, noted that while CNN was spending a fortune covering the 2004 tsunami, Fox News was channeling its resources into the missing teenager Natalee Holloway. The contest, he noted, was won hands down by Fox. The result, he suggested, was not lost on his former employer, CNN. "The news in this country is a business," he said. "You might not like to think of it that way, but it is." He suggested that television, instead of being diverted by scores of late-breaking trivial stories, ought to focus on the 6-10 "really important stories" that occur each day.
HOLOWAY CASE PULLS BIG RATINGS
The Natalee Holoway case continues to attract viewers in massive numbers. According to an analysis of Nielsen ratings, last Thursdays Primetime Live, which featured an interview with Joran Van Der Sloot, the Dutch teenager who is the prime suspect in the case, drew its highest ratings in three years. And on Wednesday of this week, Greta Van Susteren's interview with Van Der Sloot on Fox News Chennel brought her the highest ratings among 25-54-year-olds than any cable news personality, including the usual champ, Bill O'Reilly.
WAS NBC'S GREGORY DRUNK DURING IMUS INTERVIEW?
NBC has denied that White House correspondent David Gregory was drunk when he was interviewed by radio/TV talk-show host Don Imus Thursday morning. Gregory, who is covering the preesident's visit to India, mysteriously appeared overcome by laughter as he chatted with Imus, at one time becoming nearly hysterical as he attempted to wish Imus "a nice day" in Hindi. "What's wrong with you?" Imus asked. Gregory replied, "I just think it's funny," Gregory replied with addtional laughter. Imus then reacted, "He is drunk." Conservative blogs pounced on the interview, with one writer asserting, "After this, it will be hard for this guy to have any credibility." In an odd exchange, Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly appeared to come to Gregory's defense as he showed the MSNBC video of the incident, remarking that Gregory was probaby "just exhausted." But liberal commentator Juan Williams, appearing on O'Reilly's program, insisted that Gregory had undermined his credibility and was attempting to "advance his career by being a clown." Later, NBC News spokesman Barbara Levin told reporters that Gregory was not drunk during the interview. "Do you listen to Imus? I mean this is what Imus does," Levin told the Boston Herald.
NBC SHOWS MAY BE SEEN IN BRITAIN -- VIA APPLE'S ITUNES STORE
NBC is planning to offer some its American TV shows on Apple's iTunes Music Store in Britain, published reports in the U.K. said today (Friday). The reports said that the network planned to test the waters by initially offering downloads of classic sci-fi series including Battlestar Galactica, Surface, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Thus far, video downloads have not been included on Apple's iTunes Music Store in the U.K., and a company spokesman denied that it had any present plans to do so.
CHOCK-A-BLOCK BOX OFFICE
Since the Oscar ceremonies have often been called the Super Bowl for women (last year, of the 42.1 million viewers, 24.5 million were women 18 or older versus 14.1 million men in the same demographic group) and since most of the nominated films were directed at adults, the studios have decided to make this Oscars weekend mostly a boys-night-out affair. The winner, analysts have indicated, is likely to be Warner Bros.' 16 Blocks, starring Bruce Willis and directed by Richard Donner. Close behind -- although it is appearing on half the number of screens -- is expected to be the Dave Chappelle concert film Block Party. Another strong challenger is expected to be last week's box-office champ, Madea's Family Reunion. Two other counterprogramming newcomers are also expected to perform strongly, Sony's sci-fi/horror flick Ultraviolet, which was not screened for critics, and Fox's Aquamarine, aimed at female teens.
MOVIE REVIEWS: 16 BLOCKS
The pairing in 16 Blocks of actor Bruce Willis and director Richard Donner, both of whom have a sizable collection of action flicks to their credit, is receiving approval from most critics. Willis, who plays a drunk cop in the movie, is being congratulated for doing what he does best -- playing the flawed action hero. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times calls the movie, "a chase picture conducted at a velocity that is just about right for a middle-age alcoholic." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal praises the performances of Willis and costar Mos Def and refers to the movie as "a mismatched-buddy movie that's endearing, funny and affecting in equal measure." Indeed Lou Lumenick in the New York Post rates the movie "the most competently made and entertaining major studio release so far this year." On the other hand, Stephen Hunter writes in the Washington Post: "This feeble thriller is so full of implausibilities it makes Willis's last star vehicle, Hostage, seem like a documentary on advanced thermodynamics." And Geoff Pevere in the Toronto Star pronounces it "as diverting as a two-hour slog through Manhattan traffic."
MOVIE REVIEWS: BLOCK PARTY
"Once in a great while there's a movie that's so funny, infectious and welcoming - a movie that makes you feel so good about America and the people in it -- you just want to climb inside the screen and live there. That's the case with Dave Chappelle's Block Party," writes Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News. Although numerous pop music performers appear in the concert film, its biggest star is obviously Chappelle, "one of those completely engaging personalities who can make you laugh at anything, even mundane events like a man on the street trying to get a worn-out car engine to turn over," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. And Claudia Puig in USA Today concludes: "You will wish you'd been invited to Dave Chappelle's Block Party, but watching the documentary about the September 2004 concert event is the next best thing."
MOVIE REVIEWS: AQUAMARINE
Aquamarine is a mermaid movie for the "tweener" crowd. Gene Seymour in Newsday writes that it is "as sweet and disposable as the gummy snakes its eponymous heroine loves so much." Comments Kyle Smith in the New York Post: "This movie's no Little Mermaid and it doesn't make much of a Splash. But it's high-spirited, innocent fun." Melinda Ennis in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution prefaces her review with this warning: "If you're a male between 5 and 95, "Aquamarine," a junior chick flick about two pre-pubescent girls who find and befriend a mermaid, could make you green at the gills. However, if you are now or ever have been a girl of 8 to 13, you'll be occasionally charmed by the giggly bonds of girlfriends and 'guppie love' the film portrays -- but also occasionally green at the gills." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times describes the problem that any reviewer is likely to encounter with the film. "I know there's an audience for this movie just as surely as I know I am not that audience," he writes.
CHRISTIAN SCHOOL REJECTS ASSOCIATION WITH OSCAR NOMINEE WILLIAMS
A Christian elementary and middle school in the San Diego suburb of Santa Fe that Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams once attended said Thursday that it does not wish to be associated with her. Williams, who is nominated for her role as the embittered wife of a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, attended the school until she was 16 years old, when she won a role in the TV series Dawson's Creek. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, headmaster Jim Hopson said, "We don't want to have anything to do with her in relation to that movie. ... Michelle doesn't represent the values of this institution. ... We'd not like to be tied to Brokeback Mountain."
CANADA ON THE REBOUND
Canada has suddenly rebounded as a favorite location site for Hollywood studios, the Toronto Globe & Mail observed today (Friday). Peter Leitch, president of Lions Gate Studios in Vancouver, told the newspaper that the city's five major studios are full. "Things are booming right now," he said. "I don't recall when all the studio space was booked [like this] for a couple of years." Leitch, who is also chairman of the Motion Picture Production Industry Assn. of British Columbia, forecast that $1 billion will be spent on film production in the Canadian province this year, well above the figure for the past two years. The Canadian film-business recovery extends to Toronto and other parts of the country as well, the newspaper observed, quoting film exec Paul Bronfman as saying, "It's gone from famine to feast." Donna Zuchlinski, manager of the film commission group at Ontario Media Development Corp., credited Canada's liberal tax credits with luring back Hollywood studios.
FASTEST MOVIE EVER SHOT?
An Indian director has claimed that he set a world record by shooting a 74-minute feature in just 2 hours and 14 minutes. The film, Atbhutam (Wonder), describes a right-to-die battle between the wife of a brain-dead man and his parents similar to the one that involved the husband of Terri Schiavo and her parents last year. Although three cameras were used in the filming, only one was running for each scene. "We'd planned things, including the lighting, in such minute details, that within a couple of minutes of canning one shot, the lighting for the next scene was switched on and the floor was made ready," S. Kumar, the film's director of photography, told Reuters. The filmmakers have applied for recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records.