Apple announced today that it has reached agreements with 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Sony, Lionsgate, and other studios to sell movies via its iTunes online service on the same day that the studios release them on DVD. The company had previously reached a similar agreement with Disney. New titles will sell for $14.99; catalog titles for $9.99. The agreements, coming with so many studios all at once, would appear to thwart threats by major retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy to refuse to stock DVDs from any studio making such a deal with Apple. They also pose a threat to other online services that are developing their own download services. Apple will benefit not only from direct sales of the movies but also from sales for several of its hardware products, including video iPods and the Apple TV, a device that can send movies wirelessly from a home computer's hard drive to a home-theater monitor.


Robert Downey Jr., an unlikely choice to play a superhero, is receiving much praise for his performance in the title role of Iron Man, which is opening at 8:00 p.m. in many theaters throughout the country tonight (Thursday). "This supremely gifted actor will please several generations of filmgoers," writes Bill Zwecker in the Chicago Sun-Times who calls the movie itself "simply great escapism." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Timesnotes that the part seems to be "nicely tailored to Downey's talents and is a great deal of fun as a result." Says Lou Lumenick in the New York Post: "First and foremost, this is Downey's show." And some show it is, most critics agree. "Make no mistake," writes Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, "this is the birth of a new franchise. The only thing wrong with Iron Man -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- is that it's too short, even at 126 minutes. It ends just as the action is really picking up. When was the last time a summer blockbuster left you longing for more?" And Michael Sragow concludes in the Baltimore Sun: "So far this spring, as far as live-action would-be blockbusters go, all that glitters is iron."


Seeming to knock down another ethical guideline that most journalists abide by without reluctance, the gossip website on Wednesday revealed the name of the 14-year-old son of a movie star who is the "alleged victim of unlawful sex" with a 22-year-old woman. "TMZ Hits New Low," headlined Kevin Roderick in his L.A. Observed blog. The Smoking Gun website, which has published its fair share of scandalous news items, reported on TMZ's revelation but said that it had decided to "redact" the boy's name. It noted that besides disclosing the child's name, TMZ also ran a photo of him taken when he was 10. "The reason the story is even interesting to TMZ is because of who the child is," Kelly McBride, who teaches journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute in Florida, told the Associated Press. "I'm not sure that alone is enough to justify identifying the boy." TMZ has not commented.


Paramount said Wednesday that it will put back on retail shelves 12 of the Blu-ray titles that it yanked when it agreed to market HD DVD titles only last August. They include:Aeon Flux, Babel, Black Snake Moan, Dreamgirls, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sleepy Hollow, The Untouchablesand The Warriors. Pricing for the reissues was not announced. Meanwhile, it was reported Wednesday that since February, when Toshiba threw in the towel and abandoned the HD DVD format, sales of Blu-ray players have actually dropped Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service, told the Video Business website that continued slow sales of Blu-ray players show that "few consumers were dissuaded [from buying them] primarily by the 'format war.'" But Andy Parsons, spokesman for the Blu-ray Disc Assn., said that the real problem was that no one had expected Toshiba to fold so quickly and that retailers were left without enough players to satisfy demand. "We're just now beginning to recover," Parsons told the Los Angeles Times. "Many players are still on back order."


At the Movies with Ebert and Roeperco-host Richard Roeper wrote today (Thursday) that he has been accused of "liberal bias" for not reviewing the "intelligent design" documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed on the TV show. In his column in the Chicago Sun-Times Roeper insisted that no liberal conspiracy was involved in the omission. "Expelledwasn't screened for us," he wrote, but given the attention the film has received he finally managed to see it. "Wow," he concluded, "What a piece of garbage."