MOVIE REVIEWS: SHREK THE THIRD

Film critics, who by and large have been giving the recent crop of movie sequels decidedly mixed reviews, have not changed their tone with the release of Shrek the Third, which officially opens on Friday but is also being screened at many theaters beginning at midnight tonight (Thursday). In her review in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Eleanor Ringle Gillespie acknowledges that given the massive fandom that the Shrek character has produced, "whether or not li'l old me likes Shrek the Third isn't going to amount to a hill of beans." Still, she remarks, the movie is "not very good" and later, "The magic is gone." Many of the same critics who are writing negatively about the film had praised the original two installments. One of them is Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who writes, "It grieves me to report that the third time is charmless. ... Shrek the Third isn't a movie, it's the extension of a brand." The cancer-recovering Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times pays a return visit to the movie franchise only to find it "lacking the comic energy of the first brilliant film and not measuring up to the second." Christy Lemire of the Associated Press writes that the movie is "smothered in a suffocating sense of been-there, done-that." Or as Claudia Puig puts it in USA Today, "The main element that's missing in this third go-round is the sense of fresh discovery felt with the 2001 original." Carina Chocano opines that too much of the kids movie is aimed not at kids but at their parents. "Does a kids' movie really need, among other similar touches, a Hooters joke?" she asks. "I, for one, wouldn't want to have to explain it." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News objects to a scene in which "a husky, whisker-studded transsexual princess says of Prince Charming, he 'makes me hotter than July.'" Then again, Kyle Smith in the New York Post notes that the film ends with "a salvo of poop, farts and belches -- delightful to 5-year-olds, but then so are belly buttons, kazoos and Night at the Museum."

MIGHTY PROMO FOR EVAN ALMIGHTY TO AIR TONIGHT

Talk about synergy! Universal NBC is going all out tonight to promote Evan Almighty, which stars Steve Carell of NBC's The Office and opens on June 22. The media conglomerate is not only airing a promo at the end of the season finale of The Office, but the promote will also air on every NBC Universal-owned cable network at the exact same time -- 8:58 p.m. The networks include: MSNBC, SciFi, Bravo, USA, Universal HD, CNBC, Mun2, Chiller, and Sleuth. At the same time a six-minute streaming trailer will also be available on NBC's comedy site, www.dotcomedy.com.

DE NIRO, PACINO TEAM FOR INDIE MOVIE

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino will co-star in the indie film Righteous Kill from Nu Image's Millennium Films and Emmett Furla Films, Daily Variety reported from the Cannes Film Festival today (Thursday). The trade publication quoted Nu Image chief Avi Lerner as saying, "This is an event in world history." Lerner pointed out that De Niro and Pacino had appeared together only once before in a film. "They were in two scenes in Heat. In this movie, they are in the whole thing together," he said.

MICHAEL MOORE WANTS TO KNOW HOW GOVERNMENT TARGETED HIM

Apparently hoping to show that the decision by the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to investigate his trip to Cuba was politically motivated, Michael Moore's attorney, David Boles, fired off a letter to the Treasury Department Wednesday demanding, under the Freedom of Information Act, all documents and email messages related to the department's investigation. In the film, titled Sicko, Moore takes a group of 9/11 responders to Cuba for treatment. He has said that he applied for permission to visit Cuba but that the Treasury department never acted on his application.

TOSHIBA SLASHES PRICES OF HD-DVD PLAYERS -- FOR A MONTH

Toshiba intensified its high-definition-disk battle with Sony's Blu-ray players by offering a month-long, instant $100 rebate on its own HD DVD players. The rebate brings down the price of a high-definition player to a record-low $299. In addition, Toshiba is offering to knock $100 off the price of any of its HDTV sets that are purchased with an HD DVD player. The company recently announced that buyers of its HD DVD players would also be able to select five free HDTV movies from a selection of fifteen. The promotion is set to launch on Sunday and continue until June 16.

Brian B.