AS NEW 007, CRAIG WINS OVER U.K. CRITICS

Critics are, well, stirred by the new James Bond. Daniel Craig is receiving much praise from British reviewers following the premiere of Casino Royale in London Wednesday night, with Wendy Ide in the London Times writing that "Daniel Craig is the best thing that's happened to the 007 franchise for years." Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian comments similarly, "Daniel Craig is a fantastic Bond, and all those whiners and naysayers out there in the blogosphere should hang their heads in shame." Nevertheless, Alistair Harkness concludes in The Scotsman: "The only truly Bond-worthy scene comes in the final seconds. This, together with Craig's gutsy performance, will probably send some home convinced Casino Royale is a kind of classic and, to be fair, it does put the series back on track. But, as the days go by, you may well find yourself -- as Craig does in the film - wondering not whether you prefer to be shaken or stirred, but whether you actually give a damn." A similar point was made by Richard Corliss in the current Time magazine, who noted that Craig spends more time on screen shirtless than all of the previous Bonds combined. Corliss concluded: "This is a Bond with great body but no soul."

CALL FROM PHILIP MORRIS TO HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

The Philip Morris company, whose cigarette products include Marlboro, the world's largest-selling brand, said Wednesday that it will run advertisements in the leading entertainment trade publications, including Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, asking filmmakers not to show its products in movies. The ad, headed "Please Don't Give Our Cigarette Brands a Part in Your Movie," will cite studies indicating that portrayals of tobacco use in movies can tempt children to smoke. Anti-smoking groups suggested that the ad was little more than a public-relations smokescreen. Stanton Glantz, head of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Association that Philip Morris ought to have threatened to sue studios using its brands on screen, but instead was merely saying, "Aw, shucks, we really wish you wouldn't show our products."

DREAMWORKS' LATEST RELEASE FLUSHES AWAY PROFITS

While DreamWorks Animation's Flushed Away appears to be performing relatively well at the box office -- it has been running neck-and-neck with Disney's The Santa Clause 3 -- it has not been performing well enough to justify its staggering cost, estimated to be $143 million, leading the film company to say Wednesday that it plans to take a write-down against it in the fourth quarter. Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Daily News observed that the failure of the film to generate a profit would likely result in the end of the relationship between DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Animations, the British film company that produced it, as well as last year's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. That film also proved to be a disappointment.

WEINSTEIN CO. AND BLOCKBUSTER IN EXCLUSIVE DEAL

In a deal that left many analysts scratching their heads, The Weinstein Company on Wednesday announced a four-year deal with Blockbuster that will give the rental company exclusive rights to TWC's theatrical and direct-to-video movies. The two companies indicated that they will share in the rental revenue -- although specific percentages were not spelled out. What apparently differentiates the agreement from others between studios and "rentailers" is that Blockbuster has agreed to pay The Weinstein Company a minimum guarantee for each film determined by box-office performance and the acquisition or production costs. In a statement, the Bob and Harvey Weinstein said, "The unique combination of Blockbuster's established in-store retail experience with the power of their online subscription service was one of the biggest factors that attracted us to this alliance."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.