UNIVERSAL MUSIC TO BATTLE SONY FILMS

In what may have the markings of a Hollywood civil war, Vivendi's Universal Music Group has filed copyright-infringement lawsuits against online video-sharing websites Grouper and Bolt. Both sites feature music videos, some of them pirated copies of UMG productions. In a statement, UMG said that the two websites "cannot reasonably expect to build their businesses on the backs of our content and the hard work of songwriters without permission and without in any way compensating the content creators." Grouper CEO Josh Felser said in response, "Our website is protected by federal law, and we're vigilant about taking down copyrighted content when we're properly notified." Raising the possibility of internecine warfare is the fact that Grouper was purchased by Sony Pictures Entertaining in August for $65 million. Reuters reported Tuesday that Universal has retained the right to add Sony Pictures to the suit going forward. But Daily Variety commented, "Sony Pictures is learning the downside of owning a video-sharing website."

ADS TO SHOW UP ON THEATER POPCORN BAGS

Advertisements have suddenly appeared recently on such unusual places as eggs and an assortment of fruits at the supermarket, on laundry bags at the cleaners, and on plastic gowns at beauty parlors. Now, they'll be appearing on bags of popcorn at the movies this weekend. DenTek Oral Care Company will be distributing 570,000 popcorn bags to theaters across the country with samples of DenTek Floss Picks attached to them below the words, "Don't you just hate it when popcorn gets stuck in your teeth?" The bags will also feature a $1-off "zip coupon." In a statement, DenTek President David Fox said, "We want to give consumers a great opportunity to try our product, and then give them an incentive to buy some."

SANTA WILL BEAT BARON: LATEST CULTURAL LEARNING

Although Sacha Baron Cohen's satirical movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan has been receiving a ton of free publicity in recent weeks -- including, separately, denunciations by officials in Kazakhstan and an organization of German gypsies -- the film is expected to be beaten at the box office next month by Santa Clause 3. In an item about the competition, L.A. Weekly writer Nikki Finke cited recent studio tracking showing that Borat "may be too elitist for Middle America." However, 20th Century Fox, which is distributing the movie, said that it never expected Borat to compete on an equal footing with Clause 3. A studio exec told Finke that he expected the film to start out strongly with college students and build from there. "Don't look at our opening numbers, look at our finishing numbers," he said. The two films are due to be released on Nov. 3.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE HISTORY BOYS

A film version of The History Boys, this year's Tony Award winner for best drama, has opened strongly in the U.K., grossing $1.5 million on 293 screens over the weekend, according to figures released Tuesday. The film, adapted by director Nicholas Hytner from Alan Bennett's play (which Hytner also directed), received mixed reviews from British critics. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian commented that the play has "been turned into a stagy and oddly contrived movie ... with the kind of elaborate, highly worked dialogue that is exhilarating in the theater but rather unreal-sounding on the big screen." But Philip French in the Sunday Observer called the play "special," a rare film set in a school that actually deals with education. Moreover, he wrote, "There's no feeling of this being a filmed play." On the other hand, James Christopher in the Times remarked, "Hytner's desire to embalm his National Theater production rather than open it up has stifled potential cinema magic." J. Romney in the Independent makes the same point, but nevertheless concludes, "It's a rare pleasure to see any film where intelligence matters, let alone one that's actually an extended advert for the pleasures of thinking. Still, this isn't a film, but at best, a superior example of set-text cinema." Superior, Alistair Harkness suggested in The Scotsman, to much of what is offered on the screen -- ever. It is, he writes, "witty, intelligent and energetic, which is an achievement in itself given that the tedious nature of film-making frequently robs live productions of such qualities as they make their way to the big screen. ... Only a churl would deny that this is compulsively entertaining viewing unafraid of treating intelligence with the respect it deserves."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.