It was another crazy week in Hollywood with movie news, box office figures, websites and trailers galore. Lets start breaking it all down with this week's Notables.

NOTABLES

"John Madden set to direct Miramax's Killshot" - Monday, January 24

No, this isn't the John Madden who is the gruff, seemingly half-retarded football announcer. This John Madden is an accomplished film director, with an Best Picture Oscar-winning flick under his belt (See: Shakespeare in Love). The problem here is, this Madden has only these sappy dramas under his belt, and hasn't really done anything like a gritty Elmore Leonard adaptation before. I haven't read this Leonard book, but I've read several of his, and they have a style all their own. While Madden has his own style as well, it seems like these two styles are like water and oil, and I'm just not sure this is the right directorial fit. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Nicolas Cage is 'Amarillo Slim Preston' in the upcoming biopic of the gambler" - Monday, January 24

Last week it was Drew Barrymore cashing in on the gambling craze with her new role in the upcoming Lucky You. This week, it's Nicolas Cage, although he is portraying a real gambler, and a legendary one at that. Amarillo Slim Preston won the 1972 World Series of Poker, and is considered one of the game's greats. I'm not too familiar with Slim's past, but gambling back in those days, with its questionable legality in most parts of the country and the danger and violence that went with it, sounds like perfect fodder for a flick, especially considering how popular poker has become these days. With legendary director Milos Forman at the helm as well, this flick will surely be one to keep an eye on. Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Brad Pitt is Jesse James" - Tuesday, January 25

This sounds like a blockbuster just waiting to happen. We have a wonderful story about a larger-than-life character we have all heard about for ages, even with a great sub-plot about the coward who killed him. I'm not too familiar with director Andrew Dominik, but the key here is Brad Pitt. He is one of the best actors working today, whose true talent gets lost in the shuffle of his mass popularity and high-profile marriage...well, ex-marriage I guess, to Jennifer Aniston. This project is great for him, because he has never stood alone in the spotlight. All of his big roles are either in ensembles, such as Ocean's Eleven and Troy, or in dual-billings like in Fight Club or The Mexican. This will be his first role solely in the spotlight, and I just can't wait for it. Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Stellan Skarsgard climbs aboard the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels" - Wednesday, January 26

This sounds like a pretty good choice for this character. He doesn't really bear that much of a resemblance to Orlando Bloom, since Skarsgard is playing his father, Bootstrap Turner in the flick, but oh well. Skarsgard, for one, has that raspy pirate voice thing going for him, and he's a pretty solid actor to boot...no pun intended. This cast just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it? Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Angelina Jolie joins Matt Damon in The Good Shepard" - Friday, January 28

Speaking of casts getting better, we have The Good Shepard. We have Damon and now Jolie toplining, top scribe Eric Roth handling the script and, the cherry on top, Robert DeNiro making his directorial debut. This sounds like an amazing story and I'm looking forward to see what one of the best actors of all time can do in the directors chair. Jolie, after coming off the uber-bomb Alexander, has the probable summer hit Mr. and Mrs. Smith and if she follows that flick with this one, Alexander will become a distant memory. Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Franc Reyes set to remake The Set-Up" - Friday, January 28

If you saw Reyes' first flick, Empire, I would consider you unlucky, because it was horrendous. Actually, I shouldn't say that. It would've made a great 40-minute flick. Just take the decent ending and beginning and throw out the muddled, annoying and stupid middle, and you'd have a decent short flick. Unfortunately for this The Set-Up, Reyes is writing again, so, even if he does have a decent beginning and ending, we'll be so bored and confused in the middle that we won't care about the ending anyway. I think they need to send this guy to the library and get him some screenwriting books before he sits down at the computer again, because if The Set-Up is handled like Empire was, be prepared for boredom and dissapointment. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

BOX OFFICE CORNER

It was the weekend after the Oscar nominations were announced, and some of the top contenders expanded to get their flicks out to more of the public before the little gold men are handed out later this month. But even the Oscar buzz couldn't stop Hide and Seek from taking the top spot. The Robert DeNiro thriller was #1 in its debut weekend, earning $21.9 million. It averaged a healthy $7,307 per screen, showing in 3,005 theaters. Budget figures weren't released for this movie, but with this opening weekend, I'd assume it should perform decently, earning somewhere in the $50-70 million range, give or take a few bucks.

A big surprise of the weekend was the surprising staying power of Ice Cube's Are We There Yet?. The family comedy took the 2nd spot in its 2nd weekend, earning $16.3 million, dropping a shockingly tiny 12% from last weekend. The movie stands at $38.4 million overall, already surpassing its $32 million budget. It remains unlikely that the flick will surpass the $100 million mark, but if it performs this well next weekend, it just might have an outside shot. Still, its box office performance so far has well exceeded expectations.

There were three Oscar favorites that expanded significantly, with the big winner of the trifecta being Million Dollar Baby. The Clint Eastwood movie vaulted from 12th place last weekend, to 3rd this weekend, earning $12.2 million in its 7th week. It posted an astonishing 642.4% increase from last weekend, which was likely due to it adding 1,863 theaters. The Aviator and Sideways also made some strides at the box office. Sideways cracked the top 10 this weekend, moving up from 11th last weekend to 8th, earning $6.3 million, and posting a 122.6% increase from last weekend. The Aviator jumped from 8th place to 6th this weekend, taking in $7.5 million and increasing 56.1% from last weekend. Unfortunately for all these flicks, none of them, or the other two Best Picture contenders, Ray and Finding Neverland, will likely break the $100 million barrier, making this the first year since 1989 that there wasn't a movie nominated for Best Picture that made over $100 million.

Speaking of not making $100 million, the only other new flick has the longest long shot in the universe of making $100 million...or even a profit for that matter. Alone in the Dark couldn't even break the top 10 in its debut weekend, taking the 12th spot, earning $2.8 million. The flick suffered from some of the worst ratings I've ever seen on Rotten Tomatoes, a whopping 1 percent. That is not a typo. It's really 1 percent, or 1 positive review out of 75. It averaged a horrendous $1,334 per screen, showing in 2,124 theaters. A movie that is budgeted at $20 million, normally, wouldn't be a long shot to make its money back, but in this case, I wouldn't be placing any bets, if I were you. But how can you be surprised about the failure of a film that casts Tara Reid as a scientist...

GOING LIVE

Downfall: (www.downfallthefilm.com)

At first glance, I thought this was a teaser site. There were no visible links at the top of the page, and I thought this was going to be a waste of time. Scroll down a bit and there is a subtle menu with some options that aren't too bad. There is a very thorough synopsis, personal bio's on members of the cast and crew, the trailer, a few photos, some praising testimonials from film reviews and the very short list of the theaters this will be opening in. This isn't a very innovative site, by any means, but it has just enough substance and style to make this a decent site. Downfall opens on February 18 in New York and February 25 in Los Angeles.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith: (www.mrandmrssmithmovie.com)

This does look like a great summer flick, but the website doesn't cut the mustard. All we have here is the one-sheet in the background, the trailer, a synopsis, a wallpaper to download and a link to register for updates. There is some time, however, before this flick's June 10 release, so maybe there will be some more Smith goodies added before then.

Millions: (www2.foxsearchlight.com/millions)

They have something I've never seen before on this site. They have a link where you can sign up to see a free screening of the movie, which is a nice touch. Other than that, there is your normal official website material here. You can check out the trailer, a decent synopsis and some very detailed bios on the cast and the filmmakers. There are also a desktop and screensaver for your downloading pleasure, and a photo gallery. There is some rather annoying background music here also, but you can switch the sound off on the upper right corner. There isn't a lot of style and substance here, and the site could use a bit more of both, but it isn't too bad of a site at all. Millions opens on March 11 in limited release.

Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior: (www.ongbakmovie.com)

This is a really cool site, with a lot of information for you to check out that is presented in a very stylish way. First, you'll notice some words in a foreign language, presumably Thai, and if you click on each sentence, it morphs into the English translation. Nothing too fancy, but still kind of cool. On the right side, you get the trailers, a Characters link which is very cool since it has both the actor's bio and character profile. Click on The Crew for bios on not only the director and screenwriter, but also the editor, director of photography, martial arts/stunt coordinator, production designer and executive producer. There is also a very large photo gallery, several links under About the Film, including special screenings, two of which are hosted by Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and a full schedule of where you can see this film across the country. This is a wonderful site with an abundance of info with a little bit of flair. Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior opens February 11 in select cities.

TRAILER PARK

MirrorMask:

Wow. This looks like a Tim Burton flick on acid...and heroin. This looks like one twisted little picture that will probably expand your imagination as much as any of those substances listed above. I can't say that I like this flick, based on the trailer, but I have to say, at the very least, that I'm intrigued. I guess the trailer does a great job, then, because that's what they're supposed to do, but man, does this look odd. MirrorMask is still looking for a release date.

High Tension:

This trailer surely lives up to its title. This is a great white-knuckle trailer, feature no dialogue except for the occaisional scream here and there and the background songs. We don't get a whole lot of plot info here, but we get enough to know that two girls are being hunted by some sicko and they're scared, and stuff. The trailer is done exceptionally well, relying solely on the images to pull you in. Hopefully this trailer doesn't disappoint, because this looks to be a solid thriller. High Tension opens on June 3.

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo:

OK, I'll admit that I was mildly entertained by the first flick, but was it sequel material? Umm, how about...NO! I got a laugh out of one line in the trailer, but I'd be willing to bet that was the funniest part of the entire movie. The thing that made the first movie mildly entertaining was that it didn't rely totally on the humor, and more on the surprisingly decent plot. Here, it looks like they're going all-out on the jokes, and just plain out with the story. The tagline here is, "Same ho. New lo." Ain't that the truth, my friends...Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo opens August 12.

Bigger Than the Sky:

This looks like a very interesting project. It looks like there is a nice mix of humor and drama, and it seems that this is a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. Newcomer Marcus Thomas looks like he does a fine job in the lead here, as a downtrodden fellow who seeks redemption by playing the lead in "Cyrano," his first foray into acting. He has a fine supporting cast around him as well, in Amy Smart, John Corbett and Sean Astin. This sounds like a very solid flick that doesn't lay it on too thick. Bigger Than the Sky opens on February 18 in limited release.

Duma:

Good Lord. Another human-bonding-with-animal flick. Give me a break, people. This has been done trillions of times, but this time they're trying it with a cheetah, a.k.a the fastest land animal and Cheeto's spokesthing. Honestly, I'd rather see a flick with Chester the Cheetah than this retarded, syrup-thick schmaltz-fest. Duma opens March 4.

BEST NEWS OF THE WEEK

My pick for Best News of the Week is going to Brad Pitt's upcoming turn as Jesse James. For as famous and successful and popular as he is, he has yet to find that one role that will land him, and him alone, in the spotlight, and I think this will be that role. Pitt has proven his chops over and over again, and I'd love to see him get more press for his acting ability rather than his nuptual situation, or how many 16-year old girls think he's soooooo hot. This project should show just how strong his shoulders are, and that he can carry an entire movie on them.

WORST NEWS OF THE WEEK

This is an easy one, and it has to be Franc Reyes continuing to work for my Worst News of the Week. The article says that his Empire was the highest grossing flick to come out of the 2002 Sundance Festival. Well, it grossed a whopping $17.6 million, so hoo rah to Empire, then... Reyes proved he can create some decent characters, but his plot and dialogue were quite attrocious. I guess this is a remake, so he at least has the first plot for a starting point, but God only knows where he will take it from there...probably to boredom, if Empire was any indication.

That's all for this week. Surf on by next week for more box office goodies, websites, trailers and, of course, the best and worst news of week. Take care, folks and always remember: if it looks like a good time, sounds like a good time and feels like a good time...it probably isn't free.