i>SUPERBAD, THE SUPERHERO?

Five films are opening wide this weekend but none is expected to unseat Superbad from the top of the box office. The Judd Apatow comedy is expected to gross about $18-22 million, according to analyst, while the Jet Li/Jason Stratham action movie War is likely to come in a close second with $16-20 million. The Nanny Diaries, starring Scarlett Johansson, is expected to vie for third place with Mr. Bean's Holiday, starring Rowan Atkinson. Each is expected to debut with about $7-10 million. Analysts say that the relatively low-budget Resurrecting the Champ, starring Josh Hartnett and Samuel L. Jackson, will not take in more than $5 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: WAR

War, the film that reportedly stands to be the strongest rival to last weekend's champ Superbad at the box office, was not shown to U.S. film critics. But Toronto-based Lionsgate, the studio that is releasing it, did show it to critics in Canada. (Most of it was shot in Vancouver.) Their reviews show why the film was held back from critics on this side of the border. "An irrelevant, joyless bore," is the way Jason McBride describes it in the Toronto Globe and Mail. On the other hand Rob Salem in the Toronto Star acknowledges that while the story is "complicated," and even sometimes "deliberately unclear," it's not worth trying to figure out. "How much do these things really matter in this sort of escapist enterprise?" he asks.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE NANNY DIARIES

Virtually all of the reviews of The Nanny Diaries compare it with The Devil Wears Prada. In this case, Laura Linney portrays a Park Avenue socialite determined (like the Meryl Streep character in Prada) to control her relationships with others -- including the character played by Scarlett Johansson, a student hired to care for the Linney character's son. As Stephen Holden observes in the New York Times, both Nanny and Prada "follow the same formulaic path from naïveté to shock to disillusionment and ultimately to purification. In both stories the dutiful young acolytes become so caught up in their bosses' horrid compulsions that their very souls are threatened." But Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle says that Prada "is a tough act to follow" and that the new movie especially pales by comparison. "It might have seemed like solid, sufficiently mindless summer entertainment otherwise," he writes. Likewise Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune concludes that Prada "turned out a lot richer than this one." Still Laura Linney receives as many rave reviews for her role in Nanny as Streep did for her similar role in Prada. Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post begins his review of the movie this way: "Love me or hate me, you must agree with me on one thing as immutable as the laws of physics (or else I will beat you up): Laura Linney is a great actress." And Gene Seymour in Newsday comments that Linney "shows again why she's among our best actors."

MOVIE REVIEWS: MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY

It's really quite simple. If you're a Mr. Bean fan, you're likely to go see Mr. Bean's Holiday. If you aren't, you won't. Same with the critics, it seems. If they already have favorably reviewed the past Mr. Bean movies, they'll like to do the same with this one. Bill Zwecker in the Chicago Sun-Times writes a full disclosure at the beginning of his review that he's "an unabashed Mr. Bean fan." And while noting that the pace of the movie is sometimes "off-kilter" (the same can be said for the earlier movies and the Mr. Bean TV shows), he concludes, "Bean addicts will, as always, be happy to see Atkinson's alter ego return to the big screen." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe remarks that the movie is "a throwback to a strain of gentle, purely visual Euro-slapstick that has all but died out in the past few decades. Even when the movie's coming up empty, you're glad it's in there pitching." On the other hand, Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times finds the movie no more than an expanded version of a Mr. Bean TV show. "Many of the sequences are labored and feel drawn out to justify a feature-length running time. There's maybe 20 minutes' worth of smiles here and only a couple of big laughs," he writes. Clearly Claudia Puig in USA Today was hardly amused at all, writing, "If you've been lobotomized or have the mental age of a kindergartener, Mr. Bean's Holiday is viable comic entertainment. Otherwise, there are far better ways to spend 90 minutes of your time."

MOVIE REVIEWS: RESURRECTING THE CHAMP

Resurrecting the Champ, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett is receiving some knock-out reviews. Roger Ebert's in the Chicago Sun-Times is as intriguing as he finds the movie. "There are developments in this movie that I don't want to hint at, especially since they surprised me, and you should have the same pleasure," he writes. "They call into question, let us say, people's motives for doing things, and what happens when two people have the misfortune to find that their motives are a good fit." Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times comments that the movie "delivers a heckuva story marred by some credibility problems but lands the majority of its punches via subtly powerful performances and a moving undercard of paternal connection." But Joanne Kaufman remarks in the Wall Street Journal that the movie "doesn't pack much of a wallop." And Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post dismisses it as "a three-hankie male weeper, full of fuzzy-wuzzy issues."

Brian B.