A BOURNE LEADER

Matt Damon's latest movie proved that it was a Bourne leader at the box office over the weekend. In fact, The Bourne Ultimatum led all movies ever released in August as it drew an estimated $70 million and helped lift the overall box office 35 percent over the same weekend a year ago. The original Bourne movie, The Bourne Identity, registered $27.1 million in 2002. It was followed in 2004 with The Bourne Supremacy, which took in $52.5 million.In its second week, 20th Century Fox's The Simpsons Movie -- the box-office winner last weekend -- plunged 65 percent to $25.6 million. Nevertheless, its strong midweek grosses brought its domestic total to $128.5 million over 10 days. It has earned almost the same amount overseas. Arriving in third place was Disney's Underdog, which was not screened for critics (see below). The film grossed an estimated $12 million -- about what Disney had expected. Two other newcomers fell flat. The comedy Hot Rod starring former Saturday Night Live costar Andy Samberg earned only $5 million to wind up in ninth place, while the "tween" film Bratz went blatz with $4.3 million to finish tenth.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. The Bourne Ultimatum, $70.2 million; 2. The Simpsons Movie, $25.6 million; 3. Underdog, $12 million; 4. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, $10.5 million; 5. Hairspray, $9.3 million; 6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, $9.3 million; 7. No Reservations, $6.6 million; 8. Transformers, $6 million; 9. Hot Rod, $5 million; 10. Bratz, $4.3 million.

SIMPSONS CONTINUE TO RULE OVERSEAS

Overseas, the Simpsons remained the first family as The Simpsons Movie piled up an additional $47.3 million in 75 countries, according to Daily Variety. (Universal plans to begin rolling out The Bourne Ultimatum overseas next week.) The trade publication noted that four other pictures also produced solid results overseas, including Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ratatouille and a Korean monster flick, D-War, which together raked in $100 million. As expected of a Disney film set in France, Ratatouille took in $11.2 million in that country, making it the second-largest opening for a Disney film after Finding Nemo.

MOVIE REVIEWS: UNDERDOG

It's always a bad sign when studios decide not to screen a movie for critics. When Disney doesn't do it, it's even a worse sign, since the studio does not routinely keep movies under wraps that it feels critics will hate. After watching Underdog after it opened on Friday, Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News concluded that the studio had made a "mistake" in withholding the film. In a review that appeared on Saturday, Mathews wrote, "Many adults like talking animals, too, and the animated lip movements and gestures computer-attached to the faces of this film's star beagle and other neighborhood hounds are terrific." Likewise, Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News wrote: "Underdog exists primarily to spotlight a cute doggie who, through the magic of CGI, can talk, fly, snap chili cans in half with his jaws, dig big holes and bark loud enough to shatter a postman's glasses. That will sit fine with young children, dog lovers and connoisseurs of butt-sniffing humor." Other critics were less forgiving. Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times concluded: "Underdog may have been originally created to sell cereal for General Mills, but this latest incarnation couldn't sell Frisbees at a dog park." Sam Adams summed up in the Los Angeles Times: "The movie's sloppiness is galling, especially given its target audience. It's one thing to feed grown-ups junk and another to serve it to consumers too young to know they're being had." But Kyle Smith in the New York Post commented that "you could ask for a worse time of it than to watch a dog chasing a car -- and catching it," and offered this idea for a sequel: "Underdog vs. Michael Vick."

REDSTONE MAY SPLIT WITH SECOND WIFE

Sumner Redstone's turbulent family relations have taken a new turn with word that he may soon end his marriage to Paula Fortunato, who had reportedly become closely involved in the decision-making process at Redstone's Viacom business. Last year Redstone disclosed that he had ended his company's business relationship with Tom Cruise at the behest of his wife. "The truth of the matter is I did listen to her," he told Vanity Fair. "His behavior was entirely unacceptable to Paula and to the rest of the world." Meanwhile, it was being reported that Redstone is attempting to mend his relations with daughter Shari by buying out her 20 percent stake in National Amusements, a holding company for Viacom and CBS, in exchange for granting her operating control of National Amusements' theater chain.

Brian B.