Mel Gibson's career avoided the fate of the Mayan civilization over the weekend as his Apocalypto debuted at the top of the box office with an estimated $14.2 million. The film not only overcame the devastating public outcry that was attendant upon Gibson's drunk driving arrest and subsequent anti-Semitic rant, it also overcame mixed reviews from critics and predictions by box office analysts that a film with no recognizable stars and spoken in a foreign language was a certain failure. (New York Observercritic Rex Reed described Apocalyptoas "a movie nobody wants to see, featuring hundreds of people nobody has ever heard of, speaking a language nobody can understand.") But if Apocalyptoemerged as a solid hit, Blood Diamond, which challenged it for the young male audience, proved to be made of zirconium. To the relief of jewelry-store owners everywhere, the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer about how the diamond trade helped support bloody revolutions in Africa earned just $8.5 million and wound up in fifth place. Debuting in second was the chick-flick comedy The Holiday, which brought in $13.5 million, followed by the fourth week of Warner Bros.' Happy Feet,which took in about $12.7 million to bring its total to $137.7 million. With two new action/adventure films to contend with Sony/MGM's Casino Royale made do with $8.8 million. It has now grossed $128.9 million in four weeks.

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

1. Apocalypto, $14.2 million; 2.The Holiday, $13.5 million; 3. Happy Feet, $12.7 million; 4. Casino Royale,$8.8 million; 5. Blood Diamond, $8.5 million; 6. Unaccompanied Minors, $6.2 million; 7. Déjà Vu, $6.1 million; 8.The Nativity Story,$5.6 million;9. Deck the Halls,$3.9 million; 10. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, $3.3 million.


Mel Gibson's recent travails were merged with the action in the Apocalypto trailer on NBC's Saturday Night Live over the weekend. The resulting spoof was quickly posted online and shows a tribe of Mayans yelling (according to the subtitles), "The Jews are coming, run for your lives." At the end, a small, undernourished girl is seen turning toward the camera and remarking (again, according to the subtitles), "I smell bagels." Bloggers had a field day with the video, one of them calling it "pretty damn funny."


Sony may have miscalculated when it decided to include the advanced high-definition Blu-ray drive in its PlayStation 3 devices. While Sony is marketing the device as the possible center of a home theater system, the average game-device buyer is not necessarily looking to play high-definition movies with it, several analysts have concluded. Yankee Group analyst Michael Goodman told Reuters, "Blu-ray is adding $150 to $200 to the product. They've created something that is not for today's market. It's not a market driver, it's only driving the price higher."


Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima, which presents the bloody World War II battle from a Japanese viewpoint (and is the companion film to his Flags of Our Fathers), has been named best picture of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Eastwood himself, however, did not win the best director prize, which instead went to Paul Greengrass for United 93.In a surprise, the group reported a tie in the best-actor category, handing out awards to Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. Helen Mirren won for best actress for her performance in the title role of The Queen.Meanwhile, the Boston Society of Film Critics awarded Martin Scorsese The Departed (which coincidentally is set in Boston) its best-picture prize. The Boston critics also selected Whitaker and Mirren for the actors prizes.


Only days after they had announced they were forming a new company to distribute faith-based movies, Bob and Harvey Weinstein said that they intend to open a slasher movie called Black Christmason Christmas day. On her website, L.A. Weeklycolumnist Nikki Finke commented: "And the entertainment industry wonders why it continues to have a huge PR problem as promoters of garbage? Showbiz marketing calls this counter-programming. Still, I don't understand: just how many disturbed human beings does The Weinstein Company and MGM think actually want to go see a gory movie on December 25th?"