CHRISTMAS TREASURE

It appeared Tuesday that National Treasure: Book of Secrets would wind up with about $65 million for the five-day Christmas holiday. The figure, released by Walt Disney Pictures on Tuesday, was based on actual receipts through Monday and an estimate for Tuesday. However, a wild card for Tuesday was the opening of the latest Aliens vs. Predator movie, which was expected to compete for the same audience that would ordinarily be attracted to Treasure. Final results are due to be announced later today (Wednesday). Warner Bros.' I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, was expected to finish the holiday in second place with about $47.5 million, bringing its 12-day total for $150.8 million. Twentieth Century Fox's Alvin & the Chipmunks was expected to finish in third place. However, the studio declined to issue a five-day estimate, saying that it was impossible to forecast business for Christmas Day. It had taken in $32.8 million from Friday through Monday. Universal estimated that its comedy, Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, had earned about $14.75 million, while DreamWorks figured its Sweeney Todd musical would take in $12.75 million. Sony's Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story was widely believed to have bombed. The studio said that it had earned just $4.7 million through Monday with little hope for a significant pick-up in receipts on Tuesday.

WILSON ON WILSON

Former Democratic Congressman Charlie Wilson of Texas has given a thumbs-up to Charlie Wilson's War, the film about his secret efforts to funnel U.S. funds to the Afghan mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviets during the 1980s. In an interview with the Beaumont, TX Enterprise, Wilson said, "There were certain sins of omission, but that will always occur when you're trying to take 90 minutes out of a book. To cover all the important scenes would take four hours. The screenwriter [Aaron Sorkin] did a great job in condensing it." Wilson also indicated that he was thrilled that Tom Hanks ended up in the title role. "I didn't think anybody would be playing me in a movie, but certainly not the most famous movie star in the world," he said. He added that the actor made him look "better than I really am." He also suggested that he's delighted with the number of interview requests he has received of late. "There is nothing an old politician likes better than a little attention," he said.

MOVIE REVIEWS: ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM

Only a handful of critics managed to get a look at Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem before it opened Tuesday. And they savaged it. Among seven online reviews tracked by the Rotten Tomatoes website six were negative. "A dull actioner that looks like a bad video game," was the way Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter referred to it. On the other hand, Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times (the only major newspaper to publish a review of it) concludes, "It may not be classic sci-fi like the original Alien, which it has in its DNA, but it's a perfectly respectable next step in the series."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Already showered with awards from critics groups, There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Dillon Freasier, is opening in New York and Los Angeles today to universal acclaim. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times describes Day-Lewis's performance as "thrilling ... among the greatest I've seen, purposefully alienating and brilliantly located at the juncture between cinematic realism and theatrical spectacle." She also has high praise for the director, Paul Thomas Anderson. "It proves a breakthrough for him as a filmmaker," she writes. Overall, she concludes, the film is "a consummate work of art. ... It reveals, excites, disturbs, provokes, but the window it opens is to human consciousness itself." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes that Day-Lewis delivers "the best movie performance so far this century." And Anderson's direction, he adds, "reaches for comparisons with Citizen Kane and Giant and often achieves them." The combination of Anderson and Day-Lewis is "an ideal match," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. He points out however that the Upton Sinclair novel on which it is based was intended "for political purpose more than for dramatic effect so that the movie "has a weakness for the didactic." Nevertheless, he concludes, "in its willingness to push everything, even personality, to extremes, this is a film with the defects of its virtues, so it's fortunate that those virtues are very great indeed."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE GREAT DEBATERS

The Great Debaters, directed by Denzel Washington is receiving mostly respectful reviews. Stephen Holden in the New York Times observes that it "may not aspire to be more than inspirational pop entertainment in the Oprah Winfrey mode (Ms. Winfrey is one of its producers), but unlike so many films of its ilk, it doesn't insult your intelligence. And it reminds you that social history airbrushed for the screen by Hollywood is preferable to none at all." Likewise, Bob Straus in the Los Angeles Daily News observes that "formulaic and manipulative as Debaters is, it's also smarter, wider-ranging and way, way better-acted than the average inspiring instructional." And Gene Seymour in Newsday suggests that the film's primary fault is that it fails to be sufficiently challenging. "You admire the film for trying to get moviegoers worked up over protagonists who use rhetoric and reason as weapons instead of guns and fists. You lament that it doesn't trust its material enough to do much more than flatter its audience's good intentions," he writes.

CHOREOGRAPHER MICHAEL KIDD DEAD AT 92

Choreographer Michael Kidd, whose credits include the movie version of Guys and Dolls and original film musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Band Wagon, has died at the age of 92. On Broadway, he choreographed Finian's Rainbow, Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Li'l Abner and Destry Rides Again. Although no Oscar was ever awarded for choreography, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did award Kidd a special award in 1997 for "his services in the art of the dance in the art of the screen."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.