THERE WERE PIRATES UNDER THE TREE

The DVD that most people gave as a gift at Christmas time turned out to be Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The movie returned to the top of the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert chart last week after being displaced a week earlier by Sony's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which fell to fourth place. The football drama Invincible, also from Disney,bowed in second place, ahead of the dance drama Step-Up, yet another Disney film. However, Warner's Lady in the Water, the M. Night Shyamalan theatrical flop, looked like it would do no better on home video as it debuted at No. 13 on the sales chart.

DISNEY'S THEME-PARK BIZ PICKS UP -- AND HOW!

The Walt Disney Co., which saw attendance at its theme parks plunge following the 9/11 attacks and only recently begin to rise again, got good news and bad on Wednesday. Crowds wanting to get into Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Disney-MGM Studios were so huge that officials at the three parks were forced to close each of them down at various times. The bad news: Those who couldn't get in, many with crying kids in their cars, were understandably angered, and the last thing that Disney wants to contend with is angry visitors to its theme parks. Some of them waited out the closures by filing into Epcot, Disney's least popular attraction at the Florida site and the only one that did not shut down. The Orlando Sentinel reported that it was not unusual for Magic Kingdom to be shut down because of huge crowds -- it was forced to close for 55 minutes on Christmas day -- but no one could recall the last time that three parts of Disney World had to limit access on the same day.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SELECTS NEW FILMS FOR PRESERVATION

Twenty-five new films have been selected for preservation for posterity by the Library of Congress. Among the films to be included in the National Film registry are Blazing Saddles (1974), Fargo (1996), Groundhog Day (1993), Halloween (1978), Rocky (1976), and sex, lies and videotape (1989). The list includes several films dating back to the silent era and the early days of sound, including the 1913 movie Traffic in Souls.

ROCKY'S COMEBACK REVIVES MGM'S FRANCHISE

MGM will not only make money in theaters from its release of Rocky Balboa, the sixth Rocky film, but it also stands to make big bucks from the older Rocky movies, the London Financial Times observed today (Thursday). "We own the first five movies and have set DVD catalogue promotions around the world to coincide with the release of Rocky Balboa," Rick Sands, chief operating officer of MGM, told the FT. Sands said that a promotional Rocky DVD pack being offered by Wal-Mart is "selling very big numbers." Sands also observed that the studio has relicensed TV rights so that the older films can be rebroadcast around the time of the current movie release.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE PAINTED VEIL

In past years this would have been the time of year for the period dramas of Merchant and Ivory to be released. The Painted Veil reminds several critics of those films. This third version of W. Somerset Maugham's novel receives respectful reviews from most of them and much praise for the performances of Edward Norton and Naomi Watts in the leading roles from nearly all. (The two stars are also producers of the film, and Norton, in particular, was said to have worked diligently to bring it to the screen.) Manohla Dargis in the New York Times calls Norton "an inveterate stealer and masticator of scenes" who is "very fine here." She writes that Watts, whose character keeps her nose in the air throughout "risks our love and earns our awe, ensuring that we never lose sight of the woman even when the film almost does." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News writes that the film expands on Maugham's original insights and ideas. "The result," he concludes, "is a thoroughly grown-up movie that compellingly thinks its way through the toughest matters of the heart." But Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times takes the filmmakers to task for remaining "at a British remove." She continues, "It's hard to see this lush and stately adaptation ... as anything other than a missed opportunity for some prime psychological spelunking into the dark regions of the soul."

MOVIE REVIEWS: CHILDREN OF MEN

Among this month's "movies for adults," Children of Men from director Alfonso Cuarón is receiving much four-star praise. The movie, set in a worn-torn 2027, is being called a masterpiece by not a few critics. One of them is Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe,who comments: "This is an extraordinary artistic breakthrough from a Mexican director who was already fearlessly good to begin with." Gene Seymour in Newsday writes that it "offers inventive energy, ferocious intelligence, and yet, affirmation of life against the most calamitous circumstances." Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post credits Cuarón for creating "the most deeply imagined and fully realized world to be seen on screen this year, not to mention bravura sequences that bring to mind names like Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick." Geoff Pevere in the Toronto Star calls the movie "sometimes astoundingly effective" and "a formidably distinguished piece of pop filmmaking." And Manohla Dargis in the New York Times observes that Cuarón's film "is a gratifying sign that big studios are still occasionally in the business of making ambitious, intelligent work that speaks to adults."

Brian B.