MOVIES VS. SUPER BOWL: NO CONTEST

The competition at the box office this weekend will not only occur between movies but also between movies and the Super Bowl. With that in mind two studios have decided to debut a chick flick and a horror flick, the only types of films that have shown a chance of luring moviegoers away from their TV sets. Universal is opening the Diane Keaton starrer Because I Said So, while Sony is debuting The Messengers (the latter without the benefit -- or distraction -- of a screening for critics). On the other hand, last week's top films, Epic Movie and Smokin' Aces, are expected to be thrown for a mighty big loss in their second week. In limited release, the Weinstein Co.'s controversial Factory Girl, about Andy Warhol clan member Edie Sedgwick, starring Sienna Miller in the title role, is scheduled to open in three theaters.

MOVIE REVIEWS: BECAUSE I TOLD YOU

Many critics are expressing downright sadness over Diane Keaton's latest turn as an overbearing mother in Because I Told You. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post calls her performance "a steep drop" from her earlier films. "The beloved actress is scraping below the bottom of the barrel with this desperately unfunny farce," he writes. Carina Cocano in the Los Angeles Times remarks that Keaton "has been reduced to a set of basic features (neurotic isolation, emotional frigidity, clumsiness) served up in the most infantilizing manner." Writes Jan Stewart in Newsday: "[It's] like watching a Keaton character that has weathered a concussion and pulled out of a coma 25 years later, her trademark eccentricities intact but ratcheted up to the nth degree." Stephen Cole in the Toronto Globe and Mail calls the movie, "a 105-minute cringe-a-thon that reduces the Katharine Hepburn of her generation to a sitcom harpy presiding over a brood of Valley Girl chicks." The problem, Michael Phillips observes in the Chicago Tribune, lies not so much with Keaton's performance but with everything else about the film, from script to direction. It amounts, he says, to "formulaic romantic junk." It's worse, writes Claudia Puig in USA Today: "It's so derivative, unfunny and thuddingly bad that it's one of the more cringe-inducing movies of a genre chock-full of clunkers," she comments, noting that Keaton's performance is "grating, mannered and often horribly slapstick." Still, Carrie Rickey staunchly comes to Keaton's defense in the Philadelphia Inquirer, writing, "Keaton is a national treasure, always worth the visit even when, as is the case of Because I Said So, her movie isn't."

U.K. MOVIE CHAINS YANK NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

Angered by Fox's decision to release Night at the Museum on DVD just 97 days after it opened in British theaters, several top theater chains in the country have shut down the movie, Daily Variety reported today (Friday). The trade publication noted that a similar exhibitor revolt occurred last weekend in Germany when several theater operators pulled all Fox films to protest the studio's decision to release Eragon on DVD early. Ordinarily movies are released to home video four to five months after their theatrical release. Fox maintained, however, that it had not changed its general policy and that the decision to release Museum on DVD on April 2 was tied to the early arrival of the Easter holiday shopping season this year.

DISNEY SAYS IT HAS SOLD 1.3 MILLION MOVIES ON ITUNES

The Walt Disney Co., the only major film company that has permitted its movies to be distributed online via Apple's iTunes Music Store, said Thursday that it has sold 1.3 million movie downloads since they became available for downloading last October. Other studios have shunned the Apple store, concerned that major brick-and-mortar retailers, particularly Wal-Mart and Target, which account for 50 percent of DVD sales, would be angered by the lower pricing that Apple insists upon and retaliate. (Apple points out that its online downloads lack many of the "extras" that are included in DVD packages.) In an interview with the London Financial Times, Disney CEO Robert Iger remarked, "Have we had discussions with these retailers? Yes, absolutely. In general, our relationship with these retailers is in good shape." He indicated that store sales have not been affected by online sales. "We are growing market share rather than moving business from one platform to another," he said.

Brian B.