SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE IS CRITICS' CHOICE

Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, which has been piling up more pre-Oscar awards than any other film, added another on Thursday from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. At its Critics Choice awards ceremony in Santa Monica, CA, the group awarded five trophies to the movie's filmmakers, including best picture. Boyle received the award for best director, Simon Beaufoy for writer, Dev Patel for young actor/actress, and A.R. Rahman for composer. Sean Penn was named best actor for his performance in Milk. (The entire cast of Milk, including Penn, was also awarded the top ensemble trophy.) The leading actress category wound up a tie -- with the BFCA recognizing Anne Hathaway for her role in Rachel Getting Married and Meryl Streep, for hers in Doubt. Heath Ledger won a posthumous award in the supporting actor category for The Dark Knight, while Kate Winslet won the supporting actress award for The Reader. Slumdog Millionaire's Boylewas also among the directors nominated for top honors by the Directors Guild of America Thursday. Others included Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon).

PRODUCERS CHIME IN ON WATCHMEN DISPUTE

Producer Larry Gordon has fired off a letter to the federal judge who ruled last week that Fox owns distribution rights to Watchmen, saying that he did not understand the 1994 turnaround agreement under which the studio allowed him to shop the film to other studios because it made no mention of a 1991 quit-claim agreement granting Fox distribution rights and a share of the profits if he made the film elsewhere. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess called Gordon's letter an "improper communication" and said he would not read it. The website Hifi.com also published a letter from Lloyd Levin, another producer of Watchmen, noting that he had spent "15 years plus" trying to to get the movie made and that every other studio, except Warner Bros., had turned down the project, which, he revealed, also called for shooting an additional 1-1.5 hours of content that would "only be featured in DVD iterations of the film." He then asked, "Should Fox have any claim on something they could have had but chose to neither support nor show any interest in?" Levin concludes: "The question of what is right is clear and unambiguous -- Fox should stand down with its claim."

BOX OFFICE LIKELY TO MAKE EASTWOOD'S DAY

Two new movies are opening wide over the weekend, but both are likely to be overtaken by one that has been running in limited release and will now be expanding nationwide. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, which has been performing spectacularly in a handful of theaters, is expected to earn $20-25 million, as it challenges Fox's romantic comedy Bride Wars, starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, which analysts figure should earn $18-22 million. Also opening is Sony's "supernatural thriller" The Unborn, starring Gary Oldman and Odette Yustman (not screened for critics), which is predicted to earn $8-10 million. A third movie, Not Easily Broken, is opening in about 700 theaters. (A.O. Scott of the New York Times, noting that the producers had scheduled few press screenings for the movie, concluded, "This is the kind of picture that will probably meet with critical indifference."

MOVIE REVIEWS: BRIDE WARS

Fox should probably not have invited critics to the Bride Wars wedding, although several of them express sympathy for the actresses playing the brides, Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times comments that they "are good actors and quick-witted women, here playing characters at a level of intelligence approximating HAL 9000 after he has had his chips pulled." Similarly Betsy Sharkey remarks in the Los Angeles Times: "For Hudson and particularly Hathaway, both fine actresses, you hope they will really think twice before committing to another Bride Wars by any name." Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer goes further: "How bad can a movie be, with Goldilocks Hudson and Cinderella Hathaway?" she asks. "So excruciating that Hudson's sunshine can't warm it and Hathaway's rose redolence can't mask its stink. It's the rotten -- and possibly, poisoned -- apple of fairy-tale movies." As for Candice Bergen, who plays a wedding planner in the movie, Lou Lumenick in the New York Post comments that she "seems intensely bored as the wedding planner of both women -- and she will have plenty of company in the audience."

Cinemark Movie Club