A GAY OLD TIME AT THIS WEEKEND'S BOX OFFICE

This weekend will reveal whether the massive promotional campaign for Sacha Baron-Cohen's Brüno will pay off at the box office. Few media observers can recall any other recent film receiving so much media attention before its release, largely due to inventive P.R. stunts featuring Baron-Cohen as his Austrian "fashionista" character. While several analysts are predicting that it should rake in as much as $40 million, others put the figure much lower and predict that it will be beaten by last weekend's two top films, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. The film is receiving decidedly mixed reviews. (See separate item.) The Los Angeles Times reported today that Brüno is tracking strongly among young males but poorly among adult women, who seem turned off by it. Also opening wide this weekend is 20th Century Fox's I Love You, Beth Cooper, which, unlike Brüno, has been receiving hardly any publicity at all and is expected to earn about $10-15 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: BRÜNO

Talk about "mixed reviews!" Not only do those for Brüno from the major critic range from disgusted scorn to ecstatic praise but those sentiments can sometimes be found in individual reviews. For example, take Roger Ebert's in the Chicago Sun-Times: "The needle on my internal Laugh Meter went haywire, bouncing among hilarity, appreciation, shock, admiration, disgust, disbelief and appalled incredulity." Ebert awards the film 3 1/2 stars. In the same paragraph, A.O. Scott in the New York Times praises Baron Cohen as "a brilliant slapstick artist and a master of voices," then concludes that the movie "is a lazy piece of work that panders more than it provokes." Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel calls it a "miss-or-hit mockumentary." Claudia Puig in USA Today predicts: "You'll cringe and watch through splayed fingers, but mostly you'll laugh." Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer admits that some of the movie's scenes triggered a gag reflex. "I sincerely can't tell you whether I was choking with laughter or keeping from choking." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post lauds it for being "more gut-bustingly funny than anything else out there right now," but "for all the laughs -- and they are many -- there's a certain been-there, done that feeling to Brüno." Jason Anderson in the Toronto Star makes this odd assessment: "Yeah, the movie's funny. Sometimes it's very funny. But when the biggest celebrities who get punked by Brüno are Paula Abdul and Ron Paul, something's gone wrong." Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times remarks that Baron-Cohen appears to be one part Lenny Bruce and an equal part The Three Stooges. She concludes: "With Bruce there was always a biting moral to the story. With Larry, Curly and Moe, the message was delivered with a bruising bop on the head. Brüno is easy to dismiss as salacious comedy on the cheap, and at times that's what it feels like. But in a world where mercy is a celebrity adoption and the only pain an adulterous governor feels is his own ('Do Cry for Me Argentina'?), Baron Cohen's instincts for outrage are spot on. It's not insight we need at all right now, but a very sharp bonk on the head."

MOYVIE REVIEWS: I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER

When it comes to I Love You, Beth Cooper, most critics don't. These are some of their descriptions. Claudia Puig, USA Today: "This leaden teen comedy is meant to be lively, but it's curiously bland." A.O. Scott, New York Times: a "drab and incoherent teen comedy." Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News: an "unfunny, unoriginal, charmless teen comedy." Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times: "The distance from shameless rip-off to loving homage may not be far, but it is a chasm this film fails to jump." On the other hand, Kyle Smith writes in the New York Post that the movie "isn't especially hilarious, but it has a warm sense of humor instead of a string of gross-out jokes. It'll be a cable mainstay."

WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE LIONS (GATE) DEN?

One week aCfter corporate raider Carl Icahn began increasing his investment in Lions Gate Entertainment (a so-called mini-major studio), the company announced that it will name Mark Rachesky, its largest shareholder, to its list of nominees to the company's board of directors. Analysts described the action as a "defensive move" although Icahn's intentions remain unclear. He is expected to produce his own nominees to the board prior to its annual meeting in September. Icahn has been critical of Lions Gate's management, particularly its $255-million purchase of the TV Guide channel and website. Although he was once Icahn's chief financial adviser, Rachesky has supported management in its set-to with Icahn.

BOB MITCHELL OF BOYS CHOIR FAME DEAD AT 96

If a movie required a boys choir in the 1930's, '40s or '50s, Bob Mitchqell provided it. Whether it was a Catholic one for Going My Way or a Jewish one for The Jolson Story, the Mitchell Boys Choir appeared in more than 100 movies. Mitchell, who got his start as an organist accompanying silent movies in the 1920s -- and returned to that line of work at the Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles 60 years later -- was also the organist for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels during the early years of Dodger Stadium. He died on July 4 at the age of 96, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Cinemark Movie Club