$300 MILLION IN 10 (K)NIGHTS?

Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight is taking aim at another box-office record, hoping to reach $300 million in domestic ticket sales faster than any other film. Today's (Friday) Daily Variety observed that the movie "has a real shot" at doing so by the end of the weekend, thereby hitting the $300-million mark in 10 days. The current record is held by last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which reached $300 million in 16 days. Star Wars -- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith did it in 17 days and Spider-Man 3 in 19. The chances of The Dark Knight remaining a superforce at the box office this weekend appear to be enhanced by mediocre tracking for the films that are making their debut this weekend, including the new X-Files sequel and the comedy, Step Brothers. "Everyone's playing for No. 2 this weekend," Sony marketing chief Jeff Blake told the Los Angeles Times. Moreover, some analysts have noted that a large percentage of moviegoers who bought tickets for the Batman film earlier in the week were return customers. The film grossed a phenomenal $24.5 million on Monday, $20.9 million on Tuesday and $18.4 million on Wednesday, to bring its total gross on Wednesday to $222.1 million. Assuming that the film earned $15-18 million on Thursday, it would need only to do about 40 percent percent of the business it did last weekend between today and Sunday to hit $300 million in 10 days.

AVID KNIGHT FANS BECOME CRITICS' JOKERS

Newspaper critics who failed to shower The Dark Knight with undiluted praise have themselves been deluged with sometimes ferocious criticism from the film's fans, Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein observed today (Friday). Goldstein, who says that he himself admires the film, notes that the latest critic to feel the heat is the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern. (Most reviews of the movie appeared last Wednesday or Thursday, in sync with the early release of the film in many cities; Morgenstern's appeared on Friday, the "official" release date.) Morgenstern told Goldstein, "I've gotten 250 or 300 e-mails, almost all with the vilest, most abusive language you could possibly imagine. I was stunned. These people aren't just discourteous. They're insane." The abusive attacks on Morgenstern spilled over onto other entertainment websites and blogs. "I write for an educated readership and usually the responses to my reviews are courteous and collegial," he remarked. "But this was really ugly. It did feel like a mob."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE

Twentieth Century Fox's The X-Files: I Want to Believe, based on the '90s TV series, has found few believers among the nation's film critics. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times pronounces it "Baggy, draggy, oddly timed and strangely off the mark." Claudia Puig in USA comments that the film "just can't capture the magic" of the original series. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post dismisses it with a ho-hum review, saying that it "is atmospheric and movies briskly, but it's basically TV writ large." In the New York Daily News Elizabeth Weitzman, who admits that she was a fan of the TV series, latches on to the "out there" truth. "The truth is, the mystery pales next to the best X-Files plots," she writes. Also comparing the movie with the TV series, Jan Stuart comments in the Los Angeles Times, "Even at its stride, The X-Files was a load of malarkey. But it was thoughtful malarkey and compulsively watchable. One could say the same about the first two-thirds of The X-Files: I Want to Believe before it spins out of control and into a delirious plane of awfulness." On the other hand, Roger Ebert, who begins his review seeming to make fun of the movie's plot, winds up praising it. "I make it sound a little silly," he acknowledges. "Well, it is a little silly, but it's also a skillful thriller."

MOVIE REVIEWS: STEP BROTHERS

Roger Ebert, who once wrote an X-rated movie titled Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, says that he sat through Step Brothers, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, not laughing but cringing at the dirty language. "I'm sure I've seen movies with more extreme language than Step Brothers, but here it seems to serve no purpose other than simply to exist. In its own tiny way, it lowers the civility of our civilization." But Kyle Smith in the New York Post had no such misgivings about the film, praising Ferrell, Reilly and director Adam McKay, for consistently "trying new situations." For Smith the film amounted to "the funniest film I've seen this year." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post is equally enthusiastic, writing that the plot recipe "works in spades." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe takes a middle seat between those condemning the film and those raving about it, writing that it "is crudely funny, which means that sometimes it's crudely hilarious and more often it's just crude."

SALLY FIELD ENDORSES SAG DISSIDENTS

Sally Field, who won an Oscar for portraying a textile union activist in the movie Norma Rae, has become the first major star to endorse the dissident slate challenging the current leadership of the Screen Actors Guild. In a statement on Thursday, Field urged guild members to vote for the Unite for Strength slate in September's board elections to "end the senseless war with AFTRA and start building a united front of actors." The union's national board is set to meet on Saturday. Although some reports had suggested that the board might agree to submit the studios' "final offer" to the membership for a vote, Daily Variety said today that such action was "unlikely."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.