BOX OFFICE BATTLE UP IN THE AIR ... OR ON THE OCEAN

Moviegoers are likely to be at sea over what to take in at the multiplex this weekend as Ocean's 13 opens against Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Although Pirates had been expected to dominate the box office during its first weeks in release, it had already been overtaken by the R-rated comedy Knocked Up by its eleventh day. And while Ocean's has a huge all-star cast and brand recognition, it, too, may not be able to overcome the enthusiastic word-of-mouth that Knocked Up has generated. (It was the top film at the box office from Monday through Thursday.) There'll also be counter-programming competition from the horror film Hostel Part II and from the family animated movie Surf's Up, about a surfing penguin.

MOVIE REVIEWS: OCEAN'S 13

It's not all clear sailing for Ocean's 13, but for the most part, critics are giving it a free pass. Jan Stuart in Newsday suggests that the only thing that matters "is that for two hours, life as you drearily know it is effectively suspended and a summery delirium takes over." Claudia Puig in USA Today makes the case that "this slick bauble of a movie qualifies as the best of the summer 'threequels.'" Manohla Dargis in the New York Times calls it "a gas" and she apparently means that literally, writing, "It's lighter than air, prettier than life, a romp, a goof and an attentively oiled machine." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times figures "most moviegoers will probably feel they got their money's worth, and that's the bottom line. But I grew impatient with the lickety-split pacing." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News concludes that the movie's plot "is sometimes clever, often funny and almost never believable." Likewise, Joel Seigel commented on Good Morning America: "Complicated? How about preposterous. But it's fun. It's funny." And Lou Lumenick in the New York Post refers to it as "the least overbearing of the franchise installments rolled out so far." But if these critics are willing to give the Steven Soderbergh film the benefit of a doubt, other critics are not. Michael Phillips in the Chicago Sun Times complains that the movie "offers criminally little in the way of moviegoing pleasure." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times comments: "Though it's certainly serviceable as the second sequel to a remake, it lacks the brio and elan that made the 2001 film such a treat." And Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post begins his review by remarking "Ocean's Thirteen is too complicated for its own mediocrity."

MOVIE REVIEWS: SURF'S UP

The penguins have returned to the theaters. And, like their brethren before them, they're being warmly greeted by critics. Writes Claudia Puig in USA Today: "Though it doesn't have the rousing musical numbers of Happy Feet or the fascinating saga and emotion of March of the Penguins, Surf's Up is yet another entertaining film featuring penguins." Comparing the penguin movies, Liam Lacey concludes in the Toronto Globe & Mail: "This new animated feature, in contrast to the environmental earnestness of March of the Penguins and Happy Feet, gives penguins back to the world of clowns." Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times calls it "a clever, delightfully rendered summer diversion." And to those who may conclude that they've already seen enough penguins on the screen, Glenn Whipp responds in the Los Angeles Daily News: "You'll be amazed at the film's fresh approach." And Nancy Churnin in the Dallas Morning News, who admits she was prepared to give yet another penguin movie "a hard time," remarks, "Well, sorry, cynics, Surf's Up is a charmer."

MOVIE REVIEWS: HOSTEL II

Hostel II was apparently screened for just a handful of critics. The studio shouldn't have bothered. Those critics who did see the movie wrote reviews that included comments like this one by Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune: "You live in a free country, you put up with crud like Hostel Part II. It truly is crud, though. The film is the definition of torture porn, and regarding the Motion Picture Association of America's business-friendly, brain-free decision to give it an R rating: If this film gets by with an R, then what is left to warrant an NC-17?"

CONNERY WON'T RETURN FOR INDIANA JONES SEQUEL

Sean Connery will not give up retirement to play Indiana Jones's father again. In a statement posted on Lucasfilm's Indiana Jones website, Connery said that he had "thought long and hard about" returning to films, "and if anything could have pulled me out of retirement it would have been an Indiana Jones film. I love working with Steven and George, and it goes without saying that it is an honor to have Harrison as my son. [Connery is 76; Ford is 64.] But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun."

NETFLIX SHARES RISE ON RUMORS

Shares of online DVD renter Netflix soared nearly 6 percent Thursday (on a day that the Dow Jones average took a nearly 200-point dive), on persistent rumors that the company may be acquired by Amazon.com. Shares of the company had been declining on continuing warnings by analysts that the company's profits could be sent sliding by video-on-demand services from cable and Internet companies. However, as Business Week observed in its online edition today (Friday), none of those services has "yet to put a dent in the company's profits." The magazine cited a report by Forrester Research that concluded that fewer than 10 percent of all adults has ever paid to download a movie or TV show, while Netflix alone grossed $997 million last year.

HANDMADE FILMS REPORTS BETTER-THAN-EXPECTED CANNES RESULTS

HandMade PLC, the British film company founded by the late Beatle George Harrison, outfaced a falling London Stock Exchange Thursday as it posted a 5.2 percent gain on a report that it had returned from the Cannes Film Festival last month with more than $50 million in sales, more than twice its target. Topping the list of new films sold at Cannes was a planned U.S. remake of the 1980 British gangland feature, The Long Good Friday, which Harrison was credited with rescuing after it failed to find a distributor. Sony Pictures Entertainment reportedly acquired North American rights to the movie, to be directed by Paul W. Anderson (Alien Vs. Predator, Resident Evil) at Cannes for an undisclosed amount.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.