WILL BOX OFFICE HEAT UP AGAIN?

After taking a substantial dip last weekend, the box office is expected to rebound this weekend with a likely tight race between three new releases. Box office analysts disagree about which one will rise to the top, but overall, the sci-fi drama Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne, appears to have the edge. Nevertheless, they note, prerelease buzz has been hot for I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segal (who also starred in last year's Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Finally, there's universal's spy story Duplicity, starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts in her first starring role in five years. Industry watchers regard the movie as a test of her reputation for being Hollywood's biggest female box-office draw.

MOVIE REVIEWS: KNOWING

Roger Ebert is definitely in the minority in his assessment of Knowing. The Chicago Sun-Times critic often finds himself at odds with other reviewers, but in this case he's standing alone against just about every one of them, who give the film one of the worst drubbings of the year. Ebert awards the film four stars and writes that it "is among the best science-fiction films I've seen -- frightening, suspenseful, intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome." Contrast those words with these that conclude Kyle Smith's review in the New York Post: "The movie begins shameless, grows stupid and winds up silly. If the ending had less of the air of a crackpot religion and more pretentiousness, you could almost call it Shyamalanish." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe nearly echo's those words: "Knowing," he writes, "starts off mildly ridiculous, ascends to the full-blown ludicrous, and finally sails boldly off the edge of the absolutely preposterous." Christy Lemire of the Associate Press writes that it is "an early contender for worst movie of the year." But A.O. Scott in the New York Times notes that the audience he saw the movie with appeared to be having a good time. However, he added, "If your intention is to make a brooding, hauntingly allegorical terror-thriller, it's probably not a good sign when spectacles of mass death and intimations of planetary destruction are met with hoots and giggles."

MOVIE REVIEWS: I LOVE YOU, MAN

Numerous critics note in their reviews of I Love You, Man that while Judd Apatow's name is not listed in the credits of the film, his influence is all over it. Despite the suggestion in the title that the film is about gay romance, it's actually about a guy, played by Paul Rudd, who has no male friend to ask to be his best man at his wedding and, when he goes looking for one, he finds Jason Segel. The film is receiving mixed reviews. Mostly, the female critics love it and the male critics don't. Writes Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News: "Rudd ... has never been more relaxed or appealing. Segel is also in top form, clearly having a blast in the macho role he rarely plays. But like all great couples, they're each at their best when they get to be together." Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer concludes her review this way: "Among those buddy films lately called "bromances," ILYM is both the best friend and best man." Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post gives the film three and a half stars, writing that it is "as sweet as it is tart." And Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post concludes that I Love You Man owes its success to "some refreshing touches that make the movie something more than just another snickering celebration of all things testosterone-tinged." But Kyle Smith in the New York Post is in no mood to celebrate this movie at all. "We get dirty jokes that aren't funny, and clean jokes that aren't funny," he writes. "What we don't get, ever, is a reason to care. ... Who cares if a fussy real-estate agent lands a best man for his wedding?" While Christopher Kelly in the Dallas Morning News finds the movie "amiable" enough, he nevertheless writes that it "feels like a clever concept in search of a completely developed movie." On the other hand, Peter Hartlaub advises in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Go ahead into the theater with low expectations. And then be surprised by one of the better comedies of the past year."

MOVIE REVIEWS: DUPLICITY

Duplicity , a spy drama starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owens, continually throws curves at the audience, attempting surprise at every twist. That's both its virtue and its vice, the critics suggest. Roger Ebert writes in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Duplicity is entertaining, but the complexities of its plot keep it from being really involving: When nothing is as it seems, why care? The fun is in watching Roberts and Owen fencing with dialogue, keeping straight faces, trying to read each other's minds." But A.O. Scott in the New York Times has no reluctance to call it "superior entertainment, the most elegantly pleasurable movie of its kind to come around in a very long time." Mike Clark in USA Today credits some superb performances by the stars, along with assists by Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson for the film's success. He concludes: "Hollywood used to produce satisfying, big-star entertainments all year long. Now, for movie lovers, the first four months of the year are as barren as the Mojave Desert. So with its smart writing delivered by an in-synch quartet, savor Duplicity as the ideal spring gift." And has Julia Roberts lost her magic during her hiatus? Well, Lou Lumenick in the New York Post answers that question tentatively: "She's a formidable actress, but, at 41, she finally seems comfortable being a movie star, as well," he writes, "The camera still loves her, and she seems to be having a blast. ... So will audiences, I think."

WAS ICAHN "STABBED IN THE BACK?"

Just when it appeared that corporate raider Carl Icahn and his onetime investment manager Mark Rachesky were uniting in an attempt to take over Lions Gate Entertainment, Rachesky has surprised observers -- possibly including Icahn himself -- by stating in a regulatory filing that he is "principally supportive" of the company's management "and their publicly stated strategies." Icahn, on the other hand, has been bitterly critical of Lions Gate management for racking up "excessive" overhead and for paying $255 million for the TV Guide Network, which, he said, "borders on recklessness." Since Rachesky and Icahn have had a lengthy business relationship, many observers had assumed that they would be allied in a takeover play. (BusinessInsider.com headlined, "Icahn's Former Lieutenant Stabs Him In Back.") Rachesky is the biggest single owner of Lions Gate stock, holding almost 20 percent of the total. Icahn owns 14.5 percent. But Rachesky is also friendly with Michael Burns, vice chairman of Lions Gate, who is now mobilizing shareholders who support the company's strategy. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Burns said, "We are doing all the things we should do to protect our shareholders and the value that has been created in this company by blocking and tackling and building an incredible foundation." Meanwhile, Rachesky said in his filing that he is changing his status in Lionsgate from "passive" to "active," may seek a seat on the board, and may put forth plans, including acquisition proposals, intended to enhance the value of the company's stock.

HD MOVIES TO BE ADDED TO ITUNES LIST

Apple said Thursday that it will begin offering movies for sale and for rent in high definition from its iTunes Store. The HD titles will cost $19.99 to own and $4.99 to rent, about a dollar more than standard-definition fare. While they can be purchased on the same day as their DVD counterparts, they will not be available as rentals until about 30 days after release. Only a handful of titles were mentioned in Apple's news release. Recent blockbusters Twilight and Quantum of Solace can be downloaded on March 21 and 24 respectively, while already released Transporter 3, Punisher: War Zone and "other select titles" are being made available at once.

COHEN MOUNTS ELABORATE PLAN TO DUPE INTERVIEW SUBJECTS

As part of an apparent scheme to conceal his real identity from potential interview subjects, Sasha Baron Cohen and his Bruno production team have set up a series of dummy companies with websites that make them appear to be respectable production houses, TheSmokingGun reported Thursday. One of them, called Amesbury Chase, claims on its website to offer "world class facilities and state-of-the art equipment to help you create dynamic and compelling content." Three other alleged fronts, Chromium Films, Cold Stream Productions and Coral Blue Productions, like Amesbury Chase, use a mailing address that TSG traced to Sunset Blvd. Mailboxes in West Hollywood, CA. One recent interview subject, an admitted racist named Glenn Miller, told TSG that he was paid $2,000 for an interview with Bruno, whom he called "a faggot" but "not a Jew." Miller wrote about the interview on his website and included the telephone number that he was given by Cohen's production associates -- the same number that is listed for each of the four dummy companies.