LATEST PIRATES ALREADY SETS A RECORD

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End will open in 4,362 theaters this weekend, beating the record of 4,252 set earlier this month by Spider-Man 3. (It's estimated that Pirates will appear on more than 11,000 screens.) The question being batted around by analysts is, will the film exceed Spider-Man 3's record-setting opening weekend in ticket sales? Working against it is the fact that, unlike Spider-Man 3, World's End faces some stiff competition for its opening, including Spider-Man 3 itself, as well as Shrek the Third, which opened only last week. On the other hand, the film will be debuting over the four-day Memorial Day holiday, and some theaters have indicated they'll be keeping staff at work -- at least to run the three top movies -- 24 hours per day.

DEPP: "I WAS NO BLOCKBUSTER BOY"

Johnny Depp, who had previously been known -- if he had been known at all -- for his quirky performances in such art-house faves as Edward Scissorhands, Benny & Joon, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, and Ed Wood, has told a British interviewer that Pirates of the Caribbean "did a big flip for my career." Speaking to the London Daily Telegraph Depp described himself as "the guy who had been bouncing around the film industry for years and years and I'd been lucky if five or 10 people would see my movies." He indicated that producers had shied away from casting him in a major film because he wasn't "Blockbuster Boy." He said that he decided to take the original Pirates movie, which most entertainment writers had initially regarded as merely a promotion for Disney's theme-park ride, out of "pure instinct. I didn't know it was going to be such a huge hit." He added that he regards himself as "the luckiest guy in the world to have had such a great experience."

STAR WARS FANS CELEBRATE FILM'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY

Thousands of devoted Star Wars fans are participating in a marathon showing of all six Star Wars episodes at an officially sponsored convention at the Los Angeles Convention center today (Friday), part of an anniversary celebration marking the May 25, 1977 opening of the original George Lucas movie. Meanwhile, The History Channel posted a preview of its Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed on its website Thursday. The two-hour documentary focuses on the emotional impact the movie made and why it continues to do so today. It is due to air on Monday, May 28 at 9:00 p.m.

SCORSESE REVEALS CONTROVERSIAL FILM SET IN JAPAN

Martin Scorsese has disclosed that he is planning to direct a movie, set in 17th-century Japan, that may have implications related to the war in Iraq. In an interview with the Associated Press at the Cannes film festival, Scorsese said that his film, Silence, presumably based on the novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo and William Johnston about Portuguese Christian missionaries who arrived in Japan in feudal times, has parallels to America's role in Iraq. The Oscar-winning director (The Departed) said that he hopes to shoot the film in Japan, at least partially, beginning next summer. "It raises a lot of questions about foreign cultures coming in and imposing their way of thinking on another culture they know nothing about," Scorsese told the A.P.

MOVIE REVIEWS: BUGS

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert is back in the saddle to review Bug, the only other film to brave the juggernaut of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End by premiering this weekend. Ebert heaps praise on the William Friedkin movie, which stars Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, and Harry Connick Jr. The movie, he writes, "begins as an ominous rumble of unease and builds to a shriek," and the two stars "achieve a kind of manic intensity that's frightening not just in itself but because you almost fear for the actors." Tirdad Derakhshani in the Philadelphia Inquirer suggests that the film marks the return of Friedkin -- who has not made a film in more than two years -- "at his horrifying best." Comparing Bug with Friedkin's The Exorcist, Derakhshani comments that "the director has summoned that same form of evil dread." To Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, it's "funny and thrilling. The comedy and horror are boiled together, and the fatalistic result might be tragedy, sure. But it's a gonzo kind you can laugh at." Several critics imply that the movie may be the categorical alternative to Pirates of the Caribbean. Writes John Anderson in Newsday: "It's a fascinating exercise in paranoia and terror that sticks to the brain like intellectual flypaper: Even viewers who decide they don't like it will find the film as hard to shake off as the insects that plague our two principal characters." Some reviewers who do not like it do their best at shaking it off." Claudia Puig in USA Today comments: "Bug won't get under your skin as much as it will assault you with its ghastly claustrophobic drama and over-the-top performances." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News spurns it as "a wacky psychological snow job." Kyle Smith in the New York Post is impressed with the first two-thirds of the film, but in the final third, "the audience has a right to expect more than it gets: five-page monologues that amount to acting exercises, and a dramatic dead end."

Brian B.