HOW HIGH IS UP?

There's no disagreement that Disney/Pixar's Up will dominate the box office this weekend. The only disagreement is about how far up its gross will go. Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane predicted Thursday that Up will likely match the $63.1-million opening for WALL-E last June, but other box-office forecasters are predicting much stronger results, given the fervent street buzz and nearly universal critical praise. Several suggest it will have no difficulty beating the $70.5 million take of The Incredibles, the best opening-weekend figure for a Pixar flick -- but that movie did not have the benefit of 3D surcharges going for it, as Up does. Up faces competition from the PG-13-rated horror film, Drag Me to Hell, which returns director Sam Raimi to the horror genre. It also goes up against a slew of recently released blockbusters, including last weekend's winner, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, as well as Terminator: Salvation, Star Trek, Angels and Demons and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

MOVIE REVIEWS: UP (PT. 2)

The raves kept on coming from critics today (Friday) for Disney/Pixar's Up. But they are not completely without fault-finding. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times remarks that in its opening, "Up flies high, borne aloft by a sense of creative flight and a flawlessly realized love story." Nevertheless, she goes on, "the movie remains bound by convention, despite even its modest 3-D depth. This has become the Pixar way. Passages of glorious imagination are invariably matched by stock characters and banal story choices, as each new movie becomes another manifestation of the movie-industry divide between art and the bottom line." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News says that while it "can't quite one-up WALL-E, it offers soaring highs that are bound to enchant viewers of any age." Mick LaSalle comments in the San Francisco Chronicle that the movie "has a moving opening and a satisfying finish, but too much dull stuff in the middle. The movie more than survives -- it even thrives -- but that extra padding, there as a concession to kid-movie formula, should have been tightened up or thrown out altogether." But praise from other critics is undiluted. Tom Maurstad writes in the Dallas Morning News: "It propels the viewer up, up and away in an experience combining smart, imaginative storytelling with dazzling dreamlike visuals, creating an experience that is the special province of animation -- at once utterly convincing and completely impossible." In the Boston Globe, Ty Burr remarks that the movie "is pure vaudeville: a loopy flyaway fantasy that's hysterically funny if only to keep the darkness at bay. It's a wonderful movie -- fit for the whole family and for once I mean that as praise -- but it doesn't seem designed for a higher purpose the way, say, Wall-E did. Up is a breather, a respite, a romp, but one with infinite shades of feeling." Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan notes that "Some films are an obligation to write about, Up is the purest pleasure." And Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes that the movie is "the best directed and written film I've seen thus far in 2009, and quite possibly this century."

NOTE:

A summary of reviews for Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell will appear here on Monday.

DREAMWORKS ANIMATION TO RELEASE 8 FILMS OVER 3 1/2 YEARS

On the eve of the opening of Disney/Pixar's Up, which many critics have predicted will establish a new benchmark for animated fare, Jeffrey Katzenberg -- who himself was once one of Disney's most lionized animation chiefs -- unveiled DreamWorks Animations' production plans for the next three and a half years. Among a slate of eight features will be Shrek Forever After, the third sequel in the studio's lucrative franchise, and Puss in Boots, described as a prequel to Shrek, featuring the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. Other sequels include a 2011 sequel to Kung Fu Panda (subtitled The Kaboom of Doom), and a third installment of the Madagascar franchise. Among the non-sequels is How to Train Your Dragon, due to be released early next year. Each of the films will be released in 3D. In an interview will Home Media Retail magazine, Katzenberg said that his studio has not been affected by the downturn in DVD sales the way others studios have been, noting that customers view them as longterm investments in children's entertainment, which are often replayed dozens of times. "The live-action DVD purchase is really challenging [in this economy]," Katzenberg said. "We're not. We're a toy purchase."

BLOCKBUSTER PUSHING MULTIPLE PLATFORMS FOR MOVIE RENTALS

Criticized for not putting enough marketing push behind its "Anyway You Want" options for renting movies and video games, Blockbuster said Thursday that it will launch an ad campaign on TV and radio describing how its customers enjoy the convenience of using the Internet, kiosks, the mail -- or the old-fashioned "big blue" stores -- when they deal with the company, alternatives that no other company offers. As reported by Home Media Retail magazine, Blockbuster chief Jim Keyes appeared to acknowledge in an address to shareholders Thursday that consumers are slowly making the transition to electronic rentals. "We still do have the largest share of the consumers, and it is our job to make that transition [from physical to digital] for the consumer easy, seamless and virtually invisible," Keyes told the investors.

PIRATE BAY JUDGE HID BIASED VIEWS, SAYS DEFENSE

The Swedish judge in the Pirate Bay case was not selected randomly as other judges in criminal trials are in Sweden, but was selected because of his expertise in copyright issues, defense lawyer Per E. Samuelsson said in a letter to the appellate court Thursday. Samuelsson and others connected with the case have recently protested that the judge, Tomas Norström, had hid his involvement with numerous pro-copyright lobby groups. In his letter to the appeals court. The Swedish news agency TT quoted Saumuelsson as saying, "The case has been handed to Norström mainly because he is considered an expert on copyright. That raises questions since this is a criminal case. A large majority of the young generation believes that what is going on here is a farce." Samuelsson added, "I have a hard time to let go of the thought that he kept quiet about this because he had the intention of using his opinions in the case. I don't hesitate for a moment when saying that this is bias."

Cinemark Movie Club