GANGSTERS VS. LEATHERFACE AT BOX OFFICE

It's déjà vu all over again at the nation's theaters with Martin Scorsese returning with a new gangster film and Leatherface returning in a new horror flick. Scorsese is expected to win the box-office contested with The Departed, which analysts predict will earn $20-25 million. (The film's producer has forecast that it will earn more than $30 million.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (which was not screened for critics) is expected to scare up around $10-15 million, about what's expected for the tween comedy Employee of the Month.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE DEPARTED

Critics are in general agreement that Martin Scorsese has returned to top form with the thriller The Departed. It's his "sharpest film in a decade -- and the most entertaining major studio release this year," writes Lou Lumenick in the New York Post. Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times calls it "an instant gangster classic, a gritty, intense and electrifying work from a master who knows this turf better than any director who ever lived." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, "Martin Scorsese in The Departed gets to riff and rock. And the audience gets a huge, bloody, profane entertainment in the bargain." The "star-studded" cast, which includes Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg, also receives much praise. Marking his third with Scorsese (after Gangs of New York and The Aviator) Leonardo DiCaprio is particularly singled out. Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun comments that "in The Departed he continues to grow as a divided personality balancing on an existential tightrope." Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post writes that although DiCaprio "did not have the physical presence to pull off his previous roles for Scorsese," he is "totally convincing" in this one. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times says that DiCaprio reveals in his character "a vulnerability that seems animal-like in its unknowing." Nevertheless, several critics suggest the film has numerous flaws. Ty Burr in the Boston Globe writes that "what begins as a blood-soaked tragicomedy about our fair town's tribal warfare turns into merely a brilliant B movie." And Jack Nicholson, who receives mostly splendid reviews from other critics, is taken to task by Gene Seymour in Newsday, who writes: "Every time you watch Nicholson doing his Daffy-Duck-as-Roman-Emperor routine, you can feel the performance drifting away from the rest of the movie; almost as if it were a gaudy sideshow instead of the core of the movie's tension."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING

By contrast, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is getting chopped up by just about every critic that was allowed to see it. Writes Nathan Lee in the New York Times: Every era gets the scare pictures it deserves, and there is nothing more unsettling in this orgy of hate than its overwhelming stench of corporate nihilism." His review then goes on to create a bit of controversy in its own write, as the Times critic compares it with The Passion of the Christ. Comments Lee: "Like The Passion of the Christ, it is an invitation to hard-core sadism. Mel Gibson tried to turn atrocity into spiritual catharsis. The producers of The Beginning merely package it, sell it to the masses and hope they don't vomit in their nachos."

EXHIBITORS REFUSE TO SHOW DEATH OF A PRESIDENT

Several major theater chains have put Newmarket Films on notice that they will refuse to show the award-winning drama Death of a President, which the company plans to release on October 27, less than two weeks before the November election. The film, which takes place in 2007, shows President Bush being assassinated in Chicago. (The president's face digitally replaces the face of the actor in the shooting scene.) In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Mike Campbell, CEO of Regal Theaters, the country's largest exhibitor, said, "We feel it is inappropriate to portray the future assassination of a sitting president, regardless of political affiliation." Cinemark Theaters, which on Thursday completed the acquisition of Century Theaters, also said it will not screen the film. Spokesman Terrell Falk told the trade publication, "It's a subject matter we don't wish to play."

REDSTONE SAYS HE FIRED FRESTON OVER LOSS OF MYSPACE DEAL

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone says he regarded the failure of former Viacom CEO Tom Freston to acquire MySpace.com as "humiliating." In an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS Wednesday night, Redstone said before rival Rupert Murdoch showed an interest in the Internet site, "MySpace was sitting there for the taking for $500 million." He said he now figures it's worth $1.5 billion. [That figure was substantiated in an article appearing today (Friday) in Business Week Online, which quotes mergers-and-acquisitions expert Tom Aulli of Soleil-Media Metrix as saying, "This is probably one of the best acquisitions ever."] Losing the MySpace deal to News Corp, Redstone indicated, lead to his decision to fire Freston. He said, however, that he would not try to acquire MySpace rival Facebook. "We looked at it. The price is too high," he said.

ANOTHER MURDOCH CHIMES IN (OR DOESN'T) ON LACHLAN'S FUTURE

In the latest episode of All in the (Murdoch) Family, James Murdoch says he won't comment about his father's remarks that brother Lachlan may return to News Corp. "I don't concern myself with these sorts of things," Murdoch said in an interview with Reuters. A day earlier Lachlan Murdoch's wife Sarah said that she and her husband were happy with life in Australia, while Lachlan himself dodged a question about his father's remarks. Following Lachlan's departure, James, who currently is the CEO of News Corp-controlled satellite broadcaster BSkyB in the U.K., emerged as the heir apparent to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.