WILL THE WESTERN RIDE AGAIN?

Kids are starting school again and may be unlikely to head for the movie theaters this weekend, but their parents and grandparents may give the traditional Western 3:10 to Yuma a substantial boost, some box office analysts are predicting. Tracking companies are forecasting that the movie will earn $13-17 million over the weekend to take the lead from last weekend's winner, Halloween. The latter film is expected to fall to second place with about $10-13 million, followed by the spoofy Shoot 'Em Up, with about $9-11 million and the third week of the raunchy comedy Superbad with about $8-10 million. The Bourne Ultimatum is expected to round out the top ten with $6.5-9 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: 3:10 TO YUMA

Just when it seemed as if the traditional Western had gone the way of the the traditional musical, 3:10 to Yuma comes riding to the rescue with stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Or at least, so several critics suggest. In a four-star review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert writes: "Here the quality of the acting, and the thought behind the film, make it seem like a vanguard of something new, even though it's a remake of a good movie 50 years old." A.O. Scott in the New York Times is less impressed, writing that it is "more likely to be recalled as a moderately satisfying entertainment than remembered as a classic," while also noting that the performances of Crowe and Bale "carry the movie." The film is a remake of a 1957 film that starred Van Heflin and Glenn Ford. Nearly all critics agree that it is an improvement over the original. Writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "What's most impressive about this new version ... is that James Mangold directs it with such energy and passion that it's as if he didn't know it's all been done before." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post describes it as "handsomely produced" and also praises the performances. "Crowe gives a smooth, relaxed performance that's perfectly offset by Bale's intensity," he comments. But a few critics maintain that the film falls short of the original. In the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips writes, "Rare is the remake that meets or exceeds the merits of any film, and while Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma is certainly diverting, it is not quite one of those rarities." Several critics take note of the fact that the quintessentially American Western has been "outsourced" to foreigners -- the New Zealand-born Crowe and the Welsh-born Bale. Jan Stuart of Newsday remarks that "at this stage of their game, they speak American better than you and me."

MOVIE REVIEWS: SHOOT 'EM UP

Bullets certainly do fly in Shoot 'Em Up -- but that's nothing compared with the barrage between the critics over the movie. On the one hand, A.O. Scott in the New York Times calls it "a worthless piece of garbage." He concludes his review by remarking: "You know what I hate? Witless, soulless, heartless movies that mistake noise for bravura and tastelessness for wit." Similarly, Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune writes: "It's not meant to be taken seriously. But films like this are worth taking seriously because they're genuinely cruddy and hollow and, yes, vile." And Ruthe Stein in the San Francisco Chronicle concludes that the movie represents "Hollywood's latest descent into nonsensical mayhem." But Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times calls it "the most audacious, implausible, cheerfully offensive, hyperactive action picture I've seen since, oh, Sin City, which in comparison was a chamber drama." While acknowledging that he sometimes disapproves of a movie for going too far, he nevertheless has "a sneaky regard for a movie that goes much, much farther than merely too far. This one goes so far, if you even want to get that far, you have to start half-way there." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post agrees, calling it, "the season's first guilty pleasure ... a joyously silly, R-rated, John Woo-inflected Looney Tune." And Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News describes it as "deliriously, audaciously entertaining," and remarks, "This is likely the fastest-moving intentionally funny action movie ever made. It's as if the 21 Bond movies and four Die Hards had been distilled to remove their body fat (that is, character development, buildup, rest stops, etc.) and left us with only the killing and the punch lines."

Brian B.