BOX-OFFICE COMEBACK?

The box office, which produced its smallest gross in five years last weekend, is expected to revive this weekend with the star-studded comedy Burn After Reading and the thriller Righteous Kill. Ticket sales are also expected to be boosted by the new Tyler Perry comedy, The Family That Preys, which was not screened for critics, and the female-oriented The Women, which stars Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith. Of all the new films, the critics appear to favor Burn After Reading, which stars Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich and Frances McDormand, although the film is not expected to gross more than $10-13 million. It opened in many theaters Thursday night at midnight. But most express disappointment in Righteous Kill, despite the performances of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino who are reuniting for the first time since 1995. Nevertheless, it is expected to lead the box office with about $14-16 million. The Women, which is aimed at the Sex and the City crowd, and which is being bashed by critics, is expected to generate about $9-11 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: RIGHTEOUS KILL

Critics are welcoming the reteaming of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino even if they have few kind words to say about the plot of their latest movie, Righteous Kill. The film, writes Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times is mostly about watching De Niro and Al Pacino share serious screen time for the first time in their All-Star careers." (They have appeared in the same movies in the past but have had few scenes together.) Roeper awards the movie three stars, explaining, "Taken purely on its merits as a psychological thriller, "Righteous Kill" is probably a two-star film. The third star is there strictly for De Niro and Pacino. Playing off each other, they stir up the ghosts of past greatness." Manohla Dargis in the New York Times is less generous in her appraisal. Righteous, she comments, is "a B-movie (more like C-minus) duet that probably sounded like a grand idea when [the two stars'] handlers whispered it in their ears." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post said that the film "would have been shipped straight to the remainder bin at Blockbuster if it starred anyone else." And in the Toronto Star, Bruce DeMara writes that while the teaming of De Niro and Pacino "should be cause for celebration," the film itself does not "make a whole lot of sense. In the end, we're stuck with a plot about as creaky as a porch swing on a windy day."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE WOMEN

Clearly when it comes to The Women, critics are mostly sexists -- even the female ones. Take Elizabeth Weitzman's comment in the New York Daily News: "Is it an exaggeration to call The Women the worst movie of the year? Well, yeah, probably. But it may be the most disappointing, given all the effort that went into it." Or Claudia Puig's in USA Today, who calls the movie "defanged and drippy." Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post writes that the remake "feels more dated than the 1939 original did for its time period." Male reviewers aren't ducking the possibility of being branded sexist. "The movie wanders and wallows, stumbling toward screwball before veering in the direction of weepiness and grasping at satirical urbanity along the way," writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer gives the film a middling review: "I feel like a hung jury," she writes. "My final verdict on The Women: Enjoyed not overjoyed." But Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times heaps much praise on the film, beginning his review by writing, "What a pleasure this movie is, showcasing actresses I've admired for a long time, all at the top of their form."

CELEBRITY, PAPARAZZI TUSSLE; CELEBRITY ARRESTED

Following what appeared to be an escalation of the conflict between celebrities and paparazzi, singer Kanye West and his bodyguard were arrested Thursday after they became enraged at a still cameraman and a videographer for the TMZ website at Los Angeles airport and allegedly smashed their cameras, one reportedly worth $10,000. (The Los Angeles Times reported today that TMZ has assigned a cameraman to the airport seven days a week.) West and the bodyguard were charged with "felony vandalism," and were bailed out later in the day. Video of the incident, posted on the TMZ site, shows the bodyguard, whose face is not shown, shouting to the videographer to turn off his camera and West later joining in the shouting. The video ends as the bodyguard places his hand over the camera's lens. News photographers were also unable to film West as he was released from jail on bond later in the day. A member of his entourage held an umbrella in front of his face.

FOUR-LETTER WORDS FOUND IN BATMAN COMICS

Time Warner's DC Comics is attempting to pull copies of All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder from dealers' shelves after it was discovered that a number of four-letter expletives that were were supposed to be blackened out in the dialogue bubbles could clearly be seen under the black-out ink. DC issued a statement apologizing to retailers and fans, but the New York Post reported that some dealers had not complied with DC's request to remove the issues. It quoted the owner of St. Mark's Comics in the East Village as saying, "We didn't destroy it because we couldn't know if everyone [else] would destroy it." The newspaper said that copies are currently selling on eBay for as much as $250.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.