HOLLYWOOD, May 11, 2000 - It's time to separate the men from the boys, and by all accounts, "Gladiator" is going to do the separating. The Roman action epic, which opened last weekend at No. 1 and, as of Tuesday, had pulled in a tidy $42 million, should have little trouble defending its box-office supremacy this weekend, what with "Battlefield Earth" -- a baggage-carrying sci-fi vanity project from John Travolta -- mounting the most formidable challenge (such as it is).
Here's a rundown of the new releases:
"Battlefield Earth" "BATTLEFIELD EARTH" The skinny: At long last, John Travolta brings to the screen one of his favorite books, written by Scientology guru, L. Ron Hubbard. It's about a bunch of evil, dreadlocked aliens who treat humans real bad and feed them nothing but fluorescent guacamole; the humans, sick of Mexican condiments, rebel and take their planet back. The upside: It's rated PG, and is devoid of cuss words and graphic violence. The downside: It's devoid of a story, originality, good acting, and other things audiences like. "Center Stage"
"CENTER STAGE" (See the trailer) The skinny: Young dancers try to make it to the Broadway stage. The upside: An uplifting, inspiring story of dreams fulfilled. The downside: Nothing against Peter Gallagher, but ... it stars Peter Gallagher. "Screwed"
"SCREWED" The skinny: The screenwriters who penned "Ed Wood" and "The People Vs. Larry Flynt" make their directorial debut with this comedy, starring Norm MacDonald as a bumbling chauffeur. The upside: Norm Macdonald is one funny guy. The downside: Unfortunately, almost no one seems to get the joke. "Held Up"
"HELD UP" (See the trailer) The skinny: Jamie Foxx flees urban life to work at a rural mini-mart after he's carjacked and involved in a lovers' quarrel. Laughs ensue. The upside: Also features Nia Long. The downside: Can this be nearly as good as "Booty Call?" We don't think so. "Hamlet"
"HAMLET" (See the trailer) The skinny: Murder, jealousy, revenge, Ethan Hawke. The upside: It's one of the greatest stories ever told, and it's got a great cast. How could anything go wrong? The downside: In this modern-day update, the prince of Denmark is now the prince of the Denmark Corporation. "There's something rotten in ..." Oh, never mind. (Also, it's only opening in New York and Los Angeles.) Elsewhere, "U-571," "Where the Heart Is," "Frequency," "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," "28 Days," "Rules of Engagement," and "Keeping the Faith" all will try to avoid being bumped out of the Top 10.