Between the start of the Olympics and a lousy selection of films, the box-office top ten posted its lowest total in four years. But it wasn't all bad news in Tinseltown; Cameron Crowe's autobiographical Almost Famous debuted in limited release and collected a whopping $17,669 in each of 131 theaters—also collecting the year's best reviews to date.

What's Hot

Although we usually lead off with the box-office winners, the low totals for The Watcher and Bait don't exactly qualify them as hot tickets. Rather, the per-screen average of eighth-place finisher Almost Famous makes it a much stronger candidate for the week's hottest film. Christian critics gave glowing reviews to this story of a 15-year-old who goes on tour with a rock band as a reporter for Rolling Stone, much like writer/director Crowe did in 1973. "The perspective of Almost Famous is large, compassionate, and as wide-eyed with wonder as [the teen] William himself," raves Jeffrey Overstreet of Promontory Artists' Looking Closer. "It walks a tightrope, never endorsing the 'seize the day' indulgence of the rock stars (although it is honest about the pleasures of that world), and never judging the rebels either, allowing them to learn some moral lessons along the way. … Just as he did in Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe finds hope for the broken. And it's not empty hope." Preview's Mary Draughon agrees: "Almost Famous does not glamorize the musicians' immoral lifestyle, and William's genuine caring, honesty and innocence ultimately impacts their lives." Michael Elliott of attributes the teen's strength to his mother, played by Frances McDormand. "William, though the youngest and most inexperienced, is perhaps the most mature, responsible, and grounded ...

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