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''Men in Black'' will put a hit on the mob

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Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, ...
Men in Black 2: Melinda Sue Gordon

Can the Men in Black stave off mobsters, dragons, crocodiles, and masked villain Michael Myers? Count on it.

After ”Men in Black II” debuted over the Fourth of July weekend with $87 million, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones take on four new big-studio releases eager to claim the top box office slot. But Agents Jay and Kay are likely to stay at No. 1 for a second week. That isn’t to say that ”MIBII” won’t see a sizeable drop in its earnings. The original ”Men in Black” dropped 41 percent in week two back in 1997, but as sequels usually see larger declines, expect ”MIBII” to plummet 50 percent from the $52 million it earned over the three-day portion of last weekend, to about $26 million.

That should be enough to stave off even the most promising of the week’s new movies. The question is, which one will fare the best? Our guess: ”Road to Perdition,” the 1930s mob drama starring this week’s EW cover guys Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. With its R rating and dark plotline — hitman Hanks gets a taste of his own medicine when his wife is murdered — ”Road” is no easy sell. But Hanks is one of those stars who will draw audiences to theaters no matter what the film. In July 1998, Hanks opened ”Saving Private Ryan” to more than $30 million. That won’t happen this time, but ”Road” should still drive to about $20 million.

Challenging Hanks and Co. to the No. 2 spot will be Matthew McConaughey’s dragon-slayer thriller ”Reign of Fire.” Boasting a teen-friendly PG-13 rating and a straight-ahead action premise, the flick could actually snag the runner-up slot from Hanks. Still, lacking the buzz of a ”Spider-Man” (or even a ”Minority Report”), ”Fire” may only breathe itself about $18 million for a third place finish.

The week’s last two premieres should round out the top five, trailing ”Road” and ”Reign” by millions. The Michael Myers ”Halloween” franchise enters its third decade with the sequel ”Halloween: Resurrection,” starring Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks as TV producers who set loose a group of teenagers into Myers’ boyhood home and let the cameras roll. Expect ”Halloween” to earn dismal reviews that in no way will deter its built-in audience, which will turn out to the tune of about $10 million.

Finally, TV star Steve Irwin will attempt to knock Adam Sandler’s ”Mr. Deeds” out of the top five and become a 21st-Century Crocodile Dundee with his first starring film role in ”Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course.” Despite its hokey trailer, this ”Crocodile” has earned some positive early reviews and could become a small family hit, earning about $8 million in its first weekend. Maybe Irwin can use some of the dough to find himself a new outfit.

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