CRITICS NOT INVITED TO PROM NIGHT

You won't be reading any reviews for it, but Sony Screen Gems's horror flick Prom Night is the favorite among box-office analysts to win this weekend's movie competition. Today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times reported that tracking surveys indicate that the film will take in $18-22 million, about the same as it cost to produce. The likely No. 2 film, according to the analysts, is the Keanu Reeves-Forest Whitaker drama Street Kings, which analysts figure will bring in $10-12 million. But Daily Variety pointed out that, with the exception of Cloverfield, horror films have performed weekly this year. It suggests that Street Kings could best it. Also opening this weekend, but in only about 1,100 theaters, is Miramax's Smart People, with Ellen Page of Juno, Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker. In limited release, France's controversial award winner Persepolis, an animated film -- it now has an English soundtrack -- about a girl's experiences growing up in Iran at the time of the Islamic revolution, is due to open in 136 theaters.

MOVIE REVIEWS: STREET KINGS

Street Kings, based on a novel by James Ellroy -- Ellroy also receives credit for contributing to the screenplay -- is not the kind of film that will win much applause from the law-and-order crowd. It's the story of an ultraviolent gang of LAPD officers operating outside the law. Keanu Reeves plays one of them. Stephen Cole in the Toronto Globe and Mail calls it "a bad-cop, worse cop movie." Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune calls it "a shrill, brutal bash." But the film has numerous fans. Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle calls Ellroy's story "a thing of beauty. It's satisfying and consistently surprising, and yet those surprises are always appropriate and right, and the directions Ellroy chooses are invariably better and wiser than anything anybody might have guessed." Chris Vognar in the Dallas Morning News says it's "the cinematic equivalent of solid crime-genre fiction. It keeps the visual pages turning for a couple hours and navigates the dark corners of corruption and dishonor among men." And writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "It's easy to laugh at Street Kings for its bigger than big emotions, its preposterously kinky narrative turns and overwrought jawing and yowling, but there's no doubt that it also keeps you watching, really watching, all the way to the end."

MOVIE REVIEWS: SMART PEOPLE

Smart People, about, well, smart people in academia, is opening with quite a mixture of critical reaction. It passes the IQ test with flying colors. And intelligence plus genuine wit aren't its only distinctions," comments Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal. Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times concludes her review by remarking, "It's the kind of observational comedy, that'll be hard to find come summertime and should be enjoyed while there's still a chance." Michael Sragow awards it a B-, describing the film as "sometimes droll but often just pleasantly literate." Claudia Puig in USA TODAY grades it only a C+, writing, "Though it features witty dialogue and good performances, the plot contrivances keep it from being an altogether winning enterprise." Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News isn't even sure about that "witty dialogue," writing, "Its idea of 'smart' is to simply put multisyllabic words into its characters' mouths, ignoring how empty-headed the people saying them are." And Peter Howell in the Toronto Star dismisses the movie as "terminally dull."

PARAMOUNT STILL LOOKING FOR FILM FUNDING

Paramount has been trying, without success, to secure about $400 million in film financing for upcoming features, Reuters reported today (Friday), citing banking sources familiar with the financing efforts. The wire service suggested that investors are becoming skittish about investing in any Hollywood studio after several deals wound up costing investors millions of dollars.

BLOCKBUSTER TO PUSH BLU-RAY

Blockbuster stores will soon be displaying 42-inch monitors showing high-definition Blu-ray videos being played on PlayStation 3 consoles as the company moves forward with plans to increase Blu-ray product in all its stores. In a statement, Blockbuster merchandising and distribution exec David Podeschi said, "We believe Blockbuster is perfectly positioned to drive consumer adoption of this next-generation DVD format and to become the customer's headquarters when it comes to renting or buying Blu-ray movies."

GERMAN BOX OFFICE REPORTS HUGE GAINS

The German box office soared an astounding 33 percent during the first quarter versus the same period a year ago, Daily Variety reported today (Friday). Total ticket sales amounted to $378.3 million, 24 percent going for German-produced films. Admissions were up 30 percent to 38.7 million. The top performer of the year was Rabbit Without Ears (Keinohrhasen), which has grossed $60.3 million and has remained on the top-ten list for the past 16 weeks.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.