THE ELEPHANT'S IN THE ROOM

Box-office analysts are predicting an elephant-sized take this weekend for the opening of 20th Century Fox's Horton Hears a Who!, based on the Theodore Geisel/Dr. Seuss children's classic. They are predicting that the animated movie, featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Carol Burnett and Seth Rogen, will earn $50-60 million. The studio itself, perhaps well aware that such forecasts have been well off the mark in recent weeks, is conservatively predicting that the film will take in around $35 million. Nevertheless, today's Los Angeles Times observes that tracking surveys indicate 35 percent of people who are "definitely" planning to go to the movies this weekend plan to take in Horton. Two other newcomers are not expected to be big draws. The R-rated apocalyptic thriller Doomsday was not screened for critics. The low-budget Never Back Down was, but is receiving mostly negative reviews. Each film is likely to take in less than $10 million, analysts say.

MOVIE REVIEWS: HORTON HEARS A WHO!

Movies based on the Dr. Seuss children's books have rarely received decent reviews. Horton Hears a Who! is definitely an exception. Ty Burr in the Boston Globe calls it "a fresh and mostly refreshing approach in Hollywood's pillaging of the good doctor's oeuvre." Likewise, Gene Seymour writes in Newsday that the movie is the first "to adequately evoke the warmhearted eccentricity of Theodore Geisel's classic children's books." Still, a number of reviews are lukewarm at best. "The film is as good as one could hope for in this era of post-literate impatience," comments Desson Thomson in the Washington Post. And A.O. Scott grumbles in the New York Times: "What distinguishes Horton Hears a Who! from the other recent Dr. Seuss film adaptations ... is that it is not one of the worst movies ever made," he review begins. And it ends on this note: ""It's a marvelous stale and a hard one to ruin. And the makers of Horton Hears a Who! haven't, though I fear it was not for lack of trying."

MOVIE REVIEWS: NEVER BACK DOWN

Reviews for Never Back Down are mostly as bad as they get. Kyle Smith in the New York Post describes it as "a formula flick that should have tapped out in the script stage." Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News regards it as a pulpy piece of formulaic genre entertainment that couches its nonviolent message in a series of over-the-top, sweaty smack-downs designed to please YouTube's Backyard Brawl Bunch." But Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel marks his scorecard positively. "Even though it's as predictable as a pro-wrestling match, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in the nervous energy of youth and testosterone," he writes.

DISNEY PLANNING A "SECRET PROJECT" IN FLORIDA

A Florida television station is reporting that it has confirmed that the Walt Disney Co. plans to build its first adult theme park. WFTV said that the park has been named "Night Kingdom" and indicated that it will likely feature nocturnal animals. Similar parks have been constructed elsewhere in the world using special lighting so that nocturnal animals, who are ordinarily asleep in viewing areas during the day, can be seen "in action" at night. The TV station cited unnamed Disney World employees as saying that the "secret project" will likely be constructed in an area net to Disney's Animal Kingdom, currently used for growing food for the wildlife there. WFTV also noted that speculation has been rife on the Internet lately that the adult park will be constructed in an area adjacent to Disney World's Pleasure Island attraction.

GERE NO LONGER A WANTED MAN IN INDIA

India's Supreme Court has vacated the arrest warrants for Richard Gere and at the same time criticized the officials who had issued them. Gere was accused of indecent conduct following a televised anti-AIDS show during which he jokingly kissed Indian actress Shilpa Shetty on the cheek several times. In vacating the warrants, the court commented that they had amounted to "publicity hunting" on the part of the officials. "You are bringing a bad name to this country," it added. The court's action clears the way for Gere to return to India in the future without fear of arrest.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.