'Watchmen', 'Horsemen', 'Phoebe In Wonderland'

Mark Jordan Legan has Slate.com's Summary Judgment on three new films. Watchmen is a film about the murder investigation for a former comic book superhero. The Horsemen is a murder mystery about a serial killer's crime spree linked to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And Phoebe in Wonderland is a drama about a little girl who seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, it's Day to Day. "Watchmen" and some smaller movies come out today and to tell you what the critics think of them, here is Marc Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARC JORDAN LEGAN: Take an over imaginative little girl, a hard-boiled cop who thinks the world is ending and a group of superheroes, and what do you got? Well, I have the most share of beach house together and I think we got ourselves a hit sitcom. But no, that's just the wide array of characters in our three new releases. First up is the drama, "Phoebe in Wonderland." Elle Fanning stars as a gifted child who longs to play the lead role in her school production of "Alice in Wonderland." There's a great supporting cast with Felicity Huffman, Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson as her eccentric drama teacher.

(Soundbite of movie "Phoebe in Wonderland")

Ms PATRICIA CLARKSON: (As Miss Dodger) At a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by, you will open your eyes and see yourself for who you are, especially for everything that made you so different from all the awful normals.

LEGAN: Overall, the critics enjoyed this trip through the looking glass. The Hollywood Reporter cheers, the mesmerizing performance of Fanning sparks the picture. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer finds it an involving and epithetic drama. And the Village Voice calls "Phoebe in Wonderland" profoundly stirring. Next up is the horror thriller, "The Horsemen." Dennis Quaid stars as a troubled police detective who becomes convinced a slew of grisly murders are somehow tied in to the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

(Soundbite of movie "The Horsemen")

Unidentified Man: Revelation six, come and see. It's the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Unidentified Woman: Four horsemen, four offerings. You're not going to find that.

LEGAN: "The Horsemen" was not made available to critics for advanced screening. Usually, the studio is behind this, fearing negative reviews, but it's my understanding that war and pestilence are still bickering over billing on the poster, and death is concerned he comes off as unlikable.

And for all you superhero buffs and comic book fans out there, yes, the wide release of "Watchmen" is finally here. Based on the highly acclaimed comic book series, "Watchmen" is set in an alternate 1985 America where tensions between the U.S. and Russia are at an all-time high with the Doomsday clock set at five minutes before midnight. And only a group of vigilante ex-superheroes can save humanity.

(Soundbite of movie "Watchman")

Unidentified Man #1: Watchmen, that's a real joke.

Unidentified Man #2: But Rorschach and I have made a real headway on the gang problem by working together.

Unidentified Man #3: We can do so much more. We can save this world.

LEGAN: The reviews are mixed. The Washington Post yawns the long-awaited adaptation is dull and a bore, but the New York Post applauds fresh and magnificent. And Time Magazine promises, "Watchmen" has moments of greatness. Well, you see, I'm still shaken. The movie claims to be set in an alternate 1985 because I remember 1985 and it did seem alternate. I mean, come on, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" was playing everywhere. And that was also the year they introduced the new Coke. All signs of the apocalypse, people. Wake up and smell the Wham.

(Soundbite of "Wake Up Before You Go-Go")

THE WHAM: (Singing) I want to hear that high Yeah, yeah, yeah, baby

COHEN: What would that smell like? I don't think I want to know. Mark Jordan Legan is a writer, a nervous writer living in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of "Wake Up Before You Go-Go")

WHAM: (Singing) Cuddle up baby, Move in tight. We'll go dancing tomorrow night. It's cold out there But it's warm in bed. They can dance We'll stay home instead…

BRAND: Stay with us. NPR's Day to Day go, goes, on and on.

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