Slate's Summary Judgment: 'The Brothers Grimm,' 'Undiscovered,' 'The Cave'

Fairy tales, struggling actors and stranded scientists want your movie dollars this weekend — but are any of them worth the cash? Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan looks at what the critics are saying about this week's new movie releases, including The Brothers Grimm, Undiscovered and The Cave.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

OK. Let's see if the movie studios have saved any great new releases for the dog days of summer. The online magazine Slate compiles a weekly digest of what critics are saying about new releases. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

As summer winds down, so do the movie studios. The films released now are like forgotten relatives waiting to be picked up at the airport. Our first film, "The Brothers Grimm," is a perfect example. Even though directed by acclaimed filmmaker Terry Gilliam, this film sat on a shelf while he and Miramax fought over the final cut and pretty much everything else. The fantasy adventure stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the famous brothers who find themselves personally involved in the legendary fairy tales they helped make famous.

(Soundbite of "The Brothers Grimm")

Mr. HEATH LEDGER: (As Jacob Grimm) We're here to save your land from evil enchantments.

Unidentified Child #1: Papa! Papa! Ahh! Ahh!

Unidentified Child #2: It's all right. They're the Brothers Grimm. They're famous.

Mr. LEDGER (As Jacob Grimm): Right you are, son. The famous Brothers Grimm.

Mr. MATT DAMON: (As Wilhelm Grimm) Look at this strapping young lad.

Unidentified Actor #3: He is my daughter.

(Soundbite of cow mooing)

Mr. DAMON: (As Wilhelm Grimm) And a fine wife he'll make some lucky man.

LEGAN: The nation's critics all embraced the wonderful visuals, but have trouble with the plodding story. `Eye-popping fun!' shouts Rolling Stone. But Variety calls it `deeply lost in the woods,' and many agree with Entertainment Weekly, which sighs, `A pinata of visual effects that Gilliam keeps smashing with diminishing returns.'

Next up in wide release is the horror film "The Cave." A team of spelunkers--this is NPR; I can say `spelunkers,' right?--they uncover a deadly predator in a huge underground cave system in Romania. Boy, if you want to worry loved ones, tell them you're going spelunking in Romania. Cole Hauser and Morris Chestnut star.

(Soundbite of "The Cave")

Unidentified Man #1: We have a few realities to face here, people. The first is that we're not going out the way we came. The second is that we're not even gonna be missed for 12 days, which is right about when our supplies run out. So we're going to have to find our own way out.

LEGAN: The critics give this one two stalactites down. That's for all you geologist film buffs out there. But look, no one digs "The Cave." `Utterly formulaic and dreadfully dull,' sniffs The New York Times. And the Hollywood Reporter moans, `a bottomless pit of lame characters, horror film cliches and improbable monsters.'

And finally, also in wide release, we have the romantic comedy "Undiscovered." A struggling musician and aspiring model fall in love and try to stay together even when success attempts to break them apart. Pell James stars and, like, oh, my God, Ashlee Simpson makes her feature film debut.

(Soundbite of "Undiscovered")

Unidentified Woman: A shot in the dark. You're a New York model, right?

Ms. ASHLEE SIMPSON (Singer/Actress): (As Clea) Yeah, I am a model, but I'm originally from Nebraska.

Unidentified Woman: Oh, don't tell me. Ever since you were a little girl on the farm it's always been your dream to become an actress.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh...

Ms. SIMPSON: (As Clea) Wow. Dancer, actually, but it didn't work out. Look, do you have a problem with me?--because as fun as it is being reduced to a stereotype, I think I'd rather eat that stack of head shots on your arm.

LEGAN: Not that teen-aged girls will care, but the critics didn't like this movie one bit. The Arizona Republic gripes, `Strangely for a film about music, "Undiscovered" lacks any spark or energy.' And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer thinks, `It promotes one of the stupidest visions of the entertainment industry since "American Idol" opened the celebrity gateway to the dregs of the karaoke generation.' (Gasps) Hey, you don't like this movie? Fine. But there's no need to take a swipe at the karaoke generation. Don't make me sing "My Heart Will Go On" at you, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, because I will. I so will!

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living and singing, sometimes, in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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