Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Eight Below,' 'Freedomland,' 'Winter Passing'

Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan reviews what film critics are saying about upcoming movie releases: Eight Below, Freedomland and Winter Passing.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Finally, advice on new movies. The online magazine Slate offers a weekly digest of what critics are saying. Here with Slate's Summary Judgment is writer Mark Jordan Legan.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

First up in wide release is the Disney action adventure Eight Below. Inspired by a true story, a science expedition in Antarctica is forced to leave behind its loyal sled dogs after a sudden accident and a severe storm. Paul Walker and Bruce Greenwood lead the human cast.

(Soundbite of Eight Below)

LEGAN: The nation's critics want to give this dog movie a good scratch behind the ears and some Liver Snaps. And the best reviews are for the canines. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution barks, As magnificent as the setting is, the dogs are more so. The Washington Post cheers, The eight canine stars pull their weight literally and figuratively in this lively dog-in-jeopardy adventure. And U.S.A Today calls Eight Below, Engrossing and engaging.

Next up in limited release is the family drama Winter Passing. Zooey Deschanel stars as a young woman who tries to reconnect with her reclusive father, a famous eccentric novelist played by Ed Harris. Will Ferrell also stars.

(Soundbite of Winter Passing)

LEGAN: The critics are split on the movie itself, even though most praise the acting. It distinguishes itself thanks to assured performances that burn with quiet conviction, says L.A. Weekly. But Variety shrugs that Winter Passing appears content to present the situation without going for anything remotely close to the emotional jugular.

And we close with the wide release dramatic thriller Freedomland. Based on the 1998 novel by Richard Price, Samuel L. Jackson stars as a cop who must get to the bottom of a violent crime that sets off racial tensions between two neighborhoods. Julianne Moore and Edie Falco also star.

(Soundbite of Freedomland)

LEGAN: The nation's critics really don't care for Freedomland. Even though the Hollywood Reporter finds it a moving portrait of hurting souls with compelling performances, Variety moans that Freedomland is disjointed and ultimately unsatisfying. And many agree with the New York Times, which snaps, A lethally dull drama, an early candidate for worst film of the year.

Whew. It's only February and already a release has been called worst film of the year. You know what that means, don't you? Yep, six more weeks of winter. So cold.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

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