Summary Judgment: 'A Scanner Darkly,' 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' 'Once in a Lifetime'

Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan reviews what critics are saying about this weekend's major movie releases — A Scanner Darkly, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the documentary Once in a Lifetime.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Each week we offer a digest about what critics are saying about the new film releases. It's compiled by the online magazine, Slate, and here is Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

We start with the limited release, sci-fi adventure, A Scanner Darkly. Based on Philip K. Dick's classic novel, this animated Richard Linklater film is about a drug-addled and politically unstable world. In other words, college. No, it's about a not-so-distant future where a new drug has created an epidemic. Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder star.

MR. KEANU REEVES (As Bob Arctor: What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me, into us? Clearly or darkly?

LEGAN: The critics like this mind trip. Even though Variety finds it, mildly provocative, rather than visionary, USA Today says, A Scanner Darkly is not for everyone, but the post-apocalyptic mood blends well with its uniquely stylized look and surreal story. And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer calls it, weirdly fascinating in its own maverick way.

Next up, also in limited release, is the documentary, Once in a Lifetime. It tells the story of the wild 1977 U.S. soccer team, the New York Cosmos, where superstar Pele led the way. Matt Dillon narrates the action.

Mr. Matt Dillon (Actor): (Narrating) Cosmos were already nine games into the '75 season, and last in the division with just three wins. Nevertheless, CBS agreed to broadcast Pele's American debut.

Unidentified Announcer (CBS): Pele is the most famous player in the history of soccer, and today...

LEGAN: The critics must have World Cup fever, because they all yell gooooooooal! The New York Times gushes, Giddy, gossipy, and endearingly un-slick, and Variety promises, While soccer fans will rep the core audience, even non-fans can enjoy.

And we close with the wide-release action sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Following the 2003 blockbuster, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightly all return for some swashbuckling fun and almost certain big box office.

Ms. KEIRA KNIGHTLY (Actress): (As Elizabeth Swann) Captain Sparrow.

Mr. JOHNNY DEPP (Actor): (As Jack Sparrow) Come to join me crew, lad? Welcome aboard.

Ms. KNIGHTLY: I'm here to find the man I love.

Mr. DEPP: I'm deeply flattered, but my first and only love is the sea.

Ms. KNIGHTLY: Meaning William Turner, Captain Sparrow.

LEGAN: The nation's critics are split down the middle, like a scallywag sliced in two. Okay, I promise that's the last pirate voice I'll do. But The Washington Post snarls, An empty-calorie clone, and The Miami Herald snaps, The worst kind of sequel, the kind that exists only to give you more, more, more of what you liked the first time around without ever justifying its existence. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution finds Dead Man's Chest, absolutely irresistible, and The Chicago Tribune cheers, The most satisfying big-screen excuse for overpriced popcorn, so far this summer. Be warned: this pillage has a two-hour, thirty-minute running time, but I still say the pirate sequel will make many a doubloon. It'll be a box office treasure chest. Ticket buyers will walk the plank to...

Unidentified Producer: Mark, that's enough.

LEGAN: Okay, my producer's pulling me now for excessive pirate references. ARRR, I apologize. See? Sorry. Once you start, you can't stop.

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

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