Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Crossover,' 'Crank, 'Lassie'

Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan reviews what critics are saying about this weekend's major movie releases: the "underground" basketball film Crossover, the action flick Crank and a remake of Lassie.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

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

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

It's Labor Day weekend, and the movie studios are looking through their summer beach bags to see what films are left lying under the sunscreen and water wings. First up in wide release is the sports drama Crossover, where a college basketball player must decide whether he should play in a big underground street ball game to help out an old friend. Anthony Mackie stars.

(Soundbite of movie, Crossover)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) This is my house.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) I own this court, man. I own this.

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) It's nothing, man.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) There it is.

LEGAN: The nation's critics want this film to take 50 laps around the gym. Variety groans, a ludicrous soap opera with poor dramatic moves. The Arizona Republic complains that Crossover fouls out in the first half. And the Associated Press warns, it's all flash and no fundamentals.

Next up in limited release is yet another remake of the classic story Lassie. Since a young Liz Taylor starred in Lassie Come Home in 1943, dozens of versions have been made, along with the extremely popular television show from the 1950s. This time around, the stellar British cast is led by Peter O'Toole, Samantha Morton and Lassie IX.

(Soundbite of movie Lassie)

Unidentified Man #5 (Actor): (As character) They're taking her away tomorrow, to Scotland.

Mr. JONATHAN MASON (Actor): (As Joe) Where's that?

Unidentified Man #5: (As character) A long, long way, Joe. Much farther than you'll ever travel, even if you live to be 100. So let it go, eh? Maybe when times are better we'll get another dog.

Mr. MASON: (As Joe) I don't want another dog, do I? I never want another dog.

LEGAN: The critics really like this old dog and want to pet its soft belly. The Chicago Tribune finds Lassie lovingly crafted and genuinely moving. The New York Times says the film balances cruelty and tenderness, pathos and humor, without ever losing sight of its youngest audience members. And the Hollywood Reporter pants, a heartwarming and moving adventure that does excellent justice to the classic character.

And we close with the wide-release action-thriller Crank. Jason Statham, who has starred in The Transporter films and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, plays a hit man who must keep his adrenaline flowing to keep a lethal dose of poison from reaching his heart. Hmm, sounds like no medical consultants were used during the making of this film. Amy Smart also stars.

(Soundbite of movie, Crank)

Mr. JASON STATHAM (Actor): (As Chev Chelios) Give me something that starts with an E.

Ms. AMY SMART (Actress): (As Eve) England?

Mr. STATHAM: (As Chelios) Very funny, no. Some kind of artificial adrenaline.

Ms. SMART: (As Eve) Artificial adrenaline.

Mr. STATHAM: (As Chelios) Yeah. I got heart problems.

Ms. SMART: (As Eve) Epinephrine.

Mr. STATHAM: (As Chelios) Yes, Epinephrine.

LEGAN: Now Crank was not made available for this nation's critics, but in England, where the films has already opened, it's been genuinely greeted as a fun popcorn movie. The BBC shouts, it's an amped-up thriller that plays like Speed without the bus. Real Film cheers, engaging and thoroughly over the top. And Film Focus giggles, ridiculously, incomprehensively, undeniably cool - pure cinema heaven. Hey, if it makes money, watch out for the sequel: Cranky, where he's injected with a drug that turns him into a cranky old man who keeps yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn. Keep it down, people are trying to nap. Realistic, yet truly disturbing.

(Soundbite of music)

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

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