Summary Judgment: Swinging Mummies

This week, writer Mark Jordan Legan rounds up the critics' opinions on Mummy 3 starring Brendan Frazier, Swing Vote starring Kevin Costner and Frozen River.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

It is August now, and instead of big, summer, movie blockbusters this weekend, we have a kind of strange mix, an indie drama, an action adventure and a Capra-esque comedy. To tell us what critics think of these new releases, here's Mark Jordan Legan with Slate.com's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Brendan Fraser must be racking up the frequent flyer miles, because just a few weeks ago, he was at "The Center of the Earth"! And now, here he is in ancient China, for the third installment of the "The Mummy" franchise, "Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor." Fraser returns as the plucky explorer, Rick O'Connell, who once again must battle the resurrected mummy and, you know, when you wake up from a 2,000-year long curse, you're cranky.

(Soundbite of movie "Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor")

Mr. LIAM CUNNINGHAM: (As Mad Dog Maguire) I'd tell you to fasten your seat belts, but I was too cheap to buy any!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRENDAN FRASER: (As Rick O'Connell) Why am I laughing?

Mr. CUNNINGHAM: (As Mad Dog Maguire) Here we go!

(Soundbite of crash)

(Soundbite of yelling)

LEGAN: I tell you, the critics aren't laughing. The kindest review is from the Chicago Sun Times, which smiles, "plain, dumb fun, absurd and preposterous." But the Washington Post yawns, "tiresome and messy," and the Charlotte Observer snaps, "I'm afraid it just stinks." The independent drama, "Frozen River," stars Melissa Leo as a poor, single mother who stumbles into an illegal smuggling ring along the U.S.-Canadian border.

(Soundbite of movie "Frozen River")

Mr. MICHAEL O'KEEFE: (As Trooper Finnerty) This is about the woman that was with you.

Ms. MELISSA LEO: (As Ray Eddy) Yeah?

Mr. O'KEEFE: (As Trooper Finnerty) How long you've been known her?

Ms. LEO: (As Ray Eddy) Not long. She looks after my kids.

Mr. O'KEEFE: (As Trooper Finnerty) She's a smuggler.

Ms. LEO: (As Ray Eddy) Really?

Mr. O'KEEFE: (As Trooper Finnerty) There's an element on the reservation. I'm sure you know.

Ms LEO: (As Ray Eddy) Well, I've heard about it. But I had no idea she was involved.

LEGAN: The nation's critics warmly receive "Frozen River." "Anchored by powerful performances, believable scenarios and excellent writings," says USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times advises, "Let its bracing drama and the intensity of the acting restore your faith in American independent film."

And for those who are looking for a little escapism, maybe the comedy "Swing Vote" will be your pick. Kevin Costner stars as a beer-slinging in average Joe who is cast into the national spotlight when he becomes the deciding vote in the presidential election.

(Soundbite of movie "Swing Vote")

Mr. KEVIN COSTNER: (As Bud Johnson) OK, let's just - let's just see what the fuss is all about.

(Soundbite of door opening)

(Soundbite of silence)

Unidentified Reporter #1: (Whispering) Is that him?

Unidentified Reporter #2: (Shouting) Mr. Johnson!

(Soundbite of shouting crowd of reporters)

(Soundbite of camera shutters)

LEGAN: Like the election in the movie, the critics are split. The Philadelphia Inquirer musters, "its aim is true and Costner's performance hits the bull's eye," but the Onion finds it "strangely unsatisfying," and the Hollywood Reporter frowns, "unfunny and surprisingly sour."

You know, with our own presidential election less than 100 days away, I wonder if the movie's candidates, Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper, would have a chance against McCain or Obama. Seems Hopper's rampant drug use in the '60s and '70s would come back to haunt him. But if Grammer reminds people he voiced Stinky Pete in the "Toy Story" movies, that could be just enough to sway the public and elect him president. Because remember, in American politics, we focus on what's important.

Gee, Grammer has no political experience at all, zero.

Yeah, but he was so funny as Frazier!

True. Oh, what the heck? He's got my vote!

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer registered to vote in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: The good parts of the show, up next, on Day to Day.

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