Summary Judgment: New Movies

In the latest installment of "Summary Judgment" from online magazine Slate, we'll hear what film critics have to say about new releases this week. On deck: Jindabyne, Next and The Condemned.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

You could go online and look at all the newspapers you could find to see what the critics think of the new movies this week, or you can listen now to Mark Jordan Legan with the Slate's Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Slate.com): This weekend, three main releases all have creepy images: condemned prisoners fighting for freedom, a dead woman found in a river, and Nicolas Cage's latest hairpiece. Yes, one of the hardest working hairpieces in show business is back on top with Mr. Cage as the star of the sci-fi paranormal thriller, "Next."

Cage plays a Las Vegas magician with a secret. He can see a few minutes into the future. Jessica Biel also stars.

(Soundbite of movie, "Next")

Ms. JESSICA BIEL (Actor): (As Liz) You can see things before they happen.

Mr. NICOLAS CAGE (Actor): (As Cris Johnson) Only my future. Except with you. I saw it far behind anything I've never seen before. You need to get away from here.

Mr. LEGAN: Critics are split on this one. Some calling it, a real mess, and others saying, sit back and enjoy the ride. Even though the New York Times calls "Next" a crummy action and speculative fiction hybrid, Newsday cheers irresistible junk food, and the Philadelphia Inquirer smiles, wildly ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining.

In limited release is the Australian drama, "Jindabyne." The title comes from the name of the lakeside town where a group of fishing buddies discover a girl's dead body. The film is based on a famous Raymond Carver story that was also used in Robert Altman's 1993 film, "Shortcuts." Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney star.

(Soundbite of movie, "Jindabyne")

Mr. GABRIEL BYRNE (Actor): (As Stewart Kane) That river is a very, very long, long way away and there are no bad men here, okay? Go to sleep.

Mr. LEGAN: Many critics applaud this mature somber film but some of the detractors agree with U.S.A. Today, which warns, strong acting but glacial pacing. The Los Angeles Times calls "Jindabyne" an experience not easy to shake off. And the New York Observer says, requires patience but the payoff is rewarding.

And we close with the wide release action flick, "The Condemned." This violent saga stars World Wrestling Entertainment icon Stone Cold Steve Austin as a death row prisoner, who is put on television to fight others to the death and where freedom goes to the sole survivor.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Condemned")

Unidentified Man: Jack Conrad, American, blew up a building in El Salvador killing three men.

What were you doing in El Salvador?

Mr. STEVE AUSTIN (Wrestling Superstar, Actor): (As Jack Conrad) Working on my tan.

Unidentified Man: Why did you blow the building up?

Mr. AUSTIN: It was blocking my sun.

Mr. LEGAN: "The Condemned" is an apt description of this movie's reviews. A sloppy indifferent action flick, sniffs the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Variety warns, aims for a non-stop thrill ride - has plenty of stops and few real thrills. And the Hollywood Reporter snaps, off putting and ridiculous.

I guess it is ridiculous. I think that people had watched a reality TV show where condemned prisoners fight to the death. But what if the condemned prisoners get, say, extreme makeovers and then have dance competitions to the death.

Oh man. We're talking America's next big TV ad.

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

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contribution from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. Madeleine Brand returns next week.

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