ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Back now with Day to Day and a big movie weekend, new dramas include one about soldiers trying to avoid going back to Iraq, another about students counting cards in Las Vegas. There is also a silly comedy. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.
Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Summary Judgment): Films about the Iraq War have not fared well at the box office, even Oscar-nominated ones like "In the Valley of Elah," or star-studded vehicles like "Lions for Lambs," but in what is being touted as the first Iraq War movie for the MTV generation comes "Stop Loss," where Ryan Phillippe stars as a soldier who finishes his tour of duty overseas, comes home, and then is ordered to return to battle in Baghdad.
(Soundbite of movie, "Stop Loss")
Unidentified Actress: They stop-lossed you. How can they do this?
Mr. RYAN PHILLIPPE (Actor): (as Brandon King): They're doing whatever they want to do. With the shortage of guys and no draft, they're shipping back soldiers who were supposed to be getting out. It's a back-door draft is what it is.
Mr. LEGAN: Overall, the critics salute "Stop Loss." Even though Variety snaps, wildly uneven; by turns sincere and synthetic, the Washington Post applauds a first-rate cast and calls it remarkably entertaining, and Rolling Stone finds the film raw and riveting. Next up is "Run, Fat Boy, Run," and no, it's not about my recent attempts to take up jogging, thank you very much. British comedy star Simon Pegg of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" fame stars as a bloke who left his bride at the altar and now years later wants her back, and he is even willing to run in the same London marathon her new boyfriend has been training for. The film also starts Thandie Newton and Hank Azaria.
(Soundbite of movie, "Run, Fat Boy, Run")
Mr. HANK AZARIA: (As Whit) It's pretty grueling.
Mr. SIMON PEGG: (As Dennis) Well, yeah, that's why they call it a marathon.
Mr. AZARIA: (As Whit) Actually, technically, it's called a marathon because of the events of 490 BC. There was a Greek soldier...
Mr. PEGG: (As Dennis) Can I just stop you there?
Mr. AZARIA: (As Whit) Yep.
Mr. PEGG: (As Dennis) I 've got nothing to say, I just wanted to stop you there.
Mr. LEGAN: The critics were split on Fat Boy, which, by the way, was directed by former Friends star David Schwimmer. USA Today cheers, consistently amusing and surprisingly affecting, but the Austin Chronicle moans, a by the numbers redemption tale, and Entertainment Weekly complains the movie is saddled with a script that Adam Sandler wouldn't have pulled out of his bottom drawer.
And what better way to celebrates spring than a movie about a bunch of eggheads counting cards in a windowless casino? Yes, the highly successful nonfiction book about MIT students figuring out a way to break the blackjack bank has been brought to the screen as "21." Kevin Spacey plays an unorthodox math professor who leads a group of brilliant students to Vegas to teach them how to turn the tables on the casinos.
(Soundbite of movie "21")
Ms. KATE BOSWORTH: (As Jill Taylor) It's a game of memory. Cards drawn are the past, ones to come are future.
Mr. KEVIN SPACEY (Actor): (As Mickey Rosa) And the best part, it's beatable.
Mr. JIM STURGESS: (as Ben Campbell) Are you talking about counting cards?
Mr. SPACEY: (as Mickey Rosa) No, I'm talking about getting very, very rich.
Mr. LEGAN: Even though it is based on a true story, many of the critics find it far-fetched and flabby. The Philadelphia Inquirer bets against the odds and likes it, calling "21" a glossy engrossing yarn, but the Associated Press warns, lack of originality is where "21" really deals a losing hand, and many agree with the Arizona Republic which barks, funny how movies on real stories can be the most formulaic and predictable. Ah, you know, counting cards, big deal, it's so easy. Here watch, 52. See, piece of cake, next.
BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan deals mostly in writing, thankfully, here in Los Angeles.
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