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'W.,' 'Bees' And 'Max Payne'

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'W.,' 'Bees' And 'Max Payne'

'W.,' 'Bees' And 'Max Payne'

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. The new movies being released today include one about a violent video game. Another set during the civil rights era is about bee keeping. And there's another about President Bush. Here to tell us what the nation's critics think of these films, Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Videogames turned into movies haven't fared very well at the box office. But maybe Mark Wahlberg can turn that around. He stars in the action thriller "Max Payne." See, Max Payne is a maverick hero. No, he's not the governor of Alaska, but a vigilante cop seeking revenge for the murder of his partner and his family

(Soundbite of movie "Max Payne")

Mr. JAMIE HECTOR: (As Lincoln DeNeuf) The devil is building his army. Max Payne is looking for something that God wants to stay hidden. And that's what makes him more dangerous.

LEGAN: It seems the critics want their own revenge against "Max Payne." Entertainment Weekly snarls, "a grindingly inert death-wish thriller." And the New York Daily News sized "the story has more holes than a shot-up metal door and the acting feels bored at best."

For a slight change of pace, there's "The Secret Life of Bees." Now, for those of you clamoring for a sleazy tell-all on the sexual perversity of drones and their queens, you're plum out of luck. This period drama is based on the best-selling novel about a young white girl making friends with an African-American family in South Carolina during the early '60s. Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah star.

(Soundbite of movie "The Secret Life of Bees")

Ms. QUEEN LATIFAH: (As August Boatwright) The world's really just one big bee yard. The same rules work in both places. Don't be afraid. There's no life-loving bee wants to sting you.

LEGAN: Overall, the critics applaud "The Secret Life of Bees," even though Variety finds it "cloyingly sweet and gooey." The Chicago Sun Times smiles, "heartwarming and enchanting." And the Hollywood Reporter cheers, "an affecting ensemble piece that's destined to generate a fair share of award season buzz."

Speaking of buzz, filmmaker Oliver Stone seems to relish it. From "Natural Born killers" to "Platoon" to "JFK," he always likes to tackle difficult issues, and his latest film "W." is no different. Josh Brolin portrays our 43rd president in this biopic that covers Bush's early life all the way up to the critical days just before the Iraq war. Richard Dreyfuss and Ellen Burstyn lead an all-star cast.

(Soundbite of movie "W.")

Mr. RICHARD DREYFUSS: (As Dick Cheney) Fool me once, shame on you. Now fool me twice and - and - and - you can't get fooled again.

LEGAN: Like many things in politics, the reviews are split on "W." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer thinks, "a much more even-handed and thoughtful take that anyone might have expected." Newsweek shouts, "it's not boring and brawling as often remarkable." But some agree with the Washington Post, which yawns, "a rushed, wildly-uneven, tonally-jumbled caricature." You know, it would be interesting to see how much business "W." does what with the mood of the country a bit raw from the fragile economy and the upcoming presidential election. And controversy seems to follow Bush and Stone wherever they go. In fact, there's already a concern that on Monday there'll be bitter arguments over how many tickets have actually been sold in Florida.

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

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