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Summary Judgment: 'Man of the Year,' 'Shortbus,' 'Grudge 2'


Is Friday the 13th unlucky for moviegoers at the multiplex? Each week we offer a digest of what 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: First up in wide release is the political satire Man of the Year, from writer-director Barry Levinson, who has given us everything from Diner to Rain Man. Robin Williams stars as a TV comedian who runs for president. Laura Linney also stars.

(Soundbite of film "Man of the Year")

Mr. ROBIN WILLIAMS (Actor): (As Tom Dobbs) My cabinet will be diverse. It will include both Republicans and Democrats and people of no party affiliation.

LEGAN: The nation's critics demand a recount, with many of them complaining that the movie tries to be too many things and thus fails at them all. Even though the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the movie offers several moments in which Williams comes alive, the Washington Post complains, Man of the Year takes some detours and never really figures out what kind of movie it wants to be; and the New York Times warns, It swerves from thriller to romantic comedy to farce without much conviction.

Next up in limited release is the sexual dramedy Shortbus. John Cameron Mitchell, who created and starred in the cult hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch, improvised with a group of actors to create this sexually explicit story that explores the lives of several people in post-9/11 Manhattan.

(Soundbite of movie "Shortbus")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) I mean, there's a lot of good and cute people in the world who don't have any love in their lives, and I think we could help them. I mean, I love cute people.

LEGAN: The nation's critics say don't let the sex scenes distract you from what a well-made film this really is. Time Magazine cheers, A sweet, very funny, volcanically romantic comedy/drama. LA Weekly calls it a sweet, tender and gently funny film; and the Village Voice praises this hybrid by pointing out, there's something refreshingly frisky and celebratory about Shortbus that offsets its flaws. It's a triple-X midnight movie with a heart of squarest gold.

And it wouldn't be Friday the 13th without a wide horror release, so here's Grudge 2, a sequel to the popular 2004 remake of a Japanese creep-fest about a curse that follows people like a virus. Amber Tamblyn stars.

(Soundbite of movie "The Grudge 2")

Ms. AMBER TAMBLYN (Actress): (As Aubrey Davis) What did you do?

Ms. SARAH MICHELLE GELLER (Actress): (As Karen Davis) You need to help me. You need to get me out of here. You need to get me out of here now.

Ms. TAMBLYN: (As Aubrey) Whoa. Slow down, just stop for a second. Tell me what happened. Did you start that fire?

LEGAN: The studio must believe in the curse of bad reviews, because it was not made available to the critics. I'm sure you've all seen the ad campaign, though, which features a human eye with a large red number two over the iris. Yes, the new Grudge 2 contact lenses are the latest, hippest thing in eyewear. But I must caution that it has been known not to cause conjunctivitis but something more dangerous: sequelitis. So if you find yourself drawn to see nothing but sequels, you may already have it. Seek immediate attention from either an ophthalmologist or a video store clerk.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan
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