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Summary Judgment: New Movies

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Killers next door, teens under house arrest, nerds who love dogs - well, it must be movie day. Mark Jordan Legan of the online magazine Slate has his weekly look at what the critics are saying about the latest films. Here is Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Movie Critic, Slate): Yes, it's Friday the 13th, and I'm sure many of you are suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia, which is, of course, the rational fear of any new Halle Berry movie - no, it's actually the fear of Friday the 13th itself.

And sure enough Halle Berry has a trailer opening on this lucky day, "Perfect Stranger." She goes undercover and will stop at nothing to crack the unsolved murder case of her friend.

(Soundbite of movie "Perfect Stranger")

Ms. HALLE BERRY (Actress): (As Rowena) Who knows? All it takes to commit a murder are the right ingredients at the right time.

Mr. LEGAN: This sexy thriller failed to heat up the screening rooms. The Chicago Tribune shrugs: fairly diverting until it starts to become ridiculous. The Washington Post warns: just another thriller; utterly disposable. And the Seattle Post Intelligencer moans: cliched, mostly routine and never especially satisfying.

For you pet lovers out there, you might be able to relate to the dark comedy "Year of the Dog." Written and directed by Mike White, it tells the story of a single woman - played by Molly Shannon - who spirals downward after the accidental death of her beloved pet beagle.

John C. Riley and Laura Dern head the strong supporting cast.

(Soundbite from movie "Year of the Dog")

Unidentified Child: Why does Aunt Peggy need cheering up?

Ms. LAURA DERN (Actress): (as Aunt Peggy) Because Tinsel died today. That's a lot to process. D-E-A-T-H.

LEGAN: The nation's critics pretty much want to pack this film's belly. An eccentric, affecting comedy, barks News Day. And the New York Times says of the "Year of the Dog": it's funny ha-ha, but firmly in touch with its downer side.

And for those fans of the Hitchcock classic "Rear Window" who only wished that darn Jimmy Stewart to be replaced by a teenage character under house arrest, well, welcome to "Disturbia."

Shia LaBeouf plays the housebound teen who grows to suspect his neighbor of horrible, brutal things. David Morris also stars.

(Soundbite of movie "Disturbia")

Mr. DAVID MORSE (Actor): (As Mr. Turner) I know that you are following me. I really feel obliged to tell you that I - I rather enjoy my privacy.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics pretty much enjoyed this thriller, with a few detractors like the L.A. Times, which warns: what it lacks in craft, suspense and metaphoric richness, it makes up for with gadgets.

But Variety shouts: "Disturbia" is a squirmingly fun suspenser. And Rolling Stone speaks directly to that all-important 18 to 24-year-old demographic with: cool stuff, cool movie - which is exactly what can be said for Hitchcock's 1954 original "Rear Window" - cool stuff, cool movie.

LEGAN: Mark Jordan Legan, a cool writer living in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan
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