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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Inside Man,' 'American Gun,' 'Stay Alive'


At week's end, we offer movie reviews for new releases. This week brings two clunkers and one film with promise. Here's mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment from the online magazine, Slate.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Writer): Beware of the vernal equinox, moviegoers. The studios usually hold off releasing their best stuff until spring is in full bloom, so we have quite a mishmash this weekend. First up in limited release is the gritty drama, American Gun. A series of interwoven stories show how guns are constant reality in today's society.

Marcia Gay Harden and Donald Sutherland had the ensemble cast.

(Soundbite of American Gun)

Ms. MARCIA GAY HARDEN (Actress): (As Janet) Oh, Bob; you have nothing to say to me. You're kid stands out here and sells weed like it's lemonade.

Unknown Man (Actor): (As Carl) Not my kid.

Ms. HARDEN: (As Janet) Yes, don't act like you don't know. He's right out...

Unknown Man: (As Carl) He's (unintelligible).

Ms. HARDEN: (As Janet) Well, my son..

Unknown Man: (As Carl) Yeah, what do you have to say to that?

Mr. LEGAN: The nations' critics want to put a silencer on American Gun. Many compare it to Crash, but not in a good way. The New York Times warns it has the common flaw to many editorial broadsides of overstuffing its episodes with melodrama and symbolism. The New York Post growls, The vignettes are rooted in the weepy sensibility of TV movies, and the LA Weekly says, This is Crash with gun violence substituted for racism, although the tone may be closer to those pious public safety films that used to be shown to school children.

Next up in wide release, we have the horror film Stay Alive. When a group of teenagers begin to play an ultra-realistic videogame, they soon make a spine-chilling discovery. They haven't showered or been outside in over three days. Oh no, wait. That's what happens to my friends who play videogames.

In the film, they realize they're being killed off just like characters in the game. Adam Goldberg and Frankie Muniz star.

(Soundbite of Stay Alive)

Unknown Woman (Actress): (in Film) Elizabeth Bathory chick's sick and twisted, and very real.

Unknown Woman 2 (Actress): (in Film): Every detail of this game is based on how real life; the tower, the cemetery, the torture chamber. The last thing she said was that one day she'd be back.

Mr. LEGAN: The studio did not make Stay Alive available for advance critic screenings, either because they fear bad reviews or they've all been killed by a videogame. Muahahaha. I think teenagers might check this film out anyway.

And finally, the first signs of spring do appear. We have director Spike Lee's wide release crime thriller, Inside Man. Denzel Washington heads a powerhouse cast as a hostage negotiator trying to handle a bank heist gone bad. Clive Owen and Jodie Foster also star.

(Soundbite of Inside Man)

Mr. DENZEL WASHINGTON (Actor): (As Detective) There's two ways out of this. The easy way, we walk out the front door together, or the hard, boys cut the power, hit you with the tear gas and come in strong through the glass. It's your choice. You don't want that. I don't want that. You got night vision? You got gas masks?

Mr. CLIVE OWEN (Actor): (As Criminal) Maybe.

Mr. WASHINGTON: I'm this close to ordering it.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics love Inside Man. USA Today raves, Unusually clever, visually captivating and unfailingly entertaining. The Washington Post calls it brilliantly directed, a tense, pure thriller with great star turns. And the LA Times cheers: An elegant, expertly acted puzzler that is just off-base and out of the ordinary enough to keep us consistently involved.

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

Mark Jordan Legan
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