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Summary Judgment: New Movies

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Angelina Jolie and Steve Carell star in two totally different movies. Is either one of them worth of your time and money? Here is Mark Jordan Legan with our weekly digest of what movie critics are saying about the new releases - Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: For those looking for that summer project that the whole family can do together, how about building an ark? Or you could just go see "Evan Almighty," the sort of kind of sequel to "Bruce Almighty." Once again, Morgan Freeman plays God, who this time appears to Evan and commands him to build a back patio - no, wait, that's what God told me to do. In this wide release comedy, he tells Steve Carell to build an ark, gather the animals, and hilarity ensues.

(Soundbite of movie, "Evan Almighty")

Mr. MORGAN FREEMAN (Actor): (As God) You're a clean freak. You care much too much about your outward appearance. Your left nipple is a quarter of an inch higher than your right nipple. And when you were a little boy, you were afraid of Gumby.

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (As Evan Baxter) Who are you?

Mr. FREEMAN: (As God) I'm God.

LEGAN: Guess what? The film critics say not so much with the hilarity ensuing thing. The L.A. Times says that Carell is lovable but the comedy is less than divine. USA Today thunders: an almighty humorless bore. And Entertainment Weekly yawns: the message is so good-hearted, so inarguable, so dull.

And in a season of endless comic book and action sequels come some serious adult fare, as Angelina Jolie stars as Mariane Pearl in "A Mighty Heart." This adaptation of Mariane's memoir recounts the harrowing abduction and murder of her journalist husband, Daniel Pearl.

(Soundbite of movie, "A Mighty Heart")

Ms. ANGELINE JOLIE (Actress): (As Mariane Pearl) Danny is missing. You may be able to help me find him, okay. I need the name.

Mr. ARCHIE PANJABI (Actor): (As Asra Nomani) I promise you, after I give his name...

Ms. JOLIE: (As Mariane Pearl) Do you understand? Do you understand that maybe you can make the difference of helping Danny or nobody finds him?

LEGAN: The nation's critics applaud this intense drama. Visceral, alive, and very scary, raves the Seattle Post Intelligencer. The Washington Post finds it a taut, meticulously crafted police procedural. And New York magazine calls "A Mighty Heart" clipped, blunt, and grimly realistic.

And with many people traveling this summer and staying in hotels, perhaps you might want to check out - or rather into - "1408." This thriller about a reportedly haunted hotel room stars John Cusack, a writer who lives to discredit the paranormal. But he may have met his match when he stays in room 1408 at a notorious hotel. Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, and a hotel room also star.

(Soundbite of movie, "1408")

Mr. SAMUEL L. JACKSON (Actor): (As Mr. Olin) I will let you have this, and give you access to my office. You can take notes, put it all in your book. My only condition is that you do not stay in that room.

LEGAN: Sounds like this adaptation of a Stephen King short story delivers the goods. The Hollywood Reporter shouts: even with its flaws, "1408" deserves to be appreciated by connoisseurs of acting and bravura filmmaking. An enjoyably surreal, unnerving creepfest, screams the Atlanta Journal Constitution. And the Minneapolis Star Tribune says: John Cusack is virtually a one-man show in the claustrophobically chilling "1408."

Yes, I'm sure many of us can relate to those terrifying stays we've all had in hotels - the bad room service, the faulty air conditioning, the undead ghoul trying to tear your heart out of your chest and show it to you. No, wait, that was a bellboy in Phoenix, Arizona. Boy, you undertip one time!

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer and now a huge tipper living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan
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