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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'War of the Worlds,' 'Rebound,' 'The World'


On Fridays, our partners at the online magazine Slate bring you a digest of what film critics are saying about the week's new releases. Here's Andy Bowers with Summary Judgment.

ANDY BOWERS reporting:

First up in wide release, we have a new comedy starring--oh, wait. Excuse me, I'm just being handed a bulletin. Ladies and gentlemen, we're getting reports of something very strange happening in New Jersey. You're not going to believe this, but a big-budget action movie has actually been set there. Yes, it's the "War of the Worlds," Steven Spielberg's updated version of the H.G. Wells classic about an alien invasion of Earth. It stars Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning.

(Soundbite of "War of the Worlds")

Mr. TOM CRUISE: (As Ray Ferrier) Rachel, sweetheart...

DAKOTA FANNING: (As Rachel) Dad, you're really scaring me. Dad...

Mr. CRUISE: (As Ray) I want you to get...

FANNING: (As Rachel) Dad!

Mr. CRUISE: (As Ray) ...your suitcase, the one that you brought, and bring it to me, OK?

FANNING: (As Rachel) Dad...

Mr. CRUISE: (As Ray) Can you just do that for me, darling?

BOWERS: Most of the critics are over the moon about this interplanetary war. They love the effects, love the direction, love Tom Cruise--the script? Well, you can't have everything. The San Francisco Chronicle asks, `Did you ever go to the movies when you were 10 or 11, sit close to the screen and hardly believe the amazing things you were seeing? "War of the Worlds" brings back that feeling.' Slate's David Edelstein calls it `a sci-fi masterpiece.' And the Dallas Observer notes that this is a rather more frightening vision of aliens than Spielberg has presented before. Quote, "E.T., as it turns out, is a mass murderer after all, and we are his Reese's Pieces."

Next up is the limited-release film from China called "The World." Directed by Jia Zhang Ke, it tells the story of a woman who works and pretty much exists in an amusement park near Beijing that re-creates world landmarks from the Manhattan skyline to the Pyramids. She longs to lead a more interesting life, but has trouble leaving her cozy artificial environs.

(Soundbite of "The World")

Unidentified Actress: (Speaking foreign language)

BOWERS: The critics are pretty sweet on this movie, too, although a number comment on its somewhat leisurely pace. `Globalization and its discontent form the molten core of "The World,"' notes The New York Times. And Salon says, `If a movie can be stark and rapturous at the same time, this is that movie.' The Christian Science Monitor calls it `a brilliant, if challenging, film.'

So you're probably asking, `Did the critics like every movie this week?' Ho-ho-ho, no. Our final film in wide release is called "Rebound." It stars Martin Lawrence as a coach who has to tame an unruly group of teen-agers. Yes, I know, you're thinking we've already reviewed several `coach who touches lives and becomes a better person' movies in recent months. Hey, with an attitude like that, how are we ever going to make it to the playoffs?

(Soundbite of "Rebound")

Mr. MARTIN LAWRENCE (Actor): (As Roy McCormick) Your mean face.

Unidentified Actor #1: Arrgh.

Unidentified Actor #2: Grr.

Mr. LAWRENCE: (As Roy) Give me some growls in it, not `grr.'

Unidentified Actor #1: Arrgh!

Mr. LAWRENCE: (As Roy) Errr!

Unidentified Actor #1: Arrrrgh!

Unidentified Actor #2: Arrgh!

Mr. LAWRENCE: (As Roy) Errr!

Unidentified Actor #1: Errrr!

Mr. LAWRENCE: (As Roy) Raagh!

Unidentified Actor #1: Errr!

Mr. LAWRENCE: (As Roy) Raaagh!

Unidentified Actor #1: Errr!

Unidentified Actor #2: Er!

Mr. LAWRENCE: (As Roy) Raagh!

BOWERS: Well, studios might like this tried-and-true formula, but the critics? Not so much. `The players fall into recognizable stereotypes,' says USA Today, `but no one is more formulaic than the coach. He starts out smug with the kids and ends up smitten.' And TV Guide says, `Even by the debased standards of preachy sports movies aimed at kids, this is pabulum.'

BRAND: Andy Bowers is a Slate senior editor. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andy Bowers
Andy Bowers oversees Slate's collaboration with NPR?s daytime news magazine, Day to Day. He helps produce the work of Slate's writers for radio, and can also be heard on the program.