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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Capote,' 'The Greatest Game Ever Played,' 'Serenity'


This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

It's Friday, time again for our weekly digest of what film critics are saying about the new releases as compiled by the online magazine Slate. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.


First up in wide release, we have "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Based on a true story, it takes place at the 1913 US Open, where a working-class amateur golfer challenges the defending British champion. The film stars Shia LaBeouf and is directed by Bill Paxton.

(Soundbite of "The Greatest Game Ever Played")

Unidentified Man #1: We now lack but one essential to complete the swift appointment of our round: your clubs.

Unidentified Man #2: My clubs, sir?

Unidentified Man #1: Caddies aren't allowed on the course.

Unidentified Man #2: When Mr. Campbell sees me out there...

Unidentified Man #1: You let me worry about Campbell. Go, get those clubs.

LEGAN: Overall, the nation's critics cheer. A few fight the sentimentality, like the LA Times, that snipes, `The filmmakers lay on the schmaltz thickly, but the deal breaker is the special effects, which make the game look more like pinball than golf.' But most agree with The New York Times, which calls it `a canny piece of feel-good entertainment.'

Next up, also in wide release, is the sci-fi adventure "Serenity." Writer-director Joss Whedon, who created the popular "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," brings his beloved, yet quickly canceled 2002 TV show "Firefly" to the big screen. "Serenity" continues the story of a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future.

(Soundbite of "Serenity")

Ms. JEWEL STAITE: (As Kaylee) Shepherd Book says they was men who just reached the edge of space, saw a vast nothingness, and went biblidee(ph) over it.

Mr. ADAM BALDWIN: (As Jayne) Aw, hell. Ha! I been to the edge. Just looked like more space.

LEGAN: The critics enjoyed the space ride. The Chicago Tribune raves, `A brash, funny, action-packed bit of sci-fi ecstasy.' The Arizona Republic finds it `a good old-fashioned space opera.' And Variety says, `What makes "Serenity" refreshing is its avoidance of CGI, which gives the pic a much more human dimension.'

And finally in limited release, we close with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote. The dramatic biopic focuses on the period where author Truman Capote discovers the true-crime story that becomes his landmark book "In Cold Blood." Catherine Keener also stars.

(Soundbite of "Capote")

Mr. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN: (As Truman Capote) I know a lot of people. It appears I have invitations to be in Morocco and Greece. And I prefer to be here with you.

LEGAN: The critics like the film, and there is universal praise for Hoffman's performance. The New York Observer shouts, `Hoffman gets it perfect, with a star turn both meteoric and mesmerizing.' And the Hollywood Reporter calls it `an exceptional movie that digs deeply into an artist at the height of his creativity.'

So there. Something for everyone this weekend: a serious biopic, a sci-fi romp and a golf movie. Hey, combine them all: Truman Capote as a galactic golf caddie. Now you've got something! I'd use the 5-iron, Commander Zorglot(ph), but don't listen to me. You never do, you insufferable space tyrant.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan giving Philip Seymour Hoffman a run for his money. He's a writer living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan