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Summary Judgment: 'Pulse,' 'Step Up,' 'Conversations with Other Women'


On Fridays we offer a digest of what the critics are saying about the new movie releases. It's compiled by the online magazine Slate. Here is Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.


First up in limited release is the dark comedy Conversations with Other Women. Old lovers run into each other at a wedding reception, and new sparks instantly fly. Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter star.

(Soundbite from movie Conversations with Other Women)

Mr. AARON ECKHART (Actor): (As character): Why are you here?

Ms. HELENA BONHAM CARTER (Actress): (As character) I wonder what two lonely people in a hotel room do when no one's watching?

Mr. ECKHART: (As character) What makes you think that I'm lonely?

LEGAN: The critics all praise the lead performances, but a few have a problem with the plot. The New York Times says the film is too studied, too forward in its conceits to be entirely satisfying, but Mr. Eckhart and Ms. Bonham Carter approach their roles with intelligence and conviction. TV Guide purrs: the fine acting and sexy chemistry between the leads make it work, and The Hollywood Reporter finds the fact that the movie holds viewers' attention despite its contrivances is a testament to the script and the acting.

Next up in wide release is the horror film Pulse. Director Wes Craven remakes one of the most popular Japanese horror films with Kristen Bell, the star of the TV series Veronica Mars, playing a young woman who finds a strange Web site that may or may not be a door to the other side. And no, we don't mean MySpace.

(Soundbite of movie Pulse)

Ms. KRISTEN BELL (Actress): (As Mattie Webber) My friend Josh needed to see you. Why?

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) To let him in.

Ms. BELL: (As Webber) To let what in?

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) The slightest leak, the slightest hole, that's how they get in.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) What were you working on?

LEGAN: The studio did not make Pulse available for the critics, fearing negative reviews - or maybe they're just doing what the computer ghosts tell them to do. I mean, everyone knows computer ghosts despise advance screenings.

And we close with the wide-release romantic dance drama Step Up. A young thug is given community service at a dance academy, where he meets a beautiful young ballerina. And wouldn't you know it? The young thug is also a gifted street dancer. Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, and Rachel Griffiths star.

(Soundbite of movie Step Up)

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (As character) Would you say that he can dance?

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actress): (As character) He's adequate.

Mr. CHANNING TATUM (Actor): (As Tyler Gage) Adequate?

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (As character) See, that's my concern. He's not taking this seriously.

Mr. TATUM: (As Gage) Look, I'm sorry. It's just you all are talking about dancing like it's rocket science or something.

LEGAN: The nation's critics are split on Step Up. Variety cheers, A fresh cast, a formulaic, but engaging, storyline, and a smoking soundtrack. LA Weekly calls it a pleasant, if unsurprising, confluence of classic ballet with street dance. But many of the detractors agree with Premier magazine's take that Step Up really never amounts to more than a barely warmed-over rehash of teen dance-flick movies.

Wow, for community service they make him go mop the floor at a dance academy. Yeah, that'll teach those young punks. Go mop and watch gorgeous dancers in leotards, or you could pick up trash along the freeway in the blazing sun. Your choice.

(Soundbite of music)

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

Mark Jordan Legan