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Summary Judgment: 'Aces,' Blood and Chocolate'


Okay, here's your choice if you're going to movies this weekend. Do you try to catch up on the Oscar nominees or is there a new release that's worth your time? Mark Jordan Legan from the online magazine Slate is here to help you decide. He has our weekly digest of what the critics are saying about the new stuff. It's called Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: What an eclectic mix of movies we have this weekend, everything from Vegas hit men with mohawks to lusty teen werewolves to Kevin Smith acting in a romantic comedy. Yes, I know, forget the hit men and werewolves. The Kevin Smith thing gave me pause also.

He stars alongside Jennifer Garner, who plays a young woman grieving over the sudden death of a loved one in "Catch and Release." Juliette Lewis and Timothy Olyphant also star.

(Soundbite of film, "Catch and Release")

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (As character) My girlfriends and I used to have this rule with each other: no sleeping with a guy until you knew his mother's maiden name.

LEGAN: Most of the nation's critics felt like throwing this romantic dramedy back in the water. Even though the Los Angeles Times finds it an oddly appealing if innocuous movie of considerable charm, Variety declares it so-so, and many agree with the Washington Post about Jennifer Garner's performance, which says, Garner retains a permanent grimace; it's not just depressing to watch, it's tiring. We want to tell her to relax for our own relief.

Next in wide release is the crime comedy "Smokin' Aces," where a strange assortment of hit men arrive to take out a Vegas entertainer who has agreed to testify against a powerful mob boss. Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta and Alicia Keyes star.

(Soundbite of film, "Smokin' Aces")

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): We're supposed to go in there, (unintelligible), and move his heart. (Unintelligible) and pull him out. That heart, that's just for flavor.

LEGAN: Writer-director Joe Carnahan, who previously gave us the violent, gritty cop flick "Narc," has the critics admiring his camera work but not his script, with many dismissing it as Tarantino light. The Charlotte Observer complains it feels like a rollercoaster ride that goes on far too long. My head was spinning for multiple reasons, none of them pleasing. The Hollywood Reporter declares that while the film bristles with cinematic verve, it also is as second-hand as an antique store. And Newsday growls: hyperventilating hogwash.

For those looking for a good forbidden love story, "Blood and Chocolate" is for you. Based on a popular novel, a young teenage werewolf falls for a human. So it's like "Romeo and Juliet," only hairier.

(Soundbite of film, "Blood and Chocolate")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) You know about our tradition. Every seven years, the leader of the pack takes a new wife.

Unidentified Woman #3 (Actress): (As character) Don't you mean mate?

LEGAN: For fear of negative reviews, the studio did not make "Blood and Chocolate" available to the critics for any advanced screening, especially during a full moon, when all the teenage werewolves go to the movies and howl and kick the back of your seat, and you give them a look, and they bare their fangs, and then you have to show them you have a gun loaded with silver bullets - you know, like almost any time you go to the movies these days.

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

Mark Jordan Legan