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Summary Judgment: New Movies


Back now with DAY TO DAY.

If you're heading back to school next week, this will be your last truly free weekend in a while to go to the movies.

Here's Mark Jordan Legan to fill you in on what critics are saying about some of the new releases. It's Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: What better way to say goodbye to summer than with a zany comedy about ping-pong, a slasher flick, and Kevin Bacon teaching a bunch of creeps they've messed with the wrong character actor. Oh, what a Labor Day potpourri we have.

And let's start with "Balls of Fury," a wacky comedy from the guys behind "Reno 911" that tackles the secret world of underground ping-pong tournaments.

(Soundbite of movie, "Balls of Fury")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) Oh, come on. You've got me hitting balls and spoons and swatting flies now.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) You will not hit flies. You hit bees.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) What?

LEGAN: Critics want to paddle someone for this. Even though the Toronto Globe and Mail chuckles stupendously silly but viciously funny, almost everyone else cries foul. USA Today snarls: uninspired and sophomoric. The New York Post finds it unfunny. And Entertainment Weekly warns: "Balls of Fury" is a joke of a title in search of a movie.

Hey, even though this isn't quite Charles Bronson and a version of "Footloose," we do have Kevin Bacon in a sort of, kind of "Death Wish." While not quite a version of the famous '70s revenge flick, Bacon plays a mild-mannered family man who becomes a vigilante after a horrible crime in "Death Sentence."

(Soundbite of movie, "Death Sentence")

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) You go near my family and I'm cutting out your guts.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) Do you hear me?

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) And I'm coming for the rest of your family.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) You just bought them a death sentence.

Unidentified Man #3: Wait, wait.

LEGAN: The nation's critics feel like the victim here. Watching this crude thriller feels more like a life sentence, declares the Hollywood Reporter. And the New York Times wails: a tedious, pandering time-waster.

And for those of you just wishing someone would re-make me popular 1978 slasher film "Halloween," well, it's your lucky day.

Musician-turned-gore-guru Rob Zombie gives us his take on that legendary homicidal maniac Michael Myers, not the successful comic actor of "Austin Powers" fame, but the homicidal maniac of a slashing thing.

(Soundbite of movie "Halloween")

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) So what kook are we movie tonight?

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (As character) Michael Myers.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) Trick or treat, baby.

LEGAN: The critics say trick, no treat. Variety sighs: leaves nothing to the imagination. The Long Island Press yawns: conventional gore that neither shocks nor surprises. And Real View says "Halloween" is nothing but standard order with unimpressive acting.

You know, apparently this version gives us more back story on the killer because that's what male slasher fans want. More back story. And for those of you wondering why they would release a Halloween-themed movie at the end of August, well, supposedly it explains the real reason for Myers' murderous rage: the excessive teasing he got as a young boy for wearing white after Labor Day.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer not wearing white and living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan