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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Haunting,' 'Art School,' 'MI3'

CHADWICK: Okay. Go to The Times' website tomorrow. Or go to the movies this weekend. Plenty of thrillers there: Mission Impossible 3. You don't like that one, lots of other films.

We go now to Mark Jordan Legan with the summary of what the movie critics are saying, Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

We open with the wide released horror film An American Haunting, based on the supposedly true story of a Tennessee family terrorized by a murderous ghost in the late 1800s. Sissy Spacek, Donald Sutherland and Rachel Hurd-Wood, star.

(Soundbite of An American Haunting)

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): What's this?

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actress): I found it in the attic.

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): You know the attic is off limits.

(Soundbite of slamming doors, howls and screaming)

LEGAN: The critics pretty much say we ain't 'fraid of no ghost. Even though the Hollywood Reporter calls it a quality horror piece with strong performances, many agree with the New York Times' assessment of An American Haunting: Yes, things go bump in the night, but it's the bump of emptying seats, as audiences flee in boredom that will haunt you for days.

Next up in limited released, we have the satirical comedy, Art School Confidential. From Terry Zwigoff, the director of Ghost World and Bad Santa, comes the story of a wide-eyed young artist trying to make his way through the treacherous world of art school. Max Minghella and John Malkovich star.

(Soundbite of Art School Confidential)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): Why are these people in freshman classes exactly the same every year? Look, you've got the vegan holy man, the boring blowhard, the angry lesbian.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): Professor. Professor. Professor.

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): And here you got kiss ass.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): I just wanted to tell you that I looked up some of your paintings on the Internet. And I thought they were really terrific.

Mr. JOHN MALKOVICH (Actor): (As Professor) You get an A for the class.

LEGAN: The critics are split on this one. New York magazine complains, Zwigoff doesn't get the tone right and the picture goes from reasonably amusing to puzzling to boring to hateful. But the Village Voice cheers, " pungent and penetrating working; satisfyingly bilious satire. And Richard Roper, of Ebert and Roper, says, Art school Confidential is dead-pitch perfect.

And we close with this wide release you might have heard a little about. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3. Yes, Cruise is back as super spy Ethan Hunt, who must battle supervillain Philip Seymour Hoffman. Ving Rhames also stars.

(Soundbite of Mission Impossible 3)

Mr. VING RHAMES (Actor): (As Luther Strickell) You're going to make it over there. You're going to find a rabbit's foot, get back to the roof, radio me when you're ready to make the jump, and we're going to come get you.

Mr. TOM CRUISE (Actor): (As Ethan Hunt) Thank you for coming.

Mr. RHAMES: (As Luther Strickell) That's my job.

LEGAN: The critics pretty much say buy some popcorn and have fun. Even though the Boston Glob sighs, Mostly it all feels like a lateral move that keeps alive a franchise without breaking new ground. The Washington Post exclaims, It's the best installment of the series. And the Houston Chronicle almost hyperventilates over Mission Impossible by shrieking, A big cacophonous entertainment, crackling and explosive. A giant bag of Pop Rocks for the eyes.

Hey, here's a plot for the next sequel. Cruise's character gets into art school, graduates, and then tries to pay off his student loans on a barrista's salary. Now, that's an impossible mission.

(Soundbite of Mission Impossible theme song)

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan