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WYPR Arts

Summary Judgment: 'Hollywoodland,' 'Protector' 'Covenant'

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

On Fridays, the online magazine Slate compiles a digest of what movie critics are saying about the new releases. Here is Mark Jordan Legan with this week's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: First up we have the mystery-drama, Hollywoodland. This period piece questions whether actor George Reeves of Superman TV fame really did kill himself back in 1959, or was he murdered? Ben Affleck plays Reeves, with Adrien Brody and Diane Lane also starring.

(Soundbite of movie, Hollywoodland)

Mr. BEN AFFLECK (Actor): (As George Reeves) They're picking up Superman.

Ms. DIANE LANE (Actress): (As Toni Mannix) They're what?

Mr. AFFLECK: (As Reeves) Kellogg's bought it.

Ms. LANE: (As Mannix) After two years?

Mr. AFFLECK: (As Reeves) That's right. I will be on television in a month wearing brown and grey underpants.

LEGAN: Up in the sky, it's good reviews. Not only did most of the critics like Hollywoodland, but many applaud Affleck's work as the troubled Reeves. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says it packs a surprising punch, and Affleck gives his best performance to date. USA Today finds through the strength of its performances, it keeps us engaged and entertained. But Entertainment Weekly is among the few detractors who feel it's much ado about a minor mystery. EW complains that with Hollywoodland, the chief frustration of this otherwise well-made, well-acted, well-heeled picture is that it is so very self-absorbedly graceful about something so very insular and unremarkable.

Next up in wide release is the action film The Protector, the latest from Thailand marshal-arts wonder Tony Jaa. His last film, Ong-bak: The Warrior, scored big with U.S. action fans back in 2003. This time, Jaa goes for a story that is universally relatable - a devoted Thai elephant-keeper travels to Australia to rescue his kidnapped elephants from evil poachers.

(Soundbite of movie, The Protector)

(Soundbite of elephants and yelling)

LEGAN: The critics enjoy this popcorn action flick. The BBC cheers: pure dazzling entertainment. The Minneapolis Star Tribune shouts: This is one wicked cool movie, a last blast of summertime action. Although the Chicago Tribune points out that anytime Tony Jaa isn't on screen, The Protector sputters.

And we close with the wide-release horror film, The Covenant. Set at a fancy New England boarding school, four students decide to use their special dark powers. Wow, so think Dead Poets Society meets Carrie.

Renny Harlin, who has also helmed everything from Cliffhanger to The Deep Blue Sea, directs the poltergeist-y preppies.

(Soundbite of movie, The Covenant)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) How's the party?

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) Don't know, just got here.

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) (Shouting) Tyler.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) Come on, Caleb, it's not like he's going to kill us - yet.

LEGAN: Gosh darn it, the studio did not make The Covenant available to the critics, possibly fearing negative reviews. But maybe this movie finally explains why there are so many evil, perverted bullies at boarding schools: their student advisor appears to be Beelzebub. See, it's true. The rich are different.

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

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.