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Summary Judgment: 'Zodiac,' More Releases


As we heard earlier, the new movie "Zodiac" has a built-in cult audience of true crime buffs. It's not the only film out this weekend, though. In the latest edition of Summary Judgment from the online magazine Slate, writer Mark Jordan Legan offers this critical look at all the new releases.

MARK JOHN LEGAN: It's post-Oscar weekend and I'm sure many of you have finally come down from Oscar fever. I myself had Academy Awards strep throat but I'm recovering nicely thanks to prescription drugs.

The ruckus comedy "Wild Hogs" might also require some pharmaceuticals, according to the critics. John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy play four friends who go off on a midlife crisis motorcycle trip.

(Soundbite of movie, "Wild Hogs")

Mr. TIM ALLEN (Actor): (As Doug Madsen) Check out this thing - the GPS in my phone now. Look at that thing.

Mr. JOHN TRAVOLTA (Actor): (As Woody Stevens) Let me see - that's Cool.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Doug Madsen) What are you - what did you do that for?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: (As Woody Stevens) For the good of the trip. You don't need a GPS to discover America. You need a bike and you need the road, okay? Freedom.

LEGAN: The Nation's Critics want these hogs slaughtered. Low-octane comedy running on fumes, sighs the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Rolling Stone complains, jokes dying on the lips of these easy riders are hard to stomach. And The Washington Post snarls, the four actors never develop any rhythm, any chemistry, any anything.

And now for a film that's getting a very different reception from critics. David Fincher, the director of "The Game" and "Fight Club" brings us the crime thriller "Zodiac" based on the actual unsolved murders that terrorized San Francisco in the 1970s.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a man obsessed with catching the killer. Chloe Sevigny also stars.

(Soundbite of movie, "Zodiac")

Ms. CHLOE SEVIGNY (Actress): (As Melanie) And when is it going to be finished? When you catch him? When you arrest him?

Mr. JAKE GYLLENHAAL (Actor): (As Robert Graysmith) Are you serious?

Ms. SEVIGNY: (As Melanie) I am serious.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GYLLENHAAL: (As Robert Graysmith) I need to know who he is. I need to stand there. I need to look him in the eye. And I need to know that it's him.

LEGAN: The critics call this one of the best films of the year. Newsweek says "Zodiac" holds you in its grip from start to finish. Variety raves by far director Fincher's most mature and accomplished work. And Premier magazine shouts, a daringly different kind of thriller - cerebral, meticulous, haunting.

And slithering into theaters is the Southern drama "Black Snake Moan". Christina Ricci stars as a troubled town tramp abducted by blues musician Samuel L. Jackson who chains her to a radiator, determined to teach her the evil of her ways.

(Soundbite of movie, "Black Snake Moan")

Ms. CHRISTINA RICCI (Actress): (As Rae) I guess, I best be on my way.

Mr. SAMUEL L. JACKSON (Actor): (As Lazarus) Where - I bet we need to talk so…

Ms. RICCI: (As Rae) No sir. I better be on my way.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Lazarus) Let's get your wits back before you (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JACKSON: (As Lazarus) I wanted to tell you about that.

LEGAN: The critics are totally split on "Black Snake Moan." The Austin Chronicle chuckles, the story is as humorous and raunchy as a good blues refrain. But Entertainment Weekly snaps, be prepared to collapse and to a hoot and a howl of hilarity at all the wrong moments. And New York magazine warns, it's outlandish, hilariously overripe and possibly sexists. You know the poster itself is rather overripe with the tagline - everything is hotter down South.

Well, I lived in the South and it's not so much the heat as it is the humidity - and bugs. But I guess the tagline of it's rather humid and full of gnats down South is probably is not what they're going for.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a recovering Southerner living here in Southern California.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Luke Burbank. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan