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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'The New World,' 'Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,' 'Underworld'

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is Day to Day with our regular Friday feature. This is a digest of what critics are saying about the week's new movie releases, as compiled by the online magazine, Slate. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with his summary judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Writer, Slate Magazine): First up in wide release we have the historical epic, The New World, from writer/director Terrence Malick who hasn't made a film since 1998's The Thin Red Line. His latest film stars Colin Farrell as the legendary explorer John Smith, who meets and befriends a young Indian girl named Pocahontas. Christopher Plummer also stars, though not as Pocahontas. He's good, but not that good.

(Soundbite of movie "The New World")

Unidentified Man #1: Don't put yourself in danger (unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman: Why have you not come to me?

LEGAN: The nation's critics respond like they do to most of Malick's other films. They either love it or hate it. Even though they all praised the lush cinematography, many complain of the two hour and thirty minute running time. The New York Post growls, this lavish coffee table book of a movie gradually reveals itself as an uninvolving, crashing bore. USA Today confesses that sound you're about to hear is the cracking of spines as Terrence Malick enthusiasts like me bend over backward trying to cut The New World a break. But for those who love it they agree with this rave from the Los Angeles Times, a work of breathtaking imagination, less a movie than a mode of transport, and in every sense a masterpiece.

Next up in wide release is the horror sequel to 2003's Underworld. Kate Beckinsale returns as the sexy vampire warrior, Selene, in Underworld: Evolution. The eternal battle between vampires and werewolves continues. Scott Speedman and Derek Jacobi also star.

(Soundbite of movie "Underworld: Evolution")

Ms. KATE BECKINSALE: (As Selene) Tanis, I see your aim hasn't improved.

Mr. STEVEN MACKINTOSH: (As Tanis) You haven't changed. You don't scare me, Selene.

Ms. BECKINSALE: Well, we're going to have to work on that.

LEGAN: Underworld: Evolution was not made available for the nation's critics, usually a sign that the studio fears negative reviews. But you have Kate Beckinsale running around in skintight black leather looking all pouty and sad that vampires and werewolves can't get along. I think the teenage audience might still turn out. Our last film which is opening in limited release is Albert Brooks' satire, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. Brooks plays a comedian named Albert Brooks who is sent on a government mission to Pakistan and India to discover what makes Muslims laugh.

(Soundbite of movie "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World")

Mr. ALBERT BROOKS: (As Albert Brooks) Do you have an offstage mike?

Unidentified Man #2: No, we only have one mike, you asked me to put it out front.

Mr. BROOKS: I know, but I need an offstage mike, because then I'm going to have to introduce myself. Unidentified Man #2: So, why not?

Mr. BROOKS: Because I'm the headliner.

LEGAN: The nation's critics were split on this one, as might be the nation's moviegoers. The Onion says it succeeds smashingly as a comedy and as a savvy deconstruction of comedy. Variety calls it more a pleasant laugher than a sharp edge satire. And The Christian Science Monitor advises it would have been better if Brooks had invested more time trying to discover what makes Americans laugh. Americans, Muslims, if Brooks wants a real challenge, try doing stand up in front of a bunch of vampires and werewolves. Now that's a tough gig. And so I said where do you think Dracula lives, in the Vampire State Building?

(Soundbite of crashing cymbals)

LEGAN: Hello? Is this thing on? Okay, sign of hands, how many here are afraid of garlic necklaces? Anybody? Or afraid of Mark Jordan Legan's stand-up comedy. He's a writer living in Los Angeles.

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