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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Silent Hill,' 'The Sentinel,' 'American Dreamz'


At week's end, we offer movie reviews for new releases. This week features big names and big ad campaigns but mixed reviews. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment from the online magazine Slate.


First up in wide release we have the political thriller, The Sentinel. Michael Douglas plays a legendary Secret Service agent who is now suspected of being part of a political assassination plot. Kiefer Sutherland also stars.

(Soundbite of movie The Sentinel)

Mr. KIEFER SUTHERLAND: (In Film) Explain to me about the bank account.

Mr. MICHAEL DOUGLAS: (As Pete) The what?

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (In Film) Your signature's all over the paper work.

Mr. DOUGLAS: (As Pete) I'm being framed.

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (In Film) Come on, Pete, tell me that's not your signature.

Mr. DOUGLAS: (As Pete) I'm being framed. Think about it. I'm the guy that initiated this investigation. Why would do that if I wanted to kill the President?

LEGAN: The nation's critics feel the movie's momentum gets lost somewhere on a grassy knoll. Even though USA Today politely calls it energetic, a fairly stylish action thriller, the Washington Post finds The Sentinel a medium dumb thriller that starts out with momentary promise but gets progressively sillier.

And many of the critics agree with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which sighs, A pity that a film with so much promise descends into such lazy predictability.

Well, good thing Kiefer still has that day job.

Next up in wide release is Silent Hill, a horror film that has plastered billboards and posters all over the country. You might have noticed the image of the creepy girl with no mouth. In fact, as my two daughters are arguing in the back seat of the car, I've been able to point out the mouthless girl as a possible solution to their constant bickering. That shuts them up pretty good.

Radha Mitchell stars as a frantic mother searching for her lost daughter in a remote, eerie town.

(Soundbite of movie Silent Hill)

Ms. RADHA MITCHELL: (In Film) This is my daughter, Sharon. She sleep walks and you have to be careful, but if you see her, please tell her to wait for me.

LEGAN: Not much a surprise, Silent Hill has decided to stay silent. The film was not made available to the critics for advance screening, a sure sign the studio fears negative reviews. But I'm sure the massive advance publicity will help the box office chances of this horror film based on a video game.

And we close with the political satire, American Dreamz. From Paul Weitz, who last brought us the boomer revenge comedy, In Good Company, Dennis Quaid stars as a faltering president with a Texas twang who agrees to be a guest judge on a popular American Idol type reality show, hoping to turn around his low poll numbers.

Hugh Grant also stars as the Simon Cowell-like host.

(Soundbite of movie American Dreamz)

Mr. HUGH GRANT: (As Host): Ah, I'm afraid I have felt this way before. And it was just before I tried to kill myself. You're like a musical Ebola virus.

Unidentified Woman: (In Film) I hate you.

LEGAN: Most of the critics say the film tries to hit too many targets. Even though Entertainment Weekly croons, A blithe, funny, and engaging movie, the Wall Street Journal snarls, American Dreamz stands as a genuine offense against the venerable and indispensable institution of satire. And the New York Times complains, The jokes don't just fizzle into insignificance; they flop about with gaudy ineffectualness, gasping for air like newly landed trout.

Phew. Not a good review when your jokes are compared to dying fish.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.