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Summary Judgment: 'Stranger than Fiction,' 'A Good Year,' 'Fur'


From NPR News this is DAY TO DAY. Every Friday, we hear what critics are saying about the weekend's new movies. This is compiled by the online magazine Slate. Here is Mark Jordan Legan with our Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Slate): Ridley Scott, who has directed such dark macho films like Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, must be needing a hug, because his latest film is the wide release romantic drama A Good Year. Russell Crowe stars as a man who inherits a vineyard in Provence and finds himself battling with the beautiful woman who claims the land is hers.

(Soundbite of movie "A Good Year")

Mr. RUSSELL CROWE (Actor): (As Max Skinner) But every single one of my memories takes place within about a hundred steps of this very spot.

Unidentified Woman (Actress): (As character): Are they good memories?

Mr. CROWE: (As Skinner) No. They're grand.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics have sniffed the cork and pretty much want to send this film back. The New Yorker complains, even judged by the not excessively standards of middle-age renovation fantasies, A Good Year isn't much. The Chicago Tribune says, the film, for all its pretensions of revelatory, life-altering enlightenment, is actually as deep as a wading pool. And Entertainment Weekly shrugs it off as nothing more than a bad harvest.

Next up in limited release is the fictionalized biopic Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. Nicole Kidman plays the legendary photographer who becomes obsessed with a neighbor portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. who is completely covered in fur. Hey, who hasn't had a neighbor with a little too much body hair? Mrs. Cosack(ph) you know I'm talking about you.

(Soundbite of movie "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus")

Ms. NICOLE KIDMAN (Actress): (As Diane Arbus) I saw you through my window and right away I wanted to take a portrait of you.

Mr. LEGAN: The nation's critics admired many things about the film, but almost all feel the overall beauty and beast concept just doesn't work. Impressively crafted and acted, but far too narrowly and benignly conceived to satisfy even on its own terms, says Variety. The Wall Street Journal sighs, Fur starts stylishly and confidently, but the film dwindles down to a chamber piece in a claustrophobic chamber. And the Associated Press questions, is it more interesting and entertaining than a straightforward biopic? Maybe. Is it more illuminating? Probably not.

And we close with the latest film from director Marc Forster, who has made such diverse films as Monsters Ball and Finding Neverland. This time he brings us the wide release quirky comedy Stranger than Fiction.

Will Ferrell stars as an IRS agent who begins to hear a voice in his head, only to realize it's a narrator chronicling his life. Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman also star.

(Soundbite of movie "Stranger than Fiction")

Ms. EMMA THOMPSON (Actress): (As Kay Eiffel) Little did he know that events had been set in motion that would lead to his eminent death.

Mr. WILL FERRELL (Actor): (As Harold Crick): What? Why? Hello? Come on!

Mr. LEGAN: Overall, the critics enjoyed this strange piece of cinema. Even though Time Magazine whines, the movie is clever but a little too pleased with its own clockwork intricacy. The Dallas Morning News thinks, yes Stranger than Fiction is a head-trip, but it's a very friendly one and well crafted at that. And the Los Angeles Times cheers, it manages to be smart and surprising and provides this season of serious movies with a much-needed shot of whimsy.

You know the plot of this movie isn't far-fetched at all. I mean, you know, we all hear voices, right? Huh? Please tell me yes. I mean, like right now I can hear a voice in my head. Oh wait, that might be my producer on my headphones. Or God. It's so hard to tell the two apart sometimes.

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