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Summary Judgment: 'Turistas,' 'Ten Items,' 'Nativity'


The holiday movie season is underway. And here with a roundup of the latest film reviews is Mark Jordan Legan with Slate magazine's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: The holiday season is already upon us, and the movie studios are deciding which of their films have been naughty or nice. The real big movies will come closer to Christmas day itself, so it's a rather strange assortment of releases this weekend.

Case in point is the decision to release near the holidays “Turistas,” a grisly horror film about young American tourists who get stranded in an eerie Brazilian beach town.

(Soundbite of movie “Turistas”)

Unidentified Woman: Mom is going to kill me. She told me not to bring the ring, so it's going to…

Unidentified Man: Please. That is a very small problem right now. We have no money. We have no way out of here.

Unidentified Woman: We'll be fine.

Unidentified Man: You think so?

Unidentified Woman: Yeah.

Unidentified Man: Because I'm not so sure.

JORDAN LEGAN: The nation's critics felt like they needed a vacation after viewing this gruesome flick. Entertainment Weekly warns that it quickly turns into a very dull escape thriller. The New York Times calls “Turistas” a grubby, lethally dull bid to cash in on the new extreme horror genre. And The Washington Post guesses horror films will twitch impatiently at those long stretches between killings.

Opening in a handful of theaters is the dramedy “Ten Items or Less.” Morgan Freeman stars as a famous actor who goes through a supermarket to research an upcoming role and befriends a young female cashier played by Paz Vega.

(Soundbite of movie “Ten Items or Less”)

Ms. PAZ VEGA (Actor): (As Scarlet) You act all the time, didn't you?

Mr. MORGAN FREEMAN (Actor): (As Himself) Well I suppose when one's a performer one does like doing the acting thing, yes.

Ms. VEGA: (As Scarlet) You love it.

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Himself) With every ounce of my magnificent body.

JORDAN LEGAN: The critics are split on this one. The Los Angeles Times says “Ten Items or Less” is not deep, but it's a charming enough diversion. The Chicago Tribune thinks it moves at an agreeable meandering pace but never loses its verve or its sharp humor. But The Washington Post shrugs a good-natured but failed experiment in meeting cute indie-movie style.

And finally we have the wide release “The Nativity Story.” Director Catherine Hardwicke, who has made gritty films like “Lords of Dogtown” and “Thirteen,” attempts to shift gears and tell the famous story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.

(Soundbite of movie “The Nativity Story”)

Mr. OSCAR ISAAC (Actor): (As Joseph) If I claim this child as mine, I would be lying. I would have broken a law laid down by God.

Ms. KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES (Actor): (As Mary) I would never ask you to lie.

Mr. ISAAC: (As Joseph) If I say this child is not mine, they will ask what I want to do.

JORDAN LEGAN: The majority of critics' thought the film was not the greatest story ever told. While the Hollywood Reporter likes it, finding it smart and artistically and spiritually satisfying, Entertainment Weekly complains “The Nativity Story” is a film of tame picture book sincerity. And the Christian Science Monitor frowns, it's a rather lifeless retelling of the nativity with greeting card imagery and stiff performances.

You know, if the film fails at the box office, the studios will be full of second-guesses.

We should have done it like “Look Who's Talking.” Only this time, the talking baby is Jesus. Get it? He's cute, he's wise, but he's funny.

Gee, thanks for the frankincense, Melchior. Oh, and look, myrrh. Great! What new mom doesn't need myrrh?

(Soundbite of laughter)

JORDAN LEGAN: See, it practically writes itself.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan, who has his own Jesus complex, is a writer living in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of music)

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


And I'm Mike Pesca. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.