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Arts and Culture News

Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Batman Begins,' 'Heights,' 'The Perfect Man'

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

On Fridays, our partners at the online magazine Slate bring you a digest of what film critics are saying about the week's new releases, and there are some good ones this week. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

First up in wide bat-release, we have "Batman Begins." This film takes us back to Batman's true beginnings when he was just a tiny baby bat living upside down in a fruit tree. Oh, wait a minute. That's not right. Director Christopher Nolan, who also brought us the art-house hit "Memento," reintroduces us to Bruce Wayne and his tortured past. Christian Bale stars as the new Caped Crusader, and Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine head up the supporting cast.

(Soundbite of "Batman Returns")

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy, and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man of flesh and blood I can be ignored; I can be destroyed. But as a symbol--as a symbol I can be incorruptible.

LEGAN: The nation's critics have pretty much gone batty for this film, especially for Nolan's direction and Bale's lead performance. The Hollywood Reporter shouts, `A smart, gritty, brooding, visceral experience.' Entertainment Weekly calls it `a confidently original, engrossing interpretation.' And The Boston Globe says, `Bale gives us the best Bruce Wayne that has ever graced the screen.' And the New York Post gets right to the point: `A great movie, period.'

Next up in limited release, we have the dramedy "Heights," which focuses on how the lives of five New Yorkers intersect and break apart over a 24-hour period. James Marsden, Jesse Bradford and Glenn Close star.

(Soundbite of "Heights")

Unidentified Actress #1: We threw away all the cigarettes? We don't save any for emergencies?

Unidentified Actor: I'll draw you a picture of a cigarette and you can lick the page.

Unidentified Actress #1: I gotta go. I got other people's weddings to deal with.

Unidentified Actor: I'll call you from the office.

Unidentified Actress #1: Take your walkie-talkie.

Unidentified Actor: Yes, ma'am.

Unidentified Actress #1: In case I miss work.

Unidentified Actor: Well, don't forget, we have a rabbi at five.

Unidentified Actress #1: I know. Goodbye.

LEGAN: Overall, the critics want to share a cab downtown with this little movie. The LA Weekly exclaims, `The acting is uniformly superb.' Variety calls it `an entertaining ensembler marbled with wit and heartache.' And the Hollywood Reporter calls it `pithy and highly amusing.'

And finally in wide release, we have the teen comedy "The Perfect Man." Spunky Hilary Duff creates a fictional secret admirer for her unlucky-in-love mom played by--Ahem!--Heather Locklear, but must finally produce an actual person to go with the romantic e-mails and sweet gifts.

(Soundbite of "The Perfect Man")

HILARY DUFF: (As Holly Hamilton) I swear I'll pay you back.

Unidentified Actress #2: I don't get how flowers from you will fix things.

DUFF: Well, they're not flowers, they're orchids. And they're not from me; They're from her perfect man.

Unidentified Actress #2: Then let him pay.

DUFF: I would if he existed.

LEGAN: Well, the nation's critics flat-out despised this movie, but that doesn't mean pre-teen girls aren't going to be begging to see it this weekend. But parents be warned, if you have to go along, the LA Weekly gripes, `The believe-in-yourself speeches grow so thick that even the Duff-devoted may start rolling their eyes.' The Miami Herald sniffs, `Embarrassingly shoddy.' And Newsday's Jan Stuart yells, `Boys get Batman and Luke Skywalker; girls get this Little Suzy Matchmaker? If I had to subsist on a steady diet of Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes, I'd be looking into sex-change specialists!' Wow! This might be the first time a film critic has hated a movie so much she's suggesting a sex change! I'll take that as a thumbs-down.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.